Bob Mitchell: The dog days of summer

Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

Since the end of July is here, the dog days of summer are upon us. This doesn’t mean much these days, but in the youth of many seniors, this time of the year was one of caution for what you might be around outdoors, or on business or travel.

A big concern of the period was Polio — the crippling disease that was especially significant for children, but often didn’t spare adults.

During these hot summer days people were told to stay away from still waters while swimming in Flat Creek because it was believed that running pools of water were less likely to cause problems. In Cassville, there were not any treated waters in which to swim this time of year.

Before Salk vaccine, there was the possibility of contracting Polio and being confined in an iron lung to providing breathing ability, then — if a patient survived — being badly crippled for the rest of their years.

Opposites cooperated

During the days that experiments were underway to combat the disease, those who had little to do with each other often combined in efforts to provide the means to develop the process to do away with the dreaded disease. Typical of these were a pair of Cassville civic clubs — the Lions and Rotary groups. At this time, they were both extremely active in this community and their membership numbers were about the same, usually standing near 50.

Each January, they would join forces in friendly competition in a March of Dimes program raising funds to finance research that did eventually develop the Salk vaccine that, for the most part, eventually defeated Polio.

Often under extreme;y cold conditions, the clubs would alternate on Saturdays conducting a Block of Dimes on the north side of the square and roadblocks at two crossings on Main Street. To boost their respective totals at the end of the day, club members would withhold their business contributions until it was time for their organization to perform.

Dimes would be placed on the sticky surface of masking tape, and run along the sidewalk. Since this was the heavy traffic side of the square due to the post office and two banks (at that time), it was surprising how foot traffic provided dimes for running the tape from West Street to Main on virtually every effort.

Rotary, on an international basis, continued for years in the process of eradicating Polio. The Cassville Lions ceased to exist several years ago, with an effort to revive the organization failing a couple of times, for a number of reasons. The failure wasn’t before the pavilion in Memorial Park was built by Lions efforts.

Others participated

A Mothers March joined the effort in later years, which I designed with assigned parts of town to each mother, assisted by either Troop 76 or their own children, in making calls in the residential district on those leaving their outside lights on during this particular evening.

This brought a significant number of additional people into the program, all centered around the South Barry County Chapter of March of Dimes. The late Max Heim of Monett headed the north county effort.

Rural schools in south Barry were also extremely helpful with the effort. Their contribution was mainly with popular pie suppers of that era. With the help of such auctioneers as Lester Loftin, Woolford Nicoll and Lige Frost, many young men paid a high price for his sweetheart’s pie if he was caught bidding on it by others in the crowd. The sport of this event was upping the price on any particular pie, regardless of the flavor.

No time for charivari

August was no time to get caught in the old fashioned practice of charivari, a ritual that celebrated, or penalized, newlyweds with a variety of different events.

One event was chaining the groom to a World War I cannon, which once sat on the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn, in the hot afternoon.

For entertainment, Harvey Long often sat in the cool shade and played his harmonica for the several hours of imprisonment.

Then there were the trips around the square, with the groom pushing and the bride riding in a wheelbarrow, which was often followed by a late night dunking at Roaring River or in Flat Creek.

There wasn’t a chance of escaping the ordeal, since a big representation of the community was usually aware of the activity and assembled for the action, often at an hour in which the couple had retired for the evening.

Such are activities that once went on in the Cassville area, that have now gone out of existence — in my opinion, not necessarily for the good!

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.