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My Mom is an amazing woman. She is 88 years young, healthy, active, and loves adventure.


I get my wonderlust from her. If you say "Go" she will be packed and waiting at her front door without bothering to ask "Where?"

This year, my slightly delayed Mother's Day gift to her is a trip down Memory Lane. In a few weeks, I'm taking her back to the place we lived from the time I was three until I was 14.

When I was a kid (1953 - 1964), my dad was a teacher at College of the Ozarks.

Back then, it was called School of the Ozarks and was a four year boarding high school and junior college, founded in 1906 by the Presbyterian Church to give an education beyond 8th grade to kids from the Ozark backwoods.

S of O, as we insiders called it, was the closest thing you could get to a commune and still be mainstream protestant.

Teachers all lived in free housing on campus. Each teacher's spouse (who wasn't also a teacher) held a support job on campus. In the 1950's there weren't any Barbara-Billingsley-stay-at-home-moms at S of O. My mom was in charge of the Student Bank, & Commissary/Snack Shop.

Faculty kids called their friends mothers "Mama". My next door neighbor was Mama Good. My best friend's mother was Mama Clark. The fathers, however, were still all called "Mr." or "Dr."

Staff families were encouraged to eat their meals in the campus dining room if they wanted to. Mom always fixed a hot breakfast at home but we often had dinner with the students.

Speaking of students, they weren't allowed to pay to go to school at S of O. Instead they worked for their education, their room and board, and even their spending money.

The campus was amost totally self-sustaining. Students made their own furniture. Produced their own electricity. Raised all their own produce and livestock. They had a fire department, telephone company, printing plant, post office (Point Lookout, MO 65726), hospital, canning factory, dairy, flour mill, bakery, and weaving studio. They didn't have any police, however, not even a Barney Fife.

When we needed eggs, my mom sent me to the poultry farm with an empty egg carton. I signed a 'chit' and came back with a dozen fresh warm and still unwashed eggs that were laid that morning.

When we needed milk, she sent me with our wire basket full of empty glass bottles to the dairy. I signed another chit and came home with replacement bottles full of milk pasturized that morning.

Students held jobs in areas of campus life that gave them experiences toward their future career goals. Our family had a houskeeper who planned to be a high school home-economics teacher and a gardener who was studying horticulture. When our house needing painting, or a new roof, or a screen door fixed, one of the students who was studying construction sciences was assigned the task.

When school was out for the summer, we went barefoot six days a week and spent every one of those days in the schools olympic size swimming pool where students watched over us - kind of. If we were able to climb the ladder to the high-dive, nobody cared how young we were.

Sometimes we climbed down the bluff behind our house to the river to fish for blue gill. Or because there weren't any horses, we would go out to the fields with rope, and coax the cows over to the fence so we could climb up on them for a 'ride'. On rainy days we played inside the Museum (which was unlocked 24 hours a day). There was a fully furnished one room log cabin inside the museum that we used as our own personal playhouse.

My favorite holiday was Halloween. The "Campus Brats" as faculty kids were called, went trick-or-treating to the dorms --- with bushel baskets.

That life seemed so normal to me. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized how truly charmed it really was.

Now it is time to take Mom back to see how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same, and let her know how thankful I am for her part in giving me that childhood.

Comments (6)

Barb Cabot:

Hi, My name is Barb Cabot. I'm sorry we have never met but I am a fellow slow traveler. Through other blogs I have found yours today and in reading todays post about your mom and your childhood up bringing am inspired to write you. Your mom is amazing. I hope you both have a wonderful time going back to the place you grew up. The environment then truly seemed like a fairytale. I wish life could be as unified and serene and beautiful for all. You were so lucky and it was such a pleasant and heartwarming post. I wanted to let you how nice it felt reading about your life back then. I'll be reading more of your blog now. Thank you.

Deborah responds:
Hi Barb. I read your posts on SlowTalk all the time! Thanks for commenting on my blog.
Yes, I was VERY lucky. The thing I treasure most about my childhood was the sense of freedom we kids had to roam the 1,000+ acres of the campus without our parents worrying about us. There were dozens of "mamas" to keep an eye out and the students were all like older brothers and sisters. There was more than one time that a student went into Mom's office or Dad's classroom to report on a piece of trouble I was about to get into.

Wow, what a fascinating place! It sounds so progressive and sane. I'll be curious to hear how it's changed since then. Have a good trip with your mom!

Deborah responds: Hi Annie. Yes, I'm curious and a little fearful to see the changes. I'd really like to remember it the way it was. But I know that isn't possible.


Deborah - Thanks for a wonderful post! You were certainly lucky to have had that (controlled) freedom as a child - and your mom is lucky to have a daughter who not only makes great hooch, but is kind and generous enough to give her a great surprise.

I hope the S of O doesn't disappoint. Enjoy your trip down memory lane.


Deborah responds: Thanks for the kind words, Judy. My mom probably wouldn't agree with you on the "hootch" issue. She never touches the hard stuff.


Wow, that sounds like it will be a great trip, Deborah. And your Mom looks fantastic, it's wonderful that you can still travel and have fun together!

Deborah responds: Thanks, Sandra. Our last big trip together was a few years back when she helped me lead a group of six other ladies to Italy. They were all my age, and at the end complained about how they couldn't keep up with HER!

It sounds like a step up from Little House on the Prairie in a good way. I always envied the freedom they had (although compared to today, I guess I had a lot more freedom when I was a kid). How lucky your mom is to be able to go back in time with you. What a special treat for both of you.

I am glad your commnents are fixed. I left a few comments and wondered why none of them were showing up.

Deborah responds: Thanks Susan. I think anyone over 40 - 45 had a lot of freedom as a child. Parents didn't worry about internet predators, terrorists, tainted food and toys, seatbelt safety, television violence, etc.

Linda Vornheder:

Deborah, I graduated from S of O JC in 1962 and I'm racking my brain to figure out which "faculty brat" you were. ( : Who was your Dad?

Deborah responds: Hi, Linda. Fun to see that an "insider" found my blog entry. How did you stumble upon it?

We moved off campus in 1960. Were you there prior to that? My dad was Mr. Johnson. My mom was Mrs. Johnson, she rea the student commissary and student bank (It was in the basement of the old boy's dorm, I think.)

We lived next door to Dr. & Mrs. Good. Our house is now gone and there is some sort of garage there now.

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