Experience's Children

Hamby Family Stories

Bob at MU

Bob Hamby at Missouri University

My Autobiography

Robert M. Hamby

I was born on a farm five miles Southeast of Noel, McDonald County, Missouri, on March 20, 1916.

My father, John F. Hamby, was born and raised near Springfield, Missouri, while my mother was born and raised in McDonald County. Although my mother received only a common school education, my father attended Draughton Business College at Springfield, Missouri.

My parents are decended from Scotch-Irish and English ancestors. My maternal grandparents came to Missouri from Kentucky, while my paternal grandparents came from Ireland at a very early age.

I was rather healthy when I was a baby, although I almost got killed when two years old. My father was plowing, and my older brother, sister, and I were playing around an old straw stack nearby. My sister was supposed to be watching me, to keep me out of mischief. There was a spring of water close by, and I went after a drink. The spring was walled up with rough rock to ground level, and was over six feet deep. The water stood about afoot below the top of the wall, and when I leaned down to get the water, I slipped in. When my father missed me, he came to the Spring and found me lying on my back, clinging to the rock wall to keep from sinking. As an after-effect of the experience, I took bronichal pneumonia, which weakened my lungs enough to make it very easy for me to have chest colds in later years. I started to school when I was five, and had to walk over a mile to meet the school bus, a model T Ford touring car. In spite of my being so young, my mother sent me regularly, even sending me one morning that was so cold I cried from the discomfort before reaching the bus. It seems strange, but I still remember the exact place in the road where I was when I started crying, and how the tears froze on my eye lashes and nose.

When I was in the second grade, the teacher offered a prize of a box of crayons to the pupils of the third grade for memorizing the multiplication tables. When the third grade was through reciting, I asked the teacher if I might try to say them. I said them correctly and received a prize. Of course I was so proud of my accomplishment I had to tell everyone about it. The summer when I was seven, we moved from the home farm to a place one-half mile from Noel. There was a large creek running through this place, so it wasn't long until I was fishing and swimming. I spent most of my summers swimming and fishing until I was ten years old. Of course I had to help with the chores, work in the garden, etc., but most of my leisure time was spent on the creek banks. The love of fishing which I was building up during those summers has never left me, has, infact, grown greater with the passing years, although I don't get to do as much of it now.

When I was ten years old, my father gave my brother and me a heifer calf, and my grandfather gave us a brood sow. We began to really take an active part and interest in the farm. I was rather large for my age, and because of good food and a life spent so largely in the open, I was rather strong. So I began helping make hay, plow corn, etc. I was quite a farmer and couldn't afford to spend my time playing, but had to raise feed for my cows and hogs.

When winter came, my brother and I would hunt and trap fur bearing animals. I have a coat I wore when I was twelve years old, and it still smells strongly of skunk. I would catch a skunk, often walking five or ten miles for one or two pieces of fur, take the coat to school and hang it over the radiator in the hall. Of course in ten minutes all the coats around it would smell so strongly that the professor couldn't tell which one it was. I would play that trick about two or three times each Winter and never did get sent home for it. The coat wouldn't smell, unless it was damp and warm.

By hunting, picking strawberries, and taking care of my stock, I was making all my spending money by the time I was twelve. When I was thirteen, I entered high school. I had already bought myself two guns, a twenty-five dollar suit, and all my other clothes, besides what money I spent for rifle shells and candy. I was really quite a man of the world.

Part II

High School. Four years packed with experiences, influences, loneliness and happiness.

The summer before entering high school I practically reached my full growth, physically. One incident I remember serves to illustrate the fact. There was a certain boy in the school with whom I quite often had a scrap while in the seventh and eighth grades. I was a short, rather chunkily built kid, while he was two or three years older than I, quite slender and tall. When I returned to school in the fall of my freshman year, I was several inches taller than he and much heavier. Needless to say, he never tried to pick any more fights with me.

I studied a little during my freshman year, although I rarely took a book home with me. I belonged, all through high school, to that class of students who never took a book home, and who liked to brag about it. However, I studied enough while at school to keep my grades in the M and S. groups.

After school had been going on for six weeks, the school house burned. We have a large group of rural districts consolidated into one, therefore there was no empty building in town large enough to accommodate us. Two churches and three private buildings were pressed into service for the remainder of the school year. Because it was scattered out all over town, it was little better than no school at all.

My father was postmaster at Noel from the time I entered grade school until a year after I graduated. From the time I was ten until I was fifteen my mother worked in the office also. My brother and I did practically all of the farming, and taking care of the stock. Mother was away from home so much just at the time when we needed someone with us, that we spent a greater part of our time playing, or fighting. Looking back now, I don't believe we played too much, but just at the wrong time, thereby learning to put things off that needed doing, a habit that is very hard to break, one that I have never completely overcome.

My geometry teacher, in my second year of high school, was a complete wash out. He had been a barber most of his life, and that was his first year of teaching. Why the school board hired him is more than I can guess. He spent the class period either reading a magazine, or talking to the woman teacher next door. At the beginning of the year, I took my work concientously, but soon found that it was useless, or rather that it was unnecessary. If some student asked him for help on a problem, he would refer the student to some theorums, and not always the right one, either. He would seldom try to explain or make the student see the problem any more clearly. When we handed in papers, he would merely throw them in the waste basket. I was absent when he gave the mid-year test, but got a grade of M+ on it, even though I never made the work up.

