Lots of traditions on square

Published 1:34 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

A recent front page story on the Star-News featured Sue Bass Wilson’s leading an effort to parade around the court square backwards. It also mentioned a celebration at the end of WWII. Norma Moore Jackson recalled at least one celebration driving around the square the wrong way. Celebrations around the square go quite a ways back in our history. An article by the late editor Bob Burgess in the Opp News indicated “court square was not without its color during the early days. We remember one Christmas Eve night when several of the old-timers gathered on their horses, each with a good supply of 30 shot Roman candles and a quart of hard whiskey in their saddle bag. It was a rough sort of game in which they participated that night.

“Racing their horses at break-neck speed around the courthouse with a Roman candle spewing flaming balls at each other, these men were having fun. When a horse was hit, the rider was thrown onto the ground, and the horse had to be rounded up by the others and taken back to the rider and the game started again.

“We recall one of the men, who had a long white beard, was struck in his chin hair by a ‘cannon’ ball and knocked out of the saddle. He cursed loud and long and was out of the game. Some of the riders carried six shooters in their belts and would fire a few shots into the air to add to the celebration.”

As for more modern celebrations, I personally recall one New Year’s eve when a gathering at the square witnessed cars traveling around the square and at the same time shooting Roman candles at those of us on the sidewalks. Along with one of my buddies, we were caught in the entry of present-day Bill Greenwald building. The Roman candle flaming balls were hitting all around us. Fortunately I had on a raincoat that took several of the balls of fire without damage. My friend, Pete Reid, the son of Judge Robert S. Reid, had a Model A Ford, and a group of us were riding around the square the wrong way. We didn’t have a police escort either, and we made more than one trip around the square. Celebrations around the square go way back in our history, and it is good to see modern day celebrations on special days.


G. Sidney Waits