Fifty Days of Sunday: The Fireworks Begin

Fifty Days of Sunday:

The Fireworks Begin

The dedication of the Sunday tabernacle began with five hundred strong choir voices shaking the rafters of the structure with “Wake the Song” and “Crown Him King of Kings.”  On Sunday night, November 21st, the tabernacle was filled with six thousand “earnest, enthusiastic listeners,” who were eager to touch upon the excitement of the impending revival.  After an invocation by Rev. J.R. Blunt of the South Joplin Christian church, and a few other introductory speakers, the guest-speaker of the night, Judge H.E. Burgess, of Aledo, Illinois, took to the podium that stood before the vast assemblage with the choir to his back.

Judge Burgess addressed the Joplinites as a man redeemed by a previous Sunday Revival four years earlier and rose to speak to them of what to expect from imminent arrival of the Reverend Sunday.  He began with a tantalizing disclaimer, “I will attempt to tell you something of Mr. Sunday and his wonderful meetings.  But it is impossible ever to attempt describing a real Sunday meeting.  The only way such a meeting can be comprehended is for it to be seen…”

Burgess described the opinion of the evangelist by the citizens of Aledo, prior to Sunday’s arrival.  They had “the same idea of Mr. Sunday – that those of any other city had – ideas merely gotten from rumor and hearsay that Mr. Sunday was simply an erratic grafter, who had discovered his wonderful gift of eloquence and personal magnetism, and was using this gift in a religious way merely because of the money he might thus gain.”  It was an idea that was likely shared in Joplin by those less eager for Sunday’s presence, and a skepticism that had originally painted others like Burgess in Aledo.  But, Aledo stated that as Sunday began to preach and he witnessed the effect on others, “…we unregenerated people began to sit up and notice.”  For the power that Burgess ascribed to Sunday was one of indifference to appearance of proper church membership and an unflinching readiness to call out anyone that “a sinner is a sinner, no matter what kind of a front” the individual might put up.

Billy Sunday

Rev. Billy Sunday

The challenge that hypocrites would be spotlighted by Sunday undoubtedly was an exciting one for those who believed themselves immune and a nerve wracking one for those who feared public humiliation at the hands of the Evangelist.  However, a desire to call out hypocrites was not limited to Sunday nor reserved for his arrival.  The Democratic newspaper, the Joplin Daily Globe, opted to beat Reverend Sunday to the punch with a front page column in its morning edition, published the day of Sunday’s expected arrival, which repeated the findings of a Grand Jury on the recent crackdown of prostitution.  The report stated that contrary to published reports, the crackdown that netted two madams and their ‘sinful sirens’ had been the order of the police judge, Fred W. Kelsey, not Mayor Guy Humes, and in fact the arrest had “astonished the mayor, chief of police, city attorney and other city officials…”  The report concluded that prior to the arrests and thereafter [Editor’s emphasis] that “..bawdy houses, have been, and are now, running wide open to the public.”  Finally, the Globe alleged that the same women were now hidden away in the countryside by the actions of the Republican city officials, as part of an attempt to create an appearance of cutting down on crime.  Of note, the Grand Jury Report declared it had found no appearance of an agreement or contract between the city officials and the criminal offenders.

At the same time as the Globe pointed fingers at Mayor Humes, police chief John A. McManamy continued the civic crusade against crime with a crackdown on turkey raffles (the day before Thanksgiving).  Described as a dice involved ‘wheel and paddle’ method to turkey distribution, and a corruption of a more charitable means of giving, the police chief declared that the turkey raffle was too close to real gambling for his liking.  As a result, the fowl affair was shut down.  It was only a few hours later in the afternoon, when a train pulled into Joplin and the Reverend Billy Sunday disembarked.

Around 6:30 pm, the excited crowds filled the tabernacle located on Virginia Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets and took whatever seats they found open and not reserved.  The reserved sections were set aside for boys and girls, families of the ushers, and the deaf and hard of hearing.  In addition, a telephone-like apparatus was setup with a microphone by the podium to handsets in the back, for those who failed to reach the hard of hearing section to hold to their ears.

