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Life In The Ozarks: Culture, History and Geology

Program Number: 1614RJ
Start and End Dates:
9/30/2012 - 10/5/2012;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Branson, Missouri
Price starting at: $599.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Salt    

Throughout the ages, Ozarkers have been and continue to be hard working, self-reliant, independent people with a complex history and rich heritage. Meet and talk with some of the finest Ozark writers, folklorists, and musicians to gain an appreciation of the region’s culture, traditions, character and characters, music, beauty, and natural wonders.


• Trace human history from the time of the original Indian nations to early settlers, the Civil War, rural lifestyles and rites of passage, and on to the development of distinctive music, folklore, and modern Branson.
• Learn about life when people lived in log cabins, farmed with mules and grew their own food, “when living was hard but life was surely simpler.”
• Enjoy a Branson excursion and live music show plus a private performance of old-time tunes.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to a few blocks; standing up to one hour; get on/off coach. Elevators and ramps available.

Coordinated by Ozark Adventures.


Located in the heart of the Ozark Mountains on the shores of Lake Taneycomo, Branson is a popular tourist destination, famous for its many live music theaters, clubs and other entertainment venues, as well as its historic downtown and surrounding natural beauty. The city proudly proclaims the importance of family, faith, and patriotism throughout its many attractions.

Comfortable hotel with indoor swimming pool.
Meals and Lodgings
   Branson Towers
  Branson, MO 5 nights
 Branson Towers
Type: Hotel
  Description: Fantastic View of the Branson valley with all the lights of the strip!
  Contact info: 236 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway
Branson, MO 65616 USA
phone: 417-336-4500
  Room amenities: Wi-Fi, Cable TV, Coffee/Tea Maker, Hair Dryer, Refrigerator (On Request), Microwave (On request with charge)
  Facility amenities: Indoor Pool / Hot Tub, Full Breakfast, Laundry, Game Room, Ice Cream Social Nightly
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Bathroom: Grab bars and shower seats if needed
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Call 417-239-0203 Please contact provider at 417-239-0203 to ensure the best rate and room concerns.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Call 417-239-0203 Please contact provider at 417-239-0203 to ensure the best rate and room concerns.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Arrival/Check in time 4:30 PM. You will be staying at Branson Towers that night.
  End of Program:
Departure/Check out time 11 AM. You will be staying at Branson Towers the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Plenty of parking is available at the hotel. There is plenty of room for RVs.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Branson, MO
  Nearest highway: Highway 65
  Nearest airport:  Springfield, Missouri
  From End of Program
  Location: Branson, MO
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details



From Airport




phone: 417-332-CABS x2227
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$8-10 per car on average
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


15 minutes 




10 Miles


Please visit for information on this very close airport. While it is not required, we advise renting a car to help with travel during free time opportunities. Unfortunately the hotel does not offer a shuttle service for the airport.


Springfield, Missouri


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Branson Coach
phone: 417-339-4888
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Check with shuttle service.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


1 hour from Springfield 


PLEASE CHECK WITH LOCAL BRANSON AIRPORT FOR TICKETS BEFORE CONSIDERING THE SPRINGFIELD-BRANSON AIRPORT! They can be found at In addition, while not required, we recommend to rent a car for your time here. This will assist you in getting around to other locations during free time. Normally, participants call when they make airline reservations, then confirm a day or two before flight.

