16

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

MARJORIE GWENDOLYN WHITE

Marjorie Gwendolyn White Vaughn, 1942

Marjorie was the oldest child of Nellie Francis Teall and Wallace Benjamin White, born at home, 10:00 a.m. April 16, 1927 in Center, Audrain County, Missouri.  She was delivered by Dr. H.B. Norton of Center. In those days it was common practice to deliver babies at home. Sometimes, with a doctor attending, if one was available. If not, the delivery was usually assisted by a family member or mid-wife.

Marjorie was the oldest child in her family of five sisters and three brothers. There was such a spread in age that the youngest brothers didn’t realize that she was their sister. They thought of her as a friend of the family. Her brother, Donald, was born only a few months after her own first son was born. She often quoted her mother as having said that she had lost as many babies as she had carried full term and delivered.

Marjorie at 6 weeks, 7 months, and 8 years

Marjorie stated that her childhood memories started with conditions of the Great Depression of the 1930s, and extended families living together as best they could. Work was hard to find, and she said that it seemed that her family had to move every time the rent came due. When WPA began the public works program, her father finally landed steady work at the A.P. Green brick factory in Mexico, Missouri. The demand for fire brick had increased significantly, and then it boomed in the following years of World War II.

Marjorie had a natural talent for tap dancing, and at a very young age was performing on stage in the 1930s in Hannibal, Center, and Mexico while Missouri was firmly in the grips of the Great Depression.

She was seven or eight years old when a person whose name is no longer remembered, saw her perform and presented himself to Nellie, Marjorie’s mother, saying that he wanted to be Marjorie’s agent and put her in the Ziegfeld Follies, who were always looking for talented tap dancers. He said that he could make Marjorie a star. She had the looks, natural talent, and she captivated the audience when on stage.

Judy Garland (L) on Vaudeville stage, Chicago

She resembled Judy Garland, a famous Vaudeville star in the early 1930s, who later starred in movies. The only hitch was that she would have to leave her family and travel with him to Hollywood.

He promised the contract would stipulate that earnings, less expenses, would be deposited in their names, and he would send her home to her family once a year for vacation. But, when Nellie learned that she wouldn’t be able to accompany her child prodigy, she said, “No,” emphatically, and that ended the negotiation.

Marjorie, 10, with Charlotte, 1937

The Great Depression was strangling the Vaudeville industry, and movies were starting to emerge . . . first, silent movies, and then “talkies.” As stage performances began to become few and far between, Marjorie sought opportunities to perform at schools and community events. Though not recruited for Hollywood again, she never lost her passion for tap dancing. In her obituary, in 2019, her children announced her passing by stating, “A child of God, Marjorie joined the chorus line of heavenly tap dancers just a few weeks before her 92nd birthday.”

She didn’t know they were poor when she was a child. She didn’t remember ever having to go hungry. But, she remembered the dust storms, and that they moved their household frequently. In later years she learned that they would move to a new apartment or house whenever her dad couldn’t come up with rent money.

He had his own trucks for local hauling, but during the Depression work was very hard to find. He lost his trucks one by one to the bank when he fell behind on payments. He then worked as a day laborer wherever he could, and felt lucky to have whatever work he could find, as a lot of folks were just out of work.

At the time of the stock market crash in 1929, and the beginning of The Great Depression, they were living at 1919a Market, but moved in with Wallace’s parents at 2421 Market Street to cut down on expenses. As work dwindled, so did the family’s income. The family began to follow the work, moving their household as necessary for the remainder of the next decade.

It was during this time that her family lived for a time in a four room house at 2421 Market Street, with her grandma, “Mom,” (Nona) and grandpa, “Pop,” (Tony Matthew) White in the house they owned. She, her brother, and sisters, walked several blocks along Market Street to attend Eugene Field School when they reached school age.

(L) Betty, Helen & Marjorie, 1930 (R) Betty, Helen & Marjorie in rear of 2421 Market St, Hannibal, 1933

The 1935 Hannibal City Directory lists Marjorie’s father, Wallace, as a laborer residing at 2421 Market with wife Nellie. It also lists her grandfather, Tony, as a laborer at Cash Coal Company, 2500 Market Street. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Nona Mae (Turner) White is listed as an employee of the International Shoe Company, with her residence at 2421 Market Street. (That house no longer exists, as several adjacent homes were destroyed to expand North Missouri Lumber Company).

