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In Fulton, Missouri, young people can trace the arc of 20th-century history, find a place to perform and check out vintage cars.

In 1946, Winston Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech at Westminster College in Fulton. The speech warned the world that the Soviet Union was seeking to expand communism and exert its power across Europe.

Exhibit, America’s National Churchill Museum
Credit: Visit Fulton-Callaway County Tourism

America’s National Churchill Museum on the Westminster College campus holds the largest Churchill collection in North America. The museum is located under a reconstructed 17th-century church from London that was destroyed by Nazi bombers in World War II. Nearby eight sections of the Berlin Wall mark the end of the Soviet collapse.

Renee Graham, director at Visit Fulton-Callaway County Tourism, noted the museum held its grand reopening July 30–Aug. 1. The museum had been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The temporary closure allowed the museum to undertake urgent preservation and conservation treatments on the historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury.

The Churchill museum is the site of the sculpture Breakthrough that was created by Churchill’s granddaughter out of eight sections of the Berlin Wall. Dedicated in 1990, visitors can walk through the largest intact remnant of the wall outside of Berlin. The stark and foreboding East German side stands in deep contrast to the colorful West German side full of graffiti and political statements. The wall reminds students that families were separated by it and many died trying to cross over to family, freedom and a better life.

Fulton
Breakthrough and Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, America’s National Churchill Museum, Fulton, Missouri Credit: Visit Fulton-Callaway County Tourism

“Resilience and adaptation were important themes during the pandemic,” Graham said. “Both the Churchill Museum and our repurposed 1920s theater, the Brick District Playhouse, used the shutdown to fast-track projects that helped preserve our historic treasures for future visitors, while improving accessibility. Student performance groups are welcome to take the stage at our beautifully renovated venue located in the heart of Fulton’s endearing downtown Brick District.”

Just a few blocks away from the America’s National Churchill Museum, Auto World Museum celebrates America’s love affair with the automobile. Students see everything from elegant Bentleys to vintage firetrucks. They can check out alternative fuel vehicles, including a Stanley Steamer, an early electric car, and solar racing cars.

Auto World Museum
Credit: Visit Fulton-Callaway County Tourism

Graham said she hopes youth groups leave Fulton realizing that world history matters and that big things can happen in small places.

“Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech was the harbinger of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union,” she said. “Policies and actions taken during that time had a direct cause and effect on issues that still impact our world. It has been 32 years since the Berlin Wall came down, but our relationship with Russia remains strained and the need for border walls is still publicly debated.”

Out and about

For youth groups traveling Interstate 70 across Missouri, Graham recommends pairing America’s National Churchill Museum with the National World War I Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, which is about two hours and 15 minutes away. “World War I was an important time in Winston Churchill’s life,” she said. “So much of what happened in World War I directly impacted World War II. Approaches to modern warfare and numerous current global conflicts can be traced back to events before, during and after World War I.”

While they are in Kansas City, groups should certainly experience authentic KC barbecue. Be sure to plan a stop to see the Budweiser Clydesdales at Warm Spring Ranch in Boonville — 45 minutes west of Fulton.

If traveling by coach, the group should stop for lunch or breakfast at Crane’s Museum & Marlene’s Restaurant and Crane’s Country Store in Williamsburg. The Crane family has been outfitting locals and travelers since 1889. Williamsburg can be compared with the fictional town in the movie Cars. Like in the movie, the interstate bypassed the original town. Fortunately, Crane’s has been holding on in its “new” location since 1926. One of the last true, family-owned country stores in the U.S., Crane’s is a unique stop that offers history lessons served with classic breakfasts, family-style specialties, seriously good burgers and homemade cobblers, Graham said.

Another option is to travel from Fulton to Jefferson City to visit the Missouri State Capitol and tour the notorious old Missouri State Penitentiary. Have the students hop on Amtrak for a train trip to Hermann to learn about Missouri’s deep German heritage before taking the coach on to St. Louis. 

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David Hoekman is a former newspaperman on a quest to tell the stories of the world’s various places and cultures in compelling ways. He especially enjoys learning and writing about the business of group travel. His favorite destination is wherever he is going next and his travel tip is to always pack an emergency granola bar or two.