Monday, September 17, 2007
Recently, Sylvia Brinkman Slone (photo 1), who resides with her husband Lloyd Slone at the Miller County Care and Rehabilitation Center, won the 2007 Ms. Missouri Nursing Home Pageant Queen Contest (photo 2 ). Her achievement was featured in many news stories on radio, and newspapers. See this link:
1 Sylvia Pierce Brinkman Slone
02 2007 MHCA Ms. Missouri Nursing Home Pageant Queen
Some of the information she submitted on entering the contest is contained in these copies of her personal information document (photo 3) and her personal essay (photo 4). Sylvia is a native born Miller County resident and has had a very interesting and rewarding life for which reason I thought it would be very appropriate to feature her on this week's Progress Notes. So Nancy Thompson, museum director, and I traveled over to the MCCRC last week to interview Sylvia. The Miller County Health Care Center is at the same location as what was called "the old folks home" in my youth and before that, in my mother's time, was known as the "poor folks home". But things have changed and are still changing there today under the leadership of director Joyce Malmberg. New facilities are being built to emphasize rehabilitation and skilled nursing and to furnish the most modern equipment and skilled personnel to care for the residents. Even on the day we visited much evidence of ongoing new construction was present.
03 personal information
04 Sylvia's personal essay
Sylvia was the daughter of William Daniel Pierce and Sarah Elizabeth (Roberts) Pierce and was born and raised in Eugene, Missouri. Although her parents came from south of the Osage River, her father moved to Eugene to work on the tunnel being constructed for the railroad which was being built through Miller County in the 1880's. She was born on a farm four miles south of Eugene in 1913, seventh of thirteen children, all of whom are now gone.
After walking into her room for our interview the first thing Sylvia did was to give us her rendition of the following poem which she says very well represents her philosophy of living:
I wish I were a rock sitting on a hill,
Doing nothing all day long just sitting very still.
I wouldn't eat nor would I sleep, I wouldn't even wash.
I'd sit there oh a thousand years, and rest myself, by gosh!
Sylvia related to us several early memories of her childhood on the farm near Eugene. For example, she loved to dance the jig to fiddle tunes. One day when Sylvia was five years old, she went to Eugene with her family at the same time that Bill Driver, the famous black fiddler from Iberia, was fiddling on a street corner in front of Schell's general store. Sylvia could not keep from doing a jig dance which everyone around began to notice and enjoy. One of the men passed a hat into which passersby dropped a penny or two, enough that Sylvia was able to buy herself a pair of new shoes in Schell's store.
Sylvia loved shoes. She told us the story that when she was nine, she had a beautiful bay mare which she rode to town at times to buy some things for her mother at the store. One day, however, her mother had no money but asked Sylvia to carefully carry some eggs to town to trade for some coffee and sugar. The merchant gave Sylvia not only the items her mother wanted but also some money left over with which Sylvia bought a pair of shoes. But her mother wasn't too pleased that Sylvia hadn't returned with the money and Sylvia cried and cried not just because she had thought the money could be hers but because she had displeased her dear mother.
Sylvia loved to swing and teeter totter on the home made wooden play set her father made for her and the other children. Her family got a telephone when she was five, earlier than most of her neighbors for which she was very excited. She saw her first plane at the age of six years old; it flew over the farm and frightened her; she thought it was a big buzzard. Her great grandmother Roberts would tell her about how things were long ago especially was she scared when she was told stories about how the panthers would roam the woods at night letting out screams like a "banshee".
Sylvia was proud that her father had a steam engine driven wood cutter for which he traveled around the area sawing wood up for the neighbors.
She went to the Gageville one room school house where she was taught by Olive Abbett and Maude Wright. Near her farm were old abandoned tiff mines which were deep and wide. She remembered hog butchering day and threshing day. The man who owned the threshing machine in her area was John Cutting.
All these little memories were told to Nancy and me in an easy lighthearted breezy manner typical of Sylvia's dynamic and enthusiastic personality.
Later in life she married Oliver Brinkman (photo 5) and the two of them ran Brinkman's Fishing Resort, one of the first on the lake, located one mile upstream from Bagnell Dam on the North Shore. It featured a heated boat and fishing dock, (photo 6) the only one on the Lake at that time. Sylvia loved to fish and could out fish most of the guests. The Brinkman's fishing lodge was one of the early lake businesses featured by Dwight Weaver in his history of the Lake of the Ozarks. Sylvia is proud of her personally autographed copy of Weaver's book.
5 Oscar and Sylvia Brinkman
06 Brinkman Boat Dock
Other interests of Sylvia in her life included her church; she is proud of her part in helping start the Christian Church at Lake Ozark. She has the hobby of making dolls as well as collecting them. In addition to fishing she was an avid quail hunter and could knock a quail down with her shotgun as good as her husband.
