Volume IX, No. 3, Spring 1982
No, we haven't changed volumes. It's still volume nine, but, yes, I am the new story editor. Jill Splan, our previous editor, has taken advantage of the early-out program our school offers. This policy offers a senior the opportunity to be dismissed one semester early to attend college. Jill has started the spring semester at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.
I asked her, as a third year staff member, to look back on her experiences. "I think Bittersweet has given me many opportunities to grow and learn. There are so many various fields Bittersweet touches on. It was practical experience." We will miss Jill as she was a big asset. We wish her all the best in pursuing her career.
As I have moved up to story editor, Gail Hodges, a second year staff member has filled my previous position as publicity editor.
Gina Jennings Sommer, our last semester circulation editor has a schedule problem and was unable to be in Bittersweet class our regular fifth and sixth hours. She now has the class as independent study fourth hour. Carl Davis, a third year senior has taken over as circulation editor.
As I think back on the year, I re--call the new staff members arriving on the Bittersweet staff, and I recall how I felt as a new staff member. One of the things I found interesting then was the history of Bittersweet, how it began and who was involved. It now occurs to me that maybe our readers are not aware of our beginning. I would like to explain it to you now.
Ten years ago Ellen Massey, our advisor, was approached by her brother, Ralph Gray of the National Geographic magazine, who felt she should start a publication in the Ozarks much like Eliot Wigginton in Georgia was doing with Foxfire magazine. That first year she was hesitant because of the tremendous amount of attention a project like this would need. It was also too late in the year to schedule it as a class. But the next school year, she and interested students started earlier to get the necessary approval for a class with credit.
Before that year was over, students began meeting before and after school, making plans, electing editors and actually beginning research. They decided to start working that summer with the help and encouragement of IDEAS (Institutional Development and Economic Affairs Service, Inc.).
That summer IDEAS invited Mrs. Massey and two students to attend a workshop at Foxfire in Georgia. IDEAS, a non-profit organization whose purpose was to help culturally under-developed people, mostly in Latin America, became interested in the Foxfire concept of education and wished to help them as well as other culturally unique areas in the United States and Latin America to preserve their crafts, folklore and traditions in a student magazine. They held a workshop and otherwise encouraged several student groups, including us.
The first staff worked that summer, and the first day of the 1973-74 school year mailed out the first issue of Bittersweet.
But Mrs. Massey didn't stop there. She has been going strong ever since and deserves to be commended for her years of devotion to Bittersweet, but most of all, for her devotion to her students. She has the drive to encourage about twenty students each year not only to put out a sixty-eight page magazine four times a year, but to learn and enjoy themselves while doing it. I have learned much from many teachers in my twelve years of school, but never have I had a learning experience such as Bittersweet and Ellen Massey.
Each issue we do seems to us the best yet. We especially thought so of the winter issue which has received good response from readers as well as staff.
The feature on the Indian cave was a favorite among staff members. Deidra said, "I really enjoyed it because of its historical reference and its excellent story form."
Jim Chastain was very pleased with the story of himself. He stopped by our room in early December in a very jovial mood. As he was visiting he said, "If nothing happens, I'll be twenty-one the fifteenth of this month." After we gave him a skeptical look, he continued, "Well, I'll be four times twenty-one. You know, of course, I'm not just twenty-one. It took a lot longer than that for me to get this pretty." He then produced a Christmas card with $10.00 in it. "Here, buy the staff some candy." When we told him we didn't want it, he replied, "Don't lie to me. I know you do. You know, I'm better than George Washington. He couldn't tell a lie. I can, but I don't."
We received a lot of good response from the story on huck weaving which featured Gail Hodge's grandmother, Melba Woodrum. Gail said, "She really was proud of the story and pleased with the manner in which it was written."
We also are still receiving mail from the fall issue. We received a letter from Irene Haymes who was featured in the corn shuck chair seats story. She wrote, "We have heard many kind remarks about the write-up in Bittersweet. We sure think you kids do a wonderful job (especially with the people you have to work with. Ha!). I've had many people to recognize me from the pictures and I've made lots of friends from your magazine." She sent us a letter that she has received from a couple who had read and enjoyed the story. I would like to share some of it with you.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Haymes,
Good morning: It seems like I am most acquainted with you all by reading about you and your activities in the Fall, 1981 Bittersweet issue. My wife and I enjoyed the pictures, stories, illustrations and instructions especially about "Making Chair Seats from Corn Shucks."
You said, "This craft has almost been lost down through the years." (We thought it had.) And you said, "I do not know anyone else who knows how to do this."
Well, we do and we don't, and it is a dead art with us, but we are reminded of it every day--for you see, we live with a foot stool, a chair and a rocking chair bottomed with cord or rope made out of corn shucks just as you illustrate and do.
My wife's father made chairs and stools and put corn shuck rope bottoms in them as far back as she can remember (and she is just a little girl seventy-nine years old).
The foot stool he made and that I use every day was the last he made and bottomed with shucks just a few years before he passed away in 1963 at the age of eighty-five, so the bottom in the stool is over twenty years old and those on the chairs go back and back. My wife remembers her father when they lived at Crisp, Missouri, near Sac River (the Stockton Lake has covered it all now), working at night bottoming the chairs. He selected his shucks carefully from the open pollinated field corn (he didn't like to work with the new hybrid corn in later years) and soaked them in warm water, and then as needed he would put the edges of the end of the shuck in his teeth and strip off a slip as he went along.
I watched him doing it, but I was not gifted that way. My wife says she did a little of it, but she was busy in other things.
The pictures and instructions you gave in Bittersweet followed along his way of doing. We do not know where he learned how and made a practice of it. There is no one that we know of ever took it up or does it now.
George and Vestileen Robison
In closing I would like to thank all of you, the readers and supporters of Bittersweet. Without you this experience for me and many other students could never be possible. So as you read Bittersweet, remember you are supporting a magazine, you are preserving the past, and you are supporting a unique form of education.
We thank the following for their donations to Bittersweet.
Homebuilders WPFA, Lebanon, Missouri
Mae Dobbins, Mountain View, Arkansas
Whitney Ehrler, Wilton, Connecticut
Jim Chastain, Lebanon, Missouri
J.S. Easley, Lebanon, Missouri
Lois M. Holland, St. Louis County, MO
Frank J. Klasskin, St. Louis, Missouri
Roma Reeves, Tampa, Florida
Zona Smith, Lawrence, Kansas
Barbara Myers, Licking, Missouri
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.
Next Article | Table of Contents | Other Issues
Local History Home