Model A rides are only one aspect of Bo’s Hollow, a “town” that replicates an Ozarks community from the 1930s.
BO’S HOLLOW – The small town of Bo’s Hollow can’t be found by a map or road sign. It’s hidden in another world, one tucked beyond tree-canopied, country gravel roads. But those winding paths eventually reveal a little town, comprised of colorful buildings, from the 1930s.
Well, sort of. The town does indeed exist, but not in a conventional sense. The buildings, flanked by a row of old-time Model As, merely replicate what life was life during the Great Depression. But for the town’s founders, offering that learning experience helps makes the work worthwhile.
“… This period, you don’t learn about,” says Lynne Borel, one of the town’s owners. “So that’s why I wanted (kids) to learn a little bit about what rural Missouri would’ve been like.”
How the town began
Vintage signage is a common sight at Bo’s Hollow.
Like many Ozarks communities, Bo’s Hollow began because of a founding family. In this town’s case, that was Borel and her husband, Bracy.
The former Texans decided to move to Missouri in the early 1980s for land: Specifically, the chance to buy more of it at a cheaper price than what they were accustomed to. The couple purchased 300 acres, which Borel agreed to “on (the) condition that we have a little bitty yard and no maintenance,” she recalls.
Since they now own a town, it’s safe to say that plan fell to pieces. But it all began with a barn.
A construction enthusiast, Borel’s husband built the facility to restore Model A cars. It attracted the attention of a car club in Texas, whose members caravanned to Missouri to see the facility. In turn, the visitors’ presence generated a TV news story. Word began to spread: Soon, other people wanted to visit, too.
“And so we thought, ‘Well, why not?” recalls Borel. “‘We have the barn, we can do that.’”
In retrospect, that was the beginning of the end. After the barn grew in popularity, Bracy Borel decided to build a vintage gas station. And after that was done, he just kept going.
13 years later, Bo’s Hollow has grown to around 10 buildings, a variety of four-legged creatures and a few friendly fowl — which provide learning experiences for adults, too. “I’ve had adults ask me the difference between a rooster and a hen,” says Borel. “You know, you think they’re joking, but they’re not.”
It’s also a family affair for the Borels: Since they moved to Missouri, their children have relocated nearby, and are involved with the operation in one way or another.
What’s to see?
The general store reveals a variety of sights from days gone by.
Part of the experience at Bo’s Hollow is indeed its location. It’s incredibly remote: Road signs used to show the way, but after being repeatedly torn down, the Borels decided not to replace them. “Some people say they looked for three years (before finding us),” says Borel.
But once they arrive, visitors are treated to a hidden historical treasure trove. Built near a former community named Ashley Creek, Bo’s Hollow represents a variety of stops common to that day and age. “We have the gas station, and we have the hardware store,” says Borel. “The windmill, (where) children like to pump the water.”
She continues, listing post and telegraph offices, a barbershop, and a hoosegow, which serves as the jail. But wait for more: There’s the “Last Chance” mine, while a cemetery tops a nearby hill. Chickens and tractors greet visitors, and a corral houses goats and two donkeys — the latter which are named Hillary and Tipper. “We got Hillary when Clinton was in office, and she was from Arkansas, so that’s how we named her,” explains Borel. “And then we got Tipper — so she had to be Tipper.”
Hillary loves visitors.
Visitors are free to leisurely look through the buildings. All of them are open except the telegraph office, which is just too small to get people inside. “And every one has the things that would pertain to that building,” says Borel.
When they’re done walking, visitors can ride: The Borels offer trips through the countryside in their Model As. Visitors can choose from one of two different options: Either wind around Ashley Creek, or up to the Borels’ hilltop log cabin and around the aforementioned restoration barn that began it all.
Stop and snack
The barbecue house (right) at Bo’s Hollow serves up food for visitors.
If running a town wasn’t enough, the Borels are in the barbecue business, too. Tempting scents waft from the building where the former Texans prepare mouth-watering and nose-tempting meats. “We make our own seasonings,” says Borel. “He slices all the meat by hand, and we have our own rub and sauce and so we do the barbecuing and smoking. And we make jerky.” (In addition to their apple butter, salsa and fudge.)
Those tender piles of meat materialize into sandwiches available for purchase. Some people opt to eat them out back at one of the tables — but for just a little extra, they can go on a picnic. “…We pack your lunch in a picnic basket, and put it on the Model A bus and drive you out to the creek,” says Borel. “And the kids can play in the creek however long they want and then we go pick them up.”
The prices are modest — $5 nets diners a sandwich, homemade cookie and bag of chips, with a little more for an actual picnic — but the introduction of food was a strategic move. “Well, we had to do something to make money,” says Borel.
The town’s visitors
Model A cars also play a large role at Bo’s Hollow: The Borels own 17 vehicles, virtually all from 1930 and ’31, and use them to drive visitors through the nearby countryside.
Considering the hollow’s location, one might wonder if visitors are far and few between. But while there is always room for more, it doesn’t take long for customers to start coming in the gate on a recent Saturday morning. Within an hour or so of opening, around 30 people — of a variety of ages — mill through the village. There are families with kids, pumping water and grinding corn. There are senior citizens. And there’s even a couple visiting while on their honeymoon.
Two of the visitors are Bill Stack and Bill Stack — III and IV, respectively — on made their first trip to Bo’s Hollow. After the father-and-son duo heard about the hollow, knew they had to make a trip. “I was built in 1940,” says the elder Stack. “And my first car was a Model A coupe like the one out there. When I was a kid, I could hear them coming up the street. I loved that sound.”
Bo’s Hollow gives him a reminder of those times — but his presence also gives back to the Borels as well.
“Well, if you lived out here in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, and you’re from a large family, you enjoy the people!” laughs Borel.
Want to visit?
Bo’s Hollow is open from April – October. Prices vary for extras, but visiting the village costs as little as $2.50. Children 3 and under are free. For more information, call (573) 548-2429, check out their website or connect via Facebook.
(While you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop in at Montauk State Park. It’s only around 10 minutes away from Bo’s Hollow!)