Tag Archives: hillbilly

Springfield Wagon Company

18 Apr

The Little Fish In A Big Pond

Years ago I was asked by Wayne Hocklander to clean out the basement of his business, Hocklander Jewelry at the corner of South and Walnut in Springfield. It was filled with boxes of misc. papers, old jewelry boxes and basically what Wayne thought was junk, He wanted it gone. I started early one morning cleaning out the boxes and loading them into a dumpster when I dropped one of the boxes and had to pick up the papers. Much to my surprise they were old documents from the Springfield Wagon Company. I showed them to him and at the time they were in pretty rough shape. He made the decision to just pitch them. They were of no value I suppose back in the early 70’s.

I decided to hang on the few decent ones, mostly correspondence to buyers and post cards. At that time I was more impressed with the elegant handwriting displayed and thought they should be saved. I’m glad I did. Below is the basic history of the Springfield Wagon Company if you’re not familiar with it.

The Springfield Wagon Company could be called the company that didn’t blink. Through nearly 80 years of business, it took on many bigger companies head on, challenging them on their own terms. Now, the Springfield Wagon Company could be called the company that wouldn’t die.

About 200 people recently gathered at Founder’s Park in Springfield, Mo. to attend a public forum in order to share their common interest in an early-day vehicle. They collected memorablia, one-of-a-kind photographs, and videotaped interviews. They also celebrated the return of a company that closed fifty years ago.

The original Springfield Wagon Company, which operated near the scene of the collectors’ meet, sold many thousands of wagons from 1872 until 1941, when the factory relocated to Fayetteville, Ark. ‘Farm and road’ type wagons were made there near the Ozark hardwood forests until 1951. The wagon was one of the last high-wheeled vehicles in production.

Springfield wagons were made from the best materials. The yellow poplar box was finished in green with yellow striping, and the brand name was printed in white-painted block type. Its oak or hickory running gear, including spoked (12 in front and 14 in the taller rear) wheels were orange, trimmed in black. This combination of distinct colors would remain trademarks of the well-known wagon for 80 years.

When Springfield entered the market for wagons, it was a little fish in a big pond. Three major wagon manufacturers looked down their proverbial noses at the fledgling company. Studebaker had one of the longest pedigrees and was probably the most successful wagon at the time, followed closely by the Bain and Schuttler wagon companies. These companies were not alone. Birch, Wilson, John Deere and others had begun to establish footholds in the market.

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It’s Bluegrass Tuesday with Bill Monroe!

23 Mar

This year marks Bill’s 100th Birthday, Festivals are planned throughout the year in celebration…For more info on visit the link below.

Bill Monroe was born on Sept. 13, 1911, in Rosine, Ky. Credited as “The Father of Bluegrass,” the music he created evolved from the folk and country music he heard growing up in a musical family as the youngest of eight children. As a child, he also backed up his uncle Pendleton Vandiver (“Uncle Pen”) at local dances.

Orphaned by age 16, Monroe eventually moved to Chicago and formed a group with brothers Birch and Charlie, with Bill on mandolin. While in Chicago, he worked in an oil refinery and as a square dancer on Chicago’s WLS National Barn Dance. Birch soon dropped out, but Bill and Charlie continued on as the Monroe Brothers, finding their most enthusiastic audiences at Charlotte, N.C.’s radio station WBT. They soon recorded several sides for RCA’s Bluebird label, including “John Henry,” “Nine Pound Hammer” and “What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul.”

In 1938, the highly successful duo split up, and Bill formed his first band, the Kentuckians. A year later Monroe changed the name to the Blue Grass Boys and soon set his sights on Nashville. Monroe was only 28 years old when he joined the Opry cast on Oct. 28, 1939. Introduced by George D. Hay, the Opry’s founder, Monroe performed a the Jimmie Rodgers hit “Muleskinner Blues” and got three encores that first night at the War Memorial Auditorium. He quickly became an Opry favorite.

In the 1940s, Monroe began adding lyrics to his melodies and wrote such classic hits as “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “Uncle Pen.” He hired banjo picker Earl Scruggs, singer-guitarist Lester Flatt and fiddler Chubby Wise on fiddle to create what is widely recognized as the most important bluegrass band ever. In 1948, Flatt & Scruggs left the band to form the Foggy Mountain Boys. (Wise also left the band that year.)

By the 1950s, Flatt & Scruggs emerged as a formidable presence, while Monroe continued to play the Opry. However, by the 1960s, folk music had become popular, and promoter Ralph Rinzler helped return Monroe to the spotlight. In 1965, Monroe headlined the first multi-day bluegrass festival, and he inaugurated his own annual festival in Bean Blossom, Ind.

Monroe was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970, and he earned the National Endowment for the Arts’ esteemed Heritage Award. His Southern Flavor LP won the first Grammy award ever given for bluegrass music in 1989, and he earned the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement award in 1993. In 1995, he was awarded a National Medal of Honor by President Clinton at a ceremony conducted at the White House. Monroe died on Sept. 9, 1996. A year later, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him as an early influence of rock ‘n’ roll.

A number of prominent bluegrass musicians also spent time as one of Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, including Stringbean, Mac Wiseman, Jimmy Martin, Sonny Osborne and Del McCoury.

