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Treat yourself and your hair by searching Conair SmoothWrap on Amazon.com. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. To search for the Our American Stories Podcast, go to the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. There's an old saying that one man's garbage is another's treasure. For Richard Larimore of Diamond, Missouri, that saying rings especially true. What started as a favor for a brother-in-law morphed into something much, much bigger. The world's largest small electric appliance museum. Here's Richard with the story.
Well, it was, I thought, in my mind back then, it was the last frontier. My brother-in-law in California was collecting old black fans. You've seen those black ugly fans. Well, he called me up one day and said, Richard, he said, you know, you're out there in Missouri. Why don't you start looking for these fans for me? I said, okay.
So we like to travel because I don't drink or drive or smoke and any of that kind of stuff. So we started looking and I got interested in the fans. I had about a hundred of them. But then again, you see one black fan, you've seen them all. And they were getting harder and harder to find.
And when they were, they were double what you started out playing. So I called Dennis, brother-in-law, and I asked him, I said, Dennis, I said, when you're traveling and you can't find your fan, what do you collect? Electric toasters.
I said, what? Electric toasters? And I didn't realize he was trying to corner the market on the newer version toaster.
You pull down and it toasts and it pops up. He thought he could buy them all up and make lots of money. Well, he found out he couldn't. But I started looking. I didn't know what he was collecting, but I seen a toaster. I seen an old one. I bought it.
And then I really made a mistake. I bought a book on toasters. They make porcelain toasters?
Holy cow. I've got to find one of those. We drove the wheels off of the car looking for a porcelain toaster. Now I've got a big collection of them. But that's kind of how I got started on the toasters. And then, holy cow, look at this. Here's a coffee pot.
It's the same brand and it looks got the same markings as the toaster. So I bought that. I thought that would be nice to display them together. And then pretty soon my brain went crazy. If it was small and electric and I didn't have it, I had to have it. So I started buying it all.
And that was in a big mistake. If I had to do it all over again, it costs so much. People don't realize what it costs to run a museum like this. If I paid you a dollar apiece to clean those toasters, it would cost me, I got about eight thousand.
So that'd be eight thousand dollars. And you can't, nobody wants to work anymore. They can't, you can't hire them. I've cleaned those. I bet you I've, three times I've completely cleaned everything in there. But anyway, that's basically how I got started. When I started my basement, you couldn't walk down there. You'd have to watch it. Don't step on this one. Move around here. And then have you heard of Gathering of the Artists?
They have in Neosho. Well, Lowell Davis and Bob Tommy and a bunch of them got together. And every year they would have a show and they would show their paintings and so forth and they would sell it. One day I went there to see their artwork and talk to them. And I said, hey, I said, what are you guys doing Friday night? Because I knew they were in town from Texas and all over the country.
And Martha Spurlock, super, super good artist. I said, Martha, I said, what are you guys doing Friday night? She says, well, I don't know.
Far as I know, nothing. I said, how would you like to come out to the house and see my collection of electric appliances? I said, we can have coffee and whatever my wife wants to bake or cook. She said, OK. So sure enough, that night they all come out to the house and they came in and we talked a little bit. I said, come on down to the basement. I'll show you my appliances. Anyway, we went down, we looked at it and I could see they were interested.
Pretty good to begin with. But you can tell when people get tired. They said, well. So I says, hey, come on, let's go upstairs.
I think Janice has probably got coffee and a cake or something ready for us. OK. And all the other people went upstairs and I just made one step on the stairway. Doug grabbed me. I said, Richard, I got something to say to you. I said, I was trying to think. I said, what, Doug?
So I stepped back. We got to talking. And if I I shouldn't say what he said, but you'll get the drift of it. Or can I say what he said? He said, you know, when you invited us out to see this collection, he said, I told everybody what a bunch of B.S., what a waste of a good evening come out and see this crap. I said, oh, but he says, man, he says, am I impressed? He says, I can't believe this collection you've got down here. He said, this is.
Oh, you've got the prettiest appliances I've seen in a long time. But he says, I got another problem. And I said, oh, now what, Doug? He says, you know what's wrong with this? I said, what? He said, as nice a collection as you've got, it's a crime that only a very few people can see it. You need to have it where everybody can see it. Because he said, man, I've never seen any of this.
