Bob Thurman Nashville Hisory

Home Contents Nashville, Missouri Crouch Family 1913 Ambrose and Julia Crouch Rolinda McMannus Lynch Stephen & Betty Palmer Crouch Blalock Crouch Introduction Meredith Crouch Carl Crouch Emma Parker Arch Crouch Chester Crouch Nashville, Missouri Crouch Family 1910 David & Clara Crouch Nashville School 1905 Nashville School Classes Nashville School 1933-34.htm Nashville School 1938-41 Nashville School 1943-44.htm Nashville School 1956-57 Post Office Area Pictures Nashville Church 1943 Nashville Church 1925 Aunt Em and Claude Will & Lydia Price David and Elizabeth Crouch Jonathan Crouch Meredith History Duval Missouri Duval School 1940-42 North Star School 1923 John Crouch Sr Glendale School 1942

 

I'm posting a portion of Bob Thurman's lengthy Remembrance of his youth in Barton County. The full document is over 50 pages, and Bob shares it freely with people interested in the Barton County village of Nashville, Missouri. Just contact me if you want the complete file or to contact Bob directly. Though Bob probably didn't know it, there was an earlier Nashville in Mo. It was located on the Missouri River in Boone County. The town was eventually lost to recurrent flooding. Bob, along with many of the persons described in this narrative, is pictured in the Nashville School Pictures 1938-41, and finally in an up to date photograph with his wife Peggy, below.

 

NASHVILLE

The township was formed in 1869 and was named after Nashville, TN. By 1890, the population was about three hundred souls. When we moved there in January 1939 maybe fifty people lived in Nashville proper while perhaps two hundred lived within a three-mile radius. The main street (with no name) had three grocery stores operated by Gay Pope, Ern Beaty (he sold carried many items found in five and dime stores) and my folks, a post office with the postmaster (who was also the barber) and a blacksmith shop. One block over were two churches--Methodist and Christian (Disciples)-- and the two-room school. Interesting enough, many families who traded with us at Medoc now lived near Nashville and traded with us there.

We felt at home in Nashville because we had lived there for a short time in 1933 when the folks worked in the store that Aunt Susie and Uncle Elmer Kibler ran for Granddad Hightower. They still ran the store when we lived at Medoc from 1933 to 1937 so we visited there a lot and became acquainted with many people, especially Bun and Ruth Armstrong. Their store building had two floors and some organization (I think it was the Grange) kept a mechanical goat on the second floor. Lois, June and I thought it great fun to sneak up the stairs and ride that critter.

Mom and Dad rented the old Neusom store building that had an apartment on the side. The building was heated with coal stoves and we carried water in from a well. It was the typical general store with groceries, dry goods, clothing, hardware and farm supplies such as horse collars, horse blankets, animal feed, a wall telephone and kerosene lights that soon were replaced by electric lights.

The apartment had three rooms. Mom cooked on a three-burner gasoline stove with an oven on the side. Soon after we moved there, REA (Rural Electrification Agency) brought electricity to the community so we had electric lights in the store and the apartment.

Our store, like the one at Medoc, became the gathering place for teenage boys who got along great with Mom and Dad. They liked to work on cars and Dad ran an extension cord out in front of the store so they could work late at night. This upset Gay Pope who ran one of the other stores because he said the folks were encouraging those good-for-nothings. One Halloween the boys came over to say Ern Beaty had put kerosene on his store windows so they couldn't be soaped. Mom gave them a bucket of hot water, yellow soap and rags which they used to wash the windows. Then they used the remaining soap on Beaty's and Pope's store windows. The next year Ern locked up early and went home without doing anything to his windows so the boys left him alone turning their attention to Guy Pope’s store. As they started soaping the store windows, Gay chased them down the street. Where did they go? Why, through the large front doors of Thurman’s store which the folks had accidentally left open with the lights turned off. Of course, Gay couldn't follow them inside the darkened store. He stood outside yelling so everyone in the community could hear that Dad and Mom housed bandits. Of course, the people in the community had a big laugh at Gay’s expense.

A person really had to be alert around those boys because they were always pulling practical jokes. Take the time they were working on a Model A and, hot wiring it, they ran a wire to a metal post on the porch so anyone leaning against it got shocked. The trick was to get the person who got shocked to keep it secret so new victims could be set up. One night Tom Murray was the victim and he took it with good nature. A few days he had a heart attack and died while working in the hay field. That sobered the boys up quickly and they stopped pulling that particular trick.

I liked to watch Pat Patterson, the black smithy, at work. That man was an artist. He could take a straight piece of iron, put it in the forge until red-hot, lay it on the anvil and shape it into a shoe to fit the particular horse he was working on. He made wagon wheels, parts for plows and wagons and many other items. He let me turn the bellows to heat the forge and I thought I was really helping. By 1939, very little of the turn of the century ways remained in our lives. Although we still sang the old songs, played the old games, had traveling shows and used many of the folk medicines, other parts that we did at Medoc were gone --shiverees, the blessing after the marriage ceremony and sitting up when someone died. The people at Nashville were not as close as those at Medoc so we never got together to make ice cream or play cards. Most people had cars and had even done some traveling, some out to California in search of jobs, others to Kansas City to see the Royal Livestock show and nearly all to Joplin. The Depression was still on but there were farmers who made a good living, drove nice cars and lived in nice homes. And, the REA brought electricity to the people who wanted it.

Good People Here, Too

Our closest friends were the Bun and Ruth Armstrong, Aris and Emma Parkers and Merle and Pauline James. Bun and Ruth Armstrong were long time friends of Mom and Dad. Clint, their son, was my teacher when I was in the eighth grade and I really liked him. Glenna Parker was about the same age of my sister so they did things together. I spent a lot of time at the farm of Merle and Pauline James who had two children just a little younger than I.

Charlie Bauer had a farm just south of our store on Highway 43. They had a son with Downs Syndrome who was kept hidden from the public. He was put out in the barn or upstairs in the house. So I saw him very few times even though I played with their boys many times and I worked for Charlie sometimes.

Francis Polston, Marvin Burnside and Archie James, three teenagers, spent a lot of time at our store. I guess in part because they got along with Dad and in part because of my teenage sister, Lois, who dated Francis. They dug our well when we moved to Highway 43. Francis and Marvin were just like big brothers to me. Francis taught me to drive when I was eleven years old using his Dad’s school bus. Since I couldn't reach the gas pedal or brake, he crouched down and took care of them while I steered. Mom said the first she knew of this was when she glanced out of the store window and there was the bus coming down the road and all she could see was my tow head over the steering wheel. I moved up (or down) to a pick up truck and finally a car. Not many cars were around in 1939 so it wasn't too dangerous.

But back to Francis. I knew he had a reputation for being kind of wild but he taught me to always treat girls with respect so I listened to what he said, not what people said about him. I guess the one time when I was bothered was when his Dad brought some tires down to the store for Dad to sell. One morning they were gone and come to find out, Francis had taken and sold them, keeping the money himself. When he was killed at the Battle of Midway, I felt as though I had lost a member of the family. When the navy sent his personal items home in a large box, Coy, his Dad, called our family to come up to their home and when we got there, he asked Dad to open the box because he couldn’t do it. It was a sad occasion.

