By Jessica Gorman
The Civic Club was a ladies’ group that worked for the beautification and improvement of Minden in the early 1900s. These ladies were directly responsible for the development of Minden’s city parks.
On 1 May 1906, a May Day celebration was held by the Civic Club. Everyone was invited to attend to celebrate the installation of the fountain in City Park. These ladies also wished to express their gratitude to those who supported them in their efforts of civic improvement. Refreshments were served and music for the evening was provided by the Citizens Cornet Band. A may pole dance was performed by young girls wrapping the may pole in streamers of red, white, & blue. Gladys Whitmarsh was crowned queen and presented with flower garlands from each of the other girls. Mayor Robert Roberts was the speaker for the occasion.
The May Day celebration became an annual event to recognize the importance of civic work. In 1907, the weather caused the event to be postponed until later in the month. Congressman John T. Watkins was the speaker and Emma Lou Garland was crowned queen. In 1908, Professor C. A. Ives, principal of Minden High School spoke and Mary Drake was crowned queen. Professor Ives speech was published in The Webster Signal. In it, he praises the work of the Civic Club.
“I have read the report of the Secretary of our local Civic Club made to the State organization meeting recently in New Orleans. I note what is said as to the spirit of that organization in Minden. How plans are laid and carried out to successful issue in varied lines. There is as much performance as sentiment in their order. They dream of beautiful things and then proceed to bring them to pass. They have with their own hands and with the aid of willing helpers annually devoted a special day to the cleaning of our streets of unsightly and unsanitary rubbish. They have inspired in us all a disposition to be more careful of the appearance of our town than we should otherwise have been. They have planted numerous trees in various parts of town, and have caused others to do the same. The improvement of Academy Place has been begun and soon it will be a thing of beauty.
There are evidences of their refined taste about the court house. This beautiful spot in our little city is made possible by this self same band of women. This charming little park will be a perpetual testimonial of their taste and energy. It is so situated as to be almost the first thing noticed by a stranger visiting Minden and to impress him favorably with the quality of refinement to be found here. It furnishes a pretty spot for outdoor gatherings. It is a place where the band will add to the charm of the summer evening if it is properly supported by our people.”
The 1909 celebration coincided with two major events being held the same month. The Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias held their state convention in Minden on May 17-18. On the 18th, Governor Sanders was in town to speak about good roads. In preparation, the bandstand, fence, and benches in City Park got a fresh coat of paint and work was done to improve the appearance of Academy Park.
These May Day celebrations were held until at least 1912.
(Jessica Gorman is the Executive Director for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum, Webster Parish Historian, and an avid genealogist.)