Vol. VIII, No. 2, 1995

Conversations with Thelma Bilyeu

The following text is the edited transcript of tape recorded conversations at the Bilyeu home in Ozark, Missouri, held between November, 1994 and January, 1995. Thelma Bilyeu (TB) was the principal interviewee. Hosea Bilyeu (HB) also participated. The interviewer was Robert Flanders (RF).

Home, Kin, and Neighborhood

RF: Both your grandmothers were nearby to attend your birth. Did your kin live close?

TB: When I was small, not school age, my Grandma and Grandpa Keithley lived up [Bull] Creek, half a mile across the field. My grandfather Keithley was quite a writer and wrote for newspapers. They had a married daughter, my Aunt Glessie. She and Uncle Hugh, her husband, lived over on the Haseltine Ranch. You walked across the hill to get there, about four miles.

RF: What was the Haseltine Ranch?

TB: The Haseltines were from Springfield and had apple orchards. They owned this piece of property. It wasn't what I'd call a ranch, but there was quite a little bit of it. Lincoln Haseltine was the one I first remember that owned it. They used to come down and camp. My Aunt Glessie and Uncle Hugh lived there too. I don't remember any rent being paid, you could just live on the place. The Haseltines would just come down and camp sometimes.

RF: What did the Haseltines do with this land? Did they run cattle or cut any timber on it?

TB: No, they didn't do anything to it really. Whoever lived there was free to cut timber. They didn't use it for commercial purposes. The Haseltines would sometimes bring barrels of apples. They were real nice.

There was an old chicken house over there, but it wasn't used for chickens. We lived in it. And Glessie and Hugh lived in an old house that was there. After they moved, the house was torn down. We carded water over there all my time. Later, they found a well that spurts out about a hundred yards from where we lived. An artesian well!

RF: Did you have a well at your place then?

TB: Yes. And when I was a teenager, on the place owned then by my Uncle Hugh and Aunt Glessie, they had a well drilled. But they never had a pump in it. They drew water with one of those long buckets that looked like a piece of big pipe. On my grandfather's place, they just had a dug well, out in the yard.

Aunt Glessie and my father were the only married children in their family at that time. Aunt Glessie and Dad were real close. Through the years they did a lot of visiting. When I was still small my grandparents moved a few miles west to Oak Ridge, where I later stayed and went to school at Spokane.

RF: Did your parents live out their lives in Clausen Hollow?

TB: No, in later years they moved up on Oak Ridge, several miles to the west. My uncle had a place up there where they lived, and then they bought a little house. That's where they lived when they passed away. They never moved to town.

RF: In later years, what was their life like?

TB: It was better. They worked summers at Rockaway Beach for many years. Then they got old age assistance. They did much better in their older days. It wasn't anything fancy--they didn't have running water, just had a well on the back porch.

After my father died we all lived at Spokane, and there was a little house right on the place. It's been a cafe and a beauty shop and other things, and we let mother have that. She had some remodeling done and lived there.

RF: Do you know when your parents got electricity?

TB: They never did have it in Clausen Hollow or Haseltine Ranch. They got it after they moved out on the ridge and the REA was already in after World War II. It was White River Electric.


RF: Did your parents have good health all their lives?

TB: Not my dad. He had a heart ailment and was always taking medicine. But he was able to go until he took sick to the bed when he died. His folks lived up on the hill and he would walk up there. He had a cow up there and he would walk up there and milk when I'd think he wasn't able to, but it gave him something to do.

RF: You said they had summer work in Rockaway Beach. Did your dad ever have a full time job?

TB: No, not full time, just summertime work in Rockaway. They went back and forth. When I was home and we went down there, we'd rent a little place. Later Daddy got a tent and would move us back and forth and we lived in the tent. After they moved out on the ridge there was transportation to go back and forth.

RF: A bus?

TB: No, just [other] people who worked there.

RF: What did your parents do in Rockaway Beach?

TB: Mother worked at cafes and motels. When I was home Daddy took care of a string of rental saddle horses. I helped part of the time as a way to make money when I was going to school [in the late 1920's and early 1930's].

RF: Were there a lot of people who came to Rockaway Beach in the summertime?

TB: Yes, tourists came from everywhere.

RF: How long did they stay?

TB: They'd stay a week or two. Fishing was a big attraction, and boating. There was a dance pavilion that had a band. There were little shops that sold art things.

RF: Did artists live and work there?

TB: There was one artist that came and stayed. He made a big picture of Daddy and a big picture of Mother and a big picture of my daughter Barbara, her graduation; he did beautiful work.

RF: You mentioned your parents not wanting you to go to Forsyth when you were small. When you were a little older and working in Rockaway Beach did you go over to Forsyth sometimes?

TB: Yes. The first year I stayed with Aunt Glessie and Uncle Hugh we went to Forsyth every weekend. The girls wore their hair in a windblown bob then. We'd go for haircuts. And that's where we bought things.

RF: Was there a movie theater in Forsyth?

TB: No, there wasn't. If there had been one, we would have gone!

RF: How many children did your grandparents, the Keithley's, have?

TB: Eleven children that lived I believe, one died. My father, Elmer, was the eldest. He was born in 1890, in Gettman Hollow, not far from Clausen Hollow. So he was about 25 when I was born. The youngest was Hazel, only five months older than me. All were still at home when I was little, except dad and Aunt Glessie. But they weren't far away. It was a fairly standard thing at that time for the children, even the grown children, to stay close.

RF: What brought Aunt Glessie's husband to live close to his wife's parents? Did Hugh and Glessie own land?

TB: No, they just rented. His folks lived close around too. The Meltons. They were neighbors. Often, neighbors married neighbors.

RF: Were taboos against marrying cousins very strong?

TB: Yes, they were.

RF: What about second cousins?

TB: Well, about the third cousin, marriage was pretty well accepted.

RF: Who kept the rules about who was too close? Were children taught about those things?

TB: That was just the neighborhood rules and regulations. You always knew that. You didn't date your cousin or marry your cousin, you just visited with them.

RF: Did you ever see a case where cousins fell in love and would have married but they couldn't because of the taboo against it?

TB: I had a couple of aunts that married their own cousins. The cousins lived in California and came back here visiting and they fell in love and they married. It wasn't accepted, but they did it anyway.


RF: Were there any bad consequences to that?

TB: No, not that I know of. Neither couple had any children. Because they had never lived nearby each other, they didn't seem that close.

RF: Did you see much divorce, or a husband abandoning his wife, or infidelity?

TB: No.

Hosea Bilyeu: There was some widow woman living down in one of the hollows and some man came and shacked up with her one Friday night and the neighbors watched out for that.

RF: The neighbors watched out for the widow lady?

TB: Watched out for the community!

HB: Some folks came down one Friday night and lit a stick of dynamite between the logs of her house. He took off up the creek and never was seen again!

RF: Why did the Keithley grandparents move to Oak Ridge?

