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Jack: My name is Jack Ward Skinner. I was born November 28, 1935 in St. Louis. My history with this county actually begins with my parents. My dad grew up in the Knob Lick area, but my mom was born and raised down on Castor below Higdon, Missouri. And so a lot of my early information comes from her, hand me down stuff.
This was, of course, they got married in 1934. And I was born in 35. And they’re in the middle of the depression. Jobs were hard to find. And so we moved to St. Louis and that’s why I was born up there.
1940, still jobs were kind of hard to find. So dad, we moved back down to live with my grandpa and grandma Ward, whose farm, they had an 80 acre farm, which lies across the road from the current Amidon parking lot. There on Castor.
Patricia: Was it even hard to find jobs in St. Louis?
Jack:Yes, yes. You might find a job and a month later, you’re laid off.
Patricia: Even in the city?
Jack:Yeah, in they were just very hard to find jobs, even there.
Denny: What were your parents names, and your grandparents names?
Jack:My dad’s name was Glen Skinner. My mother’s name was Anna Ward. My grandparents name was Tom Ward and Lou Ward actually her name was Lousetta, but whenever went by the setta part, we always went by the Lou part. Tom and Lou ward. She was a Vennable. Granma Ward was a Vennable and her ancestors date all the way back. They, some of them were in the Revolutionary War and war of 1812.
They came in from Alabama. Ah, Grandpa Ward, my great grandfather, was in the Civil War. He was with the North, was in the Calvary.
They were outside a little town outside of Nashville and it
was raining very hard. And so the Calvary troupe gathered under trees, which is probably the wrong thing to do. But anyway, lightning struck the tree and killed three of the troopers and injured about 13 of them, including my grandfather. He was in the hospital in Nashville for almost a year. Eventually was released and then my grandpa was born in Tennessee. And then they moved to the Castor River area. And my great grandfather and grandmother are buried, this family by the name of Urbalan lives there now we call it the Old Pond Tinnin farm. Where the dam is, the concrete dam on Castor. It’s kind of a wilderness now used to all be open and the road went from there all the way down to Highway 72. That’s closed off now. But they’re buried in the
cemetery there on that farm. And my grandparents are buried down at Spring Valley in the McClanahan cemetery there.
We move back to live with my grandparents to their farm for about four or five months. Actually going back to my grandfather and the farm. I went to the courthouse and took a look back at it. The first mention of it was 1820, a family by the name of fair Farrah, I think same name as Clara Farrah, here in town.
It was the first owner. But the key, 1820 of course was when Missouri became a state and so prior records. We don’t know how long he lived there before that. But he was connected with some of the early people who helped the farm the county and it stayed in the Farrah family until the late 1890s, a family by the name of Combs bought it. They sold it to a Backer who lived there two years and then my grandparents bought it and 1923 and lived there until 55 when they retired and move to town.
Love that old farm. Lot of those farms and even towns spring up because there was a spring and the spring is still running big today.
I go back down and visit with the fellow who lives there once in a while now. My grandfather had the house was a one room log cabin with a loft. There was a log smoke house right next to it and then a long barn down in front of it. When my grandpa moved there, they built a kitchen on one side. And when we moved there in 1940 live with them, grandpa and my dad built a couple rooms on the back. The whole house is gone now.
None of those original buildings are there anymore. But the spring house was so important to that farm.
It was built on the side of a hill, and the spring came out the side of the hill. So grandpa took some flat rocks and built a square box and cemented them together. He had a pipe running out of the bottom, and he built a concrete box, sort of a long concrete box along one side and the pipe ran into the bottom of that so the water would fill up in the box. And then he had a pipe running out of the top of the box. So it would never, it would always flow out, it would keep it filled. And this was all covered with a wooden building a spring house.
From there it ran down through the chicken yard. So he never had to water his chickens. There was always water for chickens there. Ran under the fence into the barnyard and he dug out a little area there made a hole to water, the livestock, the cattle and the horses and all. Then a curved under the fence through the hog lot. And so that spring, well originally it was there drinking water in later years they had a well drilled, but it supplied water for the whole menagerie.
Patricia: Was it connected with pipes?
Jack:Just uh, no, after it ran out of that concrete box it just ran underneath the wall of the spring house and it was just open as it ran down to the barn. The chicken lot and the barnyard like that, just natural stream.
It connected with another Creek, our branch that came out of the woods to the west of there, and both of them then would fall into the Castor River.
Oh, yeah, again, dad could not find work, even around Fredericktown, so after about four or five months, we moved back to St. Louis. He did find a job there for a while. And I was not five years old until November. So, St. Louis schools would not let me start school until January. They run by semesters not by years. So in January of 41, I started kindergarten.
I had an uncle who was living with us at the time. And he had, there was a plan that President Roosevelt had, where you could join the army for one year and get some training because things were already burning in Europe by 1941 in the spring. And so he joined in March with the idea he would get out in March of 42. Something happened in December of that year called Pearl Harbor. And he was long gone to New Guinea for the duration. But anyway, I started kindergarten there, then spent the summer, went back to kindergarten then in September, and graduated from kindergarten in 1941. Started first grade in 1942. But we only stayed there until March, and we moved to Fredericktown. And that’s my introduction to living right in Fredericktown itself.
Too late to start first grade here, because I’ve only had three months in St. Louis and one more month and they would been out. At that time they dismiss school like the first of May.
So I just stayed out of school until the fall of 1942. Started first grade, I would say that the school I was attending in St. Louis was Hodgins school. I was scared to death the whole time. It was dark. It was a monstrous building. And I knew no one up there. And my first year in the Fredericktown school, it was such a pleasure.
Big, wide open windows. Of course there were no air conditioning, so you cooled it by raising the windows. I had Miss Johnson and Miss Cobb, who Ellen Cobb married Glenwood Counts. She became a Counts midway through the year.
It’s a good thing because by being naive, I had a lot of jokes about her, and I got caught one time. I said to another boy after we had passed her on the sidewalk, there goes Miss corn on the cob. And she heard me and oh, I felt about two inches tall. But she was very understanding and, of course we got along just fine after that. And then after got out of school, I even worked for her husband for a few months, so all was forgiven.
We moved in on a big white, two story house on the corner of East Marvin and High Street, the southwest corner East Marvin and High Street. A family by the name of Charlie Bollinger and his wife.
They owned from East Marvin, that whole block to the south, down to the last, the other corner and there was a family Lloyd White and his family lived there. But the Bollingers had been farmers and so they had a garden that covered that whole block except for where the house, two houses on each corner stood. And their son and his wife and two teenage kids lived with them. They had one bedroom upstairs. Of course they spend all their time downstairs with Grandpa and Grandma. But they all slept in the one bedroom upstairs.
My mom, dad and me, we had two rooms upstairs and a screened in back porch. We did not have a refrigerator. Back in those days we used an icebox. We had a beautiful oak ice box with four doors on it. And you hung your sign up when you got ready for ice and the guy carried it up with tongs on his shoulder and kept things cold and of course in the wintertime, it was sitting out on that upstairs porch, took care of itself with the temperature then. We had a gas stove and a table in the kitchen and a washing machine and the winter time in the summer we would roll the old Maytag ringer-washer out on the upstairs porch.
All the laundry had to be carried down the stairs around the big old white house to the backyard and hung out on lines, didn’t have dryers in those days.
We did not have a bathroom. There was one bathroom downstairs for four different families, actually or four different people, who groups who lived there.
