Cover image for Down home Missouri : when girls were scary and basketball was king
Down home Missouri : when girls were scary and basketball was king
Vance, Joel M., 1934-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Columbia : University of Missouri Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
165 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CT275.V216 A3 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



When I was thirteen, we moved to Dalton, Missouri, a flyspeck on the road map, so my father could supervise the 960-acre farm he and his two partners had bought several years before. It was a return to his roots. Our new home in Dalton was infinitely more primitive than our South Side Chicago apartment and even more primitive than my aunt and uncle's hill-country house on the other side of the county. It was a hotel, one that hadn't entertained guests for decades. It was a nightmare the likes of which my father never had. Not only did the hotel lack an indoor toilet and potable water, it also had no bathing facility.

In this warmly witty account, Joel Vance re-creates what it was like for a city kid to have his life changed almost entirely when he is transplanted from his Chicago birthplace to his father's home country in rural Missouri--where basketball was the major social event and a night out might be a trip to the burger joint in town.

While Vance writes about his relatives and their roots in Missouri and Wisconsin, his focus is on his growing-up years in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The anguish of adolescence is detailed, but lightened with Vance's special skill for humor. Dating, French kissing, drinking, hog castration, and vocational agriculture are just a few of the experiences that Vance recalls. His comical encounters with the local citizenry, his social misadventures, and his fumbling exploits on the high school basketball and baseball teams are interwoven with reflections on weightier matters, such as the mismanagement of the Missouri River and its wetlands by the Corps of Engineers. He shares his emotions, his dreams, and the realities of his high school days, capturing the essence of the experiences of many who lived in the Midwest at midcentury.

Although Vance's writing is funny--sometimes laugh-out-loud funny--there are poignant moments, too, when the realities of life and death are immediate and personal. Any reader from a small-town background will identify with Vance's memories, and most city readers will understand Vance's confusion in coping with the move from Chicago to rural Missouri. Taking the reader back to a time when life was simpler and days seemed longer, this lively recollection of coming of age in a small Missouri town will provide hours of enjoyment.

Author Notes

Joel Vance was the leading writer for the Missouri Department of Conservation and wrote hundreds of articles for its magazine, the Missouri Conservationist, before his 1991 retirement. He is the author of five books on nature and the outdoors, ranging from Confessions of an Outdoor Maladroit to Upland Bird Hunting. He and his wife, Marty, live in Russellville, Missouri.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Home was the town of Dalton, Missouri, where Vance and his parents moved from an apartment on Chicago's South Side in 1947, when he was 13. They lived in this town of about 200 people through most of the 1950s. Vance's father had been born in rural Missouri, and many of the author's relatives lived there. They moved so that his father could supervise a 960-acre farm that he and his two partners had bought several years before. Their home was a former hotel--17 rooms without running water or an indoor toilet. Vance remembers listening to their big Zenith art deco console radio (to Walter Winchell, the Carter Family, Amos `n' Andy, and the Grand Ol' Opry), drinking beer, smoking, dating (his fear of girls made him feel "like a stray dog that desperately wants affection but is spooky about asking for it"), and playing on the high-school basketball and baseball teams (though he was "a quintessential benchwarmer" ). Down Home Missouri is a humorous and poignant recollection of growing up. --George Cohen

Library Journal Review

Sounding a little like comedian Jeff Foxworthy, Vance (Billy Barnstorm, The Birch Lake Bomber, and Grandma and the Buck Deer) writes of moving from Chicago to rural Missouri when he was 13 and growing up there in the Fifties. "If you're nostalgic for the good ol' days, chances are you never experienced them," he says, though he is saddened by today's complacency. He touches on important issues, such as the loss of wildlife habitats, the Army Corps of Engineers' mismanagement of rivers, big business farming, and race relations. He also recounts personal experiences, like the first kiss he gave a girl, just as she turned her face: "My lips made a horrible slurping sound and I left a wet trail like a garden slug." Whereas baseball was king in Chicago, it was basketball that ruled in rural Missouri, and Vance distinguished himself by shooting at the wrong basket, having forgotten that the teams switched ends of the court at half-time. Until his retirement in 1991, he was lead writer for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Recommended for public or academic libraries.DNancy P. Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Me and Al Caponep. 1
2 Down Homep. 18
3 The Gunp. 39
4 Moving Southp. 50
5 Little Town Dyingp. 63
6 The Big Radiop. 77
7 The Three Friendsp. 85
8 Tampering with Religionp. 97
9 The Game of Summerp. 109
10 The Nazi and the Hell Machinep. 119
11 Dating in the Dark Agesp. 126
12 The Making of a Non-Farm Boyp. 138
13 Palsp. 147
14 Winding Downp. 155