The Bidewell Story as told by my late Uncle

Friday, December 15, 2017

Many of you know that the Portageville High School gymnasium was dedicated to one of their beloved coaches, Jim Bidewell.

When first came here, I visited with my now late uncle, Cletis Ellinghouse. I mentioned to him that I had met Coach Bidewell and said Cletis said, 'He comes from good stock."

A few year later when Coach Bidewell had been inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. I had to pleasure of meeting Bidewell's dad, Ben. When I mentioned I was related to the Wayne County Ellinghouse family, his face lightened up, bringing back fond memories.

Uncle Cletis shared some information about the Bidewell family, and I think it would be fitting to share this with our readers.

Ben was one of the really great referees in high school basketball at the time I played. He was also one of Coach John Gibbs’ favorite people. I think he also officiated football games in the Big Eight, as it was known at that time. In college, Ben was a star basketball player at Southeast Missouri State at Cape who won much recognition. In my high school years he owned a sporting goods store in Poplar Bluff, but he for many years sold stocks and bonds in the Bluff. I don't know how he came to settle in Poplar Bluff, but I suspect he was a coach/school teacher there early in his adulthood.

I can clarify a part of the Bidewell story for you. In fact, I thought of your recent question to me about the Bidewells a few days ago because I failed to correctly advise you we are tied genealogically to the Bidewells. I can't give you all of the particulars off hand, but the Bidewells, reared in Bollinger County, have an ancestor with the maiden name Killian who was from the same family we descend. My grandmother Sarah Ann (Dellinger) Ellinghouse was a daughter of James Dellinger and Susan (Wilkinson) Dellinger, and a granddaughter of a Thomas Dellinger and his wife, one Mary “Polly” (Killian) Dellinger, a sister to the one from whom the Bidewells descend. It is of course very remote, but there is a tie if one wants to claim it. It is so remote I didn't remember to mention it in response to your question to me.

I was very well acquainted at Marble Hill with Ivan Bidewell, a very wonderful person, much like Ben. He spent a good part of his free time in Marble Hill, where he was reared, his father being the banker there as well as the long-time Bollinger County clerk. His home was in New Mexico, but he was in Marble Hill two or three times each year during my time at Marble Hill. He enjoyed my company as much as I did his, or at least I always thought so. I remember him visiting me after I sold the Marble Hill paper. He wanted to know why I'd sold the paper, and thought perhaps I'd had a problem with the one who ran the bank, an older gentleman with the name Gene Taylor. That of course had nothing to do with it, and I told him so. He indeed taught school and coached at Greenville. Matter of fact, he sent pictures to the WCJ-B (I believe it was within the past year) of the teams he coached. I certainly enjoyed seeing his pictures. I know nothing of his superintendent jobs or others, but I'm sure Ben has it right. Everyone I knew regarded Ivan as an accomplished person.

Nevertheless, it was another brother, Cletis Bidewell, who was the teacher at Greenville at the time of my birth in 1936. He was the one who was my father's dear friend at that time, and he's the one after whom I was named. I believe Cletis was the eldest of the Bidewell brothers. Cletis for many years owned a farm in the Zalma area that in earlier times belonged to his father. Ben, who at the time was chairman of the board of the Marble Hill bank, brought Cletis to my office in Marble Hill to introduce him to me. Cletis asked if I knew where or how I got my name. I didn't, of course, and I advised him it was not a family name. He at that time jabbed me in the chest with his forefinger and stated “You got it from me,” pointing a finger from his other hand at himself. ”Just ask your mom or dad the next time you see them,”

which I did. One or the other of them then told me the story of my two given names. My middle name came from Ray Barrow, another of Dad’s favorite people. I had a very good visit with Cletis Bidewell, who at that time was a recently retired FBI agent. By the way, Ben was known as Carl or Shorty at Marble Hill as a youngster. My old buddy Doc Hahn always called him Shorty. Doc Hahn and his wife often stayed overnight in the Ivan Bidewell home in their travels out west. That's why Ivan liked to hang out at the newspaper office. He and Doc were great buddies. Doc of course was a printer/Linotype operator who came out of retirement to assist me at Marble Hill.

I don’t recall Ivan or Dad speaking of the other, but I'm positive they did. They were very well acquainted. Ivan probably spoke of Dad in our chats, but I just don't remember it now. I do know Dad always held the Bidewells in highest regard, as I did and still do. That may have been partly because they were Republican in politics.

I'm trying to wrap up my next book, Wayne County’s Lost River Settlements. I think it will be my best one. I have over 300 pictures for it.

Ben was one of the giants remaining in Poplar Bluff. He's had a productive if not colorful life. I saw on television the award Jim Bidewell received. I figured his dad was there for the presentation.