After leaving Uranus, we finally arrived at Devils Elbow Bridge. Our AAA guide said, “This 1920s-era bridge takes the original 66 roadway across the Big Piney River. Named for the tight bend in the river, the bridge and adjacent town were (and still are) considered one of the most scenic spots on the route.” After the kitschy-ness of Uranus, I was ready for some pretty scenery!
When we were in Oklahoma, we met an Australian couple, who was traveling Route 66 going the other direction. They told us we should visit a vacuum cleaner museum in the town of St. James, which they really enjoyed. Our curiosity piqued, we drove into the small town of St. James, Missouri, where we easily found the Vacuum Cleaner Museum and Factory Outlet.
As it happened, there was a group of people from a vacuum cleaner convention visiting that day. They occupied the guides with technical questions, but we hung around and got our questions answered also, saw some demonstrations, and also learned some interesting bits of vacuum cleaner history!
The museum exhibits are arranged by decades, beginning with the first decade of the 20th century, when vacuum cleaners were first invented. Scattered about are little signs reading “Did You Know” accompanied by facts or questions. One of these signs told us the first non-electric vacuum was invented by James Kirby in 1904.Some vacuum cleaners were complicated to use: one type required two people, one to pull down on a lever and the other to do the vacuuming! Maybe that was a way to get husbands to help with housework in those days.
One of the Did You Know? signs asked the question: Why do vacuum cleaners have headlights? I don’t know – to throw a little more light on the dust you are vacuuming? The answer is, when electric vacuum cleaners were invented, there weren’t outlets in houses. The end of the cord had a screw-on attachment, which had to be screwed into a lamp socket. So of course, one had to take the lightbulb out of the lamp in order to use the vacuum cleaner – this made the room dark, hence the light at the bottom of the vacuum cleaner!
Each decade section was marked by a sign overhead and a few historical landmarks that happened in that decade. In that section were the vacuum cleaners that were invented or in vogue at the time.
Some of these ads were interesting to read – and usually quite sexist!
Did you know that a shag carpet weighs eight times more being removed from the house than it did when brought in new?
Agnes Moorehead, who played Samantha’s witch mother on the TV series Bewitched in the 1960s, had a vacuum cleaner made especially for her in her favorite color – lavender!
Dale decided to buy one souvenir at the vacuum cleaner museum: a yellow t-shirt with the museum’s logo on it!
Cuba, Missouri is known as the Route 66 Mural City. Driving through on Route 66, we saw murals on buildings all over town. Many of the murals were numbered, with informational plaques near them.
Cuba’s series of Civil War murals depict conflicts between the troops of Confederate General Sterling Price and Union General Thomas Ewing in September 1864. The battles started at Fort Davidson near Pilot Knob, Missouri and ended with the rescue of the Union troops in Leasburg. The Civil War murals were a collaborative effort between Viva Cuba and the Eagle project of a young man from a local Boy Scout troop.
Just up the road from Cuba is Stanton, the base for an excursion to Meramec Caverns, considered the oldest geological feature along Route 66. Because we had been to Fantastic Caverns earlier in the day, we did not stop at Meramec Caverns, made famous by billboards and bumper stickers devised by their original owner.
It was nearly 6:00 pm when we arrived in St. Louis. Because we had made reservations for a Best Western in a suburb on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, we stopped to see the famous Arch, noting that the construction we had encountered there two years earlier was now complete.
We had been strongly urged, by our daughter and others, to sample St. Louis barbecue, so we looked up barbecue restaurants online and found one in the heart of downtown St. Louis. As it happened, there was a game this evening between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, and many of the patrons at Sugarfire were fans of both teams, since the restaurant was only a short distance from the stadium. I had to wait for Dale while he took his time in the restroom, so I joked with patrons standing in line, to go ahead of me, “even though you’re a Cardinals fan!” There were plenty of Cubs fans having dinner there, easily identified by their Cubs caps and t-shirts. We hailed them and shared our solidarity. I began to feel eager to get home, as we would tomorrow!
The BBQ was quite good, although Dale said he preferred the BBQ place we sampled when we were in St. Louis two years before.
We didn’t plan to see anything in St. Louis, whether Route 66 related or not, since we had spent three days there only two years ago. So after dinner, we decided to cross the river to find our hotel and to go to Chain of Rocks Bridge, (3 miles west of Granite City, Illinois, via I-270 off exit 3, then south on SR 3 and west on Chain of Rocks Road to the river). This bridge was the crossing point for Route 66 for more than 30 years. Opened in 1929, this steel trestle bridge is no longer open to auto traffic but is part of the Route 66 Bikeway linking scenic trails on both sides of the river.
We watched the blazing sun going down and took photos of its reflection on the mighty Mississippi River.
Here’s the bridge we crossed by car.