Then there was Tommy Shaunce, the brother to Lucien who married Aunt Flora. He was rather odd but very well liked. So far as I know, Tommy never had a permanent home after his wife died years earlier. He just went where the spirit moved him. One day, he stopped by the store to tell Dad that he had just returned from Neosho where he attended an auction. What’s unusual about this? Well, Neosho was close to forty miles south of us and he hitch hiked the entire distance going and coming. He knew he wasn’t going to buy anything. He just wanted to see the auction. Tommy had some very odd ways. He lived in the smokehouse at our place on the highway while Dad was fixing the house and the well was being dug. Dad put in a small coal monkey stove and Tommy would fry up a skillet full of sausage and scrambled eggs. After eating some for breakfast, he would push the remainder to the back of the stove to stay warm until he was ready to eat again. His dessert was apple butter on crackers. This was his diet for nearly a month when he switched to cheese and crackers for the next several weeks. After that, back to sausage and eggs. We were puzzled why things didn’t spoil but if they did, he certainly wasn’t affected.

As you might expect Tommy was a candidate for teasing and tease him the boys did. The three teenagers who dug our well told him to be careful when he walked around because they had lost some caps used to set off dynamite somewhere around the smokehouse. That night they went out to the place and set off some torpedoes, a type of fireworks, so it sounded like the caps were exploding. For the next couple of days, Tommy wouldn’t leave the smokehouse for fear he would get blown up. Dad heard the boys laughing about it and told them to stop teasing so they told Tommy they had located all of the caps and it was safe to come out.

Dad kidded Mom that Tommy came to the store just because of her, knowing this would get her goat and it did. Tommy chewed tobacco and two brown lines dribbled down his chin. Just the thoughts of Tommy and his tobacco made her shudder. Boys in the community picked up on this and so at the school box supper, they would nominate her and Tommy as the sweetest couple and they won the sugar and creamer set.

For all of his peculiar ways, I doubt there was any man in the community more trusted than Tommy. People knew he was honest and wouldn’t hesitate to leave him alone at their farm with the house unlocked and the door wide open. They also knew he gave a day’s work for a day’s pay. He was especially good at clearing trees but he met his match at our place. We had a large stand of black jack oak which is one of the hardest oaks there is. When he cut a tree down he worked all around, chipping away until it fell. It looked like a beaver at work. When Dad asked why he did it this way, he said he was hoping to find some soft wood. No such luck, tho.

But, there were still those folks whose world was very limited. Take the Bill Flaker family. In 1940 when Mrs. Flaker came into the store all excited because they had driven to Joplin and it had taken only one hour to make the twenty-mile trip. She told Mom, "Miz Thurman, I had the best sandwich in Joplin. I don’t know what it was called but it had chopped beef that was fried and put between two heels of bread with mustard." She had eaten her first hamburger. Another time she told Mom that she had learned a way of fixing potatoes other than boiling them. "You take taties and slice them and put salt and peppy on them and cook them in hot grease. They are really good that way." These foods were as new and exotic to her as lobster and raw oysters were to me years later.

Claude, called Claudie or Snapper, Crouch was both postmaster and barber. Claude was naive and gullible so he was on the receiving end of many practical jokes. Problem is, he never caught on that he was being joked so I guess the joke was really on the jokers. He drove a Model T Ford and whenever anything went wrong, he called Roydon Coss who had a shop at Cossville, some five miles away. He called Roydon so often that a song was made up:

Claudie had a Ford machine

He filled it up with kerosene

He cranked and cranked

But the darned thing wouldn’t start

Then it wouldn’t wait til he got in

And now he owns a pile of tin

But every month he walks right up and pays

Roydon Cross, Roydon Coss

So much down and so much every certain day

It wouldn’t wait til he got in

And now he owns a pile of tin

But every month he walks right up and pays.

Ole Snapper thought it was right funny. He was not a good barber and I wouldn’t let him cut my hair. He used hand held clippers but the trouble was they weren’t sharp and he didn’t open them fully when he finished so he pulled hairs out by the root. One time a salesman asked Uncle Elmer if Claude could give a shave and Uncle Elmer, who was a practical joker, assured him there was no better in the area (which was right -- because there was no other barber in the area). Well, when the salesman got settled in the chair, Snapper put an apron around him. Then, he opened the back door and brought in a pail of water that was partially frozen. Breaking the ice, Snapper took the soap brush and tried to make some lather in that cold water which he put on the man’s face. Then, soaking a towel in the water, he wrapped it around the man’s face to soften the whiskers. The salesman said he more than likely froze them. Finally, Claudie took his straight razor and scraped away. The salesman came back to the store and said he didn’t think Snapper had sharpened that blade for a year. Needless to say, he didn’t thank Uncle Elmer for sending him over to Snapper.

Snapper, who never married, lived with his mother, Aunt Em, who was in her eighties. One day, a friend went to visit Aunt Em and found her in tears. When asked why she was crying, Aunt Em replied, through her sobs, that so and so had died. The friend said she didn’t believe she knew anyone by that name. "Of course you know her. She is on Stella Dallas." Aunt Em had been listening to a soap opera.

The Methodist and Christian churches were located across the street from one another. Ernest Beaty, who ran the grocery and dime store, went to the Methodist while Gay Pope, who also had a grocery store, went to the Christian. People showed their loyalty to their church by trading with the store keeper of their denomination. Well, Claudie was the custodian of the Christian Church but one day he bought something from Ern. Gay told him that if he wanted to continue being custodian, he better not do that again. He was to buy whatever he needed from Gay. Since Mom and Dad did not attend church, people didn’t have a conflict so we had customers from both denominations.

Then there were the very poor people. A few of the poorest lived on the ‘lost forty’, a ridge of wooded land that lay west and south of Nashville. Small plots of land were cleared to raise some corn and a little garden. I have no idea of how it got its name but no one claimed ownership and the land was not on any tax roll.

When driving up the ridge into the lost forty, the first house was the goat woman, so named because she kept goats that ranged all around including inside the house. The story was she had a college education and lost her mind when her husband died. She was very friendly and had a daughter about three years younger than I who was very sweet and smart. She liked to draw and was good at it. Going on back a ways was Puss Rowe (rhymed with owl), his wife and her sister who lived in extreme poverty in a tar paper shack. He was the target of cruel teasing by teenage boys who called "Here puss, puss" when he came to town. Deacon Helms and his brood also had a place on the ridge.

HIGHWAY 43

After a couple of years in Nashville, the folks bought thirty acres on Highway 43 about a mile south from town. It had a lot of woods and two fields that could be farmed. Dad rented both of them to some farmer who planted corn and pumpkins. It was a good place to hunt quail and rabbits.

In the summer of 1940, the folks moved a four-room house in from the coal fields. Mom and I painted the entire outside of the house white. The REA ran an electric line but, for some strange reason, did not put in a meter so we had free power for several months.

