Friday, December 31, 2010

Bell City Public School

My education started in 1950, first grade, Bell City School. Here I met some life long friends that I still stay in touch with. One of my fondest memories is a friend Virgil Hampton. When I started school we were aS poor as old "Jobs" turkey. Virgil and me became the best of friends. He got to go home for lunch as he only lived about two blocks from school. Not long after we started he asked me to go home with him for lunch. Well this sure beat and old brown bag lunch because we didn't have money to eat in the lunch room. His mother would always have a good hot lunch for the kids. Lunches I will never forget. This is also where I met the twins Tim and Jim Bollinger, now the teacher had to cut a little snip of hair from one of them so she could tell them apart. Here I also met Gary Warren, David Dalton, Donnie Wilkerson and Ivan Max Dunn. There were some old girls in our class to. I remember Stephen Peal, Lou Allice Marie Ellsworth, a girl named Winnie Ward and pleanty more.
I didn't do very well in school because I just didn't like it. I received most of my learning after graduating high school where I had a job that required me to correspond with HQ and here I honed my verbal and typing skills. Something that helped me in the military with the MI division.
I remember one spring day I was in the 7th grade. Now back then marbles were pretty poplar but we were't allowed to play "keeps" where the one that won the round got to keep the opponents marbles. Well we got into a game of "keeps" one day with Mr Croy a teacher. Needless to say we got caught. Larry Lancaster, another I can't recall and myself got to go visit Mrs Thompson who very quickly bent us over a desk and applied the old paddle. I don't know what happened to Mr Croy but we never played "keeps" again.
Well I finally made it through the eighth grade and finally to high school. Here is where the fun began.
Here I became running buddies with Carl Neldon, Harold Nichols and Donnie Wilkerson. We were always getting into something. Donnie had an old 1950 Studebaker car that you couldn't keep brakes on Carl had an old 50 model Plymouth that had a rod Knocking, Harold got to drive his parents car and I had an old pair of worn out brogan shoes. But we sure had some times with what we had.
In high school I met and became pals with guys like Milford Cooper, Harold Hunt, Gary Strobel, and the one and only Bob Nesler who deceided to end his education by lighting up in study hall, caused quiet a commotion.
We had an older teacher by the name of Mr Burge that was small in stature and not very strong. He taught science. So naturally Milf, Harold and Gary was always giving him hell. There was an old 50lb weight in the sceince room so Milf or Harold would pick it up and place it on Mr Burges roll call book so he couldn"t call the roll, or would lock him in the storage room where about the end of class they would let him out and explain to him that the lock got stuck which he bought for a long time until the principal caught them and stopped the little prank. Milford came down with a terrible allergy one day and started sneezing, we lost count around 50 sneezes which were mostly manufactured, so Mr Burge would tell Milf to get him a drink to stop the sneezing and Milf would go get him a drink where he would stay and stay and stay finally returning to class. He would sit down and Mr Burge thinking the sneezing was over with would start the lesson, he would say a couple words and Milf would sneeze. This went on for an hour until the bell rang. The science room had some gas valves for expirments and if you turned the gas on and let it out for a few seconds and then fired it up it would cause a big explosion. This was Harold and Gary's favorite thing to do which caused "I think I remember right" Harold to get expelled from school.
I was also in the senior play and had the part of a sheriff in which I had to chase a guy off stage. Well the day of the play we were at the gym and Carl Neldon was lifting weights and one of them fell off the weight bar and right on my big toe. I had to go to the doctor and have a cast put on my foot but still got to chase the guy off stage which was funny to the audience. Also one day while planning the play we needed a laundry basket for a prop so 6 of us went into the principles office and got permission to leave and look for a basket which we never found but the water was sure nice at the lake where we spent the day. We were all loaded up in Joyce Kirby's car. Nice Day THIS WILL BE THE FIRST OF OTHER STORIES ABOUT BCHS

