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Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014

March 26, 2012

Posted Friday, May 4, 2012, at 5:25 PM

Malden lost one of its oldest and most respected citizens last week. Mrs. Geraldine Summers died at the age of 102. "Gerri," as she was known to her friends, was a great lady and a life long friend to me as were her children.

Mrs. Summers worked for a number of years for the Malden Board of Public Works. She worked for the BPW when I was a child in the 1950's. Until 1958, the BPW office was located in a room at the north end of Chester Barker's service station which sat where the parking lot now is for the City of Malden's fuel pumps. Specifically, the office was on the south end of the west side of South Madison Street before you cross the railroad tracks. This statement is a mea culpa for arguing with Gerri's son John about where the office was when his mother began work for the BPW. The building is long gone.

Gerri's death prompted me to ask the BPW for the minutes of the meeting when she was hired as office manager. I thought her children might be interested. They were and so were many others who read those minutes. Long time Malden residents will remember the BPW board members of that era who served our city then: W.B. Sharp, R.B. (Skinny) King, Val Mitchell, and Ralph Wilkey. Mrs. Summers had worked for the BPW for some years when the board promoted her to office manager in November, 1957. She received a $35 a month raise in salary which made her monthly salary $185. That's $42.69 a week.

We often speak of the "good old days' when gasoline was 20 cents a gallon and a cold Pepsi Cola was a nickel. New cars sold for well under $2,000 and a weekly bill of groceries might be less than $10. My father used to say, "The only thing good about the good old days is that I was younger." We, as in all of us, tend to forget that when everything was so "inexpensive" nobody made much money. Gerri Summers made $42.69 a week. She had a good job for that time and place.

I think about these things not only because I find them personally interesting about my own youth and the people I knew then but because of its relevance today.

There is a ballot issue in our April municipal election. The City of Malden is asking for a 1/4 cent sales tax increase with the money raised dedicated to the fire department. In the history of our city there has never been a tax dedicated to the fire department even though the laws of the state of Missouri allow such a tax. Many communities in Missouri have such a tax. We currently fund our fire department through the general revenue of the City of Malden. The fire department needs a permanent source of dedicated funding. The city council moved $50,000 from the general fund to the fire department this year to allow them to renovate the station at the entrance to the industrial park. It also allowed them to vacate the old fire station on South Beckwith Street that was built by the WPA in the 1930's. That station sat only a few houses down from Geraldine Summer's home. She was almost thirty years old when it opened, and as I said earlier died this past week at age 102.

I ask for your vote for the fire department 1/4 cent sales tax because of the many changes in our economic life. Goods and services, like it or not, just cost a lot more money that they used to. You can argue whether or not we, as your city government, spend your money wisely or foolishly. I have regularly invited everyone to come to our council meetings and watch us or join in the discussion. I will be pleased to discuss the fire department with anyone who cares enough to ask. The bottom line is that Malden is not living in the era when we could pay a good woman $42.69 a week, and she could live on it. That era is gone. Our fire department needs the money to bring it up to 21st Century standards. If we can improve our fire department, then everyone will save money because our fire insurance rates will go down. Please give the issue your serious consideration.

The financial report is as follows:

March 16, 2012Balance $1,305,785.36
Revenues $18,405.42

Expenses $5,788.86

March 23, 2012Balance $1,318.401.92


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