Roadside café served venerable clientele
Otis Howell of the Hannibal Courier-Post photographed the interior of the Osborne Diner, located on the northeast corner of the junction of what was once U.S. 36 and 61 in Hannibal. The diner was reopening following an extensive remodel. OTIS HOWELL PHOTO / HANNIBAL COURIER-POST, STEVE CHOU COLLECTION / REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF THE HANNIBAL FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY
Roadside café served
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
For the Courier-Post
Jack B. and Edna Louise Osborne operated a restaurant and gas station at the busiest intersection in Hannibal during the mid to late 1940s and into the early 1960s: At the northeast junction where Highway 61 and 36 intersected.
Highway 61 remains where it was when the restaurant was one of the most popular in town, but Highway 36 has moved north, from what is now termed Route MM up the road about a mile, to where Highway 36 now overpasses U.S. 61.
Jack and Louise operated their business in a day when motoring was the popular means of getting from Point A to Point B; when paved, two-lane highways were considered deluxe; and when small town diners along primary highway routes served townsfolk and travelers alike.
An advertisement in the Hannibal Courier-Post during the last week in August 1950 congratulated Jack Osborne on the remodeling and reopening of his restaurant.
Bluff City Dairy, which was located on St. Mary’s Avenue, just a few blocks away from the restaurant, was named as the exclusive supplier for dairy products for the restaurant. Wichern’s Floor Service put down the new floor covering during the remodeling, and Frozen Gold, Menzel Ice Cream Co., was named the lone supplier for ice cream products at the restaurant.
Mrs. E.E. Carder was manager for Osborne’s Café. The menu included short orders, steaks, chicken, chops, seafoods and sandwiches.
Adams’ Super Markets, 2923 St. Mary’s and 400 Mark Twain Avenue, was the sole provider of steaks for the restaurant, which were all Government Graded U.S. Good.
Matthew Algeo, author of “Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip,” wrote about a lunch that Harry and Bess Truman enjoyed at Osborne’s Café on June 19, 1953.
Algeo said that they parked on the Bud’s Golden Cream lot next door to Osborne’s Café, walked over to the diner and ordered fruit plates and ice tea. The former president and his wife ate their lunch in peace, and it wasn’t until they were leaving that they were recognized.
In 1953, Charles Carder and Gene Dorway were restaurant managers.
In 2010, Brian Osborne, son of Jack B. and Edna Louise Osborne, told Danny Henley of the Hannibal Courier-Post that he literally grew up at the service station, washing headlights when he was just 5 years old. Working around the old cars sparked his life-long interest in old vehicles.
While most Baby Boomers who grew up in Hannibal remember Osborne’s, Jack and Louise weren’t the first to operate the gas station and café at the northeast corner of this intersection.
Lory Renie of Hallsville, Mo., operated Renie’s Café and filling station at this junction in 1935. The Renie family, including his wife, Lora J., son Lory E. Renie Jr., and his wife Virginia Renie, moved to Hannibal from Columbia, and remained in Hannibal for a few years, making their home at 5 Greenway Drive. The two women operated the café, and the men managed the service station.
Lory Renie Sr., was a tall, lean man with light blue eyes and light brown hair. The son of a blacksmith from Hallsville, Mo., he had to have his father’s consent before marrying Miss Lora McDonnell of Columbia in 1911, because he was not yet 21.
The Renie family eventually settled back in the Columbia area. Lory Renie Sr., died following a heart attack in October 1957. Lory Renie Jr., died in June 1984 at Cairo, Randolph County, Missouri.
By 1946, the businesses at this site had been renamed Bowman’s Café and Bowman’s Service Station. Cecil W. Bowman, older brother of Jack Osborne’s wife, Lois, was the owner of the café, and co-managed the gas station with Jack, who was nine years Cecil’s junior.
Within a few years, Jack and Lois had taken over ownership, and renamed the business once again.
Cecil Bowman died July 7, 1973.
The 1940 census lists Jack Osborne as living with his family in Grass Valley, Calif., working as a miner. In 1946, Louise Osborne’s widowed mother, Kittie, was living at 3209 James Road. Her husband, Edward, died in 1943.
Louise died a tragic death in 1961, succumbing to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of 45. Jack Osborne died five years later, in 1966, at the age of 55. They were married for 30 years.
A long-time employee at Osborne Café was Lois J. Shanks, a retired waitress. She died in 1999.
The building was later razed to make room for the construction of Cassano’s Pizza, which still operates at that location. Owned by the Harvey family, a photo of the old Osborne Café is hung prominently in the restaurant’s dining area.