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lester Swindell

I guess I first met Lester back in the late 50's, he ran a little cafe in Bell City. Back then Bell City School had an open campus and everyone got to leave campus and go up town and get their lunch. Back then the old town was booming. At lunch all of the towns cafe's became real busy. Then the people elected some very intelligent people to run the local school and they closed the campus and forced the kids to eat in the school cafeteria. This act helped kill the downtown area of Bell City and caused some of the businesses that depended on this trafic to close. This is one of the worst things to happen to a small town. Anyhere it happens the same results take place. No hustle and bustle and soon no thriving downtown. Well documented. Anyway enough politics.
Lester and Wanda, his wife had the best bologna sandwiches in town, everyone ran up town to get one of these sandwiches which I think at the time cost a dime and a soda for a nickel. This made a good lunch. I know a lot of kids at the time that enjoyed this linch. Lester also had pinball machines a juke box and repaired shoes in the back of the cafe. He also had an afternoon paper route, him and his boys David and Keith would deliver the paper all over town. Lester did whatever he could to make a living in a small dying town.
I guess this is the first place I met Jake Fisher, the same Jake I have written about in another story. Jake would come over to Lesters and order a cup of coffee. He would tell Lester or Wanda to fill his cup full because he didn't use cream. Jake really enjoyed Lesters coffee.
Lester was one of the oldtimers, he wasn't a mean guy but would fight at the drop of a hat. I never witnessed him fighting but from the talk of the older guys most people knew he was pretty tough.
A lot of us that considered Lester an old timer are now getting to that stage of our lives.
Lester and Wanda had three kids, as mentioned before two boys David and Keith. They also had a daughter Sharon who sadly died early in life. This was one of Bell City's older family"s. Not to many left these days.
I only live about 15 miles from Bell City and nowdays I don't know half of the people that live there. NEXT GENERATION PLEASE

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bell City's WESLEY WRIGHT

I first met Wesley in about 1960. He was running around Bell City and ing with a girl by the name of Frankie Jackman. Wesleys first name was John so naturally everyone connected him and Frankie to the song Frankie and Johnny and old tune out in the late 50' early 60's. The first time I met him he had had a few to many, par for the course in old Bell City. Well Frankie was a very good looking girl and all the guys were after her so this little romance didn't last long.
Wesley later started going with a girl by the name of Pat Liggett, they eventually got married and had three kids, two girls and a boy.
I started running around with Wes in my senior year of high school. He was about 4 years older than me. We got along good and became the best of friends. Now Wesley was the town hotrodder. One time he got pretty juiced up and was comming back in to town real fast and lost control of his 1956 Ford. A beautiful two door hardtop I think it was red and black, anyway he wrapped it around a tree at the edge of town. Luckily I wasn't in the car or I would have surely been killed because when it hit the tree it spun around the tree a few times, it hit directly behind the right front tire.
Another time we were out partying and Wes liked to get in the gravel and do a few do-nuts. Well this time he did one to many and ran off in the ditch alongside the road. He walked back up to Square Morse's little country liquor store and got Herb Hoover to pull him out of the ditch. Herb went down and hooked onto Wes's car and pulled him out, unhooked the chain and started to leave. Wes got into his car made a few more do-nuts right off in the ditch on the other side of the road. Well this made Herb mad so he just drove off and left him in the ditch.
Another time Wes was juiced and in town showing off. Squealing his tires and hotrodding all over town. Well Max Bollinger a local business man was up on top of his store rapairing his roof when Wesley drove by his store, Max, already mad threw the wet tar mop on top of Wesleys car. Well this made Wesley mad and he stopped and motioned for Max to come down off the roof. So here came Max and he met Wes's right fist and I think the law locked Wes up at that time.
One time I was out having fun in my first car a 1952 Buick Dyna-Flo 2 door hard-top. A pretty car but not one for a teenager and the transmission didn't last long. I got stuck between two hills west of Bell City and had to walk home. So the next day I asked Wes to go out and pull me into town. We get out there and hooked the chain to the cars and he started to pull me. Now Wes had a 1962 Ford 390, 4 speed so naturally he had to show out. He would get over in the loose gravel and floor his car and throw rocks all over my car. When we got to Bell City all the lights and the windshield were broke. Wes didn't give a damn we just loaded in his car and went to Perkins and started partying.
One Saturday Wesley, big Red Cody and myself left Bell City and went over to Sikeston to see Wes's cousin Frank Wright. We stopped at a very fancy tavery called Wagon Wheel. We had a few and Wes and myself decieded to go to Franks house. Cody said he would stay there. We got in Wes's car and started to back out of the tavern and into the side of a big black fellows car. Well this other guy got scared and took off one direction and we took off the other. Now the city of Sikeston had been doing some sewer work and had dug a trench across one of the streets we were going down. We hit this trench and the beer bottles broke the windshield and the front tires each went in a different direction. So we had to walk back up to the tavern where we left Cody who gave us one of the worse cussings a man could give, I got my brother in law to take us back to Bell City.
Later I moved to St Louis and had an appartment and a job there. Well Wes and Pat had a falling out and he came to St Louis and stayed with me for a while. Then another friend Gary Bright came and stayed with us and got a job with Western Electric. We would work in the day and party at night. One day Wes got off work early and was already drunk by the time Gary and me got home. He was passsed out on the couch. Now there was an old small gas stove pretty close to the couch so Gary and me decieded to light the thing and warm Wesley up. So we lit the stove and left to eat supper and do our daily rounds. This was in the middle of the summer. When we came home Wesley gave us the damndest talking to I ever had.
One other thing about Wesley, he could eat more chicken than anyone I have ever seen. He would have chicken noodle soup for breakfast, chicken pot pie for lunch and fried chicken for supper. He loved his chicken.
Sadly, we lost Gary many years ago and just this past year Wes died. So I am the only one left to tell this story. We sure had a good time one summer in the mid 60's. So guys if it is possible for you to know about this story I hope I have told it right. Miss you guys. Curt

