Clinton Wininger


Clinton Wininger Celebrates his 100th birthday
December 30, 2002

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Eighty-four members of Clinton Wininger's family celebrated his 100th birthday with him Monday, including his daughters, from left Carol Weber of Denver, Colo., Virginia McBride, Atlanta, Ga., and Becky Schindel, Dayton, Ohio. DJ photo by D. Hickman

FARMINGTON --On the day Clinton Samuel Wininger was born, his family posed him for a picture. On the day he turned 100, his family posed with him for more pictures than anyone could count.

Wininger was born in Bonne Terre on Dec. 30, 1902 and graduated from Esther High School in 1922. He marked his 100th birthday Monday surrounded by 84 members of his family who had come from 10 states just for the privilege of sharing the day with him.

Sonny Sebastian drove 14 hours from Magnolia, Texas.

"He's my great-grandfather and my kids' great-great grandfather and I thought it was important for us to be here," he said. "Not many kids can say they remember their great-great grandfather."

Pat McBride brought his 8-month-old daughter Kathleen from Marietta, Ga. just to wiggle in the arms of her great-grandfather as her father looked on with pride.

"He's just a remarkable man," he said. "I employ people and he told me once because he was in personnel, if you have a man caring for a gravely ill wife, give him a break and care for him in return at work. He has a lot of compassion."

Wininger knows the need for compassion in the workplace. He trained the foremen for St. Joe Lead Company and cared for his own small children when their mother died.

"I told the foremen when we hired a person to go to work for St. Joe, we, in reality, hired his whole family," Wininger explained. "It would make that worker a better worker if we cared for his family. "

He raised five daughters and outlived the two great loves of his life. But his daughters, step-daughter and their families had worked for months preparing the celebration that started Sunday when they all showed up at Farmington Presbyterian Church to worship with Wininger.

"I think they're being here just proves the importance of family," said Wininger, dressed in a shirt that read, "All-American Grandpa" and decorated with a single red rose. One by one, each branch of his family tree gathered around him for pictures.

Great-granddaughters Laura and Jenny Sebastian grinned with delight after their photo with the "birthday boy."

"He's the most kind-hearted man I know and he has such a positive outlook on life, even at his age," said Jenny.

"And you know, I told people I was coming here from Texas for his birthday and they all said, 'Will he even know you're there,' and I had to tell them, 'oh, yes!'" said Laura. "My favorite thing about Grandpa is he could walk on his hands until he was 85 years old!"

Almost every family member had a story to share about Wininger. Many of them were printed in the birthday party program of the day.

Always a remarkable athlete, his daughters speak with pride of how their father was invited to try-out for the St. Louis Cardinals once.

"He could do pole-vaulting, bowling, fishing, hunting and he played basketball," said Virginia McBride, his daughter. "And he's always been a perfectionist. He expected a lot of himself and of us, too."

A friend said anyone who had ever met Wininger liked him.

"Oh, he was a good big brother," said Georgia Neff of Leadington, the youngest of Wininger's two remaining siblings.

His daughters say their dad has always loved the outdoors and that's one reason why he still tends the gardens at Presbyterian Manor where he lives.

"I've always thought it was so good that when he retired at 65, they bought a travel-trailer and traveled for a year, then flew to Europe and came back on the Queen Elizabeth II," said Virginia. "He's always been very active."

A fall a few weeks ago has slowed him down a little. He wears hearing aides and walks with a cane. But Clinton Wininger continues to lead a wonderful life.

Ask him if there's anything he can't do now he'd like to do and he pulls out the cane he uses to walk.

"I can't go anywhere without this now," he says softly. "But I go just about anywhere I want to."

Wininger has written his memories in a book for his family he calls, "Tell it Like it Was." His stories recount the history of the LeadBelt, as well as important events in history. He recalls how he and his wife Dorothy were visiting Virginia when they heard Lindbergh had crossed the Atlantic in an airplane. Other stories are more personal, like the time Wininger talked his Aunt Ginny and his grandmother into going out with him for a spin in his first car in 1923. His Aunt Ide wasn't so brave.

"Why Clinton," she said. "That would be the same as committing suicide."

