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Reminiscences of June, a Traveling Grandmother

Chapter: 29 - 2000 - June's Bus Tour To Branson - 4th Year Alzheimer's



 " CHAPTER 29."








Branson Christmas lights

 (Branson Christmas Lights)


This bus tour was June's first and only over night type bus tour. June and Stan had heard about the bus tours to Branson, Missouri from many of their friends who had previously gone. As a result of all of the testimonials by her friends, June was eager to go.

Finally in early December 2000, June's opportunity arrived. The tour was the Branson Christmas Special via Tourco Tours Inc. It consisted of 5 days and 4 nights. The departure date was Thursday December 7th, 2000. Although June was into her 4th year of Alzheimer's since her first short term memory symptoms appeared in 1997, June was still doing fine. June appeared to have a great time during this trip and very much enjoyed her tour.


(June boarding tour bus at Branson - December 2000)  


June Berg Leaving on Bus for Branson


The pickup point for the bus tour to begin was at I-694 and University Avenue in Fridley. (In the Gander Mountain Parking lot.) June and Stan's son Dan was kind enough to transfer June and Stan to the pick up point with their luggage and await the arrival of the bus.

The bus was timely and June and  Stan were soon on their way south from Minneapolis on highway 35 en-route to Kansas City.

A short morning break and stop for coffee was made in Fairbault. The later Lunch break was in Des Moines, Iowa. That evening involved a special Holiday Lights tour of the Kansas City Crown Center and Country Club Plaza. The group spent the evening at the Holiday Inn-at Olathe.

Departure the next morning on Friday December 8th was at 8:30 AM. The Friday morning break was taken at the Osceloa Cheese Shop.

The Lunch stop on Friday was at the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri. June and Stan had their lunch at the Hemingway's Restaurant...they never found out why it was called Hemingway's Restaurant.

Arrival at Branson, Missouri

That afternoon June and Stan arrived in Branson and promptly took in their first show. The Show was Dino's 10th Annual Christmas Spectacular. Dinner was at B. T. Bones followed by the Mel & Pam Tillis Christmas Special. A late night view of the "Branson Festival of Lights" ended a rather long day.

The evenings at Branson during the Christmas tour were all spent at the Atrium Inn in Branson, Missouri.

Again at 8:30 AM  on Saturday December 9th, the bus departed the hotel with the first stop being the Mountain Man Fruit and Nut Store. The tour then continued with Old Downtown Branson and the Branson area. This included Table Rock Lake and scenic overlook and the College of the Ozarks. The group had lunch on their own with time for shopping in Old Branson.

That afternoon June and Stan saw the show "Country Tonight". Dinner was at Beverly's. The evening show was the epic musical "The Promise" the story of Christ.

Ben A. Parnell Jr. of the White River Valley Historical Society described (June 14, 1998) Old Downtown Branson:

"The Osage Indians camped on the White river here at what became Branson, at the mouth of Roark Creek, because it was paradise. Clear, sweet water, flush with fish, rugged green hills and valleys teeming with game, temperate weather - paradise. Explorers from foreign lands, white settlers and commerce followed, drawn to the beauty, the resources, the transportation possibilities. Without the White river, Branson as we know it would simply not exist. And then the railroad. Though Branson was born without it, we flourished and grew because of it. Then there were the promoter's. The connotation is not normally a positive one. In Branson's case, many of the promoter's were and are for the most part heroes, for they developed, created and expanded Branson's reach. The principle ones were not self serving. They were in it for the community as much as themselves. I how this sounds naive in today's context, but it's true." 

June found that the Old Downtown Branson was not unlike the small towns she had grown up in around Colfax, Barron and Rice Lake, WI.


(June and some of the cast - show "Red, Hot & Blue!)"


June Berg Branson


 The next morning, Sunday December 10th started the day with a combination breakfast and show "Red Hot & Blue!". This show consisted of music from the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. This show was a very high energy production with young entertainers.

The show was described as: "Red, Hot & Blue!" tears up the Branson stage with New York style talent! - Ozarks' Best Fun and Food."  "Get ready to be transported on a musical  journey through the ages as the hardest working cast in Branson, takes you back to the Ragtime Era, the Roaring 20's, the Classic Jazz Era of the 1930's, the Swinging sounds of the 1940's and the Big Band Era, the Hilarious 1950's, the Rocking 1960's and more! Hold onto your hats and stay focused because you might just miss one of their Award winning costumes or be blown out of your seats by their quick moving choreography and precise vocal harmonies. ..however, Red, Hot and Blue will always keep their signature production numbers including, the "Charleston/Black bottom" number, the 1940's "In the Mood" number, and the beautifully arranged tribute to our American Veterans The "Till Then/I'll Be Seeing You" medley."

