[Transcript of interview with Ralph Walling, 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.]

Interviewer: “This recording is part of the Big Read 2010 recorded at the Library Center on March 7, 2010 by Ralph Walling. So Mr. Walling you’re here today to share some memories with us.”

Ralph: “I have a book full of them.”

I: “Tell use a little about yourself.”

R: “Well, I was born in 1922 July 9. I’m 87 at the moment. My dad’s, our, Walling family was taken out of England for religious purposes ad went to Germany. My great grandfather and the Mingus side of the family, my mother’s side, go back to Saxony Germany in the 1400’s. So, that’s the start I had. My mother was a school teacher and she went to Texas to teach and met my dad. They came back to Missouri and then there was me. So, my mother passed away when she was; in 1925 when I was three and a half. Her sister, my aunt Lily Piet and Bill Piet, had no children. That’s where I spent my childhood until I was 21 years old. I was in the Navy, WWII, started out a period in MSU to be a Naval Officer. I was milking a bunch of cows at home; I had taken up with Dairying when I was in vocational agriculture in high school. He was milking the cows while I was up here in school and I would milk on the weekend. He got sick and I had to get out of that program. In WWII was going on and in the spring of 44’ I had a big year. I joined the Masonic Lodge in March; got married the 13 of May to Effie Lee Cody, and then August 2 Uncle Sam’s Navy took me. So I went to Great Lakes for boot camp. My hearing was good, and also a boy from Grand Rapids, Michigan; we passed a 100% on the Doppler test that sent us to Key West, Florida to learn sonar. Then I was assigned after school to a DE (*1) in Brooklyn, New York. There were 60 E’s escorted a small carrier and we trained Navy and Marine pilots. So, we were in the Atlantis Ocean quite a bit; up and down.”

I: “What kind of training did you do for them? What did you teach them?”

R: “Sonar. I was listening for the German submarines; this is WWII, out in the Atlantic. So, we were in Argentia, Newfoundland, among the icebergs up there, hunting submarines. They had bombed Hamburg, Germany, which was there submarine base. Those who got away came up over Scotland/England and headed for South America. They sent us up out there to intercept them. But we were in Argentia when they signed the treaty with Germany. So then we came back down to the states and they took the torpedo tubs off, which is what we would use to damage a submarine, and put on quad 40mm on the bow so we could shoot down Japanese suicide plans. Then we went through the Panama Canal. Came up to San Diego and we had to be out about a week, three day or four, behind the rest of the group going to Hawaii. Three day out of San Diego they signed the treaty with Japan. I didn’t have enough points to come home so I got to see Honolulu and Oahu. Then there was assign for an island place down below the Equator. Which closed by the time we got to Guam. So, we sat there a little while and I was reassigned to a LCIL (*2). Which would normally carry 150 people but the boys had gone home and the skipper had gone back to Chicago, discharged, so instead of 150 to man the thing there were 30 of us.”

I: “Oh, quite a difference.”

R: “We went from there and we were supposed to have mail and small parts to go to the islands. So we left Guam and went to Okinawa and then to Japan, Sasebo, Japan, and turned around and headed back home. I got quite an experience on that trip because I drove the boat there and back to Guam. So you get to learn the stars at night and shoot the North Star and tell where you were. So we got back to Guam and the officer we had was from Palo Alto, California and he and I became friends. He and the yeomen and I would go to church on Sunday morning. He had access to a Jeep or weapons carrier at the airbase. Once we had our trunks on at the officer’s beach they couldn’t tell us from an Admiral, Brigadier General, or what.”

I: “You didn’t wear any stripes on your…”

R: “No. We didn’t have any stripes but we enjoyed the picnic, the cook had fixed a picnic for lunch, and we spent the afternoon. Finally he came back from the post office and said “I’m going home such & such.” so I said “When am I going?” and he said “I’ll check in the morning.” It pays to know people long the way because I was in the states six days before my points had accumulated where I could get out. So we came back in to San Francisco then across Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri. My whole episode with the Navy was 18 months active, from August 4 to February 6 in 46’. Then when we came home Matise, one of the girls that had gotten married a couple of years ago. When you get married you ought to in a log cabin over a hundred years old, which is what we did. I was on the farm my uncle had, he had two farms actually.”

