Bob Mitchell: Local events of years past

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

It would be interesting to know how many readers will remember some of the activities of years past.

Some factors that contributed to the demise of some activities were out of the hands of those involved for the most part, but some went out of style due to a lack of interest.

Let's look back on the following activities:

Old Soldiers' and Settlers' Reunion

Mitchell

Until luck ran out on the Old Soldiers' and Settlers' Reunion in Cassville, it was the only such gathering in the state of Missouri. Beginning back in the days of the Old Reunion Grounds (now part of the R-4 campus) early days found the week-long activity crowded with wagons used to carry participants and tents for them to live in at the Flat Creek location. The purpose was to bring old Civil War folks, friend and foe, back together once again.

Big carnivals were on the grounds and the first outboard motor in the area is my recollection. The Cassville Democrat had a stand each year, selling subscriptions for a couple of bucks. This is in my memory after writing receipts.

Sponsorship of the event, moving once to the now location of Able 2 and later the American Legion Grounds, who became the long-time sponsor, went by the wayside due to a number of problems.

Industrial development

Cassville industries, back when they were full in number and going full blast, put together a few years of an Industrial Display on the public square under the sponsorship of the Chamber of Commerce. At this event, area residents learned what came out of each of the factories and had a chance to visit with some of the people who made these items.

Of special interest, to the manufacturers too, were the youngsters of the Cassville schools, who would be bussed to the scene and given special tours and information about each exhibit.

Cassville service institutions, such as utilities, were also invited to participate and put forth information about their activities.

Chicken barbecue

Virtually any time there was a fundraiser needed, for almost any purpose, the one-time active Lions Club would drag out their chicken barbecue frames, put their concrete blocks together and collect some scraps from Forest Products and do one of their feeds. The Lions were especially involved in the early-day finances of the Little League programs.

Folks in the community supported the cookouts well and the Lions alternated crews over the hot fire while others went to refresh themselves in the shade.

The arrival of Memorial Park solved some problems for this event giving them a location for a permanent fire location and proximity to an eating location.

Ozark Jamboree

Finding nearly the entire community involved was the Ozark Jamboree, which found most local residents wearing beards, lots of folks in past generation dress and activities around the square that included jail breaks and stands of handiwork.

Paramount with the Jamboree were two activities -- the making of a silent, captioned movie and entertainment program in the old rock gym, again in the heat of fall. Movie writers were Dr. Gerald Johnson one year and Bob Merideth another. The last filming of record was at the former Coby Dude Ranch west of Washburn, off Highway 90.

Strawberry festival

Back in the days that hundreds of acres of Blakemore and Aroma strawberries were grown in Barry County, the annual mid-season Strawberry Festival would draw some of the radio personalities out of Springfield, who would bring some of their top businesspeople to Cassville for a bidding process on the top-judged crates of strawberries at the festival. Here again, the school gym would be packed full of spectators and those hopeful of taking the top berries home with them.

The usual master of ceremonies for the event was longtime weatherman C.C. Woolford, whose predictions were not backed by today's equipment, but he remained highly popular throughout the Ozarks.

In those days, railroad cars of the iced-down berries were shipped out of Cassville on the Cassville and Exeter Railroad to connect with the Frisco at Exeter.

Others disappearing

Other activities disappearing are full-blown sidewalk sales with merchandise completely around the square, a complete county 4-H Achievement Show at the American Legion, Youth Livestock Show under aspects of the Extension Service, Civic Chores specials at holidays, school carnivals, May Pole programs, Soils-Crops Conference at American Legion (one of the oldest by the C of C) and the list could probably go on and on, but space is running short.

There is always the possibility that some of these events -- or even newer or more modern activities -- could be revived if the personnel was available to push them.

It takes people to do them!

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

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