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She's Seen It All: The Story of Mayor, Liquor Store Owner, Garbage Woman, and Teacher Cubby Hall

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 27, 2024 3:02 am

She's Seen It All: The Story of Mayor, Liquor Store Owner, Garbage Woman, and Teacher Cubby Hall

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 27, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Cubby Hall has been a mayor, a garbage woman, a liquor store owner, a pioneer in the Women's Army Corps (WAC), and a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. In her words, she's "seen it all." Here's her story.

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Here's Cubby. My sister in St. Louis has always been religious and I went to St. Louis years ago to visit with her and they were going church and the church was a big old old building and I was shocked because I thought they'd be in one of these big fancy cathedral type things, but it wasn't. It was an old building, but it had a big congregation. And the Sunday school class was on alcohol drinking. And I thought, boy, I've been set up here.

And then the sermon was on selling alcohol and I knew I'd had it then and I was sitting right next to my sister and I let it go on and on. He went on and on and on and pretty soon I just stood up. I said, may I say something?

Yes, you may. Well, I wound up talking 20 minutes and I couldn't find any place to shut up. I said, you know, God says he didn't want you to mistreat your body because you belong to him. I said, look at the people in here. They're all too heavy.

Their teeth need repair. I just went on and on and on. And so finally I sat down and they clapped. And the preacher thanked me for doing that. So when he finished his sermon and I sat right next to my sister and she didn't say a word. And so when he was finished, I thought, boy, I've got to get out of here. And I rushed back to the door, but he beat me back there. And he grabbed my hand and patted it and patted it and thanked me and went on and on. And I stood right there and shook hands with every person that came out of that church. And then we went to my sister's house and I got punished there. Hubby was born in August of 1934.

It hasn't been many years ago that I had lived longer without electricity than I had lived with it. And my grandfather homesteaded and then he had brothers and sisters and my dad and they kind of cut it up, let everybody have a piece of it. And my dad, they gave the old farmhouse.

He was born in there. I was born in that farmhouse. And when I was born, my dad worked on the highway and he had a team of mules and he had to leave.

And of course, he couldn't come home every night because they'd be too far with mules to come. But he always told my mother, take care of the cubbear. And that's how I got the name Cubby. And right next door we had what we called a garage, but it had a datted butcher. And we always took the bladder of the pig and cleaned it good and blow it up and use it for, it lasts for weeks.

You use it for volleyball and what have you. And we had chickens and we always had chicken for lunch on Sunday. And we'd go to church. But before we went to church, it was my job to get the chicken ready early. And I'd go catch a chicken and put a board across its head and pull its feet and pull its head off and hold it down and sometimes let it flop around. But I had hot water out there and scald it, you know, pluck it and then take it in the house after I got it cleaned. And after we washed it real good, Mom would let it soak in salt water while we went to church. But that was always my job. And that was just, there was nothing to it.

Just grab that chicken and take care of it and off we'd go to Sunday school then. But I wasn't the only one. Everybody around here did the same thing. And we went to town on Saturdays. But you let it snow. But we went town on Saturday because in town, in Neosho, they had a truck with a big wire barrel on it and they had everybody's name in it.

And they'd pull out a name and they got a hundred dollar bill from the merchants in town. So we never did miss Saturday but we never did get a hundred dollars either. But we always, Mom always packed a lunch and we went in the Big Spring Park to eat it. It was a good life. But I will have to say, I was always a straight F student. Grade school through high school. And I mean F. I was real bashful.

Couldn't talk or anything. But when I started high school freshman year here at Neosho, I had a teacher, Mrs. Dorothy Fall, who realized that I wasn't just a moron. And she asked me if I would come in on my study hall period and clean her room. And she would tutor me while I was doing that. Well, I was happy. And she had the cleanest room in school because I knew how to clean. But anyway, later on, after I got old, I ran for the city council and really won.

