Voices of the Ozarks – Della Rhodes

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My name is Della Jean Starkey. I was a Rhodes. I was born in 11/1 of 1935 just below Marquand across from the Whitener cemetery. I was born in a two story house in the upstairs bedroom. I don’t remember the doctor’s name.

Our house was on DD HWY but back then it was called Castor River Road.

1:00

My First memories are living a mile down below that where my grandparents lived. My dad built a house there. My grandparents were “truck” farmers. They hauled a lot of lime, farmer supplies and logs.

Truck farming is large fields of product such as corn, beans, and potatoes which are sold. We moved from there when I was 10. My dad bought a 325 acre farm about a mile below that. At the time my dad worked at the mines here in Fredericktown at National Lead.

We had no electricity at the time. When they did bring electricity to the area my dad and brothers installed it for us and other locals. He did that during his off-time. He worked a lot and I’d often go a whole week without seeing him.

I went to the Marquand school all but one year. That year I went to the little one room schoolhouse. I loved school. Math was my favorite topic.

While she was an A student Della later had severe allergies and had difficulties with attending school. She didn’t graduate but loved school and. To this day she loves math and continues reading.

Her sister would often read all night long. She’d have to turn the light off when their dad got home but would turn it back on later after he’d gone to bed.

There were ten siblings all together. Della was the oldest.

As kids they swam a lot in the Castor River. Of course that was important as they didn’t have electricity. The house was never flooded but there was no bridge so sometimes it was tricky getting out.

The original school was destroyed when they built the new. She mentions the requirements of being a teacher back in those days. They were very strict. Her dad began teaching straight out of high school.

7:00

Della describes there home and farm. They all shared rooms. Her dad put in a well and put a concrete top on it and a pump to keep the kids from falling in.

They raised their food and had a plow and horses. Later her dad got a tractor. Her mom did have a gas stove and a gas or kerosene powered refrigerator. She comments that those were nice luxuries that not everyone had. They heated their water in big kettles. She mentions that they also had a gasoline powered Maytag wash machine.

She and her siblings helped with the garden all the time and also with general chores. Much of the produce was for their consumption but they also sold some. They would take corn, potatoes and a few other things to a local store to sell. They also raised and butchered hogs. They raised chickens too. When they butchered the hogs they would salt the meat or fried it up and then canned it.

10:30
At Christmas they always had gifts. It may not always be a lot but there was always something. Easter was a big holiday and they always got new clothes.

For Thanksgiving they rarely had turkey. It was usually chicken, beef or pork. Often something special like a beef roast. She tells a story about a chicken that they brought into the house that was intended to be eaten but they couldn’t kill it because it was living inside and they started treating it like a pet. That also happened with a couple of hogs.

They had horses that they used for farming and sometimes they would take them as transportation to town. Otherwise they often walked to town which was 2 to 3 miles away.

12:30

Her mom didn’t work outside the home until the kids were grown and she worked then for a time at Angelica Uniform. But when they were young she stayed at home and managed the household which was a full-time job with 10 kids. She always served three meals a day. The kitchen was mopped everyday, every bed was made everyday. All ten of the kids were born within 13 years so they were pretty tightly grouped in terms of age.

They were fortunate enough to have regular baths and had their own rather than having to share. When they did hair washing they would line up and do it all at the same time but they all had their own, fresh water. They did a lot of sponge baths. They didn’t have indoor plumbing. They had an outhouse. Inside they had a tub of water and the bath tub was usually in the kitchen because it would be warmer. In the summer they would have river baths.

They had a pet deer but never had any problems with anything. They did have a lot of copperheads. Her dad got pigs to help with that problem. Apparently having a few pigs around helps to moderate the snake population. They never had one in the house but her younger sister JoAnn did get bit by a copperhead. They took her to the doctor and she was fine.

All ten of them were born at home. Other doctoring would often happen at the house. Later on house visits became less common and they would go to see the doctor as needed.

She does not recall using home remedies or anything like that. Medicine is discussed and specifically the lack of antibiotics in that time. She hand pneumonia several times. There wasn’t much treatment aside from rest. She had it five times before antibiotics became available. Whooping cough was sometimes a problem too. And of course measles and chicken pox and other stuff. No one ever got critically sick.

Once vaccinations became available they always got those. She mentions Polio and that several in the area got it. She and her siblings were vaccinated for that as soon as it was available. She mentions that one of those kids is still there in Marquand today and still wears braces from having had Polio.

