I read with more than passing interest last evening an (AP) article concerning the story of a mystery individual who had designated himself a “sunshine friend” to some of the old time and dependable citizens of Ava.
Some of the names included as recipients of contributions from a “sunshine friend” are remembered as former acquaintances of mine while I was employed as a foreman on the Herald. That was from November 1895 until the later part of September 1896. Ben J. Smith was owner and editor of the Herald and it was my first job away from home. I was 19 at the time. Mr. and Mrs. Smith has known me since I was born. They had a daughter by the name of Vera
The 10 months spent in Ava were among the happiest and most interesting period of my life. Citizens of Ava were generous hearted and among the most hospitable people I have ever met. They possessed no deception. If they liked you they respected you as one of them. If they had it in for you, it was best you didn’t remain.
I was employed in Ava at the time the Sawyer family was murdered. Ed Perry, a farm hand was convicted. Prior to the conviction of Perry no locality in all my years experience and observation ever passed through a more exciting or crucial time to maintain law and order. There was a county attorney by the name of Farnsworth who was materially instrumental in subsiding mob law.
A charming lady by the name of Sallie Turner had returned to Ava from Drury college at Springfield. She reminded me of Kansas girls so I tried to date her, but after Mrs. Smith informed her I was 19 I was too young I was a lonely boy in a strange town who needed young associates. There was a sparkling eyed brunette by the name of Rose Singleton. I thought I had a date with her one evening, but a stalwart Missourian by the name of Reynolds played the ‘winning card. Later a charming young lady by the name of May Farnsworth became a steady. I have since been informed she married a printer.
Ava had one of the best 15 piece country town bands I have ever heard. A man by the name of Pettit was director He was one of the smoothest cornetists who ever placed lips to a mouth piece. “Ballie” Miller was another cornet player in the Ava band. He was plenty good enough for Ringling’s circus. Callie Curnutt played baritone. I have never heard a baritone player who possessed sweeter tones. H. S. Wilson was one of the men who I admired and prized most highly. He was a member of the band and was principal of the high school. Dr. Haley and son were faithful members of the band as was a man by the name of Byrd who played tuba and ran a jewelry store. Other members of the band whose names I am unable to recall were equally as good. The Ava hand attended a big excursion at Mammoth Springs, Ark., in the spring of ’96, where a cash prize was awarded for having been the best band on the occasion.
It would be hard to forget about the baseball team Ava possessed during the summer of ’96 with Coleman and Reynolds the battery. Coleman had plenty of speed and a wicked drop. Reynolds was the pep and brains of the game. They managed to let me play at short.
There were some promising young lawyers in Ava 45 years ago. Clark was one who was highly regarded. Another by the name of Burkhead, who had political ambitions. There were Hutch Buchannon and Fred Stewart who loved to make the rafters ring in the two story frame court house while pleading before a jury. I ran several 100 yard dashes with Fred Stewart.
Mose Reynolds owned and operated the largest store in town. The Turner family had a large store. There was a Thrasher family who ran a good restaurant. Singleton and Farnsworth each operated good hotels. Adams and Sid Reynolds were the bankers. There were two livery barns and two saloons. One church building with occasional church services.
Wish that I might some day visit Ava and say “hawdy” to those who may yet remain.
Yours very truly,
FRANK E. GEORGE