Bob Mitchell: Names to cause head scratching

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The response to my columns of the past two weeks remembering women of past eras who made a difference in Cassville was so great, that a similar column about men seemed like a good idea. So, here are some guys to think about, and possibly scratch your head while trying to remember if they were around at the same time you were.

Like the women, these quite possibly aren’t all the individuals who had a part in doing their part in contributing to the advancement of Cassville, but they were the ones most obvious when I was reporting on Cassville happenings.

All time boosters

The man who, in my younger years, kept encouraging me to become involved in the Cassville IDC was hardware man Fred Meador. In the early years of the group’s development, he was probably the most solid supporter. He was among the founders of the corporation, back in the days when bank debits were used to purchase stock. Meador was affectionately called “candy” by some of us as a result of an incident during his term as C of C president. The chamber group was sold some stale candy for use in children’s packets, which were handed out while visiting Santa Claus. Meador insisted on paying for replacement treats and another visit from Santa was scheduled to compensate for the mistake.

Another of those early men to step up to the plate in boosting the IDC was banker Arthur Smith. He was the author of the bank debit plan that sold most of the IDC stock at $25 a share. He too was financially sound in dealing with one industry that attempted to leave town in the dead of night with mortgaged equipment.

The right connection

Right at the start of what might have been Cassville’s industrial revolution, the IDC attorney was Joe Ellis. He also happened to hold the political post of chairman for then Congressman Gene Taylor. Joe was also the attorney for the city of Cassville, and a leader in approving bonds that provided utility improvement in advance of FASCO’s decision to arrive here. Joe’s association with the Congressman put Cassville in line for $l.3 million in federal grants providing for a couple of payroll concerns coming to town at that time, the second being Alvey, Inc.

At the same time, the most steadying influence in the IDC was Bill Easley, Commerce Bank president at the time. His support and advice on a number of projects often righted the ship of the IDC at an important phase of an effort. He never hesitated in lending support to an effort to raise funds for purchase of land or to provide an incentive for payroll advancement in the community.

The contributors

There was no difference in those days than today, if things were to happen, they cost money. In raising necessary funds, there were a few always at the top of the list, which would make a showing of support in encouraging others to become involved. At the head of this group was Herschel Stehlik, a relative newcomer to Cassville in the lumber business. His checkbook was always open when contacted for an investment and was the first stop on some lists.

Others in this category were Carl Fanning, J.A. Hull, Bill Hailey and J.A. (Pop) Blalack, who quickly became the largest holder of IDC stock and was instrumental in making sure financing was available for the purchase of property and building of the American Legion Home. Kenneth Johnston was another of these, following in the footsteps of his late father, Ernie, who boasted of obtaining every business in Cassville as members of the Chamber of Commerce.

Marion Wooten and J.J. Miller, druggists at the time, were strong touches in any finance effort in those days.

Government employees

Charles Crowley, a federal employee who headed Farmer’s Home Administration in Barry County, was the one willing to tackle a project of getting funds for Cassville Golf Course when approached by local interest. Such a project had never been attempted in Missouri, but with local support and contacts, he was willing to pursue the plan. The end result was the first grass green facility in this area.

Another government type was Bill Sellers, Barry County sanitarian, whose personality and work ethnic thrust the fledging organization strongly before the public. His life ended prematurely in an airplane collision in Oklahoma.

A pair of school superintendents, Ralph Hamilton and Dan Bailey, during their terms heading R-4 schools, brought the system into modern times, and began programs that provided a start of the best facilities for the education of children of the district.

They also brought the district out of problems created by reorganization of districts in those days.

(Continued next week).

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.