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Christmas Day in the Ozarks 1966 by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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Childhood Christmas Celebration

 

Christmas Day in the Ozarks

1966

COUNTRY LAMPS

 

The Ozarks’

Kerosene Lamps

The Ozarks Electric Cooperative and White River Electric Cooperative were two Ozarks power companies that were working to provide consistent, stable electricity to the farms and homes of Stone County, Missouri in the 1960s. In the winter, Ozark’s snowfall would bring trees and limbs down on power lines and families would have to resort to kerosene lamps at night until the power companies could get back into the rural hills and hollers to repair or replace the power poles. In the southwest Missouri Ozarks’ snow is usually on the ground for Christmas Day,so these decorative “coal-oil” lamps were always an important functional holiday decoration to have ready throughout the winter. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Friday December 9, 1966

I come back home from school and Momma has a four foot Christmas Tree set up. The cedar tree looks impressive sitting in the three pound Folgers Coffee can in the center of the wooden office desk.

 

The heavy wooden desk had originally belonged to J. Frank Couch, of Gilmer, Texas. Papa Warren had bought it from J. Frank and given it to Momma, “for Sam Junior to do his school work on.” It is a beautiful, heavy flat top wooden desk, with a slender middle drawer and three deep side drawers on each side.

 

Gravel from the driveway is packed tightly around the trunk of the tree. This year, like the years before, Momma had walked into the woods, across the road, with her ax and cut down the tree.

 

I know I will have to “water” the tree to try and keep it alive until Christmas.

 

christmas-tree-logo-photo-two-thumbnail_thumb[1]The nice thing about our Christmas Trees is they were “FREE”. One plant, other than ragweed, that seems to appreciate Stone County, Missouri’s rocky soil is cedar trees.

 

Momma’s “Warren Land” and Uncle Richard’s “DeLong Land” kept the Stone County courthouse in Christmas Trees for more than a decade.

 

Late November or early December, someone from the county would “stop by” and ask Momma if the county could get a Christmas Tree off of her land or Uncle Richard’s. Momma’s standard response: “Take an ax and cut as many as you want.”

 

Momma had her box of Christmas decorations sitting on the floor by the desk. I reached in and got the little strips of flimsy aluminum that is suppose to represent icicles and put it on the branches.

 

Later, Reynolds Wrap aluminum from the kitchen will swaddle the coffee can to become the tree skirt. It will give me something to do after I finish my homework.

 

When I got home from school, the old white Chevrolet pickup was parked in the driveway, which meant Momma was home. I suspect that she is down on the hillside in one of the hog houses, which means one of the old sows is probably ready to have pigs.

 

A few minutes later, Momma came in and said, “One of the old sows is acting up. I put her in the shed. She will probably have pigs tonight or in the morning. Do you have homework ?”

 

Yes, mam. I know, take off your school clothes and get on your homework.”

 

She smiles and nods.

 

Sam Junior’s Hot Dog Sandwiches

 

A couple of hours pass. I go in the kitchen and take wieners out of the ice box.

 

I know how to cook one thing – hot dogs.

 

I turn on the gas stove and heat up the water in a white enamel quart sauce pan. Once the water, steams and boils like a witches’ cauldron,then, I would dump in the wieners.

I come from a family that does not believe in “Raw Meat.” We cook our food. I would always wait until the steaming water bubbled like sulphuric acid.

 

I would watch the wieners boiled in the pan. Usually, I would take them out before they ruptured. Sometimes I would allow the hot water to rupture the wiener. Then, I would pour the hot water down the sink.

 

I had laid out slices of bread on the counter. With a layer of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip on the bread. If the wieners had not ruptured, then, I would take a butcher knife and slice the wieners lengthwise.

 

Once sliced, I would position the wieners on he bread and fold out the sides so that the wieners looked like tall, pink butterflies.

 

Two wieners on a slice of bread would fill the slice. I would spoon on relish. Then, I squirted on catsup and added a slice of cheese before using the other slice of bread as a top. On Momma’s hot dog sandwiches, I would add a squirt of French’s mustard.

 

In the dark ages, before the invention of the microwave, you had to be able to at least cook a little.

 

Hillbilly Hog Hospital

 

HOG HOUSE LANTERN THUMBNAIL 1Momma comes back to the house. She had a couple of hot dog sandwiches. Since the first grade, Momma has asked me what we had for lunch at school today. Usually, I remember. Today, I can’t remember.

“It is Friday, which means it is the weekend. She tells me about her day and I really don’t have anything interesting to tell about my school day. After a few minutes she heads back down on the hill to wait for the old sow to have the pigs.”

 

When you have three or four old sows, there is the likelihood that a couple of old sows may “pig” on the same night. When your herd is expanding toward the number 25, rest assured there will be days and nights when you feel like a nurse in a maternity ward rushing from one sow to another.

 

If Momma had a couple of old sows in “delivery mode”, she would keep an eye on one and I would “play doctor” for the other.

 

When a pig is born, the important function is to clear away the afterbirth from the nostrils so the little squealer can breath. Keep an eye on the sow, because a squeal from the newborn pig will have the old sow trying to get up to check on her baby.

 

Every now and then, Momma would have a “mean old sow” that would rather fight than have her pigs. You always kept your distance from an old sow in labor.

 

Momma comes back to the house. She has another old sow that will probably haveHOG HOUSE LANTERN THUMBNAIL 1 pigs tonight. She has already got that old sow in the lower shed. I just need to get ready and go down on the hill. She will keep an eye on the old sow in the upper shed. I get to watch the old sow in the lower shed. Daddy has the sheds wired for lights. The light in that shed usually works.

 

My old sow is not suppose to be mean. The sow Momma is watching is usually mean, when she starts to pig. I will just have to watch my old sow and make sure she doesn’t lay down on any of her pigs by accident.

 

A severe labor pain can cause an old sow to “jump up.” When an old sow jumps up from labor, she is fighting the pain and anything nearby that could be the source of her pain becomes the target.

 

Snorting and grunting the old sow will come at you. I was taught there is only one way to “Stop” an old sow or boar that is charging at you.

 

Farm stores don’t sell tranquilizer guns. Pharmacies don’t sell farmers Novocain or any type of livestock muscle relaxer drugs. The farmer has to rely on his God-given common sense and the shared knowledge from other farmers.

 

You pick up a stick of wood, a shovel, a hoe, an ax handle or any type of tool handle you can get your hands on. Then, you swing it down as hard as you can across the hog’s snout, That will stop the hog in it’s tracks” Momma told me time and again.

 

HOG HOUSE LANTERN THUMBNAIL 1Momma explained that you busted the item over the hog’s snout to stop it from charging at you. You can slap a hog on the side and it will shrug off the blow like a nuisance house fly. Hogs go through brush and saplings in the woods, so they just shrug off the scrapes and keep going.