Because their weren’t antibiotics earaches would often go untreated. Her brother had a bad earache once that resulted in a trip to doctor though during the trip the abscess broke and they returned home.

21:30

They discuss discipline. Her mom did that because her dad was usually at worked. She rarely paddled the kids. Usually it was just time-out in a chair.

As kids they played games and listened to the radio a lot. There was no tv but they had a battery powered radio. Her favorite was country music. They had a tree swing. She remembers her dad teaching school at the Crossroads School. Her dad made $95 a month.

She was very close to her grandparents. Her grandmother taught her quilting and canning. She still has a quilt that she and her grandmother made together. She mentions that it’s on her bed right now. Most of her grandmother’s life was farming and gardening. Her grandparents were born and raised in the area. Her one grandmother Starkey was an orphan and was raised by a local woman. Both of them worked at the church. Most of the family attended Baptist or Methodist church. There weren’t that many differences between them. The kids often attend church with the grandparents.

27:00

They did have a car for getting around but telephones were rare so communication was nothing like today. Marquand had around 350 then. It was a very well kept town and the schools were nice. Grades were grouped: 1 and 2, then 3,4 and 5, then 6,7 and 8. Each group had one teacher.

Most living in Marquand were farmers and loggers. A few also worked the mines in Fredericktown. They also had the train coming through. There was a big tie yard where ties would be loaded onto trains. The engineer of the train was one of her cousins who lived in Bismarck.

The town was pretty self sufficient and had several stores and restaurants. Homan store had clothing, material, shoes and everything.

And of course there was the two story hotel run by the Regan family that took care of any train travelers that needed accommodation. Denny Ward lives there now and it can be visited. Denny Ward is her first cousin.

31:00

Della talks about the schools and that there were several different schools. She mentions Buckhorn and a couple others.

She’s asked about interesting community characters and she mentions a few in the community such as the Homan’s that ran several local businesses. She says that her grandfather had a saw mill and that just generally it was a nice, self-sufficient community.

She was too young to remember the Great Depression but says that she thinks that the community did seem to come together to help one another. She mentions that there was a vibrant church community.

She’s asked about her extended family and talks about some of those details.

35:30

She describes the 4th of July and a few other community events. She mentions playing bingo and certain treats such as ice cream which was rare. Then she discusses her grandmother’s restaurant where they had electric. They had a a jukebox and pinball machine. This was during the 1940s. She would sometimes help out at the restaurant. She points out that it was all cooked from scratched often using ingredients grown by the family.

She’s asked about other community goings on. Specifically activities for kids. She says dancing was a no-no. A big NO-NO.

She talks a bit about her father and his time at college as well as his various jobs and businesses from working in the mines to running a tax office.
He worked in the summer in the sawmills and went to school in the winter.

40:00

She’s asked about crime in the community and says that there wasn’t much. Some incidents of petty theft. Often things like chickens or other life necessities. She talks about a young boy that had been abandoned. Her dad and mother unofficially adopted him and raised him. He stayed close with the family after growing up and passed away around 15 years ago. He’d moved to St. Louis and had a family and a business. Later he and his family would visit Della’s parents. They remained close.

She says that her parents often fed kids from school. They’d come home for lunch during the school day and her mom always had extra.

She’s asked a few sort of random life questions. When did she learn to drive?
Della learned to drive when she was around 25.

She’s asked about highlights, fond memories of growing up. She says a big Christmas gathering was something they did and did up until recent years. When she last hosted it a few years ago they had 100+ show up.

46:00

She discusses growing up today versus when she grew up. She suggests that kids today have to face much more today. Her time was much safer and more simple.

48:00

She says she got married when she was 16 and her husband was 19. They stayed in Fredericktown. He went to work for Missouri Natural Gas. He worked there until he passed away. They moved to Farmington and then Annapolis as his work required. They stayed in Annapolis for 21 years. That’s where their kids went to school. She lost her girl when she was just 16 years old. She was killed in a car wreck when she went with some friends to go shopping at Walmart. She has two sons both of them stayed in this area until just recently. One is still living here the other moved to Tennessee.

50:00

She talks about working at various banks as a teller. First Annapolis and then Ironton and finally in Fredericktown. Then she worked for Hallmark for awhile managing the stock at the local Walmart. They really liked living in Annapolis. She also really liked living in Farmington. After her husband died she moved back to Cherokee Pass. She lived with her parents for awhile and took care of them. She and her husband traveled a lot with her parents. They would go every year and she says the saw the whole country with the exception of the northeast part of the country.