A day or two ago I saw Sylvia's daughter, Ruth, in a local restaurant and I told her about our interview with Sylvia. One piece of information which interested me in particular was that Sylvia told me her aunt Emma Pierce (by marriage to her father's brother) married my grandfather Madison Bear after both of them had lost their spouses. Neither Ruth nor I had known about this relationship of the two families. Emma was a wonderful second grandmother to me and I remember how great a cook she was.
The other day I was saddened to learn that my first home had burned recently (photo 7). I had a lot of happy memories there (photo 08). The house was built in 1942 by Dan Thompson who had built several homes and other buildings in Tuscumbia through the years. It wasn't big or fancy, was heated by wood, but had indoor plumbing and lights. My parents were delighted to be able to have their own home, especially with plumbing, as up to then they were renting a room in my grandparents' house on Goosebottom Street, the old Phil Hauenstein home. And speaking of the Phil Hauenstein home, if you read last week's Progress Notes you may remember I referred to an old photo of the barbecue (photo 09) given at the celebration in 1933 of the opening of the new Osage River bridge. In that photo is pictured the Phil Hauenstein house in which my mother was raised. The house was large having six bedrooms which my grandmother, Sadie (Abbett) Bear rented to various people during the years. Also, an out building in the rear was rented at times. The property, which my grandfather bought from the Hauenstein family, included acreage on the river nearby close to the park. Some cabins were located there which were used for rental, usually to fishermen. My mother has likened the house to that which was popularized by Missouri native Paul Henning in the TV show, Petticoat Junction. Paul, who also produced Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres, married a descendent of the Burris family which owned the Burris hotel in Eldon many years ago and which was the source of the idea Henning had for writing the plot for the TV series. He died a number of years ago and was buried in the Tuscumbia cemetery. You can read more about him and the Burris Hotel on our website devoted to hotels: (click here) written by Peggy Hake.
07 My first home
08 Susie, Joe's mom, and Joe at first home
09 Celebration Barbcue
Mom has written a synopsis of her memories about this house/hotel (photo 10) near the Osage River in Tuscumbia where she was raised. The narrative is long because so many people through the years rented rooms in the big old house, and probably will be of most interest to an audience restricted to Tuscumbia natives and their descendents who may recognize the names of some of their kin:
10 Phil Hauenstein House 1883
"This old house withstood the ravages of time, lots of people in and out, and floods by the score. But the dear old house passed through the floods and the winters and still stood tall. There are quite a few memories, some good and some bad. I won't tell the worst ones for they should be forgotten. The old house was defeated in the end when the flood of l943 brought it down (photo 11). Throughout its life there had been many floods that took their toll. Between its spirit and my mom's (photo 12) determination it hung on. The folks had a General Store in town during the great flood of '43 and among our family of 5 kids, parents, and old Boy, our family dog, we had to spend our time down at the store because all our furniture had been moved into our upstairs. Always before with previous floods the waters had never penetrated the upstairs level. We left the beds clear so we could sleep up there with all the down stairs stuff surrounding us and when night time came we all trudged home from the store. That was quite a sight to see, all of us all going home around 9: 00 o'clock at night. It took 2 or 3 boat loads to get us all there rowing down the water flooded streets. The back-water covered all of Goose Bottom with the Osage River extending from its banks to cover all the low lands and every thing up to where the bluffs began. We always had to get the refrigerator and the piano out of the water during floods so they decided to tow the refrigerator over to higher ground. The refrigerator was precious; we had just gotten electricity and it was our most prized possession. It floated all right because of the air inside the door, but the question was... would it ruin the motor? When they got it loose from the boat and plugged it into the electricity, lo and behold it started right in running and I guess is still running somewhere yet. Now the custom for the piano was to take ropes and tie it to the ceiling up above the place wherever it had been tied before. This method had been devised by Phil Hauenstein when he lived there for his piano. This time the men couldn't hold it up and the ropes let it go and the men had to scurry so the piano wouldn't fall on them. My husband, Harold Pryor saw a snake swimming around there and got out of the house pronto. He never could understand my mother always cleaning up after every flood and going right back in. She would re-paint, wall paper, and re-place the floors. The planks would buckle up all over. There was something in our souls that none of us wanted to go off and leave the old house homeless. Too, it had housed so many people known and unknown. To add to our family mom got a hired girl to help with the house and store and over the years we had many hired girls living with us. There was usually some funny story connected to each and everyone.
11 goosebottom home in flood
12 Sadie(Abbett) Bear
Mom rented rooms to young people who wanted to finish High School and Tuscumbia was the only small community that had one. They came and went and not all together and not at the same time. They would be of various ages. There were eleven rooms in the house but there was no plumbing and no electricity until just before the great flood of '43. I look back and wonder why so many people would want to stay in a house that was so lacking in what is now considered basic necessities.
