Category Archives: History

Time of the Talk

Telephone-switchboar-operators

The year 1952 was a very important year for Donna Brown. This was the year that she began working at a telephone company in Joplin– one of the many favorite jobs that she did during her life.

“There was no interview in order to get the job,” Donna said. “All you had to do was sit down and show that you were able to reach certain lengths in order to work the switchboard.”

The “switchboard” was a device used to manually connect a group of telephones. The switchboard had rows of “jacks” (which served for each subscriber). In the area in front of the switchboard there were several columns of keys, lamps, and cords (front and rear).

Each column had a front key and rear key. The rear key was used to physically ring the telephone and, on newer models, used to collect the money from coin telephones. The front key was used by the operator to talk to the person on that particular cord.

When a call is received, a light glows to alert the operator. The operator takes the rear cord and plugs it into the corresponding jack. The operator then presses the front key and asks who the caller would like to speak to. After the caller replies, the operator takes the front cord and plugs it into the jack that belongs to the person the caller wishes to contact. Then, the operator presses the rear key and rings the phone until the other person answers.

Once the other person answers, the operator will begin timing the call and then move on with other calls. The length of time the callers converse determined the cost of the call. When the “supervision lamps” lit up, that meant that the callers were done.

Donna Brown got the job and soon began working. Her task was to connect people to other callers. When someone picked up a telephone, a light would appear on an operator’s switchboard. Donna would answer and ask what number the caller wanted. From there, she would take one cord and plug it into the slot for that particular number. Then, she would press a button that would ring the phone until someone answered. After the person receiving the call accepted it, Donna would begin to time how long the two people talked so that she could charge them properly.

Long distance calls (which usually cost about fifty cents for every 3 minutes) were much more complicated. In order to make a long distance call for a caller (say from Joplin to New York City), you had to call a number of different stations in order to get to the place you wanted to contact. For example, to make a long distance call from Joplin to New York City you’d call St. Louis, from there, the operator would connect you to Chicago or New Jersey and that operator would then connect you to New York.

“To get to a large city you usually had to go through about four stations; to get to a small city, you had to go through six or seven stations.” This was especially frustrating, because if someone disconnected you along the way, you had to start all over again, or some people could not pronounce the names of some small towns properly, making it extremely difficult.

Operators also had another difficult job. There was no way to tell how much money a person put into a payphone, so operators had to memorize the sounds that coins made in order to tell what the caller put in. “The coins sounded different,” Donna said. “The quarter was a very high pitched sound, the dime made two sounds, and the nickel was almost like a thud. You couldn’t pay with pennies. Emergency calls were the only free calls.”

Operators’ hours varied too. Because anyone could make a call at anytime of the day, operators had shifts. “There was a split-shift, which was 7 A.M. to 11 A.M. and then 4 P.M. to 8 P.M. There was also the straight shift that was 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. or 1 P.M. to 10 P.M. and the midnight shift that was from 12 midnight to 7 A.M..” The days that the telephone company received the most calls were Mother’s Day and then Christmas.

Donna quit working at Southwestern Bell Telephone in 1959 after she married. She had worked seven years there and said she thoroughly enjoyed the job and the friends that she made.

Gardening: More than just a Pastime

rationing posterAt the time of my grandfather Dennis Gilbert’s childhood, World War II was just beginning, and sacrifices had to be made by civilians like him in order to support America’s troops. On top of various materials and tools, such as tires and gasoline, food had to be rationed so that sufficient supplies could be sent to soldiers who were fighting overseas. Although these rations were not debilitating, families usually had little, if any, extra food. Small family gardens were perfect solutions to this food problem. My grandfather assured me that his family would have been fine even if they had not planted a garden each year. Their gardens were simply used to supplement their stores of food. He went on to tell me that their garden produced delicious fresh vegetables that were difficult to obtain in any other way. Because they were such wise investments, family gardens were fairly common during this time. They were small and could be managed by a small team, yet they still produced a fair harvest each year.retired-man-cultivating-plants

Gardens, profitable as they were, required much effort to maintain. Pests, weeds, and disease had to be combated constantly. In addition, the ground had to be marked out, tilled, cultivated, and fertilized on a regular basis. To make matters worse, this work had to be done manually unless expensive farm equipment was available. As a child, my grandfather had to turn the dirt of his family’s garden with a pitchfork, and he and his mom had to cultivate the ground with a hoe before planting. His father was unable to help them, as he worked twelve hour days, six days a week.

