Murray Bishoff: Thanksgiving in a bottle

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Thanksgiving provides an interesting moment in the life of a community to take stock of its gains.

Itís been a good year in Monett with the addition of the downtown park and pavilion. The new mural, thanks to Monett Main Street, and its parking lot, brightened up the downtown even more. The opening of the aquatic center raised no chorus of doubters from the enthusiastic users. The loss of the old pool has raised more nostalgia than anything, and that will continue until that land converts to something more than a rubble heap.

New sidewalks around town are just beginning to see use. The new halogen lights downtown will become more appreciated as we move into the dark time of year. Monett High School continued to send athletes to state last spring and this fall, and our neighboring communities had standout honorees as well.

Cox Monett Hospital has received spectacular awards this year. EFCO Corporation has a major construction project underway, and Schreiber Foods just finished one. Jack Henry and Associates is back to buying businesses, reflecting great health within the business community.

Thankfully, our communities avoided the bloody conflicts surfacing during the last election. While still leaning conservative, voters showed variety in their sentiments, favoring medical marijuana and a higher minimum wage. Support for Governor Mike Parsons for turning away from his predecessorís confrontational support for staunch conservative causes is growing. Moderation seems more respectable, and thatís a good thing.

With sales tax income growing and no crises looming, no wildfires and no floods, we seem to have plenty to celebrate this Thanksgiving.

Some of that spirit surfaced at this weekís meeting of Monett Historical Society. Charles Rowell, a most respected and longtime member of Monettís business community, offered recollections and anecdotes on a wide range of topics as he recalled Monettís earlier days.

Rowell talked about some of those things you donít find in the Chamber of Commerce promotional fliers, like how the pharmacies decades ago all sold potent alcohol products, how the one time the Junior Livestock Show stunk up the downtown, and the homey atmosphere at lunch counters at the various hotels and coffee shops.

Rowell stirred the embers with stories about Lloydís Snooker Parlor, how Kenneth McShane had a booming business selling paper suitcases to people smuggling liquor into Oklahoma by train when that state was dry, how stories were told ó some true, some not ó and deals made in the coffee shop behind Brunerís Pharmacy. Most welcome were the names he dropped, especially some of Monettís most colorful characters, definitely not the ones on the Chamberís community service award list.

Then as the formal part of the meeting devolved, Rowellís comments sparked one after another in the room to stand and share a recollection about the same characters and places, the same days when things were looser but predictable, safer yet full of sly behavior, like the popcorn salesmen downtown, one woman recalled, because her father said never buy from them. They were only there to sell liquor to the railroad men.

Something magical was happening in that room as the meeting adjourned. Conversations were breaking out all around, tales and laughter shared. People were celebrating what we have in common, not arguing about what separates us. The experiences that stitched the community together may not surface frequently, but the unity left a clear bond.

I wanted to bottle the moment, to preserve it as a reminder of who we are and how we got here. Perhaps thereís no need. Brew the social concoction again and those fun memories and accompanying good will simply overflow. Thatís the real reason to celebrate Thanksgiving. Hopefully families could share the same spirit as they gathered around tables this week, for this family couldnít wait to share what community is all about.

Murray Bishoff has served readers of The Monett Times since 1988. He can be reached at times-news@monett-times.com, or 417-235-3135.