TB: My grandfather had a brother with a farm up there. He bought it on credit. My grandfather went on the note with him. Well, the brother couldn't handle it so he skipped out. The note fell to my grandfather to pay out.

RF: Did the Keithley's own the land they lived on in Clausen Hollow?

TB: Yes. I guess you'd say my dad rented. Actually, I don't know if he ever paid any rent or not. There was an empty house there and he just moved into it.

RF: When did the Keithley's come to Clausen Hollow?

TB: My grandfather's great-grandfather came to Taney County about 1830. My father was born nearby Clausen Hollow, in Gettman Hollow. My grandmother Keithley was a Stewart. Her father was in the Civil War. Grandpa must have traded for the land. He was a pretty good manager. There was timber on it.

RB: A lot of it was first growth, hickory, black oak, white oak.

TB' My Daddy made ties. But I don't remember Grandpa Keithley or any of the rest of them doing that, maybe they did.

RF: In your story you said that your farm was very small, that it was not bigger than you needed for your own needs and you didn't pay any rent on it. Who owned that land you lived on?

TB: I believe one of Dad's brothers might have owned it when we lived there. It wasn't very big I don't think. There was open range and the cows and hogs could pasture on that.

RF: You had horses to ride, and horses to plow with. Did you ever use oxen?

TB: No. But my grandfather Keithley did.

RF: Do you know anything about your great grandparents Keithley and Stewart?

TB: I never knew them. I've seen pictures of them and heard stories of them. It seems to me like the Keithleys came from Tennessee. They were Republicans, and my grandma was very strong about staying with the Republican party. She said she wouldn't vote for a Democrat, she said she'd scratch their name and write "Yellow Dog." She said "my old daddy laid out in the fence comers and fought them." She said she'd never vote for them.

RF: Democrats and yellow dogs and rebels were all the same. As far as she was concerned he was fighting the Democrats!

TB: Sure. Strange thing was, my mother's folks, the Cupps, were Democrats. They managed to live together.

RF: You say your grandfather Keithley was a good manager, a good farmer.

TB: Yes. He worked away from home too. He was part time county assessor. He was western judge (I.e., he was the county executive representing the western district of the county.) and that brought in money. He wasn't much of a farmer himself, that I can remember. His boys, while they were home, they worked. My Uncle Luther was a good farmer and made a living.

RF: You say your Grandfather Keithley was a writer. That was really unusual in his generation.

TB: I know.

RF: What about his education?


TB: I don't think he had much education.

RF: Did he read?

TB: Yes, he read quite a bit.

RF: Did they have books and magazines or newspapers?

TB: Newspapers, he always read the newspaper, the Taney County Republican, the Springfield Daily News. They came in the mail.

RF: Where did you go to get your mail?

TB: We went to this little place called Bluff, there by the Meadows School house along Bull Creek. A post office was there. It was about a mile and a half.

RF: Did you go daily?

TB: No. We'd go when we needed to go to the store, or mail a letter.

RF: So Bluff was a little hamlet with a store and a post office? What else was at Bluff.

TB: The Meadows school. They had church services in the schoolhouse. And the cemetery, where most of my mother's people are buried. When the schools organized [consolidated] part of them went in with Spokane and part of it Chadwick. After that it was known as the Meadows Chapel.

RF: How old was your grandfather when you were a little girl?

TB: My dad was 25 when I was born so he'd been in his forties or early fifties.

RF: Did your grandmothers make bitters?

TB: Not that I know of. But they made liniment.

RF: What'd they make it out of?

TB: Hosea, you tell them.

HB: Well, one remedy from back then: when a horse or a mule got a bad cut on his leg they'd chop out an oak tree, a live tree, to the red wood. They'd take that redwood and boil it and make it thick and put it on there. The name of that medicine was "oak ooze."

RF: Getting back to liniment, how would they make liniment?

TB: They used some turpentine, I can't remember now. But when you got it made it looked like buttermilk.

RF: Was it a water solution or did you use something else?

TB: Vinegar, I believe, and turpentine and something else. What made it turn that white color?

HB: Camphor.

TB' Camphor, yes. We used that a lot. Asafetida, oh goodness. I couldn't forget that. They'd tie it around your neck on a string, you know. Some of my older aunts, they'd sneak around and give it to us and tell us it was chewing gum.

RF: Did all the children go barefooted in good weather?

TB: Yes. And the adults too, the women especially. My Dad plowed barefoot and got bit by a copperhead on his foot.

RF: What would you do for snakebite?

TB: I didn't ever do this, but they would cut a little place and suck the blood out. Then they'd put kerosene on it.

Ozarks Picnics

RF: Tell me more about Ozarks "picnics."

TB: One of my cousins that lived in Webb City, whenever she came down she would say, "Let's have a picnic." But "picnic" didn't mean to her what it meant to us. She didn't know what we meant by "picnic'' and we had to learn what she meant.

Father Elmer Keithley and his beloved Chevy which he never learned to drive.


RF: Who got them up? Who did those big picnics?

TB: Well, it'd just be some of the local business people. They had their lemonade stands and their hotdog stands and ail kinds of stands. It was a way of making money for them.

RF: So they were commercial?

TB: Sort of. But it was for our enjoyment.

RF: That picnic in the Day hamlet, for example, was it an annual event?

TB: They usually had them every year, and in other localities too.

RF: You mentioned the Fourth of July. I get the idea that the picnics originally grew out of annual Fourth of July celebrations, and then went on from there.

TB: Right. Picnics usually started the Fourth of July. That set them off and they went on through September.

RF: Were they ever associated with family reunions?

TB: No, I don't think so. People wouldn't have a picnic and a family reunion at the same time.

RF: Were there any circus animals or shetland ponies to ride, or any mechanical devices like a merry-go-round?

TB: I was thinking that maybe they had some merry-go-rounds some of the time but it wasn't usual. It was mostly just things that could be drummed up right in the community.

RF: Did they have dances?

TB' Oh yes, they had dances. They always had a platform and dances.

RF: Were those platforms covered?

TB: No, just under the trees. They had the dances in the daytime. They danced some at night I guess, but the women and the children went home at night and the men stayed there and revved it up and gambled and did their thing.

RF: They gambled?

TB: Yes.

RF: What kind of gambling?

TB: Poker and dice.

RF: Would boys bring dates to the evening dance?

TB: No, they didn't have much dancing because the women and the children mostly went home. It was a men's thing at night. They would have music I'm pretty sure but I don't think they had dancing at night.

RF: Who provided the music?

TB: There was quite a lot of musicians around. There were some Weathermans that were real good back then. There were fiddlers and guitar players. Banjos too. My grandfather was a very good fiddler. He was extra good. And some of Hosea's relatives. Hosea played some too, but not for the picnics. Music was something that ran in families.

RF: Was there any singing?

TB: No, not singing I don't think. I can't remember any singing.

RF: Were there any homemade instruments?

TB: No, I don't remember that. Later on some of Hosea's folks and my neighbors, the Glovers, made guitars and violins and they were pretty up-to-date.