The bad effect of all this was not that I knew nothing about geometry, but the condition in which it left my mind. I was playing on the basketball team, so the next year, remembering the year before, and thinking it unnecessary to study, I tried to play my way through advanced algebra and arithmetic. We had a different teacher that year, and I woke up during the last of the year to find that I was barely holding on to the edge of the class. I finally came out with an I in the two courses. I am really feeling the effects of slighting my work now that I am in the University.

I don't believe any student should be allowed to graduate from high school without a grade of at least an M in all fundamental courses such as Mathematics. ; He can't realize it then, but it is a hardship to him if he ever tries to get a higher education.

I grew to physical maturity rather early, and this had it's unfortunate side. I had to start shaving when I was fifteen, and everyone thought I was three or four years older than I really was, and this made things worse, as they expected more of me than I was mentally equipped to do. I never had any really close friends among the students, although I always got along with everyone all right. When I felt the need of a friend, I would take my dog, my gun or fishing tackle and go out along the creek hunting or fishing. Because of this, I grew up to be a rather solitary, independent youth, very timid and shy on the inside, but trying dreadfully hard not to let it show through.

It now seems rather natural that my first really close friend should have been a woman. I had taken an active part in the glee club throughout my first two years of high school, and the third year, when I was fifteen, the teacher was Miss Juanita Merrell. She was the first who ever took enough interest in me to realize how lonesome I really was; or at least that is the way it seems to me. The reason probably was that she had been and was then lonely also. She and her mother lived alone that year, and it was her first year of teaching, she had some difficulty adjusting herself to the situation. However that may have been, she has proven herself to be a real friend, and I think I can say that she, and her sister, Bernice, have been a great influence in my life. But that is another story.

Part III

I really believe that the interest of Juanita and Bernice Merrell has been the greatest beneficial influence Of my life. It has made me more ambitious, less shy and self-conscious, and in general has given me a better perspective of life.

When I first met the girls, I was a fifteen-year-old Junior in high school, and I was not particularly interested in studying. Practically the only things I was interested in was basketball, reading, and working. As I could make M grades without much effort, I could see no good reason why I should apply myself enough to make better grades.

Juanita taught in the Noel School during my junior year, and both the girls taught during my Senior year. Juanita taught the eighth grade, and was the director of all the glee clubs in the school. It was in the glee club that I came into contact with her. I always had a fondness of singing, altho I had never had any training. I sang in the glee club during my sophomore year, and the next year Juanita selected me for the second bass of the school quartet. The quartet practiced quite often at night, and in this way I came into closer contact with her than I ever could have by being in nothing but the glee club.

The next year Bernice taught in the high school and I had two classes under her, besides being in the glee club and on the quartet. The girls and their Mother lived next door to us that year, and we really became acquainted. It was through their encouragement that I became interested enough in school to study. They made me realize the importance of grades. That is, that honest grades are a mark of what you know about a subject.

They also helped me over come much of my previous shyness and self-conciousness.

It has been four years since I graduated from high school, but I still think of those two girls as the best friends I have ever had. They encouraged me in every way they could to go ahead and finish my education, and I think I can truthfully say it is partly due to their influence that I am enrolled in the University today.

After graduating from high school I spent two years at home, farming and working at the carpenter's trade. I did practically all of the farming at home, but because Of all the bad seasons, I did not make very much. On the first of August, 1935, I went to Colorado to work in the hayfields. I had been planning to come to College that fall, but I didn't have enough money saved to do it. I worked in the hay for a month, then went to work at a coal mine. As I had not yet become acclimated to that high altitude, and because of the coal dust, I quit after two weeks and went to work in a timber camp. My brother and one of my cousins were with me, and we worked together until Christmas. The other boys went home Christmas, and I stayed, having made up my mind to stay until I had money enough to come here. After the boys left, I started hauling logs to the saw-mill, as the snow was too deep for cutting.

There was no boarding house in the camp, so we had to do all of our own cooking. After the first of February there was only two other people in Camp. When our supply of groceries got low, we would go five miles to Baldwin and pack them in. Walking five miles through soft snow, with a fifty pound pack isn't much fun even when you are young and strong.

We started the saw-mill in June, and I worked as off-bearer until the first of September. I came to Columbia on the ninth of September and enrolled in the College of Agriculture. Last semester I made nine hours of S and four hours of M., in spite of the fact I was out of the habit of concentrating and studying. Many people say that staying out of school will not hurt one, but I know better. Studying is a habit, that, once broken for any length of time, is very difficult to form again. This semester I believe I can make at least six hours of E, altho I am taking more hours and harder courses. I have worked part-time and have done light house keeping, both semesters.

Whether school is worth the effort I have, and will have to put forth upon it, I don't know. I often wonder.

Bob Hamby

Bob Hamby at work as a soil scientist, 1950s


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