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Charles Hillinger's America : A Tightwad That's Rich in History : It, Other Towns Add Colorful Names to Missouri Map

Charles Hillinger's America

May 29, 1988|CHARLES HILLINGER | Times Staff Writer

TIGHTWAD, Mo. — Tom Skaggs, 53, mayor of this central Missouri hamlet, stood at the corner of Stingy and Miser streets and said: "Tightwad townspeople are generous to a fault."

Skaggs noted that he and members of Tightwad's town council meet twice a month at the local city hall--and are not paid for their services.

There are other signs of generosity in this incorporated area of 55 residents, one of a number of small Missouri towns with quaint names like Crybaby Holler, Barely Do, Old Dishrag, Hell on the Line, Not and Rat.

At Tightwad Bank (a branch of United Missouri), for instance, lollipops and balloons are given to all children accompanying their parents.

"See, we really are generous," said bank manager Karen Houk, who is also the town postmistress and secretary-treasurer of the Tightwad Volunteer Fire Department. She said 30% of the bank's accounts belong to out-of-state customers "who like the name Tightwad Bank on their check. We have people living as far away as Texas, California and Nova Scotia who have accounts here because of the name."

The town was named more than a century ago, so the story goes, after an old tightwad who ran a general store.

How did Peculiar, Mo., established in 1868, get its name?

The town's founding fathers had suggested several names to the Post Office, but learned they were already in use elsewhere in Missouri.

"Give us any old peculiar name," the townspeople told postal authorities.

Peculiar it is, responded the authorities.

Postmistress Sheryl Harper's son, Jeff, 27, is the Peculiar police chief in this town of 1,800. There's also a Peculiar judge, Peculiar mayor, Peculiar city clerk, five Peculiar churches, Peculiar School and Peculiar cemetery.

Frankenstein, population 50, is a quiet town on the Missouri River, home for a handful of German-American families who originally settled here in the 1860s.

"Never been a murder in town and nobody every created a monster here," said Norman Jaegers, 74. He was born in the Frankenstein Store which was owned by his parents, then by him until his retirement four years ago.

"I was always told the place was named for a town in Germany," he said.

If you want to know anything about Romance in Missouri, talk to Wilma Fish. She was born in Romance 60 years ago, was graduated from the Romance school and wrote a history of Romance.

But there is no Romance in Missouri today, according to the Postal Guide. It is now virtually a ghost town with only one family in residence.

Fish, who lives a few miles away in Gainesville, is renowned for her apple-head dolls and life-size ones that have heads made of bread dough.

"God doesn't make apples big enough for life-size apple-head dolls," Fish said.

Then there's Braggadocio, population 400.

"There's not much to brag about here anymore," said Postmistress Erline Bryant. "More than half the people moved to the big cities the last few years to find work."

Similarly, there isn't much competition in Competition--just one grocery store, one school and one church.

At the general store in Sleeper, Mo., proprietor Norma Alloway, 72, said the town got its name from "a Pennsylvanian named John Sleeper who built a railroad through here in the 1860s."

Folks who live in and around Koshkonong, population 250, call the town Kosh for short. Most find the Indian word, which means "wild rice," a little to hard to pronounce.

Missouri is Algonquin Indian for muddy waters. The Show Me State was named after the Missouri River. It was Rep. William Vandiver who gave the state its nickname in 1889, when he said:

"I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats. Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."

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