"THE BEULAH MAE & MARVIN O'DELL MC CLURE YEARS"
Pop's Early Days
Pop was born on a farm a few miles SW, Rector, Clay County, Arkansas, on 8
August 1897. The son of Mary Ellen Wooten (6 October,1877-18 July, 1964)
and Aden Herman McClure (25 March 1876-29 March 1900). Mother was born at
Thurber, (Erath), Texas on 4 June, 1910. The daughter of Annie Lizzie Rice
(1878 July-August 1913) and Theodore C. Crain (12 July 1974-5 May1929).
Pop was small for his age (small for his size, as they used to say), while
growing-up and he also contracted polio at an early age. I'm not sure what
kind of farm chores he was able to perform, but they would have been
limited, because the muscle of one leg was severely atrophied and was
considerably shorter than the other one. Uncle John Vangilder recently told
me that he did help with the removal of stumps from the farm, so that the
crop could be planted. This is evidently when Pop split open his normal
foot between the metatorsal with an axe. The axe went all the way through
the foot without cutting the sock. The fact that the sock was made of silk
would account for the material not cutting. Consequently, he was able to
walk for only a short distance and then usually with the aid of a cane.
At school one of the larger boys frequently carried Pop on their shoulders,
because of his disability and to prevent the other boys from taunting him.
Pop even worked as a cowboy for an unknown period of time while he lived in
Texas, which must have been very uncomfortable due to the smallness of the
buttocks on one side. Return to TOC
Bootleg Whiskey and Leaving Texas
He said that he dealt cards in a saloon much like the one depicted on
Gunsmoke. He also helped Uncle Johnny Chaney (mother's brother-in-law) and
others make and sell homebrew and bootleg whiskey.
Pop once destroyed two kegs of whiskey when he and mother were living with
Willie Chaney (Uncle Johnny's brother), the meek one of the Chaney family,
who lived down a long dirt road between Midland and Odessa at this time. A
car was driving very fast up their lane. So Pop knocked the bungs from two
kegs to allow the whiskey to flow out on the ground. I'm sure that they
were highly pe'od when they discovered that the car was driven by a friend.
The reason that the family had to leave Colorado City, Texas was because
Pop had shot a man over a disagreement in a card game. The owner of the
saloon gave Pop some money and a car and advised him to return to his home
in Arkansas. The sheriff there at the time was Dick Hickman, a good friend
of Pop's. Men from the sheriffs department bought their bootleg whiskey
from them. So the sheriff gave Pop time to leave the state, before he
started going through the motions of apprehending him. This was still the
"wild and wooly west" and a shooting was no big deal.
Pop was unable to enlist in the army during the First World War, so he
worked in a powder plant. For entertainment there, two men would bare
knuckle fight for a pocket watch. (prize fight)
Being free of charge, the rods (freight trains) were the only affordable
mode of transportation for many of the travelers during this period of our
history. Times were tough, so many of the homeless were frequently Hobos
(hey, bo, was a vagabonds greeting) and rode the rails. Pop awoke one
morning in a cemetery, after one of these rides. He evidently had a snoot
full or else he would not have spent a night in a graveyard. I'm sure that
he slept in some very unusual and less desirable places during these early
When they first returned home (to Arkansas), Pop attempted to farm a
portion of the Vangilder farm for about two years, without success. He
wasn't able to follow a plow, so he hired his Uncle Erbie McClure to do
this type of work. Erbie was good at breaking horses, but he couldn't seem
to get the hang of farming. Erbie would ask Pop what he wanted him to do
and Pop would tell him that he wanted him to get his rear out in the field
and do some plowing.
Pop was able to survive by bootlegging on the side. The family moved about
thirty-five miles north, a few miles over the Missouri State line. Settling
about 1/2 mile west of the St.Francis River Bridge on Missouri State
highway 53 southeast of Qulin, on the south side of the curve. We think
that one of farmers there must have offered Pop work there or else needed
someone to help make moonshine. He once fell from a tree, when he went to
sleep while he was guarding their still and watching for revenuers (federal
alcohol enforcement agents), receiving only a small gash, which quickly
healed. Uncle John didn't know why the family had relocated there.
Return to TOC
Moving to Missouri and Living Conditions
The family lived in a terrible small share-croppers shack with a dirt floor
and the only window was a very small one in the door. The shack wasn't big
enough to cuss a cat in. Our ramshackel shack had ramshackeled down-and-
out, by the time that I was capable of noticing such things.
