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Telling the story

Elsewhere in this newspaper, there is a chronicle of the development of Peabody’s July Fourth fireworks tradition. Following a social media entry by my long-time friend Judy Mellott, I was privileged to be given access to a notebook of family history that her dad, Jack Whisler, wrote for Judy and his grandchildren. Included in the notebook was a page or so of Jack’s memories about his involvement with Peabody’s fireworks shows and how the Battle of New Orleans came to be.

As we approach this Independence Day event one more time, I hope you all will read the memories Jack had of his more than 40 years developing and building the famed Peabody Fourth of July Celebration.

In our early days as residents of this community, I took a part-time job as secretary-treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce. The C of C already was in charge of July Fourth and Jack’s show was the heart of the celebration. There were baseball games, band concerts, bingo games, drum and bugle corps performances, and parades, but the highlight of the day was the “largest free fireworks display in the state of Kansas!”

Jack lobbied for more money for fireworks every year that I was involved with the Chamber. He knew what he wanted to present to the thousands of visitors who showed up to share our Independence Day. The Chamber of Commerce board members thought his budget was adequate and argued against an increase in funding. They were more concerned about keeping the Chamber in the black, while Jack was more concerned about putting on a show that would bring people back in the future.

They were at loggerheads for most of the years I served with the C of C. However, the show went on every year that Jack was in charge and every year it was a winner. Things are different now with admission buttons and generous donations from individuals and businesses.

Thank you to all who contribute to a great Peabody tradition and thank you to Jack Whisler for kick-starting the tradition and building on it for more than 40 years.

—SUSAN MARSHALL

Last modified July 1, 2015

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