Another Fourth of July and another Lights on the Lake celebration have passed, and they seem to have gone well this year.
I don’t like the huge fireworks at the lake for a selfish reason. Our home on Hays Hill shares the same rock ridge as does the City Lake dam where the pyrotechnics occur. The mortars used in the display get larger every year, and the noise echoes down our fireplace, and the vibrations create cracks in our basement.
Oh, well. Since Walt was one of the Jaycees that first started this event back in the ’70s, perhaps we are partly responsible. That, though, was in the days when the explosives were smaller and less harmful.
The noise this year made me think about something else in the past, long before our boys and their friends took to the lake in their canoes to watch the fireworks overhead. I thought about the old pictures of cannons in John Brown Park and, in a contrived segue, want to tell you about those old noisemakers.
When Anna January and her Osawatomie committee began planning for a monument to the soldiers and sailors of the First World War, they wanted both a building and a memorial. They obtained financial assistance from the state and hired George Washburn to design the Memorial Hall, assured a memorial plaque inside that building and requested war trophies to be displayed in the John Brown Park.
The July 2, 1920, edition of the Osawatomie Graphic announced that two 6-inch Howitzers, model 1908, and carriage would be loaned to the committee for display. That loan was ordered by the Chief of Ordinance in the War Department.
The cannons would come from Ft. Sill, Okla. The Howitzers weighed “approximately 1,925 pounds each and measured seven feet, three inches in length, exclusive of carriage.” They were described as “not safe for firing” and were loaned on the condition that, should future service demand, they were subject to return to the government. No one anticipated that demand would ever happen since the war that just ended was considered to have been the one “to end all wars.”
There’s no information about the method of transportation selected, but the Chief made it clear that would be the city’s responsibility since, “under the law, the United States must be at no expense” in connection with that donation. Osawatomie Mayor C.H. Barr responded and the cannons were displayed in the park until 1942.
That year sparked the beginning of recycling efforts in this country. In order to meet the demands for supplies for our troops then involved in the Second World War, FDR created the War Production Board. Their slogan: “He (the soldier) needs fighting weapons from your junk.” Americans responded as they have always done. Scrap metal drives gathered pots and pans, farm equipment, iron beds, car bumpers and fenders, wrought iron fences and even old streetcar lines. They were about to include outdated cannons.
Interestingly, those two Howitzers did not disappear from the park until the Ottawa Herald, perhaps “tongue in cheek,” suggested that the John Brown Statue in the park be donated for scrap. Outraged and energized, the women of the city who had worked so hard to obtain that statue organized a greater effort to collect other metals, and the cannons went back to the military.
I am sure that there is a lesson in here somewhere telling me not to mind the effect of the local fireworks. If you can figure it out, please let me know before this time next year.