Bob Mitchell: Houchie-kootchie was off limits

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Back at least 77 years ago, entertainment in Cassville for young folks was more than just flipping a switch or turning a knob.

Most of what you did in spare time was often using your own imagination or possibly an idea of another person. Often in the Dog Days of Summer, which really arrived Aug. 1, there would be a couple of opportunities to attend a Medicine Show, which might make its way into Cassville a couple of times in the summer.

In those days, they would set their wagon or vehicle in the vicinity of the electric company’s pole yard, which was on East Ninth Street at that time, across from the Hide House. The stacks of poles served as a bleacher for youngsters on hand for the performance.

There was always one stipulation from my mother — if there was a Belly Dancer, which she sometimes referred to as a Houchie-kootchie person, it was time for me to leave the vicinity. There wasn’t anything wrong with staying for the Snake Show, hearing the music that came from a number of sources, but no scantily-clad females on the stage were to be viewed by these young (at the time) eyes.

Some sales talk

It was always interesting to listen to the sales pitch that was presented in the middle — and at the end of the program. And, the sales seemed to most usually go well. It wasn’t ever determined what percentage of alcohol might have been in the bottled product the pitchman was presenting to the crowd. It usually caught the attention of older persons.

There were some pretty good fiddlers that accompanied the shows, and generally there was a performer or two that would juggle several items and occasionally an obviously athletic type would put on some kind of performance. All this was approved for my eyes, according to my mother!

Town stayed open

Then there was always Saturday night with Cassville’s downtown going full blast well after dark. There was the opportunity to visit with friends from the countryside that often accompanied their parents to town. Most folks in these days were well aware of the cash drawings offered by merchants earlier that afternoon. The northwest corner of the square would be filled to the brim with those hoping their names would come out of the hopper.

Band concerts provided concerts periodically, a regular requirement of the high school band music students of Lanola Hodge. These were possibly the most anticipated presentations of the era.

Businesses all stayed open late because there were some attractions to watch.

Fights were frequent

With Night Owl beer joint on the south side of the square and Pelican Café-Long Bar on Main just off Ninth Street, there was bound to be a fight or two break out as the hour grew later each Saturday night.

For the Night Owl location, entry was up several steps, which served as a bouncing board for the individual that had become unruly while in the establishment.

Naturally, these places were off-limits for youngsters, but in those days, passing out advertisements or funeral notices, a sometimes job for youngsters, would get you inside these joints. On such duties, it was sometimes somewhat strange to find some of the leading business people in town inside the establishments during unusual times of day.

Dog Days dangers

The arrival of Dog Days usually brought discouragement of swimming in some locations on Flat Creek. Running water holes were usually acceptable. Roaring River’s Bass Lake was preferred, but then transportation was a problem. The park’s swimming pool water, at the time came directly from the spring after passing over Rainbow Trout rearing pools, not recommended this time of year.

With the cold water temperatures not being all that conducive for those who loved the warmer water, Bass Lake wasn’t the favorite place for some people.

Injuries were to be avoided during those days, as infections were sometimes more prevalent during the hot weather days. This meant in most areas shoes would be on your feet. There were some serious problems resulting from stepping on glass or a nail in those days, even a couple of deaths.

Often, when transportation was available, Black community bridge cable hole on Flat Creek was an acceptable swimming area until leeches were discovered. If bitten, this required a smoking person to persuade them to release their hold.

Visitors in town

Cassville should put on her best face Thursday and Friday, as visitors for the 34th Annual Hillbilly Golf Tournament will be playing on the local links.

This event was designed to pay tribute to our industrial neighbors, providing an opportunity for local business folks and other entities to get-to-gather.

The Cassville Golf Course, era 1966 for the original nine and 1988 for the second nine, remains as one of the premier non-country club establishments in Missouri.

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.