Now a well was needed but where should it be dug? How about dowsing or witching a well by using a limb from a cherry tree to find the water? Well, that is just what Granddad Hightower did. Taking a small forked cherry branch in his hands, he began walking back and forth near the house. Suddenly, the branch started to quiver and then near the southeast corner of the house, it dipped straight down. Granddad pointed to the spot to dig saying water was down about twenty feet or so. He figured the depth out by the number of times the cherry branch moved up and down. Of course, the farmers who lived near us had a field day laughing because the shallowest well anywhere around was at least sixty feet deep. But Dad, who had faith in his father-in-law, asked Francis, Marvin and Archy if they would dig it. They drew a circle in the ground and built a pulley over it to bring up the dirt. At about twenty three feet water started in and at twenty five feet it came in such a stream they had to stop. Dad had the last laugh. Not only was it shallower than other wells in the area but it was the only one with sweet, soft water.

Dad also built a store building. I had just finished the sixth grade and was rather small for my age. I guess I weighed about 85 pounds and was about 5' 3" tall. I mention this because I helped him as best I could but being short I probably was more of a disability than help. He walled the inside with plywood which wasn't hard for me but the ceiling was a different matter. Dad made a T brace for me so when he lifted a 4x8 foot section of plywood to nail to the ceiling, I held up the other end. He had a lot of patience because sometimes my arms gave out. I also helped stain the walls with orange shellac. That summer was quite hot and as he said, when we put the stain on, you could hear the plywood drink it in.

I really enjoyed living on the highway. There were a lot of trees, a small stream meandered through the fields and I had a lot of places to explore. Sometimes I cut across the fields to visit a schoolmate who lived about one half mile away. I rode my bike to school and to visit friends who lived as far as five miles away.

Actually, my best friend was Butch, a small brown terrier. As I roamed the woods, Butch chased squirrels and rabbits, never catching either one and I’m not certain he wanted to. Grandmother Hightower gave me this poem

My Dog Butch

Two dark eyes in which I see

Courage, faith and love for me,

Two perky ears that listen and hear

My commands that sound so dear.

Not much of a name

And no pedigree;

What care I what

His breed may be

He’s Butch to me

Stooge Addendum:

A man may smile and bid you hail

Yet wish you with the devil;

But when good ole Butch wags his tail

I know he’s on the level.

He had one fault. He liked to chase cars and he was killed one summer afternoon while chasing a car on the highway. I can’t describe the pain I felt. When the folks drove down to Medoc later that evening to see Uncle Elmer and Aunt Susie, June and I sat in the kitchen and she mourned with me. I don’t remember anything she said but they were just the right words because I felt better when we went home. He was my last dog.

Prince, a regal German shepherd, came to our place. At first he was very wild and wouldn’t let any of us touch him. Lois, who named him, determined to tame Prince so she put out food and then she talked to him in a calm voice. After a few days, she walked closer and closer but didn’t try to touch him. Soon, she not only was able to walk up to Prince but was able to pet him. In time, he became friendly to all of us. Prince was really a smart animal. One time when Butch ran after a car, Prince went out into the road, growled, circled Butch and then made him return to the yard. I wish he had been around that last time when Butch chased a car. When we moved, we asked a friend if he would like to have Prince and he was delighted. When we tried to put Prince into the back seat of the car, he went wild, snapping and growling. There was no way he was going to get into that car. Some folks who lived just down the road from us said they would care for him and they walked him to their place where he seemed to be very happy.

Just as Mom and I had spent a lot of time together fishing at Medoc, we did a lot of things together on the highway. We picked wild greens, blackberries and mushrooms and we hunted squirrels. She took my twenty-two rifle while I used the four ten shotgun...and she usually shot more squirrels than I did.

Dad bartered groceries and feed for pigs, which he fattened out and sold either to a meat packing plant or at the stockyards. He would give me a shoat to feed out and I got the money when we took them to market. One day, Dad wanted to take a Chester White sow and several of her shoats to market so he backed the truck up to the loading dock and told me to drive them up the chute into the truck. Well, I got into the pen and as I started the shoats toward the other end, I heard a loud squeal. Turning around, I saw the sow with her mouth wide open heading straight toward me in a run. Needless to say, I took off down the pen and climbed up the side of the chute in nothing flat B while Dad roared with laughter. At first I didn’t see anything funny but then it struck me how I must have looked running down the pen and up the side. After the sow calmed down, I got back into the pen and put the her in the truck first and then loaded the shoats. Didn’t have any trouble that time. Later on, Dad laughed that he didn’t realize just how fast I could run. Of course, I had some incentive.

Although business was good and Dad said they made money, it never was as good as in Nashville. The people who lived west and north of Nashville stopped off at Pope's store rather than drive an extra mile to get the same supplies at our store. In 1941, Dad got a construction job at Camp Crowder and Mom continued running the store. Then the war came and things got hard to get. When Granddad Hightower became very ill in the fall of 1942, Mom spent a lot of time with him so they decided to close the store.

In January 1944, Lois and Ed got married and moved to Texas. Dad worked away from home for a time so there was just Mom and me out there. In late November 1944, the folks decided to move to Vancouver, WA to work in the shipyard so they sold the place and stored all of our furniture at Grandmother Hightower’s home in Alba. I was sort of sad to leave that place in the country but was excited to see what the west looked like.

 

Fourth of July

The Fourth of July was the largest community celebration that we had. It was a big community party for even the poorest because the fireworks finale at Joplin Schifferdecker Park or the Pittsburg Municipal Park was free to all

I was up and at ‘em early on the morning of the Fourth, setting off strings of ladyfingers and shooting my homemade cannon because this was Amy day." .

Actually, for me, the celebration started in mid-June when Lee Luwinski, the salesman for Bullard and Bell wholesale dry goods company, came to the store to show the fireworks line. He knew the Fourth was my birthday so he would give me some unusual toy and some firecrackers. Then, the folks stocked up on fireworks for the store and let me have all I wanted. How did they ever make a profit?

I liked to make cannons. Using a short metal pipe for the barrel, I loaded a missile in the front end, put a large firecracker with the fuse sticking out at the rear and packed the opening with clay so the blast went forward. After lighting the fuse, I stood aside to watch the missile fly off toward the target. It was also fun to put a tin can over a large firecracker and watch it shoot high into the air. At Nashville, a group of us boys created an interesting game when we took firecrackers about the size of my thumb and encased them in clay so they were about an inch in diameter. Putting one in the pocket of a sling shot, I’d pull the rubber back as far as I could and wait for another boy to light the fuse. Now came the exciting part. The game was to see how long I could hold the firecracker before letting it fly. If I misjudged, it went off in my hand and, boy howdy, did that smart! If I guessed right, it shot high into the air and exploded as it arced, dropping bits of clay down below. We could count on Mr. Raisoner complaining that "Someone has been shooting a shotgun at my house." Dad would ask what made him think so and he would say he could hear the pellets hitting the roof. Sometimes Dad asked us to aim some other direction which we did, right over Red Nichol’s tin roof barn. Soon, Red was complaining. Boy, we couldn’t have any fun at all!

Our family went to an old fashioned Fourth-of-July at Galesburg where Granddad Hightower had a grocery story in 1934 and 1935. It was about three miles from Medoc. A large pasture was cleared for the gathering and booths were decorated with red, white and blue bunting. I remember one sold cold drinks but I imagine others sold cakes, sandwiches and souvenirs. Someone, I have no idea who, stood on a gaily decorated platform and no doubt gave what to adults was a rousing patriotic speech -- though to a six-year-old boy it was just loud talking. I laughed as we watched teenage boys try to catch the greased pig or climb the greased pole to claim the dollar at the top. Men pitched horseshoes. Swimmers swung out over Spring River on ropes and dived into the cold swift water. And, of course, people visited, ate and enjoyed. It was a fun day.