Besides all these various school students there were construction workers who had come into town for construction projects and had to have places to stay The first thing that was built was the bridge that crossed the Osage River on Highway l7 almost on the town limits. I remember it as a long bridge and replaced a swinging bridge which I was always afraid to cross. An older couple was the first to come and stay in our house while working on the bridge project; their last name was Twiggs. I think he was a supervisor for he looked older than the others and probably wouldn't be doing heavier jobs. They were in a couple of rooms downstairs. In a couple of rooms upstairs there was a younger couple. Also, there were 3 or 4 single men and they would run up and down the stairs like a herd of cattle charging. The younger couple who lived upstairs had no children and since she didn't work she had me up stairs talking to her. I won't give her name. But it kinda back-fired. She told me things that I was too young to absorb and it sort of scared me. I was around 6 or 7 and very naive. It was all about how babies got started and were born. I kept it all to myself and didn't hang up there very much any more. It was just too heavy for me. In general, the renters who came to work on the dam and bridge projects came and went each day without socializing with the other renters; I guess everyone was too tired. Mom usually didn't fix meals mostly because she had to work at the general store each day and didn't have time. The workers usually found something to eat at Johnson's café next to Hauenstein's store, or George Nichols' store, or just made themselves something from food they bought at the grocery store. They also had plenty of opportunity to buy food at Damsite, the community close to the Dam construction site build just for the workers.
Another big project was when they built the Saline Creek Bridge. Each project had different contractors; therefore different workers were in town. But we always had rooms to rent. The biggest event was the construction of Bagnell Dam and since this was the time of the depression lots of workers came to work and, of course, Mom had rooms for them too. There was one interesting character that just went by the name of Cowboy. He was one you didn't want to get buddy, buddy with in case you get the short end of the stick. At least, he seemed that way to me. He and Arthur, my brother, were good friends. But these types of characters stayed more around the broad area of the of the dam which was being built. The town of Bagnell was growing rapidly so my father, Madison Bear, built another general store in Bagnell like the one in Tuscumbia (photo 13). He built a huge warehouse there because he needed more storage space due to the quantity of sales there. My Uncle Ernest Abbett and cousin Frank Martin worked for him then. They slept upstairs in the warehouse. The depression was on big time.
13 Madison Bear Bagnell Store; Frank,Dad,customer,David
The younger kids having finished 8th grade were coming into town in Tuscumbia to seek rooms to go to high school for there wasn't one elsewhere that was close to a small community at that time. I think they were more interested in getting an education and since the depression was on they were willing to rent rooms and double up to save cost. Therefore, they were eager to get cheaper rooms even though we didn't have plumbing and electricity. Some of those I remember quite well. They were Ruth Byrd, Nell Scott, Mable Curry, and Ernest Howard, father of one of our highly respected Doctors in Tuscumbia, Dr. Paul Howard. Another who came to further her education was Connie Buster who later become Mrs Ernest Howard. Wasn't that a nice coincidence? I believe also her sister Rosena Buster stayed at Mom's house. And there was a sister-brother team, Gertrude and Frank Martin. Mable Ramsey, who was a cousin of my Mom's, was around l3 or l4 when her mother died and left Mable and her sister, Juanita, who was a couple years younger, without a home. Mable had no possible way to go to high school so my mother took her in to go to school and work for her room and board. This was a wise choice for she became like a sister to all of us and this arrangement lasted through high school. She got to graduate with Lena (Brown) Bear, who was my brother Arthur's wife, and with my other brother, David. All three were graduated together in the same year. By this time I had become old enough to take on some of the added chores which included that hated job of washing dishes. So Mable and I formed a team doing this chore together. Sometimes my Mother would let Mable go out and tend the telephone switch board over at the Brockman Hotel as well as baby sit JC Brockman, Ila and Oliver Brockman's little son who was yet too young to leave alone. I always hated that for that left me to do the dishes alone and besides that she got paid and I didn't. I hated doing dishes! Gertha Simpson was always around and I don't remember if she just worked for her room and board or if she was a paying customer, I know in my folks picture albums she was in lots of them (photo 14) and I didn't see any others of the school girls in our pictures. I never saw her doing any work either, certainly no washing of dishes, and the hired girls always helped me do dishes. Lena Brown (photo 15), in the meantime, had married my brother, Arthur, but against her will because she wanted to finish high school but had two years to go before she finished. Arthur convinced her that they could go ahead and get married and she could finish her two years in Tuscumbia, At the time, she was enrolled in Bagnell school, so that is what they did. After they were married Lena found herself pregnant so she brought her sister, Lucille Brown here to help. So, Lucille also started going to school here too and she also got to finish her education. Lena and Arthur lived in two rooms of Mom's big old house. All these different names mentioned living in our house were not all there at the same time. The rooms changed occupants from time to time. Another old standby who frequented our humble abode making himself friendly with our old house was Rex Wyrick (photo 16). His Dad was Clyde Wyrick who managed the Farmers Exchange (photo 17) and lived in it until he retired after which he and the rest of the Wyrick family including Rex moved out to the country to live on a farm. That saddened me because when the family lived in Tucumbia we were constant playmates. So when they moved out to the country he had to walk to school every day. When he got in high school he got on the first team in basket ball so walking back and forth the three miles or more to school and home was not to his liking. But he stayed here when he had to partake in activities. Some times we didn't even know he was here until he came down to breakfast the next morning. I always wondered how he managed to find a bed that didn't have somebody sleeping in it. We did have a house with eleven rooms but also we had lots of renters. For example, there was the dear lady who was widowed by the Reverend Charles Sooter (photo 18). She spent a long period of time recovering from the loss of her partner. I remember how good a cook she was and that she fixed a lot of nutritious food. I think she made an apple pie every day.