Wininger was a bit of a daredevil himself and took his first airplane ride in the first plane he ever saw. It was piloted by a man called a "barnstormer" who took Wininger in the two-seater plane for the ride of his life all over and around the Lead Belt.

This week in the Daily Journal, read more of his reminiscences of a life well- lived and this man so well-loved.

In her prayer at the party, Rev. Nancy Gillard thanked God for Wininger's life and said, "Give us grace to leave a legacy for those who follow us as Clinton has left a legacy for us to follow."

Article written by D. HICKMAN\Daily Journal Staff Writer
Published in Daily Journal, Park Hills, St. Francois County, Missouri
December 31, 2002

Clinton Wininger Tells It Like It Was
(Friday, January 3, 2003, Daily Journal)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Clinton S. Wininger was born Dec. 30, 1902, and for the last few years, has written down the times of his life. His grandson has published it for friends and family. It's called, "Tell It Like It Was." In honor of Mr. Wininger's 100th birthday, we are pleased to publish excepts we have selected for the enjoyment of our readers and those who know Mr. Wininger.

My Father's Arrival in Bonne Terre

In 1900, my father arrived in Bonne Terre, Mo. (He was born in Virginia and had come to Missouri because of the wages being paid to St. Joe Lead Company workers, perhaps a dollar a day.) He married my mother on Oct. 16, 1901. I was born Dec. 30, 1902. I had one brother, four sisters and one half-sister younger than I. A few years later, I learned from my mother and father that the night I was born, Dr. Lee Turley stayed all night at our house. He just lived four blocks from us, but in those days, there were no telephones -- so he made it easier for all. A Mrs. Hosfield, a mid-wife I suppose, assisted the doctor.

My father went to work in the mines after arriving in Bonne Terre and advanced pretty fast. Years later, when I had access to many of the company records, I was assured that he did well.

Meeting An "Old Friend"

It was common in those days to have fences around property, mostly picket fences. Small children were told they could not go outside the fence unless mother or dad was with them. I always met my father at the gate when he arrived home from work. One day I was waiting at the gate, probably fumbling with the thumb latch and the gate opened! I apparently got the idea that I could meet my father up the road somewhere. Soon, my father arrived home and I was nowhere in sight. The neighbors were checked and told that I was missing. After some time I was found in a Miners Lumber Company shed about four or five blocks from home, scared and crying my eyes out -- I was lost. Standing in front of me was a young girl about eight years old shaking some bright strings or ribbons and ornaments trying to get me to stop crying.

Now, some 90 years later I come into the Farmington Presbyterian Manor and meet Mary (Pirtle) Halter, who as a young girl lived next door to the lumberyard. I mentioned my story to her and she thought that she remembered something like that. She did say that it could not have been anyone else there at that time.

Now I'm happy that I could do something here to help her. She was a beautiful woman. I could boast to our fellow residents here how Mary saved me from harm. Yes, I may have enlarged a little on my story. Mary is gone now and I miss her.

During those early years before I entered school, my daily life was pretty much affected by my maternal grandparents. Grandma particularly, was a "take charge" person. Everyone in Bonne Terre knew her as "Aunt Bett." Her name was Elizabeth (Cooksey) and she had light red hair. Grandma could stop a runaway team of horses faster than anyone in town (there weren't any runaway cars). Simple, there were no cars.

She would hear the noise coming down the street, many times the wagon upside down. She would rush out into the middle of the street, start waving and flashing her "Mother Hubbard" type skirt and big apron and waving her broom and the "spooked" horses would stop every time.

"Old Pauline" and Mary Kain

Grandma knew everyone in town and they visited her regularly. People like "Old Pauline," a character who came to Bonne Terre from North Africa somewhere and went into the coal business. She wore heavy type clothing with felt boots year round. It was said that she carried all her money in her clothing. She was always accompanied by her trusty dog. She couldn't have been too bad. She and Grandma were quite good friends. I recall, that young children were afraid of her -- her appearance perhaps.

And then there was Mary Kain, who lived in a two-story home in the north section of town. She was an elderly widow. She decided to paint her two-story house herself, to save the expense I suppose. She couldn't manager a ladder so she opened all the windows and painted out as far as she could reach with paint a different color than the original paint. I recall seeing the house many times. No doubt about it, she had the most unusual paint job in house.

