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Minden news, 100 years ago

It is always fun to look back at the old local newspapers to get a glimpse of what life was like in Minden. This week’s Echo will be a look at events in Minden 100 years ago, from the September 6, 1918 issue of the Webster Signal.

The fall of 1918, like 2018, was election season and the front page was dominated by coverage of politics.

Congressman John T. Watkins of Minden was running for reelection to his eighth term for the 4th District of Louisiana, but an unexpected challenger had emerged. District Judge John N. Sandlin, also of Minden, was attempting to unseat the veteran legislator. The race prove bitter and created tension among local residents as they took sides in the battle. Sandlin was basing his campaign largely on three issues, the first being that Watkins was out of touch with the district. Respiratory illness of Watkins’ daughter and wife had caused the Congressman to purchase a home in Arizona and the family spent much of their time out of session in the more healthful climate for the ladies. Second, was the issue of military service. Sandlin’s son, John, Jr., was serving in France in the AEF, while Watkins’ son, Will, was “safely” serving as an aide on his father’s staff in Washington. The third was support of President Wilson.

In 1912, Watkins, as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention had been an enthusiastic supporter of Speaker of the House Champ Clark, the front-runner for the nomination. It took 46 ballots, but eventually Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey overcame Clark to win the nomination and eventually the Presidency. By 1918, Watkins was still identified as a “Clark man” and with Wilson popular as the US was involved in winning the war in Europe, Sandlin called into question Watkins’ support for the President. Watkins, for his part did not seem to deny that Clark loyalty as he reproduced in an ad, a telegram of support from Speaker Clark. On the front page was a political ad, disguised as a letter to the editor (fake news anyone) touting the credentials of Sandlin. Watkins would lose Webster Parish in the upcoming race in November 1918, but squeak out a narrow victory district wide and serve an eighth term. In 1920, the two men had a rematch that was even bitterer and would see Sandlin oust Watkins and go on to serve eight terms of his own. After that race, Watkins was so angry he never returned to Minden alive, he body was shipped back to Minden in 1925, when his funeral was the second event held in the new sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Minden.

Gaining even more front-page coverage was the contentious battle for the United States Senate between State Representative Edward Gay of Iberville Parish and former Governor Luther Hall of Union Parish. The political powers that be in Minden strongly supported Hall, and they were challenged in an open letter from former Speaker of the Louisiana House and future Shreveport mayor, Lee Thomas. Thomas was a key supporter of Gay in North Louisiana and from the tone of his letter, the feelings of ill well were strong. Gay would win that election but only served the last two years of the unexpired term of Robert Broussard and did not seek reelection in 1920. Another race gaining some attention was the contest for the Louisiana Supreme Court between Ben Dawkins and Sidney Herold. Dawkins would win that race and being a period of some 65 years when either Dawkins or his son would be a judge in Louisiana. A large section of the newspaper was consumed by a listing of the proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot, in those days the paper included the entire language of the amendment, not just an abstract, making it, if possible, even more difficult to ascertain the meaning of the proposed law than it is today.

On a less political note, school was scheduled to begin on Monday, September 9 and many stories and advertisements dealt with that opening. One article listed the faculty for the Minden High School (grades 1 – 11) which was: C. H. Young, Principal; Mrs. Roberta Moore, Asst. Principal; Miss Kuma Shealy, high school; Miss Nita Oden, Domestic Science; Miss Emma Lou Garland, 7th grade; Miss Helen Woodard, 8th grade; Mrs. Walter Webb, Jr, 5th grade; Miss Mildred McClendon, 4th grade; Miss Lee Aura Fuller, 3rd grade; Miss Harriet Currie, 2nd grade; Miss Johnie David, 1st grade; Miss Lavinia Shealy, piano, Miss Maude Wright, singing. School was schedule to open at 8:45 a.m. on Monday. In addition, Principal Young announced that all pupils who wanted to take examinations on subjects for which they desired credit must assemble at the high school on Saturday, September 7 at 9:00 a.m. Next to that article was a small ad from Moreland’s Rexall Drugs telling parents to prepare their child for school by getting all the school supplies they need at Moreland’s, tablets, ink, paper, erasers and school bags.

