Around 45 years ago a local jeweler Bob Sirratt and a Electrician/contractor Chuck Versoy were sitting at Murphy's Diner(now Cafe on the Route) drinking coffee when the talked turned to the need for a city Christmas tree.
No doubt several locations were considered when either Chuck or Bob looked out the window and said the Baxter Springs Christmas Tree belongs right up on the corner of the Foodfair parking lot (True Value Hardware presently) 109 East 12th street.
They ran down owners Charlene Hill Stapleton and now her late husband and they agreed.
The first tree was on a stand and the tradition began!
Charlene is still the boss today at True Value and about the only change to the tree is city workers have drilled a hole in the parking lot to make the tree more stable. The workers found the tree along city property out ATEC STEEL way. Each year spotters look for the perfect (wild ditch cedar) tree.
I like a real tree and a free one is truly a gift from God. I saw city workers stringing lights on the proud tree the day after Thanksgiving best i recollect.
Charlene shared with me the tree lighting is always the day before the cities annual Christmas parade and local musician's play for the tree lighting ceremony every year.
Local grade school children always prepare hand made ornaments for the official tree.
Once the lights are strung and lit, the music played and the ornaments hung with the great parade done, the Christmas spirit sweeps into Baxter Springs in full measure according to oral history.
Now shopping and cooking begins, along with party planning and suddenly time speeds up for adults. Children are hoping and praying for a blizzard of white Christmas eve night as time slows down for them.
Now there was a time the location of the official tree was moved for a few years....story goes a tree was planted out at the city park and decorated but that didn't last as the tree died. That should have been a omen to all.
For a few years the tree was decorated up at the Johnston public Library. That didn't last either.
One November workers showed back up at True Value and asked Charlene could the tree have its spot back that Bob and Chuck had asked for so long ago. Charlene never took the spot away so there was nothing to give back. So back went the happy Christmas tree.
Bob and Chuck had it right, the perfect location is right up on Foodfair corner where busy shoppers can steal a glance of the tree.
Young people on the yellow bus then and now press there face on the cold morning glass to see if the winds have put there ornament in flight.
Grandparents ride by to see there grandchildrens decorations and lonely travelers remember Christmas past and maybe smile a little as the majestic ditch cedar waves them thru the stoplight on the long road home for Christmas.
Some things are just meant to be! Thanks Bob, Chuck...God bless your memory.
Here are a few names on the tree this year, Henry from Mrs. Halls class. Henry the wind blew your ornament down the street, I got your back buddy, like your name as my middle name is Henry. Eight kings took the name in England, it means ruler of the household.
Good job also Logan, Lisa, Zane, Bianca, Haley, Brianna, Dominie and to all the young people who participated, love you artwork.
True Value has Christmas bulbs for sale this 2017. I recommend the red, green, white, and blue mixed package and they have fuses also.
Some years ago two fellows showed up at True Value and asked if they sold hunting licenses. One of the gentlemen asked if he could use the phone. This was back a ways before cell phones. Charlene asked the hunter is it local? The man replied long distance but i have my calling card.
As he proceeded to use the rotary phone she helped the younger of the two with the license. Charlene asked as she looked at the name and state if they were any kin to Sam Walton...turned out that was Daddy Sam Walton on the phone! Phone stills works today as i listened to the dial tone. Ain't nobody asking to use it now as everybody and there cousin has a cell phone.
I wonder who Mr.Walton was calling? He may have been calling corporate saying we need to sell hunting license at Walmart. Anyway I touched the phone he used so who knows if maybe some of that Walton gold will rub off on me.
That makes at least two famous people who have touched that old phone.
Samuel Moore Walton and Charlene Hill Stapleton, written by an almost famous writer as my son Israel Duane says...Duane Henry Hoefer Lyon.
Warm regards and yes I'm gonna approach Director Mary Billington and the governing board at the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum about one day placing that now famous phone in its proper place since the history has been properly documented within this historical newspaper.
Merry Christmas and don't forget to get your picture made by the Baxter Springs official Christmas Tree. Say a prayer for our Military service members and our local Fire and Police Departments.
Don't forget your neighbors, shut-ins and to visit the nursing home. A letter or phone call can bring a lot of sunshine on a rainy day and caring feels good!
Now I never claimed to be Mark Twain, just Duane....but i do enjoy pinning you weekly my beloved readers. We will visit again in about a week, Lord willing and the creek don't rise...