Opinion

Bob Mitchell: Characters that provided many local services

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Cassville has been home to a number of “characters” that both blended into and made some of the early times entertaining, enjoyable and obviously interesting to the local citizenry.

Some were handled carefully, but there were times when individuals were abused and were handled and disciplined by authorities and the citizens who knew about their acts.

These folks performed some tasks around town, and all without their own transportation, doing their moving about either afoot or by a gracious individual that might happen to see them headed for a destination.

Long time night watch

Guy Latham was a night watchman that served Cassville for many years, faithfully protecting property in what was the business district in those days, basically the public square. The Latham home, where he lived with his sister, was at Gravel and First St. It was an early Mitchell family home. The location is now part of First United Methodist Church.

Guy’s methods probably would not measure-up to modern law enforcement, but in those days and for what he was paid, they were more than adequate. Each business that wanted his services would be assessed a small amount by the city for his weekly pay envelope.

All his duties were afoot making his rounds for fire protection and possible break-ins. He had a unique method of detecting problems as he walked his rounds. In those days almost every business had a screen door to keep flies out, there were no air conditioners, only fans moved air in hot weather. Guy would spend part of his day in the balcony of the Cassville Democrat office, cutting out strips of white cardboard from shoe store boxes. During the night he would place one of these strips between the screen door and the casing on each of his customer’s locations.

During his rounds, he used his faithful and powerful flashlight beam, perhaps from across the street, to see if the strip of white cardboard had been disturbed. If it had, he would either investigate or call the central telephone office, and they would notify the owner who could take any action if he thought it was necessary.

Latham was also interested in organizational endeavors in Purdy, often walking from Cassville to meetings on a regular basis.

Carried newspapers

Harvey (Bus) Long, had relatives who lived between Butterfield and Purdy, but he preferred to live in Cassville where he performed a number of tasks for different individuals, including the Cassville Democrat. On press days, Wednesdays, he would be right on time in the early afternoon, with his homemade wagon, ready to take our mail to the Post Office.

Weather never changed his availability, and he was always prepared for what confronted him. Some of the newspapers were in bundles and others were in U.S. Mail sacks. My memory doesn’t provide the number of trips back and forth he would make each Wednesday, always getting the papers on the post office dock well before time for them to be worked.

Harvey was always available for treating the groom of recent weddings for an afternoon of playing his harmonica or jewsharp. This was while the man was handcuffed to the old cannon that stood on the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn in those days. It never was explained how the new bride missed this entertainment.

A dastardly act occurred before one July 4th when three boys put a firecracker in a cigarette, which Bus lit and the explosion blew out some of his front teeth. The boys were quickly apprehended, jailed a few days, required to pay his dental bill and then provide some additional services.

Barry Hotel service

Charley High was a Barry Hotel employee when the facility was operated by the Harry Dillards. Charley was known for his style of dress, always in a three-piece suit, with a starched white shirt and tie. His duties were many around the hotel, always making sure to give special treatment to traveling salesmen.

If it was stoking the large stove in the lobby, to providing something for the customer’s room and probably he was known to make some trips to a local liquor store for someone who had forgotten their bottle.

He was an interesting person to pass the time of day with and much more knowledgeable than many people gave him credit for.

When the Dillards left the hotel, they moved to the James River area of Big Rock, where some of us fished occasionally. Charley was never seen in this area.

Labor Day holiday

Monday is the final holiday of the summer, Labor Day, when a number of people will be traveling. Be safe and please remember there is still a serious pandemic with the Delta virus with us. If you haven’t been vaccinated please get that done before moving about the country!

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.

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