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Opal The Business Woman Welder by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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Parental Portrait for Christmas

 

Opal

The Business Woman

Welder

OPAL M DELONG WARREN_resized

 

Opal

Opal M. DeLong Warren was born in 1920, the year women got the “right to vote” in Missouri. Opal never claimed to be a feminist or a women’s libber, but, she bought land in Missouri in her own name at a time, when a woman usually had to buy land in her father’s name or a husband’s name. She bought land in Texas in her own name, when usually a woman had to purhase land in a father or husband’s name. When it came to “business”, Opal didn’t take risk. Her financial secret was, “she learned to save and manage her money.” During World War II, Opal worked as a welder in the Todd-Houston shipyard.

 

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren, my mother, began telling me her “business stories” as soon as my young ears could add meaning to sound.

 

Like my father, Samuel, my mother, Opal, had grew up “dirt poor.”

 

Aries Entrepreneur Grandfather

 

Charley Herman DeLong, my mother’s father, had been born an Aries. He apparently was an Aries man, who never succeeded in a business of any kind.

 

He had tried several different business enterprises in his life and never found his niche.

 

Grandpa DeLong didn’t make it as a farmer, but, his eldest son, Richard the Capricorn learned how to plant crops and raise livestock.

 

Grandpa had a short career as a fur trapper. But, he never made any money selling animal pelts, so his old animal traps got inherited by momma.

 

Missouri Moonshine Manufacturer

 

 

Grandpa DeLong even tried his hand at alcohol production. Not a wise decision, in the years, when “Prohibition” was “The Law Of The Land” in the United States.

 

One of momma’s earliest memories is that her father would have her stay in a holler, during the day, while he went to work deeper in the holler at an undisclosed location,

 

Of course, if their was any “commotion” in the woods, young Opal had been told to yell and run frantically through the woods screaming.

 

Grandpa like other “moonshiners” kept his still hidden in the woods. Unfortunately, the brewing process creates smoke that rises into the sky and can be seen for miles away, especially by the sheriff and deputies looking for the still.  THE LITTLE BROWN JUG OF STONE COUNTY MISSOURI_4584_resized

 

Momma told me she did remember Grandpa staying for a time in the courthouse at Galena. As a young girl, she got to “visit” him for awhile.    

This little brown jug belonged to Charley Herman DeLong, who tried his hand at making Missouri “Moonshine.” Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Stone County, Missouri courthouse records reveal “Grandpa DeLong” was a “guest of Stone County and The State Of Missouri.” He had been caught at his still and didn’t have money for bail.

 

Momma always told me she was “a daddy’s girl.” While momma respected and admired her father, she must of known in her heart that his lack of success in a legal business had to be one of the reasons it was difficult for the family to “make ends meet.”

 

Grandpa DeLong’s

Great Business Decision

 

Grandpa DeLong tried throughout his life to find a successful way to make money for his family. He made one great business decision that stood the test of time.

 

His signature is on the yellowing Bank of Reeds Spring “loan” paperwork where he signed for five dollars to “buy” a pear orchard. The Land joined Land already owned by the DeLong Family.

 

In The Great Depression, the purchase of the pear orchard was a “wise” decision. Commercial cattle and hog feed had not been introduced into rural southwest Missouri farms beyond Greene County. Even if farmers knew about the feed, they would not of had the money to buy it. Cattle had to live off acorns and the pasture grasses and perhaps, some hay in the winter.

 

Hogs find food by routing their snouts in the soil and finding what they want to eat like roots, worms and snakes that slither away too slow.

 

The Slop Bucket

 

In the country, before the 1970s, homes didn’t have waste cans and trash cans. The Slop Bucket sit on the floor. Old dishwater, vegetable peelings, fruit rinds and old meat got dumped into the slop bucket.

 

Before nightfall, the slop bucket was taken down on the hill to the hog pen and poured into the trough. Hogs, “The Almighty’s Ultimate Shredding And Recycle Machines” would consume the kitchen garbage.

