Council Grove has a tradition of using Neosho Street between the 100 and 200 blocks of Main Street as a sort of public recreation area. Of course we are aware that every Wah-Shun-Gah Days a tent is set up on the street for public music, dance and other activities. It has recently come to my attention that this practice goes back much earlier than Wah-Shun-Gah Days. Some may remember back to 1954 when the State was celebrating their territorial centennial. This same street was blocked off for a public show of the Wild West days, or at least the romanticized Hollywood version of the Wild West.
Several of our old citizens put on a mock hanging. Pete Lang was the victim. Convicted of some crime he was hoisted up on a wench while everyone looked on. Among the other towns folk that attended this escapade were Doc Eastman, Tiny Elza, Big Bob Smith, Lindy Cooper, Jim Hewitt, Jerry Cade, Bob Olsen, Steve Slusher, Bus Earlywine, Gordie Smith, Bill Strieby, Larry Gaston and many others.
In July of 1904 at this intersection a nameless band debuted and held regular Friday evening concerts. The Guard states “The band recently organized came out for a concert Friday evening. It was their first appearance in street concert work this summer. The boys were well received. The streets were filled with people and altho (sic) the music was not up to what they will render a little later it was pleasing to the crowd and sounded mighty good. It has been some time since we have had street music by a home band. We were hungry for it. The band will play each Friday evening in favorable weather.
A fine new band stand was initiated at this concert. It is a jimdandy, twenty feet square, smooth floor, stands eight feet high, lighted by gasoline torches. It is a portable stand, built in sections and after each concert is taken down and stored in a vacant lot. On the evening of the concert it is rebuilt at the corner of Main street and First [present Neosho Street] near the National Bank. The stand is the good work of Marshal Lindsay and Anson Miller, they having solicited the funds and pushed the building of it. Marshal Lindsay is on hand to help put it together each evening. It is one of these jobs that looks easy but just about has you fagged [worn out] when you are done.”
Council Grove has had a few nice band stands over the many years and currently does not have one. Wouldn’t it be great to have weekly concerts once again? All the towns’ folk gathered around the band stand, everyone with their ice cream freezers for an old fashioned social. Quilts on the lawn and fried chicken, dinner on the ground, and afterwards a dance on the green! Boy, makes me feel like we are a bunch dull folk. I don’t know how the Flint Hills Community Band feels about it but I’d sure be up for a weekly concert.
I don’t know exactly how long Council Grove folk have been gathering on Neosho Street, but I imagine they have been doing it about as long as there has been a community here. It was and is centrally located in the business district, easily accessible to all; it’s on the main thoroughfare, and there was a time when it was not a high traffic street and even today we can block it without causing too much difficulty in navigating downtown.
So, without being conscious of it, we have had an informal gathering place for our citizens for well over a hundred years and it continues to this day.
Added May 15, 2012- The Council Grove Pride committee has started a farmers market in Council Grove. From May through September on Tuesday evening 5:15-7 the farmer’s market is held on Neosho Street between the 100 and 200 blocks. Among some of the items for sale at the first were fresh ground flour, cookie mix, eggs, some greens and plants, strawberry rhubarb lemonade (which was better than you’d think), soap and salts, and honey. The market is held on Tuesday with the hope that the last Tuesday jam at the barber shop and Alexander ArtWorks pottery on the sidewalk will encourage more activity downtown.