RF: You said there were these lemonade stands and hotdog stands. Did they have ice?

TB: I guess they did.

RF: Did people take their own food?

TB: Yes, they would bring picnic lunches. Sometimes they would eat in little groups and sometimes they set their lunch together.

RF: How many people do you suppose would attend?

TB: I'd say a hundred at least. We pretty well knew everybody.

RF: When you went to the Day picnic, that was a pretty good trip wasn't it?

TB: Yes, but we went. We had to leave early in the morning, we didn't want to miss anything. Once, when I was maybe three years old, about the longest trip, seemed to me, Dad and Mother and my Uncle Burl and I rode horseback to Taneyville for a picnic. It was all new territory to me. It seemed like a long way. That was the first time I was ever in Taneyville. Taneyville was a real town.

RF: Was that the first time you ever went to town?


TB: I believe, so. I don't remember much except the picnic and the grounds.

RF: On the subject of the grounds, you said there were these platforms just out in the weather. How were those platforms made?

TB: They were just boards. Logs was probably the foundation and then boards laid across. They were rattly.

RF: What kind of dancing?

TB: Square dancing, jig dancing. Round dancing was out.

RF: Did women jig dance as much as men?

TB: Yes, I believe so.

RF: How about children?

TB: Oh mercy, I was a jig dancing girl!

RF: How did children learn to square dance?

TB: Just by going to the dancing. I think I was probably nine years old before I danced in sets. There would be a small crowd, so I was able to learn how. We went to picnics every summer.

RF: How many picnics in a summer do you suppose your family would go to?

TB: Oh, three or four. That was one of the things about summer, the picnics.

RF: I remember you mentioned your Dad having money -- enough money for picnics."

TB: It wasn't much money, but I got to spend most of it. He saved it for that. It was given out probably a nickel at a time, about a dollar or a dollar and a half. That was quite a lot of money then. But a nickel would buy you anything -- ice cream cone, lemonade, all the little balloons, canes, and things like that they had for sale.

RF: Did families set up stands?

TB: I don t know. But it wasn't just merchants. I don't know where they got all these balloons and stuff

RF: Was there baseball?

TB: Some, but not much. There was horseshoe pitching then, and later on croquet and some softball -- later, like when I was in high school. But in my childhood, no.

RF: So your father wouldn't have played baseball?

TB: No.

RF: What sport would your father have known?

TB: Hunting and fishing.

RF: He never played ball--wouldn't have played basketball or baseball?

TB: No. But he did pitch horseshoes.

RF: How about women? Did women play any games?

TB: I don't think they did. Maybe if family would come in, they would play some cards.

RF: Card playing was not considered against religion?

TB: My family didn't have any religion back then, they just didn't have any.

RF: I was going to ask you about religion in your family--

TB: Nobody was saved in my family or Hosea's family until we were saved after we were married.

RF: So your family never went to church when you were a child?

TB: Not much. Mother would take me to Sunday School sometimes. When I got a little bigger and could go by myself I was in Sunday School a lot as I was growing up. But, no, they weren't what you'd call church-going people.

RF: Did they have feelings against organized religion?

TB: I don't guess. There was a respect for it I would say.

Tobacco, Whiskey, & Hog Raising

RF: Did people in your family smoke?

TB: Yes.


RF: Did they grow their own tobacco?

TB: No, I don't believe they did, but Hosea's folks did. His dad grew tobacco.

RF: Did either of your grandmothers smoke a pipe?

TB: No. Now there's an older Bilyeu woman that smoked. She was a Bilyeu before she was married. She smoked a pipe. Whenever she'd get around Mr. Bilyeu she'd say, "Jimmie", have you got a little tobacco?'' And he'd usually have some crumbs in his pocket and she'd fill her pipe and smoke. There were a few older women who smoked. But my grandmas and my mother didn't smoke.

RF: How about drinking? Did anybody in either of your families make whiskey?

TB: My dad did. That was one way of his making money. He made it up in the hills because it was against the law and there was a danger of the revenuers coming.

RF: Did law enforcement people ever come?

TB: Oh yes, they came around.

RF: Did they find anything?

TB: Well yes, sometimes they would. But they didn't find anything that my daddy was mixed up in. It was a dangerous thing to make whiskey.

RF: Did you ever visit your daddy's still?

TB: Not when they were making it.

RF: So whiskey was a cash crop.

TB: Yes.

RF: Did he make it out of corn?

TB: Yes. Meal and ground corn.

RF: How did he market his whiskey?

TB: Just the general run of people in the neighborhood that drank it. He sold it right in the neighborhood. People would just come. Not everybody made whiskey. It was a specialty.

RF: Do you know if he had a copper still?

TB: I don't know what it was. I never saw them making it. I've been to the place. They would go and check on it and they would drink---what we called the "mash"before it was fermented. It was a sweet drink.

RF: The "beer," they called it.

TB: Far ahead of the beer nowadays that you buy!

RF: Did he have jugs for his whiskey?

TB: No, jars.

RF: Was it some-thing he did on a regular basis?

TB: Oh no, not really. He didn't do it too much. After I got bigger he never did. It was just another way to make money. It was just when I was very young.

RF: As far as you know it wasn't something your grandfather did?

TB: No.

RF: So your dad raised a living, hunted, made whiskey. What else might he have made to sell?

TB: Hogs, that was a big cash crop back then. Hogs could run out on the open range. About everybody raised some hogs.

RF: How were those hogs marketed?

TB: Big buyers would come through and buy them off the farm.

RF: And the buyers would drive them away?

TB: I can't remember whether they drove them or hauled them. You can't hardly drive a hog. They must've hauled them away in trucks or wagons.

Home and Food

TB: Our house was a one room house with a shed room or porch on the side that was enclosed. The kitchen was in that until it went bad and then it went in the one big room.

RF: How was that room furnished?

TB: We had two beds in the comers, with a window in between. Then, the table set out in the south side. On the north side was the cookstove. When it was cold, a heater too, a wood heater. It might be a box stove like we roasted our meat in or later, King heaters, they called them.


RF: That King heater....

TB: It was tin and there was no hearth.

RF: What is a box stove?

TB: It was cast iron and there were different sizes of them. You could cook something on top, slow cooking like beans. There was a door you could open and there was a hearth and you could drag out some coals and roast potatoes in the hearth.

RF: The hearth was like a little platform?

TB: Right, just attached right on to the stove

RF: No oven

TB: Not in that. We had the cookstove for the oven. They were separate pieces.

RF: How did you roast meat on that hearth

TB: We put it on a long-handled fork or a stick and opened the door and put it over the fire. It was wonderful, one of my favorite things. We had pork we raised, but hardly any beef. Sometimes someone would come through selling beef and we d get just a little piece for just that day because we couldn't keep it. We had no refrigeration. Dad was always so glad I when someone would kill beef and come around. They'd sell it all out.

RF: So people liked beef?.

