revised from old files and available information
(as written by Lu Achilles in 1959)
The McPherson County All Schools Day Committee is unique, as it is probably the only organization in the world that has honored approximately 10,000 Eight Grade Graduates in the 46 years of its existence.
Early in 1914, I. C. Meyer, then County Superintendent of Public Schools, conceived the idea of having one program for all children in the County graduating from 8th grade. It had been the custom for a few rural grade schools to go together, holding graduating exercises, making many such occasions for the Superintendent to attend to present the County Grads with their diplomas. Mr. Meyer, V. E. Adkinson, Ray Strohm, Simon Kern, Simon Strouse and others had a meeting and out of it emerged the new and unique All Schools May Day Organization, as it was first known. Therefore those graduating from the eighth grade in McPherson County May 18, 1914 were the first to be honored by the All Schools Day organization.
The central idea was and still is that the graduates are honored guests for the entire day.
In the early years there was an auto caravan which went to all the towns of the County one day about a month previous to the celebration to advertise the program. Many businessmen took the day off and helped to make this project a success. They took the band along and had an auto mechanic accompany the caravan to attend to any balky car and to assist in case of tire trouble. A short stop was made at each town and after the band had played and a group of people had gathered, a designated member of the committee would tell the plan of the forthcoming event and then the group would journey on to the next town. Most cars were able to make the whole trip all in one day!
The first year only one band had a part in the All Schools Day Celebration. August San Romani informed the committee that he would have SEVENTEEN bands a few years later. This year, Les Sperling entertained 28 bands.
From the inception of this program it was decided that it should not be a money-making enterprise, so merchants were asked to refrain from having any special sales for the day, but to keep the stores open for the convenience of our guests rather than for sales. No merchant was allowed to have advertising floats, as this was and is a county affair. The committee did not want the merchants of the other county towns to be placed at a disadvantage and did want their whole-hearted cooperation.
The expense of this program was and still is borne by subscriptions from the businessmen of McPherson together with money from concession privileges.
The graduates dinner and program and evening entertainment were always free to the county graduates. The graduates gained admittance to the function by their ribbon badges. Now, the Queens from the County towns, the Mayors and others are entertained at the banquet with high-class and professional entertainment furnished for their enjoyment.
It was May 18, 1914 when the first All Schools Day celebration, as it was called, was held for 106 graduates. There is no mention of a queen that first year. The commencement exercises were held on the small island in the County Park, west of the Court House, at 1:30 P.M. Dr. Ernest Philblad of Lindsborg and State Superintendent W. W. Ross both spoke at the exercises. Music was furnished by the grade school pupils of McPherson and McMurray Saxophone Band, after which the diplomas were presented to the graduates. This year in 1959, the banquet and commencement exercises were held at the Community Building, 216 graduates and they were entertained by Speaker Alvin Grauerholtz, State Park Authority and the recording & T.V. stars “THE HILLTOPPERS”.
Dr. F. W. Barber was parade chairman of the eight block long parade which started at 10:30 and marched south on Main Street to Seitz, East to Ash North to Kansas and West on Kansas to the present Wickersham School, which was then the high school. (This year, 1959, we had 28 bands, 45 major floats and the parade lasted one hour and 20 minutes. The parade was covered by three T.V. stations and various newspapers.)
Gus Webb was chairman of the basket dinner, as he and his committee served coffee to those eating their picnic lunch in the park. This feature became permanent.
The May Fete was held at 2:30 on College Hill followed by some athletic program tennis all afternoon. (Now the May Fete is held at the Band shell in Lakeside Park – a preview on Thursday evening, and the main showing on Friday morning. Queens from the County towns are crowned and the Physical Ed Director of the McPherson School System presents the May Fete – this year using a cast of 450 people. Attached to this is a list of the May Day themes that are available at this time.) **See Past Celebrations page**
The County Graduates dinner was held in the Y.M.C.A. at 6:00 P. M. with Rev. M. A. Stone as toastmaster.
An interesting sidelight in 1914 was the dedication of Central Park, west of the Court house, at 7:30 P. M. by the ladies.
There were free pictures to all visitors at the Cozy Theatre from 6:30 to 7:30 P. M.
May 9, 1915 the whole front page of the Republican was used to advertise the Second All Schools Day event which was held May 19, 1915. The program started with reception of visitors from 8:00 to 9:30 and concerts by the visiting bands. At 10:00 A. M. the Coronation ceremonies were held in Central Park. Dorothy Fentron of the eighth grade in McPherson City Schools was the first queen and her attendants were other 8th graders. The parade was at 11:00 and it has been held at 11:00 sharp ever since, except for one time, when it was postponed to 4:00 P. M. because of unfavorable weather. Since the weather was better in the morning than at 4:00 P. M. when the parade was held, there has never been another change.
It is interesting to note that for 46 consecutive years the celebration has been held on the advertised date, regardless of the weather, although the second and third years the weather was not cooperative. We have had to move some of our street performances inside through the years. (This year, 1959 is the first that we have not had platform performances.)