I've been all over the United States. And he says, this is absolutely fantastic. So when we walked upstairs, you know, I got thinking, you know, he's right, because I only show people, it's my friends and so forth, seeing it.
So I thought, how could I do this so more people could see it? Well, I had the Western store and I thought I could add on to the Western store and I could have a museum. And you're listening to one unique American voice, Richard Larimore's voice, his story. The world's largest small electrical appliance museum is his achievement. More of his story here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country. Stories from our big cities and small towns.
But we truly can't do the show without you. If you love what you hear, go to OurAmericanStories.com and click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot.
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Simply go to Geico.com or contact your local agent today. And we return to Our American Stories and Richard Larrimore, the founder and curator of the world's largest small electric appliance museum in Diamond, Missouri. When we last left off, Richard was telling us about how what started in his basement morphed into a full fledged museum. Let's continue with the story.
Here again is Richard Larrimore. Everything I've got back there, 99 percent, I might have one or two things. So all U.S. products back then, we had manufacturers.
We don't have many more. And another funny thing, you probably didn't think of this. They never had computers. They never had smart cell phones. Everything come from their head.
How am I going to do this? I need to make a toaster and I can't make it like the ones that's already there. So I've got to change it because they had about a dollar, a patent fee or something. So they'd change it. These inventors kept coming out with new new products because the people never had those before. So boom, that's brand new.
I got to have that. They might not have never used it, but it's different. There's percher toasters. You just put it in. It sits on the top and it cooks. You've got floppers that flop the toast over.
You've got swingers that swing around. And the manufacturers, I think this is my own personal feeling. If that toaster could do more than one thing, then you can have two different type of people.
They might need this. They could buy it for that or they could have a toaster. I would love to talk to some of those inventors. And some of the stuff they invented was so stupid and dumb. But I'm glad they did, because I love talking about stupid and dumb stuff. Well, somewhere I've got a toaster that is also a heater. Can you have your heaters get all the dirt, the crud? Can you imagine having a toaster?
Like I say, it's dumb, but I'm glad they did. I love to talk about the stuff that's so different. I've got one back there. I've probably got 40 or more one-of-a-kind toasters, coffee pots. I've got a waffle iron. They had the old drive-in movies.
Well, they turned it into a flea market on weekends when I went there. And I've seen this waffle iron, and I thought, boy, that sucker is brand new. I don't want to buy that.
I want old stuff. Well, I kept thinking about it, and I thought, you know, that was in mint condition. I've got to buy it. So I bought it, and it came in this original box, which was nothing.
It was just plain cardboard box. I brought it home and had a guy come through the museum once, and he says, oh, I see you've got a rare waffle iron. I said, I have? He says, yeah, that one right there. I says, you've got to be joking. No, he says, that's a rare one. I said, how come?
And he told me the story. It was made out of pot aluminum. And when you plugged it in and it heated up, if you forgot to turn it off, it would completely melt, fall apart, or it would start a fire. So they quit manufacturing it.
You're not going to plug it in if it's going to start fire or forget about it. And that's another thing with the old appliances. When they made, if they had the same kind of laws back then as they had today, we wouldn't have none of that, because if your little boy burnt his hand on a toaster, oh, that's unsafe. Well, you can't make that anymore.
So back then, they educated their kids, don't touch that because it's hot. Oh, you're right, dad. And you only did that once. Tell me what this is.
I was just about to say, don't say what you think it is. If I would have got a dollar for every time somebody said a hairdryer, I'd be rich. That's what everybody. And now let me tell you a story.
There's another one of those stories. I bought this in Eurek Springs and I seen it on the shelf and I walked up and the guy behind the counter and I said, sir. I said, what? I says, you know, I'm not the smartest man in the country, but I don't think I'm dumb either. How does a hairdryer with the holes in the side work? He starts laughing. He says, we got no hairdryer with holes in the side. How damn dumb can a guy get running the place or don't even realize he's got one like that? And then he looked up and seen that he starts laughing and he reached in the door and I've got the patent somewhere. And he pulled that says, here, read it.