 

I don’t know if the procedure would work for everyone, but the procedure always worked for me to stop our Yorkshire, Duroc and Hampshire sows. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it too often.

 

My old sow had 12 pigs. Momma’s old sow had 15. My old sow had a runt, but he looks okay.

 

Momma’s old sows averaged 12 to 18 pigs by the time she put the two bulk hog feeders out in the field. The bulk hog feeders were the science fiction equipment on any hog farm.

 

Take Me To Your Feeder”

 

By the early 1970s, Momma had bought two bulk hog feeders. The two fat, cylindrical tubes were connected to their respective oversized metal bowls that had a series of lids that hogs could raise with their noses.

 

Whenever I stood out in the field and looked at the bulk hog feeders they always looked like two strange fat, short, landed UFOs.

 

I could always imagine a tiny green man asking me to take him to my leader. I just always hoped I got to the little alien before one of the old sows went rooting around and decided that he looked more like a root than an alien.

 

Sunday, December 18, 1966

 

Daddy arrived from Houston early this morning. I love it when I see that blue and white fleet side half ton pickup pulling into the driveway. It means daddy is home for a couple of weeks.

 

Aunt Bill sent me one of her German Chocolate Cakes. And, the white coffee can tin with the gold shape of the state of Texas was packed to the brim with Aunt Bill’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. She packed the cookies in wax paper in the can,so they did not crumble. I love these cookies.

 

When daddy came home for the Fourth of July, he didn’t go by Aunt Bill’s house before he headed for Missouri. Daddy said Aunt Bill got on to him for not stopping at her house first, because she had some chocolate chip cookies to send to me. This time, daddy said, Aunt Bill didn’t take any chances. She made sure she and Uncle Audrey went by the house the night before daddy left out for Missouri. Thanks to Aunt Bill, we got the cake and the cookies.

 

I don’t know if we will go Christmas shopping in Springfield tonight. I know daddy is tired from the drive, but I hope we get to go.

 

I did get to go Christmas shopping, The trip from Houston to Galena always wore you out. I know daddy had to be tired, but he knew that I looked forward to him coming home for the holidays. We looked everywhere for the Operation game. We spent every night going shopping before Christmas.

 

Monday, December 19, 1966

 

I didn’t have to ride the bus from school tonight. Daddy and Momma picked me up once school let out and we headed to Springfield to do more Christmas shopping. I really want the “Operation” game for Christmas. Store after store in Springfield said they had it, but it sold out fast.

 

Last weekend, I even talked Momma into going to Springfield and going “down on the square.” Momma doesn’t like shopping on the square. It is always a pain for her or daddy trying to find a place to park to shop on the square.

 

Earlier in the month. Momma and I went to Aurora to the stores, to try and find the game. No luck.

 

I didn’t get the Operation game for Christmas. That year we left no stone unturned trying to find the game.

 

In the 1960s, The Ozarks seemed a remote location “right smack dab in the center of the United States.: If something “new” in terms of fashion, toys or technology got released or announced in New York City or Los Angeles it meant that it would be at least six months and probably a year before the item would be released and available for purchase in The Ozarks.

 

December 2011, I was curious about the types of toys the stores are selling for kids at Christmas. I strolled into the toy aisle of the Wal-Mart store in Branson West Missouri, there in the games section were plenty of brand new “Operation” games waiting for parent and grandparents to purchase them.

 

 

Home Sweet Hen House

 

I started school at Abesville Elementary in 1960. Momma and I arrived and she was looking for a small place to buy, so I could go to school in Missouri. If I started school in Missouri I could start at age five. If I were to start school in Texas I would have to wait until age six.

 

Momma already owned her land in Missouri that she and daddy planned to build their “Dream Home” on when he retired. Time and again, I heard her tell people we were just looking for a place we could, “batch.” I understood it to mean a “temporary” location.

 

We ended up with a house about a quarter of a mile down the road from Grandma and Uncle Richard. It was a weird house. It had a weird design. US houses in Missouri had gabled roofs.

Our house had a “Hen House” roof. Technically, the roof style is called a, “Shed Roof.” However, in Missouri in the 1960s, when people built their chicken houses they seemed to use the slanted roof.

 

Ernest Cloud build our house. Everyone always talked about the beautiful work Ernest did as a cabinet maker. The story is that whenever there were leftover pieces from construction jobs that he worked on, he would use those materials and built the house that we lived in.

 

In The Ozarks, in the 1960s people were building homes out of beautiful red brick. Older homes that used the giant rocks belonged to the 1930s, 1940s and a few to the 1950s. The rock houses had huge rock and a wide white line between the stones.

 

Alas, our hen house was a rock house. It had a garage attached, which only served to continue the hen house look.

 

In the beginning, even though we lived by the state highway, there were so many trees in the yard, the house was almost completely hidden from the highway.

 

A slight pig trail through the trees was the only indication that there was something in the woods.

 

At dusk, the slender, anorexic trees blocking the way looked like a Hollywood movie setting for a horror flick. In the sunlight, we were still so far back in the boonies from the main highway, “God had to pump in sunshine.”

 

Momma bought some hair goats for the brush and sprouts. Then, she bought a chain saw and the trees began to disappear. Suddenly, the hen house sat close enough for everyone going by to see.

 

While I was in the United States Air Force in the early 1980s, the roof of the hen house fell in. Momma got a trailer and put it on the property until she could get what she wanted. The remains of the hen house got bulldozed down on the hillside.

 

Thank God for the invention of the bulldozer.

 

I never liked the house that we lived in because most of the rooms seemed slightly larger than a Ma Bell phone booth. These series of phone booths had simply been joined together to resemble something like a house. The kitchen was so small you had to go outside to change your mind,

 

The fireplace collected soot and weary birds. In the winter time, the fireplace was more of a huge draft that let in cold air, rather than a fireplace. Momma finally blocked off the fireplace and got a large gas heater stove to shut out the cold.

 

If you have ever saw the 1986 movie, “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, then, you have an idea of the hen house that we batched in. The movie house was a nice, prestigious looking building; our house didn’t look that good and it had the hen house roof.

 

Operation Christmas Tree

 

Sunday, December 25, 1966

 

In Houston, I would bolt out of bed and rush through our huge old house toward the Christmas Tree. The house had cathedral ceilings. It was an old home, but it was majestic.

You rushed down the hallways and it was like being a kid and running through Westminster Cathedral. You were celebrating being alive and you wanted all of God’s creatures to know it.

 

In Galena, the house was small. It was cozy because it was cramped. The still green Christmas Tree sat on the desk. Brightly wrapped boxes were positioned around the tree.

 

Tonka Pink Surrey Jeep

 

Aunt Bill and Uncle Audrey always sent me something for Christmas. I ripped open theTONKA PINK SURREY JEEP THUMBNAIL 1 wrapping paper and got through the outer box to the toy box. I got the Tonka Pink Surrey Jeep that I had wanted since I had seen it.