We started going to the park at Pittsburg, KS, after we moved to Nashville. The park would be filled with adults and children and we knew many because they were from our community. There was a large pavilion where couples danced the two step or fox trot to the music of A.J.Cripes Playboys or some other local string band. Boys roamed the grounds shooting off fireworks and throwing torpedoes, objects the size of marbles that exploded upon impact, under the feet of unsuspecting adults and squealing girls. Teenage boys wore straw bowlers with such bold sayings as "Don’t Go Kicking My Dog Around" or "Kiss Me Quick" or "I’m a Salty Dog." Then, after dark, a dazzling display of fireworks filled the darkened sky to the oohs and ahhhs of the crowd. After we got home, we put on our own show with Dad and me shooting off Roman candles, spinning wheels and other fireworks.

My last visit to Pittsburg on the Fourth was in 1946 just before I shipped overseas. I took a group of teenage friends from Joplin and the atmosphere was just like it was before the war.

Thanksgiving Day

Over the river and through the woods

To Grandmother's house we go

The horse knows the way and carries the sleigh

Over white and drifted snow

Over the river and through the woods

Be quick, you dapple gray

Hurrah for the sun, is the pudding done?

Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day

Well, we did go to Grandmother's house on Thanksgiving Day although not by sleigh. Snow was rare this early.

Bird season opened in early November so it was traditional for men to hunt quail and ducks on Thanksgiving morn. Dad and Uncle Elmer would be off at day break while Mom and Aunt Susie started cooking. After the men returned, our trucks were loaded with good food and off we'd go to Grandmother and Granddad Hightower.

What a feast. There would be roast beef, baked hen, quail and wild duck (when the men had good luck hunting). I remember eating turkey only once and it was very dry. We also had goose once but it was too greasy. Bowls were filled with bread dressing, sweet potatoes in brown sugar syrup topped with melted marshmallows, mashed potatoes with a puddle of yellow butter in the center, home made noodles, home canned green beans, pinto beans, orange-pineapple-carrot Jello salad, slaw, pickles and piccalilli (pickled green pepper called mangos filled with ground green tomatoes and cabbage). Grandmother's "light rolls" were tall and tasty (the leavening was potato water instead of yeast) and went great with home churned butter. The oven did not have a thermometer but she had her hand which she stuck in to see if the temperature was just right.

Ah, the desserts! There was the traditional "sticky lemon cake" that Grandmother baked. Mom might bring a chocolate or a burnt sugar cake and several different pies (might be custard, lemon, chocolate, banana creme or coconut creme) and the other women folk brought their favorite desserts.

After eating, the men went to the living room to talk until they dozed off to sleep. The women were in the kitchen cleaning up. And, the children were playing upstairs although we would run into the kitchen to get "just one more roll."

President Roosevelt, in 1939, managed to create some confusion around this holiday when he proclaimed the third Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day instead of the fourth Thursday. The idea was to help the economy by giving a longer shopping period before Christmas. Well, that set off a firestorm and while it was a national holiday on the third Thursday, most states and people continued to observe it on the fourth. This continued until 1941 when Congress made the fourth Thursday official.

Christmas

Christmas Day was an exciting time. Decorations were not as fancy as today and did not go up until maybe the third week of December. We decorated the dining room and a few days before Christmas, Mom opened the box with all of the decorations in it. Then we ran twisted red and green crepe paper strips from the four corners to the red bell that hung in the middle of the room. It looked like a half of a bell when it came out of the box with the front and back made of stiff paper and hinged at one edge. When pulled at the edges, it opened up to a whole red bell with the inside looking sort of like a red honey comb with a knob hanging down.

Then Dad and I went out in the woods to find a cedar tree which the family decorated with glass ornaments, tinsel and a glass bird with a fiber glass tail that went on the top. There were no lights since we didn’t have electricity and candles were too much of a fire hazard. And, I don’t remember anyone wishing for a white Christmas. I don’t think that became popular around our area until 1942 when Bing Crosby sang "I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas" in the movie "Holiday Inn."

On Christmas morning, people greeted one another with "Christmas Gift" meaning the gift (birth) of Jesus.

I don’t remember much ever being said about Santa Claus except at school programs. We would have a tree at school which we decorated. We also drew names with a limit on how much we could spend but we also gave gifts to our best friends. Many children made their gifts because they didn’t have any money. We always had a Christmas program at night for the community at which we sang, recited poems and put on a play. I guess I was in the third grade when I recited

Guess I’ll get forty eleven presents

Cause I’ve been good as good can be.

Maw and Paw are worried

Cause they ain’t no flies on me

Just ask my folks, I’ve been so good

They didn’t know what to think.

They were ‘fraid I was getting sick

For I’ve hardly dared to wink,

Clint Armstrong, my eighth grade teacher at Nashville, asked me to play Santa Claus at the Christmas program which I did. I was rather slender so Ruth, his mother, dressed me up in the red suit and stuffed pillows around my waist so I was plump. I walked in saying "Ho, Ho, Ho" to the delight of children and adults -- of course everyone knew who I was -- and passed out the presents and candy. It was a fun evening.

Decoration Day

Decoration Day was very important to my family and to the people in our community. It was more than honoring fallen warriors; it was remembering all loved ones who had died.

Grandmother Thurman, Osa and Helen came up from Pawhuska and we’d get together with Aunt Susie and her family, Grandmother Hightower and Aunt Ruth and her family. Mom and the other women began cutting wild flowers such as Bachelor’s Buttons and Daisies on the afternoon before and early the next morning we finished up by cutting purple flags (iris) and other flowers that wilted quickly.

We then began the trek to cemeteries to place quart jars filled with water and cut flowers on the graves as a sign of family love and memory. Our first stop might be Weavers where Hightower family members were buried. We children looked forward to going to Weavers because wild strawberries would be ripe and we spent our time eating these delicious sweet berries while the adults decorated graves. From 1936 until I went into the army, I decorated the grave of Henry Keesee, a man from Medoc I greatly admired. My cousin June continued the tradition for me for many years after I left the area. From Weavers, we might go to Oronogo where Grandmother Sallee was buried. Next, to Carterville where Granddad and Uncle George Thurman were buried as well as Grandmother Thurman’s sisters. Just north was the Carter Cemetery where Great Granddad Foster was buried. Then we’d stop at Harmony Grove where Uncle Elmer’s father was laid to rest.

The day ended at Alba where we gathered to eat and visit.

A Sucker Born Every Minute - The Medicine Show Is In Town

P.T. Barnum, the famous circus operator, supposedly said, "There is a sucker born every minute." Now, I don't know whether or not he did but I saw a lot of evidence that it was true especially when medicine shows came to Nashville.

These shows brought in a lot of business so Dad let them set up on the back of our lot for no charge. They stayed for a week, closing down after the Saturday night show. The side of a trailer was let down to form a stage, folding chairs were set up and a canvas wall was erected. I don’t remember how much people paid to see the show but it was probably a dime.

