[Transcript of interview with Frank King, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]

Frank: "Do I say Testing, Testing, Testing?"

Interviewer: "Oh, I guess you can Frank. This recording is part of a Springfield Greene County Library District 2010 Big Read and the date of this broadcast is March 2, 2010. I am about to begin my interview with Mister Frank Kim who is…"

F: "King. K-I-N-G, King."

I: "King, I'm sorry K-I-N-G. Frank, how old are you?"

K: "92."

I: "92. Have you lived in the Ash Grove most, if not all of your life?"
K: "Most of it."

I: "Most of it. About what ages were you gone from the Ash Grove area?"

K: "1940 to 69'."

I: "To 69'. Okay so at 92 what year were you born in?"

K: "1917."

I: "1917. Well the first couple questions I'm going to ask are about the Depression. The first thing I guess, 1917, you were in your late teens during the Depression. Is that a fair guess?"

F: "Yeah."

I: "What are your recollections of your life during the Great Depression?"

K: "Prior or during the Depression?"

I: "Prior to it and during."

K: "Okay. I had a perfect life up 'til about 1929."

I: "Okay, describe that perfect life."

K: "Well, my grandfather was doing well, spent a lot of time with him."

I: "Was he a farmer?"

K: "No. His favorite saying was 'If you don't have a ship out you will never have one coming in.' And he had one out all the time. He bought wheat. He had his own elevator in Harold, Mo., which is gone now. He bought wheat and shipped it out to Chicago."

I: "And did you work with him or for him before 192…?"

K: "No, I was just a child."

I: "Just a child."

K: "Just to tag along."

I: "What happened in 1929?"

K: "Well, it was gradual. You say we were converting from the horses and buggy days to mechanical days. It's inter-mixed. So my granddad had a car but we still had a horse and buggy, very few cars on the road. When the Depression hit you couldn't buy a car. You couldn't replace any of the stuff that you had because you had no money. We also had a terrible drought at that time. I told my niece the other day that I never borrowed a dime in my life and she couldn't understand that. We borrowed I think $1,200 from John Perrymen, here in Ash Grove. To buy 10 old milk cows. During the Depression years, or the drought years, if cane grew up it was death to cattle. Others cross there, there were three of them, in the cane field. They died instantly. We paid on that note for 10 years. Cows all gone but we paid the note."

I: "How was life personally for you, per say 1930?"

K: "I was a kid and it didn't bother me but my uncle, Jim Keane, had a farm here on the river and he was prosperous. He lost his farm."

I: "Did he have a mortgage?

K: "He had a mortgage."

I: "He had a mortgage."

K: "He couldn't pay it. See that's what I mean those people hurt. I didn't hurt, I was just a kid. But it hurt those people, hundreds of them."

I: "Did you live with your parents during this time?"

K: "Yes."

I: "And what was their occupation; what did they do?"

K: "Farmers."

I: "Farmers. So you made it through the Depression. So let me ask you when did you get electricity in your home? I'm very curious about that."

K: "We never had it."

I: "Wel,l how old were you when you had electricity in the home you were living in? How old were you?"

K: "Well, I left in 40' and we still didn't have it."

I: "In 40 you still did not have electricity, okay. In 1940 where did you go?"

K: "California."

I: "You went to California. What did you do in California?"

K: "I starved to death."

I: "You starved to death?"

K: "I went to California with $70, that I had earned a dollar a day. I stayed with the Ketches cause they had left me when the Depression hit to go to California. I didn't have an occupation. So there was an ad in the paper for training to work at an air craft factory. Well, it took about 35 of my dollars to spend on tuition. Spent six weeks there and then I got a job."

I: "And how long were you in California, then?"

K: "39 years."

I: "Why did you come back to Ash Grove, Mo.?"

K: "Oh, gosh. I looked at Ash Grove and thought to myself, 'I've been gone for 39 years.' I said, 'They can hire 3,000 good workers here at minimum pay. It's gotta grow.'"

I: "Did it grow?"

K: "It didn't grow a bit. I left here and it was 950 people. When I came back it was a 1,000 and I didn't know. I thought it had to grow but it didn't have to grow."

I: "Well, let me ask you about, you left Ash Grove at about 23. What are your memories of Main Street? What would you do on Main Street?"

