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Joe Pryor - News Tribune Article Monday, June 04, 2007


Friday, July 13, 2007

Progress Notes

Summer is the season for family reunions. I attended the Hawk family reunion as a guest this last week hosted by Harold Hawk of Eldon (photo 01).

01 Harold Hawk
01 Harold Hawk

I went to school in Tuscumbia with Roger Hawk, Harold's younger brother (photo 02).

02 Roger Hawk
02 Roger Hawk

All the Hawk family (photo 03) is musically gifted for playing stringed instruments.

03 Hawk Family
03 Hawk Family

Roger became quite proficient, enough so that he was selected by famous country artist George Jones to be lead guitarist, a position that Roger continued with George for fifteen years. Roger told me that he was the lead guitarist when George recorded one of his best selling records, "He Stopped Loving Her Today". Take a look at Roger's web site for more interesting information about his career and his current musical activities.

The Hawk family has an interesting history. They were originally members of a small tribe of "light skinned" indigenous Americans located in South Dakota. The tribe migrated and eventually settled in Oklahoma. According to Harold Hawk, the family was of Choctaw heritage, a branch of the Cherokee Nation (photo 04).

04 James Hawk (second man) and George Hawk Jr. (third man)
04 James Hawk (second man) and George Hawk Jr. (third man)

A family history of the Hawks' written by Harold's nephew Mike Holtmyer, records that Harold's great great grandfather, George Washington Hawk Sr., was Chief of the Choctaw in Oklahoma whose Indian name was Chief Little George. In 1909 Harold's great grandfather, George Washington Hawk Jr. and grandfather, James Robert Hawk, moved with their families to Missouri to settle in Miller County. Jack Hawk, Harold's father, who was born in 1903, accompanied the Hawk family on their trip to Missouri. The Hawks, however, had moved back and forth between Missouri and Oklahoma several times. Mike Holtmyer reports that Oscar Hawk, a brother of Jack, told him that at one point in time the Hawks resided for a while at Painted Rock, an area considered sacred by the Indian people, which was located near Meta, Missouri. According to Mike, the Missouri Conservation Department owns the land now. Early on in Miller County the Hawks' would cut oak logs and transport them by horse and wagon to the Choctaw Reservation Land in Oklahoma where they were sold to be used for shoring up the coal mines. Jack Hawk also worked with his father James Robert Hawk to "whack" out railroad ties in the area of Mary's Home. Between the two of them they could hue sixteen ties a day.

Judge Clyde Lee Jenkins' "History of Miller County" records that George Washington Hawk Sr.'s second son, Robert Hawk, fought in several Civil War battles for the Union side both under General Grant as well as General Sherman.

The Hawk family has been blessed over many generations with natural musical talent. James (Jimmy) Hawk was a master fiddler. It was said he had a very valuable Stradivarius fiddle which unfortunately was destroyed in a fire that occurred at Oscar Hawk's house several years ago. Jack Hawk, James's son and father of Harold, was a master of old style banjo playing but was best at old time piano playing. For many years he was the pianist at the Dagged Hill Assembly of God Church in Tuscumbia. Harold plays mandolin often times joining in the musical group at the Eldon Assembly of God Church.

At the reunion this week the children and grandchildren of Jack Hawk demonstrated their musical talent (photo 05).

05 Roger and Harold Hawk in the Foreground
05 Roger and Harold Hawk in the Foreground

The music of Miller County is well exemplified by the Hawk family. But Miller County has been blessed by the number of good musicians it has spawned, especially fiddle players. Lewis Wall (photo 06) of Iberia has a collection of hundreds of recorded fiddle songs played by Miller County natives.

06 Lewis and Helen Wall
06 Lewis and Helen Wall

Many of these were early primitive recordings are on discs. In later years, Lewis was able to record some of the more recent Miller County fiddlers on tape. He has judged at many fiddle playing contests which gave him the opportunity to have heard most of the great Miller County fiddlers of the last century. These have included Archie and Ike Helton of Iberia (both deceased), Henry Thompson of Iberia (deceased), Lyman Enloe of Eldon (deceased), Jimmie Skiles, Burnis and Charley Harrison of Hawkeye, Dr. Gray of Eugene (deceased), Garvin Lee of Iberia, William Driver of Iberia (deceased). Lewis has recordings of all these fiddle players in his collection. According to Howard Wight Marshall, who in conjunction with the University of Missouri has studied Missouri fiddling styles, the style of the Ozarks is characterized by "the use of short bow strokes, heavy rhythm, double stops, and a 'sawing' effect that is extremely important in setting a firm beat for dancing."