The interview concludes.

Voices of the Ozarks – AJ Fencl

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:16

My name is Albert Joseph Fencl, I go by AJ though. I was born on May 2, 1937. I was born on the head of Cedar Creek, Wayne County.  AJ describes his birth place and his dad’s farm. He lived there till he was 18, almost 19.

He started school at Burlington Grade School which was a little country school, no longer there. His first teacher was Wanda Stevens Leach. AJ was the only student there until the Bridges kids moved into he area. Later he went to Cold water for grades 6-8.

2:00

AJ points out that the roads were not rock but dirt and so they would often get muddy. When he was in the 6th grade he saved his money for a used bicycle. When the roads were dry he would ride the bike. If the roads were wet he would ride one of his dads mules or he would run.  Either way it was 5 miles to the school.

His favorite school subject was vocational ag. When electricity was offered in the area in 1948 they could not find an available electrician, they were all busy. His neighbor encouraged him to install the wiring so he did. He installed a 60amp box and wiring to each room for one plug and one light. It worked out fine. He was 11. As much as he learned in school he was learning hands on skills too. Helped his dad on the farm, his brother and the neighbors as well.

5:30

He talks a bit about the neighbor kids and various things about the farm such as drawing water from the well. It was a hand drawn well that they lowered buckets into. He would spend about an hour to an hour and a half to draw water for the pigs and cattle which he did every morning. This was also the water source for the household. 

He would also carry water to the cellar which was built into a hill. He would put water into a trench in the center of the cellar which would help keep it cool. This was also a daily chore.

They would keep the cream in there with all the fruit and vegetables. Eventually the cream would sour and they would have sour cream.

9:20

He describes the location of the farm which was at the Wayne county line and Cedar Creek near Cross Road Hill. One road went to Marquand, one went to Upper Bear Creek one came back down. He thinks that one is a forestry road now.

When he was a little kid his dad would hack timber into railroad ties which he would use to pay the poll taxes. In that process there were leftover checks of wood called “juggles” which he would collect and put in the wagon. They would burn that in their wood stove. He describes the process of cutting railroad ties. His dad also taught him how to make shingles. He describes the various tools they used: Froe , spoke shave, drawing knife. 

13:30

AJ describes wood shingle roofs and that you could actually see the sky through them because they had to have gaps. Those roofs were also very steep. He tells a story about his dad carrying hams up a roof. He was going to smoke them and he fell off the roof.  

15:20

He offers further descriptions of using the the various blade tools. 

16:30

He tells some of the background story of the family and how they came to the area by way of immigration from Austria to New York to Chicago. He offers his thoughts on the history of the family’s origins in Europe, particularly that the countries had become socialist or communist which he does not like. 

In Chicago his dad started work on the kill floor at the stock yards.  He didn’t know the language but went to night school to learn. He’d have a donut and coffee for breakfast and rented a room from his brother and sister-in-law. 

He eventually came to work as a chef at the Drake Hotel. At some point his dad got sick and had to take a break from his job. He took a train down to see some family friends, the Shondas. On his last day visiting them he ended up seeing a 40 acre property that happened to be for sale. He bought it on a whim because it was so pretty. He telegrammed to Chicago and quit his job.  

 21:00

He was there 4 years on the place trying to farm before he went broke. He went back to Chicago and drove a cab for 4 years. During that time his younger brother Frank came down to take care of the place. He met Daisy who lived on the next farm down. They got married and stayed there 4 years. They ended up going back to the city and his dad came back down here.

Frank and Daisy stayed in the city for awhile and had a son, Jimmy. AJ tells the story of Jimmy going to WWII where he died. At that point Frank and Daisy came back down this way first settling in Valley Station then later to Cold Water. 

When his dad came back after his 4 year stay in Chicago he had saved some money and tried his hand at farming again. AJ describes his dads more successful efforts the second time around. He spent a lot of time and effort improving the rocky ground by pulling a lot of rotting logs out of the woods into his garden areas where he would plow them into the ground. He grew green manure crops and put barnyard manure onto the soil. He hauled limestone from the creek and piled it on a bunch of wood then burned the rock which gave him white lime. He then spread that on top of the growing areas. This improved the soil a lot and the farm was much more productive. By the time he died the farm was producing 100 bushels of corn to the acre. He used crop rotation and let the land rest every seventh year. 

