Bob Mitchell: Past people, places, events remembered

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Some instances that recently came my way were far out of the past, but brought some memories to light that I had virtually forgotten.

The first one came when Sandy Cullers, a former member of the R-4 faculty, who’s is now my neighbor, had an extra ticket to the Springfield Symphony and asked me if I wanted to go. Not being a symphony type, my first response was no, until I discovered Gary Ellison was on the program.

For those of you who don’t know Ellison, he is a Springfield public relations/politician who is a Ragtime Piano historian, and who is also quite an entertainer.

Rotary’s 50th anniversary

It was many years ago, the number that now escapes me, it was the Cassville Rotary Club’s 50th Anniversary, and they dumped the event arrangements on me. I accepted, providing there was a $1,500 expense budget. What we did couldn’t be done for that today.

First, I contacted Louise Robbins, a 1947 classmate who was school food service director at the time, telling her we wanted prime rib for the menu. Two days later she called saying she would do it. Two days later, she called back saying the cooking wasn’t a problem, but carving might be. I told her not to worry, we’d get someone to accomplish that. Two days later, she came up with the idea she got from a supplier, of getting a pre-cooked prime rib, which would permit asking each participant as they entered the cafeteria (now elementary) their food preparation preference. To her credit, Louise did an outstanding job. The club heaped plenty of praises on her.

The symphony entertainment

Next, was the program for the event, so I contacted Gary Ellison, whom I had heard previously, and he accepted, for a $500 fee.

He put on quite a program, getting extended applause for each Ragtime segment. His narrative was especially entertaining.

My only objection was that he was obviously a Republican, touting a number of my competitors and their accomplishments.

So, that’s the reason I went to the symphony, and it was a good program. Ellison presented virtually the same program that he had at Cassville, so many years ago. He obviously doesn’t get around as spryly as he did back then.

His performances have included USO trips to South Korea and Vietnam. At one time he received the title of Official Missouri Ragtime Piano Player from one-time Gov. Kit Bond. For some of his domestic presentations, he traveled with his upright piano across the country.

In the back of my mind there was a glitter of hope to get to talk to him, but transportation back to where we live was waiting and that was impossible for them to wait. Perhaps there will be another opportunity.

An unexpected phone call

Out of the blue recently, a phone call I received had me confused until I learned it was Angeline Williams Rowland, 94, on the other end of the line from Rogers, Ark.

Angeline was looking for some information about the vicinity of High Dive on Table Rock Lake, which I was able to provide for her. We visited about some old-time things and she told me Ray Rowland was the only member of that original family still living. He’s in Minnesota, where he has been many years.

She is the daughter of Raymond and Grace Williams, founders of the former Standard Mutual Burial Insurance Company in Cassville. Raymond was the area’s state senator for several terms. Grace was among the early founders of First Christian Church.

As a youngster, I remember Raymond setting on the front row during church services, and sleeping through most of the sermon.

Angeline’s husband, Dale, served in the Coast Guard during WW II and later ran Standard Mutual. Their daughter, Beverly, was secretary to Pete Weiss, FASCO head at Ozark, who told her dad the company was planning another plant. Dale passed the information off to me, and we contacted Weiss, getting Cassville’s name on the possibility list. In so doing, he informed us, the company already had a lot of information about the Cassville community.

Corsicana’s is now on map

An area television weather map now has Corsicana’s name listed west of Cassville’s location. This brought back memories of days of my work surveying for Barry Electric power lines in that area. Now, that’s been a very long time ago also!

Chart Garrison, a fixture in that community, was always insistent that we eat our lunch in the shade of his trees during the hot summer. The nearby Capps Creek frequently provided a “skinny dip” for some of the younger crew members immediately after gulping down their packed lunch.

I have forgotten some of his stories of the past when that community was a large tomato canning area is a terrible thing to happen, but that’s the way it goes!

That location, as family had related, was one to which my great-grandfather, Dr. John Ray, rode horseback for making house calls prior to publishing the Cassville Democrat. His medical saddlebags are now in the Barry County Museum.

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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