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Rural Missouri Magazine
Lost in time
Bo's Hollow shares one family's
love of Model A Fords

by Bob McEowen

Visitors to Bo's Hollow can tour the family-owned attraction in original Model A Fords. One of the first structures the Borel family built at Bo's Hollow was a reproduction covered bridge.

It seems almost impossible that anyone would just stumble upon Bo’s Hollow, though Lynne Borel says it happens all the time.

No signs point the way. A motorist has to miss a bend in the blacktop leading to Montauk State Park and veer off onto a gravel road to even head in the right direction. But somehow people do manage to travel more than a mile down two back roads and ford a low-water crossing to arrive at a barn with the words “See Bo’s Hollow” emblazoned on the roof.

Even when visitors deliberately follow directions posted on the Internet, the sight of a 1930s-era gas station with Model A cars parked out front is unexpected and just a little confusing. The historic village seems so lifelike and out of place on this lonely road that you immediately wonder if you’ve entered an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

Not to worry, within moments of your arrival Lynne will be on hand to set you at ease.

“I meet people at the gate and usually ask them how they found us,” she says. “We don’t advertise and we quit putting signs up. It’s just fascinating to hear how people find out about us.”

Lynne Borel welcomes visitors to Bo’s Hollow, a historic village based on the Borel family’s collection of Model A Fords. Among the tiny buildings on display at the attraction are a 1930's post office, barber shop and hardware store. The family's smoke house sells beef jerky and sandwiches.

In truth, most people learn about Bo’s Hollow through word of mouth. The site is so hard to describe, one has to wonder what was said to send people in search of this most unusual attraction.

Bo’s Hollow consists of a cluster of small buildings, the most prominent one being the reproduction gas station, complete with artifacts of the early 1930s, when Model A Ford cars and trucks were commonplace.

“We sold gas up until last year,” Lynne says. “We got too busy to pump gas, so we quit.”

Other structures recreate the atmosphere of an early 20th-century hardware store, barbershop and post office. Also on display are a smokehouse, a working windmill, a small chicken coop, an outhouse (with a surprise occupant), the entrance to a mineshaft and a Western-era “hoosegow.”

A collection of antique tire patch kits are among artifacts on display in a replica 1930s gas station.

Strategically placed around the compound are Model A Fords of all kinds. The vehicles, all drivable and in regular use, include coupes, four-door sedans, trucks and “doodlebugs” — a home-built tractor based on a Model A truck chassis.

Bo’s Hollow is like few other roadside attractions. Aside from the fact that it’s on the side of a road few people ever travel, the attraction charges no admission (though donations are accepted). Visitors are invited to wander around the grounds and visit with Lynne and her two sons. A small gift shop has a few items for sale, and the smokehouse offers beef jerky and barbecue beef sandwiches — though at $5 for a sandwich, drink, chips and cookie, most guests think they’re taking advantage of Dale Borel, who mans the smokehouse.

“You could probably get a barbecue sandwich like this on the highway and it would be no big deal, it’s just a barbecue sandwich,” Dale says, understating the value of his heaping sandwich served on a homemade bun. “But when you come out here, it’s a thing of disbelief. It all just goes together.”

Lynne Borel and her two sons, David and Dale, welcome visitors to the site from March through October.

To fully appreciate Bo’s Hollow, visitors can tour the Borel farm in an original Model A, sometimes driven by Lynne but usually with her son David at the wheel.

“Last year, once we started getting busy, I’d get in the car at 10:15 and I’d get out of the car at 4 o’clock. It was just one group after the other,” says David, who maintains the family’s fleet of Model A’s.

The $5 Model A tours take visitors around a large field and alongside a creek where David points out a beaver lodge and explains the operation of a hydraulically operated pump the family uses to fill a small pond.

The sights along the 15-minute tour aren’t really the point though. The thrill is simply to ride in the old cars, listen to the ah-ooga sound of the horn and bounce on the hard seats as the car rides over rough farm roads.

The historic village the Borel family created includes a reproduction gas station, a hardware store, water tower with working wind-powered pump and several other structures.

“We’ve only broke down one time, to where we couldn’t make it back,” David says, explaining that breakdowns only add to the enjoyment of the ride.

“That’s more fun than anything,” he says. “You’ve got to get out and raise the hood. You’ve got a carload of people and everybody gets out to help. Oh, they have a blast.”