“Billy Sunday Starts Fireworks…” was the headline the next day of Sunday’s first sermon.  True to the words of Judge Burgess, the papers offered little to describe how the reverend began his sermon, instead relying on his words to convey the explosion of fervor and energy that the former ball player brought to the stage in front of likely more than 6,000 spectators.  What was noted was that Sunday was “small and wiry and as active as a cat.  He is constantly on the move and his every gesture indicates the vast reserve endurance which has helped to make him conspicuous…”   Additionally, Sunday, was described as being, “…no bigger than the proverbial cake of soap after a hards day’s washing…” Sunday, as he began, “…dramatically hooked his clinched fist through the ozone and declared he was in position to defend himself and his policies.”  Like Mayor Humes, against whom the paper compared Sunday, Sunday was a fast talker who said, “…as much in an hour as would an ordinary speaker in two hours.”  Before he began in earnest, Sunday admonished the young people to silence, requested that mothers leave their newborns with caretakers by the doors, and then started his challenge to the people of Joplin.  “There are liars everywhere…and no doubt there are plenty of them here.”

Sunday launched into a session of brutal honesty, at least from his perspective, “You must remember we did not beg the privilege of coming to Joplin; we were sought.  We turned down one hundred other cities in order to come here.  I presume I will say a whole lot that you won’t like.  I’m not like the local ministers.  They couldn’t be like me.  If they said some of the things I will they wouldn’t hold their jobs three weeks.”  The reverend then explained his plans, “My aim is to create a kind of evangelism that will reform drunkards and prostitutes; to restore happiness to the homes.  Those who have friends they want to see led away from hell will give me their support.  Those who don’t care where they or their friends go or what they do are opposed to me.”

The reverend also addressed the issue of collections.  “In one day a circus will take $20,000 out of the city and it won’t leave one incentive for anyone to lead a better life.  We surely ought to be able to get one-third as much in three weeks as the circus does in one day.  God’s hardest job is to convert a stingy man.”  The money, Sunday explained, went purely to the operation of the meeting and saving souls.

More to the point, Sunday fearlessly scolded the crowd, “We need more people right with God, in almost every church there are two classes; the ruts and the anti-ruts.  A revival comes naturally in its proper place.  A revival of religious interest is a necessity.  It is a predominance of the material over the spiritual that is facing us.  This is the busy age; It is the age of ‘isms and ‘cisms; there is more today to turn people away from God than ever before.   When I see the street loafer standing on the corner discussing the greatest questions of the day and propounding a solution for everything, when I see him arguing and chewing, spitting and cursing, I k now it won’t be long before  the sheriff gets him; and there are too many of his class, his type is seen in other forms…”  Sunday continued that in the present day, everyone shifted the blame from themselves to something else, but the reverend refuted this fiercely decrying, “When things go wrong, the people, not God, are to blame.  Citizens of Joplin, you are to blame. Citizens of Joplin you are to blame.”

Sunday asked the question, was a revival worth it?  Was even an improvement of six months’ work worth it? The reverend answered in the affirmative, “It is worth all a person owns to have peace and contentment brought to the home for six months.  It is worth much to a woman to have her home made bright and to have her husband come home sober instead of having him brought  in drunk to curse and damn her.” Even if the husband fell off the wagon, Sunday proclaimed, “It will be appreciated, you can’t tell me it won’t.”

Billy Sunday

Sunday, as he began, “…dramatically hooked his clinched fist through the ozone and declared he was in position to defend himself and his policies.”

The reverend then directly addressed the work ahead for the city, “Joplin has an enviable reputation throughout the country.  It is recognized as a hustling, bustling city.  It is looked upon as a place of money.  But there are knockers here as elsewhere.  They are always busy with their hammers and they don’t observe union hours.  When our lives are pure and there are those who are interested in the moral betterment of the municipality, a city takes to a revival just as water seeks its own level.  There are experts in all lines, in medicine, in law.  This is the day of specialists, and the evangelist is one of them; his work is different from that of a minister.”  Sunday then explained that, “…a revival is the conviction of sin.  Inside the church there must be a spiritual revival before it gets outside.”  The problem, Sunday continued was that,”…the average church worker’s faith is almost ready to snap; the average citizen spends too much of his time in his commercial interests.  In Joplin there are many people devoting all their time to zinc mines and zinc mining stocks and letting their kids go to hell.”  Sunday then condemned, “You can walk down the street with a basket of nickels and lead four-fifths of the people to hell.”

