Bob Mitchell: Cassville High School sidewalk nostalgia

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Machinery hummed on north Main Street this week as a piece of Cassville's history went down the tubes due to a new opinion of life in the community and state.


Gone are the named sidewalks of Cassville High School graduates over a period of years -- destroyed due to a pitiful lawsuit that will result in the State of Missouri virtually wasting a big chunk of money in replacing sidewalks along Main Street.

Anyone who doesn't feel a twinge of nostalgia with the sight of these concrete slabs, engraved with the names of graduating classes, has no sense of community in their body.

While some of the slabs are substantial enough to be lifted intact, others -- which weren't all that well constructed in the first place -- have either crumbled earlier or fell apart in the processes that are underway.

Bright spot

There is a bright spot in this project. Due to the efforts and determination of a few people, the slabs that are substantial enough are being salvaged, avoiding the workers' jackhammers. Heading this group are Corky Stehlik and Derek Couch, both Cassville High School graduates, who obtained permission to do the project by getting on school property after conferences with Superintendent Richard Asbill.

Both the project managers have knowledge of concrete and construction equipment, making them ideal to carry out this project. Their efforts are entirely volunteer, even some financial contributions have been graciously turned down.

There have been other volunteers in the project, all of whom deserve the thanks and gratitude of those holding Cassville diplomas. Another thanks has to also go to the Missouri Highway and Transportation Department, which acknowledged the project and encouraged the sub-contractor to cooperate.

Just what they are going to do with those slabs that come out intact has yet to be determined. But whatever becomes of them will be better for the history of the procedure once followed by the Cassville district, than the walks falling by the wayside as a result of a change in society that not everyone agrees with these days.

Long tradition

Started at the entrance to the old high school more years ago than some of us choose to remember, the sidewalks were once the responsibility of the school's ag department. Each year, preparations for graduation included the pouring of a piece of sidewalk along Main Street, then engraving the names of those soon to receive diplomas in the concrete.

It's obvious these days that some of the sidewalk pieces were put on "non-substantial" foundations, having only a thin layer of concrete on top -- just sufficient enough to have letters in them.

One of my early duties at the Cassville Democrat in the spring was to clean the large wooden type that was loaned to the students to inscribe the graduate names in the sidewalk. There were times they weren't returned in a completely-cleaned manner necessary for storage.

Replacement plans

There are plans in the making, so I'm told, for replacement of the class recognitions with some sort of monument that will be placed on the campus if the required funds are made available. While there have been members of the board of education concerned about the cost of the project, assurances have been provided that no school funds are being used.

There have been proposals mulled over by a committee for some time, with a final determination apparently to come when the money is available to proceed with whatever decision has been reached.

Another long-standing tradition in Cassville is now gone forever, with only those class sidewalks located in other parts of the campus to remain. No telling how much longer they might exist the way school campus growth has been going over the past few years.

Dog days of summer

On another subject, now that we find ourselves right in the middle of Dog Days of Summer, which was a time years ago when youngsters were cautioned to stay out of local waters due to the possibility of contracting Polio. There was no other time of the year for this caution, but the crippling disease was very much a problem 70-80 years ago.

Not until the Salk Vaccine was discovered and efforts of Rotary International to eliminate the disease worldwide that began years ago would the picture of iron-lung treatment centers be removed from the scene.

The fight against Infantile Paralysis was once the combined efforts of Cassville's Rotary and Lions clubs, which competed to raise the most funds for fighting Polio with their March of Dimes projects.

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

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