In the late half of the 1930s, as the WPA projects got underway, her dad went to work for A.P. Green Fire Brick Company in Mexico, in Audrain County, Missouri. Later, World War II Liberty ship production created a huge demand for their fire bricks to line boilers, as well as in wartime fighting vessels. Business boomed in small town Mexico, Missouri!

Marjorie liked going to school in Mexico, as she was the only tap dancer in the grade school, and got to be part of almost every activity that took place on the stage. She liked coming up with new dance routines for the latest popular songs, and would break out in dance at every occasion.

She completed the ninth grade in Mexico, and was promoted from Junior High to High School in 1941. That summer the family moved back to Hannibal so her parents could find better paying work at Hannibal factories, now running at full tilt in support of the World War II supply effort. With both parents and her grandparents now working to support the growing family, it fell to her to take care of her siblings during the day, perform many of the normal household chores, and keep up with her school work, as well.

LIVING ABOVE THE STORE

Marjorie White, Age 15

She wrote of her memories, “When I met your father in August of 1942, your grandfather, William Thomas Vaughn, was a salesman for L.B. Price Mercantile Company, and part time Baptist minister in Hannibal. I think it was at the Immanuel Baptist Church on St. Marys Avenue. Also, he was minister at a church located on 5th Street. I’m really not positive on that, as I seem to remember that the Hannibal Calvary Baptist Church, at one time, split apart and some of the people started the church your grandfather pastored.”

“He also, at various times, pastored Baptist churches at Perry, Meadville, Braymer and Kahoka, Missouri, where he and your grandmother lived in the parsonage home. It seems to me he also was part time, or filled in, for minister vacancies in Macon and Rush Hill, Missouri.” It was while living in Hannibal that W.T. decided to enter the ministry full time.

“Grandmother, Jessie Beulah (Phillips) Vaughn ran a substation for the Hannibal post office at that time in grandfather’s store. L.B. Price Mercantile Company sold bedroom linens, some dishes and kitchen cookware. I do not know how long he worked for them. Both the mercantile company and the postal station was located at, I think, 1724 Market Street (Hannibal, MO) and grandfather and grandmother lived upstairs. My family lived next door at 1722  Market, upstairs, above Neiman’s Grocery Store.”

Gene had graduated high school in May. Marge was a high school freshman, age 15. They met in August, 1942 when the Whites moved to the apartment above Neiman’s store. A whirlwind romance blossomed, and were married 12 November, 1942.  He was then called to Marine Corps Basic Training shortly thereafter, and was discharged on the 26th of November due to chronic hay fever, and resulting bronchitis, severe enough that he as given a medical discharge.  

Their wedding ceremony was performed by Gene’s brother, Reverend Virgil Lee Vaughn, who would, in later years, perform the wedding ceremonies of both of their sons.

Eugene and Marjorie Vaughn Marriage License.jpg

WEDDING MEMORIES

Marge lived with her parents while Gene went off to the Marine Corps Basic Training in San Diego. Gene left his part time high school job where he was learning to cobble shoes in the shop at the rear of DeLaporte Shoe Store on Market Street. When he came back from San Diego, the job was no longer available, and, if it were, it wouldn’t be enough income to support them.

Having artistic talent, he found work that interested him at Independent Sign Company, a silk screening company that made broadsheets for billboards. After a few weeks of employment they set up a home at 310 North 4th street in Hannibal. Later they lived on Bird Street, and when Larry was born they lived on Pleasant street.

1505 Vermont Street

Tony and Nona White house at 1505 Vermont & Clark Streets

In 1950 Marjorie and family were listed in the Hannibal City Business Directory at 1505 Vermont, on the northwest corner of the intersection with Clark Street. The two story house with a ground level porch and entry faced Vermont, while a two story porch faced Clark. On the west side of the house was an empty building lot which Tony and Nona White planted as a garden, which was plowed in the spring with a mule team. Gene operated his sign lettering business in a paint shop in the stable out back on the alley. In 1950 he was listed as “Supply Sergeant” of the National Guard unit in Hannibal.

Rear of 1505 Vermont_composite.png
(L) Tony, Jack and Nona White on front porch (R) Violet & Nona under shade tree. Garden in background.
1505 Vermont Street, Hannibal MO

Elkhart, Indiana

1709 Vermont

1714 Grace

Louisiana, Missouri

Moberly, Missouri

Chillicothe, Missouri

Manchester, Missouri

Noblesville, Indiana

Henrietta, Texas

White Children

Chillicothe MO

KCHI was owned by an investment group who were silent partners in the station, none of whom lived in the area. They hired Dad to manage it, and he put together a sophisticated sales training program, hired a morning announcer away from KWIX, and hired other staff through the Missouri Broadcasters Association. 

