Years ago, the opening of school and the arrival of the fall season and cooler weather served to be a much enjoyable time for Cassville's residents of the northeast part of town. Those were the days went the high school drum and bugle corps were very active and represented the community throughout the region.
The girls had snappy routines, but the most enjoyable part was their rehearsal marches around that part of town. It was up and down the streets in the residential areas, which most likely would cause those at home to drop whatever they were doing at the time to see the outstanding unit pass their homes. There were occasions when the marching unit would venture into the business district and display their talents for that section of the community.
Remembering their leaders would cause a list like: Louise Robberson Thomas (who was later a leading member of the faculty as an English teacher), Johnnie Bower, Roetta Bower and Sue Hawk Blythe. In later years, there was a mascot, an elementary student, Jackie Canada. Sue Brown Mitchell was a twirler. Actually, as it is remembered, leading this group was not a problem as they were not only drum and bugle corps members, they were leading students out of CHS. An early director for the group was music instructor Harvey Jones.
Among their most regular outing in competition, which always had them among the top groups, especially during early years, was the Joplin Festival Parade.
An annual event in Jasper County, the parade route went a long distance from south to north on Main Street. There, the girls were in completion with much larger schools, but many trophies came to Cassville as a result of their performances.
And then there was the Cassville Grade School Tonette Band in their red and white uniforms that included a few drum players for their programs.
An interesting part about this unit was the director who was also the grade school basketball coach. He later went into a different program of fame, John Quentin Hammons. The late Hammons, who passed away just this year and is buried in his native Fairview, excelled as the leader of this music unit and won a number of Barry County basketball tournaments with his teams.
This group wasn't an outside performance unit, but it did participate in a number of programs and was usually on the bill of entertainment at the annual school carnival every fall of the year. But, that might be the subject matter of a later column.
Like recent football teams, which have compiled a record envious of many in winning the Big Eight Conference, R-4 bands of the 1970s and 1980s played their way and pushed contest events throughout the region.
Initiated by director John Knight, now a university music director in the state of Ohio, this particular unit was titled a Stage Band. Second in line as director, was the late Bob Merideth, who probably pushed the unit to the peak of its performance ability, which was evident with the honors they achieved throughout his career at Cassville High School.
Rusty Robinson, now a top educator in music at the University of Florida, kept the tradition going with participation in any local happening that came down the pike. Both Knight and Robinson have returned here to direct bands in special concerts. It wasn't unusual for the unit to crowd into the dining room space of a local restaurant to present a program for various groups.
Usually, when getting ready for early season competition events, marching bands also used the back streets of that section of town for their outings.
Here too, the sound of one of the bands coming down Main Street to circle the public square and head back to the school campus would eliminate much business being conducted as stores could empty to see the group pass in review.
It wasn't difficult to see the pride swell on the faces of parents who might have a youngster in the band unit. For those not readily within hearing distance of the bands nearing the square, there might be those like Charlie Willis who would announce the event to his block on the square.
Then there was always the long anticipation for upcoming band concerts on the public square. The west side of the square was the usual location with the band virtually filling the street in front of the courthouse.
There were very few spaces remaining for spectator chairs by the time the concert would begin, playing until dark since there was no lighting available for the members to read their music. Responses were long and loud for each number played, with car horns from those parking near by, joining the recognition. These were the old days of music for the Cassville community.