Volume 9 , Number 12 , Summer 1988
Greetings to all my fellow members of the White River Valley Historical Society. In June of this year, I became your president. I consider it a privilege and honor to serve as your president. Twenty-seven years ago this organization was born. I was not a part of this beginning. As a native of the White River Valley, I took for granted what others recognized as a need for historical preservation.
Perhaps you, as members would like to know a little more about me. I was born and grew up on the first farm above Table Rock Dam. My great grandfather, L.P. Ayres was a merchant in Taney County in the 1850s. As a merchant, he frequently accepted Yoachum Silver Dollars as a trade coin in exchange for merchandise. In the early part of the Civil War, he left the White River Country, and traveled north where his sympathies were more compatible with the residents.
My great grandfather lived his last years in the Kansas City area and told his grandchildren stories of his early days in the beautiful White River Valley. My father was one of these children who was intrigued by Grand Paws stories of pioneer days and the Yoachum silver in the Ozarks. In 1919, Benjamin Ayres, my father, and his French-Canadian friend, Joe Olett, found an empty cattle car headed south to Branson and the White River Country. A railroad detective encouraged them to get off the train before they arrived in Branson. At his urging, they disembarked in Reeds Spring, and thereby avoided the unclean air others had encountered going through the one mile long tunnel in an open cattle car.
In the year 1919 Reeds Spring, Missouri, was a rugged, thriving and fast growing town where men often settled their differences with physical violence. One of the merchants was John Pinkley, my mothers grandfather. My grandfather, Omar Goodall, and his brother, Elmer, lived on adjoining farms just above where Table Rock Dam is now located. My father, Ben Ayres, and Joe Olett bought Elmers Farm.
In May 1923, myfatherfoundsomeYoachum Dollars and married my mother, Fern Goodall (in that order). On February 4, 1926, my mother went to the FlagSchool located on thehilitop just north of the present Table Rock Dam, and south of Wilderness Safari where she was the teacher. Recently, Lula (Fausett) Stewart who lives now in Branson West with her husband, and was a ten-year-old student at Flag School that year told me that my mother was feeling sick that day and asked one of my aunts (her sister) to get her a glass of water. Mom left school early that day and later in the evening I was born. A few days later some of the neighbors came to school to see the teachers new baby. One of the neighbors reputedly asked my six year old aunt, Marie (Goodall)
Holt, what she thought of the new baby boy. Her response was, "Theys a lot of things we need worse." My mother was the oldest of ten girls with two brothers.
For me, it is with great pride that I serve as your president and I wish to thank in advance all of the other elected officers and appointed persons who will serve with me so that the WRVIIS will continue to prosper and grow in the years to come. Dr. Bob Gilmore, and others who have preceded him, have set a high standard for this office. With your help I hope to maintain this momentum.
I believe I met Bob Gilmore about six years ago when our new vice-president Lynn Morrow and I were invited to speak to Dr. Bob Flanders Ozark Studies Class at SMSU. As I recall, our subject was the Yoachum Family and the Yoachum Silver Dollar. We had some disagreement at that meeting and have continued to agree to disagree. I have never met a man who could disagree with you and be so charming in the process. Several months later these two Dr. Bobs were discussing their contemplated trip to the Missouri History Conference and one suggested that they take Artie Ayres along as a genuine hillbilly from deep in the Ozark Mountains.
Flanders said, "Did you know thatArtie Ayres has a degree from the University of Missouri?"
Gilmore responded, "Yes, I know that, but no one will ever suspect it!"
For me, following in Bob Gilmores footsteps is a lot like George Bush taking over from Ronald Reagan. Bob gave me a stack of papers and letters at the last quarterly meeting and I have studied these and noted the magnitude of what has been accomplished.
My father died when I was four years old and I guess I was looking for a father figure in 1938 when I was a freshman at Branson High School. One of my male school teachers taught history and social studies. I came to respect and admire this man who made historyinteresting. After World War II, he and Icame back to the Ozark Mountains and he continued to pursue his teaching profession at Crane, Mo. In 1950-51 and 52 while he was teaching farm training to veterans at Crane and I was teaching veterans at Branson, our paths frequently crossed when on field trips and when visiting with veterans on the farm. The man accepted me, his former student, as a peer. In 1961, this man, Elmo Ingenthron, was the first president of the White River Valley Historical Society.
Elmo was my teacher and friend in 1938-39-40. We were both in the armed services in WWH. Ten years later, he was my friend and co-teacher and accepted me as an equal. Twenty years later as a man who saw a need to preserve history, he was your first president: and now, fifty years after I was Elmos student in high school at Branson, and the same year that he wrote the last page in his book of life, I find it interesting and rewarding to have been selected to follow in the footsteps of my mentor and your first president, Elmo Ingenthron.
In choosing me president of the WRVHS, you have selected a folklorist and storyteller. I look forward to serving as president and consider it an honor to do so.
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