Bob Mitchell: Fundraising duties in years past

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

In days gone by, it was always interesting to see which of the new arrivals in Cassville, especially those in the business community, would be assigned some of the least desirable duties for the Chamber of Commerce. Actually, the chamber wasn’t the only organization guilty of this practice. Others would give the newest one on the block the most chores that older hands had grown tired of performing.

There were a number of activities in town that caused anxiety for those of less secure seniority when the need for collecting money rolled around.

In those days, there was no budget fund available to take care of such things as a fireworks display or Christmas parade awards. The only money available for such promotions, seasonal or otherwise, came from going door-to-door with all of the 160-plus businesses in the town and hitting them up for contributions.

Shoe leather

The only sane way to do this soliciting was to walk from business to business in your assigned area, which usually included a specific couple of blocks in town. The only consolation in this civic duty was the knowledge that there were others involved in the same project at that exact time, so it wasn’t impossible for some of the businesses or professional people to be aware that you were on the way to their location to hit them up for a contribution.

There were times when the projects might run pretty close together. It wasn’t unusual to be greeted at the door with, “What do you want this time?” Most usually, just mentioning the project had the target reaching in their pocket, cash drawer or pulling a checkbook out of their desk. Then there were those who were usually noticed as the first to arrive at an event, who would send you packing with a zero marked by their name. In other words, they enjoyed the entertainment, but wanted nothing to do with putting a couple of dollars in the pot to fund the activity.

Most usual

Paramount of the projects were the Fourth of July fireworks and the annual Christmas parade, which were complete volunteer events.

Fireworks, as has been mentioned previously, were provided by the funds raised and handled by volunteers. For the Christmas parade, it used to be a general rule that if Cassville music groups attended parades in other communities, they would acknowledge this favor to them by coming here to take part in the line of march in the pre-Christmas event.

In those days, parades were generally in the daytime when businesses were open and ready to do business. Even in the days when nighttime parades were instituted, longer business hours were observed to accommodate the people who would be here for the parade and hopefully buy a few items.

I will always remember an official with Jumping-Jacks Shoes of Monett, the late Joseph McCaffery, who would always make a trip to Cassville for the parade and actually did most of his family’s shopping for the Christmas season in our town. He was a believer in this town, always holding an interest here even after the company closed its operation on West 11th Street.

Procedure change

In later years, the chamber found courage enough to increase membership in the organization with the promise there would be no further special fundraisers, instead the programs would included in a budget each year. Naturally, it was impossible to include every penny of expenditures that might come along and some fundraising did come around in years that followed.

Of special concern in gathering money was during industrial development projects for purchase of land or contributing to incentives on buildings for some of our manufacturing neighbors.

Baseball needs

There were times in Cassville’s putting a pair of baseball teams on the field that their special needs had to be met with special “hat passing” among the spectators. If that didn’t provide sufficient funds, the hats might find their way around the square. It was those businesses, located basically on the square, that would be targeted first in most fundraising.

Baseball bats, which seemed to break as frequently in those days as they do now, constantly needed replacing. Even in those days, these were expensive items — often only available when a peddler would arrive at the field, pour out a couple of “gunny sacks” of wood, and permit each player to accept the timber that was best suited for him. If he wanted two, he paid for the second one himself.

Mother’s March

One of the most thorough of money projects in Cassville was the Mother’s March on Polio, usually in January. A group of women, mostly mothers assisted by young people, would canvas areas of town, raising funds for that campaign.

And cover the town they did, successfully putting our town over the top year after year.