So it had to be a timing to use use the bathroom house.
Patricia: Was there an outhouse?
Jack: No, no, there was none there. My dad had gone to work and got a job with the Sinclair oil company. At that time they worked out of the Fredericktown Milling Company office. Junior Thompson and Mr. Whitener were the bosses. They ran both the Fredericktown Milling Company and the gas, Sinclair Gas.
A lot of times when he would make a run out into the rural areas to the little country stores, they would throw a sack of feed, maybe two or three sacks of feed or something up on the side of the oil truck, and so he delivered feed as well as as gas to those country stores.
I loved to go with him a lot of times in the summertime. Some, especially the one that I think of most, is Castor Station, which again is no longer there. It is a private dwelling now. But they were so unique. Usually, like, in the wintertime there would be a heating stove right in the middle of the floor.
Two or three old gentleman sitting around it discussing politics or, the hot stove league we called it. Were the Cardinals, are they going to trade this one or that one, or how they going to do next year. They always had a roll top glass cabinet with candy, penny candy in there. Of course I, that always caught my eye too.
But there were just a peculiar smell about those country stores and I think part of that had to do with, they put treated sawdust on the floor every morning. It was wood floors, and they put that sawdust down and then sweep it up. And it’s kind of an oiled material. And of course it was not self-served. All the canned goods and everything were on shelves behind you just told the clerk, at that time Lee Gregory owned it, when I was a kid riding with my dad and in the gas truck. But they lived in a house on the side of the store. So a lot of times even if they were closed, somebody in need would just go knock on the door and he opened the door and go next door and get them a can of food or whatever they wanted.
Croquet courts were big back in those days. And it was more of a profession, professional type court. They really manicured them and and took care of them. They, most of them, were sand, they would water them down and roll them and make them almost as hard as concrete but they were level and the ball would roll true. And the men would take special mallets and drill holes in the end and put lead in there to make them heavier and then cut the handle off and just a short handle. They would get down low and sight up on the on, they played for blood and there was a professional court down on South Main next door to, Turnbows, had a grocery store there across from the swimming pool, and right next to that was a croquet court.
My mom’s aunt and uncle, George Jones lived on the corner of Marshall and it’s that street that runs up to the park.
They had a house there and behind his house with a croquet court. So there were quite a few of them scattered around. Kids were not allowed to play on those, that was just strictly for the man who were serious with it.
Patricia: Were they fenced?
Jack: No, no, but they did have a board like about this high as the outer boundary and course you could bounce the ball off of that and kind of like a pool table, you know, you could use that is getting your ball around if you wanted to know or needed to.
I but I that was some of the best years of my life, I guess when we lived there with the Bollingers. Down the block and around the corner and there was a jillion kids and had a lot of kids and became acquainted with and I guess that’s one reason I like, got, ah, like the the Frederick town school because I spent that summer playing and I knew some kids when I went there. But it was just such a different atmosphere, it was a country atmosphere that was different from the city schools. And I just I thoroughly loved school all the way through.
Some of us, fact is we are having our 65th class reunion, two weeks from tomorrow. We’ve been narrowed down there probably going to be about 20 to 25 of us there. But I think we had, we started off with close to 80 or 90, as a freshman, and we graduated 66. I graduated in 1954. It was interesting things were so much different back then.
The band director in 1947, I think it was, the band director, left in the middle of the summer, left them short handed. So I was taking violin lessons from Della Seal. And they asked her, she had a teaching degree, they asked her if she would take the band. She did. And she asked me if I want to be in the band. I was in the fifth grade. And well, yeah, and so I didn’t have a band instrument, but the school had some that they supplied. I started off the first year on a trumpet, but they had a lot of the trumpet players. So the next two years, I played a French horn.
And then in 1948 I believe it was there was, Ludwig music salesman came to town and set up in the old gym, the granite gym up on up on High, High Street. And I bought a trombone. So the last five years, I spent eight years in the high school band, and I didn’t fail a single year.
But it was interesting. We, we took a lot of trips and things. Even in grade school, we would take parties and things like eighth grade we would go out to roadside park for a picnic, things like that.
But the classes would have. We always had a Valentine’s Day party and a Christmas party. And there were three grocery stores, neighborhood grocery stores, right around the old school up on High Street, though Marvin college, which became the school. Kept three stores in business until the school moved.
When we were in grade school, we we’d have news, 10 cents a month or something like that. And one year I was the treasurer for our class. And what you would do when we get to like the Valentine’s Day or whatever holiday it was, me or the treasurer, and a couple other boys would go across the street. We had orders for what kind of soda to buy. And we would buy a whole case of soda and of course it take a couple boys to carry it full, carry it back. Well, I was, my mom was a cook at at the school and they, is in the basement of the old high school and they cook for the elementary and the whole school.
So I went down to the car where she had her car parked down the hill. And I had the jar of money for the class, that had been saved up, carrying it back up that sidewalk, dropped the jar broke it, and the coins scattered all over. Well, there was a high school girl. And this was the kind of people you had back in those days. She saw that and of course, I was just about and tears. I was just a little kid and I was ruined. I had broke all the class money, you know. She came over and sifted through the broken glass and picked it all up. We got every bit of the money. And she had a sack or something that had been her lunch sack, put the money in there. And I made it on to school. Have no idea what her name was, but high schoolers were just kind of like babysitters. They just took care of your kids, you know, and helped you out.
When we were in high school, Miss Whitener was the drama teacher and every year she took a group to St. Louis, to some of the plays up there.
My senior year, we well, junior year we went to see *South Pacific*. We would go most of the time we went to the American Theatre, but the senior year, we went up there and saw *Death Takes a Holiday* and Vincent Price was the actor. And she got us a pass. We went behind the stage. Got to meet and talk to Vincent Price and he was just as common as an old shoe.
He signed my program and I’ve still got that, I think I’ve got it locked up in the safety deposit box. Probably doesn’t mean a whole lot but it does to me because I, he was a well known actor and paid a lot of villain parts at the time, but he was he’s very popular. But sure didn’t seem like a villain when, we thought he was just so friendly to bunch of kids. He didn’t have to be, here’s a big star, but he just mingled right in with us and talked and answered our questions and took time to talk to us.
Our senior year also, I played baseball, and Diz Anderson, who had been a former professional football player. He was our athletic director at that time coached the football and baseball. I don’t think he goes to the basketball, but anyway, we had the athletic banquet in the spring every year. He told us as a senior, he said, gonna have a surprise for you.
So we got there that night and lo and behold, it was Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin was here in Fredericktown. This was either Mickey’s first or second year he wasn’t the big name yet.
But we got to meet and greet and talk to Mickey Mantle at the banquet, you know, and a lot of things that, to remember. Pleasant, pleasant things to remember about my my school years.
When I graduated from high school, I was kind of lost. I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do. A lot of my friends had gone on off to college somewhere. Some of them joined the military. Some of them went to St. Louis to get jobs. This was 54 and my dad had purchased a little grocery store over in North town. And so I worked in there till about November and he decided he wasn’t cut out to be a business person. He was a hard worker. But that just wasn’t for him. So he sold, sold that store.