24:10

AJ refers back to when he was a kid and the poll tax. There were no county road taxes so his dad would go out and work on the roads fixing ruts and holes.

He mentions seeing a helicopter flying overhead when he was a kid and it scared him. He says they lived far up in a holler and cars could not pass their place because the road was too rough. His dad had a car but used it sparingly because during the wartime everything was rationed. They’d use the car to go to church once a month because the closest was 8 to 10 miles away. His mother was from Club Missouri and that was twice as far so they would use the car for that too.

27:00

Once a week they would get the team ready and go to Coldwater to check mail and go to the store there. That was the local gathering spot and the men would get together and share news and politics. 

He talks about graduating grade school and choosing to go to Greenville for Highschool instead of Fredericktown because he knew some of the kids there. He would use his dad’s 4 wheel drive Jeep to get out to catch the bus. His dad also had an old 33 model ton 1/2 truck that he used on the farm. Sometimes AJ would use the truck to catch the bus.

AJ’s older brother taught him mechanics from an early age and he would help his dad keeping things in order.  AJ describes working on the old truck and driving it to the bus and the racket it would make on the hill.

In 1948 they got electricity and a  Ford tractor. His dad preferred the mules but AJ preferred the tractor. AJ did the plowing, cultivating with the tractor. They grew corn, wheat, oats, and alfalfa. In the summer time the hogs and cattle free ranged in the woods. He talks about how the farms all worked together cooperatively to thrash grain. They swapped labor together. They ran a separator with a W40 International Tractor. The tractor was very slow and loud and you could hear it come from a long way away. 

The crops were for their own use on the farm. The only thing they sold for a little money were eggs and cream. They had 100 to 150 chickens and milked several cows. They had a McCormick Deering separator that they used to separate the cream off which would get shipped once a week. It would get picked up my the mail carrier in Coldwater and take it to Piedmont where it went by train to Sunset Valley Creamery. 

33:00

They didn’t make much but they didn’t have to buy much either because they were pretty self sufficient. They bought sugar and coffee. They kept bees so always had honey. They always had a big garden and canned a lot which they shared with relatives who would come from the city once a month to get food. 

They would kill 4 hogs in the spring, 4 in the fall. If they ever ran low on meat his dad would have AJ go out and hunt squirrels. AJ didn’t care for  squirrel meat. He was expected to get a squirrel for every bullet. They didn’t really eat rabbits because of the worms in their necks.

Mostly though they were able to get by with the hogs and cattle.

His dad didn’t have him work until he was 10. 

36:30

He talks about his brother learning mechanics from his mom’s brother. And AJ learned from his brother. Later in life AJ made money overhauling cars and selling them. 

His dad had fruit trees, grape vines, and the things they needed to take care of themselves. He tells the story of the brakes failing on his dads truck and AJ running over the pear tree. 

They also gathered wild grapes, elderberries, greens, huckleberries, and blackberries.

40:30

AJ talks about the nearby farms that formed their little community cluster. They were all about a mile or two from each other: Huffmans, Whites, Bridges six farms in about five miles. He met his wife because her family moved into the Huffman farm later on after it went up for sale. They met one day in July because the his dad’s mules jumped the fence and got out. Phyllis, his wife to be, came up later in the day with her mother and grandmother, they were herding the escaped mules back home. AJ got them water and thought Phyllis was pretty. Not long after he asked her out for a soda after a church revival and that was the beginning of their courtship and later their marriage.

44:30

After getting married Phyllis got pregnant and he worked what jobs he could find but work was scarce. They went to the city for awhile and he worked there and their first daughter was born. They came back home here and he started hauling logs. It was less pay but they didn’t like living in the city. He went to work at the Brown Shoe factory for nine years. Then to the Pilot Knob Pellet where iron was mined and processed. He worked there 14 years starting as an underground laborer but bid up to other jobs such a powder monkey, driller, heavy equipment operator and finally into operations and the lab where he spent the last 7 years.  Their iron pellets were sent to Granite City steel and were made into all kinds of products. 

He had tried to enlist into the Air Force in 1955 but positions were scarce and he was never accepted. 