His wife, Marjorie, took on the role of traffic manager, which is the position responsible for getting the sponsored content on the schedule at the correct times. Dad quickly established his sales process and built an aggressive and quite successful sales team in short order. His success resulted in much better profits for the investment group.

pix

1953

About 1953 or 1954 she and Gene bought a four room house at 1709 Vermont, in Hannibal for $5,000. It had natural gas heaters in the two bedrooms, a fireplace in the living room, and a natural gas kitchen stove. The house was a basic four room single level structure with a kitchen, dining/living room with oak hardwood floors, two bedrooms and a bathroom with a toilet stool, sink and enough floor space to wedge in a number two wash tub for taking baths.

There was a small basement under the house below the kitchen and girls’ bedroom. It had a hinged wooden double door that covered the steps. You had to lift the doors and fold them back out of the way to go down the stairs. At the bottom was an old wooden door with badly peeling dark green paint.

The basement is where she stored canned foods, and Gene had a small workbench. The concrete walls had been painted many times over the years, and then bore an institutional type gray livery. There was only one small window, so the room seemed really dark, and the best light came from the open cellar doors. The cellar always smelled musty, because it was usually damp, perhaps the odor of the wood shelving that lined the walls and held dozens and dozens of canned fruits, veggies, meats, and treats like jams, jellies and sweet sauces.

Gene, with the help of her grandfather, “Pop” (Tony White) and father, (Wallace White), expanded the bathroom out onto the back porch so a bathtub/shower could be installed. They also built an additional bedroom for the boys, and an extension of the back porch/pantry/storage area.

When the back room was added to the house, Gene built in a natural gas floor furnace that proved to be much more efficient than a coal oil stove, required no daily feeding, and took up no floor space, as it was placed in the middle of the bedroom floor. He eventually added another, larger model floor furnace in the kitchen floor, serving the kitchen and front room, and ran duct work to the girl’s bedroom.

In later years, her sister, Charlotte, came to live with the family after a divorce. An extra bed was put up in the girls’ room. After Charlotte married Donald Pickett of Hannibal, she moved to their own home, and her sister, Pat came to live with the family. Pat was only two years older than her son Larry.

40th Wedding Anniversary

Gene Vaughn family Nov 1982_2.png

1982 – Chillicothe MO Eugene and Marjorie’s Family on their 40th Wedding Anniversary

Louisiana MO

In  the summer of 1961 he moved his family to Louisiana, Missouri, where he joined the real estate development firm IBC Homes. They were fabricating wall and roof sections of residences which were then delivered by truck and quickly assembled using cranes to lift the sections into place. It was a new wave in home construction, and whole neighborhoods were grown up in short order.

This residence was their home. The screen capture is from Google Earth in 2017, and shows the house as it was in 2012. The house originally featured a two car garage on the left, full length basement, and three ground floor bedrooms. The boys shared one bedroom while the girls shared another. Marge and Gene had the master bedroom on the right end of the home. The dining room, on the rear, adjacent to the garage, had sliding glass doors that provided a spectacular view of a curve in the Mississippi River, shown below.

Marjorie, Nellie and Wallace White standing at the rear of the house, with the view from the dining room of the mighty Mississippi river in the background.

There was very frequent barge traffic on the river, and on one occasion while the family was seated at the dining room table, a long string of barges came around the bend. The barges were covered with snow, and, as my sister Pam tells it, mom exclaimed, “Oh. look! They’re taking snow down south for people who never get to see it!”

I remember it differently: Lea was visiting my parents’ home, and we were seated around the dining room table with her back to the river. Someone pointed out the barge coming around the bend, and Lea turned to see it, and exclaimed, “I always wondered what they did with all that snow they plowed up!” Then, never one to miss a chance to “get one over” on someone, mom said, “Yes, they’re taking the snow down south for people who never get to see it!”

Gene’s new home construction business had been going quite well, until one of the subcontractors he was using failed to perform to standards and the homeowner sued. The suit went on for a couple of years after I graduated and moved from home, but, eventually Gene was found at fault and liable for restitution. The lawsuit nearly ruined him financially.