The folks were able to keep body and soul together and make ends meet by
picking cotton from daylight till dark. Pop also removed (skinned as my
brother Claudie would say) the bark from trees for Boeving Bros. Cotton
Co., when he didn't have cotton to pick. I haven't the foggiest notion what
these naked trees were then used for. The smaller ones may have been used
for mine props, because a lot of them were loaded into freight cars on the
rail-road between our place and the cotton gin after we moved into Qulin.
Pop continued to make bootleg whiskey on the bank of the St. Francis River
and gamble with cards. I never knew of him shooting craps, cards were his
game. Dice was my brother Glenn's forte, when he was with a group of boys
either picking cotton at home or cherries at Traverse City, Michigan. He
told Pop that it was easier than breaking his back picking cotton or his
neck on a shakey ladder while picking cherries. Anyway Pop said that he
would fall through the door and sleep there the rest of the night. Too dog-
tired to even eat.
Perk Shirley tells of Pop doing a little moonlighting when his family was
hungry. He would make like Snuffy Smith, by warming the handle of a broom
under his arm-pit and the passing it through the window of a chicken house
to borrow a chicken. The chicken would be attracted by the heat from the
broom handle and would then move from its perch to the handle of the broom
and Pop would pull out the chicken and immediately choke it to prevent it
from disturbing the other chickens and waking the owner. The neighbors knew
who was taking their chickens, but would never begrudge a person from
borrowing a chicken, when his family was starving.
Return to TOC
Guy Scott (Aunt Jullean Crane's father) and Bumper Kelm were instrumental
in helping the family move into town. The first night that Guy and some
other men came to our shack (it was more like a small shed) to gamble. He
decided then and there that something had to be done to help a family
living under such primitive conditions. So after returning home he told his
wife Margaret of the situation there and that he planned to do something to
help the crippled man with a young child-like wife, two barefoot boys and a
baby (that was me) living in a shack that wasn't big enough to swing a cat
in. I was born in this shack on * Jan.1930, but have always celebrated *
Jan. 1929 and still do. I wasn't aware of my official birth date until I
located my birth certificate after Pop's death. It could be said that they
didn't have a pot to put water in or a window to throw it out of, at this
point in their lives. They didn't have diddly squat!
Guy fixed-up one of the old railroad section houses, by removing the broken
window panes and necessary materials from the dining room and kitchen and
installing them in the new panes and patching the cracks in the walls and
floor of the living room.
There were originally 32 of these houses used to house the people working
on the railroad, when it was being laid through this part of the state.
These houses were built about 1912 by the Iron Mountain Railroad. Pop
subsequently purchased two of these houses for $25.00 each. These same
houses could be rented for $6.00 a month, which was a great deal of money
during the depression. Most families had to settle for renting by the
month. These houses were very basic, with a living room, kitchen, dining
room and an unscreened front porch. In later years the porch was screened
and some of us kids slept there on a pallet during the summer months. It
was cooler than our bedroom, because we didn't have fans and the cross
current ventilation was very poor.
Our pump was on the north side of our house, where our back porch was later
added. In those days most people kept a dipper attached to the pump or
close to it, to be used for a drink of water. Everyone used the same
dipper, which was usually enamelware or granite, as some people called
them. Most of them were mottled blue & white and occasionally a white one
with a red trim. (Aunt Pat has one of the old fashioned pumps and a white
enamelware dipper with the red trim decorating her front yard in the
Bluff.) Many people also had dishes of enamelware, which wasn't practical,
because they chipped so easily. Pop preferred a gourd dipper, which was
even less sanitary than the enamel ones.
Many homes also kept a two gallon galvanized water bucket of water close to
the pump for drinking and priming the pump when the leather of the pump
dried out too much. This was years before most of the families at home had
electric pumps and the manually operated pumps would lose their prime if
they weren't used quite often, especially at night.
Some of the people refused to use these dippers and buckets, because
everyone used the same dipper. Some of the people would even pour the water
that they didn't drink back into the bucket. Most of the people didn't give
a second thought to this practice.
When we first moved into our house, our beds were located in the living-
room and dining-room This move must have taken place in 1930. A screened-
in-back porch, bedroom, bath and garage were added in years to come.
The heat for our house came from the pot belly heating stove in the living
room, if a house had more than one room, the parents always slept in the
front room as the living room was called. The stove was banked at night
with the damper cut way back, so there was actually very little heat at
night and none at all in the rest of the house.
Everyone in our family slept in gowns at this time. This was before most
homes were insulated, so the inside of the houses were not a great deal
warmer than the outdoors temperature and when there were three brothers
sleeping in the same bed. I'm sure that you will take my word for it, it
didn't make for the most pleasant night sleep.