I, our narrow have invented this man's man's face steamer to take place at the hot towels that they would wrap around their head before they would shave them. Very, very rare. And what really scares me right now, God forbid that if anything ever happened at a tornado and that tornado just missed this place. You know, if a tornado took that out, you can't replace it. What I've got back there, I'm proud to say that, but it scares the you know what out of me that tornado would take it away. You can't find that stuff anymore. I'm still looking for things I don't have, but there's not too many out there. We drove.
I've been driving all over. I love looking. I'm a hunter. I go in there.
Oh, I don't have this. Look at that. I spent thousands of dollars on eBay. And I had a good friend of mine. He was a multimillionaire. In fact, I always didn't know his name. He had 40 patents.
I'm not sure whether it's medical or whatever, but he was a smart, foreign guy. And the only way I could outbid him on eBay, if I wanted to bid on that, I thought, OK, that's worth $100. I had to bid $150 or $200 in order to get it because I knew he was bidding on it. I met him one day before he passed away, and I said, you know, you rotten sucker. He looks at me and says, you cost me lots of money.
And he just, yeah, I know it. It was a game with him, but I wanted it for my museum. And he had a museum. It wasn't any good. I shouldn't say it wasn't any good.
It was really small and was never open. You had to get an appointment. He might have had 100 different items in there. And I love what I'm doing.
I spent half of my life collecting that stuff back there. Younger people nowadays, if it's not a cell phone, they're not interested. But I'm surprised that some of the young people that come in here, that's a toaster? How does that work? That's a what?
A coffee? Whoa, that's cool, yeah. Some of the young people ask better questions, and I figure just the old people like myself, the young ones.
I had three boys come in here, and they were up 17, 18. And I thought, oh, this is going to be fun, because I can usually spot people that might be interested, and I like showing people that, and they ask so many questions. And the one young guy says, boy, he says, I can't believe how pretty some of this stuff is. And I looked at him, and I says, I forget what I call him, sir.
I said, just stop and think. Everybody loves something that's pretty. I says, when you're looking for a girlfriend, are you going out and trying to find an ugly one?
No, you're looking for a pretty girlfriend. And they really got a bang out of that, and they give me the best donations of anybody that's ever come through there. I could not believe it, because they were so excited about, that's a what going on. They had tons of questions, but when I told them that, he thought, I said, okay, your girlfriend, is she ugly?
He said, no. I said, there you go, you like pretty stuff. That's why this museum is different.
Everything back there has its own prettyness to it. And a special thanks to Katrina Heine, Jim Watkins, and Monty Montgomery for all the fine work putting that story together. What a delight. Richard Larimore, the world's largest small electrical appliance museum in Diamond, Missouri. If it was small and electric, I had to have it, he said. We drove the wheels off a car searching for a porcelain toaster.
I love what I'm doing. And so many Americans have these hobbies. Richard Larimore's hobby, the world's largest small electrical appliance museum.
The story of that museum here on Our American Stories. This is Our American Stories and up next, a story from one of our regular contributors who also happens to be a lawyer, Bill Bright. Some people don't have the highest view of lawyers.
Well, lots of people don't. But not every lawyer is an ambulance chaser. Let's listen to Bill Bright. I understand I'm the only active practicing lawyer in rural and from New Hampshire.
That may make me the best lawyer in a one lawyer town. I was writing one Saturday morning when a neighbor telephoned with a problem. Her 17 year old daughter had received a speeding ticket a little after 3 p.m. on December 4th, 2017. She'd been driving a friend to a medical appointment in Concord, New Hampshire. She was more concerned for her passenger than the speed limit. She didn't notice the speed limit had dropped from 65 to 50.
She was barreling along at 75 anyway. She was stopped in Henniker, a small town on Route 202, the main road between Antrim and Concord. The traffic stop was just bad luck.
An acquaintance that lives in my town is a self-confessed leadfoot. Antrim's constabulary had stopped him twice during the last two years. Each time he was cautioned to slow down and sent on his way without a ticket.
The Henniker police apparently exercised their discretion differently. She paid the fine. There were two things she didn't know about New Hampshire traffic law, which I too didn't know until it became my business to know. First, paying the fine is in admission of guilt.
