Elmer, Missouri - Early History
I had Five Grandmas, submitted by John Mathis
Yes, it may seem biologically impossible, but I had five grandmas. Really! I suspect this is a phenomenon that is not uncommon in a rural area like Elmer. Of course, my mom and dad both had mothers, so that gave me two grandmas upon birth. Regrettably, of the five grandmothers, I probably knew these two the least. Grandma Mathis died pretty early in my life and had developed dementia a number of years before her death, taking away more years whereby I could have gotten to know her better. Grandma Bailey lived in South Bend, Indiana, a distance that only allowed me to be with her once a year at most. And those visits were relatively short. However, in both cases, I knew I was loved and relished the time I spent with them.
The other three grandmas became so over time. When I was growing up, family life pretty much revolved around the Mock and Mathis general store. Bernice and Gladys and Wendell and Fern spent 10-12 hours a day in that store and so did the Mock and Mathis kids. In fact, I always felt like the people of Elmer thought that the name “Mock and Mathis” referred to one family, not two. And actually it was basically true. The two families worked together, played together, celebrated holidays together and so on. So it was only natural that Jim and Ina Mock spent lots of time with us too. Ina patiently gave me piano lessons that I wasn’t eager to take. She created the Elmer Boy’s Quartet and she and Jim carted us around the country to sing at numerous venues. So I spent a lot of time with Grandma Mock and the term Grandma Mock came easily and naturally for me. I’m confident that she loved me just like a true grandson.
Grandma Morrison was our neighbor for many years and was deeply ingrained in Janey’s and my life. I spent countless hours in her home. Before her husband, Jim Morrison, died, he too was a grandfather figure for me, taking me fishing, requesting my help with his gardening and more. He died a number of years before Grandma Morrison and during those subsequent years, I became a necessary helper for her, bringing us closer together over time. I read books with her, ate meals with her and brought her water (from the well) and groceries. It was an interesting thing to see such a close relationship develop between a 70+ year old woman and a teenager. The term Grandma Morrison came easily and naturally for me. I’m confident that she loved me just like a true grandson.
My best buddy during my junior and senior high years was David West. We were pretty much inseparable for much of that time in our lives. And this was a time when the West kids spent lots of time with Grammy Hughes. Consequently, I spent lots of time with Grammy Hughes. I still can taste the freshly baked cookies, the raw milk that came from the cow that David and I milked (actually it was mostly David that did that - I mostly watched and kept the cow company), and the country butter that Grammy had somehow manufactured. Grammy Hughes pretty much treated me like a grandson too. So the term Grammy Hughes came easily and naturally for me. I’m confident that she loved me just like a true grandson.
So having five grandmas was a blessing for me. And as my fellow “Elmerites” read this, I would guess that it may stir up similar memories for them. Living in a small, closely knit community like Elmer drew people close together, much like an extended family. Yes, sometimes we knew too much about the goings on of other families, but when push came to shove, one knew you could count on your community for support. This is the legacy of the small towns of times gone by. Especially Elmer.
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