Maxine Jeffers, Maxine Jeffers Maxine Jeffers, that name was thrown at me by my mother like a warrior hurling a spear. As a young boy I occasionally, I will freely admit, at times used poor judgment. Exceeding the recommended number of days without changing underwear, sneaking into the kitchen in the dark of night and raiding the pig-shaped cookie jar and, with all sincerity, telling my mother why the substitute teacher didn’t assign homework. However clever I thought myself to be, my sometimes attempts to deceive her were met with the battering of that name, Maxine Jeffers.
It seemed as though every childish trick exercised or each excuse for misbehavior offered was met with examples involving my mother and her high school friend Maxine Jeffers. The two attended the small southwest Missouri school in Pineville. Maxine was then known by her maiden name Maxine Legore and my mother was then called Mary Louise Barr. Later in life, I learned that, in fact, Maxine’s true name was actually Virginia Maxine Legore but she was known to her friends as just plain, Maxine. Apparently, at least according to the many stories my mother told about the two’s adventures, the duo was inseparable; Maxine was like the sister my mother never had.
For the longest time, I whole-heartedly believed that Maxine was nothing more than a mythical character concocted by my mother. She would throw out Maxine’s name like a weapon whenever she believed I needed a verbal life lesson. However, not so long ago that name, Maxine Jeffers, was proven to be someone more of reality than myth.
I religiously attend the bi-monthly meetings of the McDonald County Historical Society. I find that the Pineville venue requires no more than a fifteen-minute drive from Noel and I always enjoy the scenic and peaceful drive along Highway H.
I’ll admit that I have several motives for attending the normally no more than two-hour meetings, one of which is the opportunity to gather information which may later be used in the composition of a story. I don’t suppose many would hold that rather selfish excuse for attendance against me.
Some time ago, and as the meeting was adjourned, I heard a voice, “excuse me are you Stan Fine?” I turned in the direction of the question only to find a charming looking woman standing there. There was no more than a moment of silence before I responded, “Yes, yes I am.” She then continued her part of the introduction ritual. “It’s nice to meet you, my name is Barbara Simpson. I believe we have something in common, something that may surprise you.” “What’s that?” I asked. “My mother grew up in Pineville and was your mother’s best friend.” My brain fashioned the unspoken name I had heard so many times while growing up, however, before I could speak a single word, there came that name “My mother’s name was Maxine Jeffers.”
Barbara and I spoke often over the next several months and, as might be expected, the topics of the conversations were always of Mary and Maxine. Barbara knew much more about the two girls than I did and she even had several photos of the pair, many of which I had never before seen. The story of Maxine and Mary could now be told.
Mary lived with her mother Margret, Maggie, Barr while Maxine stayed with her Grandmother, Fannie Legore. The two houses rested adjacent to one another on Pineville’s quiet King Street. As their high school years passed, the two girls became more like sisters than best friends; they became inseparable.
The duo watched Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor in the thriller, “The Maltese Falcon,” at the Ace Theatre on the square in Pineville. They danced the Jitterbug and Lindy Hop at Shadow Lake in Noel on steamy summer nights. When the heat of the July days became uncomfortable the girls cooled off at their favorite swimming hole on Little Sugar Creek near the old Havenhurst Grist Mill. Following the swim, the two sometimes stopped at the general store near the dam for ice cream.
On weekends the two could be found at Bonnie Bell’s Store on the Pineville square where local kids gathered to enjoy a bottle of Coke or perhaps a cold strawberry soda. On special evenings local teenagers paraded their favorite dance moves on the second floor of Bonnie Bells to such songs as “Why Don’t You Do Right” by Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman. An upstairs wall was home to a world map where Bonnie used pins to identify the locations of local service men and women who went off to war.
The girls cheered on the basketball team at the Sulphur Springs, Arkansas gymnasium. The low ceiling called for shots to have lower trajectories and it was such a small basketball venue that the upstairs room’s out-of-bounds areas were, in fact, the building’s four hard and unforgiving walls.
As the two friends neared the end of the high school years they met the boys who would later become their husbands. Maxine met Chester, known to everyone as Jerry Bob, Jeffers and Mary found her high school sweetheart, Floyd Fine, whom his friends called Junior. Like the girls, the two couples were rarely seen apart from the other. Shortly following their senior years Maxine married Jerry Bob and Mary and Floyd were united in marriage.
When the days of high school became only a memory the foursome looked for work but job prospects were poor. Floyd and Jerry Bob made a decision that would have an impact on the girls as well; Floyd and Jerry Bob enlisted in the Navy and traveled to Norman, Oklahoma where they would receive their basic training.
The world was at war and following the December 7, 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor America became an active participant in that horrific conflict. Jerry Bob and Floyd completed their basic training and like many young Americans served until the Allies prevailed and claimed their victory.
Following the war, Jerry Bob and Floyd once again looked for jobs but none seemed to offer the promise of providing for growing families so the two men once again looked to the military. This time the two enlisted in the Marine Corps.
In 1948 the two couples found themselves living next to one another in Signal Hill, California. The small and Spartan structures were homes for many military families and, although money was scarce, the children happily played together not knowing, or caring, how far their parent’s budgets were being stretched. Mary’s son Bill pulled a red wagon while Maxine’s daughter Barbara rode inside. The sights and sounds of the nearby oil derricks were taken for granted and never given a second thought.
Maxine and Jerry Bob eventually divorced and years later Jerry Bob moved to Henderson, Nevada. On one warm Nevada Thursday morning in 1965 his lifeless body was discovered in his boarding-house room. Floyd is alive and well. In his 92nd year of life, he has returned to the gentle, rolling hills of the Ozarks and now resides on the outskirts of Noel.
My mother once told me about Maxine Jeffers’ trousers. Sis, as Maxine was often called, shortened the pants with frayed cuffs and transformed them into pedal-pushers; nothing went to waste. Unlike the trials and tribulations of the days in 1942, my walk to grade school was merely a “teeny-weeny” stretch of the legs and the vast abyss in the leather sole of my shoe was nothing more than an “itsy-bitsy” hole; at least according to my mother. I often wondered why Maxine Jeffers had not been given sainthood, or at the very least recognized as some famous historical figure widely revered by small children and the elderly of advanced years.
As each individual year turned into years and even decades of time passed people and friends came into, and often quietly and uneventfully, left Mary’s life. I cannot help but find it so strikingly amazing that although the two high school chums hadn’t seen, corresponded with or spoken to one another for all those many years, and there were more than thirty, Mary always remembered Maxine and considered her to be her oldest and dearest friend. And those kinds of friends only come into our lives once in a lifetime.
Maxine moved to Tustin, California where she lived for 28 years. She raised two daughters, Debra and Barbara and two sons, Jack and John. Maxine died on a Thursday, the 12th day of July in the year 2001. Mary returned to Noel and lived out the latter part of her life in the area she loved so much. I received a telephone call from Doctor Stiles early one cold Saturday morning in November. He informed me that Mary, my mother, had died that day, the 1st of November in the year 1987. Mary had three children Bill, Beverley and me, Stan.
The name Maxine Jeffers has lost it’s meaning as a lesson to be learned and its mere mention now brings a smile to my face. After all, she was one-half of a lifelong friendship with the other half being Mary, my mother.
My mother taught me to swim, but of course she often remarked that I was never the swimmer that was her best friend, Maxine Jeffers.
Special thanks to Barbara