Volume X, No. 3, Spring 1983


It was exactly ten years ago in March 1973 that twenty-two students and I began meeting before school and at other odd times to begin publishing a magazine about our Ozark heritage. Nothing existed then but the purpose and enthusiasm and willingness of us all and the consent of Lebanon R-III School to form a class. The class didn't exist. It began in the fall of that year. We had no money, no equipment, no supplies, no name. None of that bothered us, for we had enough enthusiasm to handle anything.

We began work, researching for our first issue. After school was out, we decided to work through the summer to make our volumes coincide with the school year. So when school began that fall, the first thing we saw was Volume I, Number 1.

Every issue that we haul back from our printer is a wonder. I really almost consider each issue a miracle--a miracle that all the hundreds of decisions, plans, photographs, art, graphics, typing, writing and reactions and cooperations of many students and people we interview can come together in a beautiful publication. But of all issues, that first one was truly special to the students and me. We proved that with guidance and teaching, high school students can produce quality work valued all over the country.

From that first issue to this one, our 39th, and on to the extra big last one, number 40, to be published in May, each new staff, following the preceding one, has grown, learned, improved and worked increasingly harder to grow in technique and to improve quality. We all work hard, spending many more hours on this class than our other classes.

Though we always have been self-sufficient, when our book, Bittersweet Country, selected articles from the first three and a half years of our magazine, came out in 1978, for the first time, we had a little extra money. We put it in savings and during the past two years have had to dip into that to meet our rising costs and secure the greatly needed help of a full-time assistant. This fiscal year has already exhausted that reserve. If we continued publishing on the scale of the last ten years, we would have a yearly deficit which we cannot meet. I feel it is too big an undertaking to continue indefinitely for a class with the limited resources available in a public school.

In ten years' time, we have published 40 issues with 300 stories, 97 one page features, 28 photo essays and 5 sound-sheets. These are printed on 2,762 pages including over 3,000 photographs and 800 drawings. We've driven over 60,000 miles in Missouri and Arkansas talking with 452 men and women in 468 interviews, each of which we transcribed word for word. We feel that we have done what the first staff in 1973 wanted. There is still a lot to write about, but we've covered the main topics and are visiting with people ten years younger than those we began with, many of whom are now gone--Myrtle and Elva Hough, Fred Manes, Mary Moore, Charlie Grace, Tom Price, Ernie Hough, Iva Bradshaw and many others.

I am reminded of what Vance Randolph, the Ozark forklorist, said when I visited him before his death. He commented that the old breed of Ozark people from whom he gathered his research was gone, indicating it was too late. We at Bittersweet have talked with the sons and daughters of the generation he knew. I disagreed that they were all gone, though they were fast disappearing. We were fortunate to know and share the skills, knowledge and reminiscences of some Ozark people who grew to adulthood before 1900.

After ten years Bittersweet will cease publication, but what the students over these years have chronicled will be here always.

After ten years' work and dedication, we all can hear, preserved forever on our soundsheets, Glenn Rickman playing old-time fiddle tunes and Ashford Hough telling of funeral customs. We can still see Johnny Starnes who could remember when Grover Cleveland was president, and we can still read in Adley Fulford's words his experiences in running a country store. Bittersweet has made all this possible in just ten years.

I'll see to it that the back issues of the magazines still left are available, and I may be able to publish some of the material in future books.

Ellen Massey


Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.

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