From sinking of Titanic to old-time outhouse tipping

EDITOR'S NOTE: Clinton S. Wininger was born Dec. 30, 1902, and for the last few years, has written down the times of his life. His grandson has published it for friends and family. It's called, "Tell it Like it Was." In honor of Mr. Wininger's 100th birthday, we are pleased to publish excepts we have selected for the enjoyment of our readers and those who know Mr. Wininger.

Companies Recruited Foreign Workers

In the early part of the 19th century when the lead mines began to flourish, the mining companies had trouble finding local people to employ. Mining just did not appeal to local people. The companies sent representatives to Europe, southern Europe mostly, like Hungary and Austria to recruit workers to come to Missouri and work in the mines. One of those men, Mr. Parkhurst Sleeth of the Federal Lead Company, was one of those sent to recruit. He was the man who hired me years later in 1922 to do secretarial work.

Those people migrated here by the hundreds and formed their own little communities in Bonne Terre, Desloge, Flat River and Leadwood. Today some of these people are among the finest citizens we have, good leaders, etc.

Sinking of the Titanic

It was during this period (1912) that the Titanic was lost after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic. I remember it well. I had some part in spreading the news about the tragedy as I was delivering the evening newspapers then. I carried two paper bags -- one on the right shoulder for the Post Dispatch, about 18 papers and one on my left shoulder for another paper -- it could have been the Globe Democrat, but I'm not sure -- about 8 or 10 papers. I had to be at the depot at 6 p.m. to pick up my papers and carry them back to Bogee Town -- pronounced "Booooo-she Town" to deliver the papers. As I remember, everyone was very upset about the terrible tragedy.

Halloween Pranks

Since I have decided or agreed to "tell it like it was," even though the most I can say is "I'm not very proud of it" around Halloween time. Three or four of us would gang up and place what we called "tick-tocks" on the front doors of mostly elderly folks' houses. To do this, we would take a piece of string or small rope or cord about 50 or 60 feet long and after dark, we would tie the one end of it to the front door knob. Then we tied a short piece of string to the long string about 12 to 16 inches from the door knob.

On the loose end of the short piece, we would fasten a slightly heavy object like a small rock, bolt or iron nut. Then we would hide behind a bush or tree. We would pull about a foot on the long end of the string, drop the slack and it would sound like someone knocking at the door. We would do this three or four times, then we would drop the string and hide and watch.

When someone came to the door, they would have a good look from the door. Then they would step out on the porch, look up the street and down the street. Then, dejectedly they would turn and go inside. On occasion, they would turn and come back out and look again. We would do the same thing about three times before approaching another house. There were no porch lights in those days, so they could not see our strings. "Stupid."

Then there was the tight wire across the sidewalk. We would tie a wire to the fence and to a stake driven in the ground outside the sidewalk. The wire was about four or five inches about the ground. I don't remember that we hurt anyone, but that was a stupid way to have fun!

Following is a description of the next "prank" on my Halloween list, and I should apologize for even mentioning it. However, I promised in the beginning that I would tell my stories like they were -- so here goes ...In the early part of the century, there were very few, perhaps three or four toilet facilities inside of homes in Bonne Terre. So there were mostly little outhouses placed a "safe" distance from the back door -- usually near the barn and other necessary outbuildings, such as hen house, pig pen, wagon shed and harness racks and stalls for horses and mules.

Quite often you would find better walkways from the back door to the little outhouse than the one in front of the residence. It was necessary to keep the one in the backyard shipshape because at times, time itself was of essence.

The little outhouses came in two styles or models -- a "one-holer or a two-holer." The buildings were about six feet square with a nice unpainted bench about two feet high across the backside with the holes evenly spaced. Some of the carpenters in town had excellent reputations for being able to cut those holes smoothly so they were more comfortable to sit on. Also, they would build a nice little rack on the wall, conveniently placed, and large enough to hold the Sears and Roebuck catalog. So Sears performed two important functions for mankind during those early days in our country.