I carried the mail for one month back then everybody mailed 50, 60, 70 Christmas cards. Only going to cost you two cents to mail a Christmas card in those days. So you sent a lot of them to everybody. And so they always had a big increase. And they hired extra mail carriers for the month of December. And Albert Baines is the one who broke me in. I carried North town and really liked the job. I knew it was just temporary and as soon as Christmas came I’d be out but I loved that job. And being young like that, it didn’t take me long to memorize who lived where and knew where to deliver the letters but once Christmas came I was out of work. In February, I got a job at White market which was right across the street here. White market grocery store. I was a delivery boy they had an old like a panel truck except it was open on the sides. And they would have call-in orders and I would get empty boxes and put the order in the box. And then I would plan my route to deliver those groceries to people. Well, they, White Market was, the mines had not shut down yet, but Kroger had moved into this building that we’re in now, right across the street from so them, so that made it kind of rough on them and so they closed their business. Well, I was out of work.
So I went to work at Swisher Chevrolet and the gasoline part up front, worked that through the summer and I knew there should be doing something more than just pumping gas.
I got a job but Evert Osbourne’s men’s and boys clothing store which is a blond, brick building down here on South Mine La Motte. Worked there three years and I met my wife Betty Joyce LaChance and by the way, she might want to you might want to talk to her sometime too because her ancestors are the ones who helped to found Fredericktown. It was called St. Michael’s Village. But up on the Courthouse Square there that big rock up there and seven those people are her ancestors.
Kind of interesting, kind of backing up here, just a little bit. When, in 1943, we were living at Bollingers, and dad was drafted and went into the Navy in World War II. When he came home, they had never had a home, and we were living in two rooms without the bathroom and refrigerator and stuff like that. So we used the GI Bill money and we bought a little four room house over on 414 Virginia Street.
It was white at the time, it’s painted yellow. Now I still drive by there and look at that sometimes. But lo and behold, we had in the bathroom inside. That seems important, but back then it certainly was. But we kept that for two years and traded it for what became known as the green house.
This is a house that had green shingle siding on it and a red roof and it’s just east a town. Today it’s a white house with a black roof, the distinguishing characteristic that it has a concrete garage built into the hill in front of the house. It’s right next door to the shoe factory building out there on z highway.
There was nothing there. Golf Homes owned all of that land. And we were just, had four acres right in the middle, kind of like an island. We were half a mile from the city limits, which was the Saline Creek low water bridge at that time, and six tenths of a mile from the courthouse so we were closer to the courthouse than most people in town. And yet our closest neighbor was a half mile away.
And I dearly love that place as well. It was a great place to grow up. We had an orchard behind the house and had grapevines and a big garden spot and, just just a great place grew up. Had a barn, chicken house, washhouse. And
I became infatuated with trains there because the railroad at that time ran right behind our house. There was one empty field behind our land, and then the train and we call it the old local. One of them went down in the morning, another one came back up in the afternoon, and I could run out the back door and and on the side of the wash house, there was a shelf built and we had the dog house underneath that. I could, on a run, hit that, leap up and hit the top of the dog house, the shelf, grab a limb in the big old maple tree, swing up on the roof of the washhouse, run to the other end of it, and wave and get the engineer to wave back me. Made my day.
And, I, ah, I would ride my bike over to the depot and take pictures of the old trains and things like that and I would get pretty close with my camera. And of course they always waved at me once in a while they wait till they got even with me then they’d hit the whistle, try to scare me, but I was expecting it and I was used to it.
I used to love to watch him do a flying switch, right down the tracks from our house was a spur that went over to national lead and of an evening, well, of a morning, they were going south. So they would just stop and take the one car and back up all the way over to the mines. Of an evening they were going north, and so how do we get the car over there without being in front of the, behind the engine. So they had what they call a flying switch. The switchman, he would get down at the switch, the brakeman would get on top of the car, that they wanted to take over, they would uncover the cars behind it. And the old steam engine, he would give it the gas you know and open it up wide, the wheels would spin and try and catch and they would take off as fast as they could. Then the brakeman would cut loose, and the engine would pull on off away from it and this car would keep rolling the switch men would throw the switch, it would curve over onto the spur going to national lead. Then the engine would back up, come up and come up behind it then and push it over to the mines. Interesting how they do it, but for them we just a routine thing. But love those old steam engines. And I would watch them a lot from my house or I would go over in an north-town and watch them as they shuffled back and forth. They had a spur that went into the milling company before it burned. We were there the night that burned, helped them carry stuff out of the office, the records and things because they dad worked out of that office at that time.
But, during flood stages, when the Mississippi River would get over the tracks, sometimes they would reroute those trains through what this was called the Belmont branch. They would reroute them through here, and so I got to see some of the first diesel trains that came through here.
One time there was one of the Eagles came through here. But they didn’t have the modern equipment. And so a lot of times they just stopped, the telegrapher in the depots had to call back and forth and had to wait for trains to pull off on the siding. And then this one would pass and they just sort of shuffle back and forth through here. And it would last probably about a month or so until the water went back down and then they, plus they had to go slow because these tracks were not built for the heavy, fast freights that the Missouri Pacific was using.
Patricia: The depot was in North town.
Patricia: That some areas in North town are prone to flooding as well.
Jack: Yeah, not not around, where the tracks were. The tracks crossed, ah, Lincoln Drive, there were Country Mart is now, the part that flooded and that’s a story too. I was dating my wife and my grandparents had sold the farm in 1955 and they bought a house on North Main Street.
It’s a big Fredericktown has picnic ground there, which where they hold their festival, Azalea Festival and things like this. I don’t know the names, there are parks on both side of the roads. But about two doors down from the Free Will Baptist Church was where my grandparents house was. So I had orders, anytime I was coming back in and water was over the low water bridge, don’t cross it, go over and spend the night with Grandpa and Grandma. Well, it was one night and it was still pouring down rain. I went over and just got to bed and about an hour later my grandpa woke me up and said Jack, we’re going to have to get out of here, he said the waters up to the front porch right now. And they were just like two doors from the Free Will Baptist Church if you know where that‘s at. Ah, we carried…
They were south of the Free Will Baptist Church toward toward downtown on that side you know.
We picked grandma up and carried her up to the Free Will Baptist Church and it was still dry ground there and then we went back. We sat they had the old high poster bed thing set up this, pretty high off the floor. And we started picking up chairs and tables and things and sitting up on top of the bed and in the second bedroom, we did the same thing in there and set as many things up on top high, high spots as we could. That night, well, it was getting close to morning, and someone said, what about the lady that lives in the little old house right next to the river? Has anyone seen her? We hadn’t. And so the fire truck came around, Lincoln Drive, came in there and drove as far as it could in the water down North Main Street. And then probably 20 or 30 people formed a human chain, which I was part of that and my dad was further along there, he came in to help too. And we would hold hands because it was the current was pretty swift even that far from the main channel. And it went all the way down and the water was up pretty high on this lady’s house, and knocked on the door. She didn’t answer so they pushed the door open. And that woke her up. The water was just level with the top of her bed. She didn’t know there was any problem at all. She scared her. She swung her legs over and hit the water and she didn’t know they had water in her house at that time. But they got her and carried her out, carried her up that chain back to the fire truck. And then it backed her out and got her out of the way.
But the water was 14 inches high in my grandparents house that time. And it also ran over the top the two times I think that has gone over the top of Lincoln drive. And the other time was what, 1993 or somewhere through there. Yeah, but I saw water run over the top of, you know, as you go out past the funeral home, there. Go down Wilson funeral home and then go over that bridge and right, right, the little straight stretch their water was going over the top of it. It was that deep.