 

Hogs are “Bulldozers With An Appetite” because they drop their snouts in the soil and bulldoze away at anything that slips between their teeth.

 

Like people, hogs eat pears. While people pick the pears to eat right off the trees. The pears can also be chilled for use in a dessert. Grandma and other women, would save the pears for the “canning” process to save the pears in Mason jars.

 

Ozarks women were skilled at canning the fruit and using different fruits for preserves, jams and jellies.

 

Through the years, the pear orchard provided the DeLong Family, the hogs, and local neighbors with bushel baskets of pears for food. While the DeLong Family, to my knowledge, never charged anyone for picking pears, there are commercial orchards in the United States where the farmers charge people to pick the fruit,

 

The pear orchard is an excellent example of a piece of land that always paid for itself several times over until it was sold with the rest of the land in 2007.

 

Martha

My Virgo Agribusiness Grandmother

 

Grandma DeLong, a Virgo woman had to earn a daily living for the family. She would gather the chicken eggs, milk the cows to churn butter and then walk miles to a local store at Sack And All City, a rural grist mill and country store, or to Reeds Spring to sell them to a larger grocer.

 

In spring through autumn, Grandma and Uncle Richard would take the buckboard wagon into the woods to cut down trees for two weeks at a time, They would take the logs on the wagon to Reeds Spring to sell to the Union Pacific buyer, who bought the logs for railroad ties.

 

On the DeLong Land in Stone County, Missouri, Grandma DeLong always “put out” a large “truck patch” garden. She would use her “Ladies’ Birthday Almanac” to plant the vegetable seeds in the “sign.”

 

Blackberry Season and Gooseberry Season, Grandma DeLong would “fetch” her bucket and head off down over the hill into the hollers to pick the berries for pies, cobblers and canning.

 

The Tree Tragedy

 

On one of these annual berry-picking trips, one of grandma’s sisters from Springfield had come to visit for the day. Grandma’s sister went into the woods with the rest of the women to pick berries. A tree fell on the woman.

 

An obituary in the Springfield newspaper recounts the tragic accident. The old tree simply fell and the woman was unable to move out of the path of the falling tree.

 

The Land Plan

 

My Virgo grandmother with the help of Richard, her eldest Capricorn son always made the ends meet to raise the rest of the family whether they lived in a holler, near Reeds Spring, or out on the highway between Galena and Abesville.

 

Grandma and Uncle Richard raised the livestock and the crops that paid for the DeLong Land between Galena and Abesville. Uncle Richard worked with an extension agent to get two ponds dug and stocked on the farm with catfish.

 

Human Shock Absorbers

In his younger years, Uncle Richard would break the ground by Highway A and plant rows of corn. One year, Cousin Donna and I sat on the disk harrow that was attached to the back of the John Deere A Model tractor.

 

A huge rock surrounded by bailing wire was tied to each end of the harrow to try to keep the metal frame weighed down close to the soil. I and Cousin Donna were the human weights that sat on the plow.

 

The slender metal disc points went down into the soil and kept digging up rocks of all sizes from Stone County’s rocky, dusty, light gray soil. By day’s end, Cousin Donna and I looked like we were covered by the volcanic ash of Mount Pinatubo.

 

The soil had been broke to plant the corn. We had sat on the plow, which had been dragged over the acreage to break the soil. The Life Of A Human Shock Absorber is not a job I ever wanted after being bounced around over the countryside for 12 hours.

 

Farm Ponds For Fishing

 

The ponds provided water for the cattle, hogs and a few head of horses and mules. Uncle Charley Ball, of Springfield, Missouri, always looked forward to the visits to “Richard and Marthy” because he could take the fishing rod out of the back of his green 1952 Chevrolet sedan and go sit on the pond bank to fish and smoke his pipe.

