When you look through southwest Missouri history, you will find men and women who have had a terrific impact on their hometowns.
They are the kind of people who felt an urgent need to make the town they live in better. Many of them are natives of their hometowns, and their affection for the place they grew up is why they expend their energy, their talents and their time in pursuing the greater good.
But, occasionally, there is a person who comes to a certain town as an adult, decides this is the place he or she wants to make a home for the remainder of life and become invested in making it better for their neighbors. Such a man was Finis Gold, and the town he chose was Nixa.
He was born Finis Ernest Gold on Feb. 21, 1918, in Polk Township in Christian County. The nearest village was Browns Spring in Stone County. He was born to Homer Gold and Audie Hair Gold. He would be the oldest of three children born to his parents.
Gold’s ancestors had moved to Christian County from North Carolina and Tennessee in the early 1800s. Jonathon Gold was the patriarch of the part of the Gold family that came to Missouri. The family settled south of Clever, Union City, Hurley and Crane. Jonathon Gold had served under Andrew Jackson in an expedition against the Creek Indians during the War of 1812.
Finis Gold’s father, Homer Gold, was raised southwest of Clever and north of Browns Spring in what was known as the Hale Settlement. Homer's parents were Silas Gold and Julia Hale Gold. As an adult, Homer Gold was a farmer and a carpenter.
Finis Gold’s mother, Audie Hair, was also raised near Browns Spring. They married in 1917. They appeared to have moved around quite a bit, but never too far. Christian, Stone and Greene counties encompassed the area of their movements.
In 1920, they were still living on a farm in Polk Township in Christian County. Homer was listed as a farmer and Finis was 2 years old.
In 1930, they were living in Union Township in Stone County, and their address was listed as “Brown's Spring Village.” Homer was once again listed as a farmer, and Finis was 12 years of age.
In the mid-1930s, Finis Gold attended Nixa School for a time, but it’s not known where they were living at the time.
By 1937, Homer Gold was living in Springfield, and his occupation was noted as “carpenter.”
The city directory that information came from does not reveal when in 1937 Homer Gold was living there, but it was probably after Finis Gold graduated from Crane High School on May 20, 1937. He would have been 19 years old at the time.
Finis Gold is listed in the same Springfield city directory for 1937 as living on North Weller Avenue and working as a “station attendant,” which was most likely a gas service station attendant.
In the 1940 census, Finis Gold was living in Clever and working as a clerk for the Civilian Conservation Corps. Where he was working for the C.C.C. is not revealed, although there was surely not a C.C.C. camp in Clever.
On Oct. 10, 1940, Gold enlisted in the Army Quartermaster Corps as a private and his term of enlistment was listed as “Enlistment for the Philippine Department.” He was released from his military service on July 21, 1945, at the conclusion of World War II with the rank of staff sergeant.
Gold spent some time as a cook at O'Reilly General Hospital in Springfield and then moved to Ozark, where he owned a small eatery near the Ozark High School called “The Tiger's Den,” which specialized in serving hamburgers and such to students during their lunch hour.
By 1949, he had moved to Nixa, where he had once attended school. He went into business with Roscoe Harding in the Nixa Barber Shop on Main Street and would stay there for 36 years, after buying the business when Harding retired.
Gold immediately jumped into civic affairs in Nixa. He and Gary Scholten organized and founded the Nixa American Legion Post 434.
To raise money for the post, Gold started the annual Old Fiddlers Contest in 1950. It continued for three decades with Gold as the organizer and became a true statewide contest. In 1956, it was even broadcast on KWTO radio.
On Oct. 13, 1950, Gold was called back into service during the Korean War. He served for one year and was released on Oct. 12, 1951. Upon returning to Nixa, he became the commander of the American Legion post.
Gold decided the post needed a big fundraiser, so he convinced his colleagues to celebrate 100 years of Nixa, figuring that the first settlers conveniently came into the Nixa area in 1852, although there was no “Nixa” until many years later.
Gold organized and promoted a week-long Nixa Jubilee Celebration in September of 1952. A ferris wheel and merry-go-round were set up along downtown. He had a beard-growing contest for the men, and men and women alike dressed in the garments of the 1850s. There was a parade with horse-drawn buggies and wagons. It was a huge success.
A Lions Club was chartered in Nixa in 1952, and when it was incorporated in 1955, Gold was the treasurer. It would play an important part, with Gold as the promoter, in the future of Nixa.
Next: Finis Gold drags Nixa, screaming in protest, into the future.