Bob Mitchell: Family fun fetching the Christmas tree

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Long before there were many thoughts of artificial Christmas trees, Barry County cedar was the decoration of choice for the holiday season. There were cedar trees aplenty throughout these hills and some level land, and for the most part, by using care on private property, there were plenty of sites available.

Cedar was used for the home’s tree in decorating and boughs were used for specialty purposes to ‘spruce-up’ for the holiday season.

Selecting the tree

Getting the tree of choice for our family was a special fun time every year. The project fell on Bruce, Shelley and myself. Driving to the location, cutting or trimming the tree was the duty appointed to me. Shelley was the chooser of the tree and Bruce did the cutting. We always had the required tools for cutting down the selected tree, which were a saw and hatchet.

Shelley would always take her time in picking out the correct tree. When Bruce would get the tree down and lower limbs were trimmed, quite often there would be a flat side on the tree. When this was the case, we would move elsewhere in the field to find a better prospect.

Generally, this process went on at the Martha Dunam place on Highway 248 east of Cassville. The field was virtually covered with cedars, and there was no objection from the owner if several of the trees went down until the final choice was made.

There was always a caution involved in the use of cedar, attaching strings of lights and being indoors could pose a danger if the tree wasn’t provided water while it was in use. A holder with this capability was always a necessity.

Wrapping street streamers

Cedar was the decoration of choice for streamers across the streets in days gone by. The lights were provided by Barry Electric, adding to the seasonal push, volunteers would wrap the strands before they went up, which added to the holiday theme.

Boughs were used in many places to provide a holiday atmosphere at Christmastime. First Christian Church, and others, would provide the odor of cedar for their seasonal décor. The truck of Nicoll Furniture was usually provided for the First Christian endeavor group to head to the country and load-up with cedar that would be used in the church.

A Cassville loss

One of Cassville’s losses of the past occurred after 1997 when Chuck and Melva Dean Peterson came to town with the first McDonald’s. Their push made possible an extensive Christmas display drive-through in the City Park area that was enjoyed for a few years by locals as well as those who came from out of the area to view the beautiful layout. Cassville business and professional people provided the professional designs of the displays for an extensive route during the hours after nightfall.

Lasting through ice and storms, the display finally fell to destruction and thievery in one of the most dastardly acts this community has ever witnessed.

Then there was music

Christmas was once the time for cantatas in the churches, at one point provided by a joint effort of the Civic Choir. Founder of this group was CHS music director Bob Merideth, with the location often rotating between some congregations.

A good memory of one of these holiday efforts is preserved in a recording recently received that includes duet numbers from Sue and Bert Ward.

A state runner-up

Football season went out for coach Lance Parnell and the Cassville Wildcats with a second-place trophy in the Missouri Class Three championship in Columbia. Parnell, his team and staff, completed the season with a l2-3, highly respectful record.

Back in my playing days, there were those who spoke of second place as “similar to kissing your sister.” That’s far from the case in this instance. On a State Championship level, the Wildcat group should have no problem finding enjoyment in this well-deserved honor.

Well done, Wildcats! Now it’s time to start working toward the 2020 season!

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.