Sunday also addressed the subject of the local minister.  He accused preachers of being unforgiving and so caught up in factionalism with other reverends that they were just as quickly find themselves on the way to hell as any other sinner.  Some of the biggest devils, Sunday growled, were baptized.  For Sunday, salvation was found through faith in Jesus Christ, not in organized religion. Churches were fine so far as they were “in the world, but all wrong when the world is in [them]…”  Sunday then proclaimed, “You can go to hell just as fast from the church door as from the grog shop or bawdy house.”

As the clock neared 9:30 pm, Sunday concluded with a catalog of those who would fight against the revival.  They were the blackleg gamblers, the bartenders and saloon proprietors, and prostitutes, as well nefarious and slinking politicians.  None the less, Sunday declared, “But I’ll give the devil and his gang the best run for their money they have ever had.”

Thus, Sunday had established the battleground upon which he intended to fight.  Like many of the pre-Prohibition evangelist of the day, alcohol existed as one of the chief evils of society.  Remove it and those who supported its distribution and a society would be down the path to peace and happiness.  It was one of the chief pillars of vice that Sunday fought against and would become an even wider electoral battleground in only a number of weeks.

Fifty Days of Sunday: The Preparations for Sunday

The Preparations for Sunday

 

While the ministers of Joplin were busy raising the tabernacle in advance of the arrival of Reverend Billy Sunday, other preparations were also underway.  Among those was the organization of women to help reinforce the religious teaching of Sunday’s great revival through “cottage prayer meetings.”  112 districts were created which encompassed the city with at least one woman per district.  While several meetings were expected to happen before Sunday arrived, thereafter, thirty-minute meetings would be held every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after the Sunday services to follow up on the sermons.

Preparations also were afoot in the office of the mayor, Guy Humes.  At his behest, the chief of the Joplin Police Department, John A. McManamy, issued a notice to the department which read:

“To members of the police department: Gentlemen, I desire to call to your attention to the fact that boys are being allowed to shake dice in pool and billiard halls and saloons.  This must be stopped.  Second, that gambling houses are running in Joplin.  These must be closed or the proprietors put in jail.”

Five days later, under the order of Mayor Humes, the Joplin Police under the cover of night, swept through the district of the city between Eighth and Ninth Streets.  Their orders were to investigate “suspicious houses,” where a newspaper claimed “questionable resorts were being maintained in buildings” on the block.   The investigation netted two women, Bessie Cook and Anna Grimes, arrested on the charge of “lewd conduct.” (Both pled not guilty)  Before the specter of Reverend Sunday’s pending arrival, another raid was executed this time on “joints” on Main Street at nine in the morning on the 15th of November.  Three squads of Joplin Police officers worked their way through suspected locations and by noon had arrested over 68 women (similar arrests resulted in $10 fines and a charge of disturbing the peace).

Guy Humes, the crusading mayor of Joplin.

Since his election, Humes had struggled to rein in the vices of Joplin, but often had met with resistance.  One Joplin daily newspaper (which threw its political support to the party of Humes’ opposition) even made a habit of ridiculing Humes’ morality crusade.  Regardless, the fact that Billy Sunday was coming to Joplin had provided the mayor with a new well of support to achieve his goals.  It was with no surprise that with such a groundswell of backing that Humes selected the most (in)famous saloon in Joplin to personally raid, the House of Lords.

By law, alcohol was not to be sold on Sunday, a Joplin blue law.  It was also a law that newspaper articles implied was routinely flouted.  In his effort to ensure that he could catch the proprietor of the House of Lords in the act of breaking the law, Humes made the controversial decision to hire private investigators to go undercover to alert him of the time and practice of the violation.  Thus armed with said information, Humes personally lead a raid into the famed saloon accompanied by not just police officers, but also a newspaper reporter.  The result was outrage by some and congratulations by others and space on the front page of a Joplin daily.

