Voices of the Ozarks – Della Rhodes

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My name is Della Starkey Rhodes, my parents were Roy and Nellie Starkey. 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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.