If Glenn felt a cold spot in his share of the bed, he would roll either
Claudie (born 1934) or myself into the cold spot. Clever, that one! And it
was almost as bad when he threw his big heavy leg across us with hair that
felt like steelwool. Claudie and I got some of our best sleep after we got
to school, Glenn could sleep through an Oklahoma thunderstorm.
Our father had a minimum of education, but he was a good business man. Mrs.
Nentrup, our notary public typed all of his legal paperwork. He realized
early on that he was limited due to his physical disability so he choose a
vocation that would enable him to sit, such as an all night card game or
supervising a bartender or two and a rack boy.
Pop accepted a position as a card dealer for Shady (his name alone should
have discouraged anyone from playing cards in his establishment) at his
gambling/saloon in Poplar Bluff.
Pop once bought a meal for a black man, who worked for Shady as a "gofer"
(a pimp, as Claudie would call him today) and gave him two dollars, because
one of the customers had embarrassed him.
Pop was a generous person, who freely helped those who were down-on-their-
luck. Having experienced this himself, many times. The lack of hard cash
during the depression (the dirty thirties) and his love of cards, surely
played a part in him accepting this position at Shady's.
Return to TOC
Pop Starts Business in Qulin
There were several individuals who helped Pop get his start in the business
world. Uncle Johnny VanEaton (not really an uncle) sold Pop a bushel of
black-eyed peas for a small amount of money and Pop in turn resold them at
a slight profit and continued to do this until he was able to purchase the
necessary ingredients for making bootleg whiskey. The whiskey was sold by
his assistant who peddled it on the train that passed through Qulin. The
assistant would always restock his supply whenever the train stopped at
home and conceal it in a long overcoat with many pockets. This and selling
out of his pocket so to speak continued until he had saved a substantial
amount and with a loan from Kirt Adkins (who was about as near to a
Godfather as we had at home), Pop was able to start his first business,
which was a gambling saloon.
I still wonder who bought all the booze, because it seemed that just about
everyone bootlegged at this time. A man in Oglesville became a millionaire
To furnish electricity for the business and house Pop had a Delco generator
installed between our house and the tavern a few years after we moved into
town,. The Delco generator replaced gas lights with mantels for the tavern
and old fashioned kerosene (coal oil) lamps for the house. The building was
initially lit by gas lamps with two arms that curved down with a mantle at
the end of each arm. These lamps were suspended from the ceiling. They
worked on the same principle as the Coleman lanterns of today, without the
glass globes. So we had to be extremely careful not to touch the mantle
when lighting them or the mantle would disintegrate. The REA(rural
electrification association) was extended from Poplar Bluff in the late
The bar was always located in the front portion the building, where home-
brew and moonshine (rot gut, white lightning or Sneaky Pete as some people
called it) were dispensed. There were a half dozen poker tables in the rear
two-thirds of the building, and a small room on the south side of the
building, which was initially used for shooting craps (dice). There was a
divvy box at each table that the winner would insert a quartet into. This
was how Pop received the revenue to operate the gambling portion of this
The back portion of the building was later used as a dancehall and then as
a pool-hall. There were three pool tables and a snooker table in the rear
portion of this building. Also a small room opposite the tavern bar that
was a cafe managed by my Aunt Lilly, my mother's sister. This smaller room
was used as a cafe by Aunt Lillie (mother's eldest sister and Pop's second
wife) years after prohibition.
The interior walls, ceiling and special handmade seats that were built for
the tavern and cafe and the benches for the pool-hall portion were made of
knotty pine(lower right corner in photograph below) were blow torched to
accentuate the grain of the and the knotty pine There was a highly
lacquered masonite bar that ran the length of the tavern portion of the
There was a pen ball machine, slot machine (one arm bandit) located in the
bar portion of this building that tokens were used to play. They would be
exchanged for cash when the person hit the jackpot. There was also a
jukebox we called a beetle organ.
Pop and another one or two of his friends which included; Walter Hollowell,
Guy Scott, Fatman, the Lancaster brothers Ed, Chill, and Shorty, and others
would occasionally play cards in the liquor store which was added in later
Their serious card games were played in our dining room for many years
until he had a small cement basement built under the back porch, with a
trap door for an entrance. We were never sure why he went to so much
trouble or expense, but I'm sure that everyone in the family wished that he
had done it many years sooner. You can imagine how noisy a bunch of card
players can be and appreciate just how little sleep we were able to get
with the players vocalizing their frustrations and elation's. It was bad
enough when one of them would pound the table, but it really jerked our
chain when someone slapped the table with the palm of their hand. Anyway,
we certainly couldn't go to school the next morning and tell the teacher
that we didn't get any sleep last night because of an all night card game.
