In this undated aerial photo of downtown Webb City, tall buildings line Main and Webb streets from south to north. One obvious landmark is the distinctive Webb City Bank. Note the small gas station at Main and First streets on the corner south of what today is the Twisted Oak building.

Ancestors, Legends & Time

Growing up in the fabulous ’50s

Jeanne Newby

One reader, Jim Bunch (Class of ‘55) shared his memories of 1951, saying “It was a very good year.” He recalled that winter was a year of snow and ice which promoted lots of fun in “the chats.” They had a sled made from a big, old, heavy industrial belt salvaged from an old mine. With the front of the belt pushed up and fastened down, a whole gang could ride down the chat pile together. He said his group also did a lot of sledding down the west side of the Hatten Field Golf Course on a Western Flyer sled. When the snow wasn’t available, the gang would head to the Green Top Skating Rink on North Main of Joplin.

Jim said summer time in 1951 was kind of laid back and he recalls… lying on the porch swing on a summer evening listening to the Cardinal baseball games on the radio, drinking an R.C. Cola from Hubbard’s Grocery Store (cost a nickel) and a big glass of ice so it would last nine innings. The best memory was getting to go to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game in person with a community organized father-son trip. They stood outside Sportsman’s Park as the players came out, Jim said it was great getting a wave and a “Hi Kid,” from Stan Musial.

Well, during summer, there was not any snow to fly down the chat piles, so they got creative. They would scrounge around for wheels, axles, wood, anything to make a “car part” and then cutting, sanding, sawing, and shaping everything until it looked like a midget race car. The car coasted down the Tom Street hill between Third and First Streets.

They pulled the car to the golf course at the top of Broadway Street and rode it down the hill past the cave where the Easter Sunrise Services were held, on past the club house on the south side of the road.

On hot days, the boys would ride their bikes to Center Creek, swimming, jumping off the rope swing, jumping off the bridge into about four feet of water. (Jim says, Dad did not know about this activity.) They also swam at Hatten Park or sometimes at the Daylight Cave (which was prohibited). In fact, they spent a lot of time at the old mine sites playing Army. The old foundations made perfect forts for army games.

Some other summertime fun included building a racetrack with friend Don Clark on a flat field of clay at Sucker Flats (now King Jack Park). Jim remembers his first end-over-end crash on one of those homemade racetracks.

Many hours were spent at the Atlas Garage, behind the Post Office, where they were always working on hot rods and race cars. They would take off to the Green Top Speedway behind the Green Top Skating Rink to watch hot rods and midget car races.

There was often some excitement such as the night Jim attended Larson Theater when Arlo dropped a cherry bomb in the commode, flooding the restroom before they could shut off the water.

The end of summer brought the beginning of school and Jim was a freshman. Football season began and Jim said conference rules at that time did not allow organized junior high or freshmen to play, they could only handle equipment and practice. The boys would dress out at the old high school on West Broadway Street and walk to practice at the Hatten Field stadium on Madison and Crow. And he loved watching the Friday night games from the sidelines with the rest of the team.

The Middlewest Building and buildings that burned in 1982 on the east side of Main Street. At right, you can see the roof of the Civic Drive In and the small gas station at the Route 66 ziz-zag at Broadway and Webb Street.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.