Monroe described his beloved bluegrass as music with “a hard drive to it. It’s Scotch bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin’. It’s Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It’s blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound. It’s plain music that tells a good story. It’s played from my heart to your heart, and it will touch you. Bluegrass is music that matters.”

Bluegrass Tuesday with Kenny Baker

22 Mar


Baker was born in Jenkins, Kentucky and learned the fiddle by accompanying his father, also a fiddler. Early on, he was influenced by the swing fiddler Marion Sumner, not to mention Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. After working for Bethlehem Steel in the coal mines of Kentucky, he served in the U.S. Navy before pursuing a musical career fulltime. He soon joined Don Gibson’s band as a replacement for Marion Sumner. Baker who played western swing, had little interest in bluegrass music until he heard “Wheel Hoss” and “Roanoke”. During a package show with Don Gibson, Baker met Monroe and was offered a job. He cut his very first recordings with Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys on December 15, 1957.

Kenny Baker served more years in Monroe’s band than any other musician and was selected by Monroe to record the fiddle tunes passed down from Uncle Pen Vandiver. After leaving the Bluegrass Boys in 1984,Baker played with a group of friends, Bob Black, Alan Murphy, and Aleta Murphy. Bob Black and Alan Murphy recorded and album with Baker in’73, Dry & Dusty. After the one summer with Black and the Murphy’s Baker teamed with Josh Graves who had played dobro for Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs as a Foggy Mountain Boy. Baker teamed with Graves until Graves’ death in 2006.

Baker is considered to be one of the most influential fiddlers in bluegrass music. His “long-bow” style added a smoothness and clarity to the fiddle based music of his boss, Grand Ole Opry member Bill Monroe. His long tenure with Bill Monroe included banjo player Bill Keith’s development of the “melodic” method of banjo playing that included note for note representations of fiddle tunes on the banjo.

He was named to the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1999. He recorded many albums for various record labels, including County Records, Jasmine, Rounder Records and most recently OMS Records. His most recent recordings include “Cotton Baggin’ 2000” and “Spider Bit the Baby” on OMS Records. It was often mentioned that Kenny Baker’s records were more popular at Bill Monroe concerts than the band’s own releases. There were, and remain, hordes of Kenny Baker students of the bluegrass fiddle.

Hillbilly Archaeologist

25 Feb

Abandoned In Stone County

Ever driven down an old country road, past a crumbling old farm house and thought to yourself “I bet that place has a million stories. I wonder who lived there?” I know I have and in most cases I am so busy going somewhere I don’t even pay attention to them. Once in a great while I get up just enough gumption to park the truck and grab the camera. This is one place I couldn’t pass up.

This home was struck down by a huge tree that uprooted and fell through most of the structure.

Sometimes you have to look beyond the current condition of things and use your imagination to see the positives to a house like this. The stonework is classic Ozarks, you don’t find work like this in many places other than the Ozarks. It’s color and size make it especially nice and the craftsmanship was excellent. It is a shame that the tree took it out. It gets better, just follow me…

At this angle you can see that the tree simply ripped it's way through.

This tree was massive and did enormous amounts of damage.

The back porch is roughly a 10′ span attached to the house and covered with clear material to let the light in. I bet they had plants. It sat on a poured concrete slab which was very cool to the touch, we’ll get into the natural air conditioning shortly. The porch actually held under the weight of the tree, amazing stuff.

Behind the house stood the family (root cellar?), a two story built into the bluff side.

The well house was something extraordinary, two stories with built in shelves upstairs and large material storage downside. It was also equipt with electricity and ran a refridgerator which was still sitting where they left it.

Built in shelves to store canned goods, and lots of them.

Standing at the well house the view to the back of the house and the spring house in the foreground.

Notice the steps leading down from the house into the spring house, a perfect set up for the milk cans.

Used for storing milk and cream cans I imagine.

However another possibility hit me like a trout takes a mayfly…it might have been used to raise trout. With a small cool water lake adjacent to the house and connected to the spring it is possible.

This spring was really putting out the water, and cold...really cold. Making the concrete cool all the way to the back porch of the house. Natural AC!

I noticed that the walls of the springhouse were brown from probably iron in the water.

It flowed out and then into the lake through a concrete whistle that was built by hand.

This is what really caught my interest. The iron bridge minus the wood walkway is still usable.

I would love to walk out in my front yard to a view like this.

The proximity of the lake to the house was just right, not more than 50 feet away from the house and access from the back and the side of the house. This was well thought out, if I had the chance to do something with this place I would simply clean it up, remove the wooden structures and rebuild as close to original as I could. Cleaned up and fresh this would make one nice place to entertain. On a sad note, the house was fully furnished including clothes still hanging in the closet, a half stocked kitchen, appliances in tact, a wood burning stove,  couches and chairs, bedding and such. It makes you think that the owners may have suffered consequences from the tree as it hit directly in a bedroom area and the fact it’s still furnished. It doesn’t look like it’s been lived in for 10 years or more.

I will mention I only take photos away from places like this. I never give out any locations and I usually am careful about property owners privacy…but I couldn’t resist. My apologies.