Bob Mitchell: The civic contributions of veterans

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

There were some interesting statistics that came in the pages of the American Legion Magazine recently that were naturally of great interest to me. There were 12 interesting points taken from a survey that declared veterans keep America strong.

Since I am a veteran of the Navy, having served between 1949 and 1953, it’s not difficult for me to target several of those types who contributed a great deal to this community’s successes, since my period of service placed me in that category.

There will undoubtedly be others who will not be included in this, partly due to space, or those who could have been around before my involvement.

Clarence Oldaker

Clarence was not a native of this area, but he was a dedicated member of the American Legion whose efforts for the Irwin-Easley Post 118 resulted in him deserving and receiving the first lifetime membership awarded by the post. Kenneth Tucker, a native of the Neosho area, was the state commander at that time, and presented the award. I was post commander at the time.

Oldaker insisted on the Post keeping activities in the community. One of his demands included every business house in Cassville have and display the American Flag. The post had units available and would provide installation if required. I’ll never forget Harold Reese and Wilson Turner who performed this task at the Irwin Hotel, as they struggled to drill holes in the stucco walls of the facility.

Clarence was probably best known for his action at the annual Cassville Reunion when it was held on the banks of Flat Creek. That particular year, the Legion Post sold chances on an automobile, which was right after World War II. The entire region was canvassed for chances. At the drawing, the ticket held by Clarence came out of the cage. He immediately went to the microphone and told the officials, “Draw again!” He didn’t think it was right for a Legion member to win the hard-to-get vehicle. Will Baker’s name was on the next ticket drawn, and he drove the car for years.

Pop Blalack

He was a long-time Chevrolet dealer in Cassville, located at Fifth and Main for many years. J.A. “Pop” Blalack was a World War I veteran, and was probably the greatest benefactor of the Veteran organization that Cassville ever had.

The beginning of the American Legion Home consisted of the basement area, due to funding problems of the group, after making the land purchase from the Holman family. When the group really hit financial problems, it was “Pop” Blalack who went to the bank and borrowed sufficient funds to get the upstairs portion of the building under construction and provide sufficient funds to carry the post into better times.

For some reason, the community never did really recognize him for his efforts, mainly because he would have declined such action.

As a farther involvement in the betterment of Cassville, Blalack, at his death, was the largest holder of Cassville Development Commission stock. His was always one of those early contributors to a number of IDC involvements of buying land or making incentives.

Veteran statistics

Here are those statistics involving veterans: 169 average numbers hours per year volunteered by veterans, 126 hours averaged by non-veterans; 73.9 percent vets voting in local elections, 57.2 percent non-veterans; 59.2 percent vets give to charity, 52.1 percent non-vets; 10.7 percent vets work with neighbors on community projects, 7.6 percent non-vets address community efforts; 17 percent veterans contact public officials, 10 percent non-veterans take this action; 18 percent of veterans participate in other civic or service organizations; 6 percent of non-vets are involved in this category.

There was no source listed in this information that placed an inside look at the by-the-numbers way veterans are a part of their community, nor did it provide a geographical area that the source might have originated.

I wonder how the statistics would have turned out if it were conducted in this area?

From the spike

I received a real shock recently, when accompanying my neighbor, Spiz Stephens, to a Springfield Cardinals baseball game. Most of my recent travels in the Queen City had been in the south part of town, seeing doctors, and staying out of the downtown area. Of the three locations where I lived in Springfield while in high school or college, now they are part of Missouri State University. I’ve never forgiven the college for not keeping the College Inn, operated by Wes and Millie Trapp, as a historical point of interest. Lots of Cassville people worked there during college days, and hundreds of others ate meals there.

And, it’s been a long time since Gus Otto’s restaurant on East St. Louis existed. This was a staple Springfield eating establishment in the mid 1940s and remained there into the early 1950s, although it was a long walk from the Spielman home on Madison where Glennon Horner and I roomed; These changes makes it seem strange to visit that area now.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.