Driving Directions
  Branson Towers Regardless of your direction of arrival, (from the north if from Springfield, or the south, if from Arkansas) exit from HIGHWAY 65 at the MO-248/RED ROUTE/SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS EXPY; Keep RIGHT at the fork to go on MO-248 N/RED ROUTE/SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS EXPY; Turn LEFT onto SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS EXPY/RED ROUTE; 236 SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS EXPY is on the RIGHT
Elevation Note: The highest elevation participants will experience is 1,000 feet.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Register, Orientation, Dinner, and Get to Know Your Fellow Participants
(Sunday, September 30)
 Dinner: Arrival time for the program is 4:30 p.m. The first evening includes an introduction of the sponsoring personnel, an orientation to the program, dinner, and get-acquainted activities.--- Please be aware that program activities and schedule times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of any changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding!--- We will prepare for an educational and exciting journey into in the culture, history and geology of the Ozarks. We will learn about the settlers, life in log cabins and farming with mules - "when living was hard but life was surely simpler.” Get rest tonight as you have an amazing journey ahead!---
Accommodations: Branson Towers
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Lecture on the ‘Hills’ motto of: "Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without!", Growing up in the Ozarks, Growing your own food, and life along the 'Wire Road'. Enjoy traditional Ozarkian music with local talent Judy Domeny
(Monday, October 1)
 Breakfast: Great breakfast
 Morning: Lecture on Growing up in the Ozarks: A cultural examination in what it is like to be raised in the Ozarks region. How does the lifestyle different from other areas? What are the ‘rites of passage’ for the youth? How are the traditions and lore passed from one generation to the next? Presenter: Ruth Massey, Ozarkian Native and Veterinarian---
 Morning: Lecture on “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without!”: An introduction to the Ozarks and its people using audio and visual effects from the research and publication of Ellen Gray Massey's high school students from Lebanon, MO High School in the 1970s and 1980s. The lecture discusses how the first settlers of the Ozarks up to modern day would get the maximum benefit from all of their resources in order to survive and thrive. Presenter: Ellen Massey, Famous Author and Local Historian---
 Lunch: Fantastic lunch in our meeting room
 Afternoon: Lecture on Ozark Gardening: Discussion on what edible plants are most successful in the rocky terrain of the Ozarks and the techniques used to grow. Foraging will also be discussed and how it is still popular for mushrooms, especially morels and ginseng. This now uncommon practice is financially supported by established buyers in the area. Presenter: Mike and Nancee Micham, Local Farmers and Musicians
 Afternoon: Lecture on the Wire Road: The Old Wire Road was an old road in Missouri and Arkansas. Several local roads are still called this. It followed an old Native American route, the Great Osage Indian Trail across the Ozarks and became a road along a telegraph line from St. Louis, Missouri to Fort Smith, Arkansas. It was known as the "Wire Road" while the telegraph line was up, but when the line was later removed, it simply became known as the "Old Wire Road". From St. Louis to Springfield, Missouri, it became designated Route 14 (which, in turn, later became U.S. Route 66 and still later Interstate 44). Presenter: Dr. Robert ‘Bob’ McGill, Local Author and Historian
 Dinner: Fantastic dinner (called 'Supper' in the Ozarks) served in our meeting room.
 Evening: Private Performance Just for You: An evening of traditional Ozark Folk Music is planned for you with songs from the past including Redwing, Aunt Dinah’s Quilting Party, The Strawberry Roan, The Letter Edged In Black, The Wreck of the Old 97 and more. This performance is a fantastic walk into your childhood songs you love then and still do. Emphasis on little-heard story-telling ballads or well-known favorite folksongs from the past. Judy Domeny Bowen has been amazing audiences with her fantastic voice and selection of traditional music. Each song carries with it a history lesson of the Ozarks.
Accommodations: Branson Towers
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Day trip to a working grist mill, Journey part of the 'Wire Road', Learn some traditional Ozarkian songs, Lecture on Coon Dogs, and have a private performance of Bob Mabe - founder of the Baldknobbers show.
(Tuesday, October 2)
 Breakfast: Great breakfast
 Morning: Board a luxury bus for a journey into history as we head to Jolly Mill. This trip will take you down along a route traveled by the Cherokee Indians on the Trail of Tears and later Civil War soldiers during the battles between Confederate and Union forces for control of Missouri. You will also meet several area natives and learn the songs being sung today at ‘Hootenanny’. A Hootenanny is an old country word for "party". Now, most commonly, it refers to a folk-music party. We will arrive at Jolly Mill.
 Lunch: We'll eat a great lunch on the grounds of Jolly Mill.
 Afternoon: Lecture on Coon Dogs: We'll see some real Ozark Hound dogs or ‘Coon Hounds’ and hear stories from a man who hunts with them. A Coonhound is a type of scent hound and a member of the hound group. The dogs are prized for hunting animals that didn't "go to ground", but instead took to the treetops to escape, such as raccoons, opossums, bobcats and even larger prey like cougars and bears. A good coonhound will bark and keep its prey treed until the hunters arrive. Presenter: Arnold Evans, Local Historian
 Afternoon: Lecture on the Life in a Grist Mill: A gristmill is a building in which grain is ground into flour, or the grinding mechanism itself. This particular mill was built in the 1850s, but the town (Jollification) was destroyed by the Civil War shortly after. The Mill continued on in full capacity till 1975. In recent years, under the care of The Friends of Jolly Mill, the mill has undergone somewhat of a renaissance. The mill and surrounding land have been restored and converted into a park, with many period buildings moved in from other locations in an attempt to replicate the look and feel of the town of Jollification. Presenter: Les Haskins, Miller and local Historian---
 Dinner: A great dinner in preparation for tonight's show.
 Evening: Private Performance Just for You: Enjoy an evening with Bob Mabe and his Kitchen Band in a private setting. Bob was the one of the founders of the Baldknobbers show. The Baldknobbers began the Branson family entertainment phenomenon in 1959 when the four Mabe brothers began entertaining visitors on the Branson lakefront. The performance will take you to yesteryear with its timeless classic appeal and down home fun. See how much music has an effect on the population in the Ozarks.
Accommodations: Branson Towers
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Lecture on the History of the White River Valley, the birth of Branson as a tourist destination, Civil War in the Ozarks, Native Americans of the area, and a performance/lecture on Instruments used in Ozark folk music.
(Wednesday, October 3)
 Breakfast: Great breakfast
 Morning: Performance Lecture on Musical Instruments: Enjoy a musical time with a local musician and his amazing talent being able to play over 20 different instruments from the dulcimer to the banjo. Each instrument is examined in a historical context as well as its modern application. Discuss how traditional songs have changed over time with society and how these songs have been modernized for entertainment. Presenter: Rod Phillips, Musical Enthusiast---
 Morning: Lecture on the history of the White River Valley and the Birth of Branson as a Tourist destination: Hear the history of the White River Valley from the first settlement to today's entertainment Mecca - Branson. Branson is known as the 'Live Entertainment Capitol of the World'. Discover how the traditional tunes of the Ozarks started and left the backwoods for commercial fame. Presenter: Dr. Robert 'Bob' McGill, Local Historian and Author
 Morning: Watch the video that propelled Branson into the national spotlight - a '60 Minute' production aired in 1991. Followed by a discussion on what has changed since then and what remains very much the same.---
 Lunch: A delicious Bar-B-Q meal will be served.
 Afternoon: Lecture on the Civil War in the Ozarks: The Civil War in Missouri was different from any other state where hostilities began before the war, families were divided in sympathies, both armies and outlaws razed the state, and the feelings and hostilities lasted many years after peace. This session explores the historical background, how the non-combatants survived, and details of two important battles. Presenter: Ellen Massey, Local Historian and Author
 Afternoon: Lecture on the American Indians in the Ozarks: The Osage, Illinois and Quapaw were among the first. Later some Cherokee, due to social strife, left their lands in Georgia and Tennessee and settled in the area. Many of these were quite successful in developing farms and small communities. Later during the "Trail of Tears" more escaped into the Ozarks. Learn the answers about Native Americans in the region and how their life changed as the settlers came into the Ozarks. Presenter: Bo Brown, Local Historian
 Dinner: Wonderful meal in our meeting room.
 Evening: A free evening for you starting at 6pm. This will give you plenty of time to get to any of the amazing shows featured in Branson. Please visit for a listing of what is offered.
Accommodations: Branson Towers
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Lectures on Bee Keeping, Tracing the Family Tree. Guided tour of the area including the College of the Ozarks. Become a voice of the Ozarkian past. View the film Ozarks Legacy. Attend 'The Baldknobber's show.
(Thursday, October 4)
 Breakfast: Great breakfast
 Morning: Lecture on Voices from the Past: You're invited to read in this unusual and heart-warming two-part presentation titled "Voices of Country Women" and “Voices of Country Men" led by our instructor. Volunteers from the group participate in a dramatic reading of excerpts from the actual interviews of four men and four women done by Ellen Massey's students. Using their own words the men and women relate experiences and philosophies of their lives in the early twentieth century. Presenter: Ellen Massey, Author and Local Historian
 Morning: Lecture on the Family Tree and the Quilt: Using a handmade quilt which illustrates a typical Ozark family, this session explains the historical origins of the people of the area. Beginning with Native Americans and French mountain men, it continues up to contemporary times with the permanent settlers from the British Isles and their self-sufficient life style. Presenter: Ellen Massey, Author and Local Historian
 Morning: Lecture on Bee Keeping: Beekeeping (or apiculture) is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect honey and beeswax, to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. Our lecturer, a professional bee keeper, will discuss the history of this cash crop in the Ozarks and its role today. Presenter: Dr. Fred Pfister, Bee Keeper, Editor, and Local Historian
 Lunch: Enjoy a buffet style meal at the famous Peppercorn's.
 Afternoon: Enjoy a directed tour of the area in a luxury bus and see the College of the Ozarks – established in 1906. The College charges no tuition for full-time students, due to its unique student work program and donations. The program requires students to work 15 hours a week at an on-campus work station and two 40 hour work weeks during breaks.
 Afternoon: Watch the film Ozarks Legacy and Legend at the I-Max Theater: Five generations of McFarlain's celebrate a family legacy as seen in the IMAX film. Share the agony of a family torn apart by the Civil War, ride with the notorious, vigilante Baldknobbers, explore unknown caves, and fly in the first biplane to visit the Ozarks. Participate in celebrations of birth, baptism and marriage as they happened in the rugged hills. Keith Merrill captures the beauty of the area, and dramatically unfolds the events which have shaped the Ozarks from the 1820's until the 1950's.
 Dinner: Dinner at the famous McFarlans restaurant. Watch out for those floating tables!
 Evening: Attend a great performance of 'The Baldknobbers'. The Branson family entertainment phenomenon began over 50 years ago in 1959 when the four Mabe brothers, known as the Baldknobbers, began entertaining visitors on the Branson lakefront. Today, the family legacy continues to Wow audiences by delivering everything from traditional country to today’s #1 hits and dynamite comedy. Today, the 2nd & 3rd generations of the Mabe family carry on the family tradition of great country music and hilarious comedy. Joined by a cast of dynamic singers, musicians, comedians, and entertainers who perform your favorite Country Classics, Hot-New Country Hits, and Lots Side-Splitting Comedy. Life Magazine said, "Branson is the Baldknobbers!"
Accommodations: Branson Towers
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Lecture on Life in a Log Cabin and Branson entertainment and future. View the film: Just that Much Hillbilly in Me. Say Goodbye to new friends!
(Friday, October 5)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet
 Morning: Lecture on the history of Branson Discover the shows that have made Branson the 'Live Entertainment Capitol' of the world. Look at how this sleepy little town is now host to over 100 shows, more theater seats than Broadway, and over 7 million visitors a year. The history will also include how Branson holds on to its roots while moving into the future. Presenter: Sarah Klinefelter, C of O Media Professor---
 Morning: Lecture on Life in a Cabin: Meet a local native that was born and raised in a cabin. This lecture is a wrap up discussion on the week’s events and how much the area has changed in such a short time. Great opportunity for a question and answer section. Presenter: Karlene McGill, Local Native
 Morning: View the video: Just that Much Hillbilly in Me This video introduces the viewer to the history, culture and values of the people of the Ozarks. In contrast to popular depictions of "Ozarks hillbillies," a portrait of traditional Ozarkers as self-reliant, hard working and independent people emerges in this documentary. Through the interplay of archival images, music and commentary by historians, folklorists, artists and ordinary people, it becomes clear that traditional Ozarkers care deeply about what one participant in the film calls, "those old American values," of family, church, community and land. To the extent that we each share these values, there's just that much hillbilly in all of us.== Say our goodbyes to new friends! Safe journeys!
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Insiders' Guide to Branson and the Ozark Mountains