14 Susie,Sadie,Gertha Simpson,David,Marie
15 Lena,Arthur,Marie Bear
16 Susie and Rex Wyric
17 Farmer's Exchange; Susie,Marie,David,Sadie,Gertha,Arthur
18 Charles Sooter and Harriet (Pinkney) Sooter
Following her another dear friend came who made her presence known by doing useful things. She too had lost her husband. Her name was Liza Stark. She had been married to Fred Abbett, a cousin of mom's. She helped my Mom out an awfully lot. She later married a Mister Close who lived in Kansas City. He had a daughter named Hortense who stayed with us one summer. Tennyson Clay Wright Jr. started dating her. He was a friend of Harold Pryor who had recently moved to Tuscumbia to live with his brother, Ansel. One day Tennyson suggested to Harold that he ask me for a date so that all of us, Hortense and I and Tennyson and Harold could go to the Tuscumbia Homecoming Picnic together. Well, the rest is history because Harold and I were married shortly after that.
It gets confusing but another widow lady who lived with us for awhile was Lucy Stark. She made the best apple cobblers I ever ate. I think she later remarried Charles Sooter, the famous evangelist of our area, who was a widower at the time.
I remember my dear Aunt Lucy Jewett. She didn't cook nor make pies and never washed dishes but was helpful in other ways and was loved by all. She was my Dad's widowed sister having lost her husband, Phil Hawk. I felt that our home was her home. She would let me comb her short straight gray hair. I don't know what fascinated me about that but I would do it for a long time. This was way before I ever thought I would be a beautician but for some reason combing hair fascinated me.
I must certainly give alms to Etta Abbott, the widow of Oscar Abbott. She spent much time tending my Mom after she got Parkinsons disease and began to lose her health. In season she kept my beauty shop filled with freshly cut beautifully arranged flowers. She raised lots of flowers and kept my mother supplied too.
It seemed that the hired girls who would come wouldn't stay long and then they would go. We had one that had been there quite awhile but she seemed to have lost favor with my Mom who released her. I will tell you what upset my Mom. Fern Brown was her name. She and I had fun together and I sure did like her. We had to sleep together on account of the shortage of rooms mom had rented but one day mom found some room for Fern in a room we called the junk room for it was full of goodies that they had brought up out of one of the floods to get them up high. It had several boxes that no one knew what all was in there. Anyway Fern had to sleep in a single bed. This room was 3 or 4 steps lower than mine and located in back of the other bed rooms. What Fern plotted to do was something mom never allowed the girls who worked for her to do. One night we were all tucked in our beds and sound asleep when Fern sneaked down the stairs and out the kitchen door to meet her boyfriend. Well they weren't very discreet about it because they went to the Tuscumbia picnic where everybody in town saw her. Now maybe she thought if she asked my Mom permission mom wouldn't let her go but she didn't ask to find out. So, of course, somebody told Mom about seeing her at the picnic. Mom was flabbergasted so she told her she had broken the rules and had to go. I was so sad about that. Fern and I were such good friends and had so much fun together. But mom felt she had to stick to the rules to keep the old house's reputation up.
