We begin our excellent adventure by setting the time machine to 1949, the year our Dad (Paul) graduated from Cross Timbers, MO high. He was offered a $1000/yr scholarship to Drury College (full tuition) to play basketball. He chose to forgo that scholarship and attend Missouri State College (now Missouri State University) to pursue a Chemistry degree.
Three of his aunts had large houses near the college and rented rooms to college kids. Dad lived with Aunt Fannie on St. Louis street in an upstairs bedroom. One of the other renters was none other than Porter Wagoner, a young kid from West Plains, MO who came to Springfield to break into the music business. In 1951, he was hired as a performer on KWTO in Springfield. Starting in 1955, he was a featured performer on ABC-TV’s Ozark Jubilee before making a move to Nashville in 1957 to join the Grand Old Opry. He helped launch the career of Dolly Parton who he brought in as a regular on “The Porter Wagner Show” in the late 60’s.
Aunt Fannie always wanted to play checkers and watch baseball. We also remember a framed picture of the cast of ‘As The World Turns’ on her family room wall. Sadly, she died from cancer when we were still young kids.
Auth Ruthie was a Springfield socialite who loved hosting and attending “garden parties”. She would announce her arrival at Christmas gatherings with a loud “Christmas Gift” when she walked in the door; a tradition carried on in ALL Hickman families today. Besides having a big heart, her girth made traditional bathing a challenge. Her solution was a daily regiment of applying “White Cologne Shoulders”, as she called it. Upon crossing the threshold and stepping into the foyer of her house your nostrils were assaulted with a unique Parfum de Ruthie, probably not a scent perfumeurs at Estee Lauder aspired to replicate. Her husband, Uncle Ed was a gifted carpenter, good fisherman, and lover of Falstaff beer. He had a great sense of humor and impaired hearing. (he would often give us a wink before turning down the volume control on his hearing aid when the words “Ed, Ed, Ed” screeched from the kitchen).
In stark contrast to her little sister, Aunt Fred (short for Winifred) spurned the Springfield social scene and a life of monogamy to sew her wild oats on the oil fields of Texas. Her second husband was a rich, Texas oil tycoon, and she was destined for a life of luxury with the rich and famous, perfectly suited for someone with socialite DNA in her veins. However, Aunt Fred was a hopeless romantic and she ran off with the only man she every really loved, her wealthy husband’s chauffeur, and returned to Missouri. Aunt Fred was a mysterious curmudgeon who struck fear in those who did not know her well. However, she fiercely defended those inside her inner circle, a status we of course enjoyed. An enigmatic figure, she somehow harbored distain for most while simultaneously being held in reverence by the girls who rented rooms from her.
Aunt Fannie eventually moved to Page Street just down the road from the SMS football stadium. Aunt Ruthie lived two doors down. Aunt Fred lived on Cherry street next door to the Sigma Kappa sorority house. None of our great aunts had any children. We became, in effect, their surrogate grandsons. This resulted in an outpouring of unconditional love and undeserved admiration. There is something very special about the relationship between a grandson and his grandmother. In many ways we had three extra grandmas. How special is that?
Challenge to readers: Do you have any colorful branches on your family trees? Please comment with any stories of your special, unique or quirky family members.
The song chosen for this post is “A Satisfied Mind”, a #1 Country Billboard hit for Porter Wagoner in 1955. This song has been covered by many greats over the years including the likes of Johnny Cash, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Jeff Buckley. For a complete list click here. One particular cover that I have always liked is a version the Ozark Mountain Daredevils recorded for a live album they released in 1977. The song was recorded in the men’s shower at McDonald Arena on the campus of Missouri State which is less than 1 mile away from Porter Wagoner’s 1949 home.
Album: Porter Wagner and Dolly Parton – Just the Two of Us
Source: Garage Sale – June 2016
Price: 20 cents