Springfield, MO

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by Eddie Bass

I noticed a story in the daily newspaper about there being a movement afoot to establish a farmers' market on Commercial Street.

It's worth noting that the north side of Springfield was the original home of what we today refer to as a farmer's market.

It was on Campbell between Pacific and Blaine. It was called "the city lot."

I suspect that the city owned it, but I know of no convenient way of checking that point.

On the west side of the property, near Campbell, was a set of truck scales. The rest of the property was open there were no structures on it.

The city lot was more than a mere farmer's market. Farmers bought things at the city lot in addition to displaying their produce for city dwellers to buy.

I remember that there would be trucks loaded with hay parked on the city lot. Farmers would buy a few bales of hay or even a whole truckload.

During the heating season, vendors with loads of firewood would park on the city lot and wait for customers.

In fact, Ken Carter, now chairman of the board of Springfield's Commerce Bank, recalls when he was a boy, hearing family tales of how "Grandpa Ward" could park his moving vans on the city lot.

"I believe he would have his phone calls directed to a store on Commercial Street," Carter said.

The city lot now is a parking lot. Commerce Bank bought the property to the south bounded by Campbell, Court, Boonville and Pacific from the Queen City Lumber Company.

The bank still maintains a presence there, although the property is now owned by the Assemblies of God.

I grew up around the intersection of Campbell and Pacific. My father operated a "produce house" at the southwest corner.

In those days the 1920s and 1930s grocery stores didn't sell chickens. If you wanted a chicken for Sunday dinner, you went to your favorite "produce house" to buy it.

Dad would buy chickens and eggs from farmers, then sell the chickens alive or dressed at retail to city folk. The eggs would be sold by the case to retail grocers.

Another part of his business was the buying and selling of sour cream.

There were no milk routes in those days. Dairy farmers would run the milk their herds produced through a "separator."

The separator would remove the cream from the milk. The farmers then would feed the de-fatted milk to their hogs, and they would sell the cream, after it had soured, to dealers like my father.

Dad would accumulate the sour cream he bought from the farmers and sell to "creameries," which would use the sour cream to make butter.

As a footnote, the first job I can recall doing around my father's store was steaming out cream cans. You would take the farmer's cream container and place it upside down over a jet of live steam. That would clean out and sanitize the farmer's container.

Carter recalls that there was a true farmer's market on the north side for years.

"We had a drive-in property on the east side of Boonville," Carter remembers. "For years and years, we allowed farmers to use the parking lot at that facility to sell their produce."

What's the saying? "What goes around comes around ..."

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