This photo shows the attire of the gents and ladies dancing at the former Lakeside Park pavilion. The dances on New Year’s Eve would have been a bit fancier, but the excitement would have been the same. New Year’s Eve dances were held at the Connor Hotel, the Underground, and at many homes of the wealthy.

Ancestors, Legends & Time

It was nice to be well-heeled on New Year’s Day

Jeanne Newby

New Year’s Day, the first day of the year… there are many traditions associated with this holiday. History says that the Chinese have celebrated the new year longer than any other culture. The Dutch celebrated the new year long before coming to the new America. And they are given the honor of having introduced the United States to the New Year’s Day celebrations and traditions back when New York was known as New Amsterdam, The first day of the new year was to celebrate in the best way possible, which usually includes visiting friends and relatives.

Many foods have become traditional for good luck if eaten on the first day of the new year, including the Dutch favorite of donuts. The shape of a ring symbolizes “coming in a full circle” or completing a year’s cycle. Therefore, the donut, in a circular shape was thought to bring good fortune. Other cultures developed their own traditional foods, such as the black eyed peas and other legumes. The hog symbolized prosperity, therefore the meat of the hog was a good food in which to start the new year. Cabbage is considered good fortune, and in some areas rice is eaten to bring in the new year with as much luck as possible.

In case you are wondering, the reason we have loud noises at the stroke of midnight with horns blowing, sirens, shouts, drums, church bells, fireworks, etc. is to drive away evil spirits and start the new year with good clean spirits.

Here in our little corner of the world, it was the mid 1800s when our towns were being settled, and it was not until 1901 when the New Year’s celebrations became a sensation. Many balls were held in various towns in 1901.

At first, many well-to-do families would have an open house to encourage friends to stop by and celebrate the new year. But there was an invasion of lower class visitors who enjoyed the food and drink of those fortunate enough to be able to afford such a celebration. At times, the unintended guests got out of hand and did not show much respect for homes of the hosts. So the genteel citizens soon discovered that the best solution was to send out personal invitations to those with whom they wanted to celebrate the new year.

Joplin and Webb City had quite a few special parties going on all day on New Year’s Day, and some families may have received 10 or 12 invitations to homes of distinction. So they would have a busy day trying to include them all in their visits.

Imagine the excitement of anticipation as young ladies awaited an invitation to certain homes of the young men they admired. Many were waiting for an invitation to the event of the year when the New Year’s Eve celebration was at the Carthage Underground. The underground cave had room to accommodate an unlimited guest list. It was decorated in such a way that it felt like a glamorous ballroom. All the families of distinction were invited, and it was a memorable event hosted by several families.

The most memorable ball was given by Colonel and Mrs. W.R. Caulkins, which they held at the Yellow Dog Mine. The ball began with a grand march of the guests as they paraded in their fine attire among the beautiful black and white drapes, which converted the open mine into a luxurious ballroom. Added to the music from the orchestra was the rumbling of the mill as a group of miners were hired to work the mine to allow the guests to walk among the varied equipment of the mill in full operation. This amazing ball was the talk of the county for many years, and it is still being talked about 100 years later.

Happy New Year to you all and may your year start with many visits with family and friends plus food that will bring you good fortune and full tummies! Not to mention, plenty of loud noises to chase away the bad spirits and invite the good ones!

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber Office.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.

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