Bob Mitchell: ‘Once upon a time’ shopping choices

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Better get hopping, if you haven’t already, as there are less than two weeks before Christmas – 13 days to be exact!

And, come to think of it, there are only nine days before the official arrival of winter. Both events are obviously important – to each and every one of us — if we will admit it.

Shopping in Cassville

Once upon a time, there were plenty of choices for Christmas shopping in Cassville. Thoughts along these lines bring reminders of an official with a leading industry in Cassville that annually came to town to shop for his extended family. Jerry McCaffery was an outstanding customer for the town, after being a leading proponent for the location of Jumping-Jacks Shoe plant (later to become Justin Boot.)

He and Mrs. McCaffery annually made a shopping trip to Cassville for their large family. The couple would virtually load their vehicle with packages. Their journey to town always included dropping by the Cassville Democrat office to say hello and then return later after completing their lists and go to the south side of the square coffee shop for a rest.

Going back a number of years, there were choices upon choices for community shoppers to fill their holiday needs.

Following is a list of merchants that were available in those days, not necessarily in order of existence or location in the main part of town at that particular time. Most of these merchants were the ones that made Cassville a strong commercial town, making it possible for these business people to eventually add to the economic development of the “City of Seven Valleys.”

Here goes the list, hopefully a complete one: Nicoll’s, Furniture, Gambles (later Anglum’s), Miller Drug, Walker Department Store (later Fanning’s,) Johnston’s Variety Store, Wooten Drug, OTASCO, Turner’s Shoes, K.E. Brown Jewelry, Moore’s Economy Store, Tomblin’s Jewelry, Ozark Furniture, Tot’s Toggery (Mourine Sands). Fields Photo, Music Store (bus station), Wiley’s Western Auto, Tim Rich Appliances, Meador-Haddock Hardware, Sanitary Market (Barbers), Baker and Seely Market, Naloni’s Dress Shop (Blythe’s), Dryer’s Shoes, Meador-Dilbeck Jewelry, Tex’s Fashions (Vaughn, later Marie’s), Riddle’s, House and Allison Appliances, Miller Furniture and Appliance (later McNeill’s), Sears Catalog Store, Montgomery-Ward Catalog.

Going with this list might be somewhat dangerous, since over the years it’s been determined to be somewhat of a problem with making this kind of a list without missing one or two, or even not knowing there were other establishments that offered gifts.

That’s why it might be necessary to mention the auto dealers of those days that were more than obliging to offer their products, even though they might not fit under a Christmas tree.

Blalack Motors had Chevrolet, Bill Hailey Motors (at one time Keen Motors) had Ford and Kenney-Cowen Motors had Dodge and Plymouth.

Some of these even offered toy models of products that would fit the request of some fortunate youngster. Tractor and Implement dealers followed this possibility for shoppers looking for this type gifting.

Recreation in snow

About this time of the year it wasn’t unusual for the community to receive a significant snowfall, sometimes heavy enough and lasting an ample existence of time, to provide assorted recreation for the younger set. Included in these opportunities was sledding down the Seven Street Hill and making and riding sleds pulled behind a vehicle.

Constructing those sleds, capable of carrying about 10 youths was under the guidance of Verdayne Riddle. The vehicle pulling the sled was driven by Tom Nicoll.

Runners for the sled consisted of rough oak, usually at least a 3-foot-by-12-foot size, and the source of that kind of material escapes my memory at this time.

Non-sledders rode in the back of the truck on a bed of straw.

Hill sliding

In those days, municipal cooperation was important, as then-City Superintendent Ray Correll, would put coal ashes at the intersection of Seventh Street and the Public Square to keep sleds out of traffic. Streets crossing Seventh St. were roped off to traffic, bringing on some grumbling from a few citizens.

Both the hill adventure and towed sledding were daytime and evening events. Large bonfires atop the hill at night provided warmth for continuing the sport. Neighbors often supplied wood for those fires.

At night, avenues would be swept, and sleds could go through town and across Main St. where guards were stationed, and proceed all the way to Flat Creek.

A treat from Thompson

Some people will remember Truman Thompson, long-time elementary school principal in Cassville. During the Seventh Street Hill sledding event, he would frequently provide a new feature for the audience and those either going down hill or those returning to the top of the hill. He would break out a pair of snow skies he had from previous trips west and make a run or two down the Cassville sloop, and for this feat he always got a roaring response.

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.