Monday, June 24, 2024

The Goodwill Family


Let's start at the SHSM - State Historical Society of Missouri  [LINK]. The few images I can find of the Goodwill Family all seem to originate there. On one post card they stand in a row: Uncle George, Little Eddit, Slim, Aunt Martha, and an unnamed person titled merely "yours truly." In another picture, they pose with a couch, with a note from the Busy Bee Department store of Springfield, IL. The text at the bottom reads "Heard over KWTO every Monday - Wednesday - Friday 6:45 - 7:00 AM." This one is a smaller group: Martha, Slim, Junior and George. In that one Junior looks old enough to drive, it's maybe 5 years later or so.

Springfield News-Leader 2019

Little Eddie, grew up to become Herschel "Speedy" Haworth Jr., a cast member of ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee from 1955–1960. He died in 2008. More here. From George's biography we can learn more about the more obscure Goodwill Family. George was an Earle and was no relation to Slim and Aunt Martha. Martha was not his Aunt, but his mother, Vancie Martha Haworth (née Wilson). Slim was her brother, Clyde aka Slim Wilson. Yes, that Slim Wilson. Slim appears in the first issue of the KWTO Dial in August of 1941, playing with a trio, the Hoakum Boys. But the Goodwill Family appears on the schedule, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:15 AM.  [SOURCE]

George Earle and Speedy were the first to get on the radio. Speedy played guitar and George read the funny papers aloud. It was a thing back then. Martha, Speedy, and Slim formed the first Goodwill Trio and began performing on KGBX-AM in 1932. KWTO-AM had the same owner at the time and they moved to the more powerful station after it signed on in 1933. In 1935, Guy Smith joined the trio as "Uncle George." With that addition, the Goodwill Trio became the Goodwill Family. Rev. Guy Smith didn't fit the musician model though, he was a  fundamentalist minister and he didn't stick around long. More here. He later turned up at KCKN and KANS, Cactus Jack Call got him a gig in 1963. More here.

Sources conflict sometimes. Little Eddie was also called Junior at one point which is confusing. Some sources clearly say that Junior grew up to be "Speedy." But the Springfield News-Leader says the "little boy" in that image above is Speedy. They cannot both be him. Speedy (Hershel) was born in 1922. If that image was taken in 1934 then he'd be 12 years old. Little Eddie is not 12, Junior might be so let's go with that theory and assume the image is just poorly labeled. This is consistent with another solo image of Speedy at the age of 12 that calls him a "Yodeling Cowboy." He's a little young to herd cattle but he'd already won a yodeling contest at the age of 10 so he was on his way.

That hymnal at the top has a single page of background on the troupe. It cites the 1932 date, but it makes some claims I find dubious. Firstly it states "'s personal, with one exception remains the same as the day it first sang over the air on radio station KWTO..." Just between the two images we have an extra member and we know it began as a trio, not a sextet. Confusingly it describes them as "four people, a brother, sister the sisters son and a friend." That should be Martha, Clyde (slim), Junior and probably George (Guy) at that point in time. But it goes on to name them "Clyde "Slim" Wilson, "Aunt Martha" Baty, Junior Haworth, and George Rhodes" A PBS documentary on KWTO also cites Rhodes, specifically as a bassist. [SOURCE] But I'm lost again. Martha was a Wilson, like her brother Clyde (Slim). Her married name was Haworth. Where does the name "Baty" come from?

Let's go back to George for a moment. George was George Earle when the story started and was Guy Smith in the middle. That skips the third George, George Rhodes. That George played on KWTO’s Ozark Farm and Home Hour going back to at least 1944. Prior to KWTO he played with a band,
Lonnie and His Cornhuskers. In 1947 he was part of the "RFD Round up" with Ozark Red and Goo-Goo Rutledge. He was performing at KWTO at least until 1951 with Buster Fellows. But he is the George most often remembered in print. They all played together on the barn dance program "Korn's A-Krack-in'." Those barn dance style programs were happening as early as 1946, and there was at least one in 1949. A general article about Ozark county musicians [LINK] casually mentioned that George Rhodes became part of Slim Wilson’s family group, the Goodwill Family during the 1940s.

Martha opened a restaurant Aunt Martha’s Cliff House in the late 1940s. It was destroyed in a fire in 1958. By the time of the fire, she was married to the chef, Charlie Hicklin. It was her second restaurant. In 1948 Martha operated the Corn Crib Cafe at 302 South Jefferson in downtown Springfield, and after the fire, she ran Aunt Martha's Pancake house. Martha died in 1966. [LINK]  The obituary names numerous family members and in-laws, but not the date of her marriage to Hicklin. More here.

But a contemporary description of the old Cliff House restaurant property, the Springfield News-Leader again refers to her as Aunt Martha Baty. [LINK] I had thought this was a typo, or bad AI. But even the original 1958 article about the fire referred to her as both as "Aunt Martha" and "Mrs Baty."  I found the answer in the June 1949 issue of the KWTO Dial. Mrs T.M.D. of Birmingham Alabama wrote in to ask "How long has Aunt Martha been married to Mr. Baty?"  The answer was "A little over a year and a half."  Mr. Baty was pictured in the May issue and named as Everett Baty. His story arc is short. The October 23rd, 1954 issue [LINK] of the Motion Picture Herald includes a small obituary.

"Everett Baty, Jr., 62 years old, identified with theatres at Springfield, Mo., and husband of Martha Baty, radio entertainer, died recently in a resort cabin at Kissee Mills, Mo., just after he had returned from a fishing trip on a lake."
It's hard to say when the show was over for the Goodwill Family. Their time at KWTO wrapped up in the mid 1950s and Martha became a restaurateur. They recorded a few 78s, and a few 45s. But that pancake house outlasted everyone. It didn't close until October of 2015, lasting a full 55 years. That's longer than the Goodwill Family program, Aunt Martha and all three of her husbands, her famous brother Slim Wilson and even her most famous son, Speedy Haworth, who passed in 2008.

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