I: “So you and Effie started out in a log cabin?”

R: “Yeah. We started out right there and the first two boys while we lived there. But I went to work for Craft Foods in January of 51’. We made cheese at Hartville at the time. Springfield opened in 54’ but at that time we had cheese plants in Hartville, Mountain Grove, Eva, Mansfield, and Buffalo.”

I: “What did you do for craft?”

R: “I started out as a field man begging for milk for the cheese factory. Then I became milk station manager and our milk at that time went to Mountain Grove and latter it all went to Springfield. The thing that happened; my brother in law was managing the plant in Mountain Grove. We were to come in here and supervision the new plant. Someone figured out that we were related. So that was the end of that story.”
I: “That was a no no?”

R: “He came and managed the Philadelphia Cream Cheese department until he retired. That put Ralph at Mountain Grove playing superintendant for a couple of months. Then they decided that I would go to California, MO; five years, managing a milk receiving station. My territory was from Sedalia to Washington Missouri, both sides of the river. Then, we served that five years, they sent we to Warsaw to manage a milk station down there. Right on the lake where you had to buy a boat, the boys were big enough to go skiing.”

I: “Now how did Effie like all this moving around?”

R: “She went right along with it. Luckily I was moved all these times with Kraft in the summer months could cut out their activities and then be ready to start school in the fall. Then once we got to Warsaw and they decided I ought to be in the egg breaking business. So I was sent to Marshal Missouri where they dried eggs, broke eggs, and dried egg whites to go to the cake mix and candy people and cookies.”

I: “Now did they have a machine for this egg breaking?”

R: “Oh, yes. Back many years ago eggs were broken by hand. In fact the Neosho Plant had 120 women breaking eggs by hand. Seymour Foods in Topeka Kansas developed an egg breaking machine that would break and separate the yoke from the white. Then Heningson’s Food developed a machine, I’ve used both of them, and you broke many cases of eggs. You had to by the eggs of course. At Neosho area back in the fifties they had contracts with farmers to produce eggs and they bought every egg the guy produced. As the contract expired you needed to by eggs from the outside. Also I had a broker back in Baltimore Maryland that I bought anywhere from one to fourteen trailer loads. Didn’t have them all delivered at once, week here next week and so forth. There were a lot of eggs in the south east, Mississippi and so forth. You could buy eggs for your business there. I laughed at Mary Kay, my supervisor out at Culpepper, had no idea that I had broken eggs period. She always has her camera around her neck and we were over at Wal-Mart one day. She came wheeling out “I need to take your picture.” and I had just passed a display of Miracle Whip down about four or isles. So I went and stood in front of that four or five places while she took my picture. I still tease her about it because she had no idea I had broken eggs 22 years to make Miracle Whip and Mayonnaise and so forth.”
I: “I bet you got tired of all those eggs.”

R: “No. You just try to get enough to keep every body busy. Our plant is Marshal had about 65 people that I worked with. The plat in Neosho had about 40 I could supervise. I got through there; we came here in 84’ and bought a place which was a one of the old Methodius parsonages here in Springfield; got it all fixed up. I thought at 62 I should stop and get another job so I won’t die like now. So I got to looking around and had ads in the paper selling vacuum cleaners, which is not my thing. So I went over to job service and I hadn’t been home fifteen minutes tell Lipscomb Mills, downtown, and my job was to stand out on the dock and see how much feed was being loaded out. My second son was working for Montgomery GMC at the time and he said, this September, “Daddy it’s going to be awfully cold out there on that dock this winter. Why don’t you go back.” Anyway I did go back to job service and he said “I don’t have a thing. Why don’t you go over to AARP, they hire old people.” So I went down and I started to pull out the application. I pulled out my Kraft pension and my social security and she stopped me. She said “You make to much money for our program. We work 20hrs a week minimum wage. So why don’t you go over to the Council of Churches and talk to Mrs. Bradshaw.” So I did. I had asked where it was; which was in Drury College, their stone chapel at the time, so we got acquainted and she was busy and my wife had arthritis. We went to arthritis clinic at [Ardmarok Clemen, Unintelligible] we had this trip planed the next week. So, the next Thursday we went back and what the lady at AARP knew, that I didn’t, the man that was procurement for Ozark Food Harvest was retiring that day. So, I went back and talked to Rosanna and she hired me. I worked ten years begging for food for Ozark’s Food Harvest and also laid out the diagram of the building that they just moved out of and I worked there ten years. We joined Ridgecrest Baptist Church back in 85 and we moved here in 84. So, I was on all four building comities over there and chairmen of the last three. Anyway after I; they were changing managers at Ozark’s Food Harvest and so I stopped by the house and told my wife “Need to run out to Ridgecrest a minute. Be right back.” and I ran across Scotty Cellingsworth coming out the door as I went in “How are you?” “Unemployed, for the first time in so many years.” so Osy Blue, the pastor, called me and I did another six years building maintenance over there. Then I finally retired from all of that. Now that I’ve been out of Culpepper for almost three now and I do everything in the book out there to help.”

