The signs on the half-mile stretch of Highway 124 just west of Hallsville read like a road map of what the city hopes to become.
On the north side of the highway, wooden signs reading “Future home of Hallsville football” and “Future home of Hallsville primary school” characterize the city’s pride in a school system that draws from the area around Hallsville and has more students than the city has residents.
On both sides of the road, signs for future housing developments and newly constructed homes intermingle with crop fields and cow pastures.
One sign displays Gary Wilson’s hopes to develop a neighborhood just across the street from the future Hallsville primary school. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city of Hallsville actually lost residents from 2000 to 2005, but it’s the potential for growth that has Wilson hoping to build 90 new homes over the course of the next 10 years.
“People think that Hallsville is next on the list,” Wilson said.
The list he’s referring to consists of locations outside Columbia that can serve as outlets for the city’s growing population.
“(From Hallsville), I can be in downtown (Columbia) in 15 minutes,” Wilson said. “You can’t do that from south Columbia.”
During a citywide showcase of homes Saturday, Wilson was one of three developers who set up booths in the commons of Hallsville Elementary School with the hopes of winning new clients. To start off the showcase, three speakers addressed a crowd of about 15 people to sell them on the city.
Tom Bough, the superintendent of Hallsville Public Schools, told the crowd that the high school had earned an “A+” rating for the ninth year in a row from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. He also spoke about real estate and how inexpensive property helped the community by bringing middle-class families to the area.
“Those are the folks that come to PTA meetings,” Bough said.
Hallsville Mayor Carl South, a Hallsville native who had left the town for some time, said the schools sold him on moving back.
“I wanted my boy to come to this school,” he said.
South said he moved away from Hallsville when he joined the Navy in the early 1960s. When he got out of the Navy, he moved to the Lake of the Ozarks, where he worked for the Missouri State Water Patrol for 10 years. He moved back to Hallsville when his son Justin was in primary school.
“We’re going to stay now,” South said.
Sisters Kay Berkley and Sally Erickson said they moved to Hallsville because of the relaxed atmosphere and the close community. The price was right, too.
Erickson said she wanted to open a small business but couldn’t afford to do so in Columbia.
“Rent would have done us in,” she said.
So she went 10 miles north and, with her sister, opened Sassafras Moon World Gifts at the intersection of Highway 124 and Route B.
The sisters said their store, which sells Berkley’s own stained glass art and crafts from overseas, has done well.
Now, Erickson and her husband, Fred, plan to stay in the Hallsville area.
“This is the place we chose to live out our last years,” she said. “The people have been wonderful.”
Sassafras Moon was the Hallsville Chamber of Commerce’s business of the month in April, and it’s the chamber that’s working to bring more businesses to the city.
“We are a very young chamber,” said Nancy Franklin, chamber president. “But our strength is in our people.”
Only four years old, the chamber already has 72 members from the area and received three new applications for membership during Saturday’s showcase.
Franklin and Sam Giroux, two of the organizers of the event, both said that more businesses in the area would help make Hallsville more independent because its citizens wouldn’t have to go to Columbia to do their shopping.
Developer Wilson wants to have a hand in that. If his plans to construct a neighborhood are approved, he said he hopes some of the property can go to open a grocery store.
“You’re not really going to sacrifice if you come from Columbia,” he said. “(In Hallsville,)
you can function on foot.”