Bob Mitchell: Ray Correll, an overlooked Cassville personality

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Driving around the City of Seven Valleys recently -- a frequent hobby of mine -- I noticed there were some streets named after individuals who had served Cassville in one capacity or another. Whether they were all justified is left to others to decided.

One name that wasn't found was that of Ray Correll, who during his career working for the city of Cassville wore more hats than anyone before him or since.

Ray resided at Third and West streets, and his house site is now a city parking lot -- perhaps a rather appropriate use of the land for which he would have approved. He was city water superintendent as far as official titles were concerned, but he was also in charge of streets. When the town acquired a sewer disposal plant, he ran that too. As further incentive to keep him close to the city, he was a volunteer firefighter.

In this duty, he was more than likely to be the first at the firehouse where the one firetruck was housed on Townsend Street. That small space was also where city maintenance chores were assigned in those days.

There weren't maps of city utilities in those days. They were committed to Ray's memory. At any given time, Ray could tell you exactly where a water or sewer line was located and was often called to assist other utilities with problems that might require excavation. It didn't happen often, but there were times when his advice wasn't followed. This could cause problems in other utilities.

There weren't any paid uniforms for Ray or any of his crew of 2-3 that might be on the city rolls at that time.

About the mid 1940s, he got home from the Army to live with his mother. When he went to work for the city, he obviously knew he had to take the bull by the horns and would be able to run the show by himself. And he did just that, never complaining, according to a fellow worker Spiz Stephens. His closest friend, Marlee Edie, recalls the same.

An avid beekeeper, he was known to be away from his job occasionally when a local resident would have a problem with a swarm of bees. He could collect a swarm about as fast as anyone, and it didn't matter much where they might be located.

A passion of his was quail hunting. That was in the days when you didn't have to go far from Cassville before putting your dogs in the field. He and Edie were partners in roaming a lot of territory in Barry County, following both their favorite pastimes. Again, these were the days when bobwhites were plentiful in the county.

Correll was gainfully employed by the city until 1980, and passed away about a year later.

A recollection of Ray was his willingness to help people in about any situation. Once, when my mother broke her ankle in an accident helping push a car, it was Ray Correll who came to us to volunteer driving me on the route throughout town delivering fresh milk, and making sure I got to school on time since dad was frequently gone on car sales.

Correll was a natural for the area, since he loved the outdoors. It always took a few dozen soft-shell crawfish to get him to accompany floaters on a trip, which was typically to the Owens Bend country. He would drive us to the Lester Loften place, help us launch our boat down a steep sandbank, and then drive the vehicle on down to the mouth of James River. He would fish from the bank until we arrived on the scene. By the way, those crawfish cost 60 cents a dozen.

In those days, a careful driver was needed to avoid sharp flint rocks that could perforate the rayon tires of those times. That was the reason we always carried two or three spares on those trips. These were available at Jimmy Turner's station, where the Cassville Democrat office is now located.

Correll was on hand when Cassville's new wastewater treatment plant went online in 1980. At that time, it was touted as the most modern plant west of the Mississippi. It was the final treatment with ultraviolet lights that made this qualification. Steve Henderson, present-day superintendent, said there was pride in Correll's eyes to see the city achieve this facility.

It might just be that naming a street wouldn't be adequate to recognize someone of his stature in the city who has been overlooked for so long. There aren't many Ray Corrells around these days who can almost single-handedly run a town -- at least not that have come around recently.

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