Author: Dr. Fred Pfister

Description: For more than twenty years, the Insiders' Guide® series has been the essential source for in-depth travel and relocation information—from true insiders whose personal, practical perspective gives you everything you need to know. With more than forty theaters on and around its famous Strip, Branson is proudly called the Live Music Capital of the World. But there's more to this year-round vacation destination than its shows and stars: World-class golf, theme parks, and historic sites are all within easy reach. This authoritative guide shows you how to navigate the glitz and glitter of Branson as well as the natural beauty of the scenic Ozark Mountain country. • Countless details on how to live and thrive in the area, from the best fishing holes to the lowdown on real estate • The inside scoop on the top shopping, seasonal festivals, and live entertainment offerings • Comprehensive listings of restaurants and accommodations • Sections dedicated to children and retirement

The Bittersweet Ozarks at a Glance

Author: Ellen Grey Massey

Description: The Bittersweet Ozarks at a Glance is a beautiful and unique photograph collection that portrays the Bittersweet Ozarks, collected by Ellen Gray Massey and her students, more than thirty years ago. Had the students not researched and recorded, the information from the 494 men and women they captured in words and pictures most would be lost forever for most of them have died. From 1973 until 1983, the young people published 482 articles and features in 40 issues of Bittersweet, the Ozark Quarterly.

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