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Larry Lewis: "Even though we had very little money, we ate like kings."

Janet Saidi wears a light blue Missouri on Mic t-shirt and smiles to camera. Larry Lewis wears a plaid button down and glasses and smiles to camera.
Katie Quinn

Larry Lewis spoke with the Missouri On Mic team at the Unbound Book Festival in April - more specifically with his daughter, KBIA’s own Janet Saidi.

Larry is a Missouri native and the two spoke about some fond memories of family and friends at the farm.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Janet Saidi: Well, speaking of feeling at home in Missouri, you know, you mentioned the farm, which, you know, I know the farm well and have lots of memories there, too.

It was just a time to see Grandma and hang out at the farm. And then also when we had kids, bring the kids Catherine and Miriam to the farm. So it's always been about fun and family and all the Fs, to quote Catherine—

Larry Lewis: Mimi.

Janet Saidi: or Mimi?

Larry Lewis: Mimi, I think it was.

Janet Saidi: Yeah. So basically, the farm has been all the good F's for me—

Larry Lewis: Yes.

Janet Saidi: But what are some of your memories of the farm?

Larry Lewis: Well, they're not all good. I mean, it was a hard life. I grew up in depression years.

We hardly had anything to eat—I mean, any money to spend but always had something to eat on the farm.

Now my mother and dad lived in St. Louis. But because of the Depression, they moved back and moved into the farm where my dad had grown up as a boy.

And as I said awhile ago, even though we had very little money, we ate like kings.

We had a garden full of any kind of vegetable you would want or imagine.

We had hogs and cows, and my dad would butcher a calf every year and butcher a hog or two.

And my we had all we ever wanted to eat and far more than we should have eaten.

Janet Saidi: So the family folklore says that your grandmother, Grandma Maggie, who was a widow and bought the farm, that she said her husband died and left are nothing but a barn full of mules and a house full of kids. Is that true?

Larry Lewis: Yes. Yeah, that's one of her little one liners.

She liked to tell it that she kept the kids but sold the mules and bought the farm north of Centralia.

And my dad grew up there, both of us went to the same little one room country school.

So the school became a—not just an educational institution, it became very much a center of social life for the communities.
Larry Lewis

And that's sort of a fond memory I have that little country school. Burnham Elementary.

Never had I don't think over eight or 10 students. It was almost like private tutoring, one teacher with eight grades.

And there was something about kind of moving at your own pace. And your teacher constantly monitors you and quizzes you at appropriate times.

And then you move on to the next.

We all knew one another. We knew that the names of all of our neighbors knew the kids names knew the names of the dogs and the cats.

I mean, it was just like, in a way, a big extended family all centered around the little country school.

So the school became a—not just an educational institution, it became very much a center of social life for the communities.

And they gathered, as I say, frequently for various—usually a carry-in potluck dinner, followed by some kind of program, sometimes put on by the students of the school, sometimes honoring somebody in the community or military personnel.

But it developed the unity and then they all worked together.

Janet Saidi: What a great memory. Thanks for sharing that, Dad.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.
Caoilinn left KBIA in December of 2022.
Caoilinn Goss is the Audio Convergence Editor at KBIA. She trains and oversees student reporters, editors and anchors to produce daily afternoon newscasts. She's also a Missouri Journalism School alum.