 

Elvis Presley in the movie, “Blue Hawaii” had drove this type of jeep. I learned to dance watching Elvis Presley on TV as a kid.

On a family outing to Galveston, Texas, a couple of years later, a Pink Surrey Jeep had passed us on the highway.

 

Aunt Bill always listened to me. I had told her about the Elvis-type jeep that had passed us on the way to Galveston. Of course, I told her I had seen the jeep toy in a store. I had even forgotten about the jeep until I saw the box. As always, Aunt Bill came through.

 

1960s Secret Agents

 

Once I saw Patrick McGoohan in the TV show, “Secret Agent”, I became intrigued with the ideas of “secret agents.” Roger Moore was “The Saint.” Sean Connery became “James Bond” the famous “007.” Dean Martin did the tongue in cheek, “Matt Helm” movies. James Coburn was “Flint.”

 

While the 1960s were about “The Space Race,” The Cold War remained a reality. The Americans didn’t trust the Russians. The Russians didn’t trust the Americans. Nobody trusted “The Red Chinese.”

 

In America, China was a Communist country and the location meant it was the “Far East”, which meant, “The Orient” and in the 1960s there weren’t that many Americans, other than Chinese-Americans, who spoke Chinese.

 

The Russians didn’t seem in the Cold War days to trust the Chinese. Russia had Lenin Communism. China had went with Trotsky Communism under Mao Tse tung. Trotsky had to flee the Soviet Union and the Russians, evidently didn’t appreciate the fact that one of their “political exiles” had influenced a neighboring government.

 

Of course, in the never-ending debate of forms of government, “The A-Bomb Paranoia” loomed large in the back of everyone’s mind. The Americans were afraid the Soviets would launch their Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles. The Russians were afraid the Americans would launch their ICBMs. Then, around 1964, China announced they had “Nukes.”

 

Spy flicks and novels were all the rage in the 1960s because “The Nuclear Politics Of The Cold War” had every country worried about their neighbors. Of course, the “spies” were the guys who always brought the world back from the brink on TV and in the movies.

 

Secret Sam

 

Topper Toys came out with one of the best “secret agent” toys, “Secret Sam.” Instead of using suave, debonair,handsome men to advertise their toy, Topper put kids in trench coats. Suddenly, America had legions of the worlds smallest spies ready to save the world.

 

I was ecstatic when I opened the wrapping and saw my “Secret Sam” briefcase.

 

MY SECRET SAM BRIEFCASE_Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Secret Sam

The Atomic Bomb fallout of World War II created a Global Paranoia that pitted every nation in the world against one another in a never-ending Olympics of Cold War politics in which countries were suppose to choose up sides and go with one of the Super Powers: The Americans, The Soviets, or The Red Chinese. The only escape from the persistent paranoia was television and movie stories of brave espionage agents, who were always battling in the shadows,“The Bad Guys.” Topper Toys noticed that kids wanted to be “Secret Agents”, so they started selling this toy espionage kit with the periscope, message missile, pistol, silencer and the camera, Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

Secret Sam is a futuristic looking pistol with several attachments like a periscope. There is the message missile, where you can put a message inside and slip the orange sleeve on the rod. Then, you shoot the missile. The whole briefcase amazed me. I liked the function that you could push the circular button to shoot a plastic bullet out of the briefcase. The plastic peg on one end you press down to take a picture with the camera concealed in the briefcase.

 

Secret Sam quickly became one of those toys that allowed kids to become Peter Graves or one of the “operatives” in the “Mission Impossible” TV show.

 

MY SECRET SAM BRIEFCASE _closed_Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

In this photograph the “Secret Sam” briefcase toy is closed. The circular indentation is the side button you pushed to launch plastic bullets. There is a plastic peg that you push down to take a picture with the concealed camera in the case. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Operation Christmas Tree 1966 is over. You carefully replace your equipment in your briefcase. You hum the theme to “Secret Agent” and stroll confident toward the door. Your next port of call ?

 

Bucharest ? Budapest ? London ? Moscow ? Beijing ? Tel Aviv ?

 

Grandma’s house for Christmas Dinner.

 

Sam

 

Sam’s Wonderful World

of Toys Links

 

The robot that my mother and father bought me for Christmas 1959 was the Marx Electric Robot. It was not a handsome robot, but, the Morse Code functions and it’s ability to move amazed me. Of course, I was only about four years old at the time. The website below has more information on this unique robot toy. The other toy links are to remind you there should always be “a little child inside of all of us, when it comes to toys.”

 

Doc Atomic’s Attic Of Amazing Artifacts

http://astoundingartifacts.blogspot.com/2009/09/electric-robot-marx-1955.html

 

Toy Robot History

Daryl aka The Robotnut

http://www.robotnut.com/history/

 

Toys You Had

http://www.toysyouhad.com/

 

Antique Toys

http://www.antiquetoys.com/

 

Collectors Weekly

Toy Robots

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/attack-of-the-vintage-toy-robots-justin-pinchot-on-japans-coolest-postwar-export/

 

 

Alphadrome Toy Space Helmets

http://danefield.com/alpha/forums/topic/13898-toy-space-helmets/

 

Tootsie Toy Company

http://www.tootsietoy.com/

 

Louis Marx and Company Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Marx_and_Company

 

MARX Toy Museum

http://www.marxtoymuseum.com/

 

Mattel Toy Store

http://www.matteltoystore.com/

 

Hasbro United States

http://www.hasbro.com/?US

 

Hubley Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubley_Manufacturing_Company

 

ERTL Farm Toys

http://www.rcertl.com/

 

Scale Model

http://www.scalemodeltoys.com/

Toy Farmer Magazine

http://www.toyfarmer.com/

 

Kenner Products Wikipedia

http://www.antiquetoys.com/

 

Dinky Toys Dinky Site

http://www.dinkysite.com/

 

Toy Collector Magazine

http://www.toycollectormagazine.com/

 

Auburn Rubber Company Auburn Toys Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auburn_Rubber_Company

 

Tonka Trucks Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonka

 

Buddy L Toy Company Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_L

 

Structo Toy Trucks TNT Toy Trucks

http://www.tnttoytrucks.com/Structo.html

 

Toy Trucker & Contractor

http://www.toytrucker.com/

 

Wham-O Toys Inc.

http://www.wham-o.com/

 

Ideal Toy Company Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_Toy_Company

 

Remco Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remco

 

Topper Toys Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topper_Toys

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Written by samwarren55

December 23, 2012 at 9:32 PM

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Christmas Cash,Costs,Challenges of The Ozarks 1960s

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Christmas Cash,Costs, Challenges

of

The

Ozarks’

1960s

THE OZARKS OLD HOUSE_Photo by Samuel E Warren Jr_resized

The Old House

Of The Ozarks

This small house beside Missouri State Highway 176 in Stone County, Missouri in The Ozarks can go unnoticed by passing motorists. This Old House served as The DeLong Family Home in the 1960s. Birthday parties, Fourth of July, Halloween Trick or Treat events,Thanksgiving Supper and Christmas Day Dinner celebrations were held in the three – room house, which had a Laundry Room built on in the 1970s. There was no inside plumbing. Uncle Joe built an Outhouse down on the hillside. While the house did not have the social comforts of some 20th Century homes in The Ozarks; it always felt like “Home” to DeLong family members, who returned to Stone County and the Missouri Ozarks anytime of the year. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

christmas-tree-logo-photo-two-thumbnail_thumb[1]Home in my childhood was “The Ozarks.”