Victory Garden

These struggles didn’t stop families from gardening, however! In fact, according to my grandfather, the ratio of agriculture- related professions to more urban, technology- focused professions was 50-50. As my grandfather said, “I enjoyed getting out there in the garden and working.” He also told me that his ancestors were farmers, and that “farming was in our blood. … I inherited that.”Part of small time gardening’s success came from the efforts of the national government, which helped convince people to garden. It glorified these gardens, deeming them “Victory Gardens” because they allowed for a greater amount of supplies to be shipped to soldiers fighting in WWII. In my grandfather’s family, young children did not work on the gardens. As he grew up, however, he began to take on most of the gardening responsibility, and all of the hard labor went to him, while his mother helped out in other areas. Fortunately for him, his family moved to Connecticut when he was in high school, and a neighbor named Mr. Knapp helped plow the garden with his tractor. In addition, my grandfather’s dad got a machine called a rototiller, which dramatically helped him till the ground. These machines made work much easier, and they increased the size and productivity of his family’s garden.

ElectricGardenRototiller

Such help as that which my grandfather’s family received was not uncommon. In fact, families in the same neighborhood usually helped each other out when another was going through a tough time. For example, if a family was too sick to work, or if someone in that family was injured, their neighbors would work the garden until they recovered. Families also shared their harvests, and the elderly, especially, were given produce often. Only a few varieties of crops were planted by each family in my grandfather’s neighborhood, so families would trade surplus produce. My grandfather’s neighbors were very fond of growing zucchini, and they gave their extra stores of it to his family. There were a few staple crops that almost everyone grew. These included tomatoes, squash, green beans, corn, cucumbers, beets, bell peppers, and radishes.

vegetablegarden

After considering common issues in today’s society, my grandfather told me that he feels every family should have a garden. He then continued to tell me that if family members worked together on such a project, they would develop a closer bond with each Gardens have greatly affected Missouri. Cities, communities, and even individuals are different as a result of it.  This lifestyle has become a part of our heritage, and as long as there is a single gardener in Missouri, it will always be important.  Regardless of how it is conducted, gardening will always play a role in shaping our culture.other. He also explained that young children would come to develop an understanding and appreciation for gardening and hoped that they would eventually begin a similar project with their own families, continuing the cycle.  He concluded, “There’s just something about going out and picking garden-fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, or green beans. There’s a sense of accomplishment. It would help teach responsibility to children.” He told me that it is easy to get into gardening, and that there is a variety of gardens that can be grown, such as flower and vegetable gardens.

 

 

Citations

Gilbert, Dennis.  Personal interview.  24 Nov. 2012

“Victory Garden.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.

Berger, David. “Country Lore: Homemade Rototiller.” Mother Earth News. N.p., Apr.-May 2007. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

“Retired Man Cultivating Plants.” 123RF Stock Photos. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

Stambaugh, Liz. “How Personal Recycling Can Help Your Garden And Wallet.”Examiner.com. N.p., 10 Mar. 2009. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

Selasa. “Guide Food Travel.” : WWII Rationing: Golden Barley Soup and Mock Duck. N.p., 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.

Growing Up In Missouri

poor-farm-feature

Linda Rasmussen grew up on a farm in Missouri. She lived in McDonald County until 1958, when her parents bought the property east of Neosho, where she still lives today. It is where the old county “poor farm” used to be, but it was just a normal farm when Linda and her family moved there. Before America had welfare, individual counties had a “poor farm” and were  saddled with the cost of providing care for their poor, their elderly, and many of those with mental illnesses. There is a cemetery in the field of what was once the “poor farm,” but there are no gravestones. Several outbuildings are still on the property.

The “poor farm” used to consist of a twenty-five-room house that was built on the property in the late 1800s. The farm closed around 1950 or 1951, and the house was later torn down. Linda’s father then built the house where she and her family lived. As a kid growing up on the property, Linda always had something to explore.

