Often I read and I write about how Easter in Neosho enjoyed a wonderful confluence of cooperation in the community in the late 1950’s.
The one hundred voice choir of the Neosho High School Mixed Chorus, under the direction of Doyle McKinney, would meet to stand in the bandstand and sing classics such as “In Joseph’s Lovely Garden” and the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Crisp air, crisp voices.
There was some scripture read with an opening prayer, the sun would rise over the eastern lawn slope followed by a closing prayer. We were not made to stand through a sermon and actually there was little left to say. The choir sang, the sun rose and Easter was in Neosho.
Those were the experiences of those of us in high school at that time. The spectators would be a large part of the Neosho community as this sunrise service had gone on for years.
I might add that the NHS mixed chorus was an outstanding chorus. We went on two tours that I recall. One was to other area high schools one spring and the other was to Eureka Springs, Ark., to sing for the convention of Rotary International. We got to spend the night in that hilly community which was a new experience for many of us.
That particular choir was exceptionally good with exceptionally fine voices. Mr. Longwell had a tape done of us and sent it to the Ed Sullivan Show which was a very early talent show in the early days of TV but being on the Ed Sullivan Show was a very enviable opportunity.
There is a letter explaining that because we were amateurs and not members of the Musicians Guild (labor union), they could not have us on the show. Not everything Mr. Longwell thought of came to pass, but it does tell you how good he thought we were.
He also thought Doyle McKinney could have a career in television and sent him off to NYC to meet with the LIFE magazine Theater Editor. I will never forget McKinney’s return to the NHS Drama Class, telling us about the opening night of “My Fair Lady” with Julie Andrews.
Please know I can remember back further than the 1950’s. I recall as a very young child another special Easter event in Neosho. Some of the stores on the square would sell colored baby chicks and some had little yellow baby ducks.
The dime store, Sterlings, on the SE corner of the square, had the little chickens. I do not know who or how the chicks were made to be pink and purple and blue and green. One just hoped such a little treasure would be somehow left by the Easter Bunny along with the hard candy eggs.
The Easter Bunny left those nestled in the deep green onion grass sprouts while my brother and I slept. One morning we woke very early, went outside and gathered the candy eggs in our multicolored wicker baskets and re-hid them in our parents’ bedroom slippers and all around the bedroom as they slept.
Even this is not my most memorable memory. Now I will tell you my favorite memory and it was before my brother came. I must have been three or four.
I do not know at what age children can understand the concept of coming back to life and the resurrection story of Jesus. But this was how it came clear to me.
The Easter Bunny had left me five little yellow ducklings. They were so soft to touch and pet. They had a little home in a cardboard box in the kitchen. We lived in the country then. They had a little saucer of water and an old towel was in the bottom of the box for them to have a soft nest.
The morning after Easter morning I went downstairs and straight to my ducklings’ box. They did not respond to my petting them. I ran back upstairs to tell my mother my ducklings had died.
Mother got right up, put on her housecoat and we came right back down to the kitchen. She got a metal pie pan out of the cabinet, turned on the stove and put the ducklings in the pie pan.
I thought she was going to cook them and must have cried out about that. But she calmly knelt down in front of the oven and carefully put in the pie pan and as the little ducklings got warm, they began to move about.
At that moment, to my little self, Mother was like God. And we all lived happily ever after.
By Judy Haas Smith
(Judy Haas Smith lives in Neosho.)