 

Grandma and Uncle Richard’s agricultural business decisions allowed the DeLong Family to farm and own 360 acres, on both sides of State Highway 176 in Stone County, in southwest Missouri from the 1930s until 2007.

 

Opal’s First Public Job

 

Opal had always been tall for her age. She went to school and learned to cook for her brothers, who were out in the fields farming, near Reeds Spring and later, near Abesville, Missouri.

 

At a young age, Opal worked for a few weeks cleaning house for a woman in Galena, known as “Grandma Stewart.” She lived in a white house, across the road, in front of the Warren Lumber Yard. “I made 25 cents a week. I got paid to clean her house,” said Opal.

 

Opal’s First Public Job of earning a regular salary was in northern Missouri.

 

Brother Willie decided to become an “outdoors man” and lived off the land, near Reeds Spring and James River, hunting and fishing. Willie had a son, Harold, and a daughter, Reva. His life ended abruptly at a country wedding reception, near Reeds Spring, in the early 1930s.

 

A gunman began shooting people and Uncle Willie was fatally wounded.

 

Brother Hobert moved to a farm near Abesville. He and his wife, Mary had two sons, Bill, Bob and a daughter, Donna. Uncle Hobert always had the reputation of being a “marksman” and an excellent hunter. He would always return from the woods with “a mess of squirrels or rabbits” for dinner.

 

Brother Joe went to work for the Burlington Northern railroad and later retired back to Stone County, Missouri. He had a daughter, named Darlene, who lives in Michigan.

 

Opal, my Pisces mother, learned how to drive by sitting in a Ford Model T and having one of her brothers push the vehicle at the top of a hill. “As the vehicle rushed down off over the hill on the rough, gravel farm road, the engine would start. I would hold on to the steering wheel and turn it to keep the Model T in the road. That is how I learned to drive,” said Opal.

 

At about age 16, Opal hitchhiked up to northern Missouri and got a job on the Illinois and Missouri border, near St. Charles, Missouri. She was tall for her age, so no one asked for an I.D., and momma got her first job as a clerk in a “liquor store.”

 

She only worked at that job a few months, but, in the process, discovered “relatives” on her mother’s side that she never knew existed.

 

Carol Jane Bellamy

Sagittarian Family Banker

 

My great-grandmother and my mother’s grandmother,Carol Jane Bellamy, a Sagittarius woman, had left northern Missouri and moved to Stone County, Missouri sometime near 1900.

 

Great-grandmother Bellamy the Sagittarian, outlived her first husband. When her second husband didn’t want to leave northern Missouri. My great-grandmother embraced the Sagittarian passion for travel and the maternal love for her daughters and son and left her husband for a chance at a better life in Stone County, Missouri.

 

It was the right decision. Grandma Bellamy raised her children and became a financial role model for her Pisces granddaughter, Opal.

 

Momma always remembered, everyone was poor, but, Grandma Bellamy never went hungry and she kept her children from going hungry by always having enough money for food.

 

Long Lost Relatives

 

A woman who walked past the liquor store thought my mother looked familiar. She went in and talked to her, A few days later, the woman returned with a photo album. She asked momma if any of the people in the photographs looked familiar. Momma recognized a maternal aunt in one of the photos. Suddenly the family connections to northern Missouri cousins became clear and obvious.

 

You Have To Earn Your Way In The World

 

A young woman of The Great Depression, momma knew “You have to earn your way in the world,” Momma loved to remind me, “The world will not ‘give’ you a living; you have to ‘earn’ your way in the world. Work for what you have and want. No one is going to give you anything other than a hard time.”

 

Hospital Cook

 

Opal left northern Missouri and returned to Greene County, in southwest Missouri. For a brief time, she worked as one of the cooks at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

 

The old nuns on staff at the hospital were jealous of all the young girls on the staff and in the nursing school. They had all kinds of rules that made work and life difficult because they were always looking over your shoulder,” said Opal.

