Bob Cummings Motor Hotel – Joplin, Missouri

MO, Joplin - Bob Cummings Motor Hotel (2)

Bob Cummings was a well-known actor of both television and movies. He was born in Joplin, Missouri on June 9, 1910.

I will let IMDB give a brief biography for me, as this isn’t really about Bob’s career:

Postcard courtesy of Joplin Public Library

Effective light comedian of ’30s and ’40s films and ’50s and ’60s TV series, Robert Cummings was renowned for his eternally youthful looks (which he attributed to a strict vitamin and health-food diet). He was educated at Carnegie Tech and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Deciding that Broadway producers would be more interested in an upper-crust Englishman than a kid from Joplin, Missouri, Cummings passed himself off as Blade Stanhope Conway, British actor. The ploy was successful. Cummings decided that if it worked on Broadway, it would work in Hollywood, so he journeyed west and assumed the identity of a rich Texan named Bruce Hutchens. The plan worked once more, and he began securing small parts in films. He soon reverted to his real name and became a popular leading man in light comedies, usually playing well-meaning, pleasant but somewhat bumbling young men. He achieved much more success, however, in his own television series in the ’50s, The Bob Cummings Show (1955) and My Living Doll (1964).

Neosho News, April 29, 1962

The Bob Cummings Motor Hotel opened on April 28, 1962 just down the street from another hotel owned by a celebrity, the Mickey Mantle-owned Holiday Inn (I will get to that story in the future).

Located at Interstate 44 connection to the Oklahoma Turnpike on Highways 71-166 & Route 66, The Bob Cummings contained a large swimming, direct dial phones, a 24-hour restaurant, 2 cocktail lounges and convention facilities for 500 people.

The motel itself was painted with squares of red, blue, yellow and black and surrounded the large swimming in the back of the complex.

MO, Joplin - Bob Cummings Motor Hotel (3)

The motor hotel started with a bang. Three people were arrested after a fight broke out as the result of a poker game gone wrong. A couple was charge for illicit cohabitation and gambling and another man for gambling.

Things went smoother for the Bob Cummings for a little while. There were coin shows, conventions of all kinds – I found articles about a telephone workers convention, press conventions, civic conventions, proms, fashion shows and a three-day, very competitive Bridge competition.  It was gaining the reputation as  the place to see and be seen in Joplin.

The Neosho Daily News, November 25, 1964

The brawl was a bit of an omen of things to come, as the Bob Cummings Motor Hotel was seemingly cursed to be a failure.

Just four months after the opening the motels parent company, Van Pelt Motor Hotels, has their liquor license suspended for 10 days due to overselling packaged liquor from their store.

On July 26th, 1964 a strong windstorm came through Joplin. The wind caused loose gravel from the motel to blow, causing damage to cars and the lobby flooded.

Behind the scenes, things were just as dicey. In November of 1964, a Newton County Magistrate Judge issued an order of execution for recovery of leased premises to Irving Dexter and Armin Miller, of Chicago, to take over the motor lodge due to the bankruptcy of Van Pelt Motor Hotels, Inc and the breaking of their lease.

I cannot find any details on what happened to the place after that. I don’t think it lasted much longer and if it did it was drastically changed. The location is not listed in the 1967 Master Hosts motels guide so either it was gone or it ceased to be a member of the Master Hosts Motor Hotel chain.

Bob Cummings died in 1990 in California at the age of 80.

The building lasted until 2012 having ended it’s life as a place called Riviera Roadside Motel. There is a Sonic on the site now and there is no trace of the taste of Hollywood that Joplin enjoyed for a brief period in the 1960s.

Courtesy of Joplin Public Library


Courtesy of Joplin Public Library

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