Want to subscribe to Voices of the Ozarks in your podcast app? Just copy this link: http://ozarkregional.org/blog/?feed=podcast, then paste it into your podcast app’s add a feed field. You can also click the podcast icon on the sidebar to subscribe in Apple Podcasts.
My name is Maurice Stevens, I was born September, 1930 in Marquand Missouri. My parents are Ruby Stevens and – Stevens. (Note: Jerry Stevens, Maurice’s son, also participates in the interview.)
There wasn’t a lot of money around. My dad had a farm and raised various animals.
Maurice went to school in a small country school, Greasy Creek named after the nearby creek. When he got older he went to the Marquand schools. I graduated from the highschool in 1948.
He and the kids used to play softball but didn’t have gloves. He liked school and mentions that he and his sister did well in the spelling matches.
We ask him what he did on the farm and he says he helped with most things and mentions cutting wood, picking corn using a team of mules. The didn’t sell the produce because there were 8 kids so the food was to feed the family. They did timber work to help bring in money.
He worked in timber until he went into the army in 1951. He shares an army story of being in the honor guard. He was in the army for two years.
After the army he went to work in St. Louis for Fischer Body on Natural Bridge and Union in Hazelwood. Then came back to Fredericktown and worked in the lab for National Lead for 10 years. He worked with Jack Skinner (a recent interviewee of Voices of the Ozarks). Then he worked construction for two years and then went back to work in St. Louis.
He was a big St. Louis Cardinals Baseball fan and says Stan Musial was his favorite player. He once caught a fowl ball with his bare hands which he says stung for two days.
He came back the the Fredericktown area in 1970. He worked in timber for the rest of his life. He cut, hauled and ran a saw mill. He used a cross-cut saw and Paul Mauser is mentioned as someone Maurice worked with. Maurice talks about tapping trees for maple sap and the process of cooking it down to syrup. 50 gallons of sap would be cooked down to 1 gallon of syrup. They would start the tapping in February. A few people in the area still tap trees.
He’s asked about other food sweeteners such as bees. He says they did keep bees, he says 20 hives. Sorghum is also discussed. It was cane which was grown and then run through a press to squeeze out the sugar liquid.
He’s asked about community celebrations and says he remembers the Marquand community picnic.
He’s asked about cars and says his dad got a Model T back in the 30s and then a Model A around 1940. He’s asked about the quality of the roads and says that they were cross-country. The old Bloomfield Road is mentioned as having went by their house.
His first car thought he bought to go to St. Louis was a 38 Chevy that he bought around 1953.
He’s asked about working timber and says they worked around Marquand. They didn’t clear cut, but would selectively cut the big wood. Most of it was used for ties and pallets.
He’s asked about living in St. Louis and Madison county and his preference. He says he preferred the country. He’s asked what they would do for fun and says hunting and fishing. They would also sell fur. They talked about hunting a variety of animals for the fur as well as for the food. Everything from possum to raccoons to skunks.
He’s asked if he ever saw bears or wild cats like pumas. He says not often. He’s seen bear more recently but not very often when he was younger.
He says his family is mostly still close by but not all of them.
He’s asked about livestock like chickens and asked if they lost many to predators. He says a few.
They talk about a log failing out of the fireplace and burning through the floor. He’s asked about the house being raised up on rocks with a plank floor. There was no insulation and the house could get very cold even when there was a fire. At night when the fire would die down it could get cold enough that water would freeze. He’s asked about winter time temperatures and if they were comfortable in the house. We discuss that back then houses were not necessarily as warm and comfortable as they are today.
We talk about loosing livestock in the winter and then talk about smoking meat to preserve it. The process was not cooking but drying. It would also be treated with salt.
We ask him about hunting and seasons, particularly the beginning of organized deer seasons. He says there really weren’t that many deer back then. They were hard to come by. He says he thinks 1944 was the first year they started offering deer seasons. The deer population was very small back then because they had been over hunted. He says that the fished and frogged for meat too.
He’s asked about the construction of the house. The fireplace was built from the ground but the house was elevated.
On the subject of food scarcity we discuss one of the neighbors that had lost her husband and made mud pies so it appeared to the neighbors that they had food. Maurice says they would often share with neighbors who didn’t have food. We ask if they were active in any particular churches and Maurice says they went to the Walnut Grove Church which they walked to every Sunday. It was about 1.5 miles away.
He’s asked about how things were different when they walked everywhere. Particularly, he’s asked if he and the other kids, had a better understanding of the kinds of things that lived around them. Did they know the names of plants, trees, insects and so on. He says that he thinks they did.
We talk a bit about harvesting nuts like walnuts, hickory nuts and hazelnuts. He said that they did collect those. They also gathered pawpaws. His mother really liked those. And persimmons too. Maurice comments that he does not see as many persimmons today as there used to be. Deer and possums like to eat persimmons.
He’s asked if they kept any wild animals as pets. He says his daughter raised a raccoon which lived in the house. We also briefly discuss beaver and otter. They say that otters will clean out all the fish from a creek or a pond.
Maurice mentions that they often go up to Minnesota to go fishing. It’s a family trip and they all go and stay in cabins. This was the first year that Maurice that wasn’t able to go.
We talk about the time that Maurice was in trouble and school and jumped out a second story window to avoid the super intendant that was after him. He was something of an athlete and had no problem jumping from that high. He says he played volleyball.
We ask if he remembered the moon landing and he says he does but it wasn’t that important to him. On the subject of the media we ask if he read the newspaper and he says that he did. They comment that back in those days the Democrat News was a bigger paper. Maurice says that for a time there was another paper called the Madison County Press.
We ask him if they were able to get most of the stuff that they needed in Marquand or did they need to come to Fredericktown. He says that Marquand had more stores back then and that they could get everything they needed there. They mention that for awhile they all had a soda bottling company that made and distributed soda.
The interview is concluded.