Game over. Second, drivers under the age of 20 who plead guilty to a traffic violation risk a 20 day suspension of their licenses. The daughter had received a notice of hearing from the New Hampshire Department of Safety's Bureau of Hearings. Her parents sent me a PDF of the notice.
Email and PDF images are good things. And I began reviewing the relevant statutes and the Bureau's rules of procedure. If she defaulted, it didn't show up. Her license would be suspended for 20 days. If she appeared, she could present evidence in mitigation of penalty.
The notice of hearing and the legal materials agreed that a respondent may make a plea in mitigation of penalty in her case by presenting evidence of an otherwise spotless driving record and the effects of a suspension on her education and employment. Her parents emailed me more documents. Their daughter is in her senior year of high school with a 3.5 index and an internship. She's working for college credit. She's been accepted to six colleges in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and has applications out to as many more outside the Granite State. She drives to school and the internship. She also drives to outstate colleges for interviews as part of the application process. All these things are important both now and in her future.
Both parents work. Suspending her license would inconvenience the entire family. So I took the case. Learning a new area of law is part of the lawyer's trade. I'd spent eight years prosecuting employee disciplinary cases before administrative law judges. I'd presided over a couple of dozen proceedings as a hearing officer. I've represented hundreds of clients at bankruptcy hearings. This kind of work wasn't wholly unfamiliar, but a few years had gone by since my last trial and I'd never been counsel for the defense. I was retained on Saturday. The hearing was on Wednesday.
Time to work. Preparation is everything at a trial. On Sunday after mass, I drove through Henniker along Route 202 from border to border to see whether any of the signage was defective. It wasn't.
Still, the lawyer should always go to the scene of the incident to see for himself. I was finishing my draft direct examination when Mr. Boo entered the room. More formally known as Bolingbroke, our shy, gentle and affectionate feral tabby began weaving about my ankles and ewing when he thought I wasn't paying him enough attention. I had work to do. I walked from my office. Mr. Boo followed. Once far enough down the hall, I doubled back and closed the door. My client's parents would pay me not to pay attention to Mr. Boo for a few days.
Their fee will keep me in whiskey and cigars and cat food too. My client initially wanted to default, but on learning I'd done some work, she asked her father to bring her to my office so we might talk about it. I told her that though her parents were paying my fee, she was my client, not them. I'd execute her instructions. I'd an ethical duty to do that.
I couldn't guarantee success. If she didn't want to defend the case, I'd do everything I could to expedite the suspension and return of her license. We talked for a bit about her hopes and dreams of majoring in art and becoming a painter and sculptor. Then we went through my draft direct examination.
I explained my reasons for asking each question, elicited her answers, and suggested appropriate and truthful responses. James Fenimore Cooper called this practice horse shedding the witness. The phrase stemmed from the observation of attorneys who rehearsed their witnesses in carriage sheds near the courthouse in White Plains, New York.
Any resemblance to an excremental phrase was probably intentional. To me, this is legitimate witness preparation. The best client is one empowered with an understanding of the process. They become more comfortable despite a stressful situation once they understand how best to testify truthfully before they take the stand. We knew she'd already pled guilty to speeding by paying the ticket. Her arguments and medication of penalty were strong, great grades, a job, and acceptances to good colleges. At the end of the conversation, I asked her to talk about this with her father, left the room, gave them five minutes, and returned to find that she'd changed her mind. She wanted to fight, though understanding she might lose. Until then, I hadn't expressed an opinion on whether to fight. That had to be her decision without pressure from me. Now I told her that she'd made the correct decision. Better to fight than just rule over. I quoted Pascal, God does not require us to succeed.
He requires us to try. On Wednesday morning, I drove to my client's house, and her parents drove us to the Bureau of Hearings in Concord. We went over the questions again. She admitted nervousness, but felt less nervous than before.
We were second on the calendar. The hearing examiner was a pleasant, good-looking man of about 35. He was warm and friendly without being familiar.
He started on time at 9 a.m. and explained the process in clear, simple terms. He conducted the first hearing. Then he called my client's case. We went up to counsel's table. I began my direct examination. She explained why she was driving to Concord, taking a friend to a doctor. I introduced a copy of the traffic summons into evidence and moved to dismiss the state's case because of a flaw on the ticket's face.
