[Transcript of interview with Ruby Hagerman, 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.]

This recording is part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District’s 2010 Big Read.  The date of this podcast is March 2, 2010 and I’m talking to Ruby Hagerman.  And my first question to you Ruby is where did your family come from and about what time did they settle in the Ash Grove area?

RH:  1950.

1950.  Where were you born?

RH:  Hardy, Arkansas.

Hardy, Arkansas and what year were you born?

RH:  In ’17.

1917.  Ok.  So you lived in the Hardy area from 1917 to about 1950.  Is that correct?

RH:  Yes.

Did your parents settle in Hardy or was it your grandparents?

RH:  All my family, and my grandparents lived there but I don’t know nothing about them.  They were all dead when I came into the world. 

Ok, so you have no personal recollections of what may have gone before your birth and early memories, then.

RH:  No.

What did your parents do in Hardy, Arkansas?

RH:  Best I recollect is just farm work.

Farm work? Ok.

RH:  Mm, hmm.

All right.  So in 1917, your birth in 1917, you know, you were 10 to 14 years old during the Depression.  What are your memories of the Depression?  What was your life like and et cetera?

RH:  Well we were poor people but we didn’t know it.

Ok, I’ve heard that, I’ve heard that.

RH:  Oh, you have.  Well.


RH:  We always had food.  My dad farmed with mule team.  And I went to school what time I was in Oklahoma, Arkansas and well, I lost my train of thought.  I’m just …

That’s all right.

RH:  … 92 years old.

92.  That’s terrific!  Don’t worry about losing your train of thought.

RH:  Well anyway we moved from there to Oklahoma.

Ok.  About when was that, do you know?

RH:  I think I was about 7. 

Ok, 1924, 1925?

RH:  Yeah.


RH:  And first school I attended there was named Rock Creek.  And I did that for my mother’s uncle.  He was on the school board and they were trying to close the school and they had to have a certain number to keep the school, and I was one of the numbers.  But I don’t know which one.

What town was this in, in Oklahoma?

RH:  Stuart.

So did you go all through grade school in Stuart?

Mm, hmm.  Well in the one school.

Right, one school.  Mm, hmm.  And did you go to high school?

RH:  No.

You did not go to high school.  So you…

RH:  My brother wouldn’t go and my dad didn’t try to make him, but he wouldn’t let me go because I’d have to walk two miles to get the bus, because he would be in the field working.

So you went through the 8th grade, did you go that far?

RH:  Mm, hmm. I finished the 8th grade.

All right. So you finished the 8th grade.  What did you do after leaving school?

RH:  We went to California and worked in a shipyard.  I was married by then, I was 18, and I was married to a man named Fletcher, Jimmy Fletcher.  But he died with Hodgkin’s disease…

When did he die?

RH:  I’d have to go down here to the cemetery and look.

[laughter]  Well…

RH:  Well.

So you were married in about 1933.  Is that close?

RH:  Yeah.

Ok, so about how long did he live in the, how long were you married to him do you remember?

RH:  Well, my daughter was born in 1935, the first child, I had seven children, one stillborn.  So I raised six children, and when he died I had to make a living for them.  I did everything that was to be had, hoed corn, cotton and peanuts.

And this is all in California?

RH:  No.

No it’s not?  Ok.

RH:  This was in Oklahoma.

This is Oklahoma, ok, all right

RH:  And then in California I was, we lived over in San Francisco, had to ride the boat to Richmond and my brother and his wife went with me and the children and my husband was already there working.  He was a welder.  And they built these ships on the water, I guess you knew that, a long time ago.

Why did you move to California?  What was the reason?

RH:  To get work.

To get work, ok.  When did you move to California?  What year, about?

RH:  ’38, I believe.

So you still have plenty of children to care for, right?

RH:  Yeah.


RH:  But my husband died here in Missouri.

Mm, hmm.

RH:  And about four years and a half later I met and married Wally Hagerman.  He was a veteran from WWII and he was a wireman in the Army.  He kept the telephones a-goin’ and the radios and then when he got out he went to business school in Springfield, and graduated and he got him a TV and radio shop in Ash Grove.

OK.  Well let’s, let’s go back and let me ask you some questions about you’re living in California at the height of the Depression.  What was your life like?

RH:  Well, I hadn’t had to work until I went to California, I mean like work for a paycheck.  And like I said we rode the boat over to work now I’ll let you ask some questions.

Ok, now I’m going to ask you, why did you move back to the Ash Grove area and about what time was that?

RH:  Well I’d have to figure it up with my husband’s death, and …

Well, in 1938 you’re living in California.

RH:  Yes.

Ok, so how many years were you there?

RH:  Oh, about three or four.

Ok, so …

RH:  Something like that.

So again you’re coming back to Missouri now in the middle of WWII. 

RH:  Yeah.


RH:  And I was not a bookkeeper but filed the papers that they did use, in the Army there.  I wasn’t in the Army. [laughs]


RH:  Sometimes I wish I had and maybe I’d get more than $90 a month.

Well maybe so. [laughs]

RH:  Maybe not.

Ok, so

RH:  Back in the depression in Oklahoma we got some commodities, and we didn’t know what grapefruit was.


RH:  Really.  We didn’t.  We didn’t know what it was for.  We finally learned that you could cut them open, then peel off the sections with a little dash of salt on them and eat them.

So what other things did you get?

RH:  Well then when he died why I had two church friends, Cecil Richter and, oh, a Wrenshaw, but I can’t think of her name.  They came to see me and they said, are you gonna’ sit her on this farm and let them kids ride the schoolbus when you could buy a house and move in to Ash Grove?  And Irene Wilson was the administrator for this house I bought, and you believe it or not I only give $1500 for the house loan, quarter acre.