I got inquisitive one day to do a little exploring to see what was in those boxes. I spied a box full of beautiful hats with lots of pretty ribbons on them as decoration. That really got me to thinking so I removed one of the ribbons and wrapped it around my head and pulled my hair back and put the ribbon around it to hold it back. It really made me look good and there were enough ribbons that I could have a new one every day to match whatever clothes I was wearing. Nobody noticed so I just kept on wearing new ones. But I always wondered what became of those undressed hats because I knew nobody would buy one now that the ribbons were gone. I told myself I wasn't stealing because they were my Mom's. I should have had to do some penitence for that was really bad. But I tell myself all the bad things that happen to me were those penitences,
Some members of my family got to itching big time and we didn't know what to do about it. It spread all over our body and we would scratch until our bodies were red. It did get worse when we stood around the heating stove. But we thought we had a dreaded disease and didn't want anybody else to know we had it. Finally some of us talked about It to someone else out of the family and they confessed they had it too but told us that they had some success by mixing lard and sulfur together and then spreading it profusely all over the body after which they slept in long underwear so it would stay on the body overnight. I tell you it was a funny sight to look at all of us furiously spreading it all over us. Those that didn't have it wouldn't be around us. I tell you I confess I was one of them. So was my Mom. I don't remember how it all ended but of course it did or we'd still be scratching it. The other night I was thinking about it and my son was here and he is a Doctor and I asked him if he had ever heard of the itch. I thought it just had to be in the medical books. He said yes that there were lots of different things that could cause it. I told him about all of us having it when I was a kid but there were others that weren't kids. He said we probably had terribly dry skin for it was wintertime and we were getting that dry heat on our bodies just standing around the stove. He called it "Winter Itch". I guess common sense tells me that was true. I almost got mad at him for downplaying such misery for I thought surely there some big name for a condition that caused so much misery. That was certainly something that I will never forget. We didn't want anybody to know that we rubbed that sulfur all over us and went to sleep with it on. That was years ago and I was a small child.
I don't know why I relate every thing around me that happened when I was 7 years old. I guess that's the time I related to being succumbed by the devil's wiles. However, some of them were sins big time such as when I did this trick. People would come in the store in the evenings to loaf and there was this big bruiser who kept teasing me and picking on me. I finally got mad but knew I couldn't stand up against him. What could a 7 year old girl do to a big guy who he thought was having a lot of fun. Well on the counter I saw a big jar of black pepper and I got both hands full and sneaked up behind him and rubbed it in his eyes and I tell you that raised him out of the chair. I really didn't realize what a terrible thing that was. For it scared my mom too and she furiously washed his eyes out with clear cold water and I really don't know what all she did. I know he hated me for that for that was an awfully bad stunt to do to somebody but I reckon he left me alone after that. But I learned my lesson too. I'm sorry it took such a bad thing to make me realize to not lose your temper because things can backfire. I never did apologize for I was too ashamed. I just felt really awful that I would do such a thing.
I've thought of a few more hired girls that we had and one was a Jenkins girl but I can't remember her first name. Another was Artie Vaughn. She was also quite a character. People joked with her a lot but she teased back too. Also Donna Ahart was there for awhile.
I can't remember everyone but there sure was another boy that I remember. His name was John McNatt and his father was an itinerate preacher who always took John's mother along with him on his trips. John was about l7 years old and I suppose his parents thought he was mature enough to leave him on his own for his father bought him a car and turned him loose. He came to my mom and rented a room. She didn't even know him. I didn't know he was this wild but one night he invited a bunch of boys up to his room and they proceeded to have a party. The well we had for water was just under his window. I don't know what it was that they drank but whatever it was there was a lot of water used. Then they consumed a lot of peanuts in the shell and proceeded to just toss them out the window on top of all that liquid they had drunk which somehow also ended up on the well (I won't describe how) and the shells mixed and all froze together on top of the well. My Mom had quite a mess to confront her in the morning. This poor old house,,,,what all it had put up with but it hung on a long time. Of course, John McNatt was ousted pronto.
There were a couple of rooms downstairs under John McNatt's room upstairs where a Chiropractor named Dr. Thompson stayed and he was a doggone good one too. I would say it was pretty hard to doctor people with only two rooms but he hung in there for a good while. He had his doctor's office in one room and his bedroom in the other. No kitchen was present so he must have taken his meals somewhere else. There was one woman who followed him for she had chronic hiccups and nobody could stop them. Well, he could always stop them so she was afraid to leave him and if he was gone out of town she would panic if he stayed away too long. They finally got married. One night my little sister, Bonnie, got choked and was turning blue for she had the croup. My Mom picked her up running out in the hall yelling for Doc to come quick. I might add it was in the middle of the night and he came running up the stairs pulling up his pants on the way and grabbed her from mom's arms and gave her a quick movement cracking a bone or muscle or whatever it was and she calmed down. I witnessed that and it scared me half to death.
Ellis Smith, who married Betty Lou Messersmith, lived with us for a year to go to school after his father passed away and his mom was having hard times providing for the family.
After Harold and I married, we lived upstairs in one of the rooms right across the hall from Chester Wright who was married to Louisa Admire, sister of Lawrence Admire. She made the best gelatin desserts and was always going downstairs to put them in the new electric Frigidaire mom had just gotten. Another time Johnny Hays and Beatrice, his wife, who was a sister to Ada Shackleford, lived across the hall from Harold and me. Johnny must have lost track of Beatrice a lot because I remember he was always walking back and forth from his room to the hall calling out "Bea! Bea! I know the house was big but if I ever see Johnny again I'm going to ask him why he had such a hard time finding her!
