Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Memory Lane: Big Spring Park

My hometown is Neosho, Missouri. I was born at Sale Memorial Hospital just off the square in Neosho. As a little boy I can remember loving Saturday's because it meant, "going to town" which meant going to the square. Our square had a JC Penny, McGinty's, William's, Buster Brown, Ben Franklin, and other great shops that you could while the day away shopping from store to store. We always had Granny with us which was just a hoot, she loved to shop at Penny's and thought William's and McGinty's too expensive. Even though each of these stores had sales which made clothes cheaper and Penny's the fact that it came from "there" made it too rich for her blood. "They can keep those fancy clothes. I don't need no fancy duds--whom I gonna impress." Needless to say when I had opportunity to purchase clothes from McGinty's I thought I was really stepping out in style!

If you had to go to the bathroom while shopping you had to take yourself to the courthouse. You didn't ask a clerk where the bathroom was, you didn't look around and try to find it yourself, you just went to the courthouse, everyone knew it. Sis and I always went to the courthouse using the excuse that we had to "go" just to get free and explore. Our Courthouse is also the county seat for Newton County. Neosho has a rich history which dates back to the Civil War. It was actually the Confederate Capital for during the war. Being a person who loves nostalgia--I love thinking about my city being in the midst of the Civil War and the town square being burned down as the soldiers retreated (which it was). This Courthouse was built in the 30's ( think 1938). It's all limestone and marble. As you walk in the whole place just echos and resonates. The Jail is on the very top of the building. Sis and I always went to the very top to try and see a prisoner--no such luck. I always imagined what I would do if a prisoner came into the bathroom while I was there. I could get myself really worked up. It would be the ultimate rush and flush--let me tell you. I was kind of a fraidy cat. As I remember it, the courthouse looks exactly the same on the sides, so I don't know which side of the building this was. I'm guessing west side, because all of the sheriff's cars parked on the west side.

As will most town squares in our great nations it is struggling to survive. William's, McGinty's, JC Penny, Buster Brown, all have gone by the wayside closing. It is so tragic that William's and McGinty's closed because they were locally owned. So sad, but an unavoidable sign of the times in which we live. I think that the day is coming, and may already be here, when our town squares will once again the bustling and thriving hubs as we try to get back a piece of history to comfort us in "this age."

Big Spring Park was a wonderland for me. I love Big Spring Park. I have played for hours and hours in this great park. A little over three years ago we took Titus there and let him play in the wading pool that I played in at his age. I found myself very emotional, filled with nostalgia in seeing him love a place so dear to my heart. The picture above is a great shot of Big Spring Park, as you can see it really goes back quite a ways. There are hills surrounding the park with walking trails all throughout the woods. Legend has it that this spring, and the bridge, (smooth as glass rock bridge over 150 years old!) was THE location for slaves and wives to gather and to their wash. There is also a legend of a cave which has long been closed off and cannot be found. There are two legends. The first is of confederate gold and confederate soldiers buried in this cave, and the other legend is that there were several children who lost their lives in exploring this cave when it collapsed. I like to believe the the first legend as it's very adventuresome and exciting much more so than the dreary and depressing deaths of children.

I came across this flick'r post of Big Spring Park in Neosho! I have no idea who these people are, but boy am I glad they brought their camera to Big Spring Park. The white columns in the background are of the wading pool, which is in the very back of the park. This park was in it's prime in the 20's and 30's.
As a kid I can remember going to the park and playing on the swing set and slide, and teeter totter, then going to the wading pool. It was always packed and full of kids, but there never seemed to be too many, always room for more. Parks today are so "safe." Nothing like when I was a kid. The slide in our neighborhood is slide was metal. Sliding down a stainless steel metal slide in August is sheer torture on your bare legs! It was more of a EEEEEOOOWWWW than a "WEEEEE!" There was a really cool rock "water house" where the boys and girls could go to the bathroom. When we went there with Titus it had been closed, but was still standing. I hope they never tear it down.
On one of the hills there is a white limestone cross (probably 20 feet tall) laid in the side of the hill which used to have tulips and daffodils that would grow just in time for Easter Sunrise service. There were also a lot of May Day and May Pole parties. Here is another flick'r shot of that area. Not sure who these people are either, but don't they look uncomfortable? The steps behind the columns go up to the cross. The columns are a sort of amphitheater type set up, very cool. This is area is in the middle of the park. As you look into the park (from the top photo) it would be on the right hand side right in the middle. The originators of the park obviously placed great importance on it's location and wanted it to be the center of attention, but it's place was lost years ago. Towns just don't celebrate like they used to, do they?

Here is another photo from the same flick'r group of Abbot Cave at Big Spring Park. This cave is in the very back of the park in the corner (behind the wading pool). This cave has a spring running through and is damp and noisy and so cool. As you go down these steps you feel like you are stepping into history to a time that has been long done. I can remember sitting on these steps, which go down to the underground stream, and wondering about the people who forged these steps. What were they thinking as they stood on this "new" entrance to the cave. Did they imagine generations of people walking up to this very entrance and going down to catch crawfish so girls could be scared out of their minds (girls can run FAST when boys come at them with crawfish!). What mementos were put into those steps by the craftsmen that only they knew were there but were placed there to leave a piece of themselves. I dont' know if you can tell or not, but between the boy and girl are some concrete walkways--what were they for? I have no idea.

My family enjoyed Memorial Day and 4th of July pic nic's under the shade of trees provided by the Big Spring Park. Those times with my Poppa, Granny, and Robba all were assembled for a massive family get together (rare for both sides of the family to come together) and enjoy the day laughing and having a great time. Robba brought German Potato salad and this fabulous layered salad which was so good. I usually tried to get mostly mayonnaise and bacon with my little bits of lettuce. Mom made this great salad with cauliflower (raw), green onion, bacon, cheddar cheese, peas, all tossed in this bacon ranch dressing (loved it!). Auntie Ilene's sweet tea brought in the Tupper ware gallon jug (remember those?) ice cold Nehi grape and other colas in the cooler. Grilled burgers and hot dogs. The best time.
Making memories is so fun. Being able to look at pictures, even if they are from people you don't even know, that take you back to a time when you had no worries or cares and were surrounded by the people whom you adored and adored you. Times when you could run free and have the cool grass keep your feet from being burned. Love the memories of my childhood and I love Big Spring Park!


Tracy said...

sounds like a marvelous place. with caves and everything (i suspect legends of missing kids were created to keep you all in line LOL!) Oh and if you like Civil War stuff will - Leesburg is definitely a must see - right down the road from Gettysburg :-) and i think leesburg just got named historical sacred ground or something - seriously... darn there was an article in the paper last week about it. anyway you're right about the memory making and a picture just taking you back. oh and i loved all the "town square" story too! wonderful post :-)