And back then there were no homes where they’re at now out Z Highway. Like I said, ours was the only home and it sits up high.
If we could not get out we just walked behind, walked over the railroad tracks and walked to town when when the creek was up and it ran down pretty quick too. Had some interesting times with with Saline Creek there.
After I got married in 58 I got a job over at National Lead, working in the laboratory. One of the two jobs I have dearly loved in my life. I probably would have spent my entire time working there if the mines had not shut down. I got the feeling that maybe every place I work they went broke.
They shut out but anyway, went to work in the, in the lab and we would run essays on ore samples from different places in the lab. And they had built the refinery at that time and the roaster and so I broke in with Carlton Mooney, broke me in on titration of iron ores. And then when I quit the last year or two, I was working in the cobalt copper room analyzing the cobalt copper content. That’s why very much interested when this current mine company is coming back in to work the cobalt. The miners, when they shut it down, the guys who worked under ground said, well, they haven’t even touched the richest veins of cobalt yet. They’ll open up in another month or two. And that was what 50 some odd years ago, and now they’re finally opening up those mines. Those miners are all gone.
But anyway, supposedly the best the best cobalt and copper is still down there. Or at least the best cobalt is still down there. Used to be a sign, out here on the highway as you entered, a big billboard said cobalt capital of the world.
I imagine historical society probably has some pictures of that because it was out there for several years as you entered the town.
But I thoroughly loved that job. But of course when it shut down, then everybody was out of work. It was hard to find a job. I worked at, in this building as a produce clerk, which I knew nothing about. But you just got any kind of a job you could get. And it was difficult because Kroger believed in quality and they wanted me to buy three bins of watermelons. And I don’t know if there’s like 100 watermelons in a bin. And they were selling for $1 apiece. But you go down to Thal’s and buy them for a quarter. Well with everybody out of the work the mines, they could care less about quality, they wanted to get the most bang for their buck. And so I had a lot of produce and stuff that I couldn’t sell. And so I didn’t stay with it too long.
I got a job in at Monsanto and moved my family to St. Louis worked for Monsanto for a year. And they were, the company was talking about layoff, the Union talking about a strike. And so I worked there a year and there was nothing secure at all about it. Finally, the union signed their contract and two weeks later, the company laid off, not 75 people which would have caught me, but I quit in the meantime and we moved to Cape and I started college at a Cape went into the education field. I wanted to get into some type of work that had some security which I thought maybe I’d have a job next year.
And I did. I wound up after four years, I graduated from college in 1966, with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and specialized in science and social studies, and I was doing my student teaching at Farmington and I wanted to come back to Fredericktown. Fredericktown had has always been my home even today. It feels more like home to me then Farmington where I have lived since 66. But there was not an opening at the time, and the superintendent in Farmington said I’ll have a job for you. I’ll sign you. And he did and so I spent the next 30 years teaching at Farmington.
Had 11 years as an administrator there. I dearly loved, I taught earth science. It was a wonderful time to get in to science, in 66. The Space Program was just going wild at that time and the kids were interested in, and course Earth Science covers space. And and with this area, the rocks and minerals was important because the mines had been here and a lot of people are still working at mines, at Viburnum and different places. So it was a great time to get into education then. And yes?
Patricia: If I heard you correctly, you graduate with a triple major, elementary, special ed, and social studies.
Jack: Okay. The major was elementary education and the others were called minors. A minor in science and a minor in social studies. But no, I finally found a job that had some security. There may have been some other college degrees that would have paid more but I was, I enjoyed teaching. The teaching and the lab job with the two best jobs ever had.
We are keeping busy now with
retirement and of course there are some health issues. I guess they kind of limit us on what we can do. But never been sorry that I went into education, never been sorry that I worked at the mines.
But I just, I dearly loved Madison County, I guess because of my grandparents’ farm down there. I wish I had bought it, they sold it for $5,000, I’m sorry, they sold for $3,000 in 1955. And it’s probably worth $150 to 200,000 today or more. I don’t know. But right there on Castor River, you know. But I loved where we lived here at the green house. Wish I could have bought that too and just was still in college when the folks sold it so I couldn’t afford it yet.
But I could always just grab my fishing pole and 15 minutes later I’d be somewhere fishing like at the reservoir up there. At that time the Slime Pond was open. Mine LaMotte Lake, which became Lake Harmony, or I could, my favorite was just run down to Castor and go fishing from the bank. I never had a boat until later years. But there were a lot of swimming holes. It was kind of funny when we were living with the Bollingers over there, we did not have a bathtub.
You had to wash pan, you washed off every day. But on Saturday was special. We had a foot tub and you stood in the foot tub and you washed from the top to the bottom. And that was you got your weekly bath that way.
Saturday morning when I was a kid was special. I had some little chores around the house I had to do and then around 10 o’clock radio time I would listen to *Let’s Pretend* and *Grand Central Station*. Some of those kids programs, which ran before television came along and then the cartoons took over. But back then it was radio program for kids. Then I would take my bath round noon, grab a bite to eat and jump on my bike and ride down to the Mercier theater. And they had, it always begin with as a serial or some kind which lasted a half hour, usually ran for about a month or two. And at the end, each Saturday, there was a crisis left you hanging. So you had to come back next Saturday to see how they got out of it.
And then there was a mystery movie for an hour and then there was a Western and I would get a quarter on Saturdays, 10 cents for the show. Sometimes I’d spend a nickel for a bag of popcorn, most of the time I saved that. And after the show was over, I would go down to Dicus Drugstore, 10 cents for a comic and a nickel root beer. That was my Saturdays.
I was friends with Buddy Mercier back in those days and his dad, of course ran the theater. But his grandma had Huff’s Cafe, which is, Capital Cafe, is that what’s called now? No, the Olympic Cafe, the Olympic Cafe. But back then it was Huff’s Cafe and it was the elite restaurant in this part of the country. Common folks just didn’t go in there. You know, you had to be somebody. But Buddy would take me after the show. He said, come on down, I’ll give you a phosphate. And so he would take me in There because he liked to mix them up himself. And so I would climb up on the stool, he’d go around behind and he would make a phosphate and it was free. And that made it even better, you know?
Denny: So, a phosphate would be like a soda?
Jack: Yeah, it’s kind of like Kool Aid with fizz to it, like carbonated water in it. Usually strawberry or…
Denny: You said, you like getting a root beer or a comic. So what was a root beer back then? Was it the same as today or was different? Was it a similar sort of drink as…
Jack: Yes, yes. It was a fountain, fountain root beer in a mug, kinda like you get it the A&W.
It wasn’t A&W brand, is just all of the stores that are the grocery, the drug stores, had fountains, soda fountains in them. Ah, Rose’s Drug Store, which is on the corner up here, that’s where the high schoolers all hung out. That was there hang out area and they had booths there and you had little jukeboxes there. You could put your quarter in and select three songs. And it would play on a jukebox back over here somewhere.
Denny: And that was the one on thecorner?
Jack:Yeah, Rose’s Drugstore. I think it’s an antique place now. And it was just like two doors down to the theater, where Mercier’s Theatre was.
Patricia: Which is on the Court Square.
Jack: Yeah, it’s on the Court Square right office.
It’s a great actor. Yeah. Movie, played in my mind. A couple of movies. And then root beer in a comic.
Yeah. Great. Yeah. Sometimes a free, because it saved my nickel then for the root beer, I get the free phosphate.
