[Transcript of interview with Vance West, 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.]

Recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District’s Big Read 2010.  The following is an interview with Vance West; recorded on March 2, 2010.  Vance, tell me what your age is again.

I’m going on 91.

Going on 91 years old.  Lifelong resident of the Ash Grove area?

Yes, only what time I was in the Army.

In the Army, when were you…

I was away 2 years and worked at Beech Aircraft a couple of years.

And where was Beech at?

Wichita, before I went to the service


 And what age did you go into the service?

I think I was 21, 22.

So at your age you were drafted into World War II, correct?


Yeah, ok.

I could’ve got a deferment but I didn’t want one.

Good for you. 


Went around and they wanted me to get one the first time around wouldn’t be there the second time.

Vance, I’m sorry this thing went off.  I’m not sure what all we got here, but I’m going to, I’ll repeat myself some of this time.  But where we are right now, tell me about life in Ash Grove around Main Street when you were a young boy?  What were some of the stores?

They roped it off here, they roped it off here, they roped it off back here.  You went up and down the alleys because the street was full of people on Saturday night. The band was right in the middle of the street out here.

So every Saturday night everybody would come to town.

Everybody came to town.

This, this, your wife Gladys, would you bring her over here?

Yes, we, I brought her here.

Ok, so what would you do, what would you do specifically when you came over here?

Sometimes we went to the show if we had the money.  Lot of times we didn’t so you walked up and down the street just like they do in town.

Ok, what, were there more one theater here in Ash Grove?

Yes, there were two at one time, but there’s only one most of the time.

Ok, one most of the time.  And what were some of the stores you would go to?

Oh we went to Pearson’s hardware, drugstore, you could get a fountain coke or whatever,


Ice cream cones, or anything

This is, this is in late ‘30s, early ‘40s that were talking about now.  What did people do, other than farming, what did other people do in the Ash Grove, Bois D’Arc, Greenfield area as far as like manufacturing jobs or what would they do?

There was no manufacturing, hardly, I don’t think.  They had an undertaker down here, and they had two feed mills, they had 3,4 grocery stores. Had two hardware stores and they had a harness shop, and they had a garage on the east side, Mr. Leeper, and just…

Did they have any farm machinery dealerships here?

Yes, Rozell Implement Company, it was an International dealer.

International, ok.

Our first TV came from there,

Oh, really, ok.

In ’52.

Was there a John Deere dealer, Massey-Ferguson, anything like that?

No, no.

Just the International.  I’m fascinated about how electricity changed the rural Ozarks.  Tell me about, go back and tell me some stories about electrification in your life.

Well, I remember going to Bois D’Arc in a horse and buggy one day, or one night, and there was a yard that had a light in it, outside.  And that was, I’d never seen that before.

Never seen that.  And would you use, would, when you got a radio in your home, what kind of entertainment did that provide you?

We listened on the old ________ box radio with the earphones we listened to Nashville, Tennessee, Grand Ole Opry.

I want you to tell us again about your story of buying and selling horses on your way to Clinton.

Well, dad would, you could buy a horse, you could buy a colt for $10; you could buy a mule, a young mule, or a young colt, a year old, for $15.  You could buy a mare or a mule for $20, $25.  He would buy anything because he traded anything.  I remember riding, he had a stick about this long on the back that laid across the horse’s rump.  It fastened to the saddle up behind the, and you leaned back.

Mm hmm

And then it fastened to the bottom, a strap around the horse’s belly, and it fastened there to keep it level.  It had ten hooks on it, you tied a hook to each one.  If you bought a colt, or something that wasn’t broke or lead you would put it between a couple of old horses.  He had to go,


so they kept him in line. 

By the time we got home they all lead good.

So would you bring them home and would you break them for riding, or would you break them for carrying …

He sold them any way, he’d trade horses anyway so long as he could make fifty cents he’d trade a horse.  He’d trade horses with the gypsies, when the gypsies came in he’d trade horses with them.  Team run away once, I was in the wagon behind the house, and dad drove up, they worked them four or five days, and he just tied them light to the post there.  He went in the house and they got scared and they jumped and they went off, run off down through the timber.  Went down around the road and across the creek and he come and got them, took them back they didn’t hurt nothing, but he would start a team, a green broke team is 30 days, finish broke is 60 days.  You could get $200 for a green broke team if you worked them 30 days, you could get $300 and if he had a team, anywhere he’d work ‘em, anywhere he had them broke at, if granddad could trade them off he’d trade ‘em.  He’d just go get some more horses or mules and start again.