The outhouses were placed over a hole in the ground, about five feet square and five or six feet deep. They weren't fastened down very well because every year or two they had to be moved. We boys found out the buildings could be moved pretty easily -- so for two or three years we would turn over three or four of them. We never turned over one with someone sitting in, but we did hear that it happened a time or two in other parts of Bonne Terre.

(Daily Journal, January 7, 2003)

By Clinton Wininger

Editor's Note: Clinton Samuel Wininger was born Dec. 30, 1902 and celebrated his 100th birthday recently. He has written the stories of his life in a book for his family and friends called, "Tell it Like it Was." We are pleased to present excerpts of his remembrances for the enjoyment of our readers and his friends.

Branch Rickey

This happened in the 1920's. As I remember, men of three or four churches would get together and have supper. The women would serve us. On this particular meeting, we had Branch Rickey, the St. Louis Cardinals' head man and inventor of the Cardinal Farm System.

We had the Flat River Presbyterian Church basement full of men that night. He was a very religious man. I will never forget his talk with tears in his eyes, about their young catcher, Dilhoeffer, I think was his name, who had died suddenly only recently. He had wonderful things to say about this young man.

Dizzy Dean

Since we're talking baseball, let's carry it a bit further. One night, Helen and I and the Walter Forquerns were eating dinner in the basement of the Majestic Hotel in St. Louis. After a few minutes, two men came in and sat down at the table for two next to the wall. After few minutes, Walter said, "Isn't that Dizzy Dean over there?" I looked and sure enough, it was. Bob Broeg, the St. Louis Post Dispatch sports writer, was with him, getting a story, I suppose.

After waiting a minute or so to pick up courage, I said, "Walter, let's go over and talk to Dizzy a minute."

We asked, "Are you Dizzy Dean?" and he jumped up like he was shot out of a boot jack and said, "Yes sir, yes sir, I'm Dizzy Dean." We told him we had seen him pitch several times, including when they carried him off the field on a stretcher after being hit in the face with a baseball and then he pitched the next day in the World Series and won!

Bob Broeg seemed to be tired of us so we went back to our table, after Dizzy had said, "Sure nice to see you again!"

He had never seen us before.

Sassafras and Poison Ivy

This story takes place in the late fall of 1922.

It was the practice of many to obtain sassafras roots to make tea. This tea would thin one's blood for the winter season -- which was good (consult your dictionary.) Dick Batten, a coworker, and I went one Saturday morning to Mitchel Hill, just outside of Esther. We spent a couple of hours crawling through the old fence rows until we had a good supply of sassafras roots, with enough for some of our friends. Well, in about three days, I was covered with poison ivy, and I mean from head to foot -- places difficult to get to, etc. I did not need to touch poison ivy -- if I just saw it I would get it. My friend had no trouble with it. I went to Dr. Keith in Flat River and made no improvement for several days.

My supervisor, Mr. Parkhurst Sleeth said, "You're not getting any better. You must go to a doctor that I know in St. Louis right now."

He made the call and I left the next morning on the first M.R. & B.T. train going north to St. Louis. I arrived in the city about noon, went straight to the doctor's office. He took one look at me, ordered a cab and sent me to Barnes Hospital where I remained for the better part of four weeks. I remember that they kept me on rubber sheets and swathed in large pads, like baby pads, and soaked with a watery looking liquid. I remember spitting up large lumps of blood, some of them half as large as my fist, it seemed. After about three weeks I was back on my feet part of the time.

One day my nurse friend was cleaning a room across the hall. She had to move the bed down the hall six or eight rooms. I told her to get on the foot of the bed and I would give her a fast ride down the hall. We were going pretty good down the hall and the Head Nurse stepped out of a room. I put on all the brakes. We didn't try that again.

I improved well and soon would be leaving. I recall that the night before I left, we had dinner together. I took her down to the basement restaurant -- not very fancy, but it served the purpose.

And from that day to this, I have kept away from poison ivy and eliminated sassafras tea from my diet.

From past to present -- Wininger writes the stories of his life
(Daily Journal, January 8, 2003)

Editor's note: This is the final installment of a series of excerpts from a book penned by Clinton Samuel Wininger, who turned 100 years old Dec. 30 [2002]. He still lives at Presbyterian Manor in Farmington.

