John McGlynn: Calling the Hogs . . . and Buffaloes
Wed, 11/23/2022 - 3:19pm admin
In the 1960s and 1970s, McGlynn’s Grocery on South Harris in Willow Springs, just past the viaduct, anchored the grocery business on that side of town. Opened in 1957 by Ernest and Lillian McGlynn, it was the only grocery store in town open seven days a week. Annually, it only closed on Christmas Day.
Not a country store, with buckets on the ceiling and a potbelly store where old-timers could hang out spinning yarns, but more like a modern convenience store where shoppers could get nearly anything they wanted, not just bread, milk, and eggs. Nevertheless, as convenient as it was for customers to have a grocery store open on Sunday, some folks confronted Mr. McGlynn that he was doomed to perdition for staying open on the Sabbath. Given the amount of business at the store on Sundays, others weren’t as dogmatic.
Earlier in the 1950s, Mr. McGlynn sold a grocery store he owned in Arizona, and moved his wife and sons Mike (WSHS, 1961) and John (WSHS, 1965) to Hutton Valley, where the boys attended school, and he began raising chickens and a few milk cows.
Of his Hutton Valley days, John told me, in addition to developing a distaste for chicken, every time the milking machines were turned on the electricity in the house went off. Mr. McGlynn, a trained electrician who had previously worked on high-voltage radar technology in the aerospace industry, may have regarded this as a trivial inconvenience. After a couple years, the farm life apparently wasn’t fulfilling, and Mr. McGlynn purchased the store in Willow and moved the family.
The store shown in the photo, the one I remember, is twice the size of the structure Mr. McGlynn purchased. The living quarters in the rear, where the McGlynn family resided, housed the original store. Mr. McGlynn built the front section for the new store.
In junior-high school, John had a smaller stature and a quiet demeanor. He didn’t participate in athletics and wasn’t as visible as some in after-school activities or on weekends. I never saw him at the skating rink on Pine Grove Road or frequenting movies at the Star Theater. In part, because much of his after-school and weekend time was spent working at the store.
Nevertheless, classmate Truman Grogan and I hung out with him, shooting hoops on the basketball goal he had hung on a pole at the store parking lot. He turned into a decent shooter and later played on the high school team. Many in John’s circle of friends lived outside the city—Johnny Jones and Bill Shanks come to mind. A hallmark of John was his loyalty, and he maintained many of those Willow Springs friendships for life.
A few years ago, on the recommendation of a more literary friend, I obtained a collection of readings from Henry David Thoreau, and somewhat regularly I read selections. I had a passing familiarity with Mr. Thoreau and Walden Pond from high school English, but with my contemporary reading, I have often been reminded of John.
Of the many quotations attributed to Thoreau, the most famous may be: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” Even after John got his driver’s license and acquired his 1946 Chevy, as a hand-me-down from his brother Mike, and became more visible outside of school, Thoreau could have been speaking about John. Put another way, in a popular phrase of today, John thought outside of the box.
Our venerable English teacher Jessie Munford, as an assignment, had our class write business letters seeking employment. As you might imagine, most were simple and unexciting. For example, Eddie Mack Hill wrote to his aunt for a summer lawn-mowing job. John’s letter, however, was a different matter. John, generally an “A” student, got a big fat “F” for a grammatically-perfect, error-free letter. Mrs. Munford took exception to his choice of employment.
John directed his letter to Hugh Heffner, the publisher of Playboy magazine, for the position of head photographer. In the letter, he advised Mr. Heffner that his lack of experience in photography would not be a problem because of his “enthusiasm.” In addition to the big “F” marked in red, she wrote, “I don’t appreciate corn.”
Our senior year, when many of our college-bound classmates considered attending Mizzou or other schools in Missouri, John chose the University of Arkansas and became a huge fan of all things Razorback. Even after graduation, John bought Arkansas football season tickets, and yelled, “Woo, Pig, Sooie,” at any available opportunity.
At the University he received the Award of Merit as the “Outstanding Student in Marketing” and represented the University at the American Marketing Association Conference in St. Louis. More importantly, during this time he met his wife, Cheryl. John joked that it was an ecumenical meeting. He was Presbyterian; Cheryl was Baptist; and they met at a Catholic dance.
During his senior year, after receiving news his father had died, John left school for a semester to help his mother keep the store operational. He returned to the University and obtained his business degree. After graduation, he had multiple opportunities with large companies, but felt a responsibility to keep the store running and returned to Willow.
John improved and remodeled the store, making it a more full-service operation by adding a fresh meat and deli department. His loyal customer base could buy staples or pick up a sandwich at lunchtime. For nearly two decades, John and Cheryl ran the store and for several years lived in the back rooms, raising daughter Jackie and son Scott.
In the 1970s, I spent time with the McGlynns canoeing on the North Fork River or swimming at Topaz Mill. On one trip to Topaz, Jackie and Scott, about seven and four-years-old, sat with me in the backseat pretending to be asleep. If their names came up in conversation, they wouldn’t “wake up.” But when I yelled, “Look at those buffaloes.” They snapped awake.
“Where are the buffaloes?” they wanted to know. “They’re gone, now,” I said. “We’ll have to call them.” I started making a noise that sounded like a cross between a hoot owl and a goat, and the kids joined in with dramatic enthusiasm. Years later, when Jackie traveled out West to Yellowstone Park with her young daughter, and they hadn’t seen any buffaloes, she taught her how to “call the buffaloes,” and one actually appeared.
As the business prospered, John found his own Walden on forty acres accessible off the highway bypass west of Willow and built a log home surrounded by woods. The seclusion provided a refuge from day-to-day business issues. He once told me whenever something troubled him, he could drive his beloved International Scout to a secluded spot at the back of the property and just sit under the trees and resolve the matter.
Again, Thoreau comes to mind. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach . . ..”
John passed away last month, but somewhere in the Great Beyond, if there’s a hollow where erstwhile fans are calling the Hogs, John will be front and center.