One hundred years ago, the lights of stores lining Joplin’s main street blazed brightly as shoppers and spectators strolled the sidewalks in search of the perfect gift despite a mix of rain and snow. Merchants kept their doors open long after regular hours in the hope of attracting more customers and did so with success. Many businesses reported that the last few hours saw the “heaviest trade” of the season with people coming from all over the Four State region to peruse their wares.
The Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad, sometimes referred to as the “May Never Arrive” because of its chronic tardiness, offered a special Christmas shopping excursion to passengers in Harrison and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. An estimated two hundred Arkansawyers took advantage of the opportunity and caught the 4:30 a.m. train to Joplin, arriving on time at 10:30 a.m., and immediately headed to Main Street. Trains left Joplin bearing “hundreds of bundle-laden passengers.”
Churches throughout the city celebrated the birth of Christ with special programs and charitable organizations worked to ensure that even the poor were remembered and able to “forget their condition” for a brief time. Clothes, food, and toys were distributed to those in need.
The majority of businesses reported they would be closed on Christmas, but mail carriers would have to make their rounds as usual. The city collector and the county sheriff announced their offices would be open, but all other city employees had the day off.
*On a personal note, we here at Historic Joplin have much to be grateful for and ask that if you can, please remember those who are less fortunate this Christmas. Please consider making a donation to the charity of your choice or to a local food bank to help those in need.
Brown, December 24th 2013 |
General Spook of Goblin-land ordered his army to invade the city of Joplin last night and the order was carried out to the letter,” the Globe cheerily reported the morning after Halloween.
“Everyone was out – young and old. Motor cars heavily laden with masqueraders raced up and down Main Street, causing traffic jams at times, which gave police officers not little concern. Horns were brought into play by children. In the various sections of the city an occasional revolver shot was heard and drivers of motor cars on Main Street added to the fun with blasts from the exhaust pipe of the vehicles.”
Dances were held at the Connor Hotel and Erickson’s Dancing Academy. Even the Joplin Children’s Home provided Halloween festivities for its residents, allowing the seventy-five children who lived there to invite a friend to the home to enjoy refreshments and play games.
The streets of Joplin swarmed with children decked out in a variety of costumes. Rudolph Valentino was a popular choice as was the “negro mammy, whose picture has adorned the packages of pancake flour.” The Globe observed, “Many girls became boys, while the boy got his one opportunity to strut the streets as a girl.” For all of the innocent youth seeking a treat, it seemed that there were even more intent on carrying out tricks.
Joplin police received more than thirty phone calls to break up gangs of delinquents destroying or removing property. The activity was concentrated in an area west of Main Street, between Fourth and Twentieth streets, though other neighborhoods were also vandalized. Pranksters placed “all sorts of objects” in the streets to stop traffic and a gang of rock throwers made a nuisance of themselves. Finding wooden fences too easy to tear down, one group of hoodlums tried to demolish a stone fence in North Joplin. Windows were soaped in residential and business districts. Despite all of the damage, no one was arrested, most likely because Joplin was home to “many potential champion sprinters.”
Brown, October 31st 2013 |
Thankfully, Halloween has for the most part shifted away from the “trick” to the “treat” over the last century. In the cartoon below, we catch a glimpse of some of the mischief that Joplin’s young men got up to one Halloween many years ago.
Brown, October 31st 2012 |
The Fourth of July was as popular a holiday in Joplin in the past as it is today. The same emphasis on safety with fireworks continues today, though, perhaps not so much the worry on loaded firearms. A local paper illustrated the dangers of firecrackers, be it from boys throwing them at passersby in the street for laughs to other boys using the explosives as potential tools in arguments. One such event occurred as written:
“Three negro boys were walking down Fourth street this morning with their pockets bulging with fire crackers. As they passed the Miners Bank building two young men, prominent in business circles, began to “kid” the boys about the Jeffries-Johnson fight. The negroes became “riled” and in a moment were willing to take their contemporaries on. In the meantime, one of the negroes, who gave his name as Fred Jackson, stepped behind a telephone post and lit a big fire cracker. It exploded in his hand and the boy’s cries drowned the arguments. In an instant the miniature race war ceased. The young men grabbed the negro and carried him to a drug store, where he was given medical aid. the negroes apologized for their quarrel and the white boys “Set ‘em” up for the sodas.”
Brown, July 4th 2012 |
Historic Joplin hopes everyone has a great Easter weekend. Below is an ad celebrating Easter from 1905 Joplin.
Brown, April 8th 2012 |
We hope you have a great Valentine’s Day!
Brown, February 14th 2012 |
A Works Progress Administration (WPA) worker in the 1930s observed:
“Some peculiar Halloween customs are annually practiced in Joplin and so long have they been a custom that they are tolerated. Men, women, and children, clad in unique costumes and masked, parade up and down the main business streets until a late hour on the night of October 31. They are always good natured and well behaved, seeming just out for fun. But in the residential parts of town gangs of tough boys and girls, hoodlums, go from house to house, soaping windows, ringing door bells and carrying off or breaking whatever they can get their hands upon, including automobiles, porch furniture and anything left outside. Extra police are always employed for Halloween night, but now enough are on duty on stop the depredations of the hoodlums.”
Brown, October 31st 2011 |
Have A Sane Fourth of July
A century ago, Joplin adopted the idea of promoting a Fourth of July that was both safe and sane. The illustration above offers a glimpse at this campaign and below, a familiar company advertising in Joplin on the Fourth. The idea of promoting a safe Fourth was supported by an article noting the harm already received by the dangerous fireworks. One case involved a boy, whose friends involved in a fight, found his hand badly burned when the firework he was getting ready to throw went off prematurely (the boys quickly made peace after this casualty). Another boy, it was reported, suffered terribly burns on the neck and hands while shooting off “fire crackers” and two men, Roy Loving was shot in the hand by a blank gun cartridge and another, Earl Van Hoose severely burned by a “cannon cracker” which went off as he was throwing it.
Needless to say, have a fun, safe, and “sane” Fourth of July!
Brown, July 4th 2011 |