Life in McDonald County in the 1940s was hard. Possibly times were hard in other places as well, but in McDonald County, finding work that would support a family for six was virtually nonexistent.
My father was a hard worker and when his job at Crowder was ended we had real problems. He had been called up twice for the draft but each time a physical ailment caused him to fail the physical and he would return to Anderson, awaiting the next call at which time he would surely be drafted, leaving his young wife and four little ones to manage without him.
Without a newspaper and limited radio (no television back then) the word that was out was things were better on the West Coast. Packing up his family, they headed for California; first a job as a laborer with the railroad in that hot area of Barstow and Yermo, Calif., bought groceries and the next move was to Santa Clara Valley, The Valley of Heart’s Delight, now better known as Silicone Valley. His family helped out, picking prunes, cutting apricots, something even elementary school-aged children could help.
With a buddy of his he partnered up for a “service” gasoline station, a fairly good mechanic, and putting in long, long hours, they kept food on the table, just barely.
He learned of a job with a lumberyard, again, a laborer, but there was a hang-up. Having finished only the fifth grade, he was a man with a lot of common sense and a strong back a willing attitude, not afraid of hard work, and a good vocabulary due to years of reading for pleasure — figuring lumber, heaven forbid fractions of feet and inches was a serious stumbling block for any kind of a good job. Many were the nights he struggled as his devoted life companion helped him — she with the high school education worked with her husband at the same time she worked with their children with their homework. He had always had a knack with figures and could do sums in his head faster than most with a pencil and paper, and now, with fractions as well, it was a short time until he was foreman. Popular with his men, his love of humor and reputation for fairness, he was “getting there.”
Hard working, with motivation of a fast growing family, (they found a half-built home in Campbell, Calif., that they could afford) a willing help-mate, with two small sons to be go-fers, the only thing he hired out was the electricity and for the first time in their young lives, they were “making it.” For the first time they enjoyed inside plumbing, a second-hand claw-footed bath tub, electricity (including their first refrigerator), telephone: no more cutting and carrying firewood, drawing water from a well, scrubbing a week’s laundry on a scrub board, this was living! In time they found it in their budget to return to McDonald County and visit family — enjoy a few days of relaxation, fishing on the banks of the Buffalo, looking forward to a day when he could return to McDonald County, the land of his fathers, his land of heart’s delight.
The children grew, with a good education under their belts, they started their families and he and his lifelong helpmate looked toward “home,” toward McDonald County. It was 1967 when they made that decision, sold their home, packed up all they had accumulated and headed east. They were able to return to McDonald county, settle in and enjoy life. Times were no longer hard — there was a little bit of money in the bank, children and grandchildren had followed and life was good.
The Native Americans had a saying about Southwest Missouri, that if you lived there, even though you moved far away you would return. He proved it and today, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren feel fortunate that they can raise their families and enjoy that special flavor, that peace that they find in this special blessed land.
Today, I would like to invite all to stop by the Historic Old Courthouse on the Square in Pineville. Museum is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. Extended hours we will be open during Jesse James Days, (Aug. 6-9). Do drop by and check out exhibits — test the flavor of a very special area. Write to us at McDonald County Historical Society, P.O. Box 572, Pineville, 64856, or call us at 417-223-7700 (leave a message) or visit us online at the McDonald County Historical Society Facebook page or at www.mcdonaldcohistory.org.
Alberta Anders writes a weekly column for the Daily News.