Sunday, March 8, 2009

A mishmash of stuff

(None of the pictures in this post are my own)

Yesterday we went to see a local theatrical production called Gumbo Bottoms. It was really well done and the musical talent was amazing.

Set in 1928, Gumbo Bottoms is the story of Vivian Marks, a wealthy easterner, who discovers her fortune has been squandered when her husband dies suddenly. All she has left is a piece of bottomland in Missouri. “You mean “Misery”, Vivian sings in the opening song. Things go from bad to worse when she travels to Missouri only to discover her rich bottomland has been taken by the “Wiley Guiley Mighty Mo.

The story continues as big city wealth clashes with rural river life and basic survival crosses the racial divide. With song and dance, laughter and drama the 90 minute musical delivers a tribute to river life, rich, deep, inspired by stories from the region.

Gumbo Bottom was launched in Boonville, Missouri's Thespian Hall, built in 1855. Many of the actors and producer, composer are from Boonville. It just happens that Boonville is located alongside the Big Muddy, the Missouri River.

We caught the show in Hermann, a little German town about 45 minutes from our home. We go there quite often to visit the many wineries. If you are ever in Missouri, Herman is a must see. It is also on the Mighty Mo.

The show and the locations where it performed dredged up so many memories that my mind is literally swimming. So, this blog entry is going to be a mishmash of jumbled thoughts. It is only fair to warn you about that...

My mom lived in Boonville, MO in the 1930's when she was a teenager. She lived on a farm in the river bottoms to be exact. Her greatest fear in life was having to go through another flood. As a young girl she went through many. She would shudder as she'd talk about moving the piano to the second floor of their old farm house, and even then the legs of the piano got wet because the waters reached to the second floor As the oldest girl of 8 children, she was relied on to help with the clean-up. That meant shoveling out the dirt, sewer, snakes, rubbish, and as the show was named, gumbo bottom, of the Missouri River, before the family could move back into the house. And they did this knowing that in two or three years (if they were lucky), they'd have to do it all over again.

I lived through many floods along the Missouri River, but never in that way. I was always the awestruck bystander, watching the power of mother nature. The flood of 1993 was by far the worst known to this area. My drive to work each day was normally an easy 20 minute, no traffic drive. The flood took out the Highway leading to town. The Missouri River Bridge at Jefferson City was closed for days and when it opened back up, the double bridge with six lanes was now one bridge with two lanes. The traffic would back up to the little town where I live, which is 15 miles from Jeff City. It took hours to get to work, not minutes. This is a picture of the Highway I drove every day.

I have many pictures of that flood, but none on this computer, and I'm too lazy to go searching for them, so I'm cheating and posting pictures from the internet.

I worked in the Truman State Office Building in the Data Center. The Data Center was located on the bottom floor of the building (and still is). Many an hour was spent planning how we could get the mainframe equipment moved to higher ground without impacting the operations of state government with downtime. The plan was in place and the rising waters were monitored... and monitored, and monitored... The waters quit rising when it was a foot from the level we had decided the equipment would have to be moved. Here is an aerial shot of the Truman Building. The only way in or out was through the fourth floor entrance. The lower entrance was surrounded by water. (Sorry about the quality but it is the only one I could find)

This musical opened another dusty memory file. Well, actually two more, so bear with me.

We knew the violinist. He happened to live in Jeff City when our youngest daughter was in the school orchestra, playing the violin. We relied on him often to work on her violin. As I watched and listened to him play (we had seats close to the orchestra), I remembered back to Julie playing her violin. I was and still am so proud of her. I'm hoping one of these days when her rowdy bunch are a bit older and she has some me-time, that she will take up the violin again.

The violinist also happened to be the son of the local shoe cobbler of many years ago. His shop was down the street from the grade school I attended. In those days we weren't a throw-away society like we are today. Appliances, TV's, furniture, and clothing were made to last. We didn't throw things away, we fixed them. And our shoes were repaired by Elmer. For many years the shoes I wore were repaired hand-me-downs from my older sister. It was nothing to have the heel replaced two or three times. And the first thing we always had done when a new pair of shoes were finally bought was have a tap put on the toe so the soles would not wear out so fast. And when the soles did wear out, they were replaced. I was always secretly glad when I had to take my shoes to Elmer. I loved the smell of leather and polish in his. He was such a kind man. He seemed ancient to me, but since he had a son a bit younger than me (the violinist), he couldn't have been all that old. He would often chastice me for waiting too long to bring the shoes in, causing him difficulty in repairing them. The thing I remember most was he charged practically nothing. To put a tap on was ten cents. I even remember handing him only a nickel once for stitching a ripped seam.

As I type I am looking out my kitchen indow at a red headed wood pecker on a tree, a red bird in the feeder under the tree and two sparrows in the feeder right outside my window. I do believe I'm going to head outside for a little while!
I hope everyone has a wonderful week!


LadyStyx said...

Pssst! I loved the smell of leather and polish in his. (shop?) *shrugz*

I love the smell of new leather too.

This was a wonderful memory to share. Thanks!

The Wife O Riley said...

I live right next to a river here and we have had many floods too. We have been very lucky during all of them. But we have also been stranded because the roads are all flooded.

I don't know Missori very well, but your stories reminded me of when we took the girls to Hannibal for a weekend. It is still one of our very favorite destinations.