Plant Manager

A day or two ago (this is being written March 21, 2000), it occurred to me that perhaps I should explain how my title of "Plant Manager" here at the Farmington Presbyterian Manor developed. It was the fastest job acceptance that I ever received and, by the way, less remuneration.

Helen and I came in here about five years ago. The apartment we left after 12 years was, to me, the most convenient and comfortable place we had ever lived, where we had beautiful flowers and more garden vegetables than we could eat. We had to get Helen out of the kitchen. I had been "laid-up" with a heart attack and still under the doctor's care. We were both 94, I think, when we came in to the manor. I'm proud of that decision.

We knew we had to make some changes. I'm pleased with the way we were able to adapt to necessary changes -- best for all of us. However, Helen continued to lose ground and passed away. Her immediate death was unavoidable and she was prepared to go. I will forever be thankful for help I received from many quarters. It was about this time that I realized that there were nice flower beds around, but none of them that had been attended for years. I think I shed a tear or two for the few dilapidated and neglected Iris scattered around. I heard rumors of an elderly man who at some time in the past had some very nice flowers, including a beautiful rose garden, but no sign of it anywhere, not even a rose bush -- just weeds and more weeds -- and trash. Well, I recognized from past experience that there was a big job to get it all done.

It was all new to me and I didn't know what, when or how to approach this work. Not because I wasn't acquainted, for Dr. Fred Walker had worked closely with me the two years that I was Missouri State President of Presbyterian Men. So I mustered up enough courage to ask management if it was OK for me to hoe around some of the poor Iris, Peonies, etc. Well, that was certainly one right move I made that paid off. The answer -- take off, dig where you want to dig."

I think they had already decided that I had no plans to disrupt anything, but to rearrange and repair what we already had. That gave me the go ahead signal that I really needed. I needed tools. When we decided to move into the manor, I had sold and given away all my garden tools -- and how I wished that I had them back (especially my antique cultivator hoe.) I talked to the maintenance crew about borrowing tools. They were not in favor of that and I understand. I've known for fifty or sixty years that if you loan your tools to friends and neighbors, and family, pretty soon you will not have any tools.

One of my daughters, Anne, in fact, had something to do with me getting some tools. She suggested to someone that they just get me a set of tools and let me start digging. I soon had tools.

About this time, I learned that the Dix Florist people were giving the Manor a truckload of flowers, perhaps 80 or 90 flats. It seems that since there was no organized effort to get the flowers planted they were left to a first-come, first-served practice, whether they were residents of the Manor or not. So I instituted a plan of protecting the flowers for Manor plantings only. Those that we could not use for some reason we would set aside for outside use if they wanted. That was not too popular with some of the outsiders, but was overshadowed by the thousands of congratulatory statements made to me about "how beautiful your flowers are here."

I would hasten to say to them, they are not my flowers alone, they are your flowers, too, given to us by Dix Florists. I only planted them, and cultivate and water them when necessary.

About that time, our family had a funeral situation arise in Atlanta, Georgia. The husband of one of our older daughters died. While there, I was telling them of my work with the flowers here in the Manor. One of my grand sons-in-law, Charlie Sewell, said, "Grandpa, you should have the title 'Plant Manager,' and he added, "You would probably get your salary doubled."

That sounded good to me so as soon as I got home, I hurried to tell Jane Hull, Administrator, what my grandson had said about my title. She agreed and said," We will have you a pin-on tag tomorrow so that all will know you have a title." I told her what Charlie had said about my salary.

"Yes," she said after slight hesitation, "we can do that, too."

I explained to her that I was slow with numbers because the day we had arithmetic at our school, I was sick and couldn't go that day -- that all I could come up with was zero plus zero is still zero. She said, "Yes, that's right."

I have a couple of certificates that Charlie and Wayne Sebastian (grandson) made and are hanging on my wall, certifying that I am a full fledged Plant Manager at Farmington Presbyterian Manor. "Nice work. I appreciate it."

On December 30, 2003, Clinton Wininger celebrated his 101st birthday.  Sadly, his daughter, Rebecca, passed away on this same day.  Here is the text of her obit: 

Rebecca Schindel

OVERLAND PARK - Rebecca Wininger Schindel passed away, Dec. 30, 2003, at OverLand Park, Kansas.