 

The Ozarks is one of the places in the world, where myth and reality live side by side.

 

You live your life in The Real World and sometimes it seems like you look up and see a wild,white-haired Mark Twain smiling down at you with his pen in hand.

 

The heavy snows of winter fall. The scene looks like a Currier and Ives lithograph on a china plate and then you feel the “bone chilling cold” enter your body. You see your breath. You trudge out of the knee-high snow into the warmth of your home.

 

You “warm” by the large, rectangular, dark brown “Warm Morning” gas stove and realize winter in The Ozarks means Christmas is usually just days away.

 

You get a hot cup of coffee and wonder why people think The Ozarks is “permanently stuck in an 1800s Time Warp.”

 

MV5BMTUzNzE1MjY0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDE3MjU1MQ@@._V1._SX359_SY500_If you ever watched an episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies” you may believe the fictional characters represent “Life In The Ozarks.”

 

You would be wrong.

 

I grew up in the Ozarks and I never ate possum.

 

I have ate squirrel.

 

Uncle Hobert DeLong was a “dead on shot” with a rifle. Every time he went into the woods, he came back with a “mess of squirrels” and sometimes “a mess of rabbits.”

 

Of course, no one remembers Jed, granny and the rest of the Clampett were supposed to have been from Bugtussel, Tennessee and the characters get associated with The Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks.

 

Cartoonist Al Capp made a large fortune drawing the comic strip of Lil’ Abner for 43th years that reached 60 million readers in more than 900 American newspapers.

 

Capp’s newspaper comic strip was one of my mother’s favorites. Capp put the characters in Dogpatch, Kentucky, but as a kid everyone though if you were from The Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks, then, you must be like Lil’ Abner.

 

I never went to a Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance.

 

Dancing wasn’t allowed at Galena High School in the 1960s. It was an issue that came up with every senior class wanting a “Prom.” The Baptist and Pentecostal churches of the 1960s in Stone County were vocal in their objections and they kept the prom dance out of school.

 

I graduated in 1973 in a “Graduation Exercises” ceremony, but there was “No Prom” because the churches still didn’t allow dancing in school.

 

 

 

The Ozarks Hillbilly Stereotype

 

No matter how incorrect the “hillbilly” stereotype is about The Ozarks. Americans and foreigners seem to cling to the dumb hayseed and lazy cartoon and television stereotypes of “The Ozarks Hillbilly.”

 

The irony is that the Ozarks is pretty close to the center of the United States and it has always seemed like an “undiscovered country” to foreigners and other Americans.

 

My geographical calculations of “The Ozarks” begins from the southern city limits sign of Jefferson City to the southern city limits sign of Little Rock, Arkansas, which is what I always considered to be, “The Ozarks.”

 

Stone County, Missouri is in the southwest section of the state and borders Arkansas, which means, “reckon I grew up one of them thar’ Ozarks’ country boys.”

 

Missourians in the Ozarks joke, “If you don’t like the weather just wait 15 minutes and it will change.” There is truth to that joke. The weather doesn’t always change every 15 minutes, but in a 24-hour day, the weather can change several times in a day.

 

Pen To Paper

 

To put pen to paper and write a story about Christmas in The Ozarks, I will have to set the stage.

 

There are many famous Missourians from United States Army Generals of the Armies John Joseph “Blackjack” Pershing to “The Most Trusted Man In America” Walter Cronkite, but, usually the celebrities are known as Missourians and not necessarily, “Ozarkers.”

 

Neosho, Missouri’s Thomas Hart Benton put his brush strokes on canvas to paint pictures; I will try to paint a word picture of life in The Ozarks in the 1960s.

 

Tom Sawyer Childhood

 

Life in “The Ozarks” in Stone County, Missouri in the 1960s was like “Tom Sawyer on a tractor and in a pickup truck.” Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Midwest buckboards and stagecoaches were replaced by 18-wheelers, Greyhound and Continental Trailways buses.

 

Rose O’Neill’s Kewpie dolls could be still found in toy stores in the Ozarks. Overall, Life in southern Missouri had not changed all that much since the days of Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose O’Neill.

 

The Tomato Factories” of Reeds Spring, Abesville, and Galena in the 1930s had been replaced with “The Garment Factory” in Reeds Spring and Crane and Crane had a “Casket Factory.”

 

Fasco in Springfield, Missouri employed several people from Stone County. In 1960, Silver Dollar City was just beginning operations. Branson, Missouri in 1960 was “no threat” to country music in Nashville, but, Nashville musicians would begin to head for Branson, during the 1960s. In the area of economics, “times were tough”, in Stone County and southwest Missouri in 1960.

 

Blood Out Of A Turnip

 

Every nation has an economy. Money flows around in the metropolitan and urban areas, but in rural areas the ocean of money flows into a narrow stream that sometimes becomes a dry creek bed. In Stone County, it seemed even the rocks in the creek bed were usually “bone dry.”

 

After The Great Depression and World War II, the United States economy was strengthening. In the rural areas of the Ozarks, being “poor” is still a way of life.

 

In the early 1960s, the local power companies were working hard to provide, stable and reliable electricity.

 

Stone County, Missouri had a reputation of being one of the poorest counties in The Show Me State.

 

Traditionally in Missouri, statistics reveal “Mining” is the major source of manual labor income for the state. Farming comes in second. There were caves in Stone County, but no working mines.

 

Farming is hard work. Even with good weather and the money to buy seeds, livestock and equipment, farming is a full-time job to make a living.

 

Gardening maybe a hobby; Farming is a job.

 

Grandma DeLong like to sum up an economic situation as, “I couldn’t afford to make a down payment on an old settin’ hen with all her eggs rotten.” The purpose of this country statement was to point out that someone was “financially broke.” It was a common financial phrase that you heard in The Ozarks in the 1960s.

 

By 1960s, some farmers in Stone County had had it with “life on the farm.” Some people sold their farms and moved to other states. Some people stayed on their farms, but tried to get a “public job” at Silver Dollar City.

 

When it came to money in Stone County, Missouri and The Ozarks in the 1960s “people minded their Ps and Qs” and sometimes the lack of money was described as “Trying to get blood out of a turnip.”