Had none. Bob Hayes ran that same year. And when our first council meeting, they elected me mayor pro tem and Bob was mayor. And then Bob, I'm sorry to say, had the audacity to have a heart attack that night and could not be on the council anymore.

So I automatically became mayor of Neosho. And then after the first term, I was elected mayor the second time. And that's when we had that big tornado. And my teacher, Dorothy Fall, whom I loved, she and her mother lived at the corner of Kodiak and Norway.

And they were both killed in that tornado as it came through there. And I was always so proud that she lived to see me become mayor because she brought me out of the dust, I'll tell you. She was a wonderful woman.

And that's probably the most exciting thing I ever did. And you've been listening to Rebecca Cubby Hall tell her story. Born in 1934, lived a long part of her life without electricity.

Give you a context that there was life before us here in this great country. Take care of the cub bear, her father would say to her mother. That's how Cubby became her nickname.

And it's stuck. And by the way, when asked to go get the chicken before church, it did not entail a trip to Kroger or Piggly Wiggly or Ralph's. It meant get the chicken.

And anyone who lives a rural life knows what that means back then. When we come back, more of this unique and original voice, but not so unique to you who live out in parts of this great country that live like this and live in the rural parts of the country especially. More with Cubby Hall's story, Trailblazing Woman, here on Our American Story. There's a lot happening these days, but I have just the thing to get you up to speed on what matters without taking too much of your time. The Seven from The Washington Post is a podcast that gives you the seven most important and interesting stories.

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BetterHelp.com slash OAS. And we return to our American stories and our story with Rebecca Cubby Hall. When we last left off, Cubby was telling us about her upbringing, about how terrible a student she'd been. Straight F's, he said, and also told the story about how one teacher changed her life and that teacher, Miss Dorothy Fall, would ultimately lose her life to a tornado. But thanks to that teacher's intervention, well, Cubby would one day become mayor of Neosha. Something she was glad that her teacher got to see before that tragedy.

Let's turn just a bit back further to her teenage years. Here again is Cubby Hall. I had a paper route in Camp Crowder. Crowder was in full swing, about 70,000 men over there and women over there. And that's why I joined the Army, because I saw those WACs.

I didn't know any of them, never spoke to one, but I liked the way they looked. And that was the Women's Army Corps. There was no women's army then.

Nobody now even knows what WAC stands for. But Rebecca's mother wasn't too fond of the idea of her daughter joining the Army. Oh, I wanted to go so badly. And by her not wanting me to probably made me want to do it more. But my dad never did say, yes, go ahead. My mother never did say, no, you can't do it.

So I did. I joined the Army. And my dad, my mother wouldn't even tell me goodbye.

She wouldn't go with me to Kansas City. My dad took me in. I caught the bus.

I think it was about 1030 or 11 at night, Greyhound bus. And my dad said, now Cub, don't ever do anything that when it gets down to the nitty gritty, you can't tell your ma and me. I think about that all the time. I think that's the best advice anybody could ever have given a kid. But anyway, I went in the Army.

Loved it. I was stationed the whole time at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. And there, my commanding officer sent me to Fort Slocum, New York, to what they called Troop Information Education School. And that's where I became a teacher. And I taught, among other things, I taught how to take an M1 apart and clean it, put it back together.

I taught PE and I taught the history of the military and chemical warfare, of which I remember none of it now. But I didn't have any way to go to town ever because of my job. The buses didn't run. After I got off work, I went to work late and got off really late. And so that just bought me a motorcycle. I had never, ever been close to a motorcycle in my whole life.

Never seen one other than just it driving by. But I bought a 1947 Harley-Davidson. When I bought my motorcycle, I went into this shop.

I just happened to see it when I got off the bus. And I told him, I want the best bargain you have in this place. And he said, well, it's that one right over there. It was a 1947. I can't remember. It wasn't a great big one, but it was $200. So I paid him cash for it.