The city’s crusade was not without violence and bloodshed, either.  In the midst of the prior raid on suspicious women, one police officer was killed and another wounded by William Schmulbach, when an attempt was made to arrest his wife.  Schmulbach escaped and became one of Joplin’s most notorious and wanted men.  High rewards failed to turn others against him and Joplinites claimed to have spotted him at one time or another across the breadth of the nation.  Chief McManamy blamed the municipal judge, Fred W. Kelsey, who had ordered the raid for the officer’s death.  Judge Kelsey, likewise accepted responsibility, but fired back that “No officer should shirk the responsibility of a raid made in an effort to enforce the law…”  The severity of the conflict by Humes against the vices of Joplin soon garnered the attention of the Kansas City Star, which sent a reporter to Joplin to report on crackdown.

In the outsider peering in perspective offered by the article that ensued, the true state of the recent events took on the incredible air of a city government divided.  In one corner was the mayor, whom the article referred to as supported by “those who desire to see the laws enforced.”  In another, the long time and often re-elected chief of police, McManamy, who purportedly was lobbied by the ne’er do wells to simply allow the city to be policed as it had before the pre-Sunday enforcement push.  In the third corner, the municipal court judge Kelsey, who in contrast to Humes, wanted an even stricter crackdown on criminals.  Additionally, the city council of sixteen was also divided along even lines of support for and against the law enforcement effort.

Police Chief John A. McManamy, the target of lobbying by the “open town” supporters.

It all, the paper claimed, was due to the eventual arrival of the Rev. Billy Sunday.  His arrival, “caused a shiver to run through the camp of the lawbreakers.”  Purportedly, such was the concern of those on the wrong side of the law that a meeting was held at the House of Lords where a temporary agreement was made “…The gamblers agreed to leave town for a while and the saloon keepers decided to close their places on Sunday while the revival was in progress.”  Thereafter, as soon as the revival and the excitement it generated ended, the gamblers would “slip back again.”

The House of Lords was, the paper described, “The central point of attack of the law enforcement contingent and the place around which the defenders of an open town are rallying…[It is]…the pioneer saloon, café, pool hall and rooming house in Joplin.  It is the headquarters of many of the politicians, and the stronghold of those who do not like to see old conditions disturbed…”  The House of Lords was a place of “red paint and expensive furnishings” which separated and distinguished the saloon from any similar business in Joplin.  Humes, after the raid, refused to sign the liquor license and vehemently swore the House of Lords would be permanently closed.

Joplin Main Street

On the left, the House of Lords, located at the very heart of Joplin’s financial district and the alleged heart of those who supported an “open town” policy for Joplin.

Rev. Sunday also brought fear to those who indirectly supported unlawful activity.  “Some of those “church goers” who had been renting their buildings for rooming houses of questionable character and for dens of vice, took fright and demanded that their tenants vacate.  The Rev. Mr. Sunday has a way of collecting local information and announcing publicly the names of offending church members.  There was a general stampede for righteousness among that class of church members…”

The Reverend Frank Neff, formerly assistant pastor at the Independence Avenue Methodist Episcopal church in Kansas City, and then president of the Ministers Alliance of Joplin, stated to the reporter, “We expect a great clean up in the city, but it will be in the nature of a religious awakening which will result in a permanent clean up and will come from a sincere desire of the people.”  Neff went on to offer his support for Mayor Humes’ activity and granted him credit for attempting to clean up Joplin since he was elected.

The pending arrival of Billy Sunday shook Joplin to its core.  For some, it was the opportunity to save the city from vice once and for all through an up swell of religious fervor.  For others, it was a direct attack on the customs and habits, if not livelihoods, of a city that had persisted since the birth of Joplin as a rough mining camp in the old Southwest.  While factions fought, compromised and fought even more, all sides waited in one form of anticipation or another for the reverend to arrive.

Fifty Days of Sunday: Billy Sunday and the Building of the Tabernacle

Fifty Days of Sunday

Billy Sunday and the Building of the Tabernacle

In the days leading up to the 2nd of November, excited rumors had filled the streets and the pews of Joplin with the pending arrival of one of America’s most pre-eminent Evangelical preachers, Reverend Billy Sunday.  Rumors and promises had been many, but the hushed excitement burst into complete reality with the arrival of his manager two weeks earlier, Albert P. Gill, to make all necessary arrangements for his employer’s future arrival and to oversee the construction of a tabernacle.  Construction began early with a volunteer work force on a vacant plot of land on Virginia Avenue between Sixth and Fifth Streets.  Under Gill’s watchful eye and non-too hesitant barking voice, the volunteers, many local preachers and ministers, began the process of building the future home for Reverend Sunday’s meetings in Joplin.