 

Ozarks Hills And Hollers

 

Corn and tomatoes were the big income producing crops in Stone County, Missouri in my childhood in the 1960s. There were always stories of some of the corn being used to produce “moonshine” and “white lightning.”

 

In the early 1980s, I was “home on leave” from the military and a family friend unscrewed the lid on a Mason jar and asked me if I wanted some of the clear liquid.

 

I thanked him, but decided not to drink the “white lightning.”

 

The geography of Stone County had some cliffs and bluffs in the landscape of the hills and hollers. When the soil was too rough, rocky or poor to raise any other crop, usually the farmer would sew cane and other pasture grasses.

 

Fertilize was not all that expensive, but, the amount needed to nourish the soil and get crops to grow was sometimes too big a chunk of money out of a farmer’s budget.

 

Uncle Richard had one field beside State Highway 176, that the family called, “The Cane Field” because it was too rocky and the soil too poor for any other crop. The cane was used to feed to the cattle in the winter time,

 

Spring and summer usually the crops grew well and there was plenty of pasture to feed the livestock. Farmers didn’t get rich, but they made “the ends meet.”

 

Deep Freeze

 

Winter in southwest Missouri in the 1960s was always Armageddon. Fields were buried under blankets of deep snow. The important contribution of the deep snow and cold temperatures is the weather would kill off chiggers, ticks and snakes as long as farmers burned the brush in their fields and hollers in the early falls.

 

Burning the tree leaves in the hollers that fell kept deep leave beds from filling up the hollers. In the winter time, chigger, ticks and snakes would burrow into the deep leaves to try and wait out the winter until spring.

 

Southwest Missouri’s picture postcard “snows” were efficient in freezing farm ponds, which stayed frozen unless you broke the ice with an ax for the cattle to get a drink.

 

The weight of a Black Angus, Polled Hereford, Jersey or Holstein cow would sometimes shatter the ice and a cow could drown trying to get a drink of water in the winter.

 

Later in the 1960s, someone invented a device to stick in farm ponds in the winter to keep the water from freezing.

 

The deep freeze of the Ozarks in winter would freeze trees. The weight of ice on the limbs would cause the limbs to fall and take down electric lines. If you were lucky, you would be without electricity for a day.

 

On average people usually went without electricity for two to three days usually two to three times,during winter from October through April. The worst case scenario meant you would go without electricity for one to two weeks during the winter.

 

A Country Mile

 

The strength of my childhood came from my family in the Ozarks. Momma, Grandma DeLong, Uncle Richard, Uncle Hobert, Aunt Mary, and Cousin Donna were my family in the Ozarks.

 

In Houston, Texas, I could step out in my front yard. Donna and Debbie Brinkley from the house next door only had to walk out their gate and a few feet to walk into my yard for us to play.

 

In the Ozarks, neighbors always seemed to live a country mile from your front door.

 

Thelma Thomas was my closet neighbor in 1960 and she lived about a tenth of a mile from my front door on top of a hill. Her kids were grown with families of their own.

 

The Galena School District usually included Jenkins and Wheelerville, Missouri, which was only a few miles from Crane, Missouri. And, Crane, Missouri was 10 miles from Galena.The district would extend south to almost Reeds Spring, which was about 15 miles from Galena.

 

Many of my classmates would have to do chores before catching the school bus in the morning. The bus ride for some of the kids meant they were on the school bus for two hours before they arrived at Galena Elementary or Galena High School. After school, they would spend two hours on the bus once it left the school.

 

You would see classmates in school, but the distances and the rural road conditions to their parents’ farms meant that “visits” and social interaction was almost impossible, except for possibly on the weekend.

 

Crane, Missouri was only 10 miles from Galena and we usually only went grocery shopping in Crane on Saturdays.

 

 

 

Life On Planet Earth Before Electronics”

 

Children of the 21st Century will think I grew up in The Dark Ages because there was no Internet, no facebook, no twitter, no computers, no X box, no play station and no cell phones.

 

Yes, there was “Life On Planet Earth Before Electronics.”

 

Fire had been discovered. My father always carried his Zippo cigarette lighter.

 

We didn’t have to use stone tablets and chisels because there was an archaic device called, a typewriter that used ribbons, bond paper and carbon paper that helped people put words on paper for future generations.

 

Telephones Come To Stone County

 

Telephones were being installed in homes, near Galena and Abesville, Missouri.

 

In order to have a telephone in your home if you lived near State Highway 176, you had to be willing to be on “a party line”, which meant when your phone rang, your neighbors telephone gave off a jangle sound,

 

There was one public telephone booth in Galena, Missouri. The phone booth was on the sidewalk by the US Post Office, next to Floyd’s Barber shop, which was next to Rose’s beauty shop, which was next to the Hillbilly Cafe and sat across the street from the courthouse. In 2011, that area is now a parking lot for The Stone County Judicial Center.

 

The reason why the telephone was so important in 1960 was it allowed Momma to call Daddy in Texas and he could call her from Texas. Grandma and Uncle Richard never had a telephone. DeLong and Warren family members, who lived in other states could call us and we could call them.

 

In the 21st Century, when it seems children own a cell phone as soon as they learn to speak; it may be hard to imagine the importance of a telephone in your home, but, imagine for a moment that you lived in the snow and ice of the South Pole and you were trying to make a phone call to your grandparents in the United States.

 

If your grandparents lived in a city like Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles or New York City, it would be easy for them to place a call. But, if you lived in a remote location at the South Pole, there might not be phone lines or cell phone towers, so you might not get the phone call.

Old Missouri Spring Photo by Junior Warren1

Old Missouri Spring

This old spring is on Warren Land in Stone County, Missouri. The Ozarks area of the United States has always been difficult for “people to live off the land” because the soil is poor and rocky. If you need rain; you will get a drought. If you need sunshine;you will get a flood. Nature seems to enjoy working against farmers. Wildlife and insect pest can have a negative effect on crops. The Old Traditional Ozarks Hillbilly concept portrays citizens as dumb and lazy. The truth is an Ozarks Hillbilly is one of the smartest and hard working people, you will ever meet because they use their elbow grease and common sense to work a “Miracle” on stubborn pieces of land to earn a living and raise their families. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

The Miracle Of Life In The Ozarks

 

When you think of “The Ozarks” in the 1960s; you understand the word, “Miracle” is a reality.

 

The Ozarks’ lunar style geography of cliffs and bluffs, poor soil, an over abundance of rocks, moody weather, predator wildlife like wolves and coyotes as well as insect pests; it is a “Miracle” that people were able to live, earn a living, and sometimes prosper in this section of the United States.

 

When you are a child, you open your toys on Christmas Day. Underneath the Christmas Tree, you begin to play with the toys.

 

As a young man, you can find yourself trying to decide if you want to go “Home For The Holidays.”

 

As a senior citizen you can sit back with a cup of coffee or a glass of egg nog and remember the toys and the celebrations. When you look back long enough at your childhood, you really begin to understand and appreciate the sacrifices that your parents made for you.

