Bob Mitchell: Changing August to ‘Rogust’

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

This column will be of little interest to anyone not involved in fine dining in Springfield in the middle 1940s, unless they might have been fans of Gus Otto’s Restaurant.

It was located on East St. Louis Street, and was a favorite of my dad’s. The restaurant had several special offerings on the menu, one being oysters, either on the half shell or fried.

It was for this menu item that Otto frequently changed the name of August.

An “R” was required

In those days — perhaps even today — oysters were available only in months containing an “R”, but whatever his source, Otto would frequently have the item on his menu in August.

So, for this month of the summer he would let it be known that he had oysters in “Rogust,” and his customers would flock to the location to consume their favorite food.

It remained a secret throughout the operation what the source might be for the shellfish, with no one caring, if that happened to be their favorite food.

Long walk from SMS

The exact location of Gus Otto’s escapes me at this period of my life, but the long walk from SMS to the restaurant is burned into my memory. That’s not to say the trips there during college days were frequent, as the cost was outside our budget in those days. However, perhaps every four to six weeks, if we had been prudent with our spending, we’d head out to East St. Louis during one of the “R” months for a delicious meal.

That’s not to say the “Prate runch” at the College Inn wasn’t sufficient — it was, but the oyster opportunity was more than could be overcome. The Inn, an employer in those days, offered a discount plus a small hourly salary, but that was sacrificed for those infrequent trips to Otto’s restaurant.

Dog days of summer

The eighth month of the year seemingly has always been labeled with the title of Dog Days of Summer. Looking back into those days, it was at least suggested that there be no swimming in Flat Creek. Youngsters who had transportation would turn to the pool near the old Lodge at Roaring River State Park for a dip when the temperatures got to the unbearable high levels.

While it was suggested we stay out of Flat Creek, one reason was those were the days of Polio, and every precaution had to be exercised to avoid being overcome with the epidemic that was in progress in those days.

Being permissible to dip into the cold water of the Roaring River pool of those days meant not only did the water come directly out of the spring, it passed over three or four troughs of Rainbow Trout that were being grown-out before their release in the stream. It was never tested by health officials, so far as we knew, but thinking of it now, how safe was that water compared to a flowing stream?

Today’s families don’t have to worry about such things. They have been provided safe facilities, so take advantage of these Dog Days of Summer!

Good fishing days

Early morning and evening hours are my best suggestion for getting out on Table Rock during the coming weeks. The Almanac’s suggested best fishing days are Aug. 25-31. Good opportunities might exist on Aug. 6, 7 and 12.

Come to think of it, there have been some large fish boated during nighttime fishing in August. Most of those successes were during all night fishing tournaments, specifically out of the boat of Cecil Davis when he always insisted on being on the dark side of the hills below Big Creek about midnight when the moon would begin to show on the water.

Vedas Davis, Barry County treasurer at the time, was my partner in one of these draw events, when we thought I had the large fish award in the bag, only to learn it was a catfish that had taken the plastic lizard bait.

Ice House after-thought

Missing from the recent Ice House columns was an item that became a must to have around the house. It had long been a practice that a kitchen drawer contained both a bottle opener and an ice pick. While neither is a necessity these days, it didn’t taken someone’s mind long to solve the requirement for two pieces.

Do you remember the ice pick that had a wooden handle with the pick on one end and a bottle opener on the other? (I still have one.) It’s a small tool, but just the start of things to come.

Today, ice-makers or trays supply all the ice requirements of most households. Now, most soft drinks have either a tab opener or a twist-off cap that can be handled without the assistance of an opener

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.