That’s the way they made their money.  He paid for his place in 3 years and he borrowed money at one and a half percent.

I’m fascinated about the stories of you meeting your wife and I’d like to go back to that story a minute and go back to the pie supper and repeat yourself on that.

Well, I went with her, pretty near three years before we was married but I worked for dad about a year before we was married.  He did building silos, barns, houses, filling stations, anything that he could get to do.  I started working for him when I got out of high school the year before we were married at a dollar a day and he paid the other carpenters a dollar and a quarter a day.

You got married in what, about 1940?


Ok.  Tell me about buying the box supper in…


Do you remember what was in it?

Yep, no.  Didn’t know what was in it, didn’t know her really, but they said it was a box and it was one of the cheaper ones that sold for fifty cents.  A box would sell, a pie would sell 25, 35, 40, 50 cents, maybe a dollar.  A box would sell for about 15 cents more and you got a piece of pie and piece of cake or a sandwich.

Was this a typical way a young man would meet a young woman in the late ‘30s and ‘40s

Oh yes, a lot of people have met their wives at pie suppers.  Pie suppers was a big thing that’s the only way the school had of making any money.

Well let me ask you again to go back to some of our discussions on the Depression.  Based on what you said earlier you were about ten years old when you realized that, so did you consider yourself poor, or just, did you, how …

No, we was just like everybody else, everybody was poor. 


There just wasn’t nobody hardly had any money. 

Mm hmm.

I never was, never went hungry, or went without clothes, Dad was a good provider.  He worked and we would eat groundhog, we’d eat crow, we’d eat anything that come along.  He butchered sheep, he butchered goat, and he butchered pork and he butchered, but we ate good.  We had a small orchard.  They raised a big garden.  Mom had canned stuff.  We picked gooseberries, blackberries, dewberries, anything to eat.

I’ve heard a lot of stories about young men in the ‘30s and ‘40s in the Ash Grove area that trapped a lot, so did you trap?

Yes, I trapped rabbits, yes, with box traps and steel traps.  I trapped a little with steel traps, them, most of them were for possums or skunks,

Mm hmm.

but rabbits would sell for a nickel or a dime, and a possum sell for 40, 50 cents, skunk might bring 75 cents.

Would you eat the rabbit for meat, or would you sell that?

No, we didn’t, we never sold anything.  About the only thing that, we had a small orchard ,when the apples started dropping early in the summer we picked up apples and most people won’t believe this but good cider has to have some rotten apples in it.

Mm hmm

A good apple doesn’t make good cider.  It has a different taste.  So we made cider; we had a spring, he put it in a glass jug, we drunk out of it til it begun to get hard why he’d pour it in a vinegar barrel, and we make cider about once a week, and he’d pour it in an old barrel in a basement out at the chicken house, it was a cellar, and he sold vinegar the next year for 10 cents a gallon and thought he was making money.

Were there any traditions that you had in your family that revolved around holidays? My grandmother used to teach me about, she did certain things at all the holidays, and do you have any memories of those?

No, not much.  I don’t remember dad and mom ever talking about religion, Baptist, Methodist; they never talked about a Democrat or a Republican; they went to church and they always voted but how they voted I have no idea.

No idea, ok.  Well I think we’ve probably talked here long enough Vance, I appreciate what you’ve had to say today.  It’s, I know Beth and I are tickled to death to hear these stories.

I was raised up normal; I’d say that was normal back in them times.

I’m sure it was.

Yeah, oh, yeah.  My first job was 10 cents a day stacking straw under the _______ when I was 10 years old.

And what would you do with that money?

Oh, saved it.

Saved it.  Yeah, I bet you did.

It didn’t go for candy.  You could buy a big package of candy for a dime

Is that right. Yeah, oh, that’s great, that’s great.

[Transcript of interview with Vance West, 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.]