Boy, I had a stack of comic books. And when I left home, they had no use for them and they disappeared and now they probably be worth a fortune.
Denny: What were some of the comics that you…
Jack: Oh, when the Superman comics first came out, you know. During the war, there were special comics, the Black Hawk. This was a group of guys in blue uniforms with a chauffeur type cap and they flew airplanes and they shot down Japs and Germans and whatever happened to be, you know, they were great.
Archie, Archie, comic books.
Patricia: I was about to mention if you said that Rose’s Drugstore was for the high school kid
Patricia: Then Archie and Jughead comics, would have been a documentary. Because it was real life.
Jack: Yeah. Yes, yes. Yes. And I never I never hung out there at Rose’s too much because that’s where the high schoolers were. I would go down to Dicus and it’s across the street from where Pizza Hut is now, it was across the street there. I think there’s a law office there may be now.
Bill Dicus owned it and later on he also put in Dicus Drugs up in Farmington as well.
Denny: Do you live in Farmington?
Jack: I live three miles east of Farmington, east on Highway 32. We’ve been there 20 years, we live several different places at Farmington, but been there since 1966.
Denny: When did you stop teaching?
Jack: 1996, yeah, I’ve been retired 23 years.
Denny: And it was science and history and social studies?
Jack:I never, never wound up teaching history. I taught science the whole time. Science teachers were hard to come by. And there was such a big demand for them in 66. And so, the first year I taught it was I taught all the subjects It was like a homeroom. Kids came in and they stayed in my room all day and I taught, I did teach social studies then, but math and reading and science and whole works. But the second year they departmentalized and had science teachers, math teachers and language arts teachers and so on. And of course I qualified, they were hungry for science teachers and I got right in
Patricia: So, you retired in 96, was that from administration or teaching.
Jack: That was administration? Yeah, I finished up in administration. I loved the teaching the best, but thinking of retirement and the pay that went into administration, and I really did get to help kids one on one more as an administrator, sometimes they didn’t think so. Because they usually had to penalize them for doing something wrong that that was mainly my job is working with the discipline part.
And, ah, but even today, I run into those kids at Walmart or someplace. And they are the friendliest. Because, most of the time, they knew they were doing something wrong. They were just mad because they got caught. And I didn’t personally have trouble with them. I was just the judge who handed down the penalty. You know.
Denny: And so you, you were a science teacher during the the build up to the moon landing.
Denny: And now, because we just celebrated the anniversary, the one it but you’re also you have this interest, I know you contribute a lot to the Facebook for Fredericktown and Madison County…
Jack: Yes. Yes.
Denny: So you have this interesting mix of interests of history as well as science.
Denny: So yeah. How was the celebration of the moon landing for you? Did you enjoy it?
Jack: Oh, great. Yes. And like I say that came about three years after I started teaching, and course the space race was on, and we were always running behind the Russians and kind of leapfrog and then they’d go off and lead leap frog. But we were the first ones on the moon. And it was interesting, talking to him about the three stage rocket, you know, and like the first stage is kind of like a tractor. It’s the work horse. It has to lift all, lift all of this off the surface to the Earth’s atmosphere, that’s the problem, it can’t get going very fast. The second stage was to kick it into higher altitudes, and get it in orbit, and then that third stage, send it off toward the moon. And of course, when the Apollo 13 thing came along, boy, we have some discussions over that how they were able to survive in the lunar lander. Lunar, the LEM, was lunar excursion module.They crawled in there and how the problem was the amount of oxygen was not that great in there. And yet the need to save some of it to fire, to put them in an orbit to come back to Earth. So it was touch and go. And of course the kids ate that up, you know, they they really…
Patrick: It was exciting.
Jack: It was and I I went back after I retired, I went back and did some subbing one of the science teachers was having a baby and was going to be out for six weeks, and I said, well save your earth science topics for when I fill in. And it’s just not as interesting to today’s kids as it was then, because it was happening then. Today. Oh yeah. You know they did that you know.
Denny: I was going to ask you, thinking about today, you know, so if you’re still following all the missions we have going on.
Jack: Yes. Yeah.
Denny: Mars, we’re about the launch the 2020. Yeah, you keep up with it.
Jack: Not as much as I used to. When I first started, you had those, that first group of astronauts, and they became household names. Now, half of your astronauts are from some other countries, you know, and it just not the same and I don’t know their names and all. I try to find out sometimes what they’re doing, but they’re running so many experiments and things now it’s hard to keep track of. But those early days. It was it was just, let’s see if we could get up there and do something and come back, you know?
Denny: Yeah. We take it for granted, it’s become such a common thing.
Jack: And with the space station, it is just, you never call it routine, but it is about as close as you can get to being routine anymore. So it’s not, not I don’t follow it as close as I, I did when I first started. And I guess that’s kind of why the kids are don’t feel like it’s as important as it once was.
Patricia: And you had said that Russia was ahead of you. But I feel as if I remember that Russia took more risks and that in retrospect, afterwards, you would hear a monkey died…
Jack: Yes, yes.
Patricia: Did a human die, a human died also?
Jack: Yeah.Yeah. They started with Sputnik. And you could go out at night, and you could see Sputnik going over, the, I guess sunlight would shine off, it wasn’t very big, but it was very shiny on the outside, and it looked like a star moving across the sky. You know.
Then we put something up there. And another thing, it was, important was because our early spacecraft was made up here in St. Louis at McDonnell Douglas, and I had an uncle who worked there. He worked in the aircraft part, not in the space program. But a lot of those astronauts were flying in and out of St. Louis. And two of them died in a landing up there. They crashed on landing in just a regular old airplane. But ah…
Patricia: We had casualties too.
Jack: Yeah, yeah.Then they put the dog, Leica,the Russians put him, sent, well, it was not meant for him to survive. They just wanted to measure what happened to him and all. But when we put a monkey in there, we plan to bring him back. So that’s one of the difference you’re talking about. We were thinking then of survival and returning them. You know, and the Russians could care less and I’ll send him up, and then we put him to sleep. Don’t worry about it.
And then they put the first man up there Yuri Gagarin. Then we countered that with John Glenn and we think about him being in space but actually he just circled the earth three times. But he was beyond our atmosphere so we called it space, the first man in space. We did have the first spacewalks, we beat the Russians on that, the spacewalks. And of course, we beat, they never did go to the moon, that we know of.
And I think it’s kind of amusing now, we shoot an astronaut up and he hitchhikes with the Russians on their rockets. And when they show their rocket lifting off it looks kind of antiqueish, it looks pretty much like some of their original rockets.
Denny: Well, one question I have stepping away from that getting back to some of the history of Madison County. So you you contribute all the time to the Historic Madison County Facebook page.
Denny: How did you kind of come back around to that? And what is the…
Jack: I started about a year ago. I just liked my life in Madison County and all and so I wrote an article. I didn’t write it for the Historical Society. I just put it on Facebook. And I think Ruth Ann Skaggs picked up on it. And she liked it. And so I, I wrote another one, and then another one. And so then she talked to me that she thanked me said I was making her day because she was always looking for something to put in the Historical Society newsletter and she was using my articles. So, I got to writing one, I put it on Facebook every Monday.
And she copies it and puts it into the Historical Society, and, ah, just recently, I put one in about the trains. And I put in some of the pictures of the trains that I had taken when I was a kid, little Hawkeye, Brownie Hawkeye camera, you know? And she called me and said, could I have your permission to copy those pictures from Facebook?
