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My name is Sharon Robbins and I was born in Glen Allen Missouri, July 5, 1948. According to my momma, it was a very hot day and she had a large garden and the corn was about ready and she spent the day picking and shucking and canning corn the day I was born. The corn wasn’t quite ready and she always said she liked her corn “nubiny”, not quite fully ripe which seemed to big. Sharon says that’s what shaped her to love the first, tenderest sweet corn. Her parents were Winfred and Lavern Upchurch that lived on a small farm outside of Glen Allen. She had an older brother who died tragically when they were teenagers. She also had a much younger brother that still owns and farms the family farm.
Her first memory of childhood was getting electricity in the house when she was only two. She and her older brother followed the electrician, Elmer Hahn, around the house collecting the little round metal “coins” that were left over from punching out holes in the metal outlet boxes.
Sharon says that growing up on a farm they often played “farm” on the old front porch where they would play with toy tractors. She mentions the lizards that her brother didn’t like. On the porch there was a hammock and a porch swing and she remembers many hours of reading there and enjoying the stars in the dark skies. They didn’t have a television yet and in the summer it was cooler on the porch because there was no air conditioning.
She mentions that the house faced a gravel road and there was a creek at the far end of the fields. She says the 4th of July was a big celebration but that the dog lucky didn’t like the sounds of the fire crackers.
She talks more about her folks starting with a 40 acre farm just outside the town of Glen Allen in Bollinger County. Daddy served in WWII in the Pacific, momma worked at a small arms plant in St. Louis. They saved to buy the farm and there’s a funny story about that. The man who sold the farm to them would often come back and would walk around and take stuff from the yard and even took the clothes line and clothes!
Both of her parents grew up around Glen Allen and were engaged before her dad went to the war. When he left her mom went to work in St. Louis at the arms factory where many other women were working and she shared an apartment with some of them. When she got word that he was coming home from the war she went to California to meet him. While waiting there she got a job at a candy factory and Sharon shares a story about her quitting the job because she didn’t want to join the union.
Sharon talks about her parents’ return to Missouri and Bollinger County where they were full time farmers. She tells a story about how she and her brother would collect the grass clippings which they pretended was hay. They would take it to the barn and use a bucket to haul the “hay” up to the barn with a pulley.
She says that her grandfather (her dad’s dad) was still farming at that time and still used a team of horses. She’s asked about what kind of farm they had and she says that they had hogs, Jersey milk cows, corn, alfalfa hay, wheat. She says they had a milk route in Glen Allen. He would collect the milk and her momma would filter it and bottle it. She says that at least a third of each quart of milk was heavy cream and most people, including herself, really loved the cream. She says Guernesy cows also have a lot of cream in their milk but that Holsteins, another dairy cow, produces far more milk but far less cream. She says they also sold cream and mentions one of the cream customers, Mr. Hood, coming to pick up cream from the house. They used a separator machine to separate out the cream.
She’s asked if she remembers any national or world events from her childhood. She says by the time Eisenhower was elected president they had a television and she remembers how annoying it was to have all the political hoopla getting in the way of the normal television programming. She remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis because she was older, she thinks around 13. She says she was in high school when President Kennedy was assassinated and she remembers that.
She’s asked if she enjoyed school and if education was a priority and she says it was very important to her and her parents as well. She remembers starting in the 2 room school and skipping to school everyday. She remembers her penny loafers that she wore to school. The schools is Bollinger County consolidated when she was in the third grade and she remembers being crammed in the old Rock Elementary in Marble Hill. It was further and they took the bus to that school. The cafeteria lunches were something new to her and an adjustment. She tells of getting sick after eating peas and riding on the merry-go-round. She went to the Rock School in Lutesville, now Marble Hill, for 4th and 5th grade. Her 6th grade was in a new building. Then back to an older building for high school.
She was encouraged to go to college by her parents and wanted to go. She went to Cape and majored in Home Economics. She loved her teacher Mrs. Rom and was in the COE program, Cooperative Occupational Education and was also active in the FHA, Future Homemakers of America. She was a regional officer and would go to the state meetings. She remembers stopping to eat at the Olympic Steakhouse in Fredericktown. She says that when the Laut girls bought it it was called Town and Country but she’s not sure about the name.