K: "Saturday nights we came to town, talked to people was all, unless there was a band concert. I played the band."

I: "Oh, really?"

K: "Yeah, they tried to make a musician. And I wasn't a musician but they tried to make one."

I: "Well what instrument did you play?"

K: "Alto sax, er, alto horn."

I: "So you don't think you were very good at it?"

K: "No. The only thing that the alto did was 'toot-toot'. The bass went 'boom' and the alto went 'toot-toot'. Now that's the alto horn."

I: "Okay. So they had band concerts. What were some of the business on Main Street that you remember?"

K: "Well, today a kid puts his dollar bill in a vending machine and he gets whatever. I never missed a mason run at the drug store. You'd go in and get an ice cream cone. If I said I was Republican he'd give me a double dip but if I was a Democrat he wouldn't give me a double dip. So I became a Republican real quick."

I: "So is that what made you become a Republican? That's wonderful. The other fellows I've interviewed talked about movie theaters on Main Street."

K: "Well, yes it was a nice one. Sid Meitinger, Did anybody else say anything about Sid Meitinger?"

I: "No."

K: "He was a blind man in town and he had a little popcorn stand. He'd stir popcorn. Sid was there every Saturday night. I don't know what ever happened to Sid. But the movie it was. I'll tell you about the first movie I ever saw. It was John Bloomer's in Walnut Grove. It didn't have seats, it had boards stretched between saw horses. Well, he had a son that was; well I think he's deaf. At that time though there was no sign language so you just kind of existed. And he ran the projector; he had to crank it with a crank. Well, all he had was 'The Cats', this movie; it was the only feature he had. Well, the old cat would start wooing like he was just about to die and Mr. Bloomer would yell 'Hey!' or whatever and he'd speed the cat up 'cause the cat would jump of screen. So that's about all you'd see in the movie's the cat jumping of the screen."

I: "Was it a talkie?"

K: "Oh no, it wasn't a talkie."

I: "So when did you see the first talkie?"

K: "Oh I don't…, the first talking was about the same way. Down in Phoenix, we lived about a mile and a half from Phoenix, this loud speaker came in down there and you could hear it all over the country side. Well, we couldn't figure out what was going on, so this advertisement for a talkie movie. So everybody got ready to get around to go to the talkie movie. Well is was solid but one place, the gun shop, 'Boom' and the guy fell over and he shouted 'I'm shot. I'm shot.' and that was a talkie. When we were driving home my brother says 'I'm shot. I'm shot.' and that's all the talkie was."

I: "In our brief conversation so far you've mention Phoenix twice. I would like you to tell our listeners what your recollections about Phoenix Quarry are?"

K: "Well, is it why recollections or what I think about Phoenix?"

I: "Either one is fine."

K: "To this day I don't know how it existed; I really don't. We had no safety men; we didn't know what they were. We didn't have any time study men, we didn't have employees, we didn't have any… all these other things we do today, and yet they produced and it was happy; happy people. The company was real good. Now they say what they want about a company town but the East Marble Co. was good. Cause any farmer that had a broken piece of machinery would go down there and they'd weld it for them. At Christmas all the farm kids went in there and they all got a orange and a sack of candy. Now the other kids they got a gift but just a neighborhood kids."

I: "Okay, there is a company town that set across from the quarry and do you have any memories of what that town what town might have been like? Do you know anything about that?"

K: "Well, how did they raise that big family in those small houses they all had four or five kids?"

I: "Well, I've wondered that myself."

K: "I don't know how they did it."

I: "Did you know anything about their pay."

K: "Well, for the time I think it was relatively good. At the time I didn't pay attention to it."

I: "How would they ship their product out of Phoenix?"

K: "By rail."

I: "I've seen pictures of an old railroad station. Do you recall that?"

K: "Yes."

I: "Was there passenger service there?"

K: "Oh yes, I rode a train out of there to Springfield."

I: "Oh really. I asked one of the men earlier Leaky Roof railroad any recollections about that?"

K: "Well that debatable in my mind whether that the Leaky Roof or the other up through Willard; up through there, that's debatable. I never heard the piece railroad call the Leaky Roof."