Mexico MO

His next move was to Mexico, Missouri, where he entered the field of commercial sales for the local radio station, KXEO.  He found that he liked the broadcasting industry, and his son, David, also worked on air at KXEO for a while. Marjorie liked being in Mexico, where she had spent many of her childhood years, and had many members of her extended family still living there.

Her father, at one time, worked for the local brick factory operated by A.P. Green, providing trucking services, and later, into working on the manufacturing line. Once known as the firebrick capital of the world, Mexico lost its last firebrick plant in 2003.

Moberly MO

The next career move for Gene was to Moberly, and KWIX Regional Radio, and The Paper, both owned by Jerrell Shepherd. Jerrell also owned a 3,000 acre farm in Clifton Hills, west of Moberly, where he was raising a small herd of bison and specialty grasses for feed. Gene enjoyed working in the Shepherd businesses, but after a few years, learned of an opportunity to manage a radio station not far away.

Chillicothe MO

KCHI was owned by an investment group who were silent partners in the station, none of whom lived in the area. They hired Gene to manage it, and he put together a sophisticated sales training program, hired a morning announcer away from KWIX, and hired other staff through the Missouri Broadcasters Association.

His wife, Marjorie, took on the role of traffic manager, which is the position responsible for getting the sponsored content on the schedule at the correct times. Gene quickly established his sales process and built an aggressive and quite successful sales team in short order. His success resulted in much better profits for the investment group.

Moving KCHI Radio

Soon, his sales staff outgrew the small space the radio station occupied in a retail center, and he bought a building at 421 Washington Street that had at one time been a bowling alley. He built several freestanding rooms to serve as broadcast studio, production studio, sales and management offices, all with large windows that permitted a clear view of activity in all departments throughout the building.

The studios were designed so that announcers stand at the control board and microphone, rather than sit, for better voice projection. The practice was considered innovative for its time. Gene styled the studios after the design he observed while at KWIX radio in Moberly. Their broadcast system was designed with a very slight echo on the microphones which suggested “vastness,” enhancing their “Regional Radio” theme.

IMG_5192_2.png

Eugene using Texas Instruments TI 99/4A computer to create a payroll system for KCHI – 1982

Table Rock Lake

In 1977, Gene and Marge had been planning a July family vacation for over a year. Each of their four children, and the grandchildren, would take vacation at the same time, and get together at Indian Point Resorts, on Table Rock Lake, just south of Branson, Missouri.

The five families had each rented a cabin for a week. In those days Indian Point Resorts had a number of individual rustic cabins with small kitchens situated in and around a wooded area just a stone’s throw from the lake. The gravel roads and driveways in the resort were deeply rutted, and a challenge to navigate in some places, but they just made it seem that more rugged and “away from home.”

Each of the cabins was in a little grouping of trees, and just far enough away from the other cabins to provide a little privacy.

Phone Booth.png
Public telephone booth

There were no digital devices or television signals, and the only phones available were public phone booths scattered around public places, like the boat dock down by the lake.

There was no air conditioning, but the cabins were equipped with screen doors and windows, and the breeze coming off the lake was pleasant, as it ebbed and flowed through the shade provided by the tall trees.

Each of the families planned to spend one day in rotation cooking three meals for the entire family. Larry, and wife, Lea, volunteered to cook two days. The final day would be a pitch-in clean-out day to use up as many leftovers as possible before we hit the road for home.  

Denke Dock

One afternoon the group decided to go down to the lake for a swim. David had rented a ski boat from a fellow staffer from work, and selected the cabin spot because the water was deep, calm & excellent for water skiing.

The weather was hot and overcast, and the water was delightfully cool and refreshing. The swimmers promptly got into the water, diving or jumping from the dock, which extended about twenty feet into the lake. Others sat on the deck, dangling their feet in the water. The grandchildren swam or played in the shallower water along the shoreline under the watchful eyes of their mothers.

Dad, who was not a swimmer, lowered himself from the dock onto a large inner tube while keeping a tight grip on the deck. After getting settled in the tube, he pulled himself a few inches along the dock, while, hand over hand, securing another grip to move himself toward the deeper, cooler, water.

After three or four of these movements, he was near the end of the dock, floating calmly, when a little wave rocked him and caused him to lose his grip on the deck. It moved him just out of reach. As he frantically leaned over to get another handhold, he lost his balance and flipped out of the tube, which went flying into the air. Both of his sons, swimming nearby, rushed to get a hold of him to move him to safety.