 

At last, you can understand, the challenges, costs,hard work and the effort that your parents made to make Christmas seem like a “Magickal Holiday” that simply happens.

Sam

thumbnail 1 old missouri spring

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Written by samwarren55

December 23, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Posted in Bloggers, Blogs, Business, Crafts, Current Events, Ecology, Editorial, Family, Holidays, Money, Nature, Opinion, Patriotism, Rocks, Stone County History, The Ozarks, Tourism

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Bonnie and Clyde’s Reluctant Galena Mechanic

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Bonnie and Clyde’s

Reluctant

Galena Mechanic

by Junior Warren

The old man working on the landscape at the School of the Ozarks at Point Lookout, Missouri usually went unnoticed by most of the students. He was simply, after all, just a groundskeeper. I, on the other hand, always smiled or nodded at him.

The quiet, elderly man, who helped to keep the lawns mown and trees pruned was Clarence Marshbank,* a citizen of Stone County and a resident of Galena, Missouri. Every time I saw Mr. Marshbank I remembered the story my mother told me about how he had worked on the automobile of America’s Famous Bank Robbery Sweethearts Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows.

The Psychological Armageddon of The Stock Market Crash of 1929 encouraged a generation of Americans to hide money in their mattresses and in the walls of their homes. Stone County, Missouri, since her legislative birth in 1851 had always been “A Child Of Hard Times.” Stone County farmers raised pigs, chickens, hogs, cattle and put out small “truck patch” gardens of vegetables to earn a living. Mother Nature’s two crops that thrived in the rocky soil of Stone County was tomatoes, the legendary “Red Gold of Stone County” and corn.

Corn proved to be worth it’s weight in gold because not only could local families serve up and sell “roastin’ ears,” but the grain was important to feed the “fattening hogs” that would be raised and butchered, so that families would have meat to get them through the severe southwestern Missouri winters.

Of course, corn had an award winning entertainment and economic value – it was a primary ingredient of “Moonshine.” Stone County Stories are numerous about the many illegal moonshine stills that dotted the hills and hollers of Stone County – not all the stories are folk tales and urban legends.

In the midst of the economic paranoia of the 1930s, American bank robbers hit upon the faster automobiles, Tommy Gun’s and sawed off shotguns to “make a quick buck” by “knocking over banks” one after another. Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Faced Nelson became overnight folklore heroes by their daring, cunning and the courage to “Stick It To The System.”

American banks were real unpopular in the 1930s. American banks foreclosed and forced Americans out of their homes and off their farms. Unfortunately, the celebrity status of the dashing and debonair status of the gangsters was understandable – they were giving “payback” back to the bankers. Obviously, some Americans wished they had the courage and opportunity to – “Make The Bankers Pay.”

The economic chaos of the 1930s cannot be overstated. After all, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, The President Of The United States Of America went public and asked Americans to donate their pieces of gold to America. That gold was then melted into gold bars that became the bullion that is stored at Fort Knox, Kentucky. FDR and his Gold Democrats went a step further and took the United States “Off The Gold Standard,” no longer could you take a dollar bill into an American bank and demand to exchange it for a dollar’s worth of gold.

Economic hard times were a reality in Stone County, Missouri long before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Survival had always been a day to day struggle that encouraged farmers to go deer hunting and squirrel hunting to supplement the meat hanging “sugar cured” or “salt cured” in family smokehouses. Grandma DeLong told me stories about the hard times of day to day survival in Stone County, during The Great Depression.

Clarence Marshbank had a reputation around Galena of being an excellent automobile mechanic. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows, the bank robbers, were on the road, near Galena, Missouri, when they had “car trouble.”

The Stone County story goes that Bonnie and Clyde’s car wasn’t going to get much farther than Galena. Once in Galena, the bank robbery couple, learned that Clarence Marshbank was an excellent automobile mechanic. The Stone County story points out that at gunpoint Bonnie and Clyde forced Clarence Marshbank to repair their automobile.

The old Parmenters' Radiator And Body Shop building in Galena, Missouri. In the 1930's, it was this site that supposedly American Bank Robbers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker allegedly forced Galena Mechanic Clarence Marshbank to repair their getaway vehicle. Photo by Junior Warren

One of the amazing points of the story is that the building that the car was put into to be worked on. The Old Parminter Body Shop building in Galena, sits near the historic courthouse and almost on the back parking lot of the modern day First Home Savings Bank in Galena, Missouri.

In 2011, the First Home Savings Bank's back parking lot ends near the side of the old Parmenters' Radiator And Body Shop building in Galena, Missouri. In the 1930's, it was this site that supposedly American Bank Robbers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker allegedly forced Galena Mechanic Clarence Marshbank to repair their getaway vehicle. Photo by Junior Warren

The story of Bonnie and Clyde kidnapping a Galena man walking into town is well known. They kidnapped the man to find out how to get to Reeds Springs and rob that bank. This story is supported by numerous newspaper accounts. However, the story of Bonnie and Clyde forcing Clarence Marshbank to work on their car is one of those stories that was usually whispered more than spoken about.

The incident probably did occur. First, my mother, Opal M. DeLong Warren had a reputation of never “making up” stories and she told me the original story about Bonnie and Clyde forcing Mr. Marshbank to work on their car. Second, local boy George Leonard “Shock” Short had a reputation of robbing banks and returning home to Galena to “lie low” between bank robberies. Thus, Stone County, Missouri wasn’t all that supportive of law enforcement efforts in the depression years.

I never had the opportunity to interview Clarence Marshbank, but I always remember his friendly, warm, “neighborly” smile, whenever he would nod at me walking across the campus of the School of the Ozarks.

_________________

*The last name was always spoken as Marshbank, but I have seen it spelled as Marchbank.

History of Stone County, Missouri book, Volume One contains information about the early families in the county. The Stone County Historical Society, P.O. Box 63, Galena, Missouri 65656 can provide information on how to obtain a copy of any of the three volumes. The 1960 Chevrolet Impale model car represents the real car that Opal M. DeLong Warren drove off the showroom of Terrill Chevrolet in Houston,Texas in 1960. Opal drove her car from 1960 until 1972 when her husband bought her a Mercury for Mother's day. The Impala made numerous trips from Galena, Missouri to Houston, Texas,as well as frequent trips to take family members to a hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren.

