Bob Mitchell: Attractions of days past in Cassville

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Years ago there were a couple of businesses in Cassville that were of particular interest to visitors that always amused the locals.

They both presented an opportunity for big city youngsters to visit the town's square by themselves, and browse up and down the aisles of the two businesses.

The oldest of these was Chet Daniels' Dime Store, first located on the south side of the square, next door to the Cassville Democrat. Mr. and Mrs. Daniels did a good job keeping their store stocked with merchandise that appealed to about every age level that might come through the doors.

Of particular interest, and one that apparently attracted Mr. Daniels quite a bit, were small games that might be carried in your pocket. One in particular was a puzzle that when moved around would eventually put a steel bee-bee into a hole and complete the game. Kids in those days found the games fascinating and you might expect to find one in about every youngster's pocket at one time or another.

When the store moved to the east side of the square, below the old Masonic Hall, and became a franchised operation, it never did seem to have the appeal that it did at the original location.


Then there was Johnston's on the north side of the square that filled the spaces that were vacated by Miller Furniture and Appliance when the business moved to its new building on the west side of the square, which has remained a furniture location since that time.

Johnston's, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ken Johnston, was known for being well stocked, under the slogan, "If you don't find it, it hasn't been unpacked yet!" Ken always got a big kick out of that type operation and did his best to keep it a truism.

While living in the Ray House at Ninth and Townsend, there was frequently company in the house. They would usually have children with them. The youngsters, although coming from areas where recreation and attractions were considerably more numerous, always enjoyed the fact that they could go to town by themselves and visit whatever business they might choose.

Their favorite was usually Johntson's, where they had aisle upon isle to wander up and down and not be hassled. In fact, Ken always seemed to pick them out and visit with them when he was out of his elevated offices at mid-store.

Johnston's started as a hardware operation elsewhere on Main Street, but grew into its eventual operation at the later location. Hardware store merchandise was in a second building across Ninth Street.

Ken's dad, Ernie Johnston, once boasted that every single business in town was a member of the Cassville Chamber of Commerce during his presidency. This was actually true and was due to his efforts of making and keeping in contact with those member firms.


You might be surprised where humor might be found. My recollection of an encounter was in a doctor's office in Springfield. The navigator had gone through surgery on an eye, and we had returned for her final post-operative visit. I was reading a magazine in the waiting room when an elderly gentleman (even older than I) and his family entered the spaces.

They came to the side of the room where I was seated, and he took a chair right next to me and immediately began a conversation.

He first asked me, "Did you know they weren't going to make matches any longer? "Yep. The manufacturers got together and decided they were long enough!"

The old gentleman quickly followed up with, "Do you like to squirrel hunt?" I told him I used to take part. "Well," he said, "When I was young, I had a good squirrel dog and a good horse and I could head out squirrel hunting and turn my dog loose. When he treed, I could get there quicker than any of the other hunters because of my horse.

"When I got to the tree where the dog had the squirrel treed, I could send the horse around to the other side of the tree and he would turn the squirrel and then he was mine and I could take him home and my mommy would cook him for me. Yep, I had the only squirrel-turning horse in the country!"

With the completion of this story, his daughter came over and told him I might not want to talk, to which I replied, "He was doing fine." At this point, he started over with the match story and then began the squirrel tale when his daughter moved and took him with her.

It would have been interesting to know whether he had another story or if those two were the only ones in his act.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.