 

The cooking job at St. John’s didn’t pay enough to put up with that kind of silliness from the old nuns. I quit and found another better paying job that allowed me to make my own decisions about my life,” said Opal.

 

Railroad Bar And Grill Waitress

 

Then, momma went to work at a bar for railroad men, near Commercial Street in Springfield Missouri, and close to the Frisco railroad yard.

 

The railroad men worked hard and would come into the bar for something to eat or drink. I never had any problems being a young girl and working there. Times were tough. No one really had any money. You usually made enough just to get by from week to week,” said Opal.

 

The Bombing Of Pearl Harbor

 

I’ll never forget the day World War II started for the United States. I was sitting in a theater in Springfield, Missouri. They stopped the movie. The house lights came on. They made the announcement over the loud speaker that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed,” Momma said.

 

I was a young woman in Springfield. At the time, I was engaged to Lowell Wilson, a young Marine. His parents owned the Cortez Motor Court in Springfield. I really wasn’t ready to get married.”

 

When the war broke out, I talked to some other young women, who had joined the Army and the Navy in Springfield. I had my heart set on joining the Army for a time. There was an Army camp in Springfield. You could join up and serve, without ever leaving Springfield they told me,” said Opal.

 

Opal and another waitress at the railroad bar talked about the war. Then, on a whim, they went to the Greyhound bus station. They looked up at the destinations and chose Texas.

 

Momma and her friend, knew no one in Texas.

 

The Bus Trip

 

The decision was one of the craziest things I have ever done. I still don’t know why I did it. My friend and I were just tired of living and working in Springfield. We had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. We just went for a bus ride. We got on and off at the different stops,” said Opal.

 

We got off the Greyhound in Dallas. We looked around. She liked the look of Dallas and didn’t get back on the bus. I got back on the bus. When the bus, stopped in Houston, I got off and decided I liked the looks of Houston,”said Momma.

 

I walked out of the bus station and had no idea what I was going to do. I only had a few dollars left in my purse. I got a room at a boarding house, near the bus station for two dollars a week. The next day, I went out looking for work. I saw a newspaper ad that they were hiring welders at the Todd-Houston shipyard,” said Opal.

 

Bread And Water

 

I didn’t have any money for food. I just had a few cents left in my wallet, so I bought a couple of slices of bread. Water was free. I got a glass at the boarding house and got me a glass of water to have with my bread,”said Opal.

 

The heat in Houston would wear you out just walking up the street. There was an old electric fan in the room. I drew a tub of cool water and took my clothes off. I got in the tub, ate my bread and drank my water,” said Momma.

 

She had an overnight bag and a small suitcase to put in the boarding room closet. “I got up and got dressed the next day to go out looking for a job. I had a nice white satin blouse I wore. I got the job and they sent me straight to welding school the same day,” said Opal.

 

The Satin Blouse

 

Arc welding throws off sparks that hit my blouse all over. By the end of the day, I had all these tiny burnt pinholes all over my blouse. I was so embarrassed. I hunkered over in the bus seat. I kept my head down and my arms folded hoping that no one would notice how my skin was showing through the blouse. That was the longest bus ride home that night,” frowns Momma.

 

Anyone who ever met Opal M. DeLong Warren knew she was not the type of woman to act on a “whim.”

 

Youth can trump logic and common sense. The optimism of youth can shrug off the “Fear Of The Unknown.” Young people don’t fear the future; they challenge it.

 

Opal stayed on the job at the shipyard throughout the war building ships for the United States Navy, United States Merchant Marine, United States Coast Guard and welding on the “liberty ships.”

 

We were always so proud whenever we finished one of those big, beautiful ships. We would attend the christening and watch the ship slip down the rails of the dry dock into the water. Then, I would get sad. I would think about all the boys, who were going to sail on that ship into war,” said Momma.

 

The FBI Special Agent

 

Another welder at the shipyard, introduced himself to Opal. “He was a lousy welder. You would always have to go back, chip away at his welds and brush away the slag metal. Then, you would have to run a good bead of metal over the work. I couldn’t imagine why the bosses at the shipyard didn’t fire this man. We always had to go back over his work,” said Opal.

 

FBI LOGO_resizedHe invited me for a cup of coffee a couple of times. I always turned him down. “Then, one day, he came clean. He admitted he was an FBI agent working under cover. At first, I thought he was pulling my leg.”

 

A few days later, he did show me his badge. During the war, there was always the fear of saboteurs. There were posters all around the shipyard and the bosses and the foremen would always remind you, ‘Loose Lips Sinks Ships,’”said Momma.

 

He told me he had been sent there to look for someone. He didn’t get specific. I didn’t ask questions. He wanted me to introduce him to some of the workers around the shipyard and I did. He must of got whoever he was looking for. A few weeks later, we gave him a going away party as a welder, who was leaving,” said Momma.

 

Dollar Document

 

She reaches into her purse and takes out a one dollar bill. Carefully, she holds it and a portion of the dollar folds back. “I had never seen anyone split a dollar bill this way. At the party, he asked me for a dollar. I watched him move it between his fingers, until it started to separate. Then, he had people at the party sign the inside of the dollar bill. He laughed and told me, now, I had a souvenir to remember him by.” Momma laughs,”I still remember, he was a lousy welder.”

 

Lousy Painter

 

Opal became a shop steward at the shipyard. “I met your daddy at the shipyard. After he got his honorable discharge from the Army, he got on out at Todd-Houston as a painter. A friend set me up on a blind date for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t impressed.

 

Your daddy was a lousy painter. A friend told me later that the first time Sammy seen me, he told his friend, ‘I’m going to marry that woman.’ I accepted his invitation for a second date. We started dating. Then, in January of 1947, we got married,” said Momma.

 

Samuel E. Warren made a smart decision to marry Opal M. DeLong. His second smart decision was to marry her on his birthday, which meant he would never “forget” his anniversary.

 

Family Is Everything

 

Momma always stressed the importance of family to me in her business conversations. “You get many things in life. The only thing that matters is family. You get one mother. You get one father. Your brothers and sisters can’t be replaced. Once they are gone – they are gone. Always love and take care of your family. Family Is Everything,” she would emphasize time and again.

 

Momma told me that wherever she worked, she always sent money home to her mother. The psychology of the Ozarks at that time would never view the money as “charity.”

 

People in the Ozarks have a stubborn “work ethic.” The money was simply money from family for the family. And, family always takes care of one another.

 

Balancing The Books

 

As a kid, I would always smile whenever money changed hands in the DeLong Family. They always took a simple act of human kindness in the family and made it seem like Federal Reserve bankers accounting for each coin and currency in a US Mint shipment.

 

If Momma went to a grocery store and saw food or drink that grandma and Uncle Richard liked, she would buy it. Grandma DeLong always made Momma get her “change purse” and take out the money to pay for the groceries.

 

Uncle Richard always did the same thing if Momma picked up groceries or farm supplies for him.

 

It never mattered if the cost was a few cents or several dollars, Grandma and Uncle Richard always made sure Momma got paid back any money she spent for them.

 

Birthdays and Christmas were the only times that you could give Grandma DeLong or Uncle Richard a “gift” because they had the Ozarks belief that “You Pay Your Way In Life.”

 

Save And Manage Your Money

 

When Sammy and Opal got married,for a time, they lived at Opal’s apartment at 1414 Austin, Houston Texas. Opal M. DeLong Warren in her business stories always emphasized “Family” and “Save Your Money And Learn To Manage Your Money.”

Sam

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
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Written by samwarren55

December 20, 2012 at 7:35 AM

Posted in Bloggers, Blogs, Business, Editorial, Family, Money, Opinion, Stone County History

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