Indeed, the vehicles are the stars of the Bo’s Hollow show, Lynne says. The historic village grew out her husband’s love for the old Fords, which were made from 1928 through 1931.

Although his cars are everywhere at Bo’s Hollow, Bracy Borel is nowhere to be found. “You won’t see him. He’s a recluse,” Lynne says, adding that her husband is in poor health.

The Borels moved to Missouri from Texas 23 years ago and own a small grocery in Raymondville, which is managed by David’s and Dale’s wives. It was here that Bracy bought his first Model A and began a hobby that would grow to include a part-time restoration business as well as the Bo’s Hollow attraction.

Model A rides at Bo's Hollow take visitors around the Borel's property near Montauk State Park.

“He bought his first Model A and I thought that was fine,” Lynne says, recounting how her family became obsessed with old cars. “When he would see another one for sale he would buy it. Each time he would say, ‘It was like money in the bank,’ or ‘We’ll restore it and sell it.’ So now we have 20-something and he’s never sold one.”

To accommodate his growing Model A collection, Bracy built a cavernous barn, which serves as the family’s car restoration shop. Located on a ridge top high above Bo’s Hollow, the barn has a large kitchen and space for Borel family gatherings.

The cars, shop and the ability to feed large groups were too much to resist for Lynne’s brother, a member of a Model A club in Dallas. He organized a 13-car club caravan to visit Missouri. A local TV station came out to cover the gathering of Model A enthusiasts and Bo’s Hollow, the public attraction, was born.

Lynne Borel discusses antique haircutting supplies with visitors inside the replica barbershop at Bo's Hollow. A former beautician, Lynne cut's her husband's and sons' hair in the shop.

“People started calling. They said it’s such a beautiful setting, and it’s something so different. You should let people see it,” Lynne recalls. “We started the village from that.”

Bo’s Hollow opened to the public five years ago. Initially tours included the restoration shop, though now that’s reserved for people with a genuine interest in Model A’s. Each season, the family has added a new attraction, and now a series of diminutive buildings give a sense of a 1930s town.

While the Borel’s bill their attraction as a step back in time, there is really no pretense that’s actually happening. The family does not dress in old-time costumes and the village lacks the hillbilly hokum typical of so many history-themed destinations. If anything, a visit to Bo’s Hollow is less time travel and more history lesson, especially for younger visitors.

David Borel spends busy summer days driving guests around Bo's Hollow in one more than 20 Model A automobiles the Borel family owns.

“I love children and I want it to be something educational for them,” Lynne says. “I try to explain how times would have been — what life could have been like — because children have no idea.”

Whenever possible, Lynne guides visitors through their first minutes at Bo’s Hollow. She takes people into the gas station and points out significant artifacts. “Children like to wring the chamois,” she says.

From there she leads groups to an old windmill and lifts a lever to operate a pump. Once water starts pouring into a bucket, she disconnects the turbine and has children draw water by hand. Next, Lynne takes visitors to the village’s tiny hardware store, which contains a mixture of antique merchandise and modern items for sale. Plumbing fixtures are especially popular with neighbors who will stop in at Bo’s Hollow rather than drive into Licking or Salem.

After demonstrating an old-fashioned corn grinder and feeding the resulting grist to resident chickens, Lynne concludes her tour and turns visitors loose to wander on their own through a reproduction post office and barbershop or visit the smokeshack.

Dale Borel prepares beef jerkey for sale at Bo's Hollow.

Lynne’s obvious enthusiasm for the history presented at Bo’s Hollow is no act. Although she and her husband live modern lives, they hold onto a few remnants of a bygone time. Lynne and Bracy make their home in a small cabin built from logs salvaged from an 1840s dogtrot home. They pump water with a windmill and Lynne cooks on a wood-fired stove.

The family’s appreciation for things past is not lost on the thousands of visitors who somehow manage to find their way off the beaten path and arrive at Bo’s Hollow. Although the family could do more to attract visitors, they don’t seem to be in any hurry to raise their profile.

“As long as it pays the light bill and the upkeep, that’s good enough for us,” David says. “This is what we enjoy. It’s not a get-rich thing.”

Bo’s Hollow is located two miles south of Montauk State Park on County Road 663 (Ashley Creek Road). The attraction is open Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, call (573) 548-2429 or log onto www.bohollow.com.

Rural Missouri magazine - April 2014 issue
 
 
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