When History Comes in Tiny Missivesby Lin Waterhouse on 05/15/13
I’m sitting alone in the meticulously-restored Ozark County Historium with an achingly-beautiful rendition of Ashokan Farewell playing on my Kindle. (You all know the song from Ken Burns’ Civil War series on PBS.) In such surroundings, it’s easy to become nostalgic when viewing the collection of old postcards on display in this museum we are so fortunate to have on the Gainesville square.
The cards date from the early days of Ozark County through the 20th Century when thoughtful remembrances were written on the back of a postcard instead of in an email.
Judy Lyons loaned her series of rare postcards that show a dramatization of a robbery on Lick Creek c. 1912. Three disreputable fellows hold up two men in suits and get away with their belongings. However, the victims track down the robbers who have drunk themselves into blissful oblivion, and the aggrieved men mete out simple justice. “Ta! Ta! Poor Devils” is written on the bottom of the last card showing the dead robbers and the victors mounting their horses to ride away with their restored booty.
A particularly endearing set of cards were sent from early Ozark biographer S. C. Turbo to his niece Stella Upton in 1909 through 1912. Turnbo died in 1925, outliving Stella who died in 1914 at the age of 17 following the death of her daughter Stella Martin Luna. One photo shows the diminutive Stella Upton wearing a frilly dress and heels standing on the porch of the Breeding Store in Locust. I can’t help but wonder what event she was dressed to attend. I hope her short life was happy.
Another collection of postcards illustrates an urban view of Gainesville from the early 1900s. A synopsis of the 1910 census, displayed with the postcards, names 43 heads of households in the town – a judge, laborers, stock dealers, county officials, a laundress, barbers, and innkeepers – all part of a vibrant community at the turn of the 20th century.
Later Gainesville is enlivened by postcards from the 1930s through the 1950s – a time that many folks still fondly remember. The old rock jail must have been a proper punishment, a misery of heat and cold for those who crossed the law back in the day. The pictures of a bustling square recall days before Walmart and Target.
The lakes, other Ozark communities like Dora and Zanoni, the mills, and the people star in other groupings of postcards.
The faces of long ago people particularly tug at my heart. The parents of the Ferrell triplets born in 1908 near Thornfield proudly dressed their children in frilly lace for a precious photo. Ike Shaw and Ted Upton stand proud in their World War I uniforms. Groups of fresh-faced school children, Wanda and Bently Silva with their spotted dog, ladies in huge hats and men in overalls and suspenders – all evoke people and places lost to the years.
Life and times, happy and hard, are on display for thoughtful consideration through May 31.