Ancestors, Legends & Time

Imigination made simple 1920s childhood better

Picture of Jeanne Newby

Jeanne Newby

February 28, 2024

Years ago, I interviewed a gentleman who grew up on Webb City during the early part of the 1920s. He has since passed away, but his memories are still alive because he took the time to share his stories. Here are his memories in his words.

Living on the outer edge of Webb City on the south side, there weren’t too many neighbors, which meant not too many kids to call friends. Then I met this kid, Glenn, who was a bit younger than me, and the adventures began.

There was a wooded area close by that offered unknown dangers and challenges fit for young boys on the prowl. There was a small pond (later known as Webb Lake) where we hunted for frogs, snakes and even tried our hand at fishing. Climbing trees was a favorite pastime – a challenge that tried our bravery as we climbed to the top of those trees. But our favorite place to explore was supposedly off limits. A.D. Hatten had an orchard on his property, and those trees were great for prowling through. We saw lots of plants, bushes, and flowers. And the thrill of not getting caught added to the excitement. But I think Mr. Hatten knew we were there. He would see us walking by and invite us into his carriage house, where he had all kinds of mysterious things to entice the mind of young boys.

Glenn’s grandmother had an attic in her house, and we were occasionally able to get inside to explore that attic, which of course was off limits as well. In the attic was an old trunk full of uniforms and old clothes that added to our imagination as we played games of being soldiers, cowboys and miners. What a wonderful playground for young boys.

That attic also held many old toys, books and magazines. The pictures in those magazines fueled our imagination. We played King Arthur and had many battles in our mysterious woods. We learned firsthand about poison ivy, bee stings and sunburns. Dr. Slaughter was the one to fix us up after we had a new adventure.

We would go to the Webb City Library and check out adventure books that took us to many faraway places that were nothing like our town of Webb City. But with our imagination, our play area became anything we wanted it to be. It was an ocean, a battleground, a western town or a mountain full of wild critters.

Glenn’s family had more money than mine, so occasionally, they would give him some money and we would head to town for a hot dog at Coney Island. Only 5 cents for our special treat. If they gave Glenn enough money, we would get an ice cream cone or go to the movies. The silent movies just added to our over active imaginations, and we would have new things to act out while playing in the woods.

We left our homes early in the morning, showed up at one of our houses for lunch and supper but continued our adventurous activities until dark. Sometimes, Glenn had to go with his family to boring plays, dinners and visitations that he did not like. But we would laugh as he shared his fancy life with me. I was glad my family didn’t have as much money as Glenn’s so I didn’t have to go to those kinds of activities. My woods and fields were just fine for me.

No, our lives may not sound exciting to some folk, but to Glenn and me, we felt we had a great life in our small world. Our childhood added to our adult life as we both turned out to be pretty imaginative in our pursuits in life.

Neither of our houses are still there as progress has taken them away. Our old stomping grounds are now an area called King Jack Park. The year is 1990 and I am old but my memories of my childhood are as vivid as the day I lived them. I feel sorry for the youth of today as they have no idea what they are missing. I lived in a simpler time in life when the imagination had no limits.


Even though this great man has passed away, I promised him when he first started sharing memories with me that I would not post his name. I did let it slip one time, and he let me know of his disapproval, so I will still protect his privacy and not share his name, but I am forever grateful that he took the time to share his childhood with me, and I get to share it with you.

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.