This weekend marked the return of a visitor to the hatchery after an extended absence.

This weekend marked the return of a visitor to the hatchery after an extended absence. We get the honor of meeting many people who tell us of their fond memories of stopovers here in their past. And like them, this man recalls his childhood visit here, and, also like the others, was anxious to see it again.

On a family excursion in 1941, our traveler, the oldest of four children then 11 years old, rode with the family from their central Kansas small town to visit his uncle, then the president of the Pittsburg State Bank. From there, they called upon another uncle who was an itinerant preacher for three small churches in the Missouri Ozarks region. At some point, he couldn't remember when, they lived in the small town of Blackburn, between Columbia and Kansas City. It was this contact that probably suggested the must-see sights of the area, leading them to see some fish.
Since it has been over 70 years between stops to the Neosho fish hatchery, he honestly could not remember a whole lot about the place from back then. He did not particularly remember the iconic hatch house that was in its prime back then, or the stately ponds or park-like atmosphere. He did remember the fish, though. He recalled the raceways (four of which were positioned south of the hatch house and are now long gone) with the huge trout in them. These raceways were much narrower than our current ones, and he told of his desire to touch and grab one. As is true now, and was likely back then as well, this is not encouraged for our visitors, and indeed, he was unsuccessful in his attempt. And he did not test his technique on this current occasion! He recollects also how cold and clear the water was compared to back home.

Walking around the grounds and seeing the fish and facilities, he made many mentions of how impressed he was with it all. After the family stopped at the hatchery, they traveled up to St. Louis and caught several Cardinals games against the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves. One game ended in a 7-7 tie because of a midnight curfew rule, after 12 innings on July 29, 1941, at Sportsman's Park III. He remembers getting several autographs, including one from Stan Musial. The family trip then returned them back home afterwards. Later in life, he also mentions that when he joined the army, he was first stationed at Camp Crowder, just south of the hatchery for his initial training. He was then sent on to Fort Riley, Kan.

Now all this is interesting enough, and we get visitors with stories on par with this from time to time, but something else makes this visit particularly special. You see, this man is Stanley Hallman, my father. And these details were never really revealed to me in many years spent with him since we lived many hundreds of miles away in Denver, Colo., still their home. It was a wonderful privilege to reminisce with him about his past and my present here at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery. Oh, and one last thing, their visit was on their 57th wedding anniversary.

Bruce Hallman is the environmental education specialist for the Neosho National Fish Hatchery.