It must have been a nice day on Thursday, May 30, 1929. It was Memorial Day in La Farge and as it was reported, “With attending pleasant weather and perfect roads, the Memorial Day ceremonies in the village were carried out with a complete and nicely executed program.” That assessment of the day’s activities was the lead sentence in the front-page article that started with the headline, “Memorial Program Was Great Event”, in the June 6, 1929 La Farge Enterprise. So let’s take a look at how this little Kickapoo River town celebrated on that day nearly three-quarters of a century ago.
The Memorial Day activities began at nine in the morning with a caravan of cars leaving the K.P. Hall, which is where the local American Legion post met at that time. The cars drove out to the “Baptist Cemetery on Bear Creek” (today the Bear Creek Cemetery) where the Fife & Drum Corps played patriotic songs and the graves of veterans were properly decorated. The “perfect roads” that were mentioned earlier were a must for this trip out to the Bear Creek Cemetery as the stretch of road between there and the village was often a boggy quagmire and nearly impassable if it had been a wet spring season.
At ten o’clock, the Memorial Day Parade began on the east end of La Farge’s Main Street business district near O.B. Kennedy’s Store (today the Episcope office). Leading the procession was the La Farge Brass Band followed by the World War veterans marching with the colors. These were the men from La Farge who had served in the 1914-18 conflict known then as the Great War or the World War. Today we know of that conflict as World War I, but the Second World War hadn’t been fought yet in 1929, so there was no need to tag the World War with a number.
Following the color guard of the World War veterans were cars carrying the few remaining local veterans of the Civil War. These men had probably been members of the local GAR post, originally started in Seelyburg then later moved to La Farge. When most of the Civil War vets passed on, the GAR post in town was discontinued. However, the auxiliary of the GAR was still active in town and those ladies as well as the Women’s Relief Corp were the next part of the parade. Bringing up the rear were all of the school children from La Farge Schools – “from kindergarten through the Senior Class” as the article mentioned. The parade proceeded west down Main Street and then north to the Chapel Hill and Star Cemeteries.
At those two cemeteries located on either end of old Seelyburg, veterans’ graves were decorated, the band and the Fife & Drum Corps played more patriotic music and a salute by the Legion rifle squad was fired. The rifle salute held at Chapel Hill Cemetery turned out badly according to an accompanying article titled, “Gets Shot In Eye At Grave Volley”.
According to the article, an accidental discharge from a shotgun as the rifle squad was preparing to shoot a volley over a veteran’s grave hit a grave monument and splattered shot into the faces of four members of the rifle squad. Dick Trappe, Emory Thayer, Orville (Casey) Sanford and Ivan Major were hit with the discharged shot, “all of whom had their faces more or less stippled with the deflected shot”. A lead pellet pierced the eye of Ivan Major and he was immediately taken to one of the local doctors to have it removed. From there, Major was taken to Viroqua for x-rays and later saw an eye specialist in LaCrosse. Fortunately, Major received no permanent injury to the eye. The other three “stippled” members of the squad were also taken to the doctor’s office in the village to have the pellets removed from their faces. The newspaper account said those three with the flesh wounds were completely recovered. The Memorial Day procession continued on to Star Cemetery on the north side of the Kickapoo River, perhaps without a rifle squad for the rest of the ceremonies.
There was also a ceremony held at the Seelyburg Bridge over the Kickapoo. The ladies of the Women’s Relief Corps honored those lost in the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War and threw garlands of flowers into the river water. Usually a rifle volley was fired from the Star Cemetery above during this riverside ceremony, but I’m not sure if it was that day after the earlier accident with the rifle squad. After all the ceremonies were concluded at Seelyburg, the veterans of the three wars and their families were treated to a dinner held at the K.P. Hall.
In the afternoon of that Memorial Day from La Farge’s past, a track and field meet was held on the school grounds. It was called the “Free For All Track and Field Meet” and La Farge athlete Cy Yeomans stole the show that day by winning three events. Yeomans won the pole vault by soaring to a top height of 10 feet, captured the discus title with a throw of 109 feet and took the top spot in the shot put at 43 feet. Dick Husker won both the sprint races at 100 and 220 yards while Theron Green took first place in the half-mile run. Rounding out the track and field meet events, Bob Lawton won the broad jump and Paul Harris took first in the high jump.
Later a baseball game was played on the field south of town before a “fair-sized crowd”. The La Farge and Viola “city teams” met on the baseball diamond for an exhibition game, with the downriver visitors securing a 7-5 win. According to the newspaper account of the game, “Due to the tardiness in getting the game going, it was decided to call the game at the end of the seventh. The score might have been different if the game had went over the ninth hole.” The La Farge-Viola baseball rivalry would heat up even more, later in the season.
But, all in all, Memorial Day in 1929 turned out to be quite a nice day in La Farge. Times were good in the little river town, but they were soon to turn. The 20’s would continue to roar for several more months until October, when Black Tuesday and the stock market crash would plunge the nation into the Great Depression and hard times would follow.