Voices of the Ozarks – Bill Osborne

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My name is Bill Osborne.  I was born March of 1948 here in Fredericktown in a home on Franklin Street where I was born and raised. My parents are Rosina Kessler Osborne and Buddy J.E. Osborne.

My earliest memories were going fishing with my father and my cocker spaniel puppy dog got out in the water. Papa assured me she wouldn’t drown. That was at the Little St. Francis River down by Saltpeter cave just up from the new bridge. Papa drove a stock truck and knew all the farmers, roads and places to fish and hunt. I was probably four or five at that time. My father passed away when I was just six or seven and that was also a vivid memory.

I always admired my mother because she had 3 kids to raise, ranging in age from me, I was the youngest to my sister who was the oldest. My brother had spinal  meningitis when he was 3 months old. It was prevalent during that time and similar to polio. The girl next door to us had it though she had a better recovery and could walk and talk. My brother survived but couldn’t walk or talk.

When papa did she had three kids and like 40 cents in the bank account. So I really admired her. I was raised by women and learned to appreciate how hard they worked. Bill shares memories of his mother canning in the summer when it was very hot.

He talks about their home on Franklin Street and having very interesting neighbors, many of them very well educated mining company managers and executives. He points out that they came from all over the country and were very active in the community in promoting education and other services. He says that it is to partially to their credit that the county and region have the educational institutions that they have.


Bill shares memories of his older sister walking him from their home to the library and then to a bakery run by Gus Winters where, if he was well behaved, they would stop to get a big sugar cookie.


He talks about being born at home and the “granny lady” (comparable to what we often call a midwife) that came from the nearby German community where his mother was from. Her name was Mrs. Klempt. It was a close knit community about 7 miles away, up H Hwy. There were many there that were first generation in the U.S. He says they too highly valued education. It was a functioning community with it’s own small school into the  1950s. He points out that many of the small communities had their own small schools that were within walking distance of the homes.


Bill discusses the neighborhood on Franklin Street and mentions that his grandmother fixed lunches and maybe breakfasts for some of the miners. He describes it as a kind of an early bed and breakfast kind of thing.

He talks more about his mother making a living in the years after his papa died. His dad had worked long enough that they were able to get a small Social Security payment during that time.  This was crucial in helping them get by.

He talks about reading and broadening his horizons when he was very young. He was not a great student though he did love to learn. He “managed”.  He says he remembers that in that time the teachers and school staff were very well regarded in the community.


Bill talks about what he did in the summers which often involved going to work with his family.  He remembers working with his uncle and helping with the horses. The whole family worked on the farm. By the time he was 10 or 12 he was driving the horses, dragging logs and that sort of thing. By the time he was 14 he was working full time doing things such as the hay harvest which was largely done by hand and a hard job. It was cut and dried in fields then rowed by rake in the field then later raked into a hay wagon then taken to the barn where it was lifted up via horses and ropes into the barn.

Bill talks about how careful the family was in feeding, watering and taking care of the livestock.


Bill is asked about his memories of events that were happening outside of the area. He shares a story about attending a car show in St. Louis in the late 1950s. It was his first visit to a very nice, fancy restaurant. He talks about the mines closing and the major impact that it had on the town. He says that many of the more worldly people, upper management of the mining company, left in the 60s. He brings up his hope for the cobalt mines opening.


He talks about his teen years in the 60s and his early jobs such as working at one of the filling stations which was fairly common. During that time there was a much more active local economy, specifically he mentions the retail stores for clothing and food and more.

He’s asked about memories of the 50’s era fears such as communism, nuclear attack, and fall-out shelters.  He shares his memories of other historical events of the time such as the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and the Cuban Missile Crisis during that same time. He mentions that his aunt had helped them buy a tv, one of the first in the neighborhood. She worked at Grahams Cafe and saved her tips.


He remembers the space race and Sputnik. TV and the local newspaper of that time are discussed briefly.  Bill describes going to MAC for awhile then took a job where he did collections for a loan company. He tells a story of repoing TVs on a Saturday morning when kids were eating breakfast and watching cartoons. It was horrible and it was his motivator to go back to college.


The local economy is discussed further, specifically Brown Shoe and its importance. He mentions that a lot of women worked there, perhaps even more women than men. He says that further back hunting and trapping were popular. Back in the 40s he says his mom would raise white rabbits which his papa would take to St. Louis to sell. Later on, in the mid-60s his mom had a small restaurant on Court Square, the Sportsman’s Cafe. He washed dishes and help with some of the cooking. He worked there as well as the gas station.


Bill discusses going to school at MAC where he studied economics and physics. After taking a break from school he later went back to  get his degree in Cape Girardeau. He studied business management. After finishing he worked in Chicago for about a year doing warehouse distribution for a tractor supply company that had 125 stores. He came back to this area to work for SMTS around 1973. At the time SMTS was largely run by very committed volunteers. They began to grow solidify around the time that Bill joined. He points out that this was due to local and federal funds for rural transportation.


Bill discusses the importance of rural transport assistance as a medical service, largely for the elderly. The service was critical in getting rural people to long-term medical care for serious illnesses. He specifically mentions dialysis as one of the common treatments his riders were getting. This was largely done by volunteers until funding allowed for growth and employment.  Bill was there until retiring around 2014. At the time of his retirement SMTS had 150 vehicles. That fleet included back-up vehicles as well as active, in-use vehicles.


Bill states that 50% or more of SMTS mileage was/is medically related.  He mentions non-medical specifics such as job training,  employment programs such as the Sheltered Workshop programs.


He offers praise for how well SMTS has run and the importance of the service over the years. He mentions that not only has it been reliable but often kept close to it’s schedule which is difficult in rural areas. He says that many of the drivers came from the “secondary labor pool”, much like Brown Shoe had been. People that needed extra income during slow times. He says often times it was the wives that referred their husbands and would often come in to get applications for their husbands.


We close with mention of Bill’s wife Thelma Sikes and his children, Bill and Kessie.