Volume 8, Number 6, Winter 1984
I was a student at The School of the Ozarks in Forsyth during the school year 1914-1915. Dr. John Crockett was the head of the school, superintendent or president, I forget what he was called. He and his mother live in a big white two story house near the school and some of the boys lived with him. There were three lady teachers, Lyta Davis, who later married Dr. R.M. Good, Mary Wilson and Miss Ellis. Miss Ellis was kinda cute. Lyta Davis (we called her "Lit") had the longest hair I ever saw; it hung to her ankles. Miss Wilson was a sort of plump lady, rather short. The lady teachers lived on the third floor of the building, along with several of the girls. There was a man English teacher, whose name I have forgotten, who was married and lived out in town. His wife was from a northern state and had never heard of the ticks which are common in the Ozarks. People told her how terrible they were and she was scared to death for fear one would jump out on her as she walked along the paths.
The school building was a three story structure, built of stone, with a basement in which the cooking, dining and laundry facilities were located. The building was heated with wood stoves and there was an acetylene gas light plant in the basement. The first floor was the library and classrooms. Most of the girls lived in the South part of the second floor, part in a large dormitory and others, including myself in smaller rooms. I was in a room with Myrtle Compton, Zeffie Hulsey and Marie King.
Each room was heated with a wood stove. It was my duty to build the fire in our room since I lived on a farm and have been raised in a house with wood heat and I knew all about building fires. We each had a bed of our own, but they were rather small. It got pretty cold at night in the winter after the fire died down and sometimes we would sleep together to keep warm. The night the school burned, sometime in January 1915, not long after we had returned from the holiday vacation, I had built my fire and banked it to keep fire during the night and since I didnt like to make my bed anyway and I was cold, I got in bed with Marie King. She complained that my feet were cold and made such a fuss I went upstairs to a room where the three lady teachers and about four girls were sleeping. They all asked me to sleep with them. I got in bed with a big girl, I have forgotten her name. Ayers, Aires, something like that. She lives, or did live, down in the Kimberling City area. My son, Carl, met her and talked with her when he was doing plumbing work over there. Along in the night we heard a terrible commotion--screaming, hollering. Thats the awfulest cry you ever heard. You knew there was something bad wrong when you heard it. The fire apparently started on the third floor and it was getting pretty hot before it was discovered, before we woke up. Some of the girls said it burned their feet when they hit the floor. There was no panic. The teachers very calmly spread a sheet down on the floor and piled their clothes on it and made a bundle, not realizing I went down to my room and thought about getting my trunk out. Every girl had a trunk and I had plenty of time to get all my clothes out of the closet along with all the other girls clothes and drag it down the stairs, but I thought they would get the fire put out and I would look silly and people would laugh at me dragging that big old trunk down. Somebody did get it out however, but all it had in it was two pairs of shoes and some summer clothes. Some of the girls didnt get anything out. There we were in January clad only in our night gowns. In those days we all wore long sleeved flannel gowns. We would have had plenty of time to go back into the building
and rescue some of our things--but they were afraid that gas light plant would explode, so we just had to stand and let our things burn.
The people in the town rallied around and began bringing bags of shoes, not in boxes but piled in bags, together with all kinds of clothes. I was better off then some of the others because I did have shoes and some summer clothes. They gave me an old ugly gray coat that nearly dragged my heels, and had a hood on it. I was a pretty looking sight. The first order of business was to get those of us that could go home by train from Branson up to the dam to get on the Sammy Lane Boat to ride to Branson. The Lake was partly frozen over and they had to push a barge in front to break the ice. It was quite a boat ride; we were all more or less in shock from our ordeal and the long cold trip to Branson didnt help much. I had lost all my money in the fire and had to borrow $5.00 from Dr. Crockett to get home. That was pretty cheap transportation to get me from the school to the dam and on the boat to Branson and buy a ticket to Reeds Spring, I sat by a nice young man on the train and talked to him, although I was awfully embarrassed because of the way I was dressed in that awful old coat. I have forgotten his name. In fact, I have no idea now how I got from Reeds Spring to Spokane and home. I know I was sick in bed a week from the effects of that experience.
While I am recalling that incident I want to tell about a trick one of my roommates, Marie King and I pulled on Myrtle, another roommate. Myrtle was in love with a fellow, I think his name was Dysart, something like that. He went off to work somewhere, probably Kansas, and at first they wrote real often. After a while the letters stopped coming and she heard that he had married a girl out where he worked. She had kept all of his love letters and had them in her trunk. Marie and I were just crazy to see those letters but we didnt want anyone to catch us reading them. Finally we got a chance to get into them and read them. Then remorse set in; we knew what we had done was wrong and we wondered how we could make up for what we had done. Finally we decided to pray about it and we got down on our knees and prayed, asking God to forgive us for what we had done. We felt better then and nobody ever knew about the silly stunt we had pulled.
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