MAMMOTH SPRING SOLDIERS, SAILORS, AIR FORCE AND MARINES REUNION
The week-long 2014 Mammoth Spring, Arkansas Old Soldier's Reunion will begin Top of Form
Monday, August 04, and end on Saturday, August 09. This will be the 121st reunion which began in 1890 and was originally called The Blue and Grey Reunion.
The reunion is hosted annually by the Mammoth Spring VFW Post 7831 and Ladies Auxiliary. In 1919, after WWI, the name was changed to Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Reunion. The Air Force was added in 1975 and the name changed to The Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force and Marines Reunion.
The following article, about the early days of the reunion, appeared in The Arkansas Gazette the day before the reunion opened, in 1953.
VETERANS’ REUNION DATES BACK TO GAY 90’S
The week long annual Reunion of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines which begins tomorrow at Mammoth Spring is a gala occasion for the young people of that community but for old timers, like Mrs. David (Grandma) Curtis, it brings back nostalgic memories of earlier reunions whose home-spun fun was a far cry from the gaudier events of today.
She remembers when the Reunion was organized “back in the good old days” of 1890 by veterans who had served in the Union and Confederate Armies. Captain Mack Archer of the Confederacy was elected president and Captain A.L. Cooper of the Union Army was chosen as vice president and it was called “The “Blue and Grey Reunion.”
The Mammoth Spring, one of the seven wonders of Arkansas and located near the site of the “Civil War Battle of Spring River” on the Missouri-Arkansas border, seemed an excellent site for drawing the boys in Blue from the north and the boys in Grey from the south. The official opening was announced at sunrise on the first day by the roar of a canon and a belch of black smoke over the Mammoth Spring.
Children popped eagerly out of bed to get ready for the fun. Housewives bustled about their kitchens, preparing extra food for visitors. Men gathered in groups as old friends drifted in and on the little hill overlooking the spring there was a hustle and bustle of activity as wagons, drawn by oxen and mules, began to arrive.
Grandma Curtis smiles as she remembers the year she had five children bedded down around their tent. And the time she fried up a wash tub of chicken for a get-to-gather with friends.
There was always horse-trading and horse shoe pitching among the men while the women gossiped and exchanged recipes.
There was a “midway” which was lined with eating stands and stages where plays were given and songs were sung by various organizations In the background stood the rows of tents which housed the veterans and their families.
There was a parade, led by a fife and drum corp and all the children marveled at the tall, bewhiskered old gentleman whose neck seemed to be a mile long as he marched diligently along blowing shrilly on his tiny fife.
Floats drawn by horses and mules carried the UDC and the GAR, dressed in blue and grey, singing songs.
As the parade marched down the main street of Mammoth Spring, amid cheers of bystanders, then crossed the bridge, ending at the Reunion grounds, which were thronged with gay and laughing people, there was a great amount of back-slapping and hand-shaking and reminiscing and speaking was the order of the day.
Races and contests were held between the old soldiers and prizes were given for each event.
The children also had their games but the main attraction to them was the mule-drawn merry-go-round.
At sunset, the cannon was fired again, a huge bonfire was built and everyone sat around telling stories of adventure in the Civil War and singing songs such as “Old Black Joe” and “Tenting On the Old Camp Ground.”
In 1919, the management was turned over to the newly formed American Legion Forest-Stone Post No. 55, which has carried on the custom since that time, calling it “The Reunion Of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.”
The pillar of the Reunion is Earl Sterling, who has acted as Adjutant of the Post since it was formed and who, it is believed, holds the national record for length of time in that office. Many young people of today cannot remember the time when they have not seen Earl bustling around the Reunion grounds from sunup until far into the night seeing that all was well.
Only four years have been missed—1918 during World War I and 1942, ’43 and ’44 during World War II.
It has been years since the last Civil War veteran attended the reunion (In 1904, 161 Civil War Veterans were reported to have attended) but there are still a few widows who register each year. Grandma Curtis is one of these and it is believed that she is the last one in Fulton County still drawing a Civil War pension.
The familiar old cannon, though silent now, still holds its place of honor but all else, it seems, has changed.
Though daybreak finds the housewives making ready for guests, they will arrive, not in buggy’s and wagons, but in automobiles, buses, trains and even airplanes. And there will be speeches and tales of adventure and courage of battles of five wars instead of the one they had then.
There will be eating stands on the midway and stages for the amateur contest, the radio musical show and concerts. The children will peer into the cages at the wildlife exhibit and there will be baseball, dancing, swimming, boating and fishing.
But the gaudiest attraction of all is the carnival whose brightly lighted midways, games of chance and peculiar whirling gadgets to ride have taken the place of bonfires, the contests, the mule-drawn merry-go-round and the fife and drum.
As “Grandma” Curtis says: “It’s all very gay for the young but we old folks miss the spirit of get-togetherness we had in the ‘good old days’.”
Nevertheless, she will be sitting in her chair on the midway laughing and talking to all the folks who knew her “way back when.”