I: "Oh, you never heard that term?"

K: "No."

I: "Okay. There was a railroad, I can't recall at this particular moment its name, but it is…"

K: "But I think the people in maybe on that railroad would call a piece when the leaky roof and the piece people would call the other the leaky roof and I think that's just kind of the way it was I'm not sure."

I: "One of the things I remember as a kid is the Ash Grove Lime Co. What are your memories of that? Do you know how many employees they had what they actually do?"

K: "Well they had a quarry about three miles from our farm but I never had anything to do with it much. You'd hear the dynamite go off and that's about it. There was one feller that got burned real bad; course that being a landed explosion on him."

I: "Did you go to school in Ash Grove or some other?"

K: "Yes."

I: "You went to school here in Ash Grove. Did you go to high school here?"

K: "Yes."

I: "Okay and you went up at the old school or was there another building?"

K: "No we went right our head here."

I: "In this building?"

K: "Oh yes."

I: "That's interesting. I didn't know that."

K: "It is it's real interesting."

I: "And what are some of the things you'd study?"

K: "Agriculture."

I: "Agriculture. Okay, you study history and geography and all that."

K: "Oh, we'd done that by high school."

I: "Okay"

K: "We'd come down here for about 6 hours a day to even walk back up to high school."

I: "Okay. Do you know anything; let's see we talked about movie theaters, we talked about the pharmacy, any other business on town that you had some memories of, on Main Street?"

K: "All of them."

I: "Okay."

K: "Mr. Mike that run the meat shop up here. My daddy'd go in on Saturday night, course store refrigeration, and he'd order a steak for Sunday. Well, Mr. Meitinger, I think, was crippled I'm not sure. But he'd go back there in the cooler and get one of those quarter beef and wage out there on his shoulder and throw it on a chopping block; cut you of a steak. That was Mr. Meitinger."

I: "Was that a butcher shop that a farmer might bring in some cattle?"

K: "No. I don't know where they got their meat."

I: "Okay. So they, you don't have any recollections of that."

K: "Now another old feller I remember was Mr. Short. He shoed so many horses he couldn't straiten up."

I: "Is that right. What would he do with them?"

K: "Shoe'em! Put shoes on them."

I: "Okay, he shoed for other people, I'm sorry."

K: "Yeah. He had a tooth ache one time he went to the dentist and the dentist says 'Well, Mr. Short I can't pull that tooth its infected.' he went back and took a chisel and put it on the tooth and knocked it out."

I: "Well, I'm sure glad they don't do that today."

K: "Well, that was taking care yourself."

I: "As a young boy in Ash Grove, let's say between the ages of…"

K: "Now let's get back to education facture."

I: "Okay tell me about education.

K: "I enrolled in John Brown University of Siloam Springs, Arkansas. That was a work study school; religious. I went down; I had four years vocational agriculture. Now you try to a liberal arts college with four years of agriculture. You know what I got out of high school; to call chickens. Two fingers, or three fingers if you couldn't get three fingers in they weren't laying you'd sell them.  Now that's preparing you for life. I didn't know a thing, put me in college chemistry, now can you imagine that never; didn't even know what the word chemistry meant."

I: "How did you do?"

K: "I don't know. I stayed four months then I came home."

I: "Did you come home? Did you come home because; did you miss home?"

K: "I was home sick. I will admit. But there you were at the time a flood of families. If they had unruly kids they sent them to John Brown University. We were the poor kids. We stayed in the basement."

I: "So you're trying to tell me you were an unruly kid? Is that it?"

K: "Well…"

I: "Get into a little mischief?"

K: "We weren't there to get; the unruly kids are supposed to get straitened out. And that was quite a division. I found out that the other people had money in the world real quick."

I: "Well, do you have any other stories you'd like to tell?"

K: "Oh, I got stories. I tell you all day long."

I: "Well pick one, something funny or silly."

K: "Well, it's not funny. My neighbors; I witnessed the Depression. First the guy came back from California, in fact he bought he built backdrops for movies in Hollywood that's the kind of carpenter he was. He came back to stay with his mother. Well, at that time the Depression was just working on. So he stayed there and his mother passed away and he still lived there. Then his brother came in, Jim, and he was working the oil fields in Kansas/Oklahoma with a family. And he had three kids he brought back, no four. Now this was a three-roomed house. Well, they survived and then the next year here come a daughter in with three kids. The next year here come another daughter with three kids and they all survived in that little old three-room house. How they done it I don't know. It just; and that's what happened. The neighbor on the other side their kids started coming back. And that was what the Depression was; made up of people just surviving."