The head of the show was called "doctor" who sold special medicine supposed to cure anything that ailed you. The performers, who lived in trailers, included an Indian who supposedly had given the secret recipe to the doctor and he would talk or dance as well as other performers who sang, danced and put on a plays. One time two young sisters sang "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby," and really won over the crowd.

Between acts, performers moved throughout the crowd selling boxes of salt water taffy and other candy, satin pillows with scenes on them and, of course, bottles of medicine which sold for 50 cents a bottle or three bottles for a dollar. Mom swore by the medicine sold by one group because it stopped her cough. Of course, we kidded her saying it probably was ninety per cent alcohol because it burned all the way down.

There was always a contest for the most popular girl with people nominating different girls from the community for whom they voted by turning in empty candy wrappers and boxes they had bought. Lois, my sister, was popular among the teenage boys and one year she was elected and won the ‘diamond’ ring prize.

The jokes and plays always included some suggestive material -- and the meanings were usually over my head. One year the last play on the final night had a man using a fishing rod. During the play, he cast out to the side of the crowd and reeled in a pair of women’s ‘bloomers’ (panties). Of course, women blushed, men roared -- and, while I wondered what was so funny, I knew what the closing line, "There’s a sucker born every minute," meant, however.

Later in the week after the medicine show left the community, some men came into the store to complain that the medicine didn’t cure whatever it was supposed to cure. Since the medicine show had set up on our place, they wanted Dad to give them their money back. He laughed, "Boys, didn’t he tell you there’s a sucker born every minute? Why, you was took." When they persisted in wanting their money back, he told them the show had moved to Purcell, about eight miles away and they should go there for their money. Several men drove to Purcell that night and after the show hit the ‘doctor’ up for their money. He agreed they were due a refund but, "Boys, I just don’t have enough cash to give it to you right now. If you come back in the morning, I’ll have it for you." This sounded like a reasonable suggestion so they agreed. Then, just before they left, he said, "It sure looks like rain and I need to pack up my tent. If I wait until morning, I’ll have a dickens of a time folding it up. Will you boys help me take it down and put it in the trailer?" Why sure, they would and they did. And, you probably have guessed what they found when they returned the next day. An empty lot. Dad sure had a lot of fun razzing them after that about ‘a sucker born every minute.’

These shows were lots of fun and added something different to our lives.

Halloween

I don’t remember Halloween being celebrated at Medoc but at Nashville it was a big night for pulling tricks. Both teenage boys and girls got into the act as they turned over privies (outdoor toilets) and did other forms of mischief like the time some boys took Merle James’ wagon apart and reassembled it on the roof of Ern Beaty’s store. Dad and Mom, who always got along great with the teenagers, weren’t bothered. In fact, though I blush to mention it, the folks even helped the boys. Take the time Ern Beaty put coal oil on his windows so they couldn’t be soaped. When the boys told Mom about it, she heated some water and gave them some yellow laundry soap so they could clean the windows. Then, they soaped them good with that same yellow soap. Another time, the boys were bothering Gay Pope and when he chased them down the street, they ran into our store B seems the folks conveniently had left the front doors open and lights off. Gay, who couldn’t follow them in the store, stood out in the middle of the road yelling that Dad sided with ‘those hoodlums.’

Another year, when we lived on Highway 43, a gang of young people including my sister Lois had been to a party and ended up in Nashville. There they saw Gay Pope marching back and forth in front of his store to assure nothing was done to his windows. That presented a challenge to those teenagers who accepted with it gusto.

Well, they crowded around Gay. As he told them what they weren’t going to do, Cleona McCool stood with her back to the window doing it, that is giving the window a good soaping. Other young people were stacking empty oil cans in front of the door. And, still others were busily doing other things. Gay took down names of those he knew but he didn’t know the girl soaping the window. "What is your name?" he demanded. Sweetly, Cleona, seeing the handle on the gasoline pump, answered, "Sally Pumphandle." He then announced in a loud voice that he was turning their names over to Mr. Reasoner, the Justice of the Peace and was going to demand justice.

Lois came home very upset and so were the folks. She because of being in trouble with the law and probably being in trouble with the folks for coming home so late. The folks because she was so late. Tearfully, Lois explained what she and her friends had done and what Gay Pope was going to do. In a stern voice, Dad said she should not have gotten mixed up in something like that but he would talk to Mr. Reasoner to straighten things out. As I remember it, Lois was very relieved that the folks were so understanding until Mom started laughing. That’s when, as Paul Harvey would say, Lois learned the rest of the story and she didn’t see the humor. Not only had Dad, Mom and I supplied the kids with the empty oil cans but we had hauled them to Nashville. When we got there, Mom hurt her leg as she fell down getting out of the car. We also were watching as the young people, including Lois, hoorawed Gay. Next morning, Dad and several parents met with Gay and Mr. Reasoner to explain that what the kids did was good clean fun and as nothing serious had happened, they better forget all about it. They took the advice and dropped it.

The One Elephant Circus

Imagine a "circus" with an elephant, a laughing hyena, dogs, monkeys and a clown coming to Nashville. I stood in front of the hyena cage for a long time but it never did laugh! We did, though, as we watched the dogs go head first down the slide, jump over one another and leap through hoops of fire. Lois got to be in one of the acts, too. I really felt important because I got to take the elephant down to a pool of water for a drink. Because the circus was on our lot, we got in free.

Talky Movies Come to Nashville

Ern Beaty operated a silent movie house as part of his store until the mid thirties. That meant the nearest movie house was at Pittsburg, some six miles away. Well, in 1939, the Hi-Y Club from Mindenmines High School came down on Saturday nights and showed sound movies on the side of our store. The show began with a serial such as "Burn’em Up Barnes," a race driver who got into all kinds of scraps and each episode ended with a cliff hanger such as a fiery car crash, Barnes falling over a cliff or a big fight. This was followed by a three or four-reeler of some western or mystery movie. A collection was taken up to pay for the expense and to help the Hi-Y Club.

The School as the Community Center

The one and two-room schools served as the social center for the community. One of the most enjoyable events was the pie and box supper. First people in the community put on a program. Then, the silliness took over with contests in which people were nominated as ‘the man with the biggest feet’ (the winner got a large pair of socks), ‘the man with the dirtiest feet’ (yellow laundry soap)and the ‘sweetest couple’ (cream and sugar set). Folk voted by giving money which went to the school. Usually the people nominated were opposites like Mom and Tommy Shaunce (an old man who chewed tobacco). And, one night they won the sweetest couple award. It was just fun and actually showed who was popular and good natured.

The pie and box supper auction, the real "entertainment," began after the program and auction. Teenage girls and adult women in the community fixed a dinner for two in a box which they decorated up with tissue paper and crepe paper ribbons for teenage boys and men to bid on. The woman was supposed to keep secret which was her box but, of course, she had her own tricks to let the man of her choice know which box was hers because the highest bidder got to eat the food with the person who fixed it. Most boxes probably went for maybe seventy-five cents or a dollar but if boys caught on that a particular boy wanted the box of a certain girl, they might run the bidding up to five or six dollars. All of the proceeds went to the school to buy books, supplies and other things that the teacher needed.

