Elaine Graham Estes

Elaine Graham Estes is the daughter of James and Zelma Graham who ran Graham’s Rib Station in Springfield for over 60 years, starting in 1932. The Graham family business was able to open during the Great Depression because they had fortunately taken their savings out a few days before the Stock Market Crash. Elaine was an only child and she grew up helping her parents at the restaurant and motel. Every day, she went there after school and worked the cash register, sold pop and chewing gum, helped with delivery service and late night rushes and she even helped her father check the quality of the meat at the packing house. According to Elaine, while Springfield was segregated, their business was not. Their policy was to serve and not separate. They had customers from all walks of life, as they were conveniently located near Route 66 and James advertised the business in the Green Book. They served troops during World War II, performers and audiences from the Shrine Mosque which was a premiere entertainment venue, and people from the neighborhood, which was predominantly African American. Elaine recalls seeing Pearl Bailey who stayed at the motel on the property which was also fully integrated, along with Duke Ellington, Count Bassie and Harry Belafonte. The Rib Station was famous for its BBQ Sauce, and Elaine holds a patent for the sauce to this day. Her picture is on the label though these days, she and her husband only make it upon request for long-time customers.

For more information:

Please watch Elaine Graham Estes oral history which is part of the Greater Springfield Route 66 Oral History Project.



Related Projects