TB: Some people did; I preferred pork

RF: I've talked to a lot of people in the Ozarks of your generation who never developed a taste for beef.

TB: Hosea loves beef. I cook a roast every once in a while. I can manage to eat it the first day, but that's about all. The rest of it he eats, or I put it in some stew or something. I don't even like the smell of beef cooking. But it tastes better than it smells.

RF: Give us some detail about the curing of the Pork.

TB: They had to wait until the weather got cool enough, yet they didn't want it freezing because it wouldn't take salt if it was frozen. It'd be up around Thanksgiving and certainly the seasons are different then than they are now because then, it'd be pretty cold. But, they'd wait until a cool day came up in the last part of November to start killing. They would have a big tank.

RF: Like an oil drum?

TB: Yes, something like that. They d fill it full of water and they'd kill the hogs and they would dip it down in there to scald it and make the hair slip off. Then they would put it out on some planks or a table or something and scrape the hair off.

RF: Would they scrape it with knives?

TB: Yes. Then, when they got that done they would hang it in a tree and split it open and clean the insides all out and put the water in there and wash it out. Then they would put it back down on the table or boards and cut it up. Never when I was young do I remember anyone making pork chops. They took the tenderloins out and that was choice meat. We cooked that fresh.

RF: Did you cut it up and cook it in a skillet or did you roast that whole?

TB: You'd cut it up and cook it in a skillet. What was left was salted down. Some people smoked it with hickory chips, but we didn't do that much.

RF: Did you have a smokehouse?

TB: We didn't, but my grandpas did.

RF: Salt, that was all--no sugar?

TB: No sugar, salt was the main thing.

RF: Where did you get your salt?

TB: At the grocery store. It was Very cheap. Hosea remembers some boys coming to the store and they wanted a penny's worth of salt. The salt was in a can or something and it was just dipped out by weight. Salt was cheap.

RF: Was it fine like table salt, or was it course?

TB: It was rather course. Not fine like it is today. We used it for the same things, for the meat and at the table.

RF: When they were salting this meat, how was that done? Was it laid out on a table or boards?

TB: Yes, just laid out and it was all rubbed on.

RF: Would it be salted over and over again?

TB: Maybe right at first, but not later.

RF: Where did you hang it after that?

TB: You hung it in a building if you had one. I really can't remember. I think we just hung it on the porch.

RF: You didn't hang it in the loft in your house?


TB: No, we didn't. Some people did way back in my dad's time.

RF: It was common to hang meat in the loft.

TB: I remember my Dad would put things up into the loft and he would want something so he would lift me up and I could get up into the loft. But once I was up there I was afraid to come back down. I just couldn't get turned around where I could get back. He was there where he could catch me. My Grandfather Cupp and Keithley both had upstairs, but they were finished up.

RF: Did you have a ladder?

TB: If he'd a got up there he'd had to use a ladder.

RF: But you didn't have a ladder standing there all the time?

TB: No, that's why he would put me up.

RF: Did you have to wait to use that salt pork or could you cut into it soon?

TB: We always had some meat. We would save out some without salting down. At that time of year when it was colder we could keep it for awhile. Things like the backbones we didn't salt them down, we just used them up.

RF: How did you prepare the back bones?

TB: Boiled them. Or you could bake them. Most of the time we just boiled them.

RF: Did you boil anything with them? Did you put in root vegetables?

TB: We'd put in potatoes and all. We'd just cook them and make about whatever you wanted to.

RF: I was thinking about stew--

TB: If we was making stew, we would boil the bones and take the meat off the bones and then put the meat in the stew and not deal with all those bones.

RF: So you cooked the vegetables separate from the meat? Is that how you made stew?

TB: You'd have your meat ready. Then you could cook your vegetables together if they matched or you could cook them separately and then mix the vegetables and the meat and boil them a little.

RF: What do you mean, "if they matched?"

TB: Potatoes and pinto beans wouldn't cook at the same time. But now you could cook potatoes and green beans. But ordinarily at that time of year you didn't have green beans, just dry beans.

RF: Did you raise onions and garlic?

TB: Onions, no garlic.

RF: Carrots?

TB: I think we raised some carrots. And Parsnips.

RF: Turnips or rutabagas?

TB: Turnips, yes. Everybody had a hole of turnips and potatoes. You holed them up; that's the way you kept them. You dug out a place in the ground and you'd put some hay and stuff in there and put your potatoes and turnips and covered them up. Then you'd put some boards or something over the top and then dirt over that.

RF: And you called that a "hole of turnips?"

TB: Yes.

RF: Would your mother send you out to get turnips when you were small?

TB: You'd have to be pretty good size to handle that because they'd have to dig out a place and get out the turnips or potatoes and then fix it all back.

RF: Where was that hole?

TB: Usually in the garden.

RF: I've talked to some Ozarks people, again in Arkansas, where they kept those root vegetables in the house, where they had dirt-floored houses, a place right m front of the hearth where they'd dig out and then cover it with sand. They said they did that to keep it from freezing.

TB: Well, our way kept it from freezing too. I think they would probably keep longer the way we holed them up. Next to the stove would have been too warm and they would have sprouted.

RF: Did you make a lot of pickles?

TB: We didn't make a lot when I was young. Since Hosea and I have been married we did, and everybody does now. Then, you didn't can much of anything. We didn't have the jars and there weren't many places to store it.

RF: Life was simpler when you were a child. Didn't have the room or the time ....


TB: And the know-how, I think. Mother canned fruit -- peaches and apples mainly. Then she would make some pickles. But she wouldn't have a huge amount of it. When Hoses and I was married and his brother and wife, we stayed with them a lot, and I remember one year she was so thrilled because she had canned 40 quarts of green beans. When we took over and had our big family we didn't even think of starting a winter without 100 quarts -- 200 quarts usually. With seven children, stuff disappeared fast.

RF: Thinking back to winters when you were a child, do you remember ever running out of food?

TB: We were always so thrilled when we would get green onions and greens in the spring. My folks loved them, but I never cared much for them. But they were so thrilled when they could go out and gather a mess of greens.

RF: Because they hadn't had anything green for a long time. So, you always had corn bread, and you had meat?

TB: Well, most of the time we had meat. But that might run out before spring. Except for wild meat. Daddy would get squirrels that we ate, and fish.

RF: Not a lot of deer?

TB: Oh no. Grandpa would tell me stories about killing deers when he was young and showed me places where he had killed them. I thought I'd never see a deer again. I remember the first time I was teaching school and some of the kids were outside and they saw this deer go by. I missed seeing it, I hated it so had, but that was the first one I'd heard of around our area. I just didn't know I'd ever get to see deer like we do now. When my dad went out hunting there wasn't a whole lot out there but squirrels and rabbits. A lot of people ate rabbits. My daddy didn't like rabbits. He'd killed one that had worms in its back. I don't -know, he just ate certain things.

RF: How about possum?