ChicagoLady said...

I'm very fortunate to have never lived close enough to a river to be flooded by one. And sometimes you get floods without a river, or the flood creates a new river. Like my street, lol.

Thank you for sharing these memories with us. I love hearing about "the old days" and what it was like. Life is so much easier for us now, and too many people don't appreciate it.

Oh, and when I was a kid, my parents took their shoes to a cobbler/shoe repair store to have new soles put on. No one does that anymore, it's just easier to buy a new pair.

A. K. said...

Even if the pics are not urs even than the pictures are so cool!

AliceKay said...

Great memories, Punkn. It's nice to be able to remember back to those days, isn't it? There was a shoe repair store near us when I was a kid, and I remember going there with my parents.

I've been thru floods before, but they were caused by rapidly rising creeks instead of a river where I live. Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 was the worst one in my lifetime. We have creeks on both sides of our little town that join at the north end with a mountain to my south. We had one bridge wash out and the other had an abutment damaged so we weren't allowed to drive over it. Being stranded for a few days, and then shoveling mud for weeks after, isn't something I'd like to go thru again. We've had several floods since 1972, but that one was the worst one in our area. It was also the flood that took out a lot of the railroad tracks to the feed mill and beyond, and also took out the bridge over the creek near us. The railroad tracks now end at our feed mill.

Tori_z said...

Interesting post.

It's a shame we've become such a throw away society. It would be nice if things were still made to last instead of made to last only as long as the guarantee, then need replacing. *Sigh*

Karla said...

What good (and bad) memories. I've never lived that close to a river to get flooded out but I have seen the Ouchita river in Arkansas flood people out and close roads many times! The power of a river is mightier than you can imagine!

Intense Guy said...

A wonderful, warm post, Punkn. I can relate to the smell of the shoe man's store (Mike the Cobbler in Lansdale, was the counterpart of your firend. Mike was even the town's mayor for years). His shop always smelled good.

I have some things from my dad's foundry in the basement at work (where there is room for them) and when I go down there - I am for a brief moment transported back to the woodshop and foundry my dad had. The smells, at the time were pungent and even sulferous, but I must of enjoyed my times there as the basement smells always make be smile and brings back memories.

Your grandmother was a hardy soul. Cleaning up the mess from a river flood is backbreaking and disheartening work.

I'm glad she spoke to you about her story and you have it written down in this post.

*Hugs* The oceans and mother nature have a harsh reputation (not to mention the hurricanes) but the ol' muddy can be just as treacherous.

Punkn said...

Well now Styxie, I might be onto a new thing... Fill in the blank entries. Glad you enjoyed the share.
Wife, I agree, Hannibal is a great place to visit. I haven't been there in years. I do believe it is time to check it out again!
LOL Chicago, I remember your flooded street.
A.K. glad you enjoyed them. Good to see you again!
AK, the creek here does the flash flooding thing. Fortunately, there is nothing for it to damage. When the kids were still home I'd always worry they would carelessly drive through the high water.
Tori, I agree wholeheartedly.
Karla,the power of nature in general is never to be underestimated, is it.
Iggy, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Isn't it strange how smells from your childhood, even bad ones, become a memory maker? Each area of the country seems to have its own kinds of disasters, whether it be floods, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, wildfires, volcanos, and the list goes on and on...

rebel said...

I think Booneville is a pretty town in a pretty area.
We go to Hermann quite often too but it's a little further for us so we usually spend the night. I love eatin' at Stonehill, my husband loves German food. We also like Hannibal. The river road back to St. Louis is a favorite, the Little Dixie.
I remember the floods of '93. I'm not so sure I could handle goin' back into my flooded house and havin' some of those BIG catfish bumpin' against me! I'm kinda freaky like that about water I can't see into.

I've really enjoyed this post. It makes me think about somethin' I've heard before, just in case someone not from our area doesn't know what the Missouri River is like. Back in the paddle boat days they had a sayin', "The good ole boys travel down the Mississippi but THE men travel down the Missouri." That is just how treacherous and changin' the Missouri can be, and they say it is still like that today.

Punkn said...

Rebel, next time you are in the Hermann area, be sure you go down the road a couple miles to Adam Puchta Winery. I've been to wineries all over the country, including Napa Valley, and it is my all time favorite wine, hands down. We had a friend from England here several years ago. He was touring the US and had just been to Napa Valley. He thought the Hermann area and especially Adam Puchta was soooooo much better :)

junyah said...

Speacking of ole shoe shops, a guy was going thought his closet and found an ole jacket he used to wear all the time.So he trys it on and puts his hands in the pockets and he finds a slip of paper. Its a receit for a pair of shoes he had taken to this shoe shop years ago.So he dissides to go look for the ole shop to see if its still there, SURE enough, and the same ole guy was there. He walks in and says to the guy, hey i left a pair of oxfords here back awhile ago,you think you still have them? well the ole guy says hang on a sec while i go look, he comes back and says, oxfords for new soles and a heel on the right one. the guy says YA yA thats them, the guy say come back next wedesday and i'll have them all ready .............( chuckles) JR

Punkn said...

LOL JR. Now that I think back, Elmer was notorious for not having the shoes ready when promised. I had forgotten that!