Fred “Fritz” Rogers, with Jack Ytell at the controls of Streetcar No. 60.
Do you remember our first Mining Days Celebration? It was started on August 18, 1980, and it lasted until Saturday the 23rd. (Remember, this was the first year and the volunteers had no idea what they were in for.)
Bill Lundstrum had a dream! And that dream was to have a celebration that would bring the people of Webb City and neighboring towns together. He wanted folks living away to have the desire to come home during the celebration to visit with family and friends. He wanted to recognize the hard work the miners had done in years past and to make a tribute to them. He just wanted to have fun!
His committee began many months before the actual celebration, he had lots of good help on his committee, including: R.L. & Kathryn Patten, Fred & Della Rogers, his wife Betty, Ney Dean Cunningham, Jeanne Newby, June & Emmett McFarland, Nancy Carlson, Park Board members, and although there were too many to mention, we appreciate the hard work that went into planning this first event. Groups assisting included the Elks Club, The Lions Club, Business and Professional Women and city employees.
And what a special event it was. Down home fun was planned and down home fun was had by all. In case you hadn’t noticed, the event started in August instead of September as it did later. After having many conflicting activities occurring the same time all over the area, they experimented with dates. It was determined that Mining Days would always be the weekend following Labor Day. That way, the date would be determined each year without a lot of conflict.
There was never any doubt that the celebration would be at King Jack Park since it represented the mining era so well. And Fred Rogers and his group had been working on refurbishing an old street car. In fact, one of the highlights of the first Mining Days was getting to tour old No. 60, which they had just finished.
Some of the entertainment was in the 22 booths, included woodcarving, wood burning, a palm reader, a puppet theatre and a goat milking contest. There were craft booths, and lots of talent on the stage. There was gospel music, ragtime piano, country music, young people’s music and, of course, Paul Jensen’s Jazz Band.
Many of the activities took place by the Sucker Flat Depot and then at the back of the park (Where the playground equipment and splash pad are today) was the Toby’s Amusement Carnival, along with a dunking booth in which one could dunk police officers, school administrators, school board members, cheerleaders, coaches, city officials, baseball officers and many more for the cost of a quarter per ball. There was the horseshoe tossing contest that brought horse shoers form Oklahoma. “Cow patties” were used like a Frisbee toss. City officials tossed those “cow patties” with glee!
There were a lot of Main Street activities that went along with the celebrations as merchants had giveaways in their stores that you could sign up for all week with the drawings to be held at each store at closing on Saturday. Ashleys (located at 4 S. Main St.) went one step further and had a paper plate toss from their second floor with prizes written on some of the plates. They had a real good turnout. Main Street was packed.
The Webb City Police Auxiliary had a Miner’s Diner by the old depot featuring the meal most often eaten by miners…beans and cornbread. They also had hot dogs and fresh baked goodies. The Webb City fire department had a watermelon garden over by the carnival, at the front of the park along the highway, instead of the back of the park like the first year. The Lion’s Club had a pancake feed on Saturday morning at the Lion’s Clubhouse at College and Nelson. The Elk’s Club served juicy hamburgers at the park.
The Mining Days Parade was sponsored by the American Legion. Even though it was the first Mining Days Celebration, we were celebrating the Legion’s 34th Festival Parade. For many years, the American Legion hosted the “Fall Festival” behind the City Hall on Tom street between Church and First Street. There was always a carnival, The Fall Festival Queen, and all the merchants in town participated by having promotions. One promotion was for every dollar you spent at the merchants you received a Festival Dollar to be used at the Fall Festival Auction on Saturday. Items in the auction were also donated by merchants.
Throughout the years, the Mining Days Committee had to make changes. The first one was the number of days for each annual Mining Days Celebration each year. It had been a week long. It was changed to Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Eventually Sunday became the cleanup day. Eventually the celebration was changed to just Friday and Saturday. Sunday morning cleanup had lots of paper, cups, and trash to pickup, chairs and tables to put away and tents to take down. For every good time that is enjoyed…there is clean up to follow.
