Skip to content

A visit to the Land of Oz

I don’t know if Dorothy ever returned to the Land of Oz or, even if she would have liked to at times. My feeling is there are probably times when each of us would like to re-visit our own personal Oz; usually some place or time that is particularly precious to us.

My long-time friend Jon Cozean and I had that opportunity to revisit Oz on the first weekend in June when we also had the honor (and surprise) of being named Mr. and Ms. Country Days.

Our titles did not reflect past fame and glory, as neither of us claimed to have had either, as we both lived rather ordinary but, I suppose, more mobile lives. Mobile in that we each went off to find the Wizard in our own ways, Jon through journalism, photography, travel and adventures, while I had several different and unusual jobs and relocated a few times also. We both eventually returned to our hometown to take up family responsibilities and again became involved in community life, organizations, activities and our respective churches. Pretty standard fare for most of our residents.

The title of Mr. and Ms. CD did provide us, though, the unique opportunity of revisiting Oz through our own memories of our early years growing up in Farmington. One of our duties was to visit many of the downtown stores and businesses. So, we dutifully walked along Columbia Street (in 90 degree temps I might add) to visit banks, dress shops, merchants and a few other places that we ducked into to escape the heat and cool off.

Strangely, though, as Jon and I walked along, we were seeing the buildings and their occupants as they were both today and some 50 years earlier. We had entered Oz!

We checked with each other the accuracy of our memories as we pointed out where each grocery, jeweler, saloon, barbershop, bank, department store, restaurant, bakery, newspaper, etc. etc. had been when we were youngsters and teens.

According to our recollections, there was a drug store, barbershop, saloon, and four grocery stores in a row on East Columbia between Jefferson and Henry Streets on the north side: Walgreen’s (Wood’s) Drug, a barbershop and saloon (couldn’t recall the names, but did remember that, later when the buildings were remodeled, it was found there was a concealed pass-through in the wall between the barbershop and the saloon), then came Klein’s (later Dugal’s), Kroger, A & P and Piggly Wiggly grocers.

On the opposite side of the street we placed the Post Office, Rozier Department Store, a bakery, and drew a blank on the last building’s occupant. (Please do remember, these came from the memories of two senior citizens as they walked on a hot Missouri Friday morning. Accuracy is not guaranteed.)

The next block up brought a great rush of memories for Jon as we stopped in front on the first building on the south side of the block. This had housed the once powerful Farmington News that rolled out a hard-hitting, well-written, Republican-slanted (but fair) weekly newspaper. The space for the reporters (mostly members of the Denman family) and offices of the editor, publisher/owner (again a Denman) were on the left side as you entered the door and the huge old printing presses were visible through the large plate glass window on the right side. Jon said that one of his favorite pastimes as a youngster had been to stand in front of that window watching the giant machines whir and whirl, spin and spew reams of newsprint off into a finished newspaper. The highlight was when he was once invited inside by Mr. Noltkamper, the head printer, to watch the procedure in person. This might have been what inspired Jon to start his own small paper, The Sun, and later enter the field of journalism.

From there we stopped next door to visit Donna Hickman at the office of U.S. Representative Jason Smith and trade some more conversation (and memories ) as we cooled off. (Donna and I had worked together for a while at the Farmington Press a decade or two before, so had lots of our own memories and thoughts to share.) The offices are located in the old Tetley Building, which housed, in earlier days, a cafeteria run by the Tetley sisters, and, in the smaller building next door, the Tetley Jewelers (which was eventually purchased by Krekeler Jewelers and relocated).

Donna related a story that pointed up dramatically the difference between the generations of Jon and I and even those of two or three back and today. They had a young part-time worker for a while in the office and, one day, a well-dressed lady came in, introduced herself as a Tetley and asked if it would be all right if she looked around the building, that had once belonged to her family. The young staffer said, “Sure” and went back to doing whatever. The lady made her visit, returned, thanked the young girl and left. Now—here is the big gap in generational mentality and interest: the young staffer DID NOT ask anything about the woman, who she was, where she was from or, most importantly, what were her memories of the building. Nada, no curiosity what-so-ever about the visitor or the history of the building where she was spending a part of her day. While Jon, Donna or I would have immediately sensed a wonderful opportunity for a story and a history lesson and engaged the visitor in a long conversation and interview—probably complete with several pictures being taken.

So, on relating that interesting point of view between today and yesterday, I’ll wrap up this little stroll along the Yellow Brick Road in Oz and get back to the present before today’s readers simply gets bored to tears.

I’ll leave Oz, as I knew it, by simply thanking the residents of today (and Jon joins me in this, I’m sure) for allowing us to represent for a weekend our lovely community and to endorse the theme of this year’s Country Days that, indeed, “there is no place like home”—no matter which generation you are viewing it from.

Now, before I sign off, I have set myself a time line for finishing this column and have a few minutes left. So I’ll use them to clear up a couple of pieces of incorrect reporting on my part (amazing I know!) and, if time allows include the recipe not able to make it to the print edition of the Farmington Press.

These corrections and omissions come from the May 31 edition of Best Cooks, which, unknown to many readers, I do write about local cooks! The column featured Barbara Merseal and the following are made with my apologies to her.

First the corrections: Barbara was first a teacher at the Busiek School (now defunct and crumbling into decay—Whoops, I hasten to clarify this is school building, not Barbara Merseal!). Correction two: Later, she transferred to the Farmington Middle School where she was the school librarian until 1993 (date corrected) when she retired.

Third: the famous Chicken Salad recipe that was omitted due to space, although the printed edition did mention in the story that this recipe could be found online under the Farmington Press page. I’m using up my last minute or two to place it here! Enjoy!

Barb’s Chicken Salad

One whole chicken

water to cover completely

3 or 4 stalks of celery

2 onions

3 garlic cloves

2 bay leaves 

salt

Boil the chicken pieces, (skin and all) until it is tender. Remove from the broth and let cool. (Discard the broth or strain and save to use in other dishes).

When cool, take the chicken from the bone, discard the skin and chop into small pieces. Add sweet pickle relish and lots of diced celery. Other optional ingredients that can be added include pineapple tidbits, (save the juice for the dressing), red or white grapes, halved, chopped nuts, dried cranberries or whatever you like. Combine all ingredients used and mix well with the dressing below.

Dressing

Miracle Whip

sour cream

pineapple juice, to taste

dash horseradish sauce, optional

Soy sauce

dash of hot sauce and a dash of fresh lemon juice

Be sure to taste test for seasoning and adjust as needed. Mix well and add to the chicken mixture. Taste again to see if it still needs some additional seasoning. Chill at least an hour so that the flavors can blend before serving.

Barbara’s Note: Chicken salad is a very versatile dish that can be adapted to suite taste preferences. It can be spicy, sweet or tangy depending on what is added to the chicken. She emphasizes that the most important things are the way the chicken is cooked and the way the dressing is seasoned! She advises you play with the seasoning each time you make it until you get your family’s favorite.

Hopefully, the entire column made it into print and you received a brief look at the early Oz of yesteryear and I can face the future knowing I’ve cleared up past print mistakes and omissions. Have a wonderful week. Do take great precautions against the unseasonably hot weather that has been predicted for this weekend: drink lots of water, wear heavy-duty, water-proof sunscreen, don’t overdo activities, cool off periodically by going indoors or under a shelter and watch that the kiddos don’t burn!

Summer school is still in session, hot weather’s here early…and I’m out of time!

-30-

(The sign off above is in memory of Bob Lewis and all old-school journalists.)

Janet Douglas

Janet Douglas

Leave a Comment