Even though Linda grew up on a farm, she wasn’t much of a farm girl. Her dad, Dewey, did most of the work. She says that when she helped she mostly got in the way and slowed down his routine. Linda’s favorite thing about living on a farm was the summer haying weather. She got to watch the teenage boys that were on hay hauling crews as they put the hay up into the barn. Besides raising hay, the family also raised cattle on the farm. It wasn’t like today’s big dairy farm operations, but her father did have automatic milkers. The cows had to be milked twice daily. The milkman came daily or every other day and took the cans of milk off for processing. One cow thought that she was a pet–her name was Pansy–and she would follow Dewey everywhere he went. Pansy would even let kids ride her. Linda didn’t really like chickens, but she had a pet chicken named Penny.
When Linda was about six or seven she would go down to the wash-house. She didn’t do much at the wash house, but she liked going down there because she got to hang out with other kids her age. One time in particular, she went down in her little brown coat and matching hat. She was playing outside with some other children when a rooster came running at her. The rooster attacked her and pecked her in the head over and over again. He knocked her little brown hat right off. Some parents came out to see what all the screaming was about, and a man kicked the rooster off of my grandmother. A women scooped her up and rushed her into the house. Linda still remembers lying in her mother’s lap, her blood dripping into the Enamelware dishpan, like it was yesterday. It was a bad day for Linda, but it was also a bad day for the rooster. For dinner that night the family had a big pot of fresh rooster and dumplings.
Linda sewed a lot of her own clothes. She learned to sew at a very early age and was very good at it. She made most of her clothes, as did many girls.  During the mid 60s, “pegged” leg jeans were the style. They are what we would call “skinny jeans.” Even though they didn’t have skinny jeans like we do today, they had to peg their jeans on the sides to make them so skinny they could barely pull them on. To make the jeans even more skinny, they would sit in a bathtub full of water to get them wet, then they would get out and let them dry on their bodies. Linda had it down to a science, and she used to be known for having the skinniest jeans in school.

Linda had two brothers. Since she was the only girl, she wasn’t expected to do as much work as the boys. Although she didn’t do as much farm work, she still learned how to work and she learned morals. She knows the sacrifices that her parents made for the family. Unlike many of the youth today, she was taught that food doesn’t magically appear on the shelves of Wal-Mart. Linda was taught that we need to be grateful for farmers.

When Linda was growing up, most kids didn’t have their own car and didn’t expect one. They drove their parents’ cars. A lot of the boys had jobs working on farms, grocery stores, and feed stores. A few girls had babysitting jobs, but most didn’t work. Linda was never allowed to work when she was younger: “I suppose that was a means of control, but mostly it was due to a high school girl named Cathy. She worked as a carhop at a hamburger joint and my dad said I wasn’t going to work at a place like that and get the reputation she had with boys.” Linda got her first job when she was older, during the summer between her Junior and Senior year. She babysat two boys for $20.00 a week.

Today is a lot different from when Linda grew up. They didn’t have cell phones. In fact, almost everyone had party line home phones. That means they had to share the telephone line with several of their neighbors. They would pick up the phone to use it and someone might already be on it. Or they’d be talking to their friend and the nosey, grumpy old neighbor down the road would either listen in on their conversation or tell them to get off. They didn’t have computers either. People heard rumors about computers as big as a house, owned by government entities, and how they would take over the world. Computers were something to fear. The first television that Linda’s family bought was black and white only. The family didn’t have colored televisions until Linda was in junior high. When she was really young and living in Pineville, they only had two stations. They got ABC and NBC, and that’s if they were lucky!

Microwave ovens were something that no one could have ever imagined. “To be able to cook a baked potato in a matter of a few minutes… impossible!” She didn’t grow up with air conditioning, either. The family got their first window air conditioner when Linda was in high school. Dishwashers were new, too. Linda was the dishwasher until she was in high school when the family got their first real dishwasher. She still had to pre-wash everything before putting it in the dishwasher. Growing up, they had metal ice trays. The kind that had a lever that they had to pull to break the ice into cubes. Linda hated those metal ice trays. “Sometimes, if your fingers were at all wet when you were trying to get the ice out, your fingers would stick to the metal and it hurt!” Ice was something that they pretty much rationed. “I’m sure there’s some other things that I didn’t have growing up that I have now, but I wouldn’t trade the era in which I grew up for anything!” declares Linda.

Linda grew up right here in Missouri on a farm in Neosho, the only girl of three kids. Even though she wasn’t much of a farm girl, she still learned good farm work ethics. The times are a lot different now than when Linda grew up. Her childhood was very interesting, and she said she wouldn’t trade it for the world. My grandmother loved growing up in Missouri in the ‘50s and the ‘60s.

Smiles and Seeds

Easter 2012 062

Shirley Ramsour, age 90, was born and raised in Joplin. Though her mother, Rose, died from pneumonia when she was seven years old, Shirley lived a very privileged life. Her father was an architect and they lived in a grand house that looked like a castle on the outside.