And where was this house?

RH:  On Wilson Street, in Ash Grove.

All right.  So now you have you’re back in Ash Grove, in about 1950, right?

RH:  Yeah.

Did all your children come to Ash grove with you?

RH:  Yeah.

So you’re back here living with your second husband, you’re raising your family now in the early ‘50s in Ash Grove.  Now, one of the questions I, I like to talk to a lot of people, is what are your memories of Main Street here at Ash Grove.  What were some of the businesses?  What did you do down there?

RH:  I worked for about 40 years on Main Street.  One for a second-handed store that sold Pittsburg paint, then they both died.  And Jim Burch’s funeral home bought the business and I went with it because I knowed how to color the paint. And then when they learned to color the paint, he opened a second-hand store for me to be in, and if they needed help in the funeral home they called me and tell me to lock up and go up to the funeral home.  It was just a short distance up there.

Sure, mm, hmm.

RH:  And I walked to work.

So you worked for the Burch family, their furniture store, right on Main Street?

RH:  Mm hmm

Ok, until what time, about what time?  When did you retire, I guess is…

RH:  When I was 62.


RH:  My husband, he was pretty smart with figures and he figured it up and he said we would make more money by taking it at 62 than by waiting til 65.  So that’s what we did, but he didn’t give up his business because that wasn’t quite enough to go around, so I kept a-workin’.  And if we made calls at night I would go with him because my oldest one was big enough to stay with the little ones.  And I helped him hold the lines here; didn’t have the good life then.  And helped out that way.

Other than the paint store and the second hand store, what other businesses did you frequent on Main Street?

RH:  The grocery store.

OK where was that grocery store located about?  There was several there.

RH:  The best one I remember was down on Main Street where it is now.

Mm, hmm

RH:  But it’s changed hands several times.

All right.  Did you ever go to movies down at the theater?

RH:  I worked there.

You worked there?

RH:  Yes, sir.

What are some of the movies you saw at that theater?  Do you remember any?

RH:  I didn’t have time to look at them.

You were working all the time, right?

RH:  Yeah.

I understand that.

RH:  I was working all the time.  Someone popped the popcorn, a blind man, you remember him?

No, I don’t remember any of this but I’ve heard these stories … tell me about him.

RH:  Well, all I can tell you is that he popped the corn and the other girl popped it and I took the money but I didn’t get to keep it, I had to give it to the theater.

Well, sure.  Well, let me ask you a question.  I went to a movie in Springfield here about two weeks ago, my wife and I, and I think it was $14 to see this movie.  How much did it cost to go to a movie in 1952?  Do you remember?

RH:  Mm, hmm,  I think it was 50 cents.

50 cents, ok.

RH:  And I would take my children, that was before I had remarried, and I’d take my children [garbled] sit in one place if they’d be good.  And they were good.

This might be a very personal question, but I’m going to ask you anyway.  How did you feel the first time you saw your first child?  And how old were you?

RH:  I was 19.


RH:  I think it was.  I don’t know, I guess I thought she’s the greatest one that would ever be born.

Why I bet you did.  And what is her name?

RH:  Mildred Johnson, now.  And her husband died with cancer just hardly a year ago.

It sounds to me like you worked a lot.  You worked, you worked in California.

RH:  I did.

You worked, you worked three different places here in Ash Grove.  So you were a busy woman with a big family.

RH:  Yes.

Ok.  How did that go in your life?

RH:  Married to Wally Hagerman.  He did not have no stepchildren, he said they were his; you had them when I asked you to marry me and I want you to know that they’re my kids too.

That’s wonderful.  Well, let’s jump back to your early childhood in Hardy, Arkansas.  What did you do …

RH:  I rode in a Model T Ford for the first time I was ever in a car.  The teacher brought his new car to school and he took all of us for a ride, two or three at a time, all day long we rode in the car.

And you were about how old?

RH:  Probably seven.

Seven, Ok.

RH:  Something like that.

So on a nice warm summer day in Hardy, Arkansas what did you do for fun as a little girl?

RH:  Wasn’t much fun. You worked; if you were big enough to turn a chip over you carried it in the house for firewood.

So you worked most of the time.

RH:  Yeah.

Well, Ruby that, that’s, we’re about out of time here so I’m going to stop there.

Is there anything you’d like to add on whatever you’d like to say?

RH:  Well, I had a stroke and I came here.  Been here 6 years last December 8 and my husband died December the 8 in 2000.  I had three years by myself in my home but I really loved the house I got.  It was just a four-room bungalow.  It was pretty well rundown.  I had a Negro friend that lived on the other end of the Wilson Street and I lived on this end, so when we went to Army reunion and left the kids all home, we went to Fort Hood, Texas, and when I come back my house had been painted.  She got the paint, rounded my kids up, said get you a paint brush and get busy.  And she just bossed them like they were hers.

She got the job done, didn’t she?

RH:  She did.  And then I was her administrator when she died and she’s buried about the length of these tables from where I’ll be buried, and I already have my funeral paid for.

That’s very nice.  Well, I need to conclude the interview so I really appreciate talking to you.  I love, I love the stories you tell and you’re as spry as you can be for 92 years old.

RH:  Except I have to use a walker.

Well that’s ok, that’s ok. So thank you very much, Ruby.

RH:  She’s our, down at Bolivar, she is our wheelchair racer.

Mm, hmm.

RH:  I was calling hogs and things like that.

Are you telling me that you were racing wheelchairs in a nursing home?  Isn’t that kind of …

RH:  No, it ain’t dangerous.

It isn’t dangerous?

RH:  You’ve got to stand up there and look where you’re going.

Well, that’s true.  Well, thank you for your time.

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 at thelibrary.org.

[Transcript of interview with Ruby Hagerman, 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.]