By Renee Rushing Carr
A few years ago my father, Rodney Rushing, and I poked our heads inside the old smokehouse at the Clarence & Winnie (Rushing) Hinesley place. He had acquired the old home place at Rushing which spans the Stone/Van Buren County line on Highway 9. The smokehouse was empty except for an old box sitting high on a gray rickety shelf. We opened up the small box and found old cards dating from the late 1920s to 1950s. I claimed the box and looked forward to delving into the cards and notes which were a gold mine to a genealogist and local history buff like me. It would be fun to send some of these old cards back to the sender or their descendant.
Christmas cards, graduation announcements, sympathy cards, and get well cards were in the mix. I quickly determined that most of the cards were from people who formerly lived at Rushing and had moved away. The cards were their way of keeping in touch with folks back home in an era when phone service was not yet available in Rushing, and today’s e-mails, texts, and Facebook would have seemed outlandish.
The postmarks were interesting, originating from large places like Los Angeles and Washington D.C., and smaller places like Konawa and Shawnee, Oklahoma; and Ozark and Vienna, Illinois. The Illinois locations were where the Rushings had moved from in the 1870s.
There were many get well cards addressed to Basha Rushing. She suffered from a lung disease and was beloved, judging by the cards and notes, a theory confirmed by Rodney, who is her nephew. One card to Basha offers sympathy after hearing that a prospective beau had married someone else. Basha passed away January 1942 at age 44. She never married.
A 1957 Rural Special High School graduation announcement from Ronnie Joe Ackerman was in the box. Sixty years later, it has been mailed to Ronnie in Poway, California. Ronnie retired as Captain after a 31-year career in the U.S. Navy where he was a navigator, pilot, and staff officer. A ridge of hills alongside the Scott Glacier in Antarctica is named Ackerman Ridge in recognition of his support missions.
A noteworthy Christmas card was sent from Charlie and Anna Rushing to his cousin (and my great-grandfather), Phillip Malanthy Rushing in 1936. Charlie and Anna had recently moved back to Ozark, Illinois. Located in southern Illinois, the terrain there is similar to Stone County. Charlie writes, “Had enough snow yesterday to track up a couple of possums.”
His last comment sums up the economic conditions of 1936: “We don’t plan on much Xmas this year.”
Charley was one of Stone County’s young men who served in World War I. A picture with Charlie and Ebb Hinesley boxing in France during WWI is a favorite of mine. I was able to track down a granddaughter of Charlie’s, Diana Friedland, who lives in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is the happy recipient of the old Christmas card, plus a 1940 Vienna Illinois graduation announcement of her mother, Julia Irene Rushing, and the boxing picture of her grandpa, a photo she had never seen before.
A 1954 Christmas card from Clifton, Irma, Juanice, and Danny Holland originated from Tipton, Indiana. The family had temporarily left Fox to find employment. The card is now in the hands of Ronda West of Fox, daughter of Juanice, who was surprised to find it in her mailbox last week.
A young Herbert Taylor sent a 1938 Christmas greeting from Los Angeles where just six years earlier, at age 16, he arrived after hopping a train at Shirley. It was the Great Depression and Herb needed to leave as a matter of survival. Herb was an enterprising young man and his hard work in southern California made him a successful business owner that included restaurants and orange groves. The poverty of his youth must have been staggering, yet the pull of home drew him back to live here in retirement. Local evidences of his success and generosity are a trust fund for Rushing Cemetery, another donation that funded half of the building cost for a preschool and community building near Rural Special School, and a significant donation to Antioch Outreach Center, which hosts community events and projects that benefit the community and beyond.
Another 1954 card made me chuckle. It originated from Normal Station, Conway, Arkansas from my dad, Rodney Rushing, to his Aunt Winnie and Uncle Clarence. My dad was a college student at the time. I tried to imagine how hard it would be today to find a single male college student who took the time to select and mail a Christmas card. Times sure have changed!
I hope there will be more happy returns of the greeting cards in the years to come, all because of some old relics in a smokehouse!
Renee Carr is Director of the Mountain View Family History Center at 612 S. Peabody Avenue, which will open for the 2018 season on Jan. 10 and each Wednesday thereafter from 1 to 5 p.m. As an extension of her genealogy hobby, she returns old photographs found at flea markets to descendants and chronicles the hunt at www.ReturnThePhotos.com.