Tom and Lucile Hubbard aren’t ones to sit at home and do nothing.
Instead, they’re enjoy going to community homecomings and concerts. Sometimes they even provide the music themselves, entertaining at nursing homes and other venues on instruments Mrs. Hubbard has invented.
Mrs. Hubbard grew up six miles northwest of Cherokee, and her husband grew up in Weir, two blocks from the school.
She remembers riding out on a horse with a friend to take jugs of water to men who were baling or stacking hay. She also got to ride on the back of a steam-powered tractor that pulled thrashing machines through area wheat fields.
“The tractor would go from field to field,” she said. “It was fun.”
“I’m jealous of her,” said her husband, who never got to ride on the tractor. “I used to climb a tree and watch them thrashing the fields.”
Mrs. Hubbard also remembers spotting tornados every so often as they swept across the fields.
“We had a cellar we could go into,” she said. “I hope I never see another tornado.”
Hubbard said that winds took the chimney off his childhood home in Weir.
“Two blocks east of us, the tornado sucked a baby out a window and they found him in the yard,” Hubbard said. “He was all right, and grew up to be a fine young man.”
Hubbard attended a two-year degree program in electronics at Pittsburg State University, then worked in Wichita for a time. He later went to Tulsa, Okla., and then got on with Woolworth’s in St. Louis. In the 1960s the company transferred him to Memphis, Tenn., during a time of civil rights turmoil, and it was not a good fit for him.
“I couldn’t tell a white man to sweep up something off the floor, because they said that was a black man’s job,” Hubbard said.
It also made absolutely no sense to him that a black person could prepare food for a white person, but was not allowed to eat that food.
“I just wasn’t raised that way in Weir,” Hubbard said. “I had gone to school with black children.”
He was also frequently in George Jackson’s Sanitary Grocery, a Weir grocery store operated by an African American.
“Every now and then my mother would give me a nickel to by ice cream there, and later I mowed Mr. Jackson’s grass,” Hubbard said. “I helped his daughter run the store.”
So he left Memphis and Woolworth’s and worked for TGY, finally returning to Pittsburg and going to work at the Kress store, located at the corner of Seventh and Broadway.
Page 2 of 2 - “I was there four or five years, then we closed that store up in 1966,” Hubbard said. “They wanted to send me to Houston or Dallas to run a cafeteria, but I went to McNally Manufacturing.”
In 1970 he lost his left leg below the knee in an industrial accident.
“It was an occupational hazard of working at McNally’s,” he said. “I worked there 33 years, including after I was hurt. I also helped Jim Kelly out with Little League baseball and was an assistant scoutmaster.”
He’s had a variety of prosthetist since 1970, and now goes to Grand Prosthetics and Orthotics Artificial Limbs and Braces in Grove, Okla.
“It’s not one-size-fits-all there,” he said. “That’s important because I have a specific area which had always been an ongoing problem for me. Now my custom molded limb is held on so intimately that it feels actually a part of me.”
Mrs. Hubbard jokes that there’s another advantage to it.
“I can kick him or step on his toes and he doesn’t feel a thing,” she said.
She lived in Joplin for a time before moving back across the state line to the area she has always considered home.
“I still play the same washboard with the same shotgun shells on my fingers,” she said.
Hubbard plays an instrument his wife invented from a plastic bedpan, some deer bones and an ice cream scoop.
“I call it playing the bones,” he said.
Mrs. Hubbard has also invented the “loggertone,” which consists of a long stick with bottle caps screwed onto it. To play it, her husband hits the loggertone with another stick.
“It’s an aborigine instrument,” she explained.
Mrs. Hubbard was also probably the first woman of mature years to ride the length of the bike trail which starts at 11th Street.
“I rode my 1938 Montgomery Ward bike the length of the trail,” she said. “It was fun.”