I: “You break any eggs over at Culpeper?”

R: “No. Just what I eat is all. But you get into everything over there and its good cause of the experience and back ground I’ve had. In fact today as I walked down the aisle one of the ladies came out and said “Ralph could you move my chair?” She had a lift chair that the cleaning girls had put it back to close to the wall where it wouldn’t lay down. And then one time when I just got there walking down the same thing the same lady came out and she said “Ralph can you help me?” “What do you need?” “Well I’m out of toilet paper.” So I went back to the room and got a roll of toilet paper for her. Then when I got back “Can you get the bottle of the shelf?”

I: “You should work for tips.”

R: “I ought to I guess. But I enjoy living there. Your beds made when you get back from breakfast, you get three meals a day.”

I: “Ralph you mentioned so sons. How many children did you have?”

R: “We had three boys. They’re all here in town now. My oldest boy started out pharmacy school and he came home one day from Kansas City, UMKC, and his prof made him do something over that he had a course from Fayette in organic chemistry and the guy wouldn’t accept it so he had to go back and redo it. So he said “If you don’t mind. I’ll get out of there.” So he sold sporting goods for years he had the old State of Iowa for six and a half years. Now he’s over at Lowes north store in the electric department of the road. My second son has sold trucks ever sense he got out of school her in Springfield back in 70.”

I: “He’s the one that worked at GMC place?”

R: “He used to. He’s been Peterbilt for the past 4 or 5 years. Then the youngest boy has played in bands all over the country. And he builds loud speakers down in Ozark, MO, SLS.”

I: “All very different, all very different jobs.”

R: “Then the oldest boy’s wife teaches kindergarten through 6th over at [Rails] Elementary School. My second son’s wife is with EVS video outfit out by the west end of town. And my youngest boy’s wife works for the North Star Battery folks, she’s been with them for years. My oldest grandson teaches at Southeast Missouri State, Political Science. In fact he got his Bachelors and Masters here and his Prof sent him to KU to get his doctorate. While he was up there he got acquainted and married a little girl that was teaching Spanish down there. She’s as sharp as a tack because last week she was in Memphis at a meeting doing stuff; she has another one coming up in Chicago.  My youngest grandson is a senor at Glendale he’ll graduate this year.”

I: “I was just going to ask you how many grandchildren you had.”

R: “Got three grandchildren. Got one great that’s three. The kids in Cape have the great that’s three. And he’s a pistol so I don’t know what‘s going to happen to him. Cause his dad has a doctors degree his mom a masters in Spanish. So what will happen to him I have no idea.”

I: “You just never know. It sounds like you have had a very busy life.”

R: “Wonderful life.”

I: “Did you enjoy living in Springfield?”

R: “Yes. We’ve moved all over the country and I get along with people pretty well, most of them at least.”

I: “I can tell that. Well it’s been a pleasure to talk with you today Ralph.”

R: “Well I’m glad I could talk with you and tell my story.”

I: “Thank you very much.”

I: “This is Ralph Walling continued.”

