Volume 1, Number 7
(An excerpt from an uncompleted manuscript by Elmo Ingenthron)
Anniversaries, especially golden anniversaries, are times for reminiscing. As my memory flits back across the few decades to my boyhood, there are many facets of the past attached to Rockaway Beach.
In 1918, when I was seven years old, my father moved to a farm located one mile north of the present site of Rockaway Beach. For several years thereafter, Rockaway Beach and I grew up together. In the development program of the Merriam Company, my father, J. J. Ingenthron and my uncle Ralph Dunn along with others did much of the early building at Rockaway Beach. Al Alms and a crew of workmen fenced a considerable portion of the farmlands purchased by the Merriams for live stock farming. A farming enterprise was established with the construction of a barn, and livestock and poultry were purchased, including some peacocks, the first I had ever seen.
As a boy I had my jobs to do around the farm and around Rockaway Beach. I raised vegetables at the farm and peddled them along with milk, berries, fishworms and about anything I could sell to the resort operators and tourists. In this way I came to know many of the fine people who resided at Rockaway, and met many tourists.
The residents of Rockaway Beach came from many places and from many walks of life. Some were foreign born; some had traveled a great deal; others had engaged in enterprises in distant cities where life was somewhat different from that of the native Ozarkians. It is interesting to think of these people becoming a part and parcel of a com munity surrounded by and interspersed with our native Ozarkians. They were no doubt better trained to understand us than we were to understand them. For the years of pleasant working relationships among them and our native people, I give them the major portion of the credit.
Soon after the resort was opened for business, the tourist presented customs unacceptable to our native people. Our mothers of rigid protestant faiths cast doubts upon the morals of people who wore bobbed hair, slacks, and bathing suits, even though the bathing suits came to their knees in those days. I can still remember some of them saying that "Rockaway Beach is no fitten place for our young'uns to be."
The resort operators needed employees, and our native people accustomed to hard work made excellent help. So our people of the hills took jobs as carpenters, painters; common laborers, cooks, waitresses, bell hops, dishwashers, etc., and soon came to realize and appreciate the fine moral character of their employers. The tourists they came in contact with, for the most part, proved to be real human beings and decent people. In time there was a blending of the cultures, and our youth were swimming and dancing with the tourists, and the moral issues faded from the scene.
Rockaway Beach soon had a number of summer dwellers. As soon as school was out in Chicago, Mrs. Ann Misselwitz and her son Billy came to their summer cottage located on the point just above Captain Bill's Hotel. I remember when Mrs. Misselwitz started a little Sunday School class in her home and I sometimes attended. It seemed she always had refreshments and exhibited a kindness still remembered after many long years.
Mrs. Carroll, another summer resident, operated a gift shop in her home located just beyond the old Renshaw house up the hill from the dance pavilion. A sign indicated that it was a gift shop and that she served waffles and tea. At that time I was used to buckwheat cakes, pancakes, and corn cakes, but I had never heard of a "waffle".
I delivered milk to her and sold her vegetables and mulberries. When the weather was hot, she often invited me in for a glass of iced tea. She was a kind little lady and must have loved children as we all loved her.
She was one of my best mulberry customers when I was ten or twelve years old. Mulberries grew in abundance at the farm, but were never utilized by our household; we considered them useful only for pigs and chickens. When I learned they were marketable, I made many dollars selling them for 40 cents a gallon. Once Mrs. Carroll asked me if there was much profit in the mulberry business, and told her it was all profit because only pigs and chickens would eat them. I suppose she often laughed about this childhood reply because as I grew older and continued delivering her milk, she often invited me in when she had guests and introduced me as her "little mulberry boy"-the one who sold her berries that nothing but pigs and chickens would eat. She lives on in my memory as one of the kindest and sweetest little ladies in the world.
About the same time I became Mrs. Carroll's "mulberry boy", I was selling Captain Bill and Betty
Roberts vegetables, berries and milk. Tomatoes on the Branson or Forsyth markets in early spring before the local crop ripened sold for 40 to 50 cents a pound. We learned to produce early tomatoes, and one spring when our first tomatoes ripened, they were selling for 50 cents a pound and that was what I was selling them for from door-to-door around Rockaway Beach. I continued to do so for some time. One day Captain Bill bought all I had at that price, and that afternoon went into Branson and discovered the price had fallen to 20 cents a pound. Often after that, he would introduce me as his salesman friend who sold him tomatoes at 50 cents a pound when he could buy all he wanted elsewhere for twenty.
View of Silver Creek and point on bank of Lake Taneycomo. (Photo courtesy Ralph M. Coughenour)
As tourist season opened one summer, two small boys. Ernest and Vernon Michel, started themselves a shoeshine business in front of Captain Bill's Hotel without consulting him about the matter. He was apparently complimented to think they had chosen his hotel and he turned all the business he could their way. Captain Bill was like that, and so were many others at Rockaway Beach - they seemed to always want to see our native children succeed.
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