Archive for Thursday, September 16, 2004

City pride, scratchy beards mark past anniversaries

September 16, 2004


Dorothy Green doesn't remember all the details, but she was wearing a pink crepe-paper dress, surrounded by fruits and vegetables.

It was 1929, Lawrence was celebrating its 75th birthday, and Green -- then 8 -- was aboard a float representing the now-defunct Quincy School.

As happened in 1929 -- and the city's centennial celebration in 1954 -- Lawrence residents again will gather for a parade, this one set for 10 a.m. Saturday to celebrate 150 years of their community.

"I think the history of Lawrence is very interesting, the way it's grown and developed over the years," Green, 83, said. "It's nice to reminisce back and let other people know what has happened."

The first major celebration looking back at Lawrence's founding came at the semicentennial in 1904, when the city was still recovering from a flood that had disrupted life a year earlier.

A parade highlighting the anniversary might not have been the biggest news of the week. The Weekly World ran a story about the parade on page 7, behind this news on page 5: "Charles Draper got drunk Sunday and chased his wife over West Lawrence."

The parade in October of that year was, according to the paper, "the greatest of its kind. It set the pace for a long time to come." It included the National Guard, representatives from schools and from community organizations.

A carnival and nightly orations also drew large crowds, including one by Charles Peck, a renowned Chicago lawyer and speaker.

"It has been a strenuous week, and we shall return to business feeling that it has been a good thing to shake up the old town once in a while," the newspaper proclaimed.

Another party

The city's 75th anniversary in 1929 brought an apparently similar but smaller celebration. Re-enactors portrayed American Indians, settlers and border ruffians at the schools. A parade again marched downtown, and the city dedicated its new airport and a memorial to early-day settlers in Constant Park.

The event also included a historical speech by N.H. Loomis, a railroad attorney.

"Let us then under the inspiration of this occasion, with our hearts filled with gratitude towards the men and women who gave us this land of freedom and liberty, resolve to give ourselves to the task of ending war, inspiring respect for the law and suppressing crime, and help make of ourselves the righteous, God-fearing people which the great maker of the universe intended us to be," he said.

'Proud community'

The grandest historical celebration of all, judging by newspaper accounts, was in 1954, when the city celebrated its centennial year. The Centennial Commission's work remains today at Centennial Park, for which the committee raised $7,000 to purchase 36 acres of land.

The eclectic centennial celebration included a log cabin in South Park, a celebration ball at Lawrence High School, the Ringling Brothers Circus at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds and a "Ladies Day" lawn party at South Park.

A beard-growing contest had the town in a mini-uproar, according to the Journal-World, as wives were trying to convince their husbands to remain clean-shaven.

James H. Stores, who was nearly 100 years old, wanted to grow a beard, but his wife reported she "wouldn't live with him if he does." A local doctor reported he treated a woman for a sprained neck when she attempted to avoid a kiss from her beard-growing husband.

Again, there was a big parade, drawing more than 50 high school bands, 350 horses, 40 floats and 20 marching groups to Massachusetts Street. Banks closed that day so thousands could gather downtown.

Sarah Lawrence, granddaughter of Amos Lawrence, for whom the city was named, rode in the parade.

"The spirit of the pioneers who founded Lawrence is just what the world needs today," Sarah Lawrence said. "The world today is in the same kind of turmoil Kansas was in a hundred years ago. We need the same unselfishness, patriotism and spirit of unity the Kansas pioneers had."

Another highlight was "Trails West," a pageant with a cast of 900 strong that staged six performances at Haskell Stadium.

Barbara Hodgson, then a junior at Lawrence High School, was a can-can dancer in the pageant.

"It was tons of people," she said Wednesday. "Everybody wanted to be involved. We're a proud community."

Now 66, Hodgson said she's proud Lawrence hadn't lost its appreciation of history it had in 1954.

"Lawrence, at the time, was a little city," Hodgson recalled. "The celebration was very lighthearted, but we all grew up with a feeling that Quantrill's raid had just happened last month."

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