Front Row: Rev. C. L. Parker, First Congreational church, Rev. George H. Williamson, Bethany Presbyterian church, A.P. Gill, “advance man” for Billy Sunday, Rev. Sherman, North Heights Presbyterian church, Rev. W. M. Cleveland, First Presbyterian church. Back Row: Rev. Frank Neff, First Methodist church, Rev. E.W. Eayer, Byers Avenue Methodist church, Mr. Gravette, Secretary of YMCA, Rev. R.C. Walker, East Joplin M.E. church.

By 1909, Billy Sunday was already on his way to reaching height of his popularity in the United States.  Born a poor farm boy in Iowa, William A. Sunday had first reached the national spotlight not from behind a pulpit, but on the baseball field.  A successful National League player, Sunday had thrilled crowds with fantastic speed which resulted in amazing catches in the outfield and to stealing bases in the infield.  In the late 1880s, however, Sunday quite literally found religion when he came across a street side singing mission group and began attending church services.  Upton Sinclair of The Jungle fame and pointedly not a fan of Sunday, described him in his essay “Profits of Religion,” as:

“And here is Billy Sunday, most conspicuous phenomenon of Protestant Christianity at the beginning of the twentieth century. For the benefit of posterity I explain that “Billy” is a baseball player turned Evangelist, who has brought to the cause of God the crowds and uproar of the diamond; also the commercial spirit of America’s most popular institution. He travels like a circus, with all the press-agent work and newspaper hurrah; he conducts what are called “revivals”, in an enormous “tabernacle” built especially for him in each city.”

For over fifty years, Sunday roamed from one city after another, preaching a message against the vices of the day, and passionately against alcohol.  One of the strongest proponents of Abolition, Sunday wrote in his pamphlet, Get on the Water Wagon, expressing his position on alcohol:

“I am the sworn, eternal, uncompromising enemy of the Liquor Traffic.  I ask no quarter and I give none.  I have drawn the sword in defense of God, home, wife, children and native land, and I will never sheathe it until the undertaker pumps me full of embalming fluid, and if my wife is alive, I think I shall call her to my beside and say: “Nell, when I am dead, send for the butcher and skin me, and have my hide tanned and made into drum heads, and hire men to go up and down the land and beat the drums and say, ‘My husband, “Bill” Sunday still lives and gives the whiskey gang a run for its money.’”

Sunday saw liquor as as a “degrading influence upon the individual, upon business, upon public morals, upon the home…” and its continued existence in many communites founded upon local alcohol taxes, which prompted otherwise “dry” individuals to allow it to remain around rather than be abolished.  At the same time, Joplin was a city where saloons were even with the number of churches, if not exceeding them, and a mecca for many from surrounding communities to travel to with entertainment and good times on the mind.  Never had such a conflict between host and guest existed in Joplin since a visit by bar busting and axe wielding Carrie Nation several years earlier.

Reverend Billy Sunday

Reverend Billy Sunday

Requisite to any Reverend Sunday meetings was the tabernacle.  A temporary, but sturdy construction designed to keep attendees dry and warm while listening to Sunday’s passionate preaching, such buildings sprang up in every city that he visited.  Gill, his manager, on the morning of November 2nd, was questioned whether he and the volunteers could build the structure in five days.  The manager quickly and confidently boasted that they could build it in four.  By the end of the day, the skeleton of the building had been completed  and the larged beamed construction towered over the former vacant lot.

Wednesday morning saw the arrival of volunteers in even greater numbers, the men “covered the building like ants and the sound of hammers could be heard for blocks.  Men who came to look on absorbed the enthusiasm of the moment and joined in the work.”  The men began that morning the process of building the tabernacle’s walls and roof, a process that carried on through to Friday.  Communal dinners were served and followed by inspiring speeches to encourage and to thank those who worked.  Old men who lacked the strength but not the will to help walked under the heat of a warm November sun from worker to worker with buckets of water to relieve their thirst.  By the end of the day on Friday, all but the stage and seating inside the tabernacle had been completed.  On average, fifty men and boys worked at any one time on the structure.  Their ages spanned from 16 to 80 years old, and had to Gill’s proclamation built a tabernacle of its size in four days that had previously taken others ten to twelve days.

