Opinion

Bob Mitchell: Jaycees’ dirty hands helped community

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

One of my most enjoyable experiences involving change, so far as the Cassville Democrat was concerned, happened when the paper became the first in the county to convert to the offset method of printing, making our old web-fed press obsolete.

So, I began looking around for a way to dispose of several tons of scrap metal that would come from demolition of the press. And fortunately for the paper, along came, the newly formed Cassville Jaycees. They were an ambitious bunch, looking for a project that would benefit local summer youth activities.

We struck a deal, and members of the group descended on the press area a couple of Saturdays, completing the task of dismantling the press and hauling it away to Arkansas to sell to a scrap dealer.

The comedy of the project was seeing these Jaycees, many not accustomed to getting their hands dirty in connection with any manual labor, coming out of the press pit virtually covered with oil and ink that abounded throughout parts of the equipment.

Cassville’s summer youth programs benefitted by several hundreds of dollars as a result of their effort, and we got additional floor space needed for other activities. Some the Jaycees’ names that popped to my mind included: Scott Spencer, John Bartkoski and Allen Sparks.

A little history

During this process there was also some equipment in the second story of our building that needed to be removed, which brought to mind an inquiry recently about that part of the structure. Actually, that was the location of the first telephone office in Cassville. The office was accessible by a long stairway in the back of the building. That stairway was the location of a near fatal stabbing at one time. But then that’s another story.

Later the building remained divided downstairs as Doc’s Cafe, owned by the Kisler family, and offices of the late dentist Dr. Glen Horine. Upstairs were apartments, accessible this time by a stairway that divided the downstairs businesses.

Improvements

This time of the year used to be an ideal time for improvements to Cassville businesses. A couple of for-instances, Barry County Lumber, now the TH Rogers Lumber Co., moved from the old Beck Truck building on south Main to the present location on Highway 248. The Herschel and Della Stehlik made that improvement, purchasing property from the Turner estate for the new location.

That’s also about the time the road in front of the business was changed from Highway 44 to the present number—248. The switch was made due to the numbering system on Interstate 44.

The Presley family, then owners of Sanitary Market on the north side of the public square, began improvements to their building. That was the business opened by the Barber family years earlier.

Would you believe this was the era when Cassville had seven grocery stores? And, five of them were within no more than a block from the square!

Some growth

Talk around Cassville about this time there was about a switch in the provider of electrical power for the community. New Mac distribution was out with the organization of Barry Electric Cooperative.

The new form of power distribution for rural areas got underway with l70 miles of distribution lines in the service area and l,640 people signed up for service. Basically, the area served is about the same as it was at the original formation time.

Anxious folks

People were anxious for the service, especially in the rural areas where lanterns provided illumination for homes and gasoline engines ran any appliances that were available. Food preservation was through cellars or ice chests that required frequent refilling.

The Co-op coming into being was an employment opportunity for some of us. I was lucky enough to get a job with a Lamar engineering firm that did the original layout of lines in several areas. Some real good memories are available of areas around Shoal Creek, Thomas Hollow, Oak Ridge and right on down the line.

As I’ve mentioned before, it was interesting to see those who were reluctant to have a pole or anchor wire located in their corn field refuse to give right-of-way easements. When this happened the engineer would simply tell us to mark our location and pack our gear, and we moved on to another area.

A few days later, those same folks would have a change of mind, after their neighbors had talked to them. They would sign the papers, and we’d move back to finish that segment of line.

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.