Three of the most popular TV sitcoms of the 1960s were The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction. The creator and executive producer of all three series was Paul Henning. As a young man in the 1920s, Mr. Henning lived in Independence, Missouri. He later married Ruth Barth, of Kansas City.
Henning used quite a few local place names in his television shows. And the idea for the Shady Rest Hotel came from his wife's recollections of the Burris Hotel in Eldon. Here's Mrs. Ruth Henning's own story of how that came to be:
My grandparents, Willis and Martha Burris had this hotel in...Eldon, Missouri. It didn't look anything like the Shady Rest Hotel, but it was right near the railroad station. Sometimes when I was child, my mother would send me on the train [from Kansas City] out to visit my grandparents...,and she would pin the name onto my dress or something, and my grandpa would walk up to the station to meet me. My mother was the oldest of five sisters, and all of them had girls, and we all went there for our summer vacations, and we really looked forward to it.
Some of us older girls, the minute we would get there, we couldn't wait to go uptown and go into the drugstore and have a Coke and give the local boys a chance to look us over. And when we got home, the telephone would start ringing, and the boys would be wanting a date with one of the "city girls."
Of course, the Shady Rest was a much more beautiful place, all out in the country and everything. This was right in the little town and it wasn't so beautiful, but my grandmother was a wonderful cook, and they served meals at the big long table in the dining room with bowls that they'd pass. A lot of people came there just to eat, even if they weren't going to stay at the hotel.
Now, when I go to Eldon--I still have some relatives there--they practically have a shrine to the Burris Hotel. I'm a celebrity when I go down there, because of Petticoat Junction. They say, "This is the Petticoat Junction Hotel." The likeness was in the feeling of it. They were good country people, and everybody was very friendly.
Special thanks to Mike Flannigan.
© 2001 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.