Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ancient History - January 29, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday January 29, 2015

Two weeks ago, after the newspaper was delivered to the subscribers, I began to receive questions and comments about the Rambling’s column, particularly about the incident when Jay Baker buzzed Calico Rock in his F-86 (?) fighter jet.  One of the readers (Gaye) notified me that she was related to Jay through the Matthews family. It seems like one thing always leads to another, particularly when you are sitting at your computer trying to beat the deadline for the next offering of your rambling thoughts.  Amazing what the old brain comes up with once you give it the opportunity.  Continuing with the thread that I started in the last column, Jay’s grandfather, Seth Matthews, was once the mayor of Calico Rock.  One of his granddaughters married Thomas Jones. (Note to self:  Self, ask Betty at bible study if Thomas and family still live in the Kansas City area).  Seth and family lived in the former VanWinkle house on the southwest corner of the old high school property, near where the present elementary school is located.  Mrs. VanWinkle, formerly Bethel Copp (sister of the doctor), was the high school math teacher.  She taught me everything that I needed to know about algebra (9th grade) and geometry (10th grade).  Perhaps I should mention some of my other teachers, Miss Hattie Croom, of course, was my first grade teacher (kindergarten hadn’t been invented yet).  She had been in the school system about forty years when I came along and she taught several more years afterward.  Mrs. Wilkerson taught the combined second and third grades.  She was a wonderful, kind person.  It was a giant leap from the third grade to the fourth grade where the teacher was Mrs. Maye Brumitt.  She was the former Maye Evans, youngest daughter of Leonard (Uncle Lynn) Evans, one of the brothers who owned the drug store.  She put the fear in us, scaring us with things like six-week tests, etc.  Thankfully she was about eight months pregnant and only stayed  a few weeks.  Very soon after her baby boy was born, she moved to California with her husband, Bud.  I don’t recall who the new teacher was.  My fifth grade teacher was Leola Perryman, wife of my cousin, Kenneth, who worked with his brother (Wm. Reed) and father (my uncle, J. Elbert) in the family hardware business.  Mrs. Tarkington was my sixth grade teacher.  Her husband was the high school principal.  All six grades were taught in rooms on the first floor of the old two-story school building.  By the way, there was no indoor plumbing in the building.  School offices and grades 7-12 were located on the building’s upper story which was accessed by two wide staircases.  The combination study hall/auditorium occupied about half of the upper story and was used as a classroom, also.  There were three other classrooms.  The agriculture and home economics buildings were located nearby.  The only surviving structure is the home-ec building which is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.  Teachers in the high school included John Rollo, M. T. Mason, Bethel VanWinkle, Opal Toothaker, Rosa Mae Warren, Fred Bryson, James Bell, Euel Story, Maude Story, Gertrude Houck and probably some I can’t recall.  Many of you readers have never heard of any of the above named individuals but each one has in some manner had an influence on my life.  Here in the twilight of my life, I have come to the conclusion that sometimes (maybe) things don’t just happen, but occur for a particular reason.  Too many things cannot be explained by coincidence. We may not realize it at the time, but looking back we begin to wonder.  I will discuss Mrs. Houck and maybe some of the others mentioned in a future article.  Today, I want to finish this column with an excerpt from an article that I read recently.  It seems the Dalai Lama was resting at a lodge, when a young waitress inquired if she might ask the Dalai Lama a question.  With complete seriousness, she spoke “What is the meaning of life?”  The Dalai Lama answered, “Easy question.  The meaning of life is happiness.  Hard question is what make happiness.  Money?  Big House?  Accomplishment?  Friends?  Or…” He paused.  “Compassion and good heart?  This is question all human beings must try to answer: What make TRUE happiness?”  Wow!  I wish I’d said that.       

