Malvernites recall move 50 years ago

Brian Brock submitted this photo of the Jones Mill GM Foundry taken shortly after it was constructed in 1953.
Staff Writer

As General Cable prepares to close its plant at Jones Mill, another group of Malvernites remember another local plant that closed 50 years ago, uprooting the lives they knew as families chose to leave Hot Spring County and move to Bedford, Ind. The plant was the General Motors Foundry, which was the first occupant (and builder) of what is now the cable plant in Jones Mill.

The GM Corp. Fabrication Division opened its plant at Jones Mill in August 1953, but decided to move operations to Bedford in 1966. One source says that from the 1940s to 1960s, about 1,500 people lived in the Jones Mill community. But when the GM Foundry closed in 1966, about 100 families made the move to Bedford to keep their jobs, according to Vickie Stewart Ransbottom and Ron King, who made the move with their families.

Ransbottom was 11 when she moved with her parents, Travis and Bobbie Teague Stewart. She recalls her mom breaking the news of the move to her with a trip to the ParkVue Drive-In that once sat where Sears does now in Malvern. Her mother asked if she would like to move somewhere else if all her friends were moving to the same place too. “Without hesitation, my immediate answer, 'Nope!'”

Ransbottom said they left Jones Mill in early May 1966. She was promoted to the next grade level even though there were three more weeks left of school at Jones Mill Elementary so she could start sixth grade the following fall in Bedford. She said her family was one of the last to leave.

The 1965-1966 school year was already an unusual one, Ransbottom recalled. She said that they were preparing to close Jones Mill Elementary and fourth and fifth grade classes were combined into one room – fourth graders seated on one side, fifth graders on the other. The teacher, Mary Underhill, alternated teaching on each side.

Kathy Majors Lockenour was 7 when her family – Tommie, Ruby, Bruce and herself – moved to Bedford. Until then, her family lived on McKinney Street in Malvern with family living all around them. “I hated moving. It was hard. There were a few in Bedford that told us to go back to the south where ew came from,” she recalled. But as years went on, Lockenour said she has made many good, close friends in Bedford, including her “wonderful Hoosier husband,” Scott Lockenour.

J.D. and Doris Tucker moved their family – twins Rose and Opal and Sammy – to Bedford. Opal Taylor said that after leaving Arkansas, the other families that made the move to Bedford “became our adopted families.” Opal and Rose were about 10 and in fifth grade when they moved for her father's job.

The Tucker family lived in Jones Mill in the project houses. Taylor says now that they took those houses for granted. She recalled the shock of moving to Bedford and the only available place her father could find for them to move into had limited plumbing, an outhouse and was more like a cabin. “Housing was not available and you took what you could get,” she said.

When Mr. Tucker's health declined, the family moved back to Arkansas, Taylor said. “We made life-long friends in Bedford and our time there will be cherished,” she added.

Max and Becky Weldon moved their family to Bedford when children Kay and Kenny were ages 11 and 8. “We met there in 1951, got married and lived on Hwy. 270. We thought we would live there forever,” Becky said. At first, the move was difficult, Becky said, noting the difficulty in finding decent housing. “But over the next few years, we found a home and I am still living there,” she added. Max passed away in 2004.

Kay remembers that move and what she left behind. They were living on McHenry Street when the plant closed. She was within walking distance to cousins and Harkins store and enjoyed catching crawdads in the ditch next to her house. The transition was hard at times, she remembered. “Kids made fun of the way we talked and teased us. We lived in a pretty bad house when we got here, but now Bedford is home,” she said.

Joe Ann Morris and husband Noice (Bull) moved their family – Paula and Mike – to Bedford, too. She said she learned that the Jones Mill plant was closing on the radio. She was upset because she didn't think her husband would have a job to go to, but her husband called and said the plant was moving and they could move with it. “I think it was easier on us because we were younger and had friends that came with us,” she said.

George and Louise Crumby left Jones Mill for Bedford, too. Their son, Wayne, and daughter-in-law Jacqui Proper Crumby moved up a year later with their 2 year old daughter, Shannon. Wayne went on to become a United Auto Workers official and retired with GM in Bedford. He passed away in December 2015. George and Louise moved back to Malvern after he retired ,but moved back to Indiana.

Ron King was 7 and his sister Donna was 5 when his parents, Melvin L and Carolyn F. VanMeter King, followed the GM plant to Bedford. The left Hot Spring County in February 1966, but made many trips back to visit family. “We looked forward to coming back as often as we could and many there-day weekends would be spent on that 600-mile drive that we 'Arkies' knew all too well,” he said.