Before Shirley’s mother passed away, she was an avid gardener and had a large garden. When Rose was in the garden, Shirley was always there to help. It might have been little tasks such as pulling weeds or counting seeds, but she remembers her mother giving her great amounts of praise for the help.

Before she got sick, Rose did all the landscaping for the house. Shirley and her sister Margot would be amazed by the fact that their mother could plant a whole garden in a day’s time. Shirley said her mother taught her that she could not count on every single seed sprouting, and that only three out of four seeds would grow.

Shirley’s family had a nanny that lived with them. She cleaned the house, cooked the food, and took care of the children when their mother was out. The nanny insisted she would help Rose in the garden, but Rose simply refused, though she allowed Shirley to help.

Sometimes, when Rose cut fresh flowers from the garden, she would let Shirley and Margot have a few. The sisters would go to the end of the street, set up a booth, and try to sell the flowers to the residents of the neighborhood.

The sisters would go to the market with Rose at the beginning of spring and help her pick out seeds and plants for that year’s gardens. Shirley and Margot would run up and down the aisles looking at all sorts of seeds. They would pick out many packets just because of the color and picture of the flower on the front. A package of sunflower seeds cost five cents in 1920.

“My favorite memory of my mother was of a spring day when I was five years old. I woke up to sunshine streaming through my window, and I went to the window and saw that all of the flowers in the garden had bloomed. There were gorgeous petunias, beautiful tulips, and blushing rose bushes. The grass had been freshly cut and it glimmered with morning dew. I remember intently watching my mother’s face. She turned around in a few circles, admiring her work. Then, she had the biggest smile on her face. It was very enlightening to see how proud my mother was. Gardening meant a lot to her because back in her time women were not allowed to do much, and gardening was an escape for my mother.”

After Rose died, Shirley and her sister no longer gardened. Their father hired a gardener to take Rose’s place. It made Shirley sad to see other people work in her mother’s gardens, but she and her sister both knew that they could not make the gardens as beautiful as their mother had made them.

Shirley married Bart Ramsour in 1947. As soon as they got settled in their home, Shirley decided she wanted to start a garden. “I thought I had forgotten all that my mother had taught me. Once I started buying the seeds and digging up the earth, I knew that the knowledge had not left me, it had just been tucked in the back of my mind.”

Shirley says gardening is a great escape. It is hard work, but the end result brings joy and beautiful sights to set one’s eyes upon. Some of the traditions of gardening have changed but one thing remains the same: gardens can be the window to a beautiful soul.

Ramsour, Shirley. Personal Interview. 22 Nov, 2012.

The Lost Art of Self-Reliance

DSCN1256

Knowing how to sew and make one’s own clothes is one step toward being self reliant; knowing how to grow and preserve one’s own food is another. My grandmother grew up in the post-depression era, and her family was heavily impacted by the Great Depression. They learned how to take care of themselves.

There were many skills that were deemed necessary for survival, but the most important was, as my grandmother said, “all of them.” One of the great many skills that my grandmother utilized quite heavily was the art of sewing and cloth making. She used to, and still continues, to make her own clothes and quilts. It is not a skill that one forgets when it is used to survive the harsh times; the clothes that she makes represent a lifetime of fending for one’s self. The stitchings in her work show a level of mastery that can only be rivaled by the modern mass made sewing machines. The amount of time and art that is put into the making of her clothes shows a level of determination that has all but disappeared in today’s society.

The life that many Americans lead in these modern times is one of mass production and mass waste. In the Depression Era there was little to no waste, and anything and everything that could be saved was saved and reused later. The amount of things that people were able to use time and time again was tremendous! Some food preservation techniques were advanced and effective. Take the art of canning.  Canning was a very effective method of food preservation. It allowed for things such as jellies and fruits to be preserved for long periods of time without spoiling. Canning was a tremendous breakthrough for the world of food preservation and was utilized by many, many people to save all that they could. My Grandmother is among them.

My grandmother has been described by many as “eccentric” because she does numerous things to prepare for times of crisis, such as growing her own food. The art of growing one’s own food has been around for centuries, and it allows for individuals to be reliant on themselves. This activity today tends to make people think of something that is “unique” or unneeded. Some people tend to rely heavily on the almighty supermarket, oftentimes spending hundreds of dollars just to have food for only a few weeks. However, by raising their own food, like my grandmother, they would be able to eat for months for a rather small amount of money.

