After I wrote Sunday's column about the Liberty Bell coming to Denison in 1915, I started to think about other happenings in our early days that I have written about. So, I decided to combine some of those things that I have kept clippings about and see what comes out. I have kept a file on “Early Denison Clippings,” into which from time to time I have dropped things that I thought might come in useful sometime.
One of these items is dated April 20, 1954, and tells of the Al G. Kelly and Miller Brothers Circus appearing in Sherman. Everyone had looked forward to the circus' arrival, but it turned into a near tragedy when a bleacher collapsed injuring 23 people. Earlier, some wild animals acted up and almost caused a panic among the audience that included a lot of youngsters.
Seven Denisonians were among the injured: Mr. and Mrs. Ben Blanton Jr., Ben Blanton Sr., Miss Louise Blanton, Mrs. Clarence Wells Jr., and daughter Carolyn, and a neighbor, 4-year-old Ronnie Monroe. As best I remember, Carolyn graduated from Denison High School that spring and Ronnie Monroe was the son of Jessie and Weldon Monroe. Jessie worked at The Denison Herald for many years.
Speaking of hhe Herald, some of the articles were from a collection of clipping that Deane Burget Harris saved through the years that were given to me by her family after Deane's death. Deane knew of my interest in Denison's history and often told me about her clipping hobby.
A group of clippings held together with a straight pin contained articles dating back to March 12, 1939, and concerned C.J. McManus' Dad and Lad's Men's Store, which at that time was four years old. The store was named in a contest with citizens submitting suggestions. Mrs. W.T. Grant, who lived on East Texas Street, chose the name “Dad and Lad's” that was appropriate since it featured clothing for men and boys. At that time, McManus was the father of a young son named Mackey.
Another article, also dated from 1939, told that the Citizens National Bank, located where Chase Bank now stands but in a different building, was going to receive air conditioning. The three-story structure was to be air conditioned throughout and was the first of its size in North Texas to receive the cool air.
How about a clipping from the Denison Daily Herald on March 16, 1925, telling that the property owned by Carl Davault at the corner of Barrett Avenue and Sears Street had been purchased by the city as an addition to the Central Ward School grounds. The price paid was $3,300. The city council authorized the purchase of the property that fronted on Sears. On the lot was an old brick building that was moved and materials salvaged. The story said the deal had been pending since the building of Central Ward School, but a purchase price could not be agreed upon. The additional land gave Central Ward an entire block. Additional land also had been added to several ward schools. Peabody and Lamar schools both had several lots added giving the schools ample ground for expansion in the future and adequate playgrounds for the students.
In 1972, the year that just happened to be Denison's 100th birthday year, a shipment had been received of a Denison Centennial Plate that frequently now shows up in antique stores and the mall booths. The plate showed pictures of Eisenhower's Birthplace, an antique Katy train, the Marx Brothers, an ice cream soda, Washington School (the first free graded public school in Texas) and a boxcar noting the first refrigerated shipment of beef originating here. All were reminiscent of Denison's history. The plates sold for $2.50 and that price has appreciated somewhat in the last 45 years if you can find one.
I wonder if anyone remembers the large stone marker in the shape of the State of Texas that stood on Highway 75 to welcome travelers to Texas. The stone map of Texas was a popular target and background for people wanting to document their visit to Texas with a photograph. But, travelers weren't the only ones who posed there. Locals often did the same thing. Another stone Texas map still stands at the top of the Denison Dam on the Texas side and no doubt a lot of those pictures and earlier ones have stayed right here in the area.
Another clipping dated on my birthday in 1975 (June 7) is the story of the 50th reunion of the class of 1925 from Denison High School. The clipping caught my eye because my own class of 1953 will mark its 64th year since graduation this year. Some classmates already want a reunion and those of us who are left are giving it some serious thought for the fall. We have always been a little different in the times of our reunions and never have gotten together on the normal years.
As I read the article about the class of 1925, I became more interested when I saw that my good friend and mentor Claud Easterly was master of ceremonies for the class of 1925's gathering. Mr. E. was editor of The Denison Herald at the time of the reunion and brought mementos of graduation day by researching files for the day's news events.
It seems that Sam Rayburn, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, addressed the class at graduation. Special guests were teachers from 1925, Mrs. B. McDaniel, Joe Dickson, Frank Ashburn, M.M. Marshall, Miss Olive Black and Miss Mildred Walker. Most of those were still around in the 1950s when school was in the 1914 high school building on Main Street that was demolished in 2007.
These are just a few of the interesting clippings that Deane so carefully kept through the years. It just goes to show that most of us never forget our roots. Friendships made in our school days last forever. Anyone who doesn't attend such a gathering doesn't know what he/she is missing.
If anyone could like to elaborate on any of the happenings mentioned here, please contact me via email.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.