Reflections Of My Childhood In Exeter, Barry County, Missouri

By Mary Margaret (Kersey) Kochever January 8, 1952

Submitted by her Daughter Patricia Henry

My mother was a daughter of John D. and Anna Kersey.

She was born Aug 1 1909 in Exeter and died Aug 12, 1988 in Boise, Idaho
I was one of a family of my Dad, Mother and 5 sisters and one brother. My mother never had a dull moment and she was always full of vim and vigor. We lived in the very small town of Exeter, Missouri and everyone knew each other. My, but we all had a jovial good time. My Dad was a tall heavy set man with light blue eyes, and golden blonde hair. He was always so cheerful and tried to make all the children’s dreams come true. He had a large store, Kersey Bros. He sold everything there was to be sold. Hats, shoes, dry goods, caskets, ribbons, canned foods, candies and many other things I cannot name at the moment. He was a lover of horses. He would often let some poor farmer run a grocery bill, then would take a horse to offset the bill.

Our home consisted of eleven rooms, some large and some small. We had a large front yard with lawn and huge oak trees. There was a big barn in back of the house. We often sat out on our long front porch in the still of the night and the old whistle of a train could be heard in the distance. When I was a small girl about 8 years old, my Dad used to send me in the house to play “When You and I Were Young, Maggie” on the old piano. Getting back to my family, I also had an uncle, Tom, who helped my Dad in the store. After his wife died he lived with my Grandparents. They lived a block from our home. My Grandfather, Arthur Kersey, was very good-natured, but my Grandmother, Nancy Kersey, was somewhat dominant with we children. But she was still our Grandmother so we had respect for her.

My Mother was rather small and always very neat and pretty and never looked as old as she really was, even now at eighty-two, she looks about sixty. She loved to have her chickens and take care of them, fix hen’s nests and clean the hen house, and enjoyed buying the best of cows, and praised the fine rich milk they would give. I would often go out to the old red barn with her and hear the cow grinding away on the shorts and bran which Mom would always feed her, and I could hear the sound of the milk being milked into the bucket. She loved her own good yellow butter. We kids argued the first few times as to which one was going to get to churn. Then when the attraction grew old, we argued about which one would have to do it.

When I was about 7 years old our old school house burned to the ground. Another one, a brick one, which still stands, was built then. Our school was located about a block away and uphill. I could often hear Mom shut the oven door of the cook stove as I was halfway home from school. I would know that she was having good hot biscuits or custard. When I would hear that, I could hardly wait until I reached the back door.

We had a Paige car and finally had to hire a fellow to drive it for us, as my Dad wrecked the car every time he would drive. He decided it was cheaper to hire someone. With a big picnic box full of all kinds of good things to eat we would take off real early Sunday morning to a beautiful resort town and fish hatchery called Neosho, Missouri, and other times it would be other pretty Ozark places such as Blockade Hollow, etc.

I had two second cousins, Loraine and Ruth Ellston, whose father was Lee Ellston. They lived at the edge of town in a beautiful home. Next door to them was a lovely farm, which was their Grandparents Maude and Charlie Ellston (my aunt and uncle). Loraine and Ruth had a black and white spotted pony and a darling buggy just the right size for the pony. I remember the pony’s name was Buster. Loraine, the oldest, would often hitch up Buster and we would grab some beans and cornbread off her mother’s stove, or whatever she would have handy, and we would take off down through her Grandfather’s lovely meadows that were full of sheep and cattle. On through the gates and fields, until we would come to a lovely cold spring called Talbert Springs. We would start hunting crawdads. Loraine was the official crawdad getter, then when we had caught several, we would bum some neighbors out of some cornmeal and a small frying pan. We would build a fire and cook them. A very small piece of the crawdad is very good eating.

Other times, to while away the hours one of my girl friends, Willodean Taylor, would have the lady at a restaurant in our small town, to make up a large batch of donuts and would invite any girls she saw on the street to come in and have donuts and other things, and would always have a charge account, for her daddy was very good to her that way.

Our town was like any small southern town with sort of a damp climate. It made the beautiful violets grow. My girl friend and I used to take long walks down the railroad tracks to pick huge, blue violets that grew along the right of way in the gravel and cinders. We would also sit under a large shade tree in the summer and fix clover into long necklaces. One of my girlfriends lived in a cute little house by the railroad track and in the quiet of an afternoon an old tramp would come strolling by and would come into the yard and help himself to a nice cool drink of water from the well which stood outside by the kitchen porch. We would lock the doors and stand peeking through a small window.

We had quite a few tramps going through our little town in those days and we would often see wagon loads of gypsies with their beads and long earrings and dressed in their colorful clothes. They had full dresses and inside there were huge unseen pockets so they could get someone busy at a counter in a store and steal, while their people were buying a nickel or a dimes worth of something to attract the storekeepers attention. One time a tribe of these gypsies came to town and went to my father’s store and started stealing and my Uncle Tom, with his hot temper, got very angry with them and shooed them out of the store. They would come through the town with teams hitched to wagons and with kettles and lanterns tied on behind. They were very peculiar and interesting characters. I always enjoyed seeing a wagon train load of them come to town for I knew there would be a lot of excitement that day.

We also had a band in our town, if you call it a band. It consisted of a huge bass drum, a fife and small drums. When there was a special occasion they would go marching through town with children behind them. I remember them playing “Dixie Land”.

There was uncle Bob (he wasn’t our uncle, just a nick-name) and Mary Bibb who lived across the street from us. Uncle Bob was the threshing machine man for the area farmers. He was quite hard of hearing. When he started off to thresh for someone and he would see children on the street, he would blow the whistle, which was very shrill and loud, but we all enjoyed seeing him with his threshing machine.

We girls used to go out on bicycle sprees which we enjoyed so much. I would use my brother’s bike as I didn’t have one of my own. My brother, Arthur, died when he was 16 years old in 1913 and my Father never would sell his bike. So they finally let we girls use it several years after that. Speaking of my brother, I can well remember when he used to go chinky pin hunting. Chinky pins are a very small nut, very rich and good to eat. He would come home with a large size bag of them and would torment us girls, especially my older sisters and tease us until we would chase him around the house. Then he would give us some. He was such a wonderful boy and one of the most honest and good hearted boys there ever was. Everyone knew him by the name of “Chub” and he was loved by everyone who knew him. He always loved the trains. He and his best friend Everett England decided they wanted to be engineers when they grew up. When Everett grew up he did become an engineer.

One very special memory was the trains. We had a small railroad station in the middle of town. The Frisco trains would come through and also the little C&E train, which we called the “Dinky”. Oh, how I loved to watch the trains come in! That was one of the highlights of my childhood. I’ve never outgrown my love of trains. I can still remember the number of each one and the times they would come through Exeter.

There is lots more to tell about my childhood in Exeter, but I will sum it up in three words. Happy, Delightful and Memorable.
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