48:10

He describes his work at the Brown Shoe factory which was located over around North Mine LaMotte on property now owned by Madison County Farm Supply. They made different kinds of shoes: Kangaroo skin shoes for the nuns, penny loafers, lace-up men’s shoes, Life Stride and Buster Brown.

He estimates that they employed 200 to 300 people when he worked there. He left in 1969.

Fredericktown missed out on getting a couple production factories from other companies because Brown said that they would shut-down of other companies moved in. Then they ended up shutting down anyway. 

AJ says that all the time he worked he also farmed and ran cattle. He broke his leg in 1976 and had to take time off. During that time he ended up fixing used cars and selling them from the front yard. He ended up getting a dealership license. That lead to fixing and selling farm machinery on the side. Then he got a brokers and insurances licenses and started selling real estate and insurance. He finally turned in his brokers license two years ago.  When he was 62 he sold off the cattle and rented the farm out. 

He visited the old home place a few years back with the grand children and it has all grown up with trees.

One of his last jobs was to try truck driving. He bought his own truck and was hauling logs. That ended when he had an accident with a load of logs going into the woods taking him with it. He describes the injury to his face from that accident. That was the end of that!

*The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Ozark Regional Library or its staff.

Voices of the Ozarks – Victor Bailey

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00:17

My name is Victor Bailey and today is January 11, 2019. It is my birthday and I am 92 years old. I was born in 1927, the year that Charles Lindbergh became famous for flying the Atlantic. 

His parents moved to St. Louis county around the time that Lindbergh’s baby was kidnapped. The neighbors called the FBI because his family was new to the neighborhood. Victor suggests he may have been the youngest person ever arrested by the FBI.

He’s not sure why or exactly when the Bailey’s left Scotland. Later Bailey’s were Quakers. He mentions Patrick Bailey who, in 1680, had business dealings in that period. His mother’s native name was LaChance. He discusses the founding of the local village, St. Michaels which would later become Fredericktown. Among the founders of St. Michaels were 6 LaChances. 

Six generations of Baileys after they arrived in America, Joshua Bailey was born in 1815 and he is Victor’s great, great grandfather. He was married four times having outlived 3 wives. He had 19 children. 

3:03

Victor’s grandmother and grandfather lived 3 miles west of Fredericktown, from about 1910 on.  His grandmother was part Osage Indian and was born on Christmas Day and was 100 years old when she died. He discusses his grandparents  and their life their farm. 

He then discusses a visit to his grandparents  by a man after WWI who was ill.. Before dying he confessed that during wartime he and several other men avoided the war by hiding out and living off the land. They  had engaged in a series of bank robberies in the area and then hid the loot near the Current river. The man left a map for Victor’s grandpa who was never able to investigate. Victor’s father and uncles found the map many year later and eventually made several attempts to find the gold. He recounts several stories of their encampments and failed attempts to locate and recover the treasure.  

7:40 

The brothers’ attempts to recover the treasure came to an end when the U.S. entered WWII. One of the brothers, Paul, joined the Navy a few days later. Victor recounts Paul’s time over seas and his return to the states and his adventures as a cowboy out west. He eventually made his way back to Missouri. Another of the brothers, Arlis, moved from St. Louis to Alaska where he became a fisherman.  Victor recounts various stories about Arlis’ time in Alaska.

12:00

Victor tells of his time working at the shoe factory, building a home in Oak Grove and starting a family. 

Wayne came back to Madison County and bought an old school house which he took apart. Victor sold  him 2 acres and helped him assemble it there. Wayne had inherited the infamous map and so Victor and his younger brother Morris agreed to help try to find the buried treasure. They couldn’t find the treasure but they did find an interesting cave which they explored the following weekend. After exploring they returned to the car and were met by a man with a gun who had come to see who was there. He informed them that the cave was a bear den! 

15:00

He quit the shoe factor and went to work for National Lead.  Around that time Wayne’s house burned and could not be saved. The map burned along with it.

Victor tells of his love of caves and going with his family to Hannibal to see the cave where Tom Sawyer got lost. He tells of his younger brother Morris, his sister who was married and lived in Texas and their brother Kurt who joined the Air Force. He and Morris often took float trips during the summer and visited. He tells a story of Morris who had gone to grade school in St. Louis and was picked on by a bigger boy. When Victor was 15 the family had moved back to Fredericktown. Morris had made a promise to himself to return to St. Louis one day and find the bully, Francis Fitzgerald. Around the time that Morris was 16 he went to work at the shoe factory. He got a car and went in search of Francis in St. Louis only to miss him. He’d gone that very morning to Chicago to fight in a Golden Glove boxing championship. Morris decided he’d forgive Francis Fitzgerald!