Bill Lundstrum was the chairman for a full 10 years. He said at the beginning, he would do it for 10 years and he kept his word. After Bill retired from the celebration, it was determined that the chairperson would alternate so they wouldn’t get burned out. That ruling didn’t last long as it was hard to get volunteers for chairperson. The first year after Bill retired. Jeanne Newby was chairperson and Helen Woodworth was vice chairperson. Later years, Sue Means carried that position for a few years.
Every year, Labor Day was set aside to set up the large tents for the arts & craft booths and bingo. The Mining Days Committee and the Elks Club were usually in charge of this task. And it seemed for many years that as soon as the tents were set up, there was always a storm that would come up between Labor Day and the first day of Mining Days. The tents would get blown down or even torn and a hurry-up repair would have to be done. Finally we had gathered enough money from over 10 years of celebrations that we were able to build pavilions in the park to be used in place of the tents. (In later years, the Webb City Farmers Market connected the pavilions and put in concrete floors .
The first year there were two queen contests. The Mining days Queen and the American Legion Festival Queen, which was determined by the sale of advance tickets for the carnival. The Mining Days Queen was determined by the sale of raffle tickets for drawing of a gift sponsored by the Webb City Boys Club. The rodeo also had a queen candidate. In later years, thee changes had the committee choosing someone as Honorary King Jack and Queen Clementine. They were usually selected based on their contributions to the community in time and effort. Fred and Della Rogers were cjpsem in 1990. Many wonderful people were chosen to serve but they could never get the Mining Days originators Bill and Betty Lundstrum to accept the honor of representing Mining Days.
Throughout the years there were many changes made to No. 60 Streetcar. The Southwest Missouri Railroad Association volunteers kept laying railroad tracks around the park. Do you remember the year everyone was able to ride the streetcar (being pulled by a tractor) to the Praying Hands, stop and switched the backs of the seats to face the other direction and then ride back to the depot? There were celebrations when the laying of the tracks was completed and we were able to ride the streetcar completely around the park..
Another great memory of Mining Days Celebrations are the dance contests. There were two stages in the park. One at the front area and one on back a ways. The teens were featured on the back stage and their young rock groups kept the kids a hoppin’. The front stage had its dance contest with a country band. As years went by, the two bands were merged into a 50s 60s sock hop contest. Then as the Cruise Night was developed on Main Street, the dance contest was moved to the intersection of Daugherty and Main streets in front of the Bradbury Bishop Deli. .
The games along the years made changes also. Added to the Cow Pattie Toss and the horse shoe contests were the turtle races, gunny sack races, hoola-hoop contests, look-a-like contests and much more. The talents shows were a success.
The Mining Days Committee always tried to come up with money making ideas, some were successful and some were not! One year they decided to sell chances on a pickup truck, they sold calendars with old Webb City pictures, postcards of the Kneeling Miner and Praying Hands, and a reprinting of Norvel Matthews’ Book, “An Amazing City.” The most fun was the buttons with numbers on them and if your number was called you received a grand prize donated by a local merchant.
The proceeds from each year were used to fund the next year’s celebration and the excess was put into the bank. Plans were to build a community center for King Jack Park. There were complications determining where the building should be located. There was a standstill for quite a few years. And with each year of delay, the cost of the building continued to climb
Some of the funds were used along the way to build shelters (pavilions) in park, donate to various organizations such as: Webb City Christmas lights, Historical Society’s museum and Webb City Marching Band going to Pasedena. Purchases for the new community building: speaker system, ice maker being used by the housing authority, refrigerator stove and microwave.
The Mining Days Celebration became well known for their Taco Salad and there were many made over the 28 years that Mining Days was in existence. The parades were wonderful as they led the citizens into the park to begin celebrating. The Mining Days Community Building was dedicated in February 2004 and the amphitheatre. Moving the Mining Days Celebration away from the carnival made big changes in the attendance but we stilll had a great time
It was the fall of 1979 that a group of about 20 people got together at the suggestion of Park Board chairman Bill Lundstrum to plan a city celebration for the following year, sponsored by the Webb City Park Board and the American Legion. The American legion had held a Fall Festival for 33 years, and there were hopes that this new celebration could be in conjunction with the Fall Festival. It was determined that the name of this new event would be the Mining Days Celebration.
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.