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The Lake News Online
  • Picturing the past

  • There's not too many around who can recall the early days of the Lake of the Ozarks, but Laurie resident Billie Hibdon — a Westside native — is a treasure of memories and old stories to her newer neighbors and friends.
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  • There's not too many around who can recall the early days of the Lake of the Ozarks, but Laurie resident Billie Hibdon — a Westside native — is a treasure of memories and old stories to her newer neighbors and friends.
    Billie was born in 1934 — just three years after the completion of Bagnell Dam — to Willie and Velma Patterson.
    Before there was any bridge at Hurricane Deck on what is now Highway 5, Billie's father drove the ferry boat between the end of what is now Route F and Linn Creek. While the bridge was built and ferry service ended before she can remember, Billie does recall one of her father's stories from those days.
    One day Willie Patterson and other riders on the ferry got a scare when out of a car came a bunch of guys all with guns, according to Billie, and Willie recognized Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd, a bank robber and gangster tied to the Kansas City underworld of the 1920s and early 1930s. Fortunately, they appear to have just been passing through and there was no trouble.
    Billie remembers her grandfather Bill Green's resort on Route F — Green Bay Terrace Resort. Most guests were "rich fishermen," she says.
    One of the guests that stands out was Sam Van Arsdale — the owner of Jim the Wonder Dog — from Marshall, Mo.
    Jim the Wonder Dog was a black and white setter that became famous during the Depression for such remarkable abilities as seeming to be able to guess sex of an unborn baby and answer orders in different languages though Van Arsdale only spoke English. He also appeared to follow orders given in shorthand and Morse Code, and he picked the winner of the Kentucky Derby seven years in a row.
    One a fishing trip to the lake when Billie was young, she watched in amazement as Van Arsdale asked Jim which license plate was his and the wonder dog went right to it and put his paw on it.
    While those are stories of some of famous visitors to the area, many of Billie's stories recall a different way of life.
    "It's hard for people to imagine how we lived back then. It wasn't easy, but I wouldn't trade it," says Billie.
    As child during World War II, she remembers hearing that the war had ended from a couple with a good car driving through the area telling everybody of the surrender. While Billie's family had a battery-operated radio, they didn't get to listen to it very often because batteries were too expensive to buy very often, especially during the war years.
    During the war, her father usually only used it to listen to the news in the evening. When they heard that the war was over, they turned the radio on to hear it officially.
    Page 2 of 3 - Outside of news, Billie's dad would sometimes let them turn on the radio on Saturday nights to listen to the Grand Ole Opry. Other times her sisters would get in trouble for trying to sneak and listen to the soap operas on the radio.
    The battery for the old radio was huge, recalls Billie, but they didn't have electricity.
    The family used coal oil lamps for light and later gas lanterns. They had an outhouse out back, and they cooked and heated the house with a wood stove.
    Much of their food came from the land with Billie's father hunting and fishing and her mother gardening for vegetables. The family also picked wild greens in the spring for food and wild blackberries and huckleberries in the summer.
    Billie remembers spending whole days just picking the little huckleberries with her father dropping them off at the bushes in the morning on his way to work and not picking them until that evening.
    With no TV and rarely radio, Billie's family often entertained themselves in the evening after dinner with music. After their father came home from a sale one day with an old piano, Billie or one of her eight siblings would try to play by ear while Willie played the fiddle and the others sang.
    On Saturday nights, the Victor Inn — located where The Branding Iron now is — was the place to be with a dance and music by a band from Linn Creek. Just about everybody in the area would be there, including children. People would two-step, square dance, jitterbug, waltz — just about anything that was popular at the time.
    One winter night, recalls Billie, her father refused to take the family to the dance because it was so bitterly cold and their car had no heater. But after his daughters threw a fit over it — afraid they were going to miss out — he relented. They loaded up and drove in only to find no one else had shown up.
    Maybe things haven't changed so much after all.
    When Billie was a teenager, another popular place to go was the roller skating rink where Nancy's Carpet now is in Laurie.
    On warmer days, the community would also often come together in a big field south of the current Bank of Laurie to play baseball, she says.
    In the summer time as a child, Billie would go barefoot until she got new shoes in the fall when she went back to school.
    Billie only wore dresses her mother made. The fabric for the girls' dresses came from flour sacks that Velma would take apart and save. According to Billie, her mother would make sure to buy flour sacks of the same fabric until she had enough for a dress.
    Page 3 of 3 - As a young girl, she attended the old Oak Hill Schoolhouse. Only the foundation and chimney now remain of Oak HIll, a two-room school house on Route F that preceded Missouri's consolidation of schools and Hurricane Deck Elementary.
    After Billie's freshman year of high school, her family moved to Morgan County and she would graduate from Versailles High School in 1952. She moved to Kansas City and in 1953 married a boy she had grown up with — Glenn Hibdon who was from Laurie and was related through marriage to the Laurie family.
    After Glenn got out of the Army, they decided to move back home in 1960. He leased the service station in Laurie from his dad, and she tried her hand at milking cows. That didn't last too long though, and within a few years, Glenn got into the gravel hauling business, starting out at first with just one truck.
    From there, the business grew with the lake, and these days, Hibdon Gravel trucks are a common site on area roadways.
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