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

JAKE FISHER

Jake Fisher, an old man that lived just outside of Bell City with his brother George. Just two old batchlors.
I first met Jake when I was in grade school, he had a little building you could not walk into that he called a store. He had cigaretts, some old canned goods, candy and the bread truck would stop at his place everyday as he would get a loaf of bread for some of the people around his store. His store was about 100 feet from my grandpa's house and he would get him a loaf of bread when he needed one. I must have been in the 5th-6th grade of school at the time I met him. We still lived out on the farm.
I remember that Jake was very superstitious and if a black cat crossed his path he would walk a mile around his normal route or would turn his cap around backwards. Now this would ward off all evil, he believed. So if he saw a black cat he would stop and ponder what to do. Then he would choose his route.
We moved to Bell City in 1958 and Mom and Dad bought a house across the street from my grandpa which made us about 100 feet from his store. As kids we would buy candy from Jake when we could muster up a nickel. As time went on us boys started to buy tobacco from him and go up in the rocks and smoke. Now some of this tobacco was years old and very strong and would make us light headed and sick but it didn't stop us. About this time we started to agrivate Jake. We would smoke and then we would start to throw rocks down on top of his building. We were mean little bastards.
Jake would also skin coons for some of the coon hunters in the area. I can remember walking by Jakes and seeing 20 or more coons laid out on the ground for him to skin. One of the hunters was a guy by the name of Charles Drew. Him and Jake really became good friends. One time Charles told Jake to get him a loaf of bread off the truck that day and he would come by and pick it up that afternoon. Well this made Jake happy for he knew he would make a nickel that day. So when Charles came to pick up his loaf of bread he thought he would have some fun with Jake so he handed him a $20.00 bill for the 10 cent loaf of bread. Jake looked at him and said SHI? yu ain't pulling that crap on me. He told Charles to go over in town and get some change and bring him his 10 cents. Charles said I'll take the bread and bring you your money back, well Jake said Hell No you go get the change then come back. Finally they agreed on something and Jake got his 10 cents and Charles got his bread.
Jake would ease over into town some days for a cup of coffee. He would always order the coffee black and tell whoever was waiting on him to fill the cup up because he didn't use cream.
In the 50's and 60's before they took out the railroad depot Jake would stay downtown on Saturday night and sometimes he would have a beer. On some occasions he would walk up to the depot and lay down on the bench they had for the passengers to sit on while waiting on the next train. Now Jake always carried his money in a tobacco sack in his bib overalls. Jake knew if he laid down on the bench on his back someone would rob him so he laid down on his stomach and went to sleep. Enter another young thug-a-bout by the name of Bill Bollinger. Bill knew Jake was at the depot sleeping and went to check him out, sure enough there was Jake all stretched out on the depot bench only face down in a deep sleep. So Bill went and got some razor blades and eased back up to the depot and crawled under the bench where Jake was sleeping. He took a razor blade and very gently sliced Jakes overall pocket and got all of Jakes money and went to Crowder partying. When Jake woke up and realized what had happened he knew exactly who got his money and a few days later him and Bill met face to face and Jake let him know he knew what had happened. So a little later Bill got up in the rocks and was throwing rocks down on Jakes store and snorting at him, which he hated. So Jake reached in the old store building and out came his 12 gauge shotgun. He peppered the hell out of Bill. After that Bill pretty much left Jake alone.
Jake died when I was in the Army. We as kids really aggraviated him but as we grew older we got to see a side of Jake that made us regret the things we did to him.
Now Jake was a very poor man, he didn't have any money other than a few coins to his name. I have been told that after Jake died his old friend Charles Drew knowing Jake was more or less a pauper went and bought a real nice grave monument for Jakes grave.
Yes Jake was one of a kind and one of Bell City's best old timers. There aren't any of those old timers left. Just memories of a day gone by.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bell City"s Herb Hoover