History of Stone County, Missouri book, Volume Two contains information about the early families in the county. The Stone County Historical Society, P.O. Box 63, Galena, Missouri 65656 can provide information on how to obtain a copy of any of the three volumes. The Ford 9N model tractor in the photo is symbolic of a real used tractor that Opal M. DeLong Warren bought to use on her farm in Stone County, Missouri, in the mid 1960s. For farm toys, visit D&B Farm Toys in Abesville, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren

History of Stone County, Missouri book, Volume Three contains information about the early families in the county. The Stone County Historical Society, P.O. Box 63, Galena, Missouri 65656 can provide information on how to obtain a copy of any of the three volumes. “Richard Rock,” the large circular stone in the photo, is the stone that Richard B. DeLong found plowing in his field one day in Stone County, in the mid 1960s. Richard DeLong was a farmer; not a rock collector. Yet, he could not resist taking the rock out of the field to give to his sister, Opal to put on display in her yard. For information on Stone County Rocks, lapidary, cabachons or wirewrapping email: rockmanken@gmail.com. Photo by Junior Warren

The Treasure Tales of the Lost Loot of Shock Short

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Legend or Legacy ?

The Treasure Tales

of the Lost Loot

of Shock Short

by Junior Warren

As a child my grandmother told me the first stories about Shock Short. Stone County Old Timers in the 1960s would whisper and speculate about the “Lost Loot” that Shock was supposed to have hid in Galena. While most people speculate that the Treasure Tales of the Lost Loot of Shock Short is a local urban legend of the Ozarks. Still, one of Galena, Missouri’s native sons made a living robbing banks in the 1930s.

Tale of Two Brothers

United States Congressman Dewey Jackson Short of Missouri stepped into the international spotlight. George Leonard “Shock” Short, brother of the congressman, earned headlines across the United States for bank robbery.

The Great Depression helped to make Shock Short a controversial folk hero. Local stories point out his Robin Hood compassion and his Jesse James’ bravado.

The Treasure Tales of The Lost Loot Of Shock Short lives on in Galena, Missouri.

President Roosevelt’s Depression Era economic policies drew fire, from Galena, Missouri’s most famous native son, United States Seventh Congressional District Congressman Dewey Short. Meanwhile, George Leonard “Shock” Short, brother of the congressman, handled the redistribution of America’s wealth in the Midwest by robbing banks.

From 1932 to 1935, Shock Short and the Irish O’Malley Gang hit banks in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois , Kansas, and Oklahoma. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics agents were the law enforcement headliners of the day in the 1930s.

1930s – Bankrupt America – Dumbfounded Government

Meanwhile the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation seemed best suited to keep track of official paperwork. The massive numbers of bank robberies since the 1929 collapse of the stock market was forcing Washington D.C., leaders to try and find a way to stop the various mobs of bank robbers that were finishing off the remaining banks.

The Justice Department’s BI agents were years away from becoming professional Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. At the time, Many of the young agents hadn’t even fired a gun and they were being ordered to go after the gangsters of the era: John Herbert Dillinger, Alvin Karpis, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows.

Bankers Are The Bad Guys – 1930s

Time had given the gangsters a big head start. Public sentiment was against the banks. Banks were the villains Bankers are the bad guys. In the 1930s – Money was NOT the “root of all evil”; it was the banks. Banks foreclosed on homes and farms – people were homeless. Mother Nature added insult to injury – more than a million tons of topsoil blew into the Atlantic Ocean. Nature’s Dust Bowl became an apocalyptic economic event.

Wealthy Americans would call the bank robbers, “hoods, “”henchmen,” and “gangsters.” Homeless penniless, Americans would view the bank robbers as “Robin Hood,” “knights in shining armor,” and basically, “neighbors who had the guts to stand up to banks and big government and fight the system.”

The line of Black and White between Good and Evil and Right and Wrong had been blurred because of the lack of Green. Bank robbers had become “Celebrities” and “Entrepreneurs” While the heroes were bank robbers; the villains were banks, local, state and the U.S. Government. America’s Conservative Hard Work Ethic had been knocked on it’s backside and none of the rules of “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage” seemed to apply anymore. Everyone seemed broke.

The Herbert Hoover Administration’s ideas to save the U.S. Economy had seemed worthless and “Too Little, Too Late.” Americans were broke. Americans had gambled that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats might have the ideas to save the economy.

Newspaper headlines of the 1930s reveal that bank robberies in the United States spread like a series of national wild fires from the East Coast to the West Coast and across the Midwest. A bankrupt economy had brought a rebirth of the Days of the Wild West and the six shooters had been traded for Tommy guns. Fast horses had given way to automobiles with V8 engines.

The 1930s had set the stage for the bank robbers. In Galena, Missouri, George Leonard “Shock” Short, had chosen the lucrative career of bank robber. Short and his gang were equally successful, as the other gangs, but, not as famous, or infamous, as the nationally known gangsters of the era.

Revenue Rewards

Congressman Dewey Short’s efforts to get Galena on the map were well known locally. Congressman Short got credit for getting the Historic Y Bridge at Galena built. He convinced the U.S. Congress to make the funds for Table Rock Dam a reality. Even the U.S. Navy commissioned a vessel: The U.S. S. Stone County. The congressman’s actions were instrumental in bringing revenue into Stone County during the Great Depression and into the years following World War II.

Tales of Treasure Tunnels

The local legends always credit Shock Short with being willing to share some of the money with his fellow Stone County citizens. The tales suggested that he would give neighbors money to help clothe their kids and even keep banks from foreclosing on homes and making even more people homeless.

Shock Short and the O’Malley gang were credited with the successful simultaneous bank robberies of two banks in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1934. One of the gang’s jewelry store robberies is reported to have got them $75,000 in precious stones. Chicago Typewriters spit hot lead and the nation’s presses set the cold type that reported the O’ Malley gang’s daring, which included the skills of Daniel “Dapper Dan” Heady – to the jail break assistance of “Pretty Betty.”

Local legends also suggest Shock Short hid bank loot, in and around, Galena, Missouri. Stories credit Shock and his gang with digging numerous tunnels in and around Galena to easily escape law enforcement and to hide the money.

The 1930’s Controversial Gold Standard

21st Century bank robbers traditionally go for the bills because coins are bulky, heavy and not as easy to carry out the door in a hurry. There was nothing traditional about The Great Depression. The Stock Market was smoke. More than 3,000 U.S. Banks failed virtually overnight. Americans were making runs on banks to get their money out before they became penniless. FDR had ordered the “Bank Holiday” to close banks to keep people from withdrawing their money and to buy time for some faith to be restored in the banking system.

The United States of America – The Great Democracy was in a nose dive to Third World Status.

Since the days of Washington and Franklin, the United States had been on the Gold Standard, which meant U.S. Banks had gold coins. The new administration had threatened to take the U.S., off the gold standard, which meant the U.S. Government and not citizens would have gold coins and citizens would no longer be paid in gold or be able to use gold to pay debts.

American monetary tradition – The Gold Standard – was a presidential pen stroke away from oblivion.

FDR signed the Executive Order and U.S. Gold Coins became the property of the U.S. Government. Dollar bills became the legal tender of the nation. Confiscated gold got melted down and shipped to a secure location – “America’s Vault” – Fort Knox.