TB: My Grandfather Cupp was a big possum eater and mother would cook them for him. We didn't cook them for just us, but we did cook coon. Mother could cook real good coon, we didn't think anything about that. She was a little leery of possum, but she'd cook possum for Grandpa Cupp. They weren't bad really.

RF: Possums are very fat. Soft, sweet, and fat.

TB: We didn't eat many possums. But my Grandpa Cupp liked possum. Also there was a daughter-in-law in the family that really liked them. When Dad was hunting he would save some if he knew they were going to be around. But as a rule we didn't eat much possum. We did like coon.

RF: Did you have wild meat all year round?

TB: Pretty much.

RF: So your dad could just go out anytime?

TB: Yes.

RF: How many squirrels would it take to make a mess?

TB: Oh, one or two was all right. If we had company it would take more. Bob Gideon was a judge in Taney County. His mother died when he was small and he spent a lot of time at Grandpa Keithley's. Dad and him was good friends. I remember one time, after he was a lawyer, he brought a neighbor, Roy Bums, and came to our house to hunt something. While they were asleep the next morning Dad got out and killed a mess of squirrels and they had them fried for breakfast. Oh, they just really ate them. Bob said, "By thunder, this is living!"

RF: Would your mother make biscuits to go with those squirrels?

TB: Oh yes. Biscuits and gravy. The squirrels were probably fried in lard. It was good eating all right.

RF: Were biscuits pretty common in the morning?

TB: Yes, we most always had biscuits of a morning. Very rare occasions we would run out and have to have corn bread at breakfast. Maybe just fried corn cakes. Corn cakes were like flour pancakes, only with corn meal. A little flour maybe. But we probably didn't have the flour or we would've had biscuits.

RF: Did she bake biscuits, or fry them?

TB: Well, she'd bake them sometimes, or you could fry them on top of the stove and they're real good.

RF: Your mother skillet cooked most of your meals didn't she? Was it a big skillet?

TB: Pretty good size. But not big like Hosea's folks. They had eight children. There was just the three of us. It was just me until I was eleven years old when my first sister was born. I was married when the last one was born. It was just one at a time. But we had company, so you had to take that into consideration. We had a lot of company. There wasn't any place for people to go to eat or stay, except in private homes. My Aunt Glessie and Uncle Hugh and Pauline -- we went to their house or they came to our house so much of the time. There was only a little difference in Dad's and Aunt Glessie's age; they were the first two that were married out of the family and there wasn't anyone else married for a long time. These two married ones were very close. And all through life, it didn't ever end.


RF: And Mabel, your mother, and Glessie were good friends?

TB: Yes, very good friends. They later moved to Rockaway Beach, and that was quite a little ways, but we went back and forth anyway. When one went to the other's house, well they begged for the others to go home with them and many times they did.

RF: Glessie's husband was Hugh?

TB: Yes.

RF: Did Hugh and your father, Elmer, work together quite a lot?

TB: No. They were good friends, though. They were both born in Gettman Hollow. They didn't farm together. They might have helped one another. Neither one had a very big operation.

RF: Did your family own a team?

TB: Yes.

RF: Did Hugh and Glessie own a team?

TB: I'm sure they did.

RF: And you had a wagon?

TB: Yes. It think it was a bought wagon.

RF: Good harness for the horses?

TB: Fairly good. Dad had a lot of chain harness. Leather was hard to come by.

RF: Did the Keithley's have cattle?

TB: Yes, we had cattle. Not a big herd. We sold some calves every year. And later, when I was a little older, we sold cream. We had cream a separator.

RF: Where did you market that cream?

TB: At Chestnutridge, there was a store there.

RF: How many cows did you milk?

TB: Four or five I'd say. Before we had a separator, we would skim the cream off the milk and sell it.

RF: Did your dad buy that separator new?

TB: Yes, I believe so. It was just a little table top separator.

RF: Do you remember what your cows were like? Were they bred up, or were they range cows?

TB: They were just good old gentle cows. You could milk them wherever you took a notion to milk them.

RF: Why would your folks sell cream in the 1920's, and not earlier?

TB: Because nobody was buying it. Then came the milk haulers that would come pick up the milk. But earlier, nobody was buying cream.

RF: So marketing was a big thing.

TB: Right. And finding out that we could do things. We just had to learn that there were things we could do. Somebody else did it, so we thought we could too.

RF: How about chickens and eggs?

TB: We usually had chickens and eggs. We'd raise young chickens and have fried chicken. We had a lot of fried chicken. Then Mother would grab an old hen and make a pot of dumplings.

RF: Would you have chicken once a week? TB: Well, possibly.

RF: So you didn't eat chicken like you ate ham and bacon?

TB: No. It was trouble to eat a chicken. Had to catch it and kill it and take the feathers off. But occasionally on special occasions, and if there was company, we might get out and kill a chicken before breakfast and dress it and have it for breakfast.

RF: Did you ever in your childhood have any store-bought cereal like Quaker rolled oats for breakfast?

TB: Yes, we ate a lot of it. Oatmeal. That was a big thing. Even after we were married we ate a lot of oatmeal.

RF: Did you buy wheat flour?

TB: Yes. I've almost forgot whether it's flour or meal, but one of the brands was Red Rooster. It came in cloth sacks. I know people who would take that rooster and embroider it and make pretty things out of it. But those flour sacks were plain white for a long time. We used them for tea towels and things like that,and some underclothing. Then later on, quite a bit later on, they began to make pretty flour sacks and we could make dresses and shirts.


RF: Did your family drink coffee?

TB: Yes, Mother and Dad drank coffee. She would grind it in a mill. I would wake up to the sound and smell of that coffee being ground.

RF: But she didn't roast her own coffee?

TB: No. Lard we bought lard in a tin "stand," or big can. Then after we used the lard, we'd use the can to put our flour in. If we raised a bunch of dry beans we would put them in there. Or maybe pop-com. It was a good place to store things. We saved those cans.

RF: You didn't make your own lard?

TB: Well, yes we did whenever we killed hogs we would render out the lard. But it wasn't enough for the whole year. We'd only kill two hogs. Still, we had quite a bit of homemade lard.

RF: So breakfast was biscuits and ....

TB: Gravy.

RF: And meat?

TB: Yes, bacon for breakfast, or ham.

RF: Did you ever eat any leftover food for breakfast?

TB: Not for breakfast.

RF: What about dinner and supper? Would your mother make cornbread for both meals?

TB: She would usually make corn-bread at din-net and there would be enough left for supper. Another thing we had was mush, mush and milk.

RF: Cornmeal mush?

TB: Yes. Lots of people like mush--slice it and fry it. Back then for supper if there wasn't much left over, Mother would make a big pan of mush we'd eat it like cornbread and milk.

RF: Did you have any sweet syrup to eat like honey?

TB: We had honey and we would buy a little syrup too. We'd usually keep some syrup.

RF: You didn't make maple syrup?

TB: No. Daddy used to tap the trees and make a

little when I was real young, but we never got very far with it.

RF: Grandpa Keithley in his reminiscence wrote about sugar-making equipment.