She is survived by one daughter: Gwen; two sisters: Virginia McBride; Anne Keister, and her father Clinton Wininger.

She graduated from Flat River High School, and graduated from The University of Southern Ill. She worked as a teacher for many years.

A Memorial service will be held at Farmington Presbyterian Church, in Farmington, Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. Memorials may be may to Presbyterian Manor in Farmington.

(Daily Journal, Thursday, January 22, 2004)

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Clinton S. Wininger has worn many hats during his 101 years.  The latest is "author", as he's published the story of his life.  Photo by D. Hickman of the Daily Journal.

Clinton Wininger has always enjoyed telling the stories of his life. And since he's 101 years old, he has a great many stories to tell.  Now, they're catalogued in his newly published book, "Tell It Like It Was." 

About six years ago, my daughter Anne told me, 'Daddy, why don't you write down those stories you've been telling us all these years,' " Mr. Wininger recalled.  "And I said, 'O, you don't want to read those.'   But she said, 'No, Daddy, tell it like it was.' And that night it occurred to me that was a good title for a book." 

And so, Mr. Wininger got some legal pads and started to write what he remembered.  Later, a friend typed his tales in manuscript form.  He spent months reading his stories to his fellow residents at Presbyterian Manor.  And just this month, his grandson, who owns a printing business, published the book, including photos.

The book isn't just a peek into the life of this remarkable man, who was born in Bonne Terre on Dec. 30, 1902, but a real-life account of history.

Mr. Wininger writes about the sinking of the Titanic when it was his job to inform the Parkland of the tragedy through his work as a paper boy.  He writes of playing basketball in the natatorium built by the St. Joe Lead Company in Bonne Terre.  He recalls being invited to the Superintendent's home to listen "one at a time" to the radio not long after it had been invented, about 1914.  He writes of race riots in Flat River, outlaw Sam Hildebrand, the Depression dust storms.  He mingles these stories with very personal remembrances about events in his personal life such as the death of his mother and stories of friends he made around the country.

There are many St. Joe stories in the book because Mr. Wininger worked for the company for 46 years.  He can still recall the details of conversations with his bosses.

"I went to work for the Federal Lead Company first in Flat River in 1922 and then they sold the company to St. Joe," he explained.   "I did clerical work and timekeeping.  Then, I was put in charge of working with the foremen because my boss told me to educate the foremen that when we hired a man to work for St. Joe, we hired his whole family and we had to care about them, too."

He worked in Rivermines, Bonne Terre, Mine La Motte and Park Hills, too.  But he's not so sure he's the oldest St. Joe man around.

"I suspect there are some older," he said.

He retired in 1968 and spent several years traveling.  He has lived at Presbyterian Manor for 13 years, where, until last year, he tended the flower gardens.  A broken leg forced him to stop the work outdoors.  

At the Manor's gift shop the book is flying off the shelves.  It's the first one written by a resident.

"I think the staff is snapping it up," said Torie Young, Marketing Director.  "Mr. Wininger is generously giving the money from the sale of the book to our Good Samaritan program, which helps people continue to pay their living expenses here after their money runs out.  The cost is simply a donation."

"We were going to sell it for eight dollars," Mr. Wininger explains.  "But we decided just to ask people for a donation.  I've had people give me $10 and one man gave $100. "

He hopes to give copies to the Farmington and Bonne Terre libraries too.

And Mr. Wininger enjoys it when someone who has bought a book comes by to ask him to sign it.

"I guess that's what I'm getting out of it," he said with a chuckle, "a good visit".

The book is dedicated to his wives - Dorothy Virginia Goodwin Wininger and Helen Damron Layne Wininger.

And Mr. Wininger says he hopes people who read his stories about a life well-lived will take away from them one lasting truth.

"I want to leave the impression we all have to have friends -- lots of friends -- around us to have a good life,"  he said.   "I give more thanks for that than anything else.  I've had a barrel full of friends.  God's been good to me.  You sure can't do it alone."

(Article written by D. Hickman, Daily Journal Staff Writer)