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By Linda Emley
This evening ( 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1) there is going to be a Christmas Light Parade and Extravaganza in Richmond. It’s the first Christmas “Light” Parade, but it’s not the first Christmas parade that ever graced our town square.
In 1967, the Richmond Jaycees sponsored a Christmas Parade that made the Richmond News for several different reasons.
Dec. 7, 1967, “Jaycee Christmas Parade Here Friday Night. There are 16 units promised so far for the annual Junior Chamber of Commerce Parade Friday night, in addition to Santa Clause, Harold Strobel, Jaycee president reports. Mr. Strobel said entries in the float contest will still be accepted. Anyone desiring to enter a float should call Wayne VanBebber at Van’s Furniture store. Promised for the parade are three Shrine units, the motorcycle, drum and bugle corps and the clowns; the 40 and 8 train, the Richmond high school and Stet bands, a display float from the Nike Base at Lawson, the Rayville Saddle Club, the leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center marching group and the king and queen float.”
Some of the other floats were sponsored by, Beta Sigma Phi, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, Church of God, Christian Union churches and the Christmas Queen.
The Queen was to be chosen from the high schools in the county. The parade started at 7:30 p.m. at the Woodson School and went down Main Street. It turned next to the Farris Theater and went down Camden Street. It then turned and ended in front of the (old) high school.
The headlines the following Monday read, “Rotary Club Wins First Prize With Parade Float.”
Harold Strobel was quoted as saying that the judges said the floats were good and it was a hard decision to make. The Rotary Club won first place and got $45, the Kiwanis Club won second place and received $25 and the Christian Union church float took 3rd and got $15.
Per the parade-viewer comments, it was one of the longest and best “Christmas parades”. “Members of the Ararat Shrine of Kansas City, added much to the festivities. Their clowns not only added to the spice of parade, but with their assistance and fun-making, added much to the distribution of Christmas treats by giving out 575 bags of candy provided by the Jaycees and approximately the same number of candy bars the Shrine provided. Santa Clause, as always, was the star attraction and visited with each of the many children waiting to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. Wayne Vanbebber registered the float entries and Jack Hill was parade marshal.
“Co-queens for the event were Miss Marilyn Masters, Richmond High School, whose escort was Butch Harshner, and Miss Laura Stephenson of Stet High School, whose escort was Curtis Falls. Each Queen was crowned and carried a Christmas bouquet of dark red roses and evergreen arrangement with dark red ribbon.”
I thought that was the end of the parade, but a few days later the headlines told the rest of the story. “ Kiwanis Won – Here’s Proof. A break down in communications between parade officials and news desk of the Richmond News resulted in the erroneous reporting Monday that the Rotary club had won first prize for its float in the Christmas Parade Friday night sponsored by the Richmond Jaycees. Actually the Kiwanis club won first prize, while Rotary was second.
“Harold Strobel, Jaycee president, took the blame for the error at the joint Kiwanis-Rotary meeting today and presented Kiwanis with the check for $45 as its first prize in the contest.”
Below the article was a copy of the check (reprinted here). I know the guys of the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Cub had a few chuckles over this little mix-up, but the parade was for the kids and that was their main goal.
One of my favorite things about reading old newspapers, is the other little tidbits of history you find while looking for the original story. The December 1967 Richmond News had several stories that caught my eye. In 1967, we were in the middle of the Vietnam War. On the front page there was a story about two Richmond brother-in-laws that had received a bronze star. I looked at the pictures and one of them looked very familiar
I thought to myself, “Who is that?” When I read the name, I realized that it was the same picture that I had been looking at every time I dust off the Vietnam pictures that we have on display at the museum. It was Capt. Jerry Harrison at his purple heart award ceremony. I told myself that I should make a copy and mail it to Jerry and then I remembered that he is the one that gave us the copy we have at the museum
Capt. Harrison won the bronze star in combat Aug 13, 1967. His brother-in-law, Sgt. Rex Jelinek, won his bronze star on April 6, 1967. The bronze star is America’s fourth-highest military decoration for bravery, awarded for heroism in combat.
I have added this story to our collection of items that we are going to display in the Vietnam Room we are putting together at the Ray County Museum.
(Families with Vietnam-era memorabilia are welcome to share them with the museum by e-mailing or calling 776-2305 during museum hours.)
On the same page was an article that told about Richmond’s first “plastic card” that would soon change the way we all do business. “Ray-Carroll Pioneers in ‘Computer’ Retailing. Customers of Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers, Inc, now have a patron number, and plastic cards showing customer numbers have been distributed to patrons of record. One of the important purposes of the Card and number is customer identification when patronage allocation is determined. Through electronic data processing, customer patronage is now recorded under that number. Of special benefit to Ray-Carroll will be use of the card, whether cash or credit, when purchases are made at service stations in Richmond and Lexington.
“The card will be placed in a machine which will pick up the customer name and number in one motion of the hand. Accuracy in recording customer patronage is not only facilitated, but the station attendant saves considerable time in that he doesn’t’t have to write this information onto the ticket. Ray-Carroll has gone even further. Door prizes and favors at the annual meeting were based on patron numbers, and other prizes during the year will be based on the number rather than the name. Ray-Carroll is believed to be the first local business to use plastic cards and computer processing in their retail operations.”
The first “credit cards” were actually made out of paper. Diners Club was one of the early credit card companies and had around 20,000 cardholders in 1951. In the 1960s, the company started making plastic credit cards, which were soon followed by computerized credit cards. So now we know where the first credit cards were used in Richmond. It looks like not a lot has changed since 1967. Richmond is having a Christmas Parade and people are still using their little “plastic cards”.
You can write Linda Emley at firstname.lastname@example.org.