In 1915 the paper stated the sum of $75.00 in cash prizes was offered for floats from school districts outside of McPherson. This year $625.00 was set aside for this purpose out of a total budget of $5,500.00. Total amount for prizes on floats was $1,875.00 (the committee now allocates funds to each County School to assist in decoration costs). In 1915, the County graduates and 3,000 school children were in the parade. L. E. Jackson was the parade chairman.
The McPherson Republican in commenting on the celebration held on May 19, 1915 stated that the weather man was kind enough so that the two main events (crowning of queen and the parade) were carried out on schedule.
Most of the events of that year were carried out with difficulty as it rained. Those who drove in from over the county came early. Many came by train from Canton, Galva, Marquette, Lindsborg and Inman.
The parade was 12 blocks long with a number of floats from over the County. Canton shipped its float over by freight and received first prize for the best float from a district with more than one teacher.
The graduates dinner was held in the Fraternal Aid Hall. The commencement exercises were held in Central Park. These exercises were shortened by a shower. Dr. Kurtz, McPherson College, was commencement speaker. All bands gave a concert under the direction of Paul Crabb. There were 160 graduates. The Maypole drill and other exercises were held in McPherson College gym, owing to rain.
In 1916 there were 122 graduates. The May drill was held in McPherson College gym, as we encountered rain again. The track events were held at the fair grounds in the mud and rain with slow time being made.
Since the community building was built, we have been able to move some of the street performances into the auditorium in case of rain and cold weather. (In 1959 – we have difficulty handling the crowd in this building.) In the gym we have housed the competitive school exhibits from over the County.
The Queen’s float has always been one of the highlights of the parade. The decoration of the Queen’s float was and is the responsibility of the General Committee although they delegated to a sub-committee the supervision of the actual work. From the first year when the queen was an eighth grader to the present there have been changes, both as to who was queen and how she was chosen. (In 1959, the Queens are elected by the schools and each case is a Senior in the respective county towns. The queens float has been built by a local sorority – with $300.00 being allocated for its construction.) There was a time when the Queen, Prince Charming and all the Queen’s attendants were elected from the Senior Class of McPherson High School. Now there is a queen from the Senior Class of each High School in the County. Prince Charming is still chosen from McPherson Senior High School. The crowning ceremonies were held in the west side of Central Park for many years with the preview held the night before. Recently, May Fete, including crowning and preview has been held in Lakeside Park. The transfer was made so that a larger crowd could witness the performance.
From time to time we have added different classifications for rural school floats. We have had some very outstanding floats representing these different schools. Very early in our celebrations we found we had to add different sections to the parade, as comic entries, organization floats, pony division for the boys and girls, decorated bicycles, juvenile float divisions. From the very start we gave prizes for the best marching order in the grades of the McPherson City Schools, as they appeared in the parade.
We have had the Governor of our State as an honored guest in our parade many times. The Colleges of the County are represented in the parade.
The second year, it was agreed that there was a need for the following committees to carry out the All Schools Day program properly; Prize Committee; Judging Committee; Entertainment Committee; Coffee Committee; Athletic Event Committee; General Program Committee; Parade Committee; May Fete Committee; School Exhibit Committee; Flags and Balloon Committee; Concession Committee; May Drills Committee; Roping Committee; Publicity Committee; Finance Committee; Platform Committee; Highway and Street Committee.
The All Schools Day program has grown to a celebration attended by up to 40,000 from over the State and even out of the State. In 1958, the Kansas Industrial Development Commission used this event in the official publication covering the outstanding events and industries of the State. Weather is not too important, considering the trend of surfaced roads and automobiles.
It may be of interest in future years to know that this Year the theme of the May Fete was “Around the World in 80 Days” directed by Mariann Wasemiller. And, as previously stated – with a cast of 450 children. The Committee Chairmen for this year (1959) as follows: General Chairman, Lawrence Stouse; Vice-Chairman, Fred Brier; Second Vice-Chairman, Bill Sheets; Secretary, Mark Anson; Treasurer, Delbert Peterson; Parade Chairman, Dick Mettlen, Mark Green, Howard Renfro; Program, Merwin Hapgood; Organization & School floats, Julius Steele; Rural School Floats, Bruce Brunk; Bands, Les Sperling; Flags & balloons, Ernest Pease; Highway & Streets, Paul Smith & D. Wilson; Concessions, Ernest Pease and Addison I. West; Ushering, Junior Chamber of Commerce; May Fete, MariannWasemiller, E. R. White, Ralph Johnson; Publicity, Mark Anson & Claude Hughes; Prizes, Lawrence Strouse; Parade Judges, Mrs. Simon Strouse and Mrs. E. G. Nigh; Benches, Jim Conway; Parks, Bob White; Parade Spacing & Roping, National Guard; Past General Chairman, Bryan Holloway.
Solicitation of funds for May Day was handled for approximately 25 years – Jesse James as Chairman. Jesse chose the solicitors, handled the money and records, making deposits.
We now wait to see what 1960 brings.
Special thanks to Shirley Morris for providing a copy of this history so it could be added to the website.