At the turn of the 20th century, Joplin was a boomtown filled with saloons, brothels, and gambling halls. At City Hall (602 S. Main St., 800/657-2534, Mon.-Fri. 8am-5pm, free), muralist Thomas Hart Benton’s 6-foot by 14-foot mural depicts Joplin’s lawless past. The mural is on the right (west) side near East 6th Street.

Bonnie and Clyde killed two police officers before fleeing Joplin, leaving behind a camera.Lawlessness continued in Joplin well after Route 66 came through town. In 1933, notorious outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow robbed several businesses in the area. A neighbor tipped off the cops, which led to a shootout at their apartment. Bonnie and Clyde killed two police officers before fleeing Joplin, leaving behind a camera.

bonnie and clyde

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, circa 1932-1934. Public domain photo.

After the film in the camera was developed, authorities finally knew what the devious duo looked like. The Historical Museum in the Joplin Museum Complex (504 S. Schifferdecker Ave., 417/623-1180, 10am-7pm Tues., 10am-5pm, Wed.-Sat. free) has some of the photos, along with their clothing, jewelry, and other items left in their apartment. To reach the Joplin Museum Complex, drive west on Route 66 (7th Street) and turn right (north) on South Schifferdecker, then quickly turn left (west) into the park. The complex is on the right (east).

The house where the shootout took place is two miles south of Route 66 on 34th Street, between Joplin Avenue and Oak Ridge Drive. It’s a sand-colored, square-shaped building on the north side of 34th Street with two garage doors in front. Bonnie and Clyde lived upstairs. Today, it’s a private residence.

Bonnie and Clyde house in Joplin

The apartment home where Bonnie and Clyde lived in Joplin, MO. Photo © Abe Ezekowitz, licensed CC BY-SA.

While you’re at the Joplin Museum, stop into the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum (504 S. Schifferdecker Ave., 417/623-1180, 10am-7pm Tues., 10am-5pm Wed.-Sat., free), which has several displays of archive cookie cutters and materials such as advertisements and newsletters. Be sure to ask for a free plastic cookie cutter as a souvenir.

Food

For an old-fashioned American meal, stop at Granny Shaffer’s Family Restaurant (7th St. and Illinois, 417/624-3700, 6am-8:30pm Mon.-Sat., 7am-3pm Sun., $5-14). The signature country-fried steak is made to order, the hamburgers are ground fresh, and the bread is baked on-site. They also serve great omelets for breakfast. It’s on the newer alignment of Route 66 as you approach East 7th Street.

The Candy House Gourmet (510 Kentucky Ave., 417/623-7171, 9:30am-5:30pm Mon.-Sat., 12:30pm-5:30pm Sun.) sells Route 66 snack baskets with Route 66 branded hard candy suckers, cheese popcorn, “Mother Road Munch,” Cajun spicy beer brittle, “Fill ’er Up” chocolate bars, and railway ties made from chocolate pecan pretzel rods. It’s located a few blocks east off 5th Street as you enter Joplin.

If you want something a little more substantial, Hackett Hot Wings (520 S. Main St., 417/625-1333, 11am-8:30pm Mon.-Sat., $5-10) specializes in 13 original flavors of chicken wings. The dry rubs explode with flavor, and the crispy sweet potato puffs and corn nuggets help cool down the heat. It’s located a few blocks from the Candy House Gourmet.

Back on 66

As you leave Joplin via Route 66 (West 7th Ave.) it’s only 3 miles to the Kansas border.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Route 66 Road Trip.