First day volunteers to build the tabernacle.

A newspaper account reported that every pastor and minister in Joplin had in some way worked on the tabernacle and for many of them it was an experience heavy on symbolism that reminded them of the temple that Solomon had ordered built in the Old Testament.  The effort put into building such a structure of temporary nature was seen as a civic effort to build a foundation for a “moral temple which will last forever.”  The practice of carpentry for several pastors was an experience that allowed them to relate better to the common working man and even more importantly, as one preacher noted, “…the deeper underlying thought that I was having a share in a movement that was going to mean happier homes, a re-adjustment of life on the part of many and a better Joplin…”

However, neither was the experience reflected on without humor from the preachers of Joplin who made the following quips to a reporter:

“The building of the tabernacle proves that the preachers of Joplin are capable of working their hands as well as working their jaws.”

“Personally, I’m glad that I was permitted to contribute something to the building of the tabernacle even if I did hit one nail too many – my thumb.”

“I freely confess that after the first half hour of the first day the glamor of the thing began to wear off…”

After the last nail had been hammered, the roof properly water proofed with tar paper, and the final board set in place, the tabernacle sported impressive figures for such a temporary structure.  It was 175 feet long and 140 feet wide.  Approximately 125,000 feet of lumber was required to construct it and over 12 kegs of nails needed to hold the timber together.  Capacity was expected to be 6,500 seated attendees before a stage designed to feature a loft for a 500 member chorus of singing souls, space for pastors and their wives, and of course, a podium for the Reverend Billy Sunday.  The cost was approximately $3,000 with free labor and reduced prices for the supplies or close to $70,000 in 2012 dollars.

The tabernacle featured an entrance and exit at every corner of the building and two more additional exits on each lengthy side of the building.  A roof, remarked as low but excellent, was built with ventilation that also extended to the sides of the building, 200 square feet of it overall to insure fresh air was ever present.  Remarkably, the tabernacle was heated by natural gas via a pipe laid around the inside of the structure with gas stoves set strategically about  to burn and provide warmth.  Gas was also used on large lights which hung from the ceiling among 350 electric lights.  The road and alleyways outside the tabernacle were illuminated by “brilliant” arc lights.

It stood complete and empty, a condition that would soon be replaced by an almost never ending procession of religious fever, fervor and passion.  For many, Joplin’s redemption was close at hand, a chance to save families, souls and to create a better city.  Silent with the promises of salvation, the empty tabernacle awaited its formal dedication two weeks away, a visible reminder to all who walked along Virginia avenue that Billy Sunday was just over the horizon.

Stay tuned for more in an ongoing series about Billy Sunday’s visit to Joplin and the consequent battle over Joplin’s destiny as a dry or wet town.

Note: A thank you to a work colleague for the title of the series (which is an approximation of Sunday’s time in Joplin).

Take Me Out to Lakeside

Via Wikipedia.

Via Wikipedia.

African American ragtime musician James Scott, who spent his formative years in Carthage, Missouri, entertained crowds at Lakeside Park, just outside Joplin. In 1914, Scott wrote music for a song he called, “Take Me Out to Lakeside.” The words are by Ida Miller.

Take Me Out to Lakeside (1914)

First verse:

Take me to “Lake-Side” that beautiful place,
Where your life seems complete,
Orchestras playing and everyone swaying gives you such a treat,
Dancing and glancing with smiles so entrancing is all you can see
The Waltz hesitation is all the sensation,
Oh come and dance with me.

Refrain:

Take me out to Lakeside Sunday afternoon,
Where the band is playing, Flowers all in bloom,
Boys and girls together happy as a lark,
Take me out to “Lake-Side”
Beautiful Lake-side Park, park.

Second verse:

When twilight draws near and the whole world seems drear,
And you’ve no place to go,
You may sit guessing but no thought expressing The pleasures you love so,
You think of your only while you feel so lonely it all
Seems a dream
So while you are pining there comes a reminding,
A glorious thought it seems.

