Bob Mitchell: 'Deck the halls' history in Cassville

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Like the songs advocate, now is the time for decorating whatever amount you intend to do for the Christmas holiday. If you want to make any observance on the season for your home or business, remember it is almost time to acknowledge the birth of Jesus Christ.

Bob Mitchell

Thinking of decorations of the past brings back some very good times in Cassville, and some that aren't as good as others. While we review some of these memories of the past, let us begin with the good ones.

Street strands

Going north for Thanksgiving up the Kansas side, there were some communities that still use the strands of garland lighted across their main routes through town. The main difference between now and then is the decorations are now made of plastic or some other material, not natural materials such as cedar. The wood was once was the main material used, and some landowners were willing to provide it just to get the trees off their land.

This was a community effort. Whole trees were often hauled into town, where adults who were experienced in handling sharp axes or hatchets would strip off the limbs that would eventually be tied to the strings of bulbs that would be strung across Main Street. The process was one that brought out a lot of people to make the strands possible.


The problem with the cedar-wrapped strands seemed to be winter weather -- especially the occasional ice storm that would often bring the strands down in the street. Fortunately, the damage was quickly discovered by city employees who would get the decorations out of the street before they could be further damaged by vehicles running over them.

A couple of times, volunteering to join the crews redoing the strands would get pupils out of school for a day or two. This meant there were plenty of workers to make the strands as new as ever.

No destruction

As far as memory my goes, there was never any vandalism of those decorations, which as has been a problem in recent years.

One of the most disturbing instances resulted in elimination of the park tour in Cassville that was established a number of years ago. Melva Dean Peterson, an original McDonald's builder with her husband Chuck, pushed that project, adding units each year for the popular attraction.

Then, destruction of the units by some individuals resulted in elimination of the decorations, and the units were returned to the individuals and businesses that sponsored their attractions. As far as is publicly known, the vandals were never discovered. More recently, Cassville Chamber of Commerce members were required to replace bulbs stolen from the town's decorations. Again, those who were responsible for stealing the bulbs have never been caught or identified. It would be good if those responsible for this destruction could be brought to justice and required to pay for their acts.

Home thieves

Then again, there are those in town who limit their decorations at residences and business locations alike, due to the costs involved in replacement of lost wreaths, strands of lights and various outside Christmas decorations.

Acknowledging such actions as this, especially at this time of year, doesn't generate any pleasure for this columnist. But it does serve as a reminder to keep everyone aware that the problem exists so that perpetrators might be reported.

Tree selection

I remember the pre-Christmas trips to some field -- which was often covered with cedars -- to select a tree for the family. This was a ritual that usually involved the whole family.

Most of the time, this trip before Christmas would require the cutting of more than one tree until the absolutely perfect one could be hauled out of the field. Most property owners were glad to get the trees off their property. The reason for multiple cuts was that the trees often looked different once they were cut down.

Today's trees are expensive and probably have a better shape, but will need to be in a water source stand to assure they are not fire hazards in the home.

Then, there are the man-made decorations that are now available with the discovery of new materials. None of these have ever discovered how to bring the smell of fresh cedar to the special holiday.

Just another one of of those changes we now endure.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.