Thursday, June 22, 2017

July 4, 1919: Grand, glorious (and damp)

Although it's jumping the gun on Independence Day a little, I got to wondering how Chariton --- where the 4th of July generally has been a big deal --- celebrated during 1919. 

This is the centennial of U.S. involvement (April 6, 1917-Nov. 11, 1918) in World War I. Celebrations during the war years had been subdued.

But as the summer of peace, 1919, rolled along plans were developed for what organizers hoped would be the biggest celebration ever.

Here's the outline, as published in The Herald-Patriot of July 3, 1919:


Arrangements are complete and the stage is set for the biggest celebration of the 4th of July Chariton has ever witnessed. There is promise, too, that Chariton will entertain its biggest crowd tomorrow, a crowd that will fill the streets and public park and which will go home satiated with all the entertainment common to such celebrations.

Business men have taken charge of the affair and sufficient money has been collected to insure amusement for all. Good order will be maintained but the town will be turned over to jollification, noise and fun from early morn until late at night. People will come from afar to take part in the big gathering and there will be diversion for all.

A fund of $400 was subscribed among business men last Friday to be expended on roads leading into Chariton and these roads are now being put in good shape. Stores generally will close at 12 o'clock and those having trading to do on July 4th will be wise if they come early and make their purchases before the closing hour.

After 12 o'clock every Chariton man, woman and child is presumed to devote himself or herself to the joyful task of entertaining those who come from a distance. All roads will lead to Chariton tomorrow and these roads are expected to be well filled with vehicles carrying their occupants to the best place within a radius of fifty miles in which to spend the 4th.

It is fitting and proper that every community should either hold a celebration of its own in this year 1919 or should join with some neighboring town in commemorating the big day. It is also fitting and proper that the "boys" who have just returned to us should have a large share in the doings of the day, a fact which has been recognized by requesting that they appear in uniform and help in the parade and elsewhere.

There are hundreds of these returned world war veterans and they will wear the smile that won't come off rather than the twisted attempt to look cheerful which they wore upon their departure for the training camps. They will also be asked to register at the booth of the American Legion, the organization being formed all over the United States by men who went to war in order that humanity and freedom might be saved.

The new soldiers should take a very prominent part in this big celebration. Again the request is made that they appear in uniform.

A partial list of the attractions may be found today on page 3 (top) of this paper. They include the big 54th infantry band of twenty-five pieces, a martial band of fifteen pieces, a good baseball contest, target shooting, wrestling, free street shows throughout the day and evening, tug of war, foot races and other contests. A patriotic talk by Judge Sutton, of Omaha, old fashioned dances in the evening, singing and an elaborate display of fireworks in the evening.

No Lucas county citizen can afford to miss this big celebration. Every care should be put aside for 24 hours in order that the most pleasure may be extracted from the grand meeting here tomorrow. Let's go!


The good news is, the big parade on the 4th was a huge success, according to The Herald-Patriot of July 10. Several early afternoon events went off as planned and a wonderful time was being had by big crowds.

Then it began to rain, and it rained, then it rained some more. The deluge didn't let up until 7 p.m., then started again at 9 p.m.

Judge Sutton's patriotic address was cancelled. The games and music ceased. And fireworks were postponed indefinitely.

The heavy rains turned Lucas County roads into a sea of mud and many rural residents, or those who had arrived via the roads from other town and hadn't left for home as soon as the rain began, were stranded in town. Quite a few, according to the Herald Patriot, ended up either sleeping or sitting up all night in their cars.

And so it goes. Mother Nature didn't rain on Chariton's parade that day back in 1919, but she didn't spare the remainder of the celebration.

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