Refrain:

Take me out to Lakeside Sunday afternoon,
Where the band is playing, Flowers all in bloom,
Boys and girls together happy as a lark,
Take me out to “Lake-Side”
Beautiful Lake-side Park, park.

To listen to a sample of the song, visit this link at Pandora Radio.

A Ride into the Past

A street car makes its way up Main Street


It’s that time again, the Polar Express, a restored streetcar is now offering rides up in Webb City’s King Jack Park, on Saturday. Tickets are required and this is the last scheduled Saturday to catch a ride on a piece of Joplin’s past (at least until it’s warm again!). A ticket will gain you a 12 to 15 minute ride. The event, which includes a visit from Santa Claus, runs from 4:30pm to 9pm.

For a bit more history on the event, check out this Globe article.

Joplin Glee

A hundred years and two months ago, Joplin’s gleeks were promised what was said “to be the best musical production ever given by high school students.” Fair enough, the fans of the Joplin High School Glee Club probably never fathomed of the title “gleek”, a term fans of the television show Glee, have given themselves, but there appeared to be a strong following of the high school chorus group. An article which announced the May event noted that last year’s performance, “Julius Caesar” was a “decided success” and that the “house was crowded and interest never lagged.”

While it seems that Joplin High no longer has a dedicated Glee group (please let us know if this is otherwise!), the program in 1911 was a large one with 22 members. It was also considered the oldest organization in the school, established in 1905. The annual production planned for a May Thursday evening was a one act comedy, “Hector.” Preceding the play, the audience was to be treated to an all boy performance of  “solos, duets, quartets and choruses,” the product of several months of preparation.  Mr. L.S. Dewey was credited for preparing the singing, while Miss Edna Hazeltine was credited with the instruction and coaching for the play.

Undoubtedly, for one night in May, Joplin had a glee ol’ time.

Source: Joplin News Herald

Spring in the Ozarks

The Riverside Inn, Elks Spring, Missouri

As the spring and summer months approach, we think back to days when Joplinites fled the city for a few leisurely days spent alongside a cool, clear Ozark stream. Outsiders had started flocking to the Ozarks early on, as documented in Lynn Morrow and Linda Phinney Myers’ book Shepherd of the Hills Country Tourism Transforms the Ozarks, 1880s–1930s. But while many from St. Louis and Kansas City traveled to the Shepherd of the Hills and Arcadia areas of the Ozarks, Joplinites had their own oasis just down the road.

McDonald County, home to Indian Creek, Elk River, and the Little and Big Sugar rivers, became a popular destination for Joplin residents seeking relief from the heat of spring and summer. One of the most popular resort destinations was W.H. Fleming’s Riverside Inn located at Elk Springs, Missouri, forty-five miles south of Joplin. The inn was established circa 1905 and offered rooms for $1.50 a day or $9.50 a week.

Guests with recent catches

A lady and her fish

Guests could expect a tastefully appointed inn and rustic cottages awaiting their arrival after stepping off of a train from the Kansas City Southern Railway. Fishing, boating, and bathing in Elk river were among the activities that guests could enjoy while at the resort. The more adventurous would find “surrounding mountains covered with heavy timber” which afforded “plenty of opportunity for exploring parties, and a number of caves” that were within a half hour’s walk from the inn.

 

Dinner time at the inn.

The inn was also known for its delicious fried chicken as one guest, W.E. Nesom of Shreveport, Louisiana, wrote the following poem to commemorate a meal:

“A Chant of Friend Chicken

If you are of that jolly bunch
Which loves a gastronomic hunch,
Just saunter down Missouri way
And place your money for a way
With proper show of honest pride
On yellow-legged chicken fried
At Fleming’s Inn at Riverside

You may affect the flash café,
Where night usurps the place of day;
Where one if flouted if he dines
Without the aid of vintage wines –
But, tell me, have you ever tried
A yellow-legged chicken fried
The way it’s done at Riverside?

