· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge:
July 4th Celebration
Hutchinson, Kansas, planned a big July 4th celebration in 1927. It started with a parade.
The brand-new Ford Model T touring car parked in the middle of Fifth Avenue and Main Street, facing south, lurched forward. It was 10:30 the morning of July 4th, 1927. The parade had begun.
Hutchinson Mayor Chester Lyman, 49, and several city commissioners were leading the parade, the center of focus, beginning the grand celebration.
The crowds were thick.
The 130th Field Artillery, Hutchinson battalion of the National Guard, led by Captain Elmer Lentz, honored for their service and patriotism, followed the city commissioners in sharp, military fashion.
The uniformed municipal band made music, periodically performing fast-paced, catchy tunes.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts carrying little American flags, progressed down the street. Behind them, six little boys and six little girls, riding Shetland ponies, carried large American flags.
Kids on decorated bicycles or wheels, boys on scooters, and children who had strapped on their roller skates, joined the party. Thankful for the slow pace of the parade, a herd of little tots on their tricycles, like cats, stopped, started, and darted.
It was a grand parade.
The automobile dealers, the flour mills, the oil companies, and the electrical companies, followed. Lodges competed for attention, including the Yeoman Woodmen, Redmen, Lions, Rotarians, Kiwanians, and Progressives.
On they advanced, southward. The packing houses, implement dealers, Red Cross, Riverside Park, the florist shops, the printing houses, the labor organizations, the railroads, the laundry and dairy trucks, and the Hutchinson baseball teams, all promoted their business.
Two full blocks of sparkling, colorful Whippets, nearly bumper-to-bumper, crept forward.
Intertwined in the parade were clowns, lots of clowns.
The Central Labor Union float received a lot of attention. It showed a bunch of convicts in prison stripes, doing construction work. Beside them was a task-master, armed with a bullsnake whip and gun, bossing the job. At the rear of the float was a woman and children in rags. A sign stated: “Husband can’t find work.”
“How do you like that float?” asked Cora Brown of her husband, Fay, the Reno County sheriff. The couple stood together on the southeast corner of Main and Avenue B, a short distance from their residence, part of the county jail.
“It’s an emotional message,” answered Fay, “but it doesn’t give the full picture. Inmates who are idle don’t do anyone any good. Sure, the reformatory will be manufacturing state license plates soon, but with the cost savings, the state has more money to help the public without raising taxes.”
“Yeah,” agreed Cora. “I’d rather have our prisoners working all day until they’re ready to drop, instead of sitting around waiting for us to feed them their next free meal.”
More floats stood out. The Anti-Horse Thief Association, the American Legion, and the Ku Klux Klan participated, the latter with a delegation wearing white sheets and masks.
“I think Coyle is about ready to end his hunger strike,” said Cora.
“Did he tell you that?” asked Fay.
“No,” answered Cora, “but he stares at the food a bit longer now. After five days, he’s getting weaker. A person can’t continue indefinitely on a daily cup of coffee, no matter how good it tastes.”
Cora and Fay walked one block north and watched the fire department’s hook-and-ladder demonstration. Fred Dimon, a fire clown, and his fire truck pulled by Jackson, a mule, performed comedy stunts on the ground. Another fireman. Ed Steinford, executed his burlesque show from above on the aerial ladder.
At the same time, Fay and Cora could periodically hear the municipal band’s concert from its stage at First and Main.
While the entertainment was going, a mortar stationed on the top of the Lewis Tailoring Company building, 22 First, Avenue East, fired aerial bombs and put on a day-light fireworks display. One of the bombs exploding high in the air unfurled a big flag 800 feet above the ground.
And it wasn’t even noon. The afternoon and evening was packed with more events to be held at the park, beginning with the big basket picnic. Fay wanted to see the exhibition artillery drill and again thank Captain Lentz for the Guard’s assistance after the tornado on May 7th.
Cora expected the vaudeville acts to be worthy of her time.
But Cora and Fay knew they never had a day off unless they were out of town. They would return home before the baseball game, the municipal band concert, and the evening fireworks. It was a holiday, but they had county work to do.
“Brownie, Cora,” said Police Chief George Duckworth as he tipped his hat, “hope you’re enjoying the holiday.”
“Came,” said Fay, “you’re putting on a pretty nice show. Any trouble?”
“Not really,” answered Duckworth. “We’ve had one boy, Joe Sisk, who was injured in the face by a torpedo rocket, but he wasn’t blinded, and of course, children breaking the cigarette law.”
“How are your officers liking their new work schedule?” asked Fay.
“Too early to tell,” said Duckworth, “but you know everyone won’t approve. I’m a newcomer stirring things up. I think they’ll get used to the alternating shifts. After working two months on days, they’ll switch to the night force, and vice versa. Should be a good change. We’ll see.”
“Hope the fireworks go off well tonight,” said Fay. “By then, we expect to be home in bed. The pyrotechnics will be fired from south of the river, is that right?”
“Yes,” agreed Duckworth, “every viewer in Riverside Park will have the best seat.”
“I’ve heard there could be up to 40,000 people visiting the parks for the festivities today and tonight,” said Fay. “The number astounds me.”
“Oh, that’s nothing,” said Duckworth. “How would you have liked to have been the chief of the New York City Police Department when Lucky Lindy was honored with his ticker-tape parade? I heard there were two or three million people throwing confetti from the skyscrapers.”
“Lucky for us Lindbergh didn’t accept our chamber of commerce’s invitation to be our honoree today,” stated Cora.
For a split-second the two lawmen, Chief Duckworth and Sheriff Brown, pictured the impossible. They looked down at their feet, nervously rubbed their chins, shook their heads, then laughed at the absurdity of such an event happening in Kansas. They had dodged another imaginary bullet.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.