Editor's note: Former Courier-Post Editor Mary Lou Montgomery has released a new history book. The Courier-Post has asked her to share details and thoughts in her own words.
HANNIBAL | I’ve always had a tremendous curiosity about the past. I don’t mean generals and wars, but rather ordinary people.
Perhaps my curiosity was triggered by the fact that I didn’t know my maternal grandparents, Robert B. and Kathryn Glascock Robinson. They both died before I was born, and their deaths had a stark impact upon their youngest daughter – my mother, Mary Louise.
When I was growing up, I remember that Mom didn’t talk much about her parents. When I went with her to their graves (always before Memorial Day, so she wouldn’t run into other people) I remember how sad she would become.
But she didn’t talk about it. That sparked my curiosity. I wanted to know who my grandparents were.
I dabbled in research and history writing all of my adult life, but gained a whole new resource when newspapers across the nation started to digitize their “morgues.” First, I found a few years’ worth of “Hannibal Clippers” from the mid-1870s on the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website. Then, to my great surprise, the Quincy newspapers were made available through the Quincy library’s website. There, I started finding “golden nugget” stories about Hannibal people, under such titles as: “reprinted from today’s Hannibal Courier.”
Today, the access to newspapers from the past is extraordinary. I have both paid subscriptions and free access sites to peruse, and I do so on a daily basis.
When I retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post at the end of 2014, (with the help of Sally Poole Kintz) I created a website, and then started researching and writing. My website now houses some 300 stories about people and personalities from Hannibal and beyond, accompanied by photos and maps.
And while digital access to these stories is amazing, I must remind you that I am a newspaper purist. Each story I write is also published by the Hannibal Courier-Post. Ink on paper. That’s the only format that I am certain will exist when the next as yet unimagined communication venue evolves.
With the encouragement of Hallie Yundt Silver, director of the Free Hannibal Public Library, I categorized my stories by subject and compiled a book. The first topic is doctors, nurses and pharmacists from the past. During the first months of quarantine involving the current Covid-19 pandemic, I compiled 39 stories under one cover: “Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri.”
On the cover is a picture contributed by Hannibal native Tommy Maddox. In 1947, Dr. Eugene M. Lucke, Marion County’s long-time health physician, affixed a quarantine sign to the Maddox family’s front door, when 2-year-old Tommy was diagnosed with scarlet fever. Tommy’s parents had the presence of mind to snap a photo of the iconic physician walking to his car. This photo is important today, as it reflects another era – just like today - when public health officials are working to protect the spread of a deadly disease.
Ironically, Tom Maddox dedicated his career to public health, retiring as deputy director of the Kansas City Health Department, and post-retirement as director of the Arlington, Va., County Public Health Department.
Last year I moved to Tulsa, Okla., and I’m thoroughly enjoying the exploration of history in my new environment.
But, my memories are still fully entrenched in the town where I grew up. I can conjure up vivid images of unique details of my hometown, as if I was standing before them, camera in hand.
Of recent I have been writing about the Market Street Wedge. In my mind, it is still in place: The bank where I opened my first checking account; the dime store where I coveted penny candy while my mother shopped; the butcher shop where my father shopped for good steaks.
But to a new generation, there is no vision of the now demolished Wedge. The publication of stories regarding this neighborhood, including unique “golden nugget” moments in time, is what preserves the lifestyle of this era.
I have written and published three books that preserve unique details of the lifestyle of the people who lived here before us.
Books available on Amazon.com by Mary Lou Montgomery: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com