Helen, Walt and Jake

Former school teachers, Helen and Walt Crew, will be celebrating their 25th year of running the Cozy C Campground. The couple will also be celebrating their 56th year of marriage this year. Sitting with them is their dog, Jake. Photo by Stan Schwartz

The Cozy C is a year-round business

BOWLING GREEN—With snow drifts still high and roads only recently cleared, it’s hard to imagine wanting to go camping. But out at the Cozy C RV Campground, which is about to celebrate its 25th year in business, there are still a few campers.

Granted, they are mostly workers wanting a less expensive way to stay in the area while they complete construction jobs, but for Helen and Walt Crew the campground is a 12-month-a-year business. Before COVID-19 became the word of the day, they were operating without too much fuss.

Even though they had to close their restrooms and meeting hall because of the social distance restrictions put in place by the state, they said 2020 was a pretty good year for them; maybe better than most.

People who still wanted to travel for vacation but needed the separation provided by campgrounds, found the Cozy C the perfect place to set up camp.

“People were camping to get away from home,” Helen said. And if they have their own RV or tent, they don’t have to worry about sleeping where someone else has slept. “We jokingly say, ‘You know who slept in your bed,’” she said.

Tucked away in their house at one end of the property, which sits just off Hwy. 54 between Bowling Green and Louisiana, Walt and Helen, who will also be celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary this year, are trying to stay warm along with their big lab, Jake. They take him out in the snow and throw a Frisbee™ for him. He’s barely a year old and still has a lot of puppy in him, so he needs the exercise. Pets are welcome at the Cozy C, but they have to stay leashed.

When the actual date of Cozy C’s anniversary rolls around in September, Helen said, they were planning a big celebration, much like they did for their 20th anniversary in 2016.

“It’s hard to believe,” Helen said about it being 25 years already.

Before opening the Cozy C, Helen and Walt were teachers in Iowa. Walt retired in 2000 and Helen retired in 2002.

“So he came down first,” she said. They had a woman helping manage the place back then, and her parents were helping out, as well.

Walt noted that they had spent time in the area over the years and noticed that there were few options for camping, but they saw a whole lot of people with RVs and campers driving though the area. They’ve always enjoyed camping and are big deer hunters. But Helen said she prefers tent camping, even though they also own an RV.

“As long as I have an air mattress,” she said, “I’m happy.” 

Walt added that the idea to run a campground came from Helen’s stepfather, who always told him that if he were only 20 years younger, he would build a campground around here. So, about 1995, they started building their own campground. Helen and Walt said didn’t want any partners, so they did most of the work themselves.

“It took us about a year to do it,” Helen said. “If we had a crew come in and do it, it would have taken them longer. We came down on the weekends and then in the summertime and holidays.”

Walt said that Dale Bowen Construction came in to do all the digging, but he and Helen laid all the sewer lines and built the building. They have 45 sites for RVs and another 10 sites for tents.

One of their biggest projects was the septic system. It sits behind a wooden fence out by the road.

“That’s a recirculating sand filter in there,” Helen said. They had to have all the rock hauled in for that—4 feet of rock in various sizes. “We were mean machines that year,” she added.

Another big plus of owning a campground—the campers. People come from all over on their way across the country or just to stay here a spell to enjoy what Missouri has to offer.

“That’s one of the big joys of having this,” Helen said about the Cozy C. “The wonderful people you get to meet. We’ve had people who have been touring the U.S. from Germany, Japan, Sweden and even Australia.” Unless one has spent time camping, it’s hard to understand the quick camaraderie campers form. They all know they are just passing through and there’s no time like the present to meet new people. Sometimes it’s hard to understand some of the visitors from other countries, she added, “but we make it through. It’s really nice.”

The regular camping season usually starts at the end of March, Walt said, and runs through the end of October.

“We usually get a bunch (of campers) going to Florida or Canada (at the end of the season),” Walt said. “And then they come back in the spring when they’re headed the other way.”

The Cozy C is chock full of amenities, but not just for those renting camping spots. Helen and Walt also built an ice cream shop, which has been shuttered because of the pandemic and a 19-hole miniature golf course. Once the 10-person rule is lifted they said, they will open the bathrooms and meeting hall, as well as the ice cream shop. They are for everyone—local folks and campers.

“We have nine flavors of soft-serve ice cream,” Walt said. It’s a great place for a child’s birthday party. They can play miniature golf, have ice cream and even cook hotdogs and make s’mores over the open fire pit. When the pipeline was being built, some of the workers were camping at the Cozy C. They brought a scrap piece of the pipe to make the big central fire pit.

“We provide the firewood,” Helen added.

Even though they were told that having transient workers stay in the campground would be trouble, Walt and Helen said they experienced just the opposite.

“They work hard, long hours,” Helen said. “They come home to eat and then go to bed. And they’re good people. If we’ve ever needed help, boy they were right there to help us.” In addition to the fire ring, workers also helped them get their sign by the highway set up and put in the polls for the lights on the miniature golf course.

Camping clubs reserve space at the Cozy C in advance. Helen said when they come in she tries to put them all next to each other.

“Then they can use the fire ring,” she added. There’s also a pavilion with picnic tables for use by campers and others who come to play mini-golf or eat ice cream.

The campground bathroom was one of the big attractions for campers, Walt said.

“They’re really nice,” Helen said. “We built them the way we would like to have them. We’re proud of them. I look at it as; when you come in you’re my guest and this is my home, and I want it to be nice.”

“We also have sewer, water, electric and cable TV at all the sites,” Helen noted. “We also have WiFi, but it’s not the best, so we don’t brag on it.”

Look for them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CozyCCampground.

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