Bob Mitchell: Nary a May Pole to wind

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Here we are in the fifth month of the year, just one more down the tubes and 2017 will be half over!

It once was thought the arrival of May would signal the Spring Festivals in the school system, which meant programs of class royalty selection, physical programs and a country store that presented the opportunity for folks to stock up on good eats.

All this was after 1940, when Cassville’s elementary school moved off the Seventh Street Hill to the present R-4 campus. There was plenty of space in buildings on this campus and apparently some moneymaking efforts were in place instead of increasing tax levies.

The May Pole was about the most physical activity for May Day activities. Poles on the street side of the campus facilitated installation of streamers, usually of two colors, which could be woven on the poles as youngsters marched around them. There were even some tricky maneuvers that would be preformed to “candy stripe” the poles, often to the satisfaction of the assembled audiences.

May Poles were an annual affair in those days and not always that much in favor of the performing youngsters, since it meant they had to dress as nearly the same as the whole crew on that particular day.

Royalty was important

Classes back then felt an obligation to rank as highly as possible in competition events since their successes would mean their king and queen candidates would reign over activities for the duration of programs. Most boys of those days would steer clear of being their class representative in this competition since it would require a real process of dressing nearly formally during the actual coronation program.

One way of acquiring points that seemed to be at the top of the priority list was the canned goods department that was laid out in the old rock gym. The south end of the floor, away from the performance stage, was filled with canned goods youngsters had collected at home or from their neighbors to fetch a few points for their class and provide some funds for school activities. A jar of vegetables brought very little, but was a good source of foodstuff for those families without a garden.

Beets were my choice

The Ray House in Cassville was my main source of canned goods, where the cellar door on the least porch was always accessible since my aunts in the family were good providers and loved to can vegetables from a bountiful garden.

Usually, my choice of jars would come from the shelves that held canned beets, which might have reflected my dislike for the contents at family dinners. The better provisions such as corn, green beans and more appreciated veggies were left on the shelves to appear later on our dinner table.

I can’t stress enough how important this event was for Cassville schools in those days, since some of the activities, which had a much smaller campus population than today relied on income from the carnival processes to make them happen. What’s amazing was the response of folks during those days, how they would dig deep into their resources to give the kids support in their class efforts.

Valuable scrap metal

Back nearly 80 years ago, having an automobile for getting around on the countryside in search of scrap metal — which was important in the days of World War II — was just not available, so there was a choice of taking a hike, riding a horse, or depending on Sanitary Market’s horse-drawn wagon to travel back roads in search of anything that would weigh-out and bring points.

The crew that was highly successful in this search included the late Bill Barber, who had access to the wagon used for grocery deliveries, Jack Hutchens and myself. Jack could talk anyone out of scrap metal, which was intended for the war effort.

Exciting May Day

Years later, in 1950 to be exact, the arrival of May Day found me in Tokyo, Japan, running an errand to General MacArthur’s headquarters, across the way from the Imperial Palace at the exact time Japanese communists were holding a major parade on the route. As another member of the Navy personnel and I watch, two sailors on the opposite side of the street, next to the moot, apparently were having words with the parade personnel, who took exception to their remarks, so they grabbed the pair and threw them in the water.

Palace personnel were watching what was going on and were quick to appear with ladders and fish the soaking wet Swabies out of the drink. There wasn’t any further action, the parade proceeded on down the street and military personnel took the Navy people back to their ships to get dry uniforms.

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