One Shock Short legend claims that there maybe jewels and gold coins in the stolen loot. The most popular local urban legends and folk tales claim that the long lost bank loot is hidden in the City of Galena or in and around some of the suspected tunnels or known caves.

Sister of Two Famous Brothers

In the 1970s, when Omen’s Liberation swept the country like a runaway brush fire. The Equal Rights Amendment national debate pointed out the differences in wages between men and women, Fashion shattered tradition, especially for men. Conservative national figures were turning in their dark business suits for wide lapel-ed, checkered sports jackets, wide ties and polyester pants. Metropolitan America “lived by the clock” as people used their fast paced lives to become workaholics. There was not enough hours in the day to work. Metropolitan America had no time for the slower paced lifestyle of rural America.

Stone County, Missouri, in the 1970s, was still Rural America – people didn’t lock their doors at night out in the country. They usually left their car keys in their vehicles. In 1972, the Stone County Sheriff had three deputies in his office and they all used their personal vehicles as patrol cars. Stone County was a living, breathing Norman Rockwell painting.

Bess Allman, an elderly Galena woman had a smile for everyone. She called men and women, “honey” or “sweetie.” Known and respected throughout Stone County, Bess Allman always stood ready to help out friends and neighbors. In the decades before cell phones, email and computers, Bess Allman was a living library of information about Galena and Missouri. She seemed like any other woman old enough to be a grandmother, but she had two famous brothers: Dewey and Shock.

Congressman Dewey Short had stood in the international spotlight and his brother, Shock had earned headlines throughout the Midwest. Meanwhile, in Galena, their sister: Bess lived her life as a friend and neighbor in the local spotlight.

When I met Congressman Short it was because Bess Allman had called my mother and told her Dewey was back in town for a few days. Bess Allman made sure I got to meet and shake hands with Dewey in Galena. My mother had told Bess about my interest in politics and I had seen Mrs. Allman around Galena through the years when my mom went to the courthouse or went shopping on the square.

This house in Galenam Missouri was a home for Bess Allman, the sister of a congressman and a famous bank robber. Photo by Junior Warren.

As a kid, I had heard that Bess Allman had a husband. In the late 1970s, while researching some local information I heard the story that the two story home on the other side of the railroad tracks on the banks of the James River had been built for her as a wedding present from her new husband. In my childhood in the 1960s, the house had been known as the Standridge Farm and later, the Bessie Lawrence Farm.

I never had the opportunity to ask Bess Allman any questions about her brother, “Shock” Short. To my knowledge, Bess Allman lived most, if not all, of her life in Galena. Her last home in Galena is reported to have been a white two story, near the courthouse, and across the street from the old Bank of Galena building.

The Tunnel Tales

If Shock Short and his gang had dug all the tunnels that legends credit them with digging – they would of never had any time to rob banks. However, Missouri tourism once promoted the state as The Cave State and there is no shortage of caves throughout Stone County, Thus, the stories about The Tunnels Of Galena may have some basis in fact.

The James River Tunnel

The James River Tunnel is supposed to be around a boat ramp, near the old Bill Rogers Motel, on the bank of James River. Legend states that this tunnel would allow Shock or any member of his gang the ability to use the tunnel to emerge up into the sunlight inside the city limits of Galena.

The tunnel might be there; however, Galena, Missouri experienced severe flooding in 1993, so any tunnel would of probably been washed away or collapsed by the rising waters. Even in the 1930s of Shock Short’s era, poisonous “cotton mouth” and water moccasins snakes were common around the banks of the James River. It would be unlikely a local boy would dig a tunnel anywhere near these poisonous snakes.

The Family Home Tunnel

Another Shock Short legend claimed there was a tunnel in the City of Galena that would allow Shock Short to easily leave Galena if there was news of a posse and he could emerge inside his family’s home.

The Church Tunnel

One Shock Short legend states that one time in the 1930s, someone tipped off Shock Short that the Greene County Sheriff from Springfield was coming to see the Stone County Sheriff with a warrant for Shock’s arrest. The legend states that Shock slipped into a tunnel in Galena and emerged a few minutes later – out of a church on top of a hill in Galena.

This is the Bank of Galena Museum in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren

The Bank of Galena Tunnel

Before The Great Depression, there was a Bank Of Galena. When the banks of the depression failed, the Bank of Galena was one of the causalities The irony is there is suppose to be a tunnel underneath the old bank building. The story of this tunnel states that it was actually in the bank. It was suppose to allow Shock the ability to disappear into the tunnel and emerge into the sunlight a short distance from the bank into one of two nearby homes on either side of the street.

Are The Galena Tunnels Real ?

As of 2011, no one has admitted ever finding any of the tunnels.

Some Americans were fond of keeping their money in mattresses and in the walls of their homes, even before the Great Depression, thus, the rumors of money in root cellars and basements may have some basis in reality.

Although the East Side of the Galena Square in the 1960s hosted the U.S. Post Office, a beauty shop, a barber shop and the Hog Heaven Cafe, in 2011, that area is now the parking lot and the building of the Stone County Judicial Center, thus, searching for treasure tunnels underground probably will not be happening any time soon.

While the Shock Short legends credit Galena with a spider web of suspected subterranean tunnels, the one place that seems immune to the tunnel tales is the Stone County Courthouse, in the center of the square.

As a child growing up in Stone County in the 1960s, some of the old timers swore that Shock Short had hidden money away in tunnels in Galena. Perhaps, the tunnel tales are stories grandparents and parents told their children to inspire their imaginations. However, newspaper archives document that Shock Short and the O’Malley Gang robbed numerous banks in several states.

While local citizens obviously respected Congressman Short, the treasure tunnel tales have made Shock Short a legendary local folk hero.

Where the heck is Galena, Missouri ?

Galena, Missouri sits on the banks of the James River. Springfield, Missouri is about 40 miles away and Branson, Missouri is around 25 miles as the crow flies. In the spring and summer, visitors can rent a canoe and float the James River.

A 2005 photo fo the James Rivers Outfitters sign in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren

Campers can camp out at the James River Outfitters by the historic Y Bridge.

The Bear's Den offers fast food and soft drinks, near Galena High School, in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren.

For hamburgers and soft drinks, tourists can dine at The Bear’s Den, near the Galena High School.

This 2005 photo shows the exteriors of two of the four cabins of Pop's Retreat, on the banks of the James River, in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren.

This 2005 photo shows the first floor layout of one of the cabins of Pop's Retreat. Photo by Junior Warren.

If you want to spend some time enjoying nature you might want to consider renting one of the cabins at Pop’s Retreat on the banks of the James River.

This 2005 photo shows the second floor layout of one of the cabins of Pop's Retreat in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren

Bring your camera, especially if you are interested in nature photography – in recent years – eagles are a common sight flying around Galena.

Does the Legendary Lost Loot of Shock Short lie beneath the streets of Galena, Missouri ?

Time will tell.

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