Bob Mitchell: Fond memories with the boys
It's always great to gather with family and review happenings over generations. Some of the sidelights are equally enjoyable, even though it takes the whole group to remember names or events that have occurred over the span of more than 60 years.
Such was the event that was enjoyed at Roaring River Lodge last week, when three of the Pearl boys came into these parts on a journey to re-live some of their past.
These guys -- offspring of Charles (Chick) and Christine (she was a Talbert) Pearl -- are cousins of mine. All of them are younger, and they sometimes rely on me to fill them in on some of the history that rests in the Ray family.
One of the boys, Charles, who is no longer with us, was a union representative in Springfield. Jim of Kansas City, Tom of Springfield and Glen of St. Louis continue to keep their Barry County roots intact.
Chick, who operated a service station at Sixth and Main -- the present location of the Cassville Democrat -- is pictured in a hall photo in the office of Dr. Mark Matthews.
Jim once worked in the Kansas City Royals organization and retired from the insurance industry. Tom was an industrial arts professor at Missouri State University before his retirement, and Glen was comptroller for St. Louis County before he became nearly a full-time golfer.
If you remember the family, there was a sister, Mary Beth, who lives in Neosho and devotes her time to a pair of grandchildren.
During their early lives, the Pearl family lived in the Ray house on Gravel and Third streets. Their dad was an Internal Revenue Service agent, assigned to the Joplin office. Due to travel requirements of his assigned area, he later moved to Diamond to a larger house -- obviously needed for the family size -- which is located a short distance from the highway in Newton County.
One of their destinations on this gathering was to visit the Diamond Christian Church, where they had arrangements to meet the present pastor for a walk-through. The purpose of this visit was to see if they could recognize any of the brick in the original buildings, since they had cleaned used brick for the original construction. The used brick was a method of conserving funds for the project.
During later years in this area, they lived in Neosho in my aunt Bess Robinson's house atop the Big Spring Stair Steps.
Two of the boys had friendships with Dr. Estel Landreth, retired Wichita, Kan., dentist, now residing on Table Rock Lake in the Eagle Rock community. Tom played football with him in Neosho, and Jim roomed with him in Kansas City when the doctor attended dental school.
Taking some photos around was important to the group. They were especially interested in one possibility at Roaring River.
There was a view of the red bud trees in bloom on the bluff area around the lodge and near the store, which once belonged to their great-grandmother, Jennie Ray. The land for an initial development by a Kansas City group, Park Center, was sold by Aunt Jennie probably in the late 1950s for a restaurant and motel, which was in competition with state-operated facilities. The restaurant was below on the highway and the basic motel was located behind on the bluff.
Operating the restaurant at that time was the late John Hendricks Sr., who later founded Lucky Strike Manufacturing, a Cassville industry that operated from several locations before moving to the Cassville Industrial Park and changing the name of the business to Luck "E" Strike. Sale of the business to outside interests resulted in the firm moving to Mexico.
A significant memory
One major memory the Pearl boys had of Cassville was a warning from their father to give a wide berth to one-time night watchman Guy Lathem, who was legendary in his time.
Lathem, who lived on Gravel Street, the property later becoming part of the United Methodist Church development, took a great deal of pride in his job.
His equipment, as best remembered, included about a six-cell flashlight, unique for the time, and a six-shooter strapped to his side.
The flashlight was used as part of his patrol around the square where businesses in those days had screen doors, since air conditioning was unheard of and doors were open to provide circulation in warm weather. Lathem would set on the balcony above the Cassville Democrat office and cut strips out of shoeboxes, which he would fold and place between the screen door and facing.
While patrolling around the courthouse part of the square, he would shine his light on the door. If the white cardboard was missing, he would get interested and contact the owner.
One New Year's, he was celebrating by firing his pistol and accidentally destroyed a sign at the Music Store on the south side of the square.
Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.