Ancestors, Legends & Time

School’s out; Summer’s here

Jeanne Newby

It has been a while since we have had a “Do You Remember” article. So let us wander down Memory Lane and see if you remember the little things shared by various readers!

Do you remember… how in a small town, if a stranger came to visit, everyone knew it because everyone knew everyone’s business? And you didn’t have to use your turning signal because everyone knew which way you were going! You couldn’t get away with anything as a child because everyone in town knew who you were and they all cared about your welfare (meaning they didn’t hesitate to discipline because they would expect the same with their children). Without air conditioning, the windows stayed open and when a child fell off a bike, half a dozen mothers ran out to check on the crying child.

Do You Remember… referring to the refrigerator as the “ice box”? All these years later and quite a few of us still use that term and more of the grandchildren stop and say, “What is an ice box?” On a hot summer day, the most popular fellow in town was the ice man. Kids would chase his wagon to snatch little slivers of ice to melt on their tongues. Ice was sold in big blocks and many an iceman would just walk into the house and put the ice in the ice box even if nobody was home! Webb City’s Ice House was out on the north end of town close to the Independent Gravel Company.

Do you remember… the sights, tastes and sounds of summer? The most popular was the slamming of the screen door. (I love that sound!) The taste of ice cold watermelon or a big glass of lemonade or ice cream from the ice cream truck would make the day special. The sound of the music on the ice cream truck would bring the kids a running. Remember the buzzing of the June bugs on the end of a string, the sight of the lightening bugs in the glass jars at night and the turning on of the street lights which was the signal that it was time to go inside? And we can’t forget running through the water sprinklers to cool off on a hot day!

Do you remember… hanging clothes on the clothesline? Or the smell of fresh bed sheets that hung out in the sunshine to dry? Do you remember that old wringer washer that took all day to wash the family’s laundry. And hanging the laundry on the clothes line told the neighbors lots of family secrets without saying a word. (Hence the old saying of “airing your dirty laundry”). And then another day was spent ironing the clothes, sheets, pillowcases and tea towels.

Do you remember …going to the theater during the heat of the summer day to cool off? Do you remember when Webb City had three theaters running at the same time? There was The Civic across the street from the post office, the Junior at 21 S. Main and across the street was the Dickinson at 22 S. Main.

Do you remember… playing outside in the evening instead of watching television or playing on the computer? The games that the neighborhood kids would play were: hide-n-seek, freeze tag, kick the can, tag, statues, and we can’t forget jacks, marbles, jump rope, Annie over, and hop scotch. The late Kenneth Kneeland once shared the memory of his pastimes during the late ’20s, such as: building tree houses, digging underground rooms, playing football (any season, hot or cold). Kenneth said he started school at Eugene Field in 1920 when it was located on the northwest corner of Fourth and Oronogo streets. The land between Fourth Street and 10th Street on Jefferson Street was all pasture with no houses or buildings. That meant it was an open playground for the neighborhood boys!

David Perry recalled: “Our 6th grade class had the honor of moving from the Old Eugene Field School to the new school; halfway through the semester, we gathered all our books and belongings and marched over to the new school where we took up shop, we thought that was pretty neat! (1954)

One reader recalls climbing trees, playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, and having pillow fights. He said that in the evening, they would eat homemade ice cream, fight a million mosquitoes, catch a thousand lightening bugs, run till you were out of breath, jump up and down the outside steps, laugh so hard your stomach hurt, listened to the radio. Saturday morning you could watch cartoons (that was the only day cartoons were shown). A morning would be spent watching such classics cartoons as the “Little Rascals,” “The Three Stooges,” “Bugs Bunny,” “Mighty Mouse,” “Road Runner” and many more.

There is nothing more thirst quenching than an ice cold soda pop in a glass bottle. Webb City has had three bottling companies through the years, Bright Bottling Company, Star Bottling Company and Sunny Cal Bottling Company. Glass just seemed to get so cold when put into a bucket of ice and that cold soda just slid down the throat to cool the whole body.

If you didn’t want to drink your soda from a glass bottle, you could go to any of the many drug stores soda fountains in the area that served cold drinks like cherry Cokes, limeades, root beer, and 7 Up.

Do you remember… Webb City’s swimming pool at Hatten Park? Many generations of Webb City youth have spent their summers at the pool. Some even worked at the pool during the summer for spending money. What a cool way to spend the summer.

One reader recalled that her shoes came off the last day of school and stayed off till the first day of school, except for Sundays; you had to wear shoes to Church!

The highlight mentioned by many readers was going to the Webb City Drive-in Theater. You could play on the playground until the movie started. Most took their sacks of popcorn and maybe some of their mom’s homemade fudge. Two movies and a cartoon, and the evenings would cool off as the sun went down. A great finish to a great summer day.

Many memories that cannot be repeated as some of locations no longer exist except in the minds of small children who now reside in older bodies, but they can still climb the trees, shoot the robbers and eat the homemade ice cream in their memories. Do you remember?

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.