The only person's room that was left alone and never was rented was dear old Grandpa's. He was much too elderly to be disturbed like that. Besides that his room was all furnished with his own furniture when he came to live with us and it meant a lot to him for his father was a cabinet maker and he had a chiffarobe and a desk and they were all put together with wooden pegs. Well, in the flood of '43 the water got in the upstairs and ruined everything. It ruined all my mom's stuff. Precious things that were her keepsakes were lost and gone forever. The pegs of Grandpa's old furniture, of course, came loose and the old handmade furniture was never restored. But I guess that was the way they held things together back in those days.
David, my brother, would go home early from the store to build Grandpa (photo 19) a fire in his room and he would usually retire early but many nights I would go home early too and he loved entertaining me. He would recite poetry and stories and put actions and emotions in. He taught me some German. He would sing songs to me in German. For a long time I could remember some of them. Then along about 9:o'clock the rest of the folks from down at the store would trudge in.
19 David C. Bear
There weren't many cars back then so people did a lot of walking. When Marie, my sister and her boyfriend Bob Stillwell, were sparking they did it in the living room which is right off the steps leading up stairs. So every night Grandpa would trudge up the stairs banging his slop jar. You probably don't know what a slop jar is. That's what they used when you don't have a bathroom in your house to relieve you. So that embarrassed Marie terribly bad for there was no doubt that he was carrying his slop jar and it sounded loud. I don't know how I would handle a situation like that.
Just outside our old big house was a tiny building that had two rooms in it and mom rented them too. I remember four couples who rented them at different times. First there was Les Shackleford and Ada. There was another couple who worked on some work program that the government made to support people who didn't have very much money. Apparently the man couldn't get work but the woman had a job and when I was in the kitchen in our house I could hear her yelling at him for apparently he hadn't done anything all day long and the house was a mess and she had worked all day and come home to that mess. He just took it and didn't respond. They brought free food home that they would pick up at the welfare station for I recognized the fare. Jack Hawken and his wife lived there at one time. Neither one of them could get a job because times were so hard. I don't know how they paid mom the little bit she charged for the rent. His wife was named Margaret and she is one of those for whom I did their hair. She couldn't pay me but I didn't regret it for I felt sorry for all those people then who were victims of the hard times. There's no telling how much that meant to her.
There were always drummers (salesmen) that came weekly or bi-weekly to ours or one of the other stores to take our order of goods we wanted to re-stock. They would always stay in one of our rooms overnight. However, there was one that always slept in his car and parked it out in front of our house. But he told us to be sure and wake him up if it rained because he couldn't' sleep when it was raining. I never did quite understand the logic in that.
Everybody in our family had our special jobs that we did to pay to keep the house standing tall. I graduated from washing dishes and baby sitting and ran a beauty shop. Arthur, my brother, helped mom in the store. Marie, my sister, taught school at little old Bear school and David, my brother, graduated from all the outside chores and taught school. And where did I open my beauty shop? Upstairs in two rooms in mom's old house. Mrs. Hedges, one of the first beauty operators in the county, sold me a special chair for the patron to sit in while I did her hair and a dryer to dry her hair. Everyone had to wash their own hair before they came because I didn't have any plumbing to do that since the old house was built before all of that.
But that's all right dear old house for we weathered many storms together to the end and I loved you. When I go down town and see that vacant spot over in Goose Bottom I can almost cry when I see the space where you once stood. But the storm that whipped us was the flood of 43. Due to your age it was time for you to retire but you gave all of us wonderful memories. Dad sold you to a man from Eldon who said he was going to turn you into a small house and give you water and electricity and you would stand tall again and hold your head high. I hope the people that move into you will let you take it easy and enjoy living in you as much as our family did. I hope they put those two doors back in you that we got to enjoy. The one with the shepherd giving a bottle to one of the sheep and the other with the Indian scene. Through all the floods and the cleaning up afterward those scenes painted on the doors never disappeared. They were painted by John Wright (photo 20).
20 John Wright
Thanks for the wonderful memories from all the Bears."
Once in awhile, I will refer to some of the displays we have in our museum and recommend them to you to see in person someday. One of these is the Indian artifact display set up for us by Alton Davis of Eldon (photo 21). Alton has maintained this display for us for several years and is considered an expert in Indian lore, especially the Osage Indian. He is willing to give tours on request to school or other groups to discuss the earliest human inhabitants of this area. Just call the museum and leave a message (the museum now is closed except for special tours and events). Especially interesting is his arrow head collection and sculpture work (photo 22).