Victor recounts Morris’ love of guns and the two times he accidentally shot himself. Later Morris joined the National Guard and was noted for being a good shot at moving targets.

21:00

Victor recalls that many in the family were musically inclined. He started playing the guitar when he was 5 and always played it. He recounts working at Monsanto Headquarters around 1960 and that he had several patents in his name. 

He built designed a new kind of music instrument that hat an aluminum frame and a harpsichord type keyboard and 6 sets of mandolin keys for tuning and 8 sets of electric guitar strings which were coupled to 4 magnetic microphones he made and then coupled to an amplifier. He wanted it too sound something like an electric guitar. He recounts playing with his daughter Connie who played the melody and bass parts while he played the middle with chording. A disc of the music is available at the library.  He called the instrument a guitanna. He recounts other musically related projects. 

During that time he also built a sports car which took second place at a custom auto show at the arena in St. Louis. He also built and flew a gyro copter which he describes as a for-runner of the helicopter. 

He states that he has, for the most part, invented something at every place he has worked, and mentions having done so at the cap factory. Before he moved to St. Louis he designed and built a speed boat and used it on the City Lake. He designed and built the elevator in the Sonderman Building including the controls. 

23:46

He states that his grandma and grandpa LaChance lived in the Mine LaMotte area. His grandpa worked in the lead mines and was not very old when he died. His nickname was Squirrely LaChance because he was a crack shot at hunting. His grandfather died when Victor was 11 and his grandmother remarried to a farmer and James helped on the farm. He didn’t care for farm work so when he was 15 he ran away and joined the army. His granny found out and had him kicked out. He later rejoined and became an experienced communications officer and was stationed in Alaska. James’ older brother Harold worked in the mines and later owned a tavern in Mine LaMotte. He played music and was a bare-knuckled prize fighter which allowed him to make some extra money.

Victor recounts hunting when he was younger but states he would no longer hunt as he got older. He would rather watch the animals and would only kill something if it was a threat. He says he still likes guns and has several including an old 4-10 that had belonged to his mother who used for hunting squirrels which she would make into gravy. 

26:45

He recounts a story related to one of the guns which involved some in the St. Louis Polish community that had formed a militia, “The Polish Falcons” for the purposes of community self-defense. They disbanded later when things got better. 

He goes on to recount  working with young men from other countries at Monsanto which had programs for communications positions in their home countries. During that time Victor designed various instruments for Monsanto. He spent time with the men and would invite them and their wives to dinner with his family. He hoped it would help them as well as his own family via the cultural exchange.  They had people from Poland, Mexico, Israel, China, Japan, Arabia and France. He mentions several of them that became very special friends. 

29:30

Victor recounts the achievements of his son Donald both as a young student and also his career in aerospace with satellites and rocketry. He also offers praise for his other two children. Specifically he discusses his daughter Connie and her talents as a musician. Vicky Darlene, his second daughter, was born 4 years after Connie on the very same day. He discusses her excellent academics and career as a radio announcer. Unfortunately she died young having developed cancer at 36.

He says that he and his wife married at 20 and were married for over 70 years. He’s a grandfather thanks to Connie and is also now a great grandfather as his granddaughter Diane recently gave birth. 

32:00 

He discusses his brother visiting and seeing his first radio controlled model airplane. He couldn’t afford the cost of such a thing so he built his own using cheap walk-in talkies to begin with building the remote control. He just finally left the hobby and at the time had 40 airplanes the biggest of which had a 12ft wingspan. 

33:30

He recalls that his brother Curt graduated Fredericktown Highschool and joined the Air Force. After basic training he went to New York to training with General Electric. When he came back he went into a special job in a new Air Force project for radio controlled bombers. They were setting off atomic bomb blasts on the Kwajalein Islands and flying the planes through clouds to collect samples. Kurt’s job was installing the radio control into the airplanes. After that he went to Germany to setup missile bases. He went on to work with rocketry.

35:00

Victor took his family to visit Curt in 1958 to Cape Canaveral in Florida. They got to see a moon lander that was stored behind the glass that was ready to be placed on a rocket for launching. He then shares that Curt passed at 53 years old of radioactive poisoning.