You may, with tourist’s license, boast
Of clam-bakes on the Eastern coast,
Or dwell on some outlandish dinner
They stung you for in old Vienna-
Soft pedal, brother, till you’ve tried
A yellow-legged chicken fried
The way it’s done at Riverside

If, in punning sense, you know
The “chickens” of the summer show,
And oft at Johnnies’ door have met them,
The quickest way to quite forget them
Will be, to take a little ride
And sample sure ‘enough chicken fried
At Fleming’s Inn at Riverside

Without, a crust that’s golden, dreamy;
Within, a flesh that’s tender, creamy;
Then, add a certain juicy sweetness
To bring the picture to completeness
The Ozarks’ boast, Missouri’s pride
A yellow-legged chicken fried
At Fleming’s Inn at Riverside.”

A view of the river below the inn.

All one had to do is catch a train headed south from Joplin and soon find themselves in the midst of an Ozark oasis. Years later the inn burned down, but for a brief period it offered a respite from the ills of city life for many a Joplinite.

 

Cottages at the inn.

For those interested, the Riverside was located three miles west of Pineville on what is today Highway H.

Historic Murphysburg Hosts Dickensfest

For those of you who have escaped notice of the festivities being held in the Murphysburg Residential Historic District, here’s one more reminder to go check out Dickensfest going on right now. The festival which creates a village right out of a novel by English author Charles Dickens, began today at 7pm and continues nightly through Sunday from 6:30 to 9 pm. In addition to walking through incredible surroundings, there are a number of events from music to characters straight out of the Christmas Carol to enjoy. Here’s a link to the official Joplin Dickenfest page, and here’s a link to the website for Historic Murphysburg, the neighborhood hosting the event.

In Anticipation of Thanksgiving

In 1902, the eighteen newsboys of the Joplin News-Herald arrived at Turner’s Café at noon in anticipation of a free Thanksgiving Day meal. Mr. I.S. Vaughn, head of city circulation, his assistant, William S. Moss, and Mrs. Moss, escorted the boys from the News-Herald office to Turner’s Café where they found a lavish spread set for them. The boys dined on the following fare:
 
Cream of Fowl soup
Oyster soup
Roast sirloin of beef with brown gravy
Leg of mutton
Stuffed young turkey
Cranberry sauce
Baked lake trout au gratin
Black bass fried
Hollandaise potatoes
French peas in cream
Baked sweet potatoes
Hot corn bread
Steamed fruit pudding
Hot mine and pumpkin pie
Tea, coffee, sweet milk, or buttermilk
 
If that doesn’t get you in the Thanksgiving mood, then nothing will.

Source: Joplin News Herald

Blind Boone comes to Joplin

Blind Boone

Blind Boone, famed Ragtime piano player.

In June, 1907, a crowd in the large auditorium of the First Methodist church sat enraptured before the musical genius of John William Boone, better known as “Blind Boone.”  Boone had lost his eyesight at the age of six due to illness, but the handicap had not prevented him from finding a career as a piano player.  Managed by John Lange, Boone toured Missouri and the nation performing a mix between the classic and the popular.  His visit to Joplin coincided with his 26th season on the road with Lange.  Considered a Ragtime player, Boone entertained the Joplin crowd with songs from Chopin, Sidney Smith, Liszt, Gottschalk, and Wollenhaust.  Additionally, Boone performed songs of his composition.

The Daily Globe reporter who covered the event described Boone’s playing and its effect as, “He plays in perfect time and interprets the most difficult selections with ease.  He is very enthusiastic when about to begin a selection and his laughs at the end of his songs made a decided hit.”  The reporter continued on the laugh, noting that it, “enraptured his audience.” Furthermore, “Boone has a constant motion of the body backward and forward as he plays and sings which affects him only in appearance.”

Boone was not the sole performer, but was joined by a Miss Emma Smith who sang several songs, and then was called back by the crowd to sing several more.  Among the songs that Boone performed was the famed “Marshfield Tornado.”  Composed after a disastrous tornado swept through Marshfield, Missouri, the reporter stated of it, “so realistic a portrayal of the wind and storm that several small children in the audience cried out in alarm.”  Boone also exhibited imitations of various instruments on his piano, such as a violin, drum, and a fife.  The black performer closed with “The Mocking Bird” and “Home, Sweet, Home.”  For those Joplin residents who missed this performance, the article noted that Boone would be playing again a second night at Joplin’s First Christian church in South Joplin.

Source: Joplin Globe