And I said, Well, I’ll do better than that. I’ll bring the pictures down and you can copy them know that, oh, that would be great. And she told me that they have put up feelers several times, wanting pictures of the trains that ran through Fredericktown.
They don’t have a single one. My pictures are the only ones that they’ve have. And, ah, so, hey scanned them and they’re going to blow them up and, and hang them on their walls and things. They also told me that The Depot restaurant over there have been looking for pictures of trains that went through there too. And I told him they’re welcome if they want to get copies from Historical Society, they’re welcome to get those too. I have no need to hoard them. I just soon share them because I enjoy why not everybody else?
Denny: It’s your love of history that’s led you to…
Jack:Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Patricia: It’s a gift.
Jack: Oh, going back to Amidon Park and that area, there’s an area called The Edmond Hole. I don’t know if you know where that’s at or not. It’s the lower end of, we always knew it as the Mill Shoals, and Mill and then Shoals. But, as usual, the local people say it the easiest way, it sounded like mill shows, shows, but it should be shoals. But we just call it the Mill Shoals and then and later years young people called it the pink rocks. Well then in I believe was the early 90s, Evelyn Driscoll got ready to retire and she owned the land down there, on both sides of the river. And you may know the story of how I got to be called Amidon. I don’t know. But anyway, she got ready to retire her mom had passed away. And she met this professor from I believe was the University of Vermont or New Hampshire, one of those two states up there. And they decided to get married and she was going to move up there with him. And so she made a deal. She gave half of it to the Vermont, I’m going to say Vermont. She gave half of it to the University of Vermont, the other half to the state of Missouri, if they would buy that half from Vermont, and state of Missouri did and made it a state park. But one of the stipulations is that would always be called after her husband’s name, Amidon. He’d never lived in this part of the country, but he will forever be immortalized as a state park here, Amidon State Park.
But there’s a road no longer there, it ran through the wilderness and came out over in Bollinger county around the Pine Hill area. It was called the Wildcat and a lot of farmers used that from over in Bollinger county, they came through the wildcat to get their grain ground. There was a grist mill there by the Driscoll farm. And there was one up at the upper end of the Mill Shoals, and you can still see the iron sticking up where it’s been cut off, where it anchored the mill. And there’s a race a male race cut out of the granite rock there, where the water would run through when it would turn the wheel to grind their their grain. Ah, it was, I don’t know if it was destroyed by fire or washed out in a flood or what, it’s no longer there. But I have seen the one at the lower end down there. A fellow by the name of Hahn built both of them.
And then he sold it to U.S. Skaggs and U.S. Skaggs is the father of Paul Skaggs who is the father of John Paul Skaggs who is the father of Ruth Ann Skaggs. John Paul, I met with him a lot of times, I invited him up to school one time to talk to my class about the history of Madison County. And he did and he didn’t last too long after that. He died, but got a lot of history from John Paul and of course, Ruth Ann knows a lot of it now too, and so does Terry Moss. I don’t know if you know Terry Moss or not. She lives down there on Castor river now.
But the Wildcat, I used to go through there with my cousin, on Parson wagon. We would take from his their farm over around Pine Hill. We would take the horse and wagon, hay wagon, through the Wildcat over to my grandpa’s and haul hay on it. Back then it was loose hay, didn’t have the bailers yet, at that time. And I didn’t know this until about six, seven months ago, my cousin who is Sandy Smith, was Sandy Ward, married John Smith and they used to have a Catfish Kettle up there at Farmington. But she and this Terry Moss, both was telling me, there was a skirmish there during the Civil War. The Union troops had stockpile warehouses at Jackson and they would come up the old Jackson road and they would cut through there to take supplies over to Pilot Knob and the Confederates laid an ambush there in the Wildcat and killed three or four of the Union troops and they are buried in a cemetery there on the Amidon campgrounds, park grounds.
My great grandfather on the Venable side is buried there too. The graves are not marked. We just know he’s there and we know where the cemetery is. But there are no grave markers.
His name was Mathildred Bass Venable. Well, they shortened the Mathildred down to Dred, D-r-e-d, Dred Venable and he, his family moved to, into the Alabama area. And when he was 11 years old, he saw his dad killed by the Indians. He was off in the distance, he saw the Indians murder his dad, and he was very bitter, very mad.
He got with a group of other young men, and they built a raft on the Tennessee River. And they sailed down the Tennessee to the Ohio and then the Ohio to the Mississippi and then came up to Bollinger county to start with and then he moved to, what’s today is called the Flying V Ranch, where Paul Vance bought it from the Venable, it was the old Venable homestead down on Castor.
And Paul bought it from the Venable people. But he was living there and was coming across Castor one day with the team of oxen pulling the wagon, and they got hung up in the loose gravel in Castor river and he was cussing him out and just making a blue streak in the air with his language. And he saw a vision of his mother who was dead. He saw a vision of her walking out onto the creek bank. And she got on to him and said Mathildred, why are you using such language? It scared the bejeebers out of him. He climbed down and waded to the bank and knelt down and prayed that God would forgive him. And he did. And from that time on, Mathildred had Bible study every morning and every night. They prayed at every meal. And all of his kids turned out to be devout Christians, as well.
And course one of his granddaughter’s was my grandmother.
Patricia: Is that French name?
Jack: Yes, yes, it is. And we were able to trace, there is an attorney in the state of Washington, his name Boyd Venable, I don’t know if he’s even alive or not. But he was able to trace the Venables in from France. They crossed over into England. They spent several years several generations in England, and they came into Virginia, settled, settled into Virginia.
And we were able to trace back, Fern Wamser, who is dead now, but she has an article and that history of Madison County Big Blue Book. She has an article in there and traces it back. And we were able to come with Boyd’s information and connect with hers to connect the family all the way through.
She puts in there, one article, one of the ancestors had a dispute over some lamb. I think it was so he hired Patrick Henry as his lawyer and they won the case. Henry was pretty good lawyer, well as a statesman, I guess.
Patricia: A good orator.
Jack: Yes, yes.
There is an earlier spelling, Veniere or something like that Veniere, which became Venables, and then they dropped the s and is called it Venable. Yeah.
Jack: Yeah. We It was interesting. Of course, the war years were especially important with me with my dad being in the Navy, and all. My mom was working at the high school in the cafeteria. And not that she was an exception. The same thing happened to a lot of women who all of a sudden, they have to run the whole show. They have to take care of paying the bills and budgeting the money and taking care of the sick and all like this.
She did an excellent job as all the women did. Alot of women went to work at that time, and that was, I I have an article coming up Monday. Along those lines.
They found it was easier to work in industrial plants by wearing slacks rather than dresses. And after the war was over, then slacks became more popular just to wear for everyday or dress, or whatever. So now it’s just common. Probably see slacks more than you do dresses anymore but…
Jack: But, ah, we, my dad’s folks still lived at Knob Lick, up until, oh, the latter part of 1943. And with that dad gone, we would go up to visit. Well, gas was rationed. You couldn’t, a lot of things were rationed. Sugar and flour, I don’t know about flour, but no rubber and gas and all those things were rationed. So we didn’t drive, we had an old 36 Chevy. We didn’t drive it anymore than we just had to, and we just lived a block from the school so we walked, walked to the school, but unlike most people, which was uphill both ways, it ours was one block and it was level. We had it made.