My grandmother still uses the skills she learned as she grew up in the Post-Depression Era. She can make her own clothes and her own quilts, she can grow and preserve her own food, and she knows how make it through tough times. She is truly a shining example of self-reliance in the world of today.

Joplin: The Origins

photostream

Joplin, just like the many other cities and towns in the area, has a rich history that is remembered by the many generations that have lived here. One of these residents, Mrs. Irma Gerd, shares the memories and stories of historic Joplin with us.

Born in 1936, Mrs. Irma Gerd grew up in a family of four. Her father, Robert Johnson, used to work in the mines. She recalls him telling her of the beginning of Joplin and how at first, this city used to be only a few mining camps. Soon, those small camps joined together and decided to establish a town in the area. They decided to name the town after Reverend Harris G. Joplin. Consequently, our great city was born.

Not long after this, the extensive mining in the area attracted railroads. Following these railway systems, all sorts of different people started showing up in Joplin. Mrs. Gerd remembers her father telling her of how Joplin started growing rapidly, with new stores and inns being built and more and more settlers moving in. Not long after, funds were raised to build Joplin’s first library, known today as the Carnegie Library. Then, just six years before Mrs. Gerd was born, the grand commercial Electrical Theater was built.

“But after the golden age of Joplin came some troubling times,” Mrs. Gerd told me. The Great Depression took its toll on Joplin, and along with it came the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. “I remember my father’s friend, Mr. Hammond, as we knew him, was robbed by those two. They stayed in our town for a few weeks, well, at least that’s what we heard. No one really saw Bonnie and Clyde until right before they left.” They didn’t leave peacefully, either. The law was on their tail, but they made a narrow escape, killing a Newton County constable and a Joplin Police detective.

Soon after that, Joplin seemed to settle down a bit more. After World War II the mines started to close, and there weren’t a lot of people coming or going from the city. The main road through Joplin was designated as part of Route 66, which Mrs. Gerd remembers as a good time for Joplin.

Mrs. Irma Gerd met her husband, Richard Gerd, in 1972. They had two children, who now have families of their own. They live in Illinois and Michigan. Mr. and Mrs. Gerd plan to move soon in order to be with their children’s families. They will no doubt miss the great town that they are proud to call home.

“Through the years, I’d say Joplin has seen a fair share of interesting things,” Mrs. Irma Gerd told me. Joplin has had a rich history. It has been the home of numerous people, and most likely will be the home of many more in the future.

Quilting in the Lowe Household

QuiltFeature

Between this generation’s fast-paced lifestyle and technologically-centered world, we often neglect the memories of the past, especially those of our local communities.  The stories of those before us are quickly fading into the background, and it is our duty to document these accounts before it is too late.  When you first look at a quilt, you may not think it has much of a historical significance.  With a second glance, however, you can see that quilting can reveal a lot about the lifestyles of the time periods in which they were popular.  Marlene Lowe, 92, was gracious enough to provide an interview on the subject.

Marlene Lowe was born on January 22, 1920 in Anderson, MO. Quilting was a hobby that was close to her heart in her youth.  She mentioned that some of her favorite memories of her mother were during those times.1

“[She] was always busy taking care of all the kids at our house, so when she sat down to quilt, it was one of the few times I got to really spend time with her,” Lowe recalled.  “She’d tell me all the stories from when she was a little girl and teach me how to stitch each piece together.”1

“My mother was always quilting,” she said.  “She’d call up the ladies down the road and they’d come over and spend hours just quilting and talking about what was going on in town.  I’d sit and watch the whole time, listening to everything they had to teach me.”1

Lowe learned quilting from her mother when she was a young girl, and often spent time working on projects with her.  She made her very first quilt when she was ten years old, an item she still has in her possession today.  Her pride for that project was easily seen on her face as she described how she had constructed it, stitch by stitch.1

“It was a pretty thing,” she said, “made from a dress of mine that had little flowers all over it. I spent hours on it, making sure every piece was in the right place.  It was a lot of work, but the satisfaction I got when I was finished made it well worth the effort.” Lowe continued to quilt as she grew older, but was eventually forced to stop due to her arthritis.1

The process by which the quilts were fashioned is also interesting in itself.