21 Alton Davis bio
22 arrowheads and sculpture
Now I continue the discussion Arthur and David Bear (photo 23) recorded in 1992 about life in Miller County in the early part of the last century:
23 Arthur and David Bear
David: In this segment we want to deal with the Bagnell store, and also, relate a few things about the great depression. Arthur, will you now give us a little background on the reason why Dad opened a store in Bagnell, state when this happened, and any other details you wish to provide for the historical record?
Arthur: Yeah, they started building the Bagnell dam in August of 1929. Our business in Tuscumbia was not very good at that time. The depression was under way, so Dad decided to open a store at Bagnell (photo 13 above). On September 16,1929 he opened it. He had some carpenters put up a very simple building and he took some of the stock from the Tuscumbia store and then he bought more from some wholesalers. By that time there were a lot of workers there, and more kept coming. He really did a good business. Several land owners in the three-mile stretch between Bagnell and the construction site built small frame buildings for people to live in. These settlements were called camps. Our cousin, Frank Martin, delivered groceries to all of them. That was a big part of our business. Dad stocked about everything a family would need except fresh meat. He was not equipped to handle it. Rich Asel had a butcher shop on the corner, so Dad bought the fresh meat that was needed from him. Dad stayed in Bagnell for ten years. The dam was completed in 1931. As work became completed, the workers gradually left until there were only maintenance crews and operators. Dad stayed on and, in the meantime, the store burned. He was convinced that it was due to arson, but he couldn't prove it. The man who owned the grocery store next to Dad's was suspected to have set the fire. There were reasons to be suspicious of him. After the burnout, Dad moved to another part of town and rented a vacant building. He reopened and stayed there for several years handling about the same kind of merchandise, and he did handle fresh meat with this store.
David: I guess Dad was really broke after the fire, wasn't
he? He couldn't get fire insurance because of the fire hazards in the immediate area, so he had a total loss. His records were destroyed, so there was no way that he could prove how much people owed him.
Arthur: That's right, no insurance.
David: Those buildings were unpainted frame buildings jammed close together. He probably opened this second store entirely on credit from his suppliers.
Arthur: Yeah, I'm sure he was broke, but at that time there
was still a rapid turnover of merchandise, so I suppose that
as bills became due, he maybe had the money.
David: Did you work much at Bagnell?
Arthur: Not too much, some, but Mom and I ran the Tuscumbia store. When I was up at Bagnell, she didn't have any help unless it was you and Marie. I don't know whether you helped or not. At that time you would have been about twelve years old.
David: Well, I helped some, but I was not in the operation
very much. I never did like store work. I went to school and
did a lot of chores around home, such as milking the cow. I
usually had a hog or two to feed and did some gardening. We had an acre of ground and a large barn which was on the alluvial soil of the Osage River but not immediately adjacent to our home. I spent time there doing things.
Arthur: I guess Mom handled it by herself when I wasn't there. She did have some help from Mabel Curry who lived with us and went to high school. I don't remember whether Lena, my wife helped at times or not.
David: Who worked for Dad other than Cousin Frank?
Arthur: Well, Ernest Howard and his wife, Connie. Later on
Uncle Ernest and Aunt Lora Abbett worked for him, and I'm trying to think of more. I know that wasn't all.
David: I remember Frank telling the story of the night of the
fire. There was a little room attached to the rear of the store
building which was used for sleeping quarters. Frank and Ernest were sleeping in this room and something woke Frank up. Maybe it was the noise of the fire or people yelling or something, I don't know. He got up and grabbed his pants and yelled to Ernest while he was searching for the key. He couldn't find it so they were in a real predicament. They finally got out. I don't know if he found the key or if someone from the outside knocked the door down. Frank told it as if they had a narrow escape. These buildings were all unpainted frame buildings with combustible stuff on the inside. It was thought by Dad that the man next door might have set the fire for some reason advantageous to him. Dad felt that he might have had a little insurance and, perhaps, had depleted his stock below the value of the policy. Regardless of the reason, the man skipped out, and Dad was left with a total loss. Bagnell developed into an interesting town. It was a boom town for about three years
and took on the characteristics of a boom town. There was a
lot of crime and very little law enforcement. The town pretty
much ran itself, I guess. I am certain that a lot of people
got eliminated from life. There was much drinking of illeqal
bootleg whisky sold by unscrupulous bootleggers. There were gambling and prostitution and other vices promoted by the unsavory characters who came in. Dad's store had sort of a ravine in back of it which was probably a slough to the river. Many activities occurred in the hidden recesses of the trees and bushes. Dad saw three loud talking men in an argument, and finally they all three went into the bushes. Later two came out. He was suspicious, but curiosity was not a safe nor admirable quality at that time. Several years later when the dam was built and the town had settled down to a more reasonable existence, Dad recognized one of the men when he entered the store. The man had been drinking and was talkative. He began reminiscing about the boom-town days and telling about some of the things he had done. Dad asked him if he remembered taking a person down in the bushes in back of the store and also asked what happened to the man who didn't return. He said, "we
went back that night and took care of him." Do you have anything else to add to this, Arthur?
