Bob Mitchell: Cassville square back in retail days

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

Cassville doesn't have many problems around the public square, but the most controversial could be the issue of parking.

Even in old days, with not as many vehicles as today, parking was at a premium and important to the retail businesspeople whose storefronts surrounded the square.

The Chamber of Commerce was always right in the middle of the problem, as seen through the eyes of those retail businesspeople. Their issue was mainly with Barry County Courthouse officeholders and employees.

Businesspeople were of the opinion that those in the courthouse should find parking off the square, leaving spaces for people's who were coming to Cassville to spend their money. Elected officeholders were of the opinion that a parking place around the square came with the office.

2-hour parking

Eventually, business owners got a majority of like-minded people on the Cassville City Council and easily succeeded in passing a two-hour parking ordinance around the square, and also some distance away on side streets. The restriction carried a fine for tickets that were issued, and the practice was strictly followed, causing hard feelings with courthouse workers.

The city marshal enforced the ordinance, patrolling around the square and designated areas adjacent to the four sides around the courthouse. His method of control was marking tires with his stick tipped with chalk. Signs were placed in those control areas and the situation was supposedly under control.

Ways around the law

It didn't take long for courthouse workers to discover that parallel parking gave them the opportunity to simply roll forward and hide the marked tire from the officer making his rounds. Others discovered they could drive around the square and erase the mark, then return to their original parking space. And there were others who simply ignored the parking restrictions and the tickets for violations, until the city started summoning appearance in city court for those who chose not to cooperate under any circumstance.

One-time city marshal, the late Fern (Doc) Edens, became the best official to recognize methods to circumvent regulations designed to provide parking for retail shoppers back in the days when there were many more businesses selling merchandise than there are today.

Off-square used today

Even for some courthouse officials and employees, off-square parking is somewhat recognized as the thing to do these days. Subsequently, there is hardly a time that convenient parking isn't available for both the courthouse and remaining businesses that are housed around what some choose to call the "historic public square in Cassville."

Now, the square is often used for Chamber of Commerce activities, during which parking is restricted anywhere in the area. Marking still exists for the last event when spaces were allotted for concessions and participants in a sponsored event.

Event missed

An event that lasted only a few short years, and that has been missed by some, was the Industrial Development days when all of Cassville's manufacturers and service organizations would display their wares or services for a Friday and Saturday event, which filled three sides of the square. The design of the event, sponsored by the chamber, was to boast of the products and make people aware of exactly what was coming out of the big buildings in town.

Service organizations were especially interesting with their displays -- designed just for these purposes -- which often included hands-on participation. This activity was especially aimed at school children who were provided ample time to see the displays during class time, when representatives took special emphasis in explaining their products and services.

At this particular event, there wasn't a single manufacturer or service provider in the Cassville area who failed to take part in letting people know what they were doing in our town.

Although it might not hold much of a comparison to days past, it might be something to think about for the future, since there are a couple of generations that might not have any idea of what comes out of those manufacturing plants and service organizations today.

The fact is, there are some newcomers who might want to show their wares.

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