The examiner was interested by my argument, but denied the motion. I then brought in her transcript and asked about her extracurriculars. Her answers made clear that a suspension would interfere with her education and extracurriculars and affect her parents, who would then have to transport her to and from school. We're in rural New Hampshire. Our regional high school is about 20 miles away by car.
There's no public transportation unless one counts a shabby school bus with some rowdy, unpleasant student riders. I was about to bring in the evidence of her internship, no money but college credit, when the examiner smiled. He waved his hand warmly, saying, I've heard enough. Don't keep talking when you've won. I shut my mouth.
Overpreparing is better. The hearing examiner didn't suspend the license or levy another fine. He gave her a year's probation without another hearing. The client and her parents are happy. Now I get to send them the bill. And you've been listening to Bill Bryke tell, well, a nice lawyer story. Not an unpleasant one, but a really nice one. And by the way, we all hate lawyers.
And so, of course, we need one. We love them and hate them. And if you're a lawyer listening, well, I'm an ex-lawyer. Well, I never actually practiced, but I went to law school.
So many of my friends are and live with this their whole lives, this duality of people loving and hating each other. The story of Bill Bryke defending a young girl in his hometown, teaching her to fight, and a judge giving the greatest lesson of all, when you've won, shut up. Bill Bryke's story here on Our American Story. And we continue here with Our American Stories.
And up next, Greg Hengler has an unlikely World War Two story about George McGovern, the liberal anti-war Democratic presidential candidate from South Dakota, who was soundly defeated by President Nixon in the 1972 election. Stephen Ambrose is one of America's leading biographers and historians. Ambrose's works have inspired Americans to regard its war veterans with newfound reverence. His bestsellers chronicle our nation's critical battles and achievements, from his seminal war works D-Day and Band of Brothers, to undaunted courage and nothing like it in the world, the men who built the transcontinental railroad.
Stephen Ambrose passed in 2002, but his epic storytelling accounts can now be heard here at Our American Stories, thanks to the permission from those who run his estate. Here's Stephen Ambrose to tell us a short story from his book, The Wild Blue, The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany. My next book is a story of the B-24 in the Second World War.
And it's not exclusively about, it's about a squadron and then about the bomb group. But one of the members of the squadron was George McGovern, who was a pilot of a B-24, 35 missions, got the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew bombers in the Second World War, and he did. And he thought, how do you open a story?
I open with George. He had come back from a raid over Vienna, he was all shot up with shrapnel and everything, and the plane just barely limping along, and it's a good story in itself. And the crew called up to him, Lieutenant, we got a bomb stuck in the bomb bay, half in and half out. And so they're either going to have to bail out, or they're going to have to get rid of that bomb. And George told him, go to work on that bomb so you can get it loose. And they finally called up, and they were now over a part of Western Austria, rural. And they called up, Lieutenant, we got it, we're ready, drop it, says George.
And they were, by this time, because they were so badly shot up, down to about 10,000 feet, and it was a clear day, and he could see that bomb going down, and he watched and watched and watched. Boom, he hit a farmhouse. And George looked at his watch, and he said, oh, shit, I'm a farmer. I come from South Dakota.
I know what time farmers eat. After the bomb fell, McGovern closed the bomb bay doors and headed home. On the intercom, he and Cooper, the navigator, talked. McGovern asked, what's the highest elevation we're going to go past? Cooper looked at his map, did his calculations, and replied, 8,000 feet, George, 8,000 feet. In the interview, Cooper told me, actually, it was only 7,000 feet, but I added another 1,000 feet because I was engaged to get married. Cooper grinned and then added, as George was expecting his first child, he added another 1,000 feet on top of that. Back at Sherignola, it was an easy landing.
No one had been hurt. McGovern jumped into a truck and rode over to the debriefing area, where the Red Cross woman gave him coffee and a doughnut. An intelligence officer came running up to him, the same officer who had handed him a cable back in December that told him his father had had a heart attack and died. And the bomb group commander told George, you can take tomorrow off. And George said, no, I'm not going to take that excuse.