TB: That was to make maple syrup.

RF: Do you have any idea why people stopped making maple syrup?

HB: Well, I think cane sugar got more plentiful.

RF: Easier to buy it than it was to make it. How about sorghum? Hosea, did you grow sorghum cane when you were a boy?

HB: Yes.

RF: Did you boil your own sorghum juice?

HB: We boiled our own and I was the molasses maker. One fall, me and one of my brothers made 600 gallons.

RF: That was a big cash crop for you.

HB: It was sure was. I remember people would come and watch us, had to be careful to keep from falling in the pan!

Country Stores

RF: Describe the country stores you shopped at when you were a child. You said there were three schools up and down the hollow. What about stores? How many stores were there?

TB: Just two. There was one at Bluff and one at Walnut Shade. Each had a separate building. Sometimes stores were built on to a house. Going to the store was enjoyable for us children.

RF: Was it always a cash business?

TB: Oh, no. They had accounts.

RF: Was there a cash price and a credit price?

TB: I don't think so.

RF: Can you describe the stores?

TB: The one at Walnut Shade was a bigger business. They bought cedar posts and things like that.

RF: So the stores were places where you sold produce, as well as bought goods. So the books would have receipts and pay-outs both.

TB: Yes. The books would have both receipts and payouts recorded. We sold cream at one of the stores. That would have been in the 1920's. It was before we got a cream separator and we would just put it in crocks and skim the cream off.


RF: For you to have got a separator meant that you had to be milking quite a lot.

TB: Oh, four or five cows. Not too many.

RF: Did your family buy that separator on credit?

TB: I'd say they paid it out on payments. I don't remember. But that's the way we got ours when we got one. It was $2 or $3 a month. We ordered it. Probably from Montgomery Ward's.

RF: Did you have a mail order catalog in your house?

TB: Oh yes. Two or three.

RF: So that was something else you read wasn't it?

TB: Yes. That was one of the ways we learned math. What things cost. I remember when some of my grandchildren were small. I remember one of the boys was buried in the catalog. He'd say, "I'd like to have this, but it costs too much." He knew the prices and numbers.


RF: When would you get up in the morning?

TB: Oh, daylight. Whenever daylight came. In the summertime we had longer days and in the winter time shorter days.

RF: Did you have a clock in your house?

TB: When I was young, half the time we didn't have a clock. Dad would use the sun as a clock. Like at noon, when the sun was shining in the door he would make a mark where the sun was at that time. Then maybe in the morning about 10:00 and in the afternoon at 3:00 he'd make these marks on the floor. It wasn't too authentic, but we could get pretty close to the time. But if the day was cloudy it didn't work. And stepping on your shadow. If you could step on the "head" of your shadow it was about noon.

I don't ever remember us back then ever having a new clock. Someone would give us an old alarm clock. It would run awhile and then it would stop and Mother would grab it and shake it and it would come back to life for a while. Sometimes the shaking didn't do any good so it was Dad's time. He would get the clock and get some kerosene, we called it coal oil, and a feather, and take the back off that clock and give it a real good cleaning. Then he would put it back together and it would run awhile. But we knew all the time that clock was going to stop one of these days and not come back to life.

Another way to tell time, we had three schools along Bull Creek about four miles apart: Pleasant Shade in the middle, Meadows on one side, and Walnut Shade on the other. They had bell towers with big iron bells and at about 8:30 on school days they would start ringing those bells and we could hear them all. They would just see who could outdo themselves ringing those bells. If you weren't on the way to school it was time to get going.

RF: Why did you ever need to know what time it was?

TB: We wanted to know what time it was, but not like we do now. Just pretty close: when you're going to have dinner....

RF: Starting to do things "on time" is a part of entering the modem world.

TB: That was my point. Before I started to school, time wasn't all that important.

RF: Did school start at 9:00?

TB: Yes. And at five minutes before nine, you had a bell to tell you to get ready. But they didn't go into anything big on that one, just a few taps. Then they rang the bell for "take up books," is what we called it. The neighbors could hear those bells and they could kind of get an idea of what time it was.

RF: Did the teachers ring those bells?

TB: Yes. They had to have clocks.

Education and School

RF: Let's talk about your education. You surely learned a great deal at home.

TB: My mother was certainly my first teacher. She never taught school, and she didn't ever graduate from the eighth grade, but she was a good teacher. I knew how to read before I started school.

RF: I thought so, because you went right into the second grade! What kind reading material did you have in your home?


TB: We didn't own much--some newspapers. Before I was in school and for sure after I was in school, we used the school library. In the summertime when school wasn't in session Mom would go and borrow books from the school library for me to read. I read everything in it over and over. We didn't have a public library then. I had a pen pal once and we exchanged books. She'd mail some to me and I would mail some to her.

RF: Did you subscribe to a newspaper on a regular basis?

TB: We always had the county paper; it came in the mail. And we had Grit. Grit had wonderful stores. I even sold that paper for a little while. My sister still gets it, it comes every two weeks. She reads it and then brings it to me.

RF: Other than Grit, did you see any magazines?

TB: No, I don't remember magazines in my earlier life.

RF: Did you have a Bible?

TB: Maybe no more than a testament. We didn't have a big Bible that I remember.

RF: How about your grandparents? Did they have reading material?

TB: They used to have some books. When they moved from Bull Creek up to Oak Ridge they left some books. One I remember reading until I almost memorized it was the Trail of the Lonesome Pine. They always had newspapers; the county paper and later they subscribed to the Springfield Daily News.

RF: Was your father literate?

TB: Oh yes, he could read and write. He didn't go very far in school though. And my grandparents were literate too.

RF: What about your great grandparents?

TB: I don t know. I never knew my great grandparents on either side very well.

RF: Do you have a sense of the level of literacy among your neighbors?

TB: When I was a child, everybody could read and write. Now, Hosea's grandparents couldn't. They made an "X" when they signed their names. Hosea's grandfather's eyes were bad and somehow he got blinded He would hire Hosea's brother, Chester, to read to him out of the Bible.

RF: Did your mother tell you stories?

TB: Oh yes, scary stories.

RF: Did she make them up?

TB: No, I think they were traditional. "Goldilocks," "Little Black Sambo," "The Little Red Hen," etc. I don't think she made up stories.

RF: What about your mother's schooling?

TB: Mother was born in Taney County, close to Bluff and Meadows on Bull Creek. She went to Meadows School. My dad went to Pleasant Shade. He was born just up Bull Creek in Gettman Hollow. My dad only went to the third grade.

RF: If someone needed doctoring, did the doctor come out to them?

TB: The doctor came out a lot then. My mother was often sick. One time, I remember, she was real sick and Dr. Baldwin from Forsyth would come out on the ridge east of us, where Highway "H" is now, and Daddy or someone else would go meet him with a horse and bring him on home--probably six miles.

RF: Would the doctor come on horseback or would he have a buggy?

TB: It might have been a car then. If it had been a buggy he probably would have come up Bull Creek and they wouldn't have had to go meet him.