R: “Now my aunt taught piano to every kid in the neighborhood around Odin; that’s were we lived, over west of Hartville. In the fall of the year the girls would either get married or go of to school. And it finally got down to me and I was supposed to practices but didn’t, as you well know, and it finally got down to me one Sunday morning at the old Mount Zion church. My dad was leading singing and I played for the first time in front of god and everybody. Right hand on me left hand didn’t know what to do. I’ll never forget I played I Gave My Life for Thee in the key of C. Also, since I didn’t practice when I was home, got to high school at Hartville and it wasn’t long before I was playing piano for girls up in chorus. We had a teacher come in…”

I: “Were you using your left hand by then?”

R: “I was using all of it by then. We had a teacher come in and he had played in a band at Branson every night then had to meet a 7:30 class over here at MSU. So he was as thin as a rail when he got ready to teach down there. He walked in “I want to build my department around a boy’s quartet” and I was one of the lucky ones. Two of the guys were preacher, one was a Baptist and one was a Presbyterian, and we had a tenor that could hit an A above middle C clear as a bell. One of the funny things about that one; when you came to Springfield you used to not have to go to the district everybody came to Springfield or if in the Ag department you went to Columbia. Any way we got ready to come up here to the contest the boy’s quartet number that year was “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes”. And we had practiced, I had practiced, by the hour and everyone of use hated it with a passion.”

I: “Oh no. What was the title again?”

R: “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes.”

I: “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes.”

R: “So we had sung for our supper time after time after time in Hartville. We loved Barbershop and “Mandy Lee” was our favorite. So we got up here and about fifteen minutes before we went on stage we conned the music teachers into letting use do “Mandy Lee”. So we went out on stage we did a couple choruses of that, came of with a one.”

I: “Good for you. It’s a good thing you talked him into that. How did you talk him into that?”

R: “Well we were just getting [sails].”

I: “Said we were just gonna do it huh.”

R: “So during all the high school we sang at funerals and funerals and funerals and overnight for programs and stuff. But we got paid; this is in the 30’s about 1938. Mr. Steel over in Hartville, who settled there years and years ago the home is still on the bluff, passed and we sang at his funeral. And they gave us 2 dollars a piece; this is in the 30’s.”

I: “That seems like a pretty good price for the 30’s.”

R: “It was good pay. You could go get a coke for a nickel at the drug store. And then Hartville they had another little deal a small coke glass they’d put one dip of vanilla ice cream. Then you’d get any flavor that you wanted and they called it a 400.”
I: “A 400 why did they call it that?”

R: “Don’t ask me. But any way you can buy that thing for a nickel. And cokes were a nickel in those days and you could take your girlfriend to the show and a hamburger afterward for a dollar, believe it or not.”

I: “Those days are gone.”

R: “Those days are gone. In fact ice cream was hard to come by in those days. We would go down to one there in Mansfield after the show in Mansfield. There was a lady there, we loved to teas her, we’d come in and get or hamburger “Like to have some ice cream.” “We don’t have any ice cream but we have awful good sherbet.”

I: “Sometimes you have to settle for sherbet.”

R: “You have to settle for that. No I’ve had a good life. The church over there that my great-granddad started is still going, be 106 years this year. In fact one of the things I did along the way was REA came, we had a thirty two volt light plant at home, my uncle [reading] all the way house. About 1927-29 we had a Delco system. Electricity has always fascinated me. So when REA came by in September of 41, from Lebanon, we had a couple of electricians go over the wiring.”

I: “Now is that Rural Electric?”

R: “Rural Electric Administration. So anyway I watched them very carefully go over hours. They finally split up one of the boys to the Co-Op in Bolivar and the other one Fort Wood. I wired with one of them quite a bit; houses, and stores, and churches, and stuff. After they split up I was on my own I wired several homes, in fact this old church down there. The fun part when we were celebrating the 150 years I was sitting with one of the deacons, it was a two day affair. Eating supper and they had just replaced the light fixture and I said “Keith those look real good.” “Yes I like those. Before I put them up I went up in the attic and looked at there wiring. That’s one of the neatest jobs I have ever seen.” I said thank you. I had done that back about 85 is guess something like that. So anyway you get a complement once and a while.”

I: “Feels pretty good doesn’t it? Thank you very much Ralph for being here today we sure a appreciate it.”

R: “Glad to do it. Tell my story.”

*1 Destroyer Escort
*2 Landing Craft, Infantry (Large)

[Transcript of interview with Ralph Walling, 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.]