Her dad thought Home Economics was a good subject because those teachers got an extra month of pay because they made home visits in the summer to check up on the special projects that were expected over the summer. She says that eventually that was discontinued and Home Economics was less emphasized as work outside the home became more of a norm.
She talks about the special projects that some of the students do over the summer for the vocational education programs such as cattle and construction. She says it’s primarily an aspect of rural education and mentions funding from Carl Perkins Vocational Education Act.
Sharon reiterates that she went her first two years of college to Cape which is where she met her husband, Dwight, who was a chemistry major. He was going to go to graduate school in Ames, Iowa and at the end of her sophomore year they got married. She finished her degree there and says that their Home Economics department was huge and included the Elementary Education department as well as several other fields. She talks about the World War II era housing huts that were being used for student housing and which they lived in. This was in 1968.
She was a teacher and they lived in Indiana, near Fairview Ohio for 18 years. He worked at Proctor and Gamble as a research chemist. She talk about her time teaching and says she was out of teaching for 16 years beginning when they had their first child. At some point during that time her husband Dwight decided to change careers and become a lawyer. They came back and he went back to school at Washington University. The move was also, in part, due to his mother being in ill health.
The move back to Missouri was difficult because her youngest child, Jonathan, needed a lot of medical care and she had a good support network where they lived in Indiana/Ohio. After returning to Missouri Jonathan started going to school so she started looking for work in the schools. She started with a job in the Marquand schools as a part-time remedial reading aid which was a job she loved. This was in the late 80s. They needed an English teacher so she took a couple courses that she needed to be certified to teach those and taught 6th – 8th grade English. Then she started teaching in the Home Ec department in Fredericktown.
She tells the story about her job search and a surprise when she went to the West County (North County?) district she had a meeting with the Superintendent, Mr. Lynch, who had been her freshman science teacher when she was in school in Lutesville.
Education and certifications are discussed comparing the past requirements to today as well as the different state certifications. She mentions that she never got her Masters though she had intended to. She taught a total of 23 years an retired around 11 years ago. She shares some of the details about the process and finances of retirement. She mentions that Missouri has a very good system in place for teacher retirement, especially for the teachers with long-term careers.
She’s asked about what it was like to return to Missouri after living away for so long. She said at first she enjoyed being anonymous but that it wasn’t long before that was gone as they got reacquainted through church and work in the community. She says it was very nice to be close to family again. She mentions that Dwight had gotten a flying license when they lived away so they had actually come here often during their time away. He had encouraged her to also get her license which she did. They flew often over the years. They would stop to refuel in Carbondale then land in Fredericktown. At some point they put built runway in Lutesville. They didn’t land there often but sometimes and she tells a story about landing there. There was no phone so they would circle her parents’ house first to let them know they were about to land and would need to be picked up. She shares a couple stories of flying, one in particular she flew her kids and babysitter to stay in Knoxville, TN during the World’s Fair.
They sold the plane and a few other things to finance their move and his career change. In addition to the change to being a lawyer she mentions Dwight also briefly published a small newspaper in town, The Ozark Gazette. Which she says he loved.
She’s asked about her kids, grandkids and family. She does have grandkids. She says her older son lives in town, he’s a doctor and he has two girls, both students. Their daughter is an attorney and has two boys but lives in Kansas. She says her son John still lives here and is involved in various community groups such as the Historical Society and is a bell ringer for the Salvation Army. He has a couple of his own enterprises such as raising miniature horses and he keeps chickens and grows pumpkins.
She’s asked about her use of technology. She does use email and the web. She does not like or use Facebook or social media. Her husband is very computer savvy and uses it all the time with work.
She is concerned about too much screen time and dependency, even addiction that she observes in young people. She is concerned that it might get in the way of strong family ties, healthy face-to-face stories and enjoying the stories that humans share.
She uses the internet as a tool but only as a tool for searching and purchasing from Amazon and that sort of thing.
She talks a bit about the move of computing into the schools for the staff and teachers. One year before her retirement the school started using a computer-based grading system. She says she’s just not the kind of person that likes spending time at a computer. She says she has a Kindle but prefers an old fashioned paper book. She reads many books and loves a well written story.
She’s asked if she enjoys living in a small town and she says she does. She shares her appreciation and love of the environment of this area.
The interview is concluded.