“My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up,” Lowe explained.  “We couldn’t afford to buy fabric from the stores, so we used old clothing.  I was the youngest in my family, so I got all my sisters’ hand-me-downs.  When I outgrew them, my mother would cut them up and take whatever fabric she could from them to make a new quilt.”1

According to her description, making a quilt was an extensive process.  To begin, it was best to lay all of the pieces onto the floor in order to see the entire quilt. Then, piece by piece, women would stitch every seam by hand, unless the quilter was fortunate enough to be able to afford a sewing machine.  Batting, a soft material used as padding, was then stitched to the patterned front.  Another large piece of fabric was added behind that, and all seams were stitched over once more to ensure everything was secure.1

Quilts were heavily used throughout the Lowe household.

“We used those quilts constantly in the winter,” she recounted.  “We had a wood stove, but it was hard to keep the whole house warm.  We’d put three or four quilts on our bed at a time to make sure we stayed warm during the night.”1

This was common during the 1930s.  The Depression was gripping the nation at the time, and money was hard to come by, as the Lowe household knew very well.  Quilts were an inexpensive way to guarantee that the entire family stayed warm.  This was also the time period when quilting patterns became extremely popular.  Quilters no longer had to trace pattern pieces and mark lines for cutting and sewing.  It was common for patterns to be sold in local grocery stores or distributed in magazines. If a pattern was purchased, it was typically shared with friends.2 This activity not only gives insight into the hobbies of those that lived in the World War II era, but also marks the stories of the lifestyle during one of our nation’s most defining periods.

Quilting was a large part of our national and local history that is often overlooked today, like many aspects of our former times. It is important that we ensure these details are documented before they are gone forever.  We as a generation must learn to look to our future, while never forgetting our past .

 

1. Lowe, Marlene. “Quilting in the Lowe Household.” Personal interview. 24 Nov. 2012.

2. MacDowell, Marsha. “Quilting in the 1930s.” RJR Fabrics. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov.

2012. <http://www.rjrfabrics.com/_media/patterns/pdf/pages/trip_world_03.pdf>.

Growing up a Preacher’s Kid

Old Peach Tree

Sharon Morris was the daughter of Everett and Mary Coleman. In 1928, her family donated land to the community where a church and schoolhouse were built. The church was called Peach Tree General Baptist Church, and it is still running today in the small town of Piedmont, Missouri. Everett and Mary lived on a farm with their six children, five boys and one girl. Everett worked at Brown Shoe Factory and was a preacher. Mary was a homemaker.

Although there were advantages and disadvantages to being a preacher’s kid, Morris said they still didn’t mind it. “It wasn’t bad. I can remember traveling to and from different churches in the car with a whole load of brothers.” However, she feels she was sometimes treated differently because of her father’s occupation.“Some of the popular girls would laugh about it. My closest friends didn’t.” Morris says that sometimes her life was different than her friends.  “My parents were always strict and I never got to go to school dances; that bothered me then.”

Sharon married Larry Morris and they raised two kids. She hopes that she has taught her children many things that she learned from her parents. “I wanted my kids to be able to participate in the sports and school activities that I couldn’t, but I do appreciateThe New Peach Tree growing up knowing I was loved and was taught values. These I tried to pass on to my children.”

Recalling memories from her childhood–some good, some not so good–Morris stated that “the worst I can remember was coming home in a bad snowstorm and wondering if we would make it. And then there was the time my dad hit a mule on the road on the way to church. We did go on to church, I believe.”

Morris now has four grandchildren with whom she is very close. How she was raised affected the way she raised her children and the way they are raising their children. She hopes her grandchildren will “be honest and work hard and love God.”

Though many kids have grown up as a preacher’s kid, Morris recognizes that the times have changed tremendously. “I think as a preacher’s kid now, they aren’t as strict and it is a lot easier to be in school activities.”

Many things have changed since the 1920s-1930s, but according to Morris the life of a preacher’s kid has stayed virtually the same.

Joplin, Missouri: Then and Now

joplin-main-street

Joplin has changed tremendously in the past 90 years. There are obvious differences in the style of clothes, the type of food,
and the norms of society.

Ninety-one year old Bettye Foust, who now lives at Spring River Christian Village Nursing Home, was born and raised in Joplin, Missouri. When she was a kid she lived in a small home with three brothers and sisters. Helping out around the house and with the preparation of food wasn’t mandatory for them, but they did pitch in every once in awhile.

“Back then, kids didn’t really help out too much; we definitely didn’t help out as much as we should have. When we did, though, it was always fun,” said Foust.

