A park with community history

Congratulations to Peabody Historical Society members for their push to get the city park on the National Register of Historic Places and the Kansas Register of Historic Places. The park has a great deal of history behind it, not just from the earliest days and the 1885 Kansas State Fair, but for all the football and baseball games played since then, the swim team competitions, family reunions, band concerts, Morgan Horse competitions, re-enactments, July Fourth celebrations, and other events that have taken place in more recent decades.

The park is a part of everyone’s history. Decades ago, I took my day care kids to the park, and they loved the freedom to run and play and enjoy the playground. We spent time at the baby pool and later at swimming lessons in the big pool. Much later, the now-Married Daughter and several of the day care kids were life guards. They learned about responsibility, doing a job, and the many things that prepare youngsters for work in the adult world.

For years, our family spent Friday evenings at the football field watching winning teams, losing teams, and half-time shows by the boat load. We watched candidates crowned homecoming royalty. In the 1970s there was a state playoff game with all the excitement that such an event brings to a small community.

A Peabody attorney once said, “One of the best things about this town is being able to stand on the rock wall at the park in the fall and watch your son play football or your daughter cheer or march in the band. It’s such a great tradition.”

I agree.

The Youngest Daughter enjoyed a short career on a T-ball team. Her coach relegated her to the outfield where she put her glove on her head and performed her most recent tap dance routine in the grass far beyond the coach’s vocal instructions and pleas to watch for the ball. The crowd loved her!

In the 1980s a group of friends and I met at the park gates early every morning and walked around the track four or five times. We then went to the local coffee shop for cinnamon rolls and coffee. We were losing weight, you know. As I recall, several of us met a skunk on the back end of the track one morning and ran fast enough to the front gate to have lost a pound or two.

There are more July Fourth Celebration stories than anyone can imagine. I wonder when the first celebration was held and I would love to talk to some of the people who used to travel in the July Fourth Caravan that went from town to town in the 1930s and 1940s. That was one way they advertised the upcoming Peabody celebration. Who thought of that and why? When did that tradition end?

This weekend, Peabody Historical Society will host yet another festivity at the park. You should go. There will be many events that echo those of old and some new ones you can enjoy. The admission is a mere $2 and you will surely find something to appreciate about the activities and their setting.

Enjoy the park! As that attorney said many years ago, “It’s such a great tradition.”

— SUSAN MARSHALL

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