Every boy I knew carried a pocket knife everywhere he went including school and we used it to whittle, to cut branches for kites and to play mumble peg. We cut strips from an inner tube and trimmed a fork from a tree branch to make a sling shot.

Lois and her girl friends played paper dolls they cut out from the Sears or Wards catalog. They played jacks. They dressed up using turn of the century clothes from Mrs. Jennings, who lived next door to us. They might have baby dolls that opened and closed their eyes but only the most fortunate girl had a real Shirley Temple doll with long, curly hair.

My sister Lois, cousins , Ginger and Jacque and I had a lot of fun using our imagination at Granddad and Grandmother Hightower’s house at Alba. After eating dinner, we’d go upstairs to an empty bedroom that had a very large walk-in closet where we put on plays for each other. Ginger and I would go into the closet where we’d plan a song and dance production. Then we’d come out and after introducing ourselves as Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers (popular movie starts), we’d sing and dance. Lois and might be next and they’d be some movie stars. This might go on for a couple of hours. Or, we’d go outside and play in the yard, rolling down the grassy slope in the front yard or playing games such as "Pretty or Ugly" or "Statue."

Several boys at Nashville rode their bicycles to school and we made up games using them. During my seventh grade the weather was too wet to play outside in winter so we rode our bicycles in the front hall which was just long enough and wide enough for two bikes. We took turns and the idea was to make the circle without hitting the wall or the other bike. This took skill and patience. In nice weather, we used teeter totters as obstacle courses. We started out on the lower ones which were only a couple of feet off of the ground. We’d ride the bike up the board to just the mid point, step on the brake, lean forward to make the board go down the other side and then ride down the other side. It took skill to know just when to stop and lean forward. If you did it too soon, you lost the momentum and fell off the board. If you waited too late, the board went down very fast and again you fell. Once we mastered the lower ones, we moved to the higher ones with midpoints about four feet off the ground. I broke two pedals and a goose neck on the bike but no bones. We also took girls for a ride.

I now realize one game was dangerous but back then it was exciting. A large maple tree was behind the Nashville school and I and a couple of other boys would climb up about ten or fifteen feet and then move out on the limbs. Meanwhile, on the ground, Mr. Foraker, the teacher, and other boys took hedge apples (hard, green fruit that grew on hedge trees) and tried to hit us. If we were able to catch a hedge apple, we threw it back at them on the ground. It is a wonder that none of us ever fell out of the tree or was injured when hit. Clint Armstrong, the eighth grade teacher at Nashville, liked to ice skate so when winter came, he put our recesses together with the lunch hour and took us to a frozen pond for ninety minutes of skating. It was a lot of fun.

 

SCHOOL DAYS, SCHOOL DAZE

School days, school days,

Dear old golden rule days

Children’s song

Schools I attended were a far cry from modern day schools. None had well lighted and colorful carpeted rooms, nice furniture, a cafeteria, well-equipped gym and a large library with books, computers, videos, tape players. The two rural elementary schools I attended were white frame buildings. The one at Medoc had one room for all eight grades while the one at Nashville had two rooms B the lower room for grades one through four and the upper room for grades five through eight. The two small town schools were brick buildings. The school at Alba housed grades one through twelve and my room had one teacher for grades three, four and five. Each grade of the Eugene Fields Elementary School in Webb City was in a separate room but we changed classes for different subjects. Mom would have found the school at Medoc in 1936 very little different from the one room school she attended at Galesburg in 1913 B they looked the same, smelled the same, teachers taught and disciplined the same and the subjects were the same. Dad would have felt at home at Alba because it even looked like the one he attended at Prosperity from 1904 to 1912.

NASHVILLE

I went to the Nashville elementary school from the middle of the fifth grade through the eighth. It had two rooms with grades one through four in the ‘lower room’ and grades five through eight in the ‘upper room’. Each room had maybe fifteen or sixteen students. My grade had five students until the eighth grade when we had six. There were two large halls separating the two rooms - the front hall and the back hall. Of course, there were the two privies outback and a water pump.

The upper room was sparsely furnished with a metal cabinet as the library, the teacher’s desk in the back of the room and a large coal-burning stove in the right front. A blackboard (so called because the slate was black) ran across the front and a smaller blackboard was on the left and the right side at the back of the room. No pictures were on the walls and no shades covered the windows, although the metal grating covered them on the outside. There was a piano but only Mr. Foraker and Miss McKissock played it. Our desks were screwed to the floor so they couldn’t be moved so when two grades studied together, students had to share seats. Of course, this encouraged us to talk when we were supposed to be studying. The summer before I entered the seventh grade, the seats were put on 1 x 4 boards so they could be moved. This made sweeping the floor easier.

I had a different teacher each year. Merle Bolton was teacher when I was in fifth grade and I was afraid of him. Charles Foraker taught the year I was in sixth grade and he was a good teacher. I was in seventh grade the year Emma Lou McKissock was the teacher and, like the other students, I loved her. The only trouble was I had a hard time getting my tongue around her front name or her back name so I called her "Hey" like "Hey, will you help me with this arithmetic problem?" One day, she asked me to find another name so I chose "Jack." You see, Jack Helms, a little boy in the third grade, followed her around like a puppy dog. She knew I used it with love and respect so she said ok. So, I’d say, "Jack, I can’t do this problem."

Clint Armstrong, my eighth grade teacher, grew up in Nashville and his family was a long time friend of ours. Clint was maybe five years older than I and, since I had known him most of my life, it was hard to call him "Mr. Clint" but if I forgot, he’d gently remind me. I went with him a couple of times to run his muskrat traps and spent time visiting him at his house. When the war started, Clint joined the air corps and was killed in a flying accident. I was very sad because I had lost a friend.

Readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic

Each grade had its own reading, arithmetic, spelling, grammar and penmanship (handwriting) but for other subjects, grades were grouped. One year the fifth and sixth grades studied US history together and the next year geography. The seventh and eighth were together for civics, science, health and agriculture. When the desks were screwed to the floor, we sat two to a seat and shared books. As you might suppose, we often got more interested in talking to each other than to listening to the teacher. After they were put on runners, rows could be scooted together but, of course, we kept on visiting.

I don’t remember much that we studied in school but I will always know Fort Crown and Fort Ticonderoga that we studied in the sixth grade. I was sitting with my buddy Glenn Woods and Mr. Foraker was telling us about the revolutionary war and things about Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Men as well as the battle of Fort Crown. Usually I was very interested in something like that but it was a warm spring afternoon and I nodded off. Actually, I went sound asleep. The next thing I knew, Mr. Foraker was scolding Glen and me for going to sleep. As punishment, he made us go to the board and write the name of a fort fifty times. I always knew Glen was teacher’s pet because he had to write "Fort Crown" while I had the long name of "Fort Ticonderoga"! I did make an effort to stay awake from then on.

