Little Balkans Days was another successful weekend full of fun activities and demonstrations celebrating our different heritages. Did you know Pittsburg has been celebrating Labor Day weekend practically since the founding of the city? One even promised to go down in history.
According to an edition of Pittsburg Daily Headlight, September 5, 1909 promised to be a day that will go down in history as committees planned for a colossal interurban celebration. An elaborate trade display consisting of eleven divisions of unions, along with fraternal orders and merchants floats kicked off the day as they lined up at 4th and Locust, going north to 9th street to Broadway, then south on Broadway to 3rd, west on 3rd to Pine, north on Pine to 4th, east on 4th to Broadway to 7th, west on 7th to Catalpa, north on Catalpa to Lincoln Park where the awarding of prizes for floats were announced. What a parade route! Activities took place in Lincoln Park where “decorating of the park was most thoroughly attended to and the platform and auditorium will be festively decorated with festooning and union emblems.” Four union bands played music throughout the day along with contests such as line throwing, tug of war, coal loading, and quoit pitching, to name a few. LaBelle and Airdome theatres gave special matinees that weekend, and another park, Idle Hour, also took part in the festivities.
Located west of Chicopee, the Idle Hour Park opened on June 2, 1906. Kansas City parties, including Heim Brewing Company invested around $20,000 to build a modern amusement park and resort. Promoted as the most beautiful electric park in Kansas, Idle Hour Park boasted five acres of amusement rides including a roller coaster, vaudeville theatre, saloons and beautiful gardens. For five cents, the electric railway company took passengers from Pittsburg to the park and from Weir to the park.
The park made headlines in 1907, when an effort to oust brewing companies, the state supreme court ordered the removal of all saloon fixtures from the state and were not to be brought back. Brewing companies immediately took their fixtures back across the state line, except for Heim Brewery. According to the September 1907 Pittsburg Daily Headlight, to end the controversy, Heim Brewing Company paid the state $10,500 to be divided among the receivers and defray the cost incurred by using the courts to settle the cost. In the provision, the Heim company was to remove all saloon fixtures. For some reason, the company didn’t remove the fixtures, and investigators were sent to Chicopee to settle the matter. Heim Brewery then sent their traveling auditor, Mr. Finley, to Idle Hour Park where fixtures were found. Heim ordered Mr. Finley to burn all saloon fixtures found at the park.
In good faith that the saloon fixtures would not be brought back across state line, three sets of the following were burned out on a nearby plain; one 18’ bar, one 18’ back bar, one 18’mirror, 6 half barrel ice coolers, a cigar case, and a ‘Novelty Boy’. The mahogany and walnut fixtures helped fuel one expensive bonfire.
Four years later, in October 1911, the front page of the Pittsburg Daily Headlight reported Sheriff Brazil of Girard selling Idle Hour Park under orders of Judge Curren to satisfy the cost in a liquor case. The prior costs had been a lien to a mortgage on the park. The Heim Brewing Company had a large mortgage on the park, although not listed on the deed, were thought to be silent partners.
“Electric Park” was a name shared by dozens of amusement parks in the United States that were constructed as trolley parks. The parks concurred with the rise of the electric companies, the railway companies, and the replacement of horse-drawn cars by electric trolley companies. However, most of them closed in 1917, when the United States entered World War I and modern theatres were built.
— Amanda Minton is the director of Crawford County Historical Museum as well a lecturer of history at Pittsburg State University.