Still the country was at war, and a stark reminder was the notice to all men ages 18 – 45 who were ordered to register for the draft by Thursday, September 12th, the article listed the registrars for each community in the parish that eligible men would need to report to by that deadline. A section of the paper was devoted to letters from “Our Soldier Boys in Camp” that days edition included letters home written by a soldier who signed his letter “Nicholls”, Private Floyd Seegers of Dubberly and Private George Carroll Hunter. Hunter, the son of W. S. Hunter and brother of Larry Hunter would not make it home alive. He died of the flu in a hospital outside Paris on Christmas Day, 1918. His body would eventually be returned and buried in the Minden Cemetery in February 1922.

One half-page of the newspaper was dominated by a large, graphic intensive ad for an upcoming tent revival, to be held at the corner of East and West and Main Street in Minden from September 8 – 13. (Still sorting out precisely how much space was needed to contain a tent as large as the ad implies, it would seem to need more space than Stewart Park which is on that site today) The evangelist was O. F. Frank of Lake Charles and the images in the ad were meant to promote the work of G. S. Vreeland, an artist who would be drawing pictures to entertain the crowds before the services began. Meetings would be held each night except Saturday and begin at 8:15 p.m. The sermon topics were: Sunday, Satan’s Arrest and Imprisonment: Monday, After the Millennium, What?; Tuesday, Eden Lost to Eden Restored; Wednesday, A Mathematical Demonstration of the Messiahship of Jesus; Thursday, Jehovah’s Kindergarten; and Friday, Balancing the Books of Heaven.

In the column Society Notes, (which you could call at phone number 225 on Monday and Tuesday morning to report events) there were lots of tidbits of information. Various people going to Shreveport or Ruston or even Plain Dealing to visit and visitors from Shreveport coming to Minden. A swimming party at the Shoals on Dorcheat Bayou was held by members of the Tompkins and Carroll families. The Methodist Church was hosting a “protracted meeting” (my first time to see that old-time term for a revival in print) led by Rev. Snelling of Ruston. Before Starting school, Mrs. Walter Webb, Jr., 5th grade teacher at the Minden school, had made a quick trip to New Orleans with her mother-in-law and her son to visit her husband before he left for overseas duty in Europe with the AEF. Mr. and Mrs. Walton Fort had moved into the home vacated when Lt. S. F. Martin and his wife had left for military duty. Lieutenant Martin was better known locally as Dr. Martin as he returned to his practice in Minden after only three months service and remained in the community until his death at age 96 in 1973. Miss Susanella Schoenbrodt, known to many generations of elementary school students in Minden, left to return to her studies at LSU.

Always interesting are the advertisements. In response to the Moreland drugs ad, was an ad from Hightower Drugs.

Ardis Moreland and George Hightower had for many years been partners in Hightower and Moreland Drugs, a name you will often see on some beautiful hand colored post cards of early Minden. They had split up and were now competitors.

Hightower’s ad promoted his extremely low prices and telling how his business was good. He encourage anyone needing a Square Deal to call him at phone number 250.

Minden Hardware and Furniture opened its ad with this sentiment: “The war will end; the Huns are on the run; our boys will soon reach Berlin.” They then invited customers to shop at their store to save big money. Prospective buyers were assured that the store had bought $25,000 worth of stock earlier, when prices were lower and could offer lower prices for those effected by the “short” cotton crop. The number one special was a special discount for tires bought with cash.

Also emphasizing cash sales was the Minden Garage which just opened in the Knights of Pythias Building with Mr. Franklin, a first class mechanic, at the head of the repair work. City Drug Store, telephone 141, was featuring a Columbia phonograph for a free trial. Asking price was $60 with payment on easy terms.

Reagan & Miller, Ltd., was touting their dry goods. Especially, their big lot of 5 and 10 cent laces including white voile, crepe de chine and georgette crepes. While T. Crichton reminded customers he had 5 car loads of buggies and wagons which he had bought ahead and could offer at lower prices. Webb Hardware countered with the quality of their Peter Schutler wagons and cautioned they only had a few buggies left; however, they also used the “bought before inflation” mantra to promote their shotguns. Burnett, Wren and Turner’s ad featured ladies suits from $15 to $45, blouses from $1.25 to $2.50 and ladies and children’s gingham dresses from $2 to $6. They also mentioned that they had bought early and the prices had increased 25 to 33% in the interim, so they could sell at a lower price.
So that is a glimpse at an Echo of our Past, life in Minden 100 years ago.

Minden Historian John Agan’s column appears Tuesdays in the Minden Press-Herald.Special to the Press-Herald.