April 6: 19 Drive-In, Cuba MO

It’s Day 96 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I looped around St. Louis as I stuck to the interstates driving an hour and a half from Belleville IL to the 19 Drive-In in Cuba MO.

It had been over 20 years since I had visited the 19. I find that when I’ve only visited a drive-in once or twice, some of my strongest memories of the place are what I saw there, and then it’s easy to look up what year that was. In this case, I remember sitting through the full two hours of John Travolta in Phenomenon waiting for the Farrelly brothers’ comedy Kingpin, so I know it was 1996.

The 19 marks my first intersection of the old Route 66 and a drive-in since I was in Oklahoma, and the connection feels tighter here for some reason. Maybe it’s because the Route 66 is more obvious in Cuba than Tulsa, which has a wider variety of distractions.

The 19 first opened in 1950. The place still charges just $1.16 (probably $1.25 with tax) for a small popcorn. Of the top of my head, I can’t think of any drive-in with a lower price for popcorn.

Unfortunately, the 19 isn’t going to open for the 2017 season until April 14. Oh well.

Miles Today / Total:  97 / 10743 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 46

Nearby Restaurant: To stay on theme, I just had to eat at Shelly’s Route 66 Cafe. It’s convenient to the Wagon Wheel Motel, so that’s a plus. Blueberry pancakes? Great! Homemade biscuits and gravy? Sure! You’ve got to get there before they close after lunch, but if you can find a seat, it’s worth it.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Not only is it listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Wagon Wheel Motel is still a great place to stay for a night. When it started in 1936, it offered Route 66 drivers a roadside cafe and gas station backed by three stone lodging buildings in Tudor Revival style. In 1947, John and Winifred Mathis bought the place and added more buildings and its distinctive neon signage. Oh yes, the rooms are clean, if a bit small, the wifi works fine, and the price is right, especially considering that you’re sleeping in such a historic site.

Only in Cuba: From a really big fake shoe in Belleville IL to the world’s largest real shoes. According to Roadside America, the Hayes Family Shoe Store displays the 37AA shoes of Robert Wadlow, the World’s Tallest Man, in its front window. Wadlow left it behind during a 1938 tour of shoe stores.

Next stop: Starlite Drive-In Theatre, Cadet MO.