When my old uncles, Tom and Herb Noland were young rascals, they owned a Studebaker agency on the southeast corner of Walnut and Main, just south of the Independence Square, and Tom loved to go fishing. Back in those days, Harry Truman was the judge of the Jackson County court. His office was in the old log cabin courthouse on West Kansas Street for a time, while the big courthouse on the square was being remodeled.
One morning as a teenager when I was walking with Mr. Truman, he told me that he and Tom Noland were friends and that he used to scoot down to the old Studebaker agency and play poker with those Noland boys around the old potbelly during his lunch breaks. In fact, Uncle Tom even sold Truman a brand new Studebaker during that time.
Now, Tom had two boys, Tom Noland Jr. and Norman, so those two would be my cousins. Cousin Tom Jr. and I were talking one day and he told me a story about his dad and Mr. Truman. It seems as though Uncle Tom went to work as the county electrician. One day Tom wanted to go fishing, and Truman wanted him to do some county electrician’s work. Well, in the end, they both got what they wanted I guess, Uncle Tom went fishing, and the judge fired him and found another electrician to do the work. Of course, that never got in the way of their friendship.
During that conversation, Cousin Tom told me that once upon a time there was a meat cannery in the Truman Memorial building and asked me what I knew about it. I replied negatively – I had never heard of such. Tom went on to say that he was only about 3 or 4 at the time, but he can remember his dad driving down to the meat packing plants in Kansas City and picking up truck loads of meat and delivering it to the old Memorial Hall building in Independence, where it was canned and distributed during the Depression days. It was the only meat some people received during those dreadful times. He thought it was probably a WPA project of the Roosevelt administration.
If anyone knows anything about the meat cannery, I’d love to hear from you. He did say that a person would probably have to be about 100 years old to have worked there, or even remember it first hand.
Back in the early 1950s, during the construction of Bull Shoals Lake in southern Missouri, my Uncle Tom retired and bought some rocky Ozark land near Ocie, which would soon be on the shoreline of the new lake. By the time the water was backed up, he and my Aunt Fern had built a fishing resort called Noland’s Point.
I remember going down to the lake as a young lad with my grandparents during construction. Tom took us down to show where the lakeshore would eventually be and he carried along a big stick. Curiously, I asked what the stick was for. He replied it was to protect us from the rattlers. “There’s a rattle snake under every one of these rocks, just watch and I’ll show you.”
Tom took the big stick and flipped a rock, but to his amazement there was no snake, so of course I rolled on the ground with laughter. “Laugh will you.” he said, and flipped over another rock. Sure enough, there was the biggest diamond back rattler you ever saw. Another flick of the stick and ol’ rattler sailed about 40-feet down the holler – believe me, I stuck pretty close to Uncle Tom’s side for the rest of that trip.
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