That year the county schools put on a historical pageant at Lamar, the county seat, and our school was to have the Civil War period. Noland James, who was in the eighth grader, was to be Abraham Lincoln because he was the tallest student but when he couldn’t learn the piece, Mr. Foraker asked if I would play the part. With fear and trembling, I agreed. The night we went to Lamar and I walked out on the stage and saw all those people (two or three hundred I guess), my heart went up to my throat. Then, I saw Mom in the audience so I looked at her and spoke my piece that began, "I, Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, do hereby put my name to this the Emancipation Proclamation..." Oh, how relieved I was to get it over. Well, the pageant went over so well we had to give it a second night. I wasn’t quite as nervous that time until my fake beard started slipping just as I finished speaking. Of course, I couldn’t use my hand to fix it, so as I stepped back a few steps, I pulled it back up with my upper lip. A woman sitting next to Mom told her, "That boy sure was a good Abraham Lincoln." Mom agreed but didn't tell her he was her son. Modest, you know.

In the seventh and eighth grade I studied reading, grammar, spelling, handwriting, science, arithmetic, health, civics (government) and agriculture. Clint made agriculture not only interesting but fun. We made a landscape plan for the school yard and set out plants and shrubs. He taught us to graft plants which I have done many times since then. We had a debate about the advantages of horses and tractors and I had to take the horse. I thought I was so clever and original when I said gas fumes could never be used to fertilize fields like horse manure. My side won, by the way.

It was in the seventh grade that I got my first taste of teaching when Miss McKissock let several of the older students help younger students with their school work. I started by listening to fifth and sixth graders read their history and then I "went down" to the lower room where Miss Crouch taught to help fourth graders with spelling and arithmetic. I’m not sure how much help I was, but it was fun and gave me something to do.

Our music depended on the teacher’s skills and interest. Mr. Foraker was very musical and he not only had us sing but also gave lessons on the violin, guitar and mandolin to any student who was interested. I took lessons on both the mandolin and the violin but didn’t keep them up after he left because the folks couldn’t afford to buy either instrument. Miss McKissock had us sing using the community songbook and an elementary school song book. My favorites were "The Bulldog on the Bank," "Spanish Cavalier" which was sung together with "Solomon Levi," "Santa Lucia," "Jeanne With the Light Brown Hair," "Blow the Man Down," and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." Of course, we sang a lot of songs of the west like "The Old Chisholm Trail," and "Home on the Range."

The library was much like the one at Medoc, a metal cabinet with probably fewer than one hundred books, but there were some good ones. I especially remember The Three Musketeers, books about heroes from our history such as Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill and Ethan Allen; and an English story, Water Babies. The teachers read to us after lunch and two of my favorite stories were Treasure Island (I still have the image of Long John Silver in my mind) and Tom Sawyer. The teachers had a sense of the dramatic because they knew just when to stop at the most exciting moment. How hard it was to wait for the next day to hear the next episode.

Oh, that dreaded county examination to graduate from the eighth grade! We started reviewing past exams two months before taking it in late February, memorizing all of the questions and answers with the hope that at least some of them would be on the exam. I don’t remember if any were or not. When the fateful day arrived, Clint drove us to North Star School, three miles north of Nashville, where, along with students from other area schools, we spent the entire day taking the test. Let me tell you, it was an ordeal! Spelling threw me. One of the words was ‘hydraulic’ and I had no idea of what it meant let alone know how to spell it. On the way home, I asked Clint what it meant and he said it had to do with water power and some cars had hydraulic drive B which didn’t help me at all. Anyway, since spelling was part of language arts, I passed everything. What a relief!

The graduation was held at the high school in Mindenmines with several of the one room schools taking part. The folks bought me a suit for the occasion B my very first one and I really felt dressed up.

Taught to the tune of the hickory stick

Teachers had different ways of punishing. I don’t remember any child getting paddled at Nashville but the threat was always there. Mr. Bolton, who was a sorry teacher, would threaten us and that is about all I remember about him. Several children had a difficult time learning the multiplication tables and he said we better learn them that night and he would paddle anyone who missed any the next day. I learned them but I disliked him from that time on. Years later I saw him and still had a fear of him.

Mr. Foraker, on the other hand, had a sense of humor (warped tho it may have been). There was something about writing on the blackboard (today it has the fancy name of chalkboard) that kids loved so he let us work on spelling or arithmetic at the board. He let us know when we were messing around, however, by throwing a chalk eraser at the board. We’d got a big kick when he did this because we knew he wouldn’t hit us. One time, he and an eighth grader got into a fist fight during school and they fought up and down the rows. We had to stay in our seats and I was really scared. When they finally stopped, the boy sat down at his seat and Mr. Foraker went back to his desk. I never found out why they fought but the next day, they went on just as though nothing had happened. Miss Emma Lou McKissock had a soft voice and I don’t remember her raising it very often. Her favorite expression when she was put out at us was "I'm going to have a conniptions fit and fly off of the chandelier." We didn't know what a conniptions fit or a chandelier was but we got the message and calmed down.

Maybe it was because he was a home town boy but Clint was a very easy going teacher and we never gave him any problems. I don’t remember him even getting angry at a student.

 

Holidays and Special Events

We observed the birthdays of Washington (February 22) and Lincoln (February 12), Valentine Day (February 14) and Armistice Day (November 11 when we had a minute of silence at 11:00). Clint Armstrong, on St. Patrick’s Day, had me give a report on St. Patrick and why green was part of the celebration. We made green Jell-O and ate it with cookies. We always had a party on Valentine Day and exchanged valentines. I was very embarrassed when Virginia Polston gave me one that had a carrot on the front and the words, "I carrot for you." Comic valentines were the rage and the teacher always got several -- unsigned of course.

We drew names at Christmas and were supposed to give a present only to the person whose name we drew but we usually gave our friends something. Some children didn’t have the money to buy anything so they made their gifts and, as I look back, those were the best presents I received. We had a Christmas party at night when the parents and people in the community came. We put on a program, people sang and Santa Claus gave out presents. Who played Santa when I was in the eighth grade? Me, of course. During the party, Ruth, Clint’s mother, took me down to her house where she stuffed pillows inside the costume to fill me out and had me say "Ho, Ho, Ho" several times. Then, back to school we went. Maybe I fooled the younger children but no one else and I sure took a lot of kidding from my friends. Afterward, we lined up to get a sack of candy from Clint. All in all, it was a fun evening.

THE END OF AN ERA

Change took place at a slow pace during these years but by the end of the decade, the pace picked up steam and, looking back, it seemed to move at a breathtaking speed by 1940. The slow going Model T was replaced with faster cars so people made more trips to nearby Pittsburg and Joplin. Airplanes became a more common sight in the sky. With electricity came refrigerators, radios and gadgets for homes and the store. Girls, who became more aware of fashions in other parts of the country, began wearing penny loafers and broom handle skirts. Why, even Ern Beaty was seen wearing walking shorts down the main street of Nashville B shocking!

But, not everything changed. People on the Lost Forty continued to live just as they had for years past. Tommy Shaunce still walked wherever he wanted to go. Claude Crouch still drove his Model T. And, the wall telephone was still the way to call family and friends.

BOB THE TEENAGER

Teen years for most youth are from age thirteen through nineteen but mine were just the time I turned thirteen in rural southwest Missouri until seventeen when I entered the army in urban Joplin. To the military, I was to ‘put away those teenage ways’ and be a man. But ‘what a difference four years makes’ to paraphrase a song that was popular back then.