Foust attended high school at the old Memorial High School where Joplin High School’s ninth and tenth center is now located. School was very different back then, as everything was done on paper or a black board. Now, Joplin High School students use  laptops and Smart Boards.

"Historic Joplin." Historic Joplin RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

“Historic Joplin.” Historic Joplin RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

As was common in the 1920s, Foust’s clothes were made by her mother most of the time. She wore cotton dresses that went down to about mid-calf. Pants were not allowed for women at the time.  Although her family did not have a farm, they did have one dairy cow that provided milk for their family, and sometimes for the neighbors. Foust’s daily diet was mainly starches; she had tomatoes and potatoes that her family grew in their garden. Meat, when they had it, was a luxury. Only the richer families could afford to have meat for dinner.

“We only had meat a couple of times, from what I can remember, but when we did, I savored every last bite of it,” said Foust.

Downtown Joplin in the late 20s was the place to be on the weekends. Not only was every business located there, but there were frequent festivals and parades.

“There was always something going on, on a Friday or Saturday. It would be packed with so many people. Sometimes it felt like all

MorgueFile Free Photo.” IMG_9727-lt.jpg. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

of Joplin was there. It was definitely the place to hangout,” recalled Foust.

Every summer around May, Joplin would have a huge festival that just about everyone would attend. There were tons of food to eat and numerous activities to participate in. The activities brought people from anywhere around Joplin who would come to join in the fun. Foust recalls that one year there was even a ferris wheel that, at the time, was the biggest one in the US.

Joplin sure seemed the place to be in the late 1920s. It has grown in many ways and one can assume it will continue to grow.

Segregation in Southwest Missouri

Main_Street_Looking_South_Joplin_MO

In 1910, the total black population of Joplin was approximately 800 out of a total population of approximately 32,000.  Thus, the African American community represented only about 2.5% of the city’s population.  Despite being such an insignificant portion of the population, the de facto laws of segregation were in strong effect in 1913.  The effect of the segregation struck one prominent Joplin businessman when he took his son to the local playground.  He recounted later, “The other night I went to the playground with my son.  It made my heart ache to see the wistful faces of the negro children outside the fence, and know that they could not enter.”

It was not merely the denial of the playground to the black children that upset the businessman, but also that, “Unlike white children, the negro kiddies cannot have the swimming privilege of the amusement parks of the district.”  Additionally, the businessman noted, “they are not allowed to attend many moving picture theaters, and are confined to a balcony in those places they are allowed to enter.  The streets and alleys are the only places they are welcome.  When they grow up they are unwelcome almost everyplace they visit.  It is not right.”

Lifelong Joplinite Michael Lyons,  shares in these distinct memories. Mike was born and raised in Joplin Missouri.  Lyons attended the Lincoln School, and then went to high school at Joplin Senior High School having graduated in 1963.  Lyons recalls the horrific story that led to the drop of African American population in the Joplin area, which took place in 1919. The African American people were rounded up by police and taken out to a field on the south side of town, “A young black male was accused of raping a white girl, the people had to watch a fellow African American lynched and murdered in cold blood, it was a dark time in America and Joplin.” That very night, Joplin lost over half of its roughly 14% population of African American’s.

 Lyon’s mother was born and raised in Joplin as well, she was born in 1922. “She remembers quite well the anger and hate that people of color endured in this town, we weren’t in the deep South but we sure were not in the North” Joplin and surrounding areas were split pretty even when it came to segregation. From the time of being a young man, Mike recalls the side of Joplin which African American’s predominantly lived until the late 1970’s early 1980’s (which runs parallel to current day Langston Hughes Boulevard.) “There was a black cemetery, school, and park, movie theatre if you drive down here today you will see where another town was at one point” Lyons adds how many African American people including himself still live in the area, and how it is hard for many people to leave the part of town that they have grown up in, “I would never leave this part of town, many of my friends who I grew up with, my mother and brothers all live down here” The attachment runs deep, for Lyons with his strong Joplin ties.

Over the years the city of Joplin, Southwest Missouri, and America have had their shortcomings on the issue of race, things have progressively gotten better since the mid 1960’s, however there is still work to do, I believe we all realize this, so the progression goes on, and just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We all have a dream.”

                                                                           MLA Citation

……. Joplin Herald, 1910. November 24th 2012
Lyons, Mike. Personal Interview. November 25th 2012.
Powered by WordPress | Designed by: diet | Thanks to lasik, online colleges and seo