Bob Mitchell: Meeting with Roaring River benefactor

Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

Opening day of trout season on Tuesday brings to mind the opportunity I had years ago when I met someone who had something to do with the park's existence in the state's system.

I was about to enter my freshman year in high school and we were living in St. Louis one summer while my dad was working at a munitions plant during World War II.

Our residence was at 4531 West Pine, just a block off of Lindall and a block away from the Catholic Cathedral. Three blocks away, still on West Pine, were a couple of apartment buildings -- one housing Mrs. Maud Reynolds, a one-time Cassville resident. She and her son, Deck, a West Point graduate, owned the building that originally housed the Music Store in Cassville. The two-story structure, the upper floor once housed a dance hall for couples that would use a Victrola from the downstairs business for their music. My mother used to tout this as an outstanding location for young couples.

At one time, the building housed the bus station, when the area had that service. It was later a sandwich shop and newsstand.

Mrs. Reynolds had the building demolished and built the present structure, which is now Willis Insurance. Even under their ownership, they retained the original owner's name at the cornerstone, Frost.

Back to original story

Even though I must have only been about 14, Mrs. Reynolds, who was a family friend, frequently called for me to come drive her on a particular errand. Fortunately, I didn't get caught driving without a permit, but it gave me an opportunity to learn my way around St. Louis as Mrs. Reynolds certainly did know her way around.

One afternoon, she called and wanted to go just a short distance, up toward Kingshighway, to visit a friend who resided in another apartment building. She didn't want to take a bus, although it was just a short distance from where she lived.

Got to destination

I went the few short blocks to the Reynolds' apartment, got her Buick out of the downstairs garage, and picked her up at the front door. Turning toward Kingshighway, the short trip put us right at the correct location. I accompanied her to the elevator and up to the apartment she was visiting. Answering the door was an apparent maid, who escorted us into the living room of the obviously high quality apartment.

There, I was introduced to Mrs. Thomas Sayman wanted to know all about Roaring River State Park when she learned I was from Cassville. It was then it struck me that it was her husband who had given the land, including the stream, etc., to the state of Missouri.

I felt kind of like I was short of information at that point of my life, since I didn't really know that much about the park, and since at that juncture of life we had been in and out of the area a number of times.

Mrs. Sayman, a gracious lady who was most senior at the time and widowed a number of years, turned her attention to her guest after we had the Roaring River exchanges, and I went outside to wait until their visit was completed.

Conflict over fish

As the story goes, the party from whom Sayman had purchased the land and the new owner didn't get along all that well. There was one occasion when the famous soap maker was locked in a safe in the county courthouse after being harassed by the one-time owner. There were a number of encounters, but none this serious since warnings had been issued.

But, further into the dealings on the park, Sayman discovered that fish in the upper lake and stream had been mortgaged by the former owner. He grew terribly upset and set out immediately for Jefferson City, where he promptly transferred ownership of Roaring River to the state of Missouri. The good doctor upset Cassville residents at a later date when he agreed to construct a balcony on the front of the community building, which would provide shelter for such programs as band concerts.

When the balcony was dedicated and a signature sign unveiled on the front, it gave credit for the project to Sayman Soap. That designation didn't last long as it was quickly covered up, only to be displayed in later years when repairs were being made and the permanent removal ordered by the city.

Park to open March 1

Whatever difficulties that might arise, even inclement weather that might be on the way for the March 1 opening, it's upon us next Tuesday. If you haven't been there for the festivities, it's suggested you drop into Roaring River Hollow before 6:30 a.m. and see one of the best events in southwest Missouri.

I haven't been there for all of the openings -- this is opening No. 88 -- but I might have been had my birthday been two years earlier.

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