Aunt Lillie was usually called on sometime during the night to fix
sandwiches and coffee.
Bill Brent, who was later to become the sheriff of Butler County at Poplar
Bluff for a number of terms, managed the crap table when the business was
first started. Many years later Pop was arrested for gambling in our house,
but never served any time. His long time friendship with Bill Brent
evidently had a lot to do with him not being held.
Glenn would open the beer-joint or joint as most of us called it, by
sweeping, putting the place in order and building a fire during the winter
months. Pop would relieve him in time for school. Thank goodness that I
never had to open the tavern during the winter months. As cold (a three dog
night) as it was in our bedroom, it was certainly a whale of a lot better
than opening a cold beer tavern. Pop sold 3.2% alcohol content beer instead
of 5%, so he was able to be open on Sundays.
Glenn and I started tending bar at ten or twelve years of age. A task at
which I always felt a little uncomfortable with. I remember one night when
Pop had gone to Poplar Bluff and I was tending bar alone and a fight broke-
out. I was afraid that they might injure themselves or do some damage to
the tavern. Fortunately, Guy Scott was there to help me herd them outside
where they continued their disagreement. We enjoyed watching them roll
around on the ground and make an ass out of themselves, once we got them
outside. Then too, there was always the possibility that the state man
(alcohol inspector) might pay us an unexpected visit, while I was tending
bar by myself and this would have been a fine and automatic suspension of
Pop's beer license. Claudie being the youngest didn't tend bar, although he
did rack pool balls.
My first remembrance is helping Pop cap bottles of home-brew in the kitchen
of our house. I was about five at the time, so I'm sure that I was more of
a hindrance than help. The fermentation of home-brew is unstable and
infrequently a bottle would explode. The legal beer would sometimes explode
when it was placed in the beer box containing icy cold water on an
extremely hot day.
Pop worked long hours, six or seven days a week, depending on which
business that he was in at the time. Generally opening between six thirty
to seven thirty in the morning but never before drinking a cup or two of
coffee with pet milk in it while sitting on the side of his bed. He would
close for the night at nine or ten during the week and extend it to
midnight or later on Saturday night, which he referred to as "drunk night,"
cautioning us to be careful on this particular night. He also told us that
he didn't want us to bolly fox around, which is a first cousin to lollygag.
Pop owned a hand-gun and a blackjack (sap), that he always took with him
between the house and his place of business each day. He also had a
persuader, which was an 18" length of fire hose with a metal inner lining.
Which he didn't hesitate to use if the drunk became too rambunctious, of
which he was exposed to many during his lifetime. I never knew of him
having to use the gun, just showing the length of hose was enough to
discourage most of them.
Our dad took several trips when we were quite young, once returning with a
crate of fruit and nuts from California, I can remember a few trips that I
took with him. On one trip we attended boxing matches at Cape Girardeau or
St. Louis. He also took me to the "Cat's Eye", a popular tavern/dancehall
midway between home and the Bluff, a little south and west of the Hargrove
bridge. I often wondered where such a progressive name such as this came
from in the mid thirties. It sounds like a name that the beatniks or the
recent hippies would use.
After Uncle Raymond Crane (mother's brother) moved from Texas in 1931, he
became a bartender for Pop for a number of years. He was paid $2.00 a week
with room and board for working about 82 hours a week. So slave labor
wasn't reserved for the blacks only during the depression. Jobs were few
and far Between.. This gave Pop someone else that he could boss, a position
that he dearly loved. He would have been a great Drill Sergeant. He now had
a bar keep, that he could relay on and trust to take care of the tavern,
without being ripped- Off.
Uncle Raymond's bed was in the kitchen when he first moved in with us. This
was prior to the bedroom, bath, garage and back porch being added. He awoke
one morning with company in his bed not to his choosing. It was a snake
that had entered through a mouse hole in the floor. Believe me, it didn't
take him long to dispatch the snake and close the hole with a patch from a
tobacco can and a few tacks. Uncle Raymond had a very sensitive stomach
(sour stomach) since childhood and this didn't surprise any of us, when we
saw how much pepper that he smothered his fried eggs with each morning.
Return to TOC
There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads.
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss
Charles Lee McClure
(c) Taken from: "My Memories," written to my children, nieces & nephews. Charles McClure in Owasso, Oklahoma
|(c) and Contributed by: Charles McClure|
(c) All material contained on this site (within this document) is the work of Charles McClure.
This Site Created, Maintained By: Mary A. Hudson