Volume 8, Number 5, Fall 1983
Milton A. V. Rothermel "Mick" is my maternal grandfather.
Mick was born January 17, 1912, to Earl Rothermel and Effie Audrey Carroll. He was born in the familys house on the northwest corner of Nichols and Concord in Springfield, Missouri. He is the oldest among five brothers and sisters. Paul Riley was born August 29, 1913; Ether Pearl, January 7, 1916; Earl Jr., February 5, 1917-July 1, 1973; Mary Maude, April 24, 1919; Jerry Lee, February 13, 1926.
Micks maternal grandparents were John R. Carroll and Mary A. Pierce. Paternal grandparents were Morris Miller Rothermel and Emma N. Steihl.
In 1913, Micks father, Earl worked at the Electric Light Plant on Maine St. while he and his family lived with his brother John at Route 10, Springfield. They remained there for ten years until moving to Route 1.
Mick went to Grandview School through 6th grade. He went to Fairview School 7th and 8th grade. He spent his 9th grade year at Reed Jr. High and went to Senior High School, which is now Central High, for 10th grade; then he quit school. He couldnt start to school until he was 8 years old because he had to wait for his younger brother, Paul, to start to school. At age 18 he quit school and took a Bookkeeping course at Draughons Business College.
Mick met my grandmother, Pearl Louise McKinnis his first year at Grandview School. She was born December 22, 1911-August 12, 1967. Her parents were Roy E. McKinnis and Edna D. Shipley. He didnt see her from 6th to 10th grade because they went to different schools. His first job was in 1928-1929 picking strawberries with his brother Paul. They put their money in Holland Bank with a total of $50.00 each. Then the Big Crash came in 1929 and they only got $12.00 each from their bank account.
During the early Depression years he worked at an ice cream factory on Walnut Street. He also worked on a farm for his friend Ernest Kimbling.
Mick and Pearl were married March 9. 1931. After being married almost a year they started their own family with my mother, their oldest daughter, Thelma Earline on October 24, 1931. Tedrick Lee was born next on May 3, 1935; Nancy Carol, May 13, 1937; Patricia Blanche, June 16, 1939; and John Wesley, February 23, 1942.
Mick said that in 1937 when the country was starting to come out of the Depression, he could go into a grocery store and buy as many groceries as he could carry home for only $5.00. He said, "The trouble was getting the $5.00."
Greene County Roller Mill was started in 1915 by my great-great uncle Frank Rothermel. It was located on Route 1 across from Greenlawn Cemetery. Frank went to serve in the U. S. Army during the First World War. His brother, Earl (my great grandfather) ran the mill until 1919. Then Frank came back, and they became partners. All of their products were custom ground at the mill.
In 1921 they bought lots at 606 W. Chase, Springfield, Mo. In 1924, they sold the mill at Route 1 and bought out Lane Flour and Feed Company on the northwest corner of Boonville and Phelps. When the Greene County Roller Mill closed, they had an auction to sell the machinery. Now, some of that machinery is used at Silver Dollar City in their mill.
After moving to Boonville and Phelps, they started Rothermel Brothers Flour and Feed. They began to buy flour already ground and sacked from a place in Kansas. They also bought cornmeal from Kansas already ground, but they had to sack it themselves. They custom ground feed with brand name Purity.
In 1924 they built a building on their lots at 606 W. Chase and rented it to the Ice Company to store apples in. Later in 1925 they moved the business from Boonville Ave. to their building on
Chase and remained there until 1963 when it closed.
Earl bought Franks share of the business in 1937. Then his boys, Mick, Paul, Earl Jr., and Jerry came to work for him until 1940 when they bought the business from Earl.
During the World War II when the four brothers owned the business, they couldnt find much help because all of the men were going to war. So after working long hard hours during the day, they had to go back at night to grind feed and get ready for the next days business. At this time, in 1940 each brother made $60.00 each month.
Mick says that the supplies he bought were half to five times as cheap as they are now. Cotton seed, used for dairy and hog feed as a protein, cost $40.00 but would cost $200.00 now. Flour bought from Kansas was about $10.00 less for a 100 pound bag.
The company sold things retail and wholesale. Flour and cornmeal was sacked in smaller quantities so markets could sell them.
There was a little retail store at the mill that sold 10 pounds of flour for 89¢; now it may cost around $2.00. Cornmeal in 5 pounds was 25¢; now it is about $1.00. One could buy 100 pounds of feed for $2.25; its $5.00-$6.00 now. Sugar, lard, and shortening were also sold at the mill.
Hog and dairy feed, along with chicken feed mash were all good sellers. Dairy feed consisted of bran, which is the hull of the wheat, cotton seed as protein, ground corn, and soy bean meal. Hog feed had bran, shorts, which is a finer part of the hull of the wheat, starch, ground corn, soy bean meal, and meat scraps.
The company started out with ten or twelve men employed for 35¢ an hour. In 1955 minimum wage went up to $1.25 but only five or six men were employed along with the four brothers.
Mick and Jerry sold their interests of the mill in 1955 to Paul and Earl Jr. They ran the mill until 1963 when they closed it. After Mick quit the Rothermel Brothers Flour and Feed in 1955, he went to work for ONeel Feed Store. He stayed there until 1958 when he went in partners with a friend in a restaurant and motel at La Russell, Mo. Then he owned a grocery store until 1964 when he started driving a mail truck which he continued until 1980.
His hobbies were rabbit hunting, running fox hounds, square dancing, horse riding, branding cattle, and slaughtering cows and pigs.
Copeland, Thelma Farline
2855 East Lombard
Rothermel, Milton A. V.
1109 North Clay
Editors Note: Merrian was the third place winner in the 1982-83 historical essay contest. She was a 12th grade student in Mrs. Betty Nicholsons American Folklore class at Glendale High School in Springfield, MO.
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