I guess I met Herb when I was about 13 years old. At this young age we lived in the hills west of Bell City on an old hill farm. My cousin Gerald Whittley a neighbor's boys, the Flannigans of which one later became my brother in law would all get togather and usually walk to Bell City. The old Bell City pool hall/cafe is where I met Herbie. Now Herb was a dandy, at this time he had I think 6 kids below the age of 10. Herb had an old 2 ton truck that he would hall grain, move furniture, hall wood and in the summer he would round up a crew of hay haulers. Most days on the hay truck you could make around 10 bucks. Now this was a lot more than you could make chopping cotton or beans for they only paid 5 dollars for 10 hours work.
I remember one time we were in the hay field and a boy by the name of Dale McCulley caught a big black snake after lifting a bale of hay. He was chasing everyone in the hay field with this dam snake. Now Herb didn't think this was funny because he wanted to get the hay hauled, so he got onto Dale/wine his nickname. Now Dale had already been in trouble with the law and wasn't too shook up over Herbs fatherly ways, so he caught Herb not really paying attention and threw the snake in the cab with Herb. Ths caused real havoc because the truck was about half loaded and Herb jumped out of the truck and the truck hit a small ditch and dumped all the hay. This really pissed Herb off and he fired Dale and made him walk back to town. But the next day he was back out on the truck.
Another time we were hauling for the Jennings boys, three batchlors that had cattle and raised hogs. Now around their barn was a lot of wet corn cobs so naturally when we went to the barn to unload, a corn cob fight would start. Well Herb got mad again and started raising hell about this. So one of my classmates at the time Virgil Hampton was on one side of the truck and Herb was on the other. Virgil said watch this, he pitched a good wet and cow manured corn cob up over the load of hay and then yelled for Herb. Now Herb thought Virgil was on the top of the load of hay so he looked up just in time to get the full load of cow manure and vet cob. Now this started a hell of a round and Virgil got fired that day and had to walk back to town but was back out in the hay field the next.
I also remember the summer nights in Bell city. We would all gather down town for a few hours and it would usually end up in a giant water fight. It was always a great time in the early 60's in the old town of Bell City. I went into the Army in 1967 and while I was gone I was told that Herb had got hit in the leg by one of his hogs which caused a bad spot to develop and it turned out to be cancer. He didn't last to long after that. As I stated Herbie was a DANDY.