Bob Mitchell: A balmy 2016 Roaring River Opening Day

Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

Mother Nature smiled on the 2016 opening day of Roaring River State Park, with coffee servers walking around quite comfortably in their shirt sleeves as they made their pre-dawn rounds.

Jeremy Marple, one of those servers, said the brew was welcomed by most he served during the early morning hours. He admitted that some of the anglers wanted the servers out of the way as they concentrated on making their first cast in their favorite baffle hole.

Concessionaires

There have been nine or 10 concessionaires in the 80-plus years Roaring River has been a part of the Missouri Parks' recreational system. Nine of those I'm sure of, and there might be one of them that has slipped my mind. Things are beginning to go that way. That's probably as it should be, since I could have been in attendance at all the openings, had I come along a couple of years earlier.

Being a concessionaire isn't as simple as it might seem. In the early days, an interested person had to first be in the governor's favor. Park concessions in those days were strictly a patronage deal, pure and simple.

For the most part, maybe in the instance of the one who can't be remembered, those who were placed in the job were Democrats. This trend continued when the awarding of contracts went to a bid status. For some reason, nearly everyone interested thought the governor would have the upper hand in running the park under a two-year contract.

Interesting to watch

When there was a change, it was interesting to watch the outgoing concessionaire and the incoming one deal on what was necessary to run the park.

Concessionaires owned the pots and pans, dishes and glasses, cups, knives and forks, pillowcases, sheets, blankets and all the supplies necessary to open the park on March 1, after the contract was awarded.

There were a few times when those negotiations would run right down to the last minute, as both parties would stick to their guns, either holding to a price for those going out or digging in their heels for the new manager refusing to pay the asking price. A time or two when the two parties failed to mesh, the new manager would go out on the open market and buy new equipment and supplies, sometimes in a hurry to meet the opening deadline.

Obviously, becoming a park concessionaire for the first time could be an expensive move and frequently requiring a good source of bank credit or a strong bank account.

Concessionaires remembered

My first recollection of the concessionaire at the park was Hugh Brixey, who held the post for a number of years. This was back in the time when the upper lake was in place and fishing was permitted along the shoreline. At the upper end of the lake was a floating facility that was used as a dance floor and had a few slot machines around the edge.

Dick Stamps held the concession for a number of years. He went into real estate in Springfield after departing. Another long-time concessionaire, actually having a couple of terms there, was Evan Shore. He and his wife Birdie, were first in the old hotel building that is now being remodeled.

Malcolm Waggoner was a congenial person. He and his wife quickly became involved in Cassville life. At the time he was at Roaring River, his brother was head of the Highway Patrol.

Bill and Hazel Edmondson, after closing their grocery store here, served as concessionaires a couple of terms. By this time, contracts were extended to four years. Another local couple, Frank and Dorothy Dell, did their run with a one-year contract. Another concessionaire was Jack Nickols. Carolyn Marrs took her turn at the helm of the park restaurant operations, right after a national firm, Delaware North, had a not-too-successful run. Norman and Shirley Chaney headed the operations for a number of years.

Current concessionaires, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Rogers, are in their second contract appearance, separated by several years. They also hold the operations contract at Bennett Spring.

Sorry to report

It's with sorrow that I report the death of Art Hegi of Smithville, about a month ago. Art was a Purdy and Shell Knob banker years ago. He was also a good cook. He was a good friend, whose lone survivor in his immediate family is a daughter.

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