Few people realize the 1956 New Moon trailer out in Hasty’s Corner had another claim before Johnny used it to stash Stacey and Dawn. By the time Johnny squatted on the property with the girls, it was run down and needed to be condemned. It was forty-two years old.
However, the New Moon was only two years old in 1956, and it was the pride and joy of Miss Maggie Suggs. She won it from Stubby Phillips in a winner-take-all poker tournament.
But, the New Moon trailer was like everything else in Hasty’s Corner—when you get done with it, you walk away. Yards were littered with things like washing machines, dryers, old furniture, tires, and car parts. Dozens of old cars covered the hillsides.
In 1956 Hasty’s Corner differed greatly from what it is now. It was a small community of independent-minded people who just liked their privacy. They had their couple of acres, they hunted and fished, and nobody bothered them. They just wanted to be left alone. Times change, and so did Hasty’s Corner.
Maggie could have led a much different life than what she chose. She could adapt and fit into the polite society of Glencoe. She was good-looking, well-kept, and learned to dress nicely. What she never learned was how to make good choices. Well, you'll see.
It's been a while since we've been back to Glencoe, so let me remind you of a few things you may have forgotten. Glencoe is a strange little town. Some might argue that it is in the middle of nowhere. It’s not, but you're getting mighty close.
It is one of those little towns where you ask how to get there, and the answer is, “Well, no, wait. Nope, you can’t get there from here.” And the follow-up is, “If you could get there, why would you go?”
Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I love Glencoe. It's a great little town with a lot of nice people. But it helps if you have a reason to be there. I don't think anyone ever came to Glencoe by accident. If you say you’re just passing through, folks will probably laugh. There are five roads in and out of town, and three don’t go anywhere.
Reagan Lamb is the pastor of Glencoe Community Church. He says that when transients come to his office, the story is always the same. They were “passing through” and ran out of gas. He’d give them a gas voucher in hopes of getting them on their way, but he was never optimistic. No one ever just passes through Glencoe. If you come to Glencoe, it is your destination.
The town saw a lot of good years. At one time, oil and coal abounded, and in the 1920s, Glencoe prospered. In the 1950s, the oil started running out, and by the seventies, many of the mines closed. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the city rocked. The population of Washington County neared 30,000. They even had two movie theaters. The last one closed its doors in 1971.
By the 1990s, the town was about a third the size it was in the 1950s. Now in 1999, there were less than 14,000 in the whole of Washington County. The young people go off to college and never come back. Although there's no reason to unless you're going to run the family business. Throughout its history, Glencoe has always had its share of the good, and the bad. But for those living on the other side of the tracks, their lives probably wouldn’t be any different anywhere else.
There are two parts of Glencoe, and the two sections of town have always been like night and day. The well-maintained, old Victorian homes line the main street, which is actually High Street. Main Street isn’t the main street. The oil barons and mine owners owned those homes. On the side streets are the lesser but still stately homes owned by the oil and coal executives, lawyers, doctors, bankers, and business owners of that glorious time in Glencoe’s history.
Down near the long, abandoned railroad tracks that once hauled mile-long trains in and out of Glencoe, is the area where The Oaks begin. At one time, it had been a working-class neighborhood but about forty percent who live there now don’t work.
Often the mine owners built ten two-story homes in a row as company housing and rented them out to workers. Only the units on each end had three outside walls. Some apartment houses had once been lovely single-family homes. Years ago they were converted into apartments, with some of the more prominent people in town being slumlords.
Little shotgun-style bungalows make up much of The Oaks. Shotgun style means the hallway ran from front to back. If you opened the front door and the back door, then fired a shotgun, the buckshot wouldn’t hit anything on the way through.
There are also single-wide trailers, with multiple, unpermitted additions built on.
Most of the homes in The Oaks are pretty run down now, but there are the occasional homeowners who still take pride. Grandma used to say maybe you can’t do anything about being poor, but there’s no excuse for being dirty because soap and whitewash are cheap.
The primary industry in Washington County is welfare. Reagan Lamb and leaders in The Oaks have tried to change that. Over the last seven years, they’ve had some success, but change comes slowly in Glencoe. Welfare is easy money, and the only labor is going to the welfare office to sign for the check. The Welfare Department, headed by a retired Army officer named Mike Pembly, is the third-largest employer in Washington County.
Senior family members, like Paul Barnes, taught the next generation how to work the welfare system. Charlotte and Micah got out, but there is little encouragement to go on to higher education.
A family of three generations living under one roof can make more tax-free money on welfare than a husband and wife who work a forty-hour week. Sadly, this is the reality of Glencoe and Washington County.
Lincoln County to the north made it a lot harder to receive welfare, so people loaded their old pickup trucks and moved to Washington County. To the Oaks, to be more specific. That’s only made things worse.
Life on the west side of the tracks is much different. It’s a healthy, small-town way of life. Long-time residents would never think of leaving.
One of Reagan’s senior members, Paul Smith, and his brother used to own a combination shoe store-haberdashery.
Paul said to Reagan, “I haven’t been out of Washington County in over 15 years.”
It took Reagan aback when Paul said that and he asked, “Why not?”
Paul replied, “Everything anyone would ever need is here. So, why would anyone ever want to leave Washington County?” A lot of older residents felt that way.
Reagan thought about it. Everything you might need was available in Glencoe, in theory, and if you weren’t too particular. There are two independent supermarkets, two hardware stores, a Sears catalog store, the shoe store, The Economy Clothing Store, two drug stores, a Five and Dime, and three video stores—there isn’t much to do in Glencoe.
There are two doctors, a small clinic, and a dentist who comes into the clinic twice a week. Being the county seat, if you need a lawyer, just shake a tree, and one will fall out.
And speaking of lawyers, the County Courthouse is a magnificent structure representing the best of the Roaring Twenties boom era. Even the stately granite post office was a vote of confidence for the future of Glencoe. About twenty percent of the storefronts are still empty, but that’s a vast improvement over the fifty percent just a few years ago.
Reagan Lamb had the idea of turning the town into a scenic destination by filling the town with antique shops. It seems to work.
If you look up at the second and third floors of the old buildings, the ornate details are still there. In the past few years, they have restored many storefronts to their original beauty.
One of the old movie theaters in town is now the New Life Church, pastored by Wayne Miller, one of Reagan’s dearest friends. In 1997, they restored the exterior of the building to its former glory. The other theater was a used furniture store for years. After Reagan saw Virgil Nesbit’s barn full of hoarded antiques, he convinced him to get rid of the junk in the old Washington Theater and start selling his antiques. That was the beginning.
Going west out of town toward the interstate is a Pamida department store, the Chevrolet dealership, a fitness center, and the Burger Barn. Going east is a car wash and a bowling alley. There are no fast-food restaurants in Glencoe unless you count the Domino's and Subway franchises. But there are four mom-and-pop restaurants and way too many bars.
his strange little town is where the redemption of Maggie Suggs began, but we first need to return to 1955.