Victor briefly mentions his sister June and expresses his fondness for her. He then mentions his youngest brother Dale who is 18 years younger than Victor and currently lives in the Northwest of the U.S.

37:25

Victor offers up a list of things he has done in his life ranging from  being the president of the Oak Grove school board during the 1950s, an auto mechanic at DeSpain’s Chrysler-Plymouth dealership, manager of a sand-blasting operation, he worked for repairing farm equipment and painting and Sonderman’s Furniture and appliance where he repaired washers, dryers, refrigerators and furniture. When he retired he was working at the cap factory in Fredericktown. 

39:30 

Victor talks of his good upbringing and his love for his parents.  

41: 30

He recounts his dad and grandfather building a one room log cabin which they moved into when they moved to Fredericktown from St. Louis. At the time it was the four kids and his mom and dad. They stayed in that while a bigger home was being built. He describes an old-fashioned house raising one day when members of the church came to help them. They had a picnic and the men worked on the house. He and his dad had already put in foundation using a homemade concrete mixer  made from a 55 gallon drum and the motor from a washing machine.  He helped his dad finish the house and learned enough that when it came time for him to get married he started building his own house which was around 1944. He and his sweetheart worked in the shoe factory and they pooled their money to finish.  They were married October 3, 1947 and they moved in. It was not finished but it was close enough.  They didn’t have electricity yet as it wasn’t available but he went ahead and wired it up knowing it would come eventually. 

43:00

Victor tells the story of the inspector coming at a later date so the house could get electricity. The inspector was very impressed with Victor’s wiring job and in fact said it was the best he had ever seen. 

44: 30

Victor signs off by sharing a few helpful life hints about staying healthy and being an optimist.  

*The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Ozark Regional Library or its staff.

Voices of the Ozarks – Rita Kayser

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Rita Kayser

0:15 

My Name is Rita Kayser, I live outside of Marquand with my husband of 55 years. We have 4 sons, 3 daughter in laws and 6 granddaughters and we’re expecting our first great grandchild.

She was born in 1945 and grew up in the boot heel near Glennonville and Wilhelmina settlements which was purchased by the St. Louis Archdioceses and sold to the people as a great place to settle. Actually it was a dismal swamp. 

Her parents, Ed and Lucille Larken moved to Willemena from Kentucky in 1925. She shares the story of her parents’ drive from Kentucky to Missouri. 

3:00 

Rita shares the difficulties of her parents and others living in the area due to flooding and crop loss. 

4:15 

Her parents struggled during the Great Depression but like many, they were already poor before so it didn’t matter much. 

One time her father cut his finger and they doctored it but it got infected. It got so painful that he walked 10 miles in the middle of the night to get to the nearest doctor’s office. The doctor lanced the finger and it healed up though it was always crooked after that. 

5:25

In 1930 they moved and rented a new farm which was higher up, with better land and fruit trees so there was less flooding. 

No modern conveniences. They did have a well though it would sometimes dry up in the summer. Her mother would have to go to the nearby creek to wash. 

During this time they were living 10 miles from the nearest town, Campbell. They made their living as full time farmers and didn’t go to town often. When they did they would go by horse drawn wagon. 

7:15

Both Glennonville and Wilhelmina had schools, became a single private school when Wilhelmina slowly faded away. The Missouri Department of Conservation bought it and turned it into a wildlife refuge. There was a public school in Campbell. 

8:20

Her parents were a part of a small village with the church at the center of their life. Her mother became a midwife. There were a few others and a doctor in Campbell. Sometimes she was paid in barter, other times not at all. 

13:15

Rita tells the story of some Campbell business men that would come every summer to hunt and fish on the St. Francis river that was just behind her parents’ house. They shared bbq chicken and other food and a feast of other food one Thursday night. 

14:15

Her dad was bit by a rattlesnake while getting wood and no doctor was available. He soaked his hand in kerosine for 3 days. It seemed to help and he survived with no long term injury.

15:30

In November of 1937 they moved from Wilhelmina to 

Glennonville and were able to buy their own land. In 1941 they finally got electricity. It cost $5 to subscribe to it. They had a lightbulb in every room. They got an electric stove 2 or 3 years later and a refrigerator. They had a radio and the kids would listen to the radio shows.

17:40

In 1958 the house burned and they had to start over.

