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A young girl’s Success story


Submitted photo
The Vada store and mill as it looked in the 1940’s. It was located a few miles northeast of the town of Success.


Christy Dieman,
Staff Writer

  Born in 1931, the youngest of 14 children, Lena (McCoy) Ward grew up on forty acres near the town of Success, Missouri. Many of the small communities, churches and schools of her youth now exist only in the past. Towns like Vada and the small country schools of Dunn and Prairie Point have long since vanished from everything but memory.
  Three of her siblings died of diphtheria. The first two, a brother and a sister, died in the early 1920’s before Lena was born, and the third sister passed in 1932 when Lena was about a year old. During this time, Lena contracted it as well.
  “By the time I got it, they knew what it was and got me to the doctor in time,” Ward said, also mentioning that her dad took her to Doc Tilley in Plato but found him out on call, so they headed to Houston where she received treatment.
  Making a livelihood on their small farm was not easy; like most families in the area the work was hard. “We had milking shorthorns. You could run them all out on the range,” Ward shared, “we also had hogs.” The crops they grew were fenced in to keep livestock out. Ward continued, “We raised hay and corn. We also raised wheat. We took it to the Jackson (Vada) Mill. We also took it to Plato. The wagon was loaded and pulled with a team to be taken to the mill to be ground into flour. That was quite a ways with a wagon and a team.”
  The Jackson Mill was located about two and a half miles from the town of Success between what is now Boiling Springs Road and Paddy Creek Road. It was also called the Vada store after the now extinct community of Vada. The owner of the mill and store was a man that went by the name “General” Jackson. While it served as a store and a mill, the two-story structure did not have a post office. 

Submitted Photo
The Dunn School in the late 1930’s with Lena (McCoy) Ward in the front row, third from the right, and her brother, George, next to her.
  In the fall of 1936 Lena started school at Dunn. The school was located near the town of Success close to what is now Cavaness Drive. She walked the mile and a half to school, cutting through fields rather than following roads, to make the trip shorter. Said Ward, “Old man Dunn donated the land for the school and that’s how it got its name.” Ward mentioned Dora Mace, Vivian Dye and Elda Vaughn as a few of the teachers she had while attending Dunn school.
  Ward started high school in Houston in the fall of 1945. “I had to walk about a mile and a half to catch the school bus at Success. Rain or snow, sleet or whatever,” she laughs. The trip to the bus stop was often either muddy or dusty so she would prepare for it. “I’d wear my boots if it was real cold or snowy and when I got there, I’d put my town shoes on,” she continued.
  Like a lot of young people growing up in very rural areas of the day, her experience with larger towns wasn’t always positive. “You came to town and all these kids were dressed better than us and they thought they were better than us,” she laughs, recollecting several experiences of her own.
  The frugalness of the times also extended into the family’s Christmas celebrations. “We didn’t have gifts. There was just no money for gifts. Dad would try to get us extra oranges. We cut a pine tree and set it up in a corner on the library table,” Ward said, stating that the only ornaments they had were homemade. “We took crepe paper and cut it in strips and made a chair with it. Sometimes we’d get pine cones.”
  Lena married Roy Ward in 1949 and lived most of her life in the Success area. She spent several years at the International Shoe Factory in Houston until finally taking a job on Fort Leonard Wood where she stayed until retirement. When Roy passed away, Lena moved to Houston but keeps her childhood memories as close as the box of black and white photographs she still holds on to. 

Submitted Photo
Lena (McCoy) Ward and her brother, George, seated on Kate the mule.

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