Growing Up in Mentor: A Mini-Memoir

By Brenda Burger Mings

Brenda Burger Mings
I was born and raised in Mentor, Missouri, an unincorporated town about seven miles east of Springfield. My maternal grandfather, William A. Bryant, and a son-in-law of his, each owned half-interest in the Bryant & Bradley General Store in Mentor. Grandfather also was a blacksmith at the store. The two of them drove a horse-drawn wagon to Springfield for supplies. The store had a post office until 1906.

I never knew my grandfather. He died in 1922 at the age of seventy-seven. He came from Illinois and
fought for the North in the Civil War. He is buried in National Cemetery, Springfield, Missouri.

Walking to School
When Mother and her brothers were students at Mentor School, they
walked to school, and later I did sometimes. Mother wore a dress in warm weather. In cold weather, her parents made her wear long johns like her brothers. She didn’t want to be seen in them, so she would take them off on her way to school, hide them in bushes, and then pick them up after school and wear them home.

The school was on East Farm Road 186, also known as Mentor Road, approximately two city blocks east of South Farm Road 193. The school was across from the general store and approximately three-hundred feet east. The intersection of roads 186 and 193 was the center of the community. All the roads were dirt. Old Highway 60 near the house where I was born may originally have been dirt or gravel.

Mentor school had two rooms and eight grades when my mother first attended. She graduated from the eighth grade. Later, two years of high school were added in one of the rooms. Mother returned to complete high school. Otherwise, she would have had to go into Rogersville, eight or nine miles up the road, and that was a ways to go in a horse and buggy.

Mother Cooked School Lunches
Daddy worked for the railroad, and Mother cooked lunches at Mentor School. Since there were only about ten students in all eight grades, it was like cooking for a family. People donated meat when they butchered. The government had commodities which they provided to these little schools, and with my mother as cook we had good lunches (except for the one day a week we had liver).

We had pie suppers at the school, and that was fun. People brought pies we auctioned off, and some man would buy a pie that a certain woman made. It was to make money for the school. At one of those pie suppers, my mother presented a demonstration of all the things you could do with Miracle Whip. I can just see her standing there, slinging around the Miracle Whip.

After several years cooking for the school, she went to work at Heer’s and retired from there after twenty-plus years. She was a smart, well-rounded, lovely lady.

My first year of school was 1952 at Kinser, a country school just a little north and east of where we lived. The teacher, Miss Mary Smith, stopped by and picked me up. I guess my mother thought it was best for me to go to a school where I could ride with the teacher. I did, however, attend Mentor for three years, until the country schools consolidated. The schools were consolidated in 1957 when I was in fifth grade, and all students in the area transferred to a new school, Logan Elementary, near Rogersville. 

The Only Girl in School
When I went to Mentor School, there was a total of eight students in grades one through eight. They discontinued the two years of high school a number of years before. Some grades had no students, and I was always the only child in my grade and the only girl in the school. We walked across the street to the general store for ice cream and candy. I don’t know who the owners were at that time. I was still in school when the store went out of business. I don’t know why the store closed. Maybe because the owners got sick or they just didn’t have enough business. People moved into the upstairs of the store and used it as a house. They were real poor people, but they had two girls, Martha and Barbara, who came to the Mentor school. I was thrilled because I was a girl in the school with all boys and now had playmates.

The Only Church in Town
Mentor Baptist Church, built in 1907, was the only church in Mentor when I was growing up, and still is. We were members at another church up the road, Center Point Church of Christ, but Mother took me to all area churches for Bible school during the summers. Today, Mentor Baptist Church is in its original location at the intersection of East Farm Road 186 and South Farm Road 193. It has grown in membership and the building has expanded several times. The church celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007. 

Photo courtesy Brenda Burger Mings. She moved to Springfield in 2004.

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