One of the few fiddlers of the Ozarks who was black was Bill Driver of Iberia (photo 07), who Lewis reports was one of the best.

07 Bill Driver
07 Bill Driver

This opinion was supported by that of Jimmy Skiles, another well known old style Ozark fiddler of near Eldon, who remembers that once he played against Bill Driver in a fiddling contest in Iberia. Bill won first and Jimmy won third. You can read the very interesting biography of Bill Driver in two different sections of our website page devoted to the history of the Miller County black population who were living here around the turn of the last century written and compiled by Peggy Hake.

Or you can go to the heading at the top of the web page on the right, "Publications;" then click on "Windows to the Past;" then click on "Windows to the Past" again and finally click on the heading on the left titled "Black Families of Miller County."

Jimmy Skiles (photo 08) was born and raised on the upper Saline Creek near Aurora Springs.

08 Jimmy Skiles
08 Jimmy Skiles

Life was tough in the days of Jimmy's youth just to have enough food on the table. Jimmy says that his father would become angry if he brought home a squirrel with a body rather than head shot because of the wasted meat. However, such marksmanship helped earn Jimmy a preferred rating when he was drafted into service in WWII.

As a boy, Jimmy learned to play tunes on an old beaten up fiddle that his father would whistle while working. Sensing that Jimmy had real aptitude, Henry and Jimmy went to visit Lyman Enloe, the famous fiddler of northern Miller County, who sold them a better fiddle for three dollars. On arriving back home Henry told Jimmy's mother that he would have to be at the bank in Eldon early the next morning to get a loan to cover the three dollars as their bank account had been dry for some time. Over the next few years Jimmy became known and in demand for being able to maintain the beat and rhythm necessary for Ozark style jig dancing. Jimmy says that the secret lies in looking for the best dancer on the floor and watching his feet; apparently this method provided the eye/hand coordination as the optimum way of matching the music to the rhythm of the dancers. Jimmy's musical skill led to his being asked to join the Lake of the Ozarks Square Dance Team (photo 09) as the fiddler.

09 Lake of the Ozarks Square Dance Team - Jimmy second on the Right
09 Lake of the Ozarks Square Dance Team - Jimmy second on the Right

This group became famous after winning the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and went on to Nashville and New Orleans as well as other venues for several years giving multiple performances. Famous showman and musician of the area, Lee Mace, was also a member of the dance team. In fact, Lee's love of square and jig dancing and his preference for dancing wherever Jimmy Skiles was playing the fiddle is one of the reasons Jimmy later was asked to join the Lake of the Ozarks Square Dance team. Later Jimmy was with other popular local groups including the Ranch Valley Boys (photo 10) which appeared regularly on KWOS.

10 Ranch Valley Boys - Jimmy on the Right
10 Ranch Valley Boys - Jimmy on the Right

In addition to Jimmy this group included Ed Shepherd, who was the original owner of the still very popular "Cree Mee" of Eldon; Gene Spencer, one of the area's most talented guitarists; Merle Jackson, a very talented vocalist; and Buzzy Bedwell, popular announcer of KRMS on the Steel Guitar. Before retiring, Jimmy played fiddle for the popular local group, Gateway Blue Grass Band which included local Eldon residents Bob Wieneman, his wife Sue and son Joey, and Walter Dye, a wonderfully talented vocalist. Jimmy's family has long time roots in Miller County.

One interesting photo he showed me was of his grandfather, George Skiles standing in front of a business place somewhere in Eldon (photo 11) in which an old horse drawn wagon is present as well as a steam operated vehicle.

11 George Skiles and Frank Vernon
11 Grandfather George Skiles and Frank Vernon (grandfather of Don Vernon)

Jimmy said that local banker Don Vernon's grandfather, Frank Vernon, is also in the photo. Don was the Citizen's Bank of Eldon officer who, last week as a representative of the bank, donated five thousand dollars to our Miller County Historical Society Building Fund, one of the largest donations we have received (photo 12).

12 Betty Kallenbach, Don Vernon and Joe Pryor
12 Betty Kallenbach, Don Vernon and Joe Pryor

Sunday July 8 we held our quarterly members and guests potluck dinner meeting. Frank Schlesinger (photo 13) provided us with a wonderful singing program of a selection of gospel songs.

13 Frank Schlesinger
13 Frank Schlesinger

Jack Lupardus drove over in his classic Cadillac Coupe of early 1950's vintage (photo 14).