In his panic, Dad thrashed about wildly, kicking and battering both swimmers, pushing them under water as he tried to raise himself up. Realizing that he was in a panic and wasn’t going to cooperate, both sons moved behind him and gave him a big push toward the dock so he could get a handhold. They then recovered the tube so he could cling to its comforting buoyancy while they got him to shore.

David, his youngest, helped him return to his cabin to recoup. Dad was terribly embarrassed and humiliated to have that happen in front of the entire family. His ego was devastated! David remembers that it was the only time he could remember that his dad allowed him to be close enough, as an adult, to touch him affectionately, and to tell him that he loved him.

Denture Dives

As we got him back on shore, we realized that in his panic he had spit out his upper denture, and after a couple of test dives, Larry realized that the water was too deep, and too murky to be able to find the denture plate without proper gear. What we needed was a scuba diver with a good underwater light. After arrival, it took the diver only a few minutes to locate the denture plate, and all was well.

Dad, however, was in bed for about three days. We inquired of mother, who said that he just wasn’t feeling well. We prepared a plate for him at mealtimes, and mother delivered them, but, early on, they often came back untouched. By the fourth day, which was clean out day, he emerged from the cabin, but was obviously still very weak. We didn’t have any idea that he might have suffered a heart attack, and thought it may have been a bug of some sort.

As we loaded up the cars for the return trip to our homes, we all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, not realizing that Dad had been seriously ill. It wasn’t until a later episode, when he had a heart attack and went to the hospital, that we learned he had suffered an untreated heart attack previously. It was then  posited that he suffered his first heart attack during that tubing incident in 1977, while on the family vacation at Table Rock Lake.

Moberly – KWIX Radio
Chillicothe – KCHI
Manchester – near Dave and Dottie
Noblesville – Larry & Lea
Henrietta TX –

Marjorie passed on January 19, 2019, just a few weeks short of her 92nd birthday. She was the oldest living sibling in her family, with my aunt Helen Beatrice, second born (1928-2018), followed by Betty Gene, (1930–2013), Wallace Benjamin Jr (Jack) 1934 –, JoAnn (1936–2008), Charlotte Sue, 1937 –, Patricia Ann, (1942 –2017), Donald Wayne, 1944 –, and John Timothy, 1947 –.  

Her obituary:

Marjorie Gwendolyn White Vaughn, 91, passed from this life January 19, 2019, while being cared for at Wichita Falls Hospice Care, Henrietta, Texas. A child of God, Marjorie joined the chorus line of heavenly tap dancers just a few weeks before her 92nd birthday. A lifelong Missouri & Indiana resident, she has resided in Henrietta for the past 10 years, where she was a member of the First Baptist Church.

Marjorie was born at home April 16, 1927, in Center, Ralls County, Missouri, to Wallace Benjamin White and Nellie Francis Teall. She married Lawrence Eugene “Gene” Vaughn, of Hannibal, Missouri, who preceded her in death in 1984. They had four children, Lawrence E Vaughn, Jr. of Austin, Texas, Jean A. Seabourn, of Henrietta, Texas, Pamela S. Watkins of Wichita Falls, Texas, and David K Vaughn of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Lawrence “Gene” Vaughn, her parents, and four sisters, Helen Grey, Joann Singell, Betty Hoffman, and Patricia White.

She is survived by three brothers, Wallace White of Middlebury, Indiana, J.T. White of Bristol, Indiana, and Donald White of Perry, Missouri, one sister, Charlotte Hoffman, South Bend, Indiana, all four of her children and their spouses, Larry & Lea Vaughn, Stanley & Jean Seabourn, Pam & Jim Watkins, and Dave & Dottie Vaughn, six grandchildren, Stacy Roland, Gwendolyn Acup, Jeffrey Kelly, Jon Barnum, Lawrence E (Link) Vaughn III, Lance Vaughn, ten great grandchildren, two great-great-granddaughters, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Mrs. Vaughn was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a past member of the Missouri Broadcasters Association.

A family graveside memorial service was held in April at Grand View Cemetery in Hannibal, Missouri, with her children and several friends and other family members attending. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested in her name to Hospice of Wichita Falls, 4909 Johnson Road, Wichita Falls, TX 76310. Website: https://www.howf.org/donate/.

The hospice staff was outstanding in caring for her the thirteen days she survived following a massive stroke that completely and entirely disabled her. Her pastor termed it, “God’s anesthesia.”

Next: The Wallace White Family

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