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In with the new - January 15, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday January 15, 2015

Goodness gracious, as my mother would say, here it is the middle of January, we have already seen two Season 5 episodes of  Downton Abbey and this is the first chance that I have had the opportunity to say “Happy New Year” to all you faithful readers.  I don’t know about you, but I didn’t make any resolutions this year so I can truthfully answer to anyone who poses the question, “No, I haven’t broken any yet.”  Did you hear the mill whistle at midnight New Year’s Eve?  Bobby’s mom, Gloria, called me the next morning to ask if I had heard it.  Bobby made a trade with Mark and now owns the old steam whistle that used to inform the flooring mill employees, at 7 AM on weekday mornings, that it was time to start work. (they always had a couple of get-ready toots at five minutes til).  He had rigged the whistle up to an air tank.  No, I didn.t hear it.  I might have stayed up if I had only known.  I sang “Auld Lang Syne” at about 10:30; couldn’t even stay awake long enough to see the ball drop at Times Square.  I feel like the old codger with the long white beard that the cartoonists portray as the old year that is ending.  I got an e-mail from Don (one of my readers) who wrote “You know, we realized we were getting pretty old when the New Year’s Eve music changed from Guy Lombardo’s stylish arrangements to some guy yelling ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’”  Anyway, hope you all have a Happy, Healthy and Safe 2015.  I drove by the shell of the old Hamon’s building last week.  Nothing left but the four concrete walls and memories.  I then drove across the wagon bridge to old town.  I had heard that Mark had done a lot of cleaning and hauling off the junk from around the old Magnolia Petroleum Oil Company office building.  When I was a boy, my dad was the representative (consignee) of the oil company, sold and delivered Mobil gas and oil and kerosene to service stations and other dealers in the area.  Cindy took a photo of the old building which is beyond repair and will probably soon disappear from the Calico Rock landscape.  Hard to believe now, but I have seen flood waters up into the office of this historic building.  I asked Cindy to include her photo in this issue if she has the space.  Over the next several columns, I intend to write about families and individuals that have had, in some small or sometime large way, an influence on my life.  Some of these people are still living, many are not.  Most, but not all, are local.  Many you have known or heard about, some you have not.  I’ve been thinking about this for some time and have no idea where it is going but I am going to give it a try.  Let me know your comments.  In my last column, I referred to Tom* as my close friend and mentor.  He had a great influence on my writing the Ramblings column.  Sadly, Tom* passed away in January last year.  I want to add two others to the “Hail and Farewell” list.  Back in 2001, Anita and I decided to sell our motor home.  We placed an ad in the classifieds of the Baxter Bulletin and right away received a phone call from a couple of Mountain Home residents who wanted to come down and see our RV.  They arrived soon and introductions were made:  “I’m Jay Baker and this is my wife, Kitty,” the man said.  Early one afternoon, about 45 years earlier, I was attending to something near the front of the store when all at once I heard this very loud noise that sounded as if the entire top of the store was exploding.  I rushed out the front door in time to see a fighter jet airplane travelling very fast, then pulling straight up in a corkscrew fashion for several hundred feet before levelling out and heading back west. “ Probably Jay Baker,” someone said.  “He buzzed the Seth Matthews house.  Seth is Jay’s granddad.”  Jay admitted that was him alright.  He said that after he woke up his granddad, he continued up the river, making a low pass over his Aunt Fern Norman’s farm, finally making a low run up Main Street in Mt. Home.  They didn’t buy my RV.  Kitty didn’t like the green upholstery.  I never saw them again.  Jay, a 1948 graduate of MH High School, died December 27 at the age of 84.  Joe Wyatt, a pharmacist and mayor of Mountain View at the same time I was mayor of Calico Rock, died last fall at the age of 90.  We were classmates in Pharmacy School.  There’s not many of us left.   

Note from Steve:
We were in Calico Rock on Saturday January 17 so I went by the old Magnolia Petroleum Oil Company office building that dad mentions in this article to take a picture.  This is what it looks like today.  Notice the concrete piers on the right of the picture where the fuel tanks were mounted.