Arthur: Well, I forgot to mention one couple that worked for
Dad a long time. It was Basil and Jessie Payne. They worked for him, mostly after Dad moved to the second store. The workers at the dam came from allover the United States, but mostly from the midwest. There were all kinds of people, both good and bad. I might say a few words about the working conditions. Bagnell dam was built mostly by common laborers who made thirty-five cents an hour. Working nine hours a day, they earned $18.09 per week. With that, if a man's wife wasn't working, he couldn't have housed and fed his family. Skilled workers like
carpenters, steel workers, and concrete workers made eighty cents an hour.
David: There were many people who flocked to Bagnell who did not work on construction. There were people like Dad who ran legitimate businesses, and then there was the scum like bootleggers, gamblers, and prostitutes. During these years, Dad drove home to Tuscumbia every night. I don't suppose he closed the store until about 9:00 o'clock, and got back early the next morning. It could be that Frank or Ernest opened the store most of the time before Dad arrived. Dad always carried the day's receipts home with him for a bank deposit, and on Friday morning he would carry a considerable amount of money with him to cash the paychecks. Bagnell didn't have a bank. The road was a narrow dirt road where it would have been easy for someone to stop him and rob him. I'm sure this was on his
mind. He was held up at gunpoint one night in the store and
forced to hand over the money that was in the cash register.
Dad didn't protest because looking down the wrong end of a gun barrel shouldn't precipitate a quarrel. The robber ran out
the front door with the money. Dad anticipated that the man
would go around the building and head toward the bushes, so he went that way with his own gun. The robber didn't go that way so Dad was frustrated.
David: It was a rugged life for Dad, I'm sure. I have often
Thought what a terrible feeling it must give a person to see
everything go up in smoke. I guess the suppliers knew Dad and his honesty, so they extended credit so he could restock in the new store. The little town of Bagnell was right on the
banks of the Osage River. There was no bridge, so the farmers on the south side rode a ferry across to do their trading. Dad bought the ferry (photo 24) after the dam was built to keep it going, so he could keep these customers, but it was not a successful venture. By this time the dam had been completed and the new road ran across the top
of the dam. Stores were established, so the south side farmers found it more convenient to shop at Lake Ozark and Osage Beach, the newly created settlements. The Bagnell Dam was built during the depression, and this was a very difficult time for all Americans.
24 Bagnell Ferry
Next week Arthur and David will talk about the great depression and how severely it affected the people in our Miller County area.
We had some excitement in Tuscumbia last Friday as the bicycle Tour of Missouri passed through. More than one hundred cyclists from around the world contested in the four stage event across Missouri. The route chose black top rural roads to escape road kill so Tuscumbia and other Ozark towns were on the route taken from Kansas City to St. Louis. I have attached a photo (photo 25) of the group as they turned the corner at the junction of 17 and 52 soon after they crossed the Osage River bridge, which itself has been in the news lately (I wonder if they knew about that?). Also, I have attached two website newspaper articles about the race:
25 Turning the Corner
The "whateverwasthatusedfor" is pictured here (photo 26)
26 what is it
It turns out that as a lot of old timers years ago used "chawing tobacco" the general merchants bought it in some quantity and needed to cut it to size for their customers. So, this device was a tobacco cutting machine. It was used in the D.R. Williams store of Ulman. For sure, you don't see any of them much anymore these days. This is just another one of the interesting items tucked away in one of the corners of our large Miller County Museum.
We are turning the last corner on our building program as the finishing details are starting to come into place. Planning is well underway for our winter work to move and create new displays for next year's season. We still have a deficit for the cost of all we have done so far. If you could see fit, we certainly appreciate any donation you could make of any size.
Our address for donations is:
Miller County Building Fund
P.O. Box 57
Tuscumbia, Mo. 65082
Finally, some photos from the Wild Game Feed given without charge by the Ninth Street Christian Church of Eldon for all the community to enjoy. The Martin Family Bluegrass band was the featured entertainment (photo 27) on the outside stage in the church parking lot which the crowd really enjoyed. The Miller County Museum had a display visited by a large number of people. Some of them were Ben Duffield (photo 28), Cameron and Christopher Long and John McIntire (photo 29), and Elva Steen (photo 30), the quilt maker who has donated the quilt demonstrated in the display for our annual quilt raffle.
28 Ben Duffield
29 Cameron and Christopher Long with John McGuire
30 Elva Steen, quilt maker
That's all for this week.