By Marie Lasater
For the past 36 years, customers at the Licking MFA on Main Street have been greeted and helped by Alta Dixon. In a respite from the often grueling, dirty and dusty work of farming, farmers and ranchers could count on Alta; always beautiful, elegantly dressed, and with gracious manners, chatting about family, the weather, and farm concerns.
While Dixon didn’t buck a lot of feed sacks, other than dog food, over the past three-plus decades, she has done a lot of heavy lifting. As the person possessing the institutional memory, she trained employees and supervisors alike. In fact, current MFA manager John Harrison credits Alta with, “teaching me and helping me learn the responsibilities,” of the job.
Dixon took over the role of MFA bookkeeper in 1982 upon the retirement of Fern Collins, employed as bookkeeper at the Licking MFA Farmer’s Exchange for 34 years prior. She was hired by Don Fox, who told her, “Whoever I hire cannot leave because I don’t know anything about that bookkeeping.” Dixon jokingly told Jackie Bever, who will be taking over her position, that the expectation is that she will beat the record, and retire after 38 years.
Dixon relates that her starting salary at MFA was $600 per month. When asked if that was enough money to get by on back in 1982, she replied, “No, because Fern was making $1,000 a month, and when she left, they bought a new truck with a $400 a month payment, so I always said they traded Fern for me and a truck!”
After leaving high school, and before starting at MFA, Alta held several jobs, including working for Jim Walter Homes in St. Louis in the mid 1960’s, and a Civil Service position at Fort Leonard Wood that spanned seven years. Madonna Williams, who graduated with Alta and roomed with her in St. Louis when they went to St. Louis for work, knows Dixon well.
“She was always a little primpy like she is now,” joked Williams. “She loved old cars, and when we’d have a sleepover at her house, we would sneak drive her dad’s car. We were too short to reach the pedals, so one would steer and one would push the pedal.”
Several others quickly disagreed, saying, “She didn’t have to sneak to drive the car – her Daddy let her do anything she wanted!”
Her sister Karen Nelson, agreed, saying, “My other sister (Carole Ragain) and I had to ride in the back seat, while Alta rode in front with Mama and Daddy, and we weren’t allowed to the front seat!”
Fox Community Room saw about 125 guests the evening of May 25 as friends, family and former coworkers stopped by to wish her well. One young man that Alta supervised during his teens was also present: Roy Ogden, now running a successful farm of his own.
“I had a time with him!” joked Dixon. “I tired to train him up; he was still a boy when he started, and worked with me the longest, about 12 years, starting about 1984. Jim Stephens actually hired Roy.”
When asked what she will miss most about working at MFA, Dixon had this to say, “It took me a long time to decide to retire, because I will really miss the people and talking with the customers. I’m 74 now, and it might be time for a change.”
No matter what her future plans entail, Alta Dixon has left a legacy, and she will truly be missed on Main Street in Licking.