100 years in Barry County

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Edna King, 100-year-old Barry County native, holds her daughter's dog, Abby. King enjoys babysitting Abby when her daughter goes on errands. Kayla Monahan/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

King shares century of memories in honor of upcoming birthday

Not many people get 100 years to witness what life can bring.

Edna Faye Thomas King will celebrate her 100th birthday March 2, and growing up in Barry County, she has seen a lot.

King was born a third-generation Barry Country native in Aurora, Mo. She was sixth of seven children born to Eugene Harrison Thomas and Rebecca Ann Bolton Thomas.

King attended Aurora's Clay Hill School, starting at age three. Her older brothers and sisters were going, so she tagged along the 3/4-mile journey across a field, though a fence to the one-room schoolhouse, often without any shoes.

At school, she would crawl up and down the aisles until she picked an older student to sit with.

Returning home to her father's 160-acre farm, she would work.

"There was always lots of work, and we were used to it," King said. "We had hay, we would pick strawberries, pick tomatoes, and I was milking cows from the time I was big enough to squeeze."

On Saturdays, she would bake 8-10 loaves of bread on a woodstove. On Sunday afternoons, King's sister would come over for Sunday dinner, bringing her 11 children. It was King's job to catch the chickens, wring their necks, pluck their feathers and set them in cold water, all before church.

"We didn't come to Cassville very much," she said. "It was too far. We had two streams to cross, and you would get stuck unless you knew how to cross them."

However, King's father always brought the children to the Old Soldiers and Settlers Reunion in Cassville.

"We had no money to spend," she said. "We would walk to the spring and get a drink of water. We couldn't buy ice cream or anything, but we didn't expect it."

Clay Hill schoolhouse added on a second school room so King could attend the 9th and 10th grade in the new building. Unfortunately, the high school in Aurora was seven miles away, and her parents could not take the children back and forth. However, a bus route started taking the students back and forth so King and her brother were able to finish the 11th and 12th grade.

King was a member of the National Honor Society, Future Homemakers of America and president of the Barry County and Purdy Parent and Teacher Association.

King graduated in 1934, and is the last living of her class, as far as she knows.

In 1935, King married and moved to McDowell, where she began to raise her four children. The first one was born at her mother's house, the next one at her own home, the third in Stella hospital and the last in Cassville hospital. King still recalls of the old white house, which was the hospital in Cassville.

"The doctor's wife did the cooking for the patients," King said. "She had three kids running around screaming and crying."

King needed a job and came to Cassville to apply at the library, which opened in 1954. They hired King in 1957, and she stayed for 27 years.

"The library was a good place for information," she said. "We had ways to send information and to borrow books from other libraries. It was quite an organization that covered Barry County. I loved handling children's story hour."

Every week, King made frosted sugar cookies for the children. She always held children on her lap if they were crying so that she could make friends with them. She would show a 16-millimeter movie or read to them. Once, she showed a movie about a snowman crying as he melted.

"One little boy cried and cried over it," she said. "He never came back to story hour."

After that, King looked for happier films.

Every season, she would decorate the library into what her daughter called a "magical room." She would hang paper cutouts from the ceiling and put live plants around the building.

In 1960, she was receiving $90 per month for her work.

When books were damaged or worn-out, she could not stand to discard them, and she taped the pages back together because the library did not have enough funds for new children's books.

"I had lots of friends come into the library, and met a lot of people," she said. "It was a refuge."

King remembers one man that would bring in chocolates because he could not take them home.

After retiring from the library, King enjoyed several years off. One of her favorite hobbies was square dancing.

"Square dancing was really fun, and wonderful exercise," she said.

King decided to get another job, and went to work at Walmart on the first day it opened in Cassville.

"I loved working at Walmart," she said. "I was a greeter, and I hugged everybody that came in. Everybody there was so nice to me. The managers were good, and they paid well."

King retired from Walmart when she was 90 years old, after 18 years of service. When the new Walmart Supercenter opened in Cassville, they asked her to cut the ribbon.

A lot has changed in 100 years for King, as her father saw the last man hanged in Cassville, by tree, at the end of Old Exeter Road. King has witnessed the roads changing from dirt to paved, seen both Walmarts built, and gone from a time of using phone operators to having a cell phone and an emergency call button around her neck.

"When the telephone rang, everyone listened," she said. "You didn't talk to one person, but the whole community."

King said once, her sister called and said, "Old Mert died." The operator chimed in to ask when the funeral was. Old Mert was the family horse.

King is a survivor. As a child, she fell out of a barn loft, ran backwards into a tree and almost drowned in the stock tank before the hired man pulled her out. While picking peaches, she was stung by bumble bees, became violently ill and passed out. When she woke-up at home, her grandparents from California had arrived, the only time she saw them. Her older brother made a homemade cart for them to ride down a hill. While riding, she fell out and her dress got caught dragging her on her back down the hill. King is also a breast cancer survivor.

King has had her home in Cassville for the last 40 years.

"They've paved the road, added curves, and I've seen all the improvements come up," she said.

Now, King spends her days crocheting and reading, watching the birds, and she loves when her children and grandchildren visit her.

"I like to have something to do with my hands," she said. "It helps me to keep my fingers busy."

Longevity is common in King's family. Her brothers lived to be in their 90s, her sister was 103 and she has another sister, Wilma Easley, who is 102 and resides at Red Rose Health and Rehab.

"I work hard," King said. "I've been a Christian all my life, and I think that a secret of survival is the prayers I pray. I feel like God is with me and watching over me every move I make.

"Another secret, I love my family. I have a wonderful family. And, I'm happy. "

King will be hosting a birthday on Saturday, March 1 from 1-4 p.m. at the Barry County Museum in Cassville. She invites all her friends to come.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: