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West Plains: A Snapshot of the Past

A new book leads readers through West Plains as though they were strolling through the town in the years between 1930 and 1970. In this installment of our ongoing series, A Sense of Place, KSMU’s Emma Wilson interviews the West Plains historian who compiled photos and tidbits of local history to create a book, which was published at the beginning of February.

The book is a collaboration between Toney Aid, a West Plains business owner, and Jerry Womack, manager of the West Plains Daily Quill newspaper. It’s called West Plains: 1930 to 1970 and is a part of the “Images of America” series by Arcadia Publishing. It chronicles the lives of West Plains residents during a 40 year period in which many aspects of daily life changed dramatically. Many of the photos in the book came from the Daily Quill archives which, Aid says, are rich with snapshots from everyday life.

Aid: I went to the negatives at the Quill office and picked out ones that seemed to be of, I thought, wide ranging interest to the most people. And then Jerry and I researched them through the original newspapers plus other books that have already been written on the history of West Plains to put together the captions.

With these photos and captions the reader is guided though the pages of history as a guest to West Plains’ past.

Aid: For instance, one chapter takes a tour of West Plains in 1960. I have the reader come into town on a continental bus, Trailways bus, and arrive at the bus depot and we have photos of the bus depot in 1960.

The reader then takes a stroll around downtown with a series of photos highlighting buildings, people and events in 1960. The reader takes a visit to the Two Way Cafe and spots ladies shopping at a sidewalk sale in front of Milstead’s Dress Shop.

Aid: I tried to find things that would spark a lot of memories from a lot of different people from this time.

Aid and Womack also turn their attention to the changes West Plains went through as the nation at large moved toward a manufacturing based economy and the people of West Plains adjusted to keep up with the increasingly modern world.

Aid: In that time period West Plains went from an agricultural-based community to one that had several large industries.

Aid says what’s so valuable about the photos he and Womack collected is the focus on people in the community as they underwent these changes.

Aid: In the book I tried to cover a wide range of people, from community leaders to the people who worked in the factories to people who worked on the farms and give a good expression of what life was really like here in the 1930s to 1970s and show how it changed.

This book is a follow up to the one Toney Aid wrote that was published in 2003 which exhibited West Plains’ photographic history between 1880 and 1930. For KSMU’s Sense of Place, I’m Emma Wilson.