By Chris Wendt
Published in The Rose Hill Reporter, Thursday, June 28, 2012
The Fourth of July used to be marked by large family reunions, picnics in the parks and at the lake. Grandma would fry chicken and make potato salad and the kids would crank the ice cream freezer.
Rose Hill and El Dorado got right neighborly in 1916 and shared a community celebration. According to recollections from an old newspaper clipping from the Douglass Tribune, a big county style dinner was planned in El Dorado. The town had done a great deal of advertising for the event touting that all of the entertainment for the day would be free.
Their billing listed a baseball game between two great county teams, patriotic addresses, a tennis tournament and prizes for different kinds of foot races. A $5 bill would go to the best decorated automobile. Everyone was encouraged to bring a basket dinner to share.
Arrangements had been made for a special train to carry the whole of the Rose Hill community to El Dorado. A heavy rain had fallen the previous evening of July 3, swelling the creeks and rivers out of their banks. Morning skies cleared and over 200 people, old and young alike, gathered for the early morning trip. Departure had been scheduled for 6:15 A.M. The only expense was the $1 train fare.
Among those on the train was the pride of Rose Hill, the Rose Hill Cornet Band. A group of 20 or more young fellows decked out in bright red suits would be part of the day’s entertainment lineup and directed by Frank McWilliams.
Indications were given that the surrounding farmers would be providing most of the food for the dinner. A line from the paper said, “Rose Hill will celebrate the Fourth. Everybody is invited to bring well filled baskets, the townsfolk are very hungry. Remember it has been a long time since farmers have given us a big eat. So have a heart and remember us on the 4th.”
Even in those days, baseball was a big part of Rose Hill. The team, made up of the Swindell boys and other local “reliables”, pitted their skills against the Potwin boys and won a well played game.
Folks from Rose Hill did their town proud, taking first play money in all the events they entered. Virgil Cox took first place in an exciting long distance wheel barrow race with a large number of contestants. Rose Hill also scored big in the baby show.
Gula Showalter, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Showalter, placed first in the beauty contest. She was a Rose Hill High School graduate and taught several terms in the Butler County schools. She later married Robert Clinger and had three fine children, one of whom was in the armed forces.
Several photographs are available at the Rose Hill Historical Museum pertaining to the event. They include one of a flag draped model T automobile and a procession of people carrying the flag down the main street of Rose Hill to front of the bank.
A poem was written by the Rose Hill correspondent W.H. Cummings for the Wichita paper which was published just before the July 4th celebration:
Two hundred are enrolled to go,
from here to El Dorado’s show.
So hurry up and don’t be slow,
at 6:15 the train will go.
A dollar bill for round trip fare,
is all that you will need to spare.
For El Dorado’s folks declare,
they’ll pay the bill for all while there.
Our cornet band will take the lead,
our baseball team will show them speed.
So all that good town will need,
is lots of cash and heaps of feed.
Of cash they say they have enough,
to all bills and that’s no bluff.
So hand them in, don’t think it tough.
They’ll pay them all, they have the stuff.
Big speakers there will take the stand,
to tell about our native land.
And whoop it up to beat the band,
for they too know there’s much on hand.
When on the grounds don’t be afraid,
to help yourself to lemonade.
Or anything that’s handy laid,
remember, all your bills are paid.
A man will go up in the air
in a balloon, way up somewhere.
And all the folks will and stand and stare,
while El Dorado pays the fare.
Your gate fare also will be paid,
to where the ball game will be played.
And you can sit down in the shade,
and drink free pop and lemonade.
At half past ten our folks will say,
“I think we’ve seen enough today.
We’ll board the train and speed away,
leaving them the bills to pay.”
While speeding home o’er tie and rail,
thinking of the cows to pail.
We’ll have no kick nor hear no wail,
if El Dorado’s cash don’t fail.
– W.H. Cummings
A small article in the Douglass Tribune of July 17, 1910, said there would be a “grand ole style” celebration under a large tabernacle. The highlights of the day would be a military flag drill by 20 young ladies under the direction of Miss Amanda Hull who was in charge of the program.
Other old photographs showed horse and buggies lining the street and all of the towns people gathered for a group picture. Their faces are indistinct but the ladies were wearing ankle length dresses and bonnets and the men sported wide brimmed hats.
Big community dinners haven’t been done in Rose Hill for many years but folks still gather on the evening of July 4th for an ice cream social at Shorty Cox Park while kids swing from new fangled monkey bars. A fireworks display is enjoyed by all as the evening finale. So, in as much as things change with the passage of years, still they remain the same.