I: "Did you have a girlfriend as a young man?"

K: "Oh gosh, no!"

I: "No girlfriends?"

K: "Talked to a girl and I turn red in the face and I couldn't say a word."

I: "Is that a fact?"

K: "That's right."

I: "Have you been a bachelor all these…?"

K: No. I didn't get married 'til I was 45 and I was too young then. You shouldn't get tell you 70 years old."

I: "Well what do you have to say to young kids today that are getting married in their early twenties? Is that too young?"

K: "Well, marriage isn't a fifty/fifty deal it's a thirty/seventy. Now someone's going to give; I don't know which one the woman or the man but one or the other is going to have to give."

I: "So you were embarrassed as young boy to talk to girls."

K: "Oh gosh yes, I just turned red. I couldn't say a word."

I: "Is that right?"

K: "They tried to make an actor out of me. Now imagine that trying to make an actor out of me. So we had it put; now Glenn never got in on this cause, I don't know why Glenn missed all this stuff. We had a one act play. Well, in the one act I was supposed to kiss the leading lady. Well, I… imagine that trying to make an actor out of me."

I: "How old were you then?"

K: "8...17."

I: "17. So you never kissed your leading lady?"

K: "No she grabbed me and kissed me. I didn't do it. And everybody cheered; thought that was wonderful. That's how hard up they were for entertainment. Glenn set back laughing."

I: "Well, you can't blame all this on Glenn now."

K: "I can because he never took part in this stuff. I never did like boxing. I would go to my family and, I had two uncles and they boxed. They'd put those gloves on me. Did you get hit with a boxing glove? You see stars. And I boxed. Well, I'd get mad and they'd like to see that because I'd box. Here'd come Joe Moore, my beloved agriculture teacher. He'd put on those darn gloves boxing gloves on me every time. Get the devil beat out of you. And it was funny."

I: "Where did your ancestors come from? What part of America did they come to get to rural Missouri?"

K: "Oh, I've got some interesting stories. You'd be here for a week."

I: "Well I don't know if we have a week but we've got plenty of time."

K: "The Kelleysworths were my mother's side. And they always told me that the Kellysworth had had castles in England and I don't know what all. Well, I didn't know it's what I heard. And one morning I got up and said I was going to take a trip. I just tired of sitting around the house. So I got my car; drove. Went to Cape Girardeau, wanted to see the river, Mississippi always fascinated me. I got over there and that wasn't what I wanted to see. So I went across the river into Illinois and drove over there. Stopped at a donut shop and was asking, telling, what I was looking for. And she said 'You go and get on this highway and you go down to old high river. I think you'll enjoy that.' so I went down there to Wyconte, Illinois, little town right on the river. The next morning I was sitting in there, a place just like Willy Bee's down here in Ash Grove. Just exactly wouldn't know the difference if you closed your eyes and moved from one to the other. A guy came in and he had Immigration wrote across his cap. He says 'I'm here to check your green card.' I said, 'My gosh, man look at me. I've been here a long time.' He said 'By the way my name is Bill Kellysworth.' I said 'Well, I'm half Kellysworth. You can't arrest me.' His forefathers stayed there and there were more Kellysworth in that town than there is here. But my family never did say anything about them, now imagine that. So he gave me his; the Kellysworth's history clear back to 1621. And in that history this woman from one of the Kellysworth there went to marry a guy and they went to Idaho. Well my granddad said that he had went to Idaho when he was a young man. But I never questioned him about it. How come he told me was because he said he could roll a wheelbarrow full of brick and turn them over without tearing them up, so he got hired. Well, come to find out in this guy's history they had recorded where she lived, and she went to see his cousin. He didn't tell me that."

I: "Well, Mr. King it looks like we out of time."

K: "Out of time?"

I: "Yes, but you continue talking while I turn of the mike."

[Transcript of interview with Frank King, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]