19:00

Rita describes the games that they played as children. They would jump rope, play Annie-over which was throwing a ball over the house and if kids on the other side caught it they would begin to chase. Snacks were cornbread or biscuits. They would go crawdadding in the spring. 

20:00

Rita shares general recollections of life such as playing music, religious lessons, visiting family back in Kentucky.  

22:30

She remembers that in 1949 her older sister was getting married and bought the family an icebox. She was 4 years old and her job was to empty the drain pan. She remembers how nice it was to get chips of ice from the ice-man. 

She clarifies that the icebox was not an electric refrigerator but more like a cooler that kept food cool with the block of ice.

24:30 

Rita describes how special Christmas was and tell the story about Santa’s “Brownies” visiting. 

She describes taking baths in rusty water and doing laundry and using lye soap for everything from bathing to dishes to laundry. 

27:25

Rita describes community gatherings such as socials which were held every two weeks. The had a hall where they would show movies on an improvised screen. The hall, school and church were about 2 miles away.

The biggest community gathering was the annual Glennonville Picnic which was the highlight of the year. The town was started in 1905 and the first picnic was 1908. It started out as a last Saturday in July celebration, a sort of thanksgiving for good crops. They’re still doing it every year. 

30:30

Rita discusses making dresses, sewing and school. Their school was large and a multi-room building. She graduated in 1963 and there were about 60 kids in her class. In the lower grades some were combined, 1st and 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

32:00

She discusses learning from the nuns and how they got much of their exposure to culture from the nuns.    

She talked about their cloths, they either came from the poor box or they sewed them but they didn’t think anything of it. 

33:25

Her mother was a 4H leader which was another social event with a big award night in Kennet. When she was 18 she got the highest honor and a $100 savings bond which she spent not long after to help pay for the birth of her second child. 

34:00 

She discusses picking cotton. She mentions a book that she wrote, How Could Cotton be Hard. As soon as they were finished with school in spring they started helping with cotton. 

”As soon as we put down our pencils in the spring we picked up our cotton hoe.”

They would chuck cotton all summer then they would go back to school for 6 weeks and then they had “cotton vacation“ which wasn’t really a vacation. They would pick cotton for 6 weeks then go back to school. They got paid 3 cents a pound so if they worked hard all day they could make $3 to $6 a day. She describes the phrase “Now we’re in tall cotton.”

There was a nearby pilot training facility and so they would see airplanes was rare for those days. Around 5 o’clock the planes would often make a line-up and circle as they went back in to land and they always knew it was almost time to quit for the day.

She remembers her dad cranking a car to start it. She said most people in the area had at least one vehicle. They didn’t have a truck so when they harvested cotton they’d haul it in a wagon. 

38:15

They would put their cotton money aside for school clothes and lunches and would always have a little left for “mad money”. Her favorite store was Woolworths. Their once a year  meal out was usually at the Woolworths lunch counter when they went shopping. She always got a BLT on toast.

40:10

 She discusses the garden that her mom would keep. Her mom would put up hundreds of quarts of vegetables. They would help when they weren’t busy with cotton. Her mom would pick blackberries. 

 41:20 

 They had livestock such as hogs, a few horses and her dad used a team of horses for farming. They were behind the times.

 They didn’t stay cool. They didn’t have an air conditioner or even a fan.

42:20

Flooding got better after the Wappapello dam was built except in spring when they would let water out. In the 60s to 70s they took out 17 miles of the St. Francis river by straightening it which reduced the amount of flooding a lot. When they did the Wappapello dam they flooded Greenville. The town was relocated.  A 100,000 acres were put under water. 

43:40

Rita discusses the initial plan of the St. Louis Archdiocese to buy the 14,000 acres and the intent. She says it was thought that St. Louis was getting crowded and that it would be good for the children to be living in the country. Apparently it was bought without much research because it wasn’t very good land, very swampy.

45:00

Rita discusses possible reasons that Glennonville thrived and Wilhelmina faded, particularly cultural backgrounds and leadership of each town. 

46:40

She discusses how she came to live in Marquand. They’d moved around a lot because her husband did construction and they followed the work. They’d lived in Festus for many years and he worked in St. Louis. 15 years ago they moved to Marquand to raise cattle. She’s active in the church.

48:50

Rita  discusses visiting friends and family in the boot heel and also how she met her husband. 

49:40  

Rita discusses being a writer at local newspapers, magazines and a compiling family history books. 

*The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Ozark Regional Library or its staff.