He gave me a receipt. And I said, now if you'll show me how to ride it, I'll leave. And he said, if I had have known that you didn't know to ride, I wouldn't have sold it to you.

But he had a big field out behind his shop. So we went out there, and he showed me how you had to change gears with your foot. And I rode round and round and across that field and around it.

But I wasn't confident. And I left it for about two weeks. And every opportunity I got, I went out and rode that motorcycle. Of course, we weren't allowed to wear pants.

We had dresses and bobby socks. I just took that old dress out of me. And one day I was out there riding.

It took about two weeks. I just rode out the gate and kept going. It was kind of scary at first. I got used to it and loved it. And if I could afford it now and were younger, I'd buy a motorcycle right now.

It was neat. But the only problem I ever had with them were the guys in my office. There were 40 men that worked in my office, and they were always wanting to borrow my motorcycle. And I lent some of them, and some of them I wouldn't. And I got out, my time was up, reenlisted, and they made me get out because I got married.

Women cannot be married and be in the service. And then we came back here and went to college to get my bachelor's degree to be an elementary teacher. And it only took me nine years because I had jobs in between. And the first school I taught in was a one-room school. I had 28 students, boys and girls, first grade through eighth grade.

Loved every minute of it. Did my own janitor work. We had two outside toilets, boys and girls. And my contract read that I would scrub the outside toilets with hot, soapy water every Friday night.

We didn't even have running water. It was a fun time. And I hardly ever got to sleep because I was so busy getting lesson plans and looking up and doing it. And we had a set of world books.

That's how we looked things up. And to make copies, I had a hectograph machine that was like a wooden book. You open it up and it had jelly in it. And then you wash that jelly. And then you used an indelible pencil to write on paper.

And you write that and you wet the jelly, put your paper on there and rub it. Then take your paper up and then put a clean sheet of paper on it. And that would make one copy. Then you had to do that all again until you got enough copies for however many students you had. And so I was constantly making copies and I couldn't let the students do it because they'd see the test.

If it were a worksheet, I did let them do it. And Rebecca would have her son Doug in the middle of the school year. Becoming a mother didn't slow her down though. Doug was born in November and I, well I started to school and then I realized, well I can't do this.

So I turned around and went to the hospital. And Doug was born on Thursday and I took him to school with me on Monday in a clothes basket. So he started pretty young. And the younger kids, even boys, would want to hold him while he was asleep. The older girls, which they'd crucify me for now, but everybody there lived on farms and they belonged to 4-8 and everything. The older, the 7th and 8th grade girls would take care of Doug during the day. If he went to sleep, we'd let one of these little girls or little boys hold him while he slept.

They didn't care if we brought him as long as they had school. I did 8 years in a one room school house. And we had real slate black lords. You could really clean them. It should come as no surprise given her penchant for doing the dirty work, so to speak, that Rebecca also worked as a garbage woman. She had a unique way of handling the job because she couldn't lift the heavy bins by hand. I ran house to house and I would get the trash can ready because there's always trash around them. Pick it up and put it in the can. And then after the guys would dump it in the truck, they just throw the can down on the ground and all the trash that's left in it comes out. So I would pick all that up and put the lid back on it. And people actually came out and they'd bring lemonade and cookies and ice cream and stuff.

It'd be easy to gain weight on the trash route. She never stopped teaching though, even in her work around the city. I got a grant from the government to get 12 high school boys that were in trouble with the law and needed their GED and took them around with me. And I would sing the multiplication tables for their GED because there was no way you're going to make those boys sit down and work for their GED. And one of them actually became the superintendent of the streets in Yosho after that. Those boys were a pleasure to work with, really a pleasure. We never had any problems at all. I ain't afraid of anybody or anything.

I've done it all. And a special thanks to Katrina Hine and Monty Montgomery for the work on that story. And a special thanks to Cubby Hall, the story of Rebecca Cubby Hall, trailblazing woman here on Our American Story.

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