Rural Missouri - July 2013 - (Page 26)
On the banks of Bull Shoals
For 61 years, the Cook family has welcomed guests to Theodosia Marina-Resort
Above: Anglers and vacationers have been coming to the Theodosia Marina-Resort
on Bull Shoals Lake for 61 years, making it one of Ozark County’s most popular destinations. Right: In 1953, family patriarch L.B. Cook was just getting started with what
he hoped would be a successful fishing camp.
the Cook family later, the Theodosia
Marina-Resort now stands as a testament to L.B.’s vision for tourism in
rural Missouri, providing anglers and
vacationers with a place to stay and
play while visiting one of the state’s
most beautiful lakes.
ycamores sway as a light breeze
gently coaxes cotton-candy
clouds across a cerulean sky
above Bull Shoals Lake, just a
stone’s throw from the Arkansas line.
The early years
Below the Highway 160 bridge, swalAs L.B. and Bill came bouncing into
lows dive and skim the water, banking
Ozark County in that old DeSoto in
sharply to avoid the anglers return1952, the new lake hadn’t yet filled.
ing from their morning exploits. As
The oil-and-chip rural highway
the fishermen tie up at
the marina and break
led to a new bridge that wasn’t
for lunch, a family pulls
yet complete, its concrete piers
awkwardly jutting above
away on a pontoon boat,
everything in the valley.
ready for an afternoon of
And Theodosia? It
fun on the water.
didn’t exist either.
It’s warm on this June
“The town on top of
day in Ozark County, but
the hill was called Lutie
not nearly as hot as it was
back in those days. Theoon June 14, 1952, when Bill
dosia was the site for the
Cook first gazed upon this valley.
marina, but the original town of TheHe was just 11 years old then, riding
odosia got flooded out by the lake,”
shotgun with his father, L.B. Cook, in
says Bill, a board member for White
a blue 1948 DeSoto four-door sedan.
River Valley Electric Cooperative.
“It just can’t be possible that it’s
“It was hard advertising a place that
been 61 years, but here we are,” says
wasn’t on the map, so Dad and othBill as he sits on a deck overlooking
ers got busy in the 1960s and got the
the lake. “I had no idea what we were
getting into. I think Dad thought he
The Cook’s contract with the Corps
knew, but he didn’t.”
of Engineers — which L.B. won with a
Originally from Joplin, the Cook
bid of $2,700 and a 10 percent cut of
family operated a dry goods store on
gross annual receipts — required him
the corner of 15th and Main for more
to build a restaurant, a motel and a
than 50 years. The store had been a
boat dock. The only amenity provided
dream for Bill’s grandfather — but not
by the Corps was one-seat pit toilet.
his father. An avid outdoorsman, L.B.
President Truman delivered the
dreamed of owning and operating a
keynote address for the dedication of
fishing camp. So in 1950, he rolled
Bull Shoals Dam two-and-a-half weeks
the dice and bid on a concessionaire
after L.B. and Bill arrived. For the first
contract with the U.S. Army Corps of
three months, father and son camped
Engineers, which was in the process of
out under those swaying sycamore
constructing the dam to create a new
trees as they worked to build the first
reservoir along the White River —
dock, which they constructed from
Bulls Shoals. He won.
full 2-inch-thick native oak timber
Six decades and five generations of
photo courtesy of Theodosia Marina-Resort
by Jason Jenkins
and floated on steel drums.
“We finished up the office dock
in about September,” says Bill, recalling that by fall, his mother and sister
moved from Joplin to Lutie where the
family rented a house. “We ordered
a dozen Lone Star boats from Texas
and Johnson outboard motors from
Waukegan, Ill., and away we went.”
While the venture seemed to have
an auspicious start, the Cooks were
dealt several blows in quick succession. No sooner had the lake filled the
cove in the spring of 1953 than the
water started receding as a lengthy
drought gripped the Midwest.
“The lake literally dried up, and
there we were, our docks sitting on
the bottom,” Bill says. “Finances
got so bad, we had to move out of
the house in Lutie and move into
the 10-unit motel we built. We just
couldn’t make the rent.”
Lake levels continued to drop
through 1954, and the Cooks did their
best to chase the water and customers downstream, but both were hard
to find. Mother Nature finally turned
the tap back on in the spring of 1955,
and through the summer of 1956, both
fishing and business were phenomenal.
Then, around Labor Day that year,
the motel caught fire and burned to
the ground. The Cooks rebuilt, only to
have torrential rains fall throughout
1957 and cause Bull Shoals to reach
maximum flood pool.
“So in the first five years, we had
a drought, a flood and our first motel
burned to the ground,” says Bill, shaking his head in disbelief. “How dumb
we were to stay.”
Beyond L.B.’s ﬁshing camp
In the early years, L.B. operated the
little fishing camp of which he always
dreamed. Most of the customers
were men who came specifically to
fish, especially for the largemouth
and smallmouth bass for which Bull
Shoals was gaining notoriety. The
anglers didn’t ask for much: food,
lodging and a boat.
“At one time, we had 75 rental
boats, and on the weekends, we’d rent
them all,” recalls Bill, who along with
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2013
Rural Missouri - July 2013
That old-time religion
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
Keep it cool
On the banks of Bull Shoals
Rural Missouri - July 2013
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