Continuing the recollections of Dora farm life in the 1950s: Never-ending work – and basketball practice amid chicken-poop land mines
Editor’s note: Sections of these 1950s Dora-area reminiscences by former Ozark County resident Martin Capages Jr. will be reprinted in the Ozark County Times as space allows. Capages, a Ph.D. University of Missouri-Rolla graduate and the retired former owner of ARIS Engineering in Ozark, attended seventh, eighth and ninth grades in Dora. He can be contacted at 2638 E. Wildwood Road, Springfield, MO 65804; 417-883-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This week’s section picks up as Martin enters his freshman year at Dora High School in the fall of 1958.
Chapter 15: A Dora freshman
With Dad traveling to Springfield to work every day, I was responsible for most of the heavy chores. I whitewashed buildings, even the bases of some trees. I thought the place looked like Tara from Gone with the Wind. The new lawn mower helped around the house, but now I had to cut the tall weeds outside the yard with a sling blade.
The work was never ending, but I still managed to practice shooting baskets in the backyard – although there were some issues with that. The basketball goal was attached to the rear of the house, and a bunch of bricks was piled a short distance away, just behind me as I shot. Plus, the chickens left little land mines all over the place. I would shoot and try to catch the ball before it hit the ground. If I missed the rebound, I would have to wipe the chicken poop off the ball. It forced me to follow my shots – a good thing. If the ball hit the brick pile, it would rebound off in unpredictable directions but always, it seemed, into a pile of chicken poop. To practice dribbling I had to bounce twice and wipe once.
Weekend entertainment was the Dora Skating Rink – a large Quonset hut-style building that was the social center of town. Preparation required ironing my starched Levi’s to get a knife-edge crease and splashing on Dad’s Old Spice.
At the rink, the eighth graders would race and slide around the corners. But the high school girls would skate with their boyfriends to the Everly Brothers’ hit song “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and all of Pat Boone’s latest. It was sort of a gliding waltz, beautiful to watch.
I was envious of Ronnie Thornton and Don Collins, who had rubber toe stops on their skates and could start and stop on a dime. All I could do was slide or roll to a stop. I was always replacing or truing-up the wooden wheels on my skates. The rink entry fee was a quarter, cheap entertainment, and there were never any fights or negative events.
One day five of us went for a ride in a 1957 Oldsmobile. It had pillars down the back window and made a statement. The driver was Ronnie Thornton, age 14. We went north from the skating rink up the two-lane highway and hit 100 miles per hour. Then we slowed down, and Ronnie stopped after we crossed a pneumatic hose the county had placed across the road to measure the traffic flow. Someone decided to get out of the car and jump up and down on the hose, reason unknown.
In the distance, we saw a car coming, so we jumped back in the car and Ronnie whipped the Olds into a side road behind some trees. The car went by. It was the highway patrol. He never saw us.
Relieved, Ronnie pulled out a cigarette and lit it. As the waves of smoke hit the backseat, my nerves settled. I’ve never smoked a cigarette to this day, but I get it. It helped me understand Dad a little better. He had been in combat in Okinawa and Korea. He smoked two packs a day most of his life. (To be continued.)