14 Jack Lupardus and his Classic Cadillac
14 Jack Lupardus and his Classic Cadillac

Jack is helping us organize a classic car show which will be held in early September. We'll have more to say about that event later.

Cyrilla Doerhoff brought over some old photos of the Tellman farm house where she was born and raised. We plan to visit her to scan these and other photos of the St. Elizabeth area where she has resided for most of her adult life as part of a feature on St. Elizabeth which is projected to be on our website in the near future.

Dwight Weaver (photo 15), another long time member of the Miller County Historical Society, brought over a collection of display boards with old photos of the Lake Ozark Strip taken soon after the dam was built.

15 Dwight Weaver
15 Dwight Weaver

Dwight is donating these items to our museum for display when the new addition is completed. Dwight is the author of three books replete with photos of the entire Lake area. These books are must reads for anyone interested in the history of the Lake of the Ozarks. I have read them and refer to them often to obtain information about the Lake both before as well as after the dam was built.


Janet Lowry is one of our new volunteers for this year (photo 16).

16 Janet Lowry
16 Janet Lowry

Although originally from Nebraska, her husband David Lowry is from the Iberia area. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to have people with the enthusiasm and eagerness to help visitors enjoy their visit to our museum as is demonstrated by Janet.

Cathy DeGraffenreid of the Bear Creek vicinity was another volunteer this last week (photo 17).

17 Cathy DeGraffenreid
17 Cathy DeGraffenreid

Her father, John DeGraffenreid, is famous for his collection and preservation of steam powered threshing machines. For many years he held an annual steam engine threshers meeting on his farm. Cathy is church secretary at Riverview Baptist Church.

Also this week we had long time members John and Lorraine Dowler hosting (photo 18).

18 John and Lorraine Dowler
18 John and Lorraine Dowler

They were educators for many years in the Eldon School system before retiring.


Helping Kenneth Wyrick (photo 19) with the electrical work for the new addition are Carl McDonald (photo 20) and Jim Clark (photo 21).

19 Kenneth Wyrick
19 Kenneth Wyrick

20 Carl McDonald
20 Carl McDonald

21 Jim Clark
21 Jim Clark

Both are board members of our museum and are very deserving of our thanks that they are willing to make the effort and take the time to help out, especially during the last few days which have been very warm.


Last week I alluded to a Dr. Thomson (I spelled it Thompson then but subsequently have learned of the correct spelling) who rented a room in my grandparents house in Tuscumbia where he also gave chiropractic treatments. One of the patients was named "Norma" for whom Dr. Thomson cured her hiccups. I did not mention her last name because of reasons of confidentiality. However, I was sent a copy of an advertisement (photo 22) printed in the Tuscumbia Autogram in which Norma, whose last name was Jones, gave her testimony about Dr. Thomson.

22 Norma Jones Testimonial
22 Norma Jones Testimonial

The advertisement was sent me by Karen Wyrick Smith, who volunteers for us at the museum. Here is what Karen wrote me:

 

Hi, Joe,

I always look forward to your Presidents Message because there is usually some little tidbit from the past that I have in my files. In this week's "Message" you mention the log house owned by Madison and Sadie Bear.....I remember visiting them there when I was a child. I went with my grandmother Wyrick. I did not know that the house was built by Dr. Thomson, but I do know about Dr. Thomson and Norma. Norma was my grandmother Wyrick's niece, the daughter of Dora Olive "Ollie" Sullivan and William M. Jones. I am attaching an advertisement that was in the Autogram in January of 1933. I am attaching both a scanned copy and a transcribed copy. I thought you might find it of interest since you are a doctor.

 

The article is difficult to read because of the age of the newspaper in which it was found, but I found it an interesting followup to my original story.


Finally, I am going to start a new feature for this page to appear every once in a while. You see, as I poke around our museum, not uncommonly, in fact, very often, I find objects on display that I have no idea as to what they were or what for what use they were made. I will call this the "you sure don't see one of those very often anymore!" type of thing.

This week's item (photo 23) was donated by Nellie Skiles when I was over to visit her and Jimmy this week. Look at it and see if you can guess what for what purpose it served long ago. Then read the rest of the paragraph to find out what Nellie told me.

23 Guess What?
23 Guess What?

The item is a "Courting Candle." The lever on the right raised or lowers the candle to adjust the amount of time the candle requires to burn down to the top of the coil at which moment "Courting" is over. Times have changed, haven't they?


Next week we will be participating with our float in the Eldon Fair Parade, Tuesday, July 17. Come out and see us as well as the other participants in the parade. See you there!

 

Joe Pryor


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