But we would go over on Friday afternoon sometime and get a taxi and it would take us over the depot. We would catch the old local and it was basically a freight train. But they carried one passenger car on the back end. Rather than a Caboose. They carried a passenger car. And so we would buy a ticket and get on the old local and we would ride up to Knob Lick and get off there and my grandparents lived on the street that ran parallel to the tracks. We would spend the weekend with them and the buses back then the schools own very few buses, the buses were all private. Thompson, owned most of the buses back then. And I often wondered how they could do this. But we would get up like on Monday morning and there would be three different buses up at the grocery store, which was the main intersection there in Knob Lick. You could ride one bus to Farmington High School. You could ride another bus to Mine LaMotte, or you could ride a bus to Fredericktown.
Knob Lick school went to the 10th grade. And from there you had a choice of either one of those three schools to finish your high school years. Well, we could get right on the Fredericktown bus, not regular riders. A lot of times they hauled civilians because they they eased the requirements back in those days. And we would ride it, take it right back to school and mom would get off and go to the cafeteria and I would sit down there with her till eight o’clock, time to go to class. So we kind of had it made. Then we could visit our, my other grandparents and my dad’s folks and didn’t cost us anything for the travel.
Patricia: Well, I was going to ask you how much was train fare to Knob Lick?
Jack: I don’t know. My mom paid it. I was about seven or eight years old at that time. But it wasn’t it wasn’t much.
Denny: So you would catch the train at the depot, which is now the restaurant.
Patricia: But you took a cab to the Depot?
Jack: Which was probably about a quarter for both of us to ride the cab over to the depot.
Denny: It’s interesting to think of Fredericktown with the cab service, I can’t…
Jack: Well, it was right around the corner here… They had, Baldy Candor, had a Shell service station here with the barbershop is now, it was a Shell service station and Gaily parked his taxi right here beside this building, only on the gas station not…
Denny: One thing that popped in my mind, a couple points while we were talking, while you were talking. And I really had picked up on this until today. Other people talked about it, but it seems like the further back you go the more small neighborhood stores you had…
Denny: And as you go forward in time those stores gradually disappeared, replaced by bigger stores.
Jack: Yes. They were for the most part, they were still here until Walmart came in, which is typical of every community. Farmington was the same way. They have no neighborhood grocery stores, but yeah, you had your staples. You had the milk and bread and usually had a lunch meat counter.
Denny: Were they, it almost seems like you had little shops that were locally owned.
Denny: In time they were replaced like you said Kroger moved in. I’m guessing it was not necessarily…
Jack: Kroger was here when I when we moved to Fredericktown.
There was all local people working in it.They were, well they were in a building, at the time right across the street from where the Olympic is now. But they moved into this building and Sterling Ivy put in a men’s and boys clothing store there. And that was a thing, growing up, we had three men’s clothing stores in town where you could buy better quality stuff.
There were several women’s stores. I said I worked at at Osborne’s Men’s and Boys. Right next door in the same building was Evy Price, Price’s Dress Shop, and she had nicer dresses and things like this for people. Ah, Figler’s had men’s and women’s clothes. Right down on East Main Street.
And then you had the Fair department store, The Federated Store these were general stores, carried a little bit of everything. Scwhanner’s, down on the corner where Seabaughs is now. Scwhanner’s had mostly clothing for farmers, overalls and shirts and things like that. But they had pots and pans, they had furniture, they had groceries.
Ward’s store, which was right on the corner here where there was a prescription drug store there that is closed now.
They were the same way, they carried rubber boots and overalls and farm equipment and things like this.
Denny: Very different from, it was a thriving economy of goods.
Jack: Northtown was a booming place as well. There were three grocery store side by side. You had the Red & White store, you had the Depot store and you had the DeGears store. And they all had families who survive, you know, made a middle living out of the store.
Patricia: Margaret Miller talked about a Bear Saloon or something?
Denny: Yeah, it was in the little white building, I think.
Patricia: Close to the Depot. And she said they weren’t allowed to go near it.
Jack: Yeah, that was Seabaughs. Well, okay, there was one right across the street, it was kind of in a wedge. You turn in here to the Depot and the other road goes on up through Northtown. And right in this wedge, there’s a little white building. It was pretty notorious. Yeah, I’ve never been in it. It may be a church now. It is a church house now. It got religion and cleaned it up.
Patricia: That would be Villar, Villar Street.
Jack: I believe that’s right.
Patricia: Tell us about the notoriety.
Jack: Mom and dad said, you will never go do, don’t even walk past that place you know? Yeah, I think it was specially on Saturday night it was it was dangerous to be close there.
Well it was it was just a lot of drinking and they get in fistfights.
Denny: Well, if you think about it, of Fredericktown is a mining town, there were a lot of people working and…
Jack: It had two things, it had three mines, National Lead, St. Joe at Mine LaMotte and Catherine mine west of here. And they had the shoe factory. And the shoe factory had probably two or 300 people working there.
And that was that was the industry for Fredericktown. And they all kind of shut down about the same time, which really hurt. Now there, there was, we had our store right across the street from us was Wagner’s. Wagner’s had a store and here’s two stores across from each other, made a living. Turnbows had a little store down on South Main. Farther out, the South Side market.
Denny: They were everywhere.
Jack: Yeah, there was one out in Cobalt Village on High Street as you go on out to there were Reggie, Reggie Starkey had his store before he died, had used furniture. That was a grocery store at one time, or it came along a little bit later on.
Patricia: Well, people walked, they couldn’t carry…
Denny: If you figure without a big centralized place like Walmart and even before Walmart you started getting bigger stores like IGA and Town and Country.
Jack: It started off with on the corner, across from Wilson’s Funeral Home, that was Thal’s Grocery Store. Twister and Walter Thal, both were there. And then Twister built this building next door where, where his son is now and it was a frozen food locker and grocery store combined. That was a big thing coming, in fact, he built one, built a locker plant up in Farmington, too.
Patricia: Were Twister and Walter father, son or…
Jack: Brothers, brothers. And Walter went out, across from Casey’s, he built built a store out there. I think it’s an auto parts store now, but he built that out there.
So all of a sudden the two Thals had two brand new stores and town. And Hills Sporting Goods had, in the block that’s been taken over by, New Era Bank.
There were, there used to be a row of stores there and one of them was a bowling alley. And just a little storefront but it had four lanes, four bowling lanes there and Hills had that. And when the Thals moved out, they moved into that building, and put a sporting goods store in there.
And that stayed that way, she was a teacher language arts teacher high school and he sold the sporting goods, stayed that way and when they finally left out, I think it was Bess Insurance went into that building. I don’t know what’s there now.
The Democrat News was right behind it and the building behind it. And then of course, they moved into this building next door. And that was a Standard service station. Originally it was had the sign of the Flying Red Horse, which was a that.
Mobile, mobile gas.
Patricia: Where the DN is now?
Jack: Yes, yes. Yeah. You just turn into the pumps there. There were gas stations everywhere back then too. But…
Denny: This was the service station at one point too, or my thinking of the DN.
Jack: You’re thinking of the DN. This was a garage. Garage. Yeah.
A motor company where I don’t know what kind of car they sold, that was before my time. But Kroger moved into this building about the time I moved to Fredericktown which was like 1942.
