Thursday, February 26, 2015

Small Town Life - February 26, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday February 26, 2015

I was born in Calico Rock, a long time ago.  A lot of the Rambling’s columns have been about my growing up in a small town in the Ozarks, population about one thousand, more or less.  I’m too lazy to go back and read all the stories that have come to my mind while I am sitting at the computer, hammering out a page about my escapades while I was a youth.  Amazing to me, but very often someone still comes up to me and comments about my column.  A few even say that they enjoy it.  This is episode No. 76 and I hope to make it to No. 100 which may occur in early 2016.  Times have changed a lot over the last eight decades.  Small towns have many of the same problems that large cities do, except their problems may be, well, smaller.  Survival depends on how the communities adjust to the changes.  For instance, in Calico Rock employment opportunities are fewer, the average age of our citizens has increased, several businesses have closed, but, on the bright side, some new businesses have opened and the census is at an all-time high.  When I was in business, quite often I remarked that I enjoyed living in Calico Rock.  I liked the friendly people, I enjoyed my church, and, in many ways, it was the ideal community to raise a family; if only, I would continue to say, we were closer to a metropolitan area.  I have since become convinced that our location is just about right.  Almost fifteen years ago, Anita and I began spending most of our time in Ozark, Missouri, six miles south of Springfield, the third largest city in Missouri, behind Kansas City and St. Louis in population.  We sold our motor home and moved into my Aunt’s home when she was admitted to a nursing facility.  Eventually we built a new house in a small subdivision in Ozark, sold the Calico Rock home where we had resided for over 45 years and settled into life in Missouri.  We found a church and Sunday school and made many new friends.  We had great neighbors, all of which were young, working adults with small children. We were within five miles of three Wal-Mart Supercenters.  Battlefield Mall was a short distance away as were restaurants, theaters and a plethora of other places willing to supply their services and merchandise in exchange for an agreed upon amount of currency.  Life was good…for awhile.  After our last grandchild graduated from high school and left for college, we stopped, took a deep breath and took stock of our situation.  The enjoyment of attending the grandkids ball games, wrestling matches and family get-togethers had suddenly ceased.  We both decided the time had come to go “home.”  We sold our home in Ozark, took the money and built a new residence near the Calico Rock hospital and have happily settled in for the duration.  We both miss the friends and family that we left back in Missouri, especially the great-grandchildren that have come along since we were there.  We do not miss the heavy traffic, rude drivers and the general fast pace of life.  We are convinced we made the right decision.  We tried it, sorta liked it but like it better here.  We see new people move into our area quite often, coming from the North, South and other areas of the U.S.  I’ve often wondered why they decided to move to this small town in such a rural area, so I plan to ask some of them, and if they will give me permission I will report my findings in a future column.  A couple of weeks ago, Angelia Roberts, a Calico Rock HS graduate who is Executive Director of Ad/Ed for the Batesville Guard newspaper, posted a very well written column for her publication that she entitled “Pulling Together.”  The subjects of her article were Calico Rock residents, Gene and Reva Lockie.  The Lockies were married 68 years ago at the Little Brown Church in the Vale which is located about ten miles from Gene’s birthplace in Charles City, Iowa.  Angelia writes that during a trip to Calico Rock several years later the couple happened to visit Lover’s Leap where they watched the White River wind between the bluffs and the farmland below.  Reva turned to Gene and remarked that her dream was to someday see that view for the rest of her life.  That became a reality in 1987 when they purchased the bluff home that became their permanent residence a year later.  Two people from “off” that have helped make Calico Rock a better place to live.     

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Music, music, music - February 12, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday February 12, 2015

Put another nickel in; In the nickelodeon; All I want is having you and Music, Music, Music.  So went the million-seller hit recorded by Teresa Brewer in 1950.  Several of my articles have contained references about  music, so you readers should be aware that it has been a big part of my life.  I began taking piano lessons in the first grade and continued all the way through high school and the first year of college.  I think if I had continued with the lessons, I might be a good pianist; instead I am only a fair piano player.  Never-the-less, I have developed a great love for music.  All music, you know, is created from a combination of twelve musical sounds and tones (notes) played at different locations on the musical scale, from treble to bass. “Music is that elevated science that affects the passions by sound.  There are few who have not felt its charms and acknowledged its expressions to be intelligible to the heart.  It is a language of delightful sensations, far more eloquent than words.  It breathes to the ear the clearest intimations; it touches and gently agitates the agreeable and sublime passions; it wraps us in melancholy, elevates us in joy and melts us in tenderness.  Ah! Music, music, art divine; thou dost  move and stir the heart as nothing else can do.  Yet never canst thou sweet potency be better used than when it expresses praise and gratitude to the great God and Master of us all.”  The words between the quotations are a recitation that I gave at performances of the Drug Store Cowboys before we launched into a rousing medley of gospel songs to bring an end to our program.  I believe I have mentioned the Cowboys in earlier issues of the Ramblings column, but to refresh your memory, it was a country/western band composed of pharmacists mostly back in the 80s.  My good friend and faithful Ramblings reader, Don, and I were charter members of this group.  Don was the lead vocalist and I played (carried) the banjo and we both shared MC duties.  We played in the bandstand at the CR Riverside Festival one year.  The highlight of our career was playing a performance at a national pharmacy convention at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.  The group has mainly disbanded but Don and two others (Bill and James) have continued to perform, primarily in the Little Rock area, as the Drug Store Cowboys Trio.  Don told me that they had four gigs lined up for this week (keep it up, guys).  Since we are on the subject of music and I mentioned piano lessons, maybe I should give a little space about my piano teachers.  My first teacher was Miss Ruby Kate Evans.  She was the daughter of Levi, one of the Evans brothers who owned the drug store.  She taught me all the basics such as the music staff, scales, key signatures, etc.  She was the church pianist and, after about three years of lessons, I began playing along with her on an old pump organ while she played the piano during the church services.  Miss Ruby Kate became ill and died when she was only 52 years old.  My next teacher was Mrs. Montgomery.  She taught me more of the fundamentals and the importance of timing.  My teacher for the next several years was Mrs. Gertrude Houck.  She taught me a love of the classics from composers like Chopin, Beethoven and other musical greats and had me playing pieces like “Minute Waltz,” “Moonlight Sonata” and other difficult selections plus fun things like boogie-woogie and ragtime numbers.  One of Mrs. Houck’s students from the early 50s, Bob Hudson, recently did a genealogy search and discovered that a German resident, Gertrude Fugmann, wed a WWI veteran, Alfred Houck, in New York, soon after crossing the Atlantic on the ship, SS St. Paul, on July 7, 1922.  The newlyweds left soon after and established their residence at Alfred’s ancestral home in or near Coffeyville, Kansas.  Our real interest begins when the Houcks moved to the Iuka community of Izard County, Arkansas, in the spring of 1942.  That fits my timetable because I became Mrs. Houck’s piano student in September, 1942 and studied with her for five years.  She was a concert pianist, a graduate of a conservatory in Germany.  She loved to perform.  At every recital, after the students had done their thing, she would explain that her pupils had asked her to play, so she did, in grand style.