RF: Getting back to your education--TB: I always loved anything about school. RF.' Why?

TB: I don't know, maybe it was because of what I could read and what I could get. Also, I was an only child for eleven years, and so I got to be with other children at school. The schoolhouse was big and roomy and clean. It was a fun place to go.

RF: Did you have writing materials available to you at home?

TB: Yes, a tablet and a slate--a blackboard. One time I was at a sale, and a boy that lived there had a pretty-good sized portable black board. I really wanted that black board! I think my grandfather was the auctioneer that day. They put that blackboard on top of a little old box heating stove. All I wanted was that blackboard. My folks said they would give a dime for just the blackboard. Well, he said, "Give me a quarter and you can have both of them." So I did, and you know, both the blackboard and that little old box stove were in the family for years.

RF: How old were you when you got that slate?


TB: Maybe five, or four. I wasn't in school yet.

RF: What did you use to write with?

TB: Chalk. We could buy chalk at the store.

RF: Did you begin by learning the alphabet?

TB: Yes, I could say [the letters] forward and backward; I still can. I could read and write before I started to school.

RF: Was your mother a writer?

TB: In her later years she wrote some nice poetry. That was after my father died, and after our first two children died.

RF: Were her poems metered and rhymed? TB: Yes, very much. I still have them.

RF: Was your mother a reader?

TB: Yes, she liked to read stories.

RF: Over the years of her life did that interest continue?

TB: Yes, but not as much as when I was a child. She had to work, and had a family and grandkids, and she didn't read as much in later years. Then too, her eyesight wasn't so good. But she read a lot when I was a child at home.

RF: What was school like? How many children were in the school when you were small?

TB: I guess about 25, and we had eight grades.

RF: How would an average school day be organized?

TB: School took up at nine o'clock. Possibly reading came first. I don't remember for sure. Each class was different. That was another thing I enjoyed about school; I learned what I was supposed to learn, and what everybody else was supposed to learned too.

RF: You could go to eight grades all at once!

TB: Right. I liked it. Children really learned that way.

RF: Did you have a recess in the morning?

TB: Yes, at about 10:15. Then we had a noon lunch recess for an hour, and then another short one in the afternoon. The short ones were about 10-15 minutes. We didn't have any play equipment. We had a ball--and most of our balls were homemade. We played games like Stink Base, Red Rover, etc.

RF: What school supplies and equipment did you have?

TB: Blackboard and chalk. We had textbooks. The school supplied the textbooks. The kids had to bring pencils and tablets. We had desks, mostly double desks, but sometimes single desks.

RF: You went to the one-room country school for eight grades, then in your ninth year you went to Rockaway Beach.

TB: Yes. The school at Rockaway was called New Flint Hill at that time. It wasn't right in Rockaway. When I first remember it it was just a grade school, and it was back away from the town. Then later they built a building in Rockaway, and it took care of the grades and two years of high school. It was a Job School. The building is still there, a two-story stone building. The grade school was on the lower level and the high school upstairs. When I went to school there, both [the grade school and the high school] were on the lower level. They used the upstairs for programs. It was sort of an auditorium. That's also where they had their Sunday school.

RF: Was it a particular denomination, or was it a community Sunday School?

Meadow school is now a church, looking south, 1995. Bull Creek an eighth mile to the right.
Robert Flanders photo.


TB: I don't know if it had a denomination or not. I wasn't much interested in that then.

RF: How many teachers were in the New Flint Hill school?

TB: Just two. They had a grade school teacher and a high school teacher.

RF: How many rooms were in the school building?

TB: Two downstairs and the one big one upstairs.

RF: Did they call the ninth and tenth grades "Job School?"

TB: No, it was just high school.

RF: You moved to Rockaway in order to go to high school. Is that the way most of the high school students did?

TB: Most of them were just local students that walked to school. I lived there with my Aunt Glessie and Uncle Hugh. There were about fifteen kids in the high school.

RF: Was there a library in that school?

TB: I'm sure there was. My cousin and I were rabid readers. We borrowed books from people around town. Are you familiar with Captain Bill Roberts? We borrowed from him a lot. And there was a Mr. Crane who had a library which was on our way to and from school. We borrowed from him. I never will forget when we were reading Zane Gray books. Bill and Betty Roberts had a lot, and we borrowed them. Once we borrowed Wildfire, my cousin forgot and left it at school over the weekend. When we went back to school the next week, the book was gone. We accused just about everybody in school, but nobody knew about it. We were desperate. Well, we let it ride awhile, quite

a little while,, and we were just desperate about it. Then we went to take some books back, or borrow some, and our eyes lit on that Wildfire, it was back in the Roberts' library! What had happened was that one of the older girls picked up the book and took it home to read. Then she quit school, and never came back. A friend of ours had visited her parents one night to play cards, and there was the book. He grabbed it up and put it back in the library, and he didn't even tell us!

Teachers and Teachings

RF: You mentioned several teachers--

TB: It was pretty common to have a different her every year.

RF: Why was that?

TB: Well, I don't know. A lady teacher would get married, move away, and quit teaching. There was a lot of people wanting schools. There was quite a rivalry over being a school teacher.

RF: What do you mean, "a rivalry?"

TB: Well, a lot of people just wanted the work.

RF: Was it political to get those jobs? Did teachers campaign for teaching jobs?

TB: I don't know about that; but I think they sometimes might offer a little money. But I don't know if that was the drawing card altogether. School board members hired people they liked, or had contact with.

RF: Did school board members hire kin?

TB: They weren't supposed to.

RF: Why not? Was it against the law?

TB: I think it was mainly against principles. The method of hiring was a pretty settled thing. There were three board members. If two of them agreed to hire a relative or a board member, then okay. But you weren't supposed to vote for your own kin.

RF: I suppose that would help to keep peace in the neighborhood. What about financing of schools? Was there a tax on real estate?

TB: Yes, there were school taxes. It would depend on how much property you had. A percentage went to the schools and a percentage went to the road district.

RF: Since your parents didn't own the land they lived on, did they still pay school and road tax?

TB: Yes, that would be taxes on personal property, like farm animals and such. Whether you owned anything or not it was levied so much school tax.

RF: What was the salary for teachers at that time?

TB: I don't know, but I can tell you what I got in 1933, the first year I taught. I got $40.00 a month. They agreed that if enough money was left at the end of the school year they would give me enough extra to make it $60.00 a month. So I got the bonus. But sometimes the reverse happened. They would run out of money early, and couldn't have a full eight months of school.

RF: Were most teachers women?

TB: My first two teachers were men. Later on it seemed like there were more women. I guess men had better jobs by then.


RF: Were married women hired?

TB: Yes, married women were hired. But it was predominantly single women in the grade schools.

RF: In the rural neighborhood where you grew up, were unmarried school teachers required to room or board with a family in the neighborhood?