King and Ransbottom have started a Facebook page to reconnect with old friends and connections with the Jones Mill GM Foundry plant. Look for Arkansas Families 50th Anniversary.As General Cable prepares to close its plant at Jones Mill, another group of Malvernites remember another local plant that closed 50 years ago, uprooting the lives they knew as families chose to leave Hot Spring County and move to Bedford, Ind. The plant was the General Motors Foundry, which was the first occupant (and builder) of what is now the cable plant in Jones Mill.

The GM Corp. Fabrication Division opened its plant at Jones Mill in August 1953, but decided to move operations to Bedford in 1966. One source says that from the 1940s to 1960s, about 1,500 people lived in the Jones Mill community. But when the GM Foundry closed in 1966, about 100 families made the move to Bedford to keep their jobs, according to Vickie Stewart Ransbottom and Ron King, who made the move with their families.

Ransbottom was 11 when she moved with her parents, Travis and Bobbie Teague Stewart. She recalls her mom breaking the news of the move to her with a trip to the ParkVue Drive-In that once sat where Sears does now in Malvern. Her mother asked if she would like to move somewhere else if all her friends were moving to the same place too. “Without hesitation, my immediate answer, 'Nope!'”

Ransbottom said they left Jones Mill in early May 1966. She was promoted to the next grade level even though there were three more weeks left of school at Jones Mill Elementary so she could start sixth grade the following fall in Bedford. She said her family was one of the last to leave.

The 1965-1966 school year was already an unusual one, Ransbottom recalled. She said that they were preparing to close Jones Mill Elementary and fourth and fifth grade classes were combined into one room – fourth graders seated on one side, fifth graders on the other. The teacher, Mary Underhill, alternated teaching on each side.

Kathy Majors Lockenour was 7 when her family – Tommie, Ruby, Bruce and herself – moved to Bedford. Until then, her family lived on McKinney Street in Malvern with family living all around them. “I hated moving. It was hard. There were a few in Bedford that told us to go back to the south where ew came from,” she recalled. But as years went on, Lockenour said she has made many good, close friends in Bedford, including her “wonderful Hoosier husband,” Scott Lockenour.

J.D. and Doris Tucker moved their family – twins Rose and Opal and Sammy – to Bedford. Opal Taylor said that after leaving Arkansas, the other families that made the move to Bedford “became our adopted families.” Opal and Rose were about 10 and in fifth grade when they moved for her father's job.

The Tucker family lived in Jones Mill in the project houses. Taylor says now that they took those houses for granted. She recalled the shock of moving to Bedford and the only available place her father could find for them to move into had limited plumbing, an outhouse and was more like a cabin. “Housing was not available and you took what you could get,” she said.

When Mr. Tucker's health declined, the family moved back to Arkansas, Taylor said. “We made life-long friends in Bedford and our time there will be cherished,” she added.

Max and Becky Weldon moved their family to Bedford when children Kay and Kenny were ages 11 and 8. “We met there in 1951, got married and lived on Hwy. 270. We thought we would live there forever,” Becky said. At first, the move was difficult, Becky said, noting the difficulty in finding decent housing. “But over the next few years, we found a home and I am still living there,” she added. Max passed away in 2004.

Kay remembers that move and what she left behind. They were living on McHenry Street when the plant closed. She was within walking distance to cousins and Harkins store and enjoyed catching crawdads in the ditch next to her house. The transition was hard at times, she remembered. “Kids made fun of the way we talked and teased us. We lived in a pretty bad house when we got here, but now Bedford is home,” she said.

Joe Ann Morris and husband Noice (Bull) moved their family – Paula and Mike – to Bedford, too. She said she learned that the Jones Mill plant was closing on the radio. She was upset because she didn't think her husband would have a job to go to, but her husband called and said the plant was moving and they could move with it. “I think it was easier on us because we were younger and had friends that came with us,” she said.

George and Louise Crumby left Jones Mill for Bedford, too. Their son, Wayne, and daughter-in-law Jacqui Proper Crumby moved up a year later with their 2 year old daughter, Shannon. Wayne went on to become a United Auto Workers official and retired with GM in Bedford. He passed away in December 2015. George and Louise moved back to Malvern after he retired ,but moved back to Indiana.

Ron King was 7 and his sister Donna was 5 when his parents, Melvin L and Carolyn F. VanMeter King, followed the GM plant to Bedford. The left Hot Spring County in February 1966, but made many trips back to visit family. “We looked forward to coming back as often as we could and many there-day weekends would be spent on that 600-mile drive that we 'Arkies' knew all too well,” he said.

King and Ransbottom have started a Facebook page to reconnect with old friends and connections with the Jones Mill GM Foundry plant. Look for Arkansas Families 50th Anniversary.

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