Ozarks Viewpoints

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fun street

Long before Cassville had the profusion of city park acreage it enjoys today, West Seventh Street might have been the recreational center of town. The hill led up to a pair of old water towers and the brick schoolhouse that served the district for so many years.

Outside of Flat Creek, "The Hill" had a variety of activities to offer, mostly depending on the season of the year.

Lots of young legs climbed the hill seeking an education until the early 1940s when the elementary unit joined the high school on the Main Street campus. Even in those days, there was some reservations concerning mixing the young students with the older students on the same campus.

Fire escape

As long as the old school stood, it provided a recreational feature that not many will remember . That was the slide fire escape that came out of the second floor. Getting to the covered slide was possible by going through the cloakroom of a second story classroom, or climbing up from the ground. That cloakroom was the location of many paddlings for one cause or another .

Climbing up from the ground required removing shoes and going the barefoot route since the metal was slick all the way to the top, and there was not the availability of tennis or canvas shoes in those days .

Several trips up and down the slide doesn't seem like much these days, but for youngsters of that generation, it was a respite from playing shinny, mumble peg or softball on the field, where the degree of the slope was toward town and afforded many home runs.

Doors at the top were always locked, except in fire drill exercises, which made the slide available to youngsters at their choice.

Winter thrills

Anyone who missed the thrill of winter on the hill just hasn't lived a full life in Cassville. In the past snowfall was adequate each year to provide sledding down the steep slope. What made it even better was the cooperation of city officials who roped off cross streets to keep traffic from ruining the slick surface.

When the snow came, sleds of about every description were found on the hill both day and night. In the latter hours a large fire was maintained by the youngsters, which often attended by some of their seniors and even parents. Everyone who enjoyed the nighttime sled rides would bring a few sticks of firewood from home as they pulled their rides to the location.

Nighttime sledding was possible with rides that went through the square and to the Flat Creek bridge. This was accomplished by lookouts, at the square and on the highway, who could see the riders as they passed under street lights. Armed with flashlights, they would stop approaching traffic, after the rider bypassed cinders spread at West Street to stop sleds during daytime.

The thrill of the hill didn't stop there as it was a real challenge, especially for the older boys, to roll an old tire down the hill. This was a game of sorts on level ground, but the hill meant a number of runaway toys going through flower gardens down around Gravel Street.

Easter services

There were a number of Easter Sunrise services conducted, weather permitting, with "The Hill" providing the best view when the sun did peek up over Oak Hill Cemetery. There was always the human cross, built by youngsters clad in white sheets, to add to the services.

Then there were the two old water towers, which often overflowed, making ice atop the hill. Their footings and steel girder legs provided a good climbing apparatus for the more venturous youngsters.

Backside

Going out the back side of the school property was an adventure for the younger classes who would make a trip or two in the west direction on their way to a picnic in the old quarry, where Barry County Ready-Mix is now located.

Trips up and down the rocks, and in some places sliding down the clay surface, quickly put the youngsters in a mood to eat their sack lunches .

In all the trips to the quarry, and there were many, memory doesn't provide an incident or injury to anyone, which is nothing short of a miracle.

A feature of the area, which was heavily used by the youngsters, was Hawk Branch. Elusive tadpoles were targets of many a wader, who took the opportunity to wash the clay stains from their trouser legs in the water.

Before the school bell would ring, it was back up the backside of the hill, get your books and go down the other side toward home.