TB: I don't think so. Now, you asked about hiring married teachers. When I put in for a school after I had children, this man on the school board, a very good friend of ours, said he wouldn't hire me because my place was at home with my children. I agreed with him; but you've got to feed and clothe your children.

RF: Did any of the teachers have cars?

TB: Not when I was in grade school; but when I was in high school, yes. Freida Ingenthron came to school in a car. When I went to Spokane [late 1920's] most travel by then was in cars.

RF: What about the progress of salaries? When did salaries start to rise?

TB: I think it was not until the early 1950's.

RF: When you started to teach school, what was the role of the county superintendent?

TB: The county superintendent gave the teachers exam to all prospective teachers. After I graduated high school, Charlie

Boyd was the superintendent for Christian County in Ozark and I had to go to him to take the examination. I didn't have any way to get there except for the mail carrier. He agreed to leave the mail at Chadwick, take me on to Ozark, then go on and pick up the mail. I got a ride back home from somebody else. That was a critical event because I already had the school but I had to have the teachers certificate from the county superintendent.

RF: What was that examination like?

TB: I imagine it took a half a day, maybe more. It was in different subjects like reading, arithmetic, geography, etc. It was a state exam.

RF: Did you continue teaching after your marriage?

TB: I taught a couple more years, but Hosea wanted to make the living and he didn't want me to work.

RF: Was that a disappointment to you?

TB: I don't know. I was so excited. I did like to teach school and I did like the money I got. But I've always been anxious to please him. Later on, after we had children and needed money, I taught two more years at the same school. Then about ten years later, I learned no one had applied to teach at that school. One day Dessa Manuel, the area supervisor, stopped at my place and asked if I would like to have the school. By then, teachers were supposed to have 60 hours of college, and I had none. But nobody wanted the school. What were they to do? She said if I would go to the August term of college she would approve me to teach that year. It was a big decision. Hosea was always very skeptical of me working out, but I finally decided I'd do it because we needed the money and I liked to teach too. So I went to the State Teachers College in Springfield [now Southwest Missouri State University]. That was August, 1943.

I taught one more year after that. Then I had another baby. Meanwhile, Enterprise consolidated with Spokane. My brother-in-law was on the school board. I told him if there were any hope for substitute teachers to put me on the list. The night before school opened he came and said there was no teacher in the seventh and eighth grades and I could substitute. I taught for three months before they finally got a teacher who had the required sixty hours of college. That was around 1946 or 1947.

After I taught those three months, I had another chance. The first and second grades were so crowded they weren't having any luck at all. The superintendent was really concerned. He had a little boy in the first grade.

He said, "I know he's as sharp as can be but I know he's not getting it. And it's not the teacher's fault, there's just too many students." So he fixed it up for me to take the first grade and the original teacher to take the second grade. I taught the whole year on six hours of college work. At the end of the year, when the superintendent and the area supervisor came around for a visit, I talked to them about approving me for the next year since I had already taught one whole year. He said he couldn't approve me. I understood, but I still had hope.

RF: And the reason he said "no" was because you didn't have enough college?

TB: Yes. Before Monday morning my brother-in-law came by and said they had a board meeting that night and everybody went to bat for me and they approved me.

RF: Describe that August term of school at Teachers College.


TB: It was four weeks. Mostly teachers. They had a regular summer term, but I missed that.

RF: What did you do in that four week term? Was it teaching methods or what?

TB: Just whatever. I remember I had history that term. I can't remember what else. Just a couple of subjects. It was worthwhile. I enjoyed it.

RF: Where did you live?

TB: I rented while I was there; just a room. It was fight across the street from the college; a big old white building. I believe a Mrs. Gideon ran it. That was back during World War II. When I would be gone on weekends, she would rent that room out to the soldiers.

RF: So you met the requirement as best you could.

TB: Well, I had to take the teachers examination again. I remember Mr. Boyd saying, "Now you won't fail this will you?" I said, "Goodness, I hope not, after I've already been teaching!" He said that the last three people he gave it to had failed it. But I passed. It was much like the first exam I had taken.

RF: When you first started to teach was there an administrator in the school district, or was the school Pretty much run by the school board?

TB: By the board. Or course there was the county superintendent. That was really it, the local board and the county superintendent. That began to change with consolidation. Districts started to get a principal and a superintendent. And more teachers.

RF: What was the school at Spokane like?

TB: They had no school building for the high school. They had a grade school building right by Where the school is now. We bought that later. At that time they had no high school. The year before I was there, maybe more than one year, they had an Odd fellows lodge up over a store and they had it there. but the year I went they had in the church house.

RF: Was the high school fairly new?

TB: Yes, not too old? Some of them I think that were still in high school had gone to it when it was still in the Odd Fellows lodge where it started.

RF: Had they had a Job School there before?

TB: I don't think so. It came in as a four year high school.

RF: How many teachers were in the high school when you went there?

TB: Three. Mr. Wilson taught the math. His wife taught business courses. And another taught English and home economics and science. I took typing and bookkeeping. That's where I learned to type.

RF: Was there any other special equipment in the school?

TB: I don't know what it would have been. RF: What about home economics?

TB: They didn't have any then. Home economics was more of a science thing -- identifying different kinds of materials and things like that.

RF: Were there any specimens used in science? Different kinds of rocks or biological specimens?

TB: No. We just learned from books. We had some field trips I remember. We went on a bus to Springfield and we visited the bakery, the Greene County Jail, the Coca Cola Bottling Company, and it seemed like something else. It was a school deal. It was very important to me.

New Flint Hill School, Rockaway Beach, 1995.
Building now serves as a church. Robert Flanders photo.


RF: How often did you go to Springfield?

TB: Not too often. When I stayed with Aunt Glessie, and they went once in a while, I would go with them.

RF: Did Glessie and Hugh have a car?

TB: Yes. They got one I'd say in the late 1920's. Hosea and I got our first car when we went to California about 1940.


TB: While we were out in California we bought a Model A.

RF: Made enough money to buy a car?

TB: It cost $55.00. We came back broke. We went out to pay our debts, some doctor bills. We got our doctor bills paid and that Model A Ford. You know that Model A Ford made about two or three trips out there. We let people have it that were going. I know it made two trips out there and back.

RF: It was 1940 you went to California?

TB: It was 1941 because our daughter Barbara was not quite two.

RF: Was it during the war years you lent people the car to go out there?

TB: Yes.

RF: That must have been quite a trip because it was so hard to get gasoline. But they did it anyway. It's interesting that people wanted to go to California during the war to get war jobs I suppose?

TB: Yes.

RF: How did you get that car back?

TB: We didn't get it back. We sold it to one of Hosea's brothers and he sold it to someone else. We didn't have another car for a long, long time.

Newt Bilyeu tomato cannery, ca. 1930. In photo are fourteen women and girls and three men. Cooking rack, left center, holds 80 cans. Steam engine, left, supplied steam and power. Engine is mounted on home-made frame and wagon wheels.
Location-head of Hurricane Hollow, a quarter mile south of Spokane. Photo courtesy Bob Bilyeu.


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