Ancestors, Legends & Time

Remembering Dixie Marie Larson

Jeanne Newby

Larry Larsen was a big part of Webb City history as he owned two of Webb City’s theaters, the Civic Drive-in Cafe and the Webb City Drive-In theater. Larry’s grandson, Howard Larsen Jr., has written a wonderful story about his mother, Dixie Marie Larsen, and I would like to share his memories with you. Dixie did not want a memorial service but hoped to share with her friends the earlier days of her long life. Dixie passed away on Nov. 18, 2017, at the age of 95.

Dixie was born on Aug. 25, 1922, in Webb City. A small town then, and it is still a small town with around 10,000 people. When she was in the first grade, Dixie’s mother died. Soon thereafter, Dixie was handed over to the care of her maternal grandmother (Grandma Long), and her baby brother was handed over to the care of her paternal grandmother (Grandma Palmer). The situation was that their father married a woman who was expecting and was not interested in her new husband’s young children. Dixie never shared a birthday with her brother or received any gifts from her father. Yet, she loved people, maintained lifetime friendships and was a loving grandmother and great-grandmother.

Growing up during the depression was challenging. Dixie often described watching local children at the train tracks making faces at the “coal man” and his throwing coal back at them, which was quickly gathered to help heat their homes. Another friend’s father would take potato peelings to work for his lunch and leave the rest of the potatoes for his family. And Dixie never forgot the teacher who gave her an old umbrella.

Dixie attended the First Baptist Church in Webb City and Nola Anderson and Lila Johnson were, she said, “the greatest teachers.” Another clear memory was being baptized one very cold January night and walking home with frozen hair.

During junior high school, Dixie met Howard Larsen, whose father owned the local movie theaters. Getting free passes to the movies helped the courtship, and they married in 1943. Their son, Howard Jr., was born in 1944 and daughter, Katie, in 1952.

In 1952, the family’s movie theater business was expanded to include the Webb City Drive-in and in 1958, due to the advent of television, the family moved to California to start a new life.

Dixie’s first job in California was as a secretary at the Union Oil Research Center in Brea. Other jobs followed. After Dixie and Howard Sr. retired and moved to Palm Desert, she taught herself how to play golf and eventually was able share that she had nine holes-in-one. The love of golf continued at the Town & Country Manor in the form of putting contests.

Another constant was her expressed thanks to Howard Jr. for recommending the Town & Country Manor. The family knew without a doubt that Dixie would be a natural fit at the Manor. Dixie’s survivors also want to thank the Manor as well as the fellow residents for their thoughts, prayers, and friendship. Survivors at the time of her death included daughter  Katie and son Howard, their spouses, the grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and a brother-in-law in Illinois.

Pursuant to her wishes, her ashes will be sent to the Mount Hope Cemetery to be buried close to the grave sites of Howard Muir Larsen Sr. and Lawrence P. Larsen.

Thank you to Howard M. Larsen Jr. (aka Mickey) for sharing this information. Howard is an honorary member of the Webb City High School Class of 1962.

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber Office.

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.