Edna B. Ungerer (Edna Bell-Pearson)
1953—The Arkansas Gazette
The last veteran of WWI attended in 1983. Veterans who had served in four wars—WWI, WWII, Vietnam and Korea— registered that year. Reflecting the decline of the number of Veterans from those wars, most of the veterans who registered last year served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As always, attendees anticipate a week of fun with family and friends. Carnival rides have long replaced the old mule-drawn merry-go-round, but there will be games, prizes, food, talent shows, bingo, and other “home-spun” activities.
One of the major events planned is a dedication ceremony for the old Civil War cannon which was recently restored and relocated.
Most of those attending are so caught up in the excitement, they seldom stop to consider how much the reunion has changed in the 125 years since it was organized in 1890. Still, a few old timers get together to reminisce about “their” war—though each may be talking about a different war, in a different place, in a different era.
Mammoth Spring, Arkansas lies smack on the Missouri border and just across the line is Thayer Missouri. Mammoth Spring, being in Arkansas, had sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War while its neighbors to the north, just over the state line in Missouri, had supported the Union.
Because of the proximity, Union and Confederate soldiers often found themselves coming together at The Mammoth Spring, a favorite recreational spot. According to early day historians, these gatherings were not always as cordial as they might be. Disagreements often arose about the war and old timers reported that many a blow was exchanged.
After all, they decided, the war was over and it was time to establish peace between the two factions. Toward this end, “The Blue and the Grey Reunion” was organize in 1890.
About the cannon:
The annual Mammoth Spring Reunion of the Blue and Grey became so popular that, in 1893, the U.S. War Department furnished a cannon. The cannon, a U.S. Model 1861 4.5-inch Ordnance Rifle was fired daily, at sunrise and at sunset, during reunion week.
Cessna Aircraft has been in the news a lot lately. For a bit of Cessna history, click on the link. To see why I would even be interested, see below.
Ungerer Flying Service, of Marysville, Kansas, had been in business only a few months when we acquired the dealership for Cessna Aircraft and became the proud owners of one of Cessna’s first post war airplanes. The Cessna 120 rolled off the production line in 1946, following the end of World War II. Shortly after, the 120 was followed by Cessna’s 140, 170, 172, 190, and 195 which we also acquired as they rolled off the line.
The Cessna Story
When 86 year old Mary Spurgeon was asked to sculpt an eight-foot likeness of Wyatt Earp, to be displayed on Dodge City’s Wyatt Earp Boulevard, she didn’t bat an eye. She was used to challenges—
THE DIRTY THIRTIES
How Mary Spurgeon dealt with "Black Sunday"
Mary Spurgeon, the artist who sculpted the Wyatt Earp statue on Wyatt Earp Boulevard, in Dodge City, Kansas, grew up in a family of five girls and no boys near Ensign, Kansas a small farming community fifteen miles southwest of Dodge City.
On Sunday, April 14, 1935, she was herding cattle four miles from home. It was a fine day with sunshine and a gentle south wind. Shortly after three o'clock, the wind swung to the northeast and a black cloud rolled across the plains, engulfing everything in darkness.
Seventeen year old Mary Johnson used her coat to protect herself from the stinging, blowing sand. For three hours, the storm raged, alternating between total blackness when "you couldn't see your hand a foot from your face" and brief periods of dim light. Finally, she was able to walk home, leading her horse, wiping the dust from his teary eyes and runny nose.
"It wasn't an easy life, but we had freedom--time to think and time to dream," said Spurgeon whose award-winning western sculpture and paintings reflect her pioneer heritage. Sitting her horse day after day, watching the cattle graze, Spurgeon had dreams that sometime seemed far-fetched.
LIVING OFF THE LAND
(Excerpt from article in May/June issue of Grit Magazine)
In 1949 my husband, Carl, and I decided to move to Arkansas, take life easy and “live off the land.” We had been operating a flying service in Marysville, Kansas since the end of the war and before that Carl had flown B-24’s and B-29’s for the Air Corp. I was a photographer. About as close as either of us had ever come to farming was Carl hoeing weeds in his Dad’s annual spring garden when he was a boy. He figured, however, that anyone intelligence enough to fly bombers and operate airports surely had enough sense to learn how to farm.
To read the entire article, go to:
HOMELAND SECURITY; MEADE COUNTY, KANSAS
"Sixty-eight percent of the world's beef is produced in a triangular area from Dodge City west to the Colorado border, south to Amarillo, Texas and back to Dodge," Stice said. "This includes range cattle, feed lots, and the three Southwest Kansas packing plants -- National Beef, Excel and IBP -- which process process a combined total of one million head of livestock a day."
MID-AMERICA AIR MUSEUM
"We have a great museum," Bert said. "You'd be hard pressed to find an aviation museum with the diversity of airplanes we have anywhere else in the world."
THE DALTON GANG HIDEOUT
Mystery surrounds the Meade, Kanas hideout used by the infamous Dalton Gang --