What made the difference? Nashville in 1941 was ‘twenty miles north and fifty years behind’(to paraphrase another song, this time from the musical ‘Take Me Along’) Joplin in 1945. Take how we dressed, what my friends and I talked about and our language. In 1941, most of the boys I knew wore overalls to the two room elementary school and overalls or wash trousers to Minden High School but nothing dressy like a necktie or jacket except when school pictures were taken. We talked about what was happening on the farm or hunting or fishing. After Pearl Harbor, the war entered into our conversations especially about friends who were killed or wounded and wondering how we would be as soldiers. And, we used very little slang. At Joplin High in 1945, boys wore nice wash trousers or blue denims and a few even wore matching jacket and trousers with a necktie. We talked about current movies, music, what we planned to do after high school and, of course, the war that had just ended. Our speech was spiced with such current slang like’hubba, hep and cool’. It was like being in a different world.

I initiated myself into being a teenager by pulling a dumb trick. We lived on Highway 43 south of Nashville and I hunted a lot. I was very careful with my rifle or .410 shotgun but, for some reason, I slipped up one August day just after my thirteenth birthday. I had been hunting and remember unloading the rifle just as I got up to our store. Ad Gregg, a man I knew, was in the store and we kidded about doing some target practicing. Suddenly, BANG! I looked down and knew at once what the problem was when I saw blood coming out of the top of my left shoe. I was stunned and yelled, "Hey, I shot myself." Lois replied, "That's not funny. You shouldn't shoot in the store." Mom saw the blood and started walking back and forth crying, "What are we going to do." Fortunately Ad kept his head and took me out to the porch to wash my foot with kerosine. It didn't hurt then but it sure bled. Then Ad drove Mom and me to Doc Knott over at Jasper some six miles away. Doc poured some thing on the wound (I think it was silver nitrate and it turned the skin black) and THEN it hurt. The bullet went between the second and third toes without hitting a bone and Doc Knott told me, "You are a lucky boy. If it had gone right or left just any, you would have lost a toe. If it gone back just any you might be crippled. Course, if it had gone forward a couple of inches, it would have missed your foot."

 

School started a couple of weeks later and I learned a sad lesson about human nature. People don’t like for you to be different. I was on crutches all through September and part of October so I stayed in the room during recess and lunch hour. I read a lot and since we didn't have a softball, I decided to make one. Taking the rubber core from the old one, I wrapped it with twine and covered it with friction tape. It wasn’t like a store bought one but it was pretty good if I do say so myself. During this time Clint Armstrong, the teacher, and I talked a lot. I guess this made the boys jealous because they started calling me "teacher's pet" and were really cruel. When I was off crutches, they wouldn’t include me in their play. This went on until the night of the Halloween party when Clint called them into the lower grades room and really gave them a bawling out (one of the boys told me about it). He told them about the softball and said if he were I, he would burn it up. Anyway, they came to me as a group and asked me to play with them. We got along fine after that.

Being Alone Without Being Lonely

I really liked our place on Highway 43. The trees and the stream (we called it the ‘branch’) that ran through our place became my companions. It was here I learned to be alone without being lonely. Learning how to be alone helped me be comfortable ‘with me’ when I was in the army in Germany and in later adulthood.

Now, don't get the wrong idea. I wasn’t a loner. I still cut across the field to play with the Woods boys or rode my bicycle five miles to spend the day with Jerry McClintock, or got together with Lonnie Crouch who lived about two miles away. But, those days I spent by myself were special then and are still today.

 

 

Would You Like To Go With Me?

I guess I went with my first girl when I was in the eighth grade. I say ‘I guess’ because it was not my idea and I didn’t consider I was taking her anyplace. In fact, I strongly opposed it. Then why did I do it? Because I didn’t have much choice. Several young adults in Nashville put on a play and the cast included Lois, my teacher Clint Armstrong and Dixie Crouch, a girl in my eighth grade. Well, when the play finished, the group decided to throw a skating party at Pittsburg, KS and Lois told me (not asked mind you) I was taking Dixie. Now Dixie was a sweet girl and I liked her a lot but I didn’t want to take her (or any girl) skating. Over my loud protests, Lois won out (Mom told me to do it so Dixie wouldn't feel left out) but I made one condition, they had to take me home first and then take Dixie. I wasn’t about to walk her to the door. I had a lot of fun but I am not certain Dixie did because she fell and hurt her head.

 

WORLD WAR II

"December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy."

President Franklin Delno Roosevelt

On a quiet December Sunday afternoon, Lois, June and I went to see ‘Sergeant York’ at the Civic Theater in Webb City. Suddenly the screen went blank and the lights came up just as Sergeant York gobbled like a wild turkey and shot at the German troops. As we sat there wondering what was going on, a voice from the rear said, "We just heard on the radio that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor." As gasps and sobs sounded over the theater, some people got up and left. Then, the theater was dark again and the movie continued.

The war that rocked Europe and devastated China had now reached our rural southwest Missouri communities. It came quickly to Nashville because Mrs. Askins' son died on the USS Arizona when it was bombed and sunk by the Japanese on December 7.

The War Becomes Real

I had been aware of the war in Europe and Asia before Pearl Harbor because of the newsreels at the movies, the radio news broadcasts and the newspaper articles. I also knew Leroy Skinner, a distant cousin on the Hightower side, who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), had been shot down in Europe and was in a German prison camp.

Now, I was aware of the war in a very personal way. Frances Polston, Marvin Burnside and Archie James, three teenagers who hung around the store and had dug our water well, enlisted immediately. Francis, Lois’ boy friend who taught me to drive and so many other things, went into the navy. Marvin Burnside enlisted in the marines and Archie James went into the army. Over a dozen young men from our community died during the war including Clint Armstrong whom I had known most of my life, Lowell Ring, a very good friend and Wallace Lanz, brother of Marie Lanz. Marie, whose family lived in nearby Duval, stayed with us when she taught school with Lois. Warren Eldred, a good friend down by Medoc, was captured by the Japanese.

In June 1942 we received word that Francis Polston, who was a radio gunner in Torpedo Squadron Eight on the aircraft carrier Hornet, was missing in action at the Battle of Midway. Fifteen planes of Torpedo Squadron Eight flew against Japanese aircraft carriers and all were shot down with only one survivor. I thought "It can’t be true. Francis will be found." When the navy returned his personal gear in a large wooden crate, his parents called us to come to their home and they asked Dad to open it. That was one of the worst evenings of my life for I knew then Francis was gone. A few months later, the Navy Department sent a movie of the Torpedo Squadron crew that was shown at the elementary school and a large crowd from the community came to see it. As the room went dark and the image flickered on the screen, we saw Francis, laughing and clowning with his buddies. Tears flowed.

A short time later, Clint Armstrong died in a plane crash. I had a hard time accepting that this wonderful young man whom I had grown up with and had been my eighth grade teacher was dead. Five of us who had been in the eighth grade were honorary pall bearers and the popular war song, "Coming In On A Wing and a Prayer" was sung at his funeral.

The war had indeed become real to me.

 

 

Contents Introduction Stephen Crouch Index Crouch Family Index Barton County Index

If you have information or photographs concerning the descendants of Stephen Douglas Crouch or the Barton County village of Nashville, Missouri, please contact me. I share my pictures and I return any photographs entrusted to me promptly.

EMAIL: stephendcrouch@pacbell.net

Larry Crouch