I'm here for a job. This time, however, the officer was grinning from ear to ear as he handed a cable to McGovern. He said, congratulations, Daddy, you now have a daughter. The cable was from Eleanor. Their first baby, whom she named Ann, had been born on March 10 in the Mitchell Methodist Hospital. Eleanor concluded the cable, child doing well, love Eleanor.
I was just ecstatic, McGovern said, jubilant. But then he thought, Eleanor and I have brought a new child into the world today, and I probably killed somebody else's kids right at lunchtime. Hell, why did that bomb have to hit there? He went over to the officer's club and had a drink, cheap red wine. He was toasted and cured. But he later said, it really did make me feel different for the rest of the war. Now, I was a father. I had not only a wife back home, but a little girl, all the more reason why I wanted to get home and see that child. He returned to his tent and wrote Eleanor a long letter. He did not mention the farmhouse, but he couldn't get it out of his mind.
In an interview last year, he said to me, that thing stayed with me for years and years, decades. If I thought about the war almost invariably, I would think about that farm. There's been much criticism of the American air effort in the Second World War. People have said, geez, all that production that went into making those bombers, all of the expense of training those pilots and the crews, that would have been better spent on the Army or on the Navy instead of on those big bombers, plus which what they did was just awful. They killed women and children. And they never hit any of their targets, according to the critics. We shouldn't have done it.
Well, we don't know. What we do know is the Allies won the war. What McGovern did, what the 741st Squadron did, along with the rest of the 455th Bomb Group and all of the 15th Air Force and the 8th Air Force, most especially in their attacks against oil refineries and marshaling yards, was critical to the victory. They paralyzed the German Army. In April 1944, the Germans were producing oil at a rate of 100%. They had plenty of it.
This was down a year later to 1%. Hitler could not get gasoline for his Mercedes. German tanks couldn't move. They became fixed fortifications. The Germans, this is the country of Mercedes.
The Germans had no trucks. They had become a horse-drawn army fighting a 20th century war. McGovern, his crew, and all the airmen had spent the war years not in vain, but in doing good work. Along with all the peoples of the Allied nations, they saved Western civilization. Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister of the First World War, was living in London in the Second World War, and he watched these air crews in action, and he had this to say.
They were kittens in play, but tigers in battle. In 1985, McGovern was lecturing at the University of Innsbruck. The director of Austria's television, the state-owned station, contacted him to ask him to do an interview for a documentary. He was producing an Austrian World War II. McGovern reluctantly agreed.
It was a woman reporter doing the interview. She said, Senator McGovern, you're known around the world for your opposition to war, but you were a bomber pilot in the Second World War. You hit our beautiful cities, Innsbruck, Vienna. You killed women and children. Don't you regret that? McGovern's answer, well, nobody thinks that war is a lovely affair. It's humanity at its worst. It's a breakdown of normal communication, and it's a very savage enterprise. But on the other hand, there are issues that sometimes must be decided by warfare after all else fails. I thought Adolf Hitler was a madman who had to be stopped.
So my answer to your question is no. I don't regret bombing strategic targets in Austria, and her face just dropped. She was terribly disappointed, and George being George saw that, and he said, well, there was one bomb that I do regret. What was that?
McGovern told her about the bomb that had stuck in the bomb bay door and had to be jettisoned on March 14, 1945. And what happened? Cut. End of interview. And the documentary was shown a couple months later on Austrian TV, and there's a call at the station.
It's an old man. I'm a farmer, and that was my farm that he hit. It was exactly the way he described it. And I want you to tell Senator McGovern that I saw that bomb come out, and I got my wife and our two little girls, and we went into the ditch, and nobody got hurt. And I further want to tell you to tell Senator McGovern that I don't care what other Austrians say. I hated Hitler. I hated him so much that the instant I saw my little farmhouse and my barn go up, I thought to myself, if this shortens the war by one second, it was worth it. The television station called McGovern and told him what the farmer had said. McGovern, it was, quote, an enormous release and gratification. It seemed to just wipe clean a slate. And what great storytelling by one of the great storytellers of all time, particularly all things surrounding World War II. And thanks to the Stephen Ambrose estate for allowing us to use that story, the story of George McGovern and, of course, the story of the conscience of a soldier, here on Our American Stories.
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