Bob Mitchell: Failures of previous owners

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

It is nearing 24 years since the Cassville Democrat changed from Ray family ownership, so the time might be right to admit some past failures during those previous years.

There weren’t that many actually, depending on whose measuring stick might be used. There were some that were done with tongue-in-cheek fashion that were actually written, at the time, simply to fill space. But, rather than use some canned information, or items from another source, the Democrat at that time chose to keep it local.

Here are some of the better ones, at least those I remember at this time in my life — and will be admitted.

Blue Laws

Missouri was once one of the few states in the Union that hung onto the Blue Laws that had come out of the deep past. What they did, by actual laws of the state, was to prohibit sales of certain merchandise and items on Sunday.

The Democrat, at the time, took the stand that there was nothing wrong with limitations to what could be purchased or sold on Sunday. The common practice was to put these particular items in one place in a store where they could be covered on Sunday, or the store would simply close on that day, which their employees certainly enjoyed.

In my memory is one drug store in Cassville that sold liquor on shelves at the entrance to the store. To comply with Missouri Blue Laws, that section of the shelves had a convenient cloth cover that could be lowered to cover the stock of whisky being offered for sale.

Another one could well be an event missed by older generations, the Cassville Old Soldiers’ and Settlers’ Reunion, held in the heat of summer.

A fascinating year was during the celebration when Missouri National Guard personnel were on hand, including radar equipment that hadn’t been seen in these parts by many folks. It just so happened a thunderstorm brewed one evening with the military folks watching developments and eventually suggested people on the American Legion Grounds vacate to the Legion Home for safety.

Fescue Festival

Another of the successful events in Cassville was the Fescue Festival, designed to recognize Cassville as the Fescue Festival of the USA. First year of the event had as principal speaker, Brooks Pennington, once head of the Pennington Seed Company. It was something that came out of the Cassville Democrat when I was Chamber of Commerce president.

Cherry Warren was agriculture chairman for the event that fed just over 1,000 people pit beef, roasting ears and all the trimmings. Agri-business firms jumped at the opportunity to be sponsors.

Cassville’s Memorial Park hosted the event where ample parking facilities were available on the American Legion Grounds.

Going back farther

Possibly the most ambitious event ever held in Cassville was the Harvest Show held annually on the public square. This was a salute mostly to agriculture interest with the event resulting in building stock shelters on the west and north sides of the square.

These were no flimsy structures, built of oak lumber and metal roofs. Extra efforts from the city provided ample water facilities for washing, grooming and hydrating animals.

Judging of entries was by staffers of the University of Missouri Extension at facilities just off the square in front of the Post Office.

All, but for perhaps some supervisory personnel, was volunteer, most of whom had never drove a nail in almost green oak lumber before. The same existed when it came time to tear down the structures. A good point of this phase happened to be that prospective buyers of the material were on hand to assist with tearing down the project.

War years’ scrap drives

Cassville was big in WWII scrap drives for anything metal. That’s when Cassville lost the WWI cannon that sat on the northeast corner of the Barry County Courthouse lawn. The old cannon had served many purposes for the community for a lot of years.

Kids learned to climb on the cannon and devised games of war that they played during the existence of the weapon.

Maybe the most important function was providing a part of shivareeing newly married males. The guys were apprehended by groups and handcuffed to the cannon’s seat. There was plenty of shade and the subjects were treated frequently with snacks and fluids.

A main feature of this event was several hours of harmonica serenade provided by Harvey Long. He was always anxious to participate in this activity and enjoyed the snacks right along with the newlyweds.

Were those good old days?

Whether they were the good old days or not, lots of the events of the past, and Cassville’s gone through many of them, were much enjoyed and can be remembered by many of us.

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.