After the show, the tour started wending it's way back home via Springfield and Carthage, Missouri.

A stop at Carthage, Missouri involved a visit to the "Precious Moments" Chapel and Gift Shop.

The "Precious Moments" Chapel is described in a folder as "one of the rare treasures of the Ozarks. We welcome you to dine at Tiffany's Restaurant, visit the unique gift shops, or simply enjoy a snack at Royal Delights." The folder also describes "Phillip's Prayer Room" as a place to "find the peace and comfort you need today." This room was named after the son of the artist that did the Chapel murals. (This young man passed away at an early age.)  The artist is Sam Butcher. The touching mural in this room depicted a small child as an angel entering heaven and being greeted by other little children angels.


Precious Moments Mural


Because this stop was also the lunch stop, sufficient time was available to visit the Chapel and to browse the gift shops.

The afternoon rest stop was at the Russel Stover chocolate factory outlet. An abundance of free chocolate samples were provided and of course boxes of chocolates were available for purchase. From this stop it was on to Olathe, Kansas for the evening at the Holiday Inn.

The next morning's (Monday December 11th) early morning (7:30 AM) departure was moved up an hour earlier (6:30 AM) due to the reports of large snow storm on its way through the region.

Driving this day was bad (snow and wind) almost all the way back to Minneapolis. Luncheon for the day was at the Iowa Machine Shed in Des Moines. June's bus was traveling in blizzard conditions when they left Des Moines. This part of the trip was harried and stressful for June. Many vehicles were seen in the ditch along the way. The group later learned that highway 35 was closed down behind them just after leaving Des Moines.

Other than the snow storm, June very much enjoyed her tour to Branson and the many nice people she met during the trip.

The Tourco bus log listed a total of 47 people participating in the Branson Christmas Special Tour. The bus had a total of four pickup points before all were aboard for the trip to Branson. Fridley was the first stop. The Fridley pickup point was the largest with 27 people at this first stop. The second stop was Maplewood where 14 more passengers were added. The Third Stop was in West St. Paul for 4 additional passengers. The last two passengers boarded the bus at the final pick up point in Bloomington.

The group appeared to be very compatible and no problems were encountered during the tour that June was aware of. June's smiling and friendly personality fits into any group. The seating was changed after each stop along the way so that no one had the same seat for the entire tour. This was done to avoid a passenger having the same seat location for the entire tour. This was also done to eliminate long term seating in a seat that someone may have considered to be undesirable.  

During the tour, June met two ladies who later became her and Stan's very good friends. The ladies were Doralene Lekas and Leola Connery. These Greek ladies are both sisters, both are widows and both have a fine sense of humor. June and Stan continued their contacts with these fine ladies following the tour. Subsequently the sisters introduced June and Stan to the plays and performances by the Lyric Arts Theater in Anoka. June and Stan loved the Lyric Arts Theater and this began a regular attendance together thereafter. The selected performances were usually on the Sunday afternoon schedules. This would then be followed by a dinner together. Most often the restaurant selected would be The 50's Place in Brooklyn Center. 

These fun times together with June's friends continued up until June's Alzheimer's so took over her life. (March 2005) In that year June had to be placed in the care of an Alzheimer's facility. Leola later passed on in 2012 and Doralene's health subsequently no longer permitted her to drive a car...Now that June is gone, Stan continues their attendance with Lyric Theater season tickets and June is with Stan by way of her framed picture that is seated on the chair next to Stan in Box number 3...Lin Schmidt, the director and founder of the Lyric Theater, donated the cost of season tickets for June so that not only is June with Stan in spirit and memory and her picture, but June has her own printed season tickets with her name on them and box 3, seat No. 1! 


Stan's Note: Because of Stan's health going down hill, Stan no longer since about 2017 is able to drive or attend the Lyric Theater performances although he does still make Yearly donations in June's name and June's name appears in ever performances Program as a significant donator for support of Children's Programming.


(June with Branson Tour friends. (L-R) Leola Connery, June Berg & Doralene Lekas.)    

Doralene and Leola with June Berg