The dime store is right across the alley from Pizza Hut. And young kids were scared to death of Mr. Posh. He was an old guy with jaws like a bulldog, he sat on the stool with a cane right up front. And he glared at you because you didn’t do, dare do any shoplifting back in those days, I didn’t anyway, but you was almost afraid to go in there. So I bought, when I got into building plastic models and all, I use BA Muellers which was on on down the street.
He had a supply of model airplanes and cars and things back there. But Mr. Posh ran the Dime Store with an iron fist. And he sat up there with that cane and he’d shake it at the kids.
Patricia: Was it called Posh’s?
Jack: No, it was it was just, ah, I’m not sure. It wasn’t a Woolworths but, ah, a Five and Dime…
Denny: There was a Ben Franklin over there, I think?
Jack: Yeah, it might have been might have been.
Patricia: So, he was in the front…
Jack: He sat on a four legged stool right up front with that cane and he just watched every kid that came in. I guess adults didn’t have any problems. Because it was always busy. But kids couldn’t look at toys very much without getting the eagle eye.
I’ve seen, when we lived in, I mentioned the green house.
Golf homes owned all that land and especially that big bottom field there on Z road as you go out of town. And after his crops were in, there were, two or three times they would come in with a circus there and so we had a front row, and sat out on a front porch and watch them come in with their elephants and all and set up the tent.
Denny: In Fredericktown?
Jack: In Fredericktown, yes. Yeah, that they had elephants and tigers and the whole works, you know, and they set up this big tent, and it was a three ring circus, literally three rings. And of course, Golf Homes got paid for doing that. Plus you got some free fertilizer from all the all the animals.
Denny: And how long would they stay?
Jack: They would, they would stay about two days, two to three days, something like that. But they had trapeze artists, you know, the high wire people clowns and the whole works.
Patricia: What year would this have been?
Jack:Ah, early 50s.
Patricia: I know that where the high school is, they had a circus there for a couple years.
Jack: Did they? Oh, okay, that I didn’t know, that was after my time. We, ah, my class. My class was the last one, in 54, to graduate from the old high school up there that they’ve turned down now. The next year class of 55 started there. And at Christmas break, they moved into the new high school, which was the one that burned over here by the the water tower. So the class of 55 was the first one to graduate from that building. And then I don’t know what year was the first class out here where the high school is now.
Patricia: Where was the elementary school?
Jack: The elementary was up there on High Street.
Patricia: Is it the same one?
Jack: Not not the same one that’s there now.
Patricia: Same location?
Jack: Same location. Well, it was on the far end of the street next to Albert Street. It was a brick building, you had where the granite gym is. That’s the only one left that was built in the WPA days. So that’s a newest building. Built in the 1930s, I think. Then you had the auditorium, which was a beautiful old building stained glass. I think they tried to get it on the historical society but didn’t get it. But it had a winding staircase on both sides when you entered and beautiful old building, but the key word was all it was old. About to fall in I guess.
Then you had the high school building where all the classes were. And then you had the elementary over on the far end of that lot. The only thing left from when I was in grade school, they’ve got the two, they’ve got the granite gates, the post gate, the fence is gone, but the posts are still there. And there’s an old cedar tree kind of scarred and battered standing up there. The kids played around that, you know, that was, that was a picture right right beside that was a big tall sliding board.
You climbed up to the top and had hand handles appear, had a bar across here and of course when you got old enough and daring enough, you held on to that and you did a summersault over and landed on the slide and slid down. But it was, it was so worn slick. There was no rust on that. Well, when you came back from the summer, you had to wear the rust off for a little bit. And of course your mom got to wash that out of your seat of your pants. The first few times going down but didn’t take long to get it that. It was also very hot. In the summertime you get burned on that thing.
Down at the bottom end of the field, that’s where the seventh and eighth graders went. We would play ball down there. And then fifth and sixth graders had an area over here and then the little kids had to stay up close to the building. And course there was always teachers out there on on playground duty. Opal Osborne was one of the favorite teachers. I don’t know if any of you knew Opal or not. She just passed away about three or four years ago.
But all the kids wanted to be in her room, but I didn’t make it and I was sorry that didn’t make it into Ms. Osborne’s room. But she would get out and she’d play with the kids when she was on playground duty. You know.
I was never a dancer. But in about the fifth or sixth grade, they had a pole out there and every year they did the Maypole dance. And I don’t know who put them up but they had the streamers of crepe paper. I flubbed that up even. You know if you wove in and out and all, you wound up with the pole with the crepe paper and alternating. But I messed that up somehow or other and there was a there was a blotch in the pole. I can claim that.
Patricia: So much culture.
Jack: Yeah, yeah. Well, things were a lot stricter back then. You didn’t dare goof off. My first principle was Miss O’Brien and she was just a little short, dumpy gal. But boy, she ruled with an iron fist to in school you didn’t dare cross with her.
When I graduated from eighth grade, Burl Lowery was was the principal. He also taught, we had had two teachers, Della Seal, who taught eighth grade and Mr. Lowery also had to come in and teach one one hour or so plus be the principal of the elementary school.
Patricia: That’s a good thing, because the administration still gets to be in trenches.
Jack: Yes, yes, they believed in that. Fact is my high school principal was Clarence Moore, wonderful, wonderful guy. But he also taught math.
The superintendent didn’t. He the superintendent stayed in his office and he handed out this and that and something else. But when I was in high school, a sophomore, I got the job of filling the candy and the soda machine, and I got a free lunch out of it. That was my pay. And so I got pretty well acquainted with the office staff. The supplies were kept in the closet in in the office. After I, ah, when I started college, I had worked in the lab at the mines. And I thought, what I want to be a chemist. I didn’t start out in education.
I had never taken chemistry when I was in high school. And so when I got down and talked to the advisor said, I told him that I had had worked in a chemical lab want to get into chemistry. They stuck me in an advanced class, I had no idea what I was doing.
To date, the time, which was 1962. They didn’t have calculators yet, let alone computers. I was sitting in a class doing chemical, chemistry problems. Everybody else was using slide rules. They were using slide rules. And I was trying to do square root on paper. And I couldn’t remember exactly how to do it because I had been out of high school eight years before I started college. So I came back to town one night, went over to Mr. Moore’s house. He said, yeah, come on in and I’ll show you. And we sat down his table, and he showed me how to do square root. So I still was way behind everybody else because I was doing on paper and they’re writing the answers down. And I didn’t do very well in chemistry. And so after the first semester I decided to change my major and a fella by the name of Richard Moore. He just passed away, he was going into elementary education. He told me said they are crying for male teachers in elementary school. Everyone, everybody is a female teaching and they they need some men in elementary school. You can write your ticket for wherever you want to go.
So I made the decision to go into elementary education. But I still hung on to the science part. So I, I specialized, my area special which was we call it a minor, was science and I took enough history courses that I qualified for that too.
Patricia: Why didn’t you get your own slide rule?
Jack: I did.
Patricia: Okay. But you would have been right up there with them.
Jack: Yeah, but I had never had any training on the slide rule. I could do two times four, and I could get eight but I could do that in my head. To do the square root I really didn’t understand and by that time that semester was over and so I, I changed. I still got the slide rule. I don’t how to use it.
Patricia: You have to have classes or training.
Jack: Well, either have someone explain, usually I’m guessing that those people had a math teacher in high school explained to them how to use a slide rule. Yeah. We didn’t have those when I was in high school. You just did everything on a Big Chief notebook, you know.
Denny: Thank you.
Jack: Well, I appreciate it.
Denny: This was fantastic.