As we approach the 150 anniversary of the Civil War (which was really quite uncivil), I was curious to learn how Montgomerians celebrated the Centennial of the War, so I looked in our archives at the First White House and there was a book a friend had given me called: Montgomery Centennial Commemoration of the Civil War 1861-1961.
Much to my surprise the scheduled activities for the Montgomery Civil War Centennial Commemoration filled the days of February 12-18, 1961! They began on Sunday, February 12 ,which was called “Religious Rededication Day”. Churches were requested to toll their bells and churches were asked to hold commemoration services each in their own way. At 3:00 pm there was a special Religious Rededication program at the Alabama State Coliseum for all the churches that wanted to, to participate.
Monday, Feb 13 was “Belle of the Confederacy Day”. The “Belle” and her attendants were feted at a luncheon, as guests of the Montgomery Rotary club. That evening the premier presentation of “The Man and the Hour” pageant spectacular was held at the Coliseum. Over 1000 local persons reenacted the events of the time in Montgomery during the period of Dec. 1860-April 12, 1861. Fireworks followed!
Tuesday was “Confederate Ladies Day” with a tea at the Governor’s Mansion. That evening the pageant was again presented, as it was every evening through Friday of that week with fireworks each night after the performance.
Wednesday was “Confederate Children’s Day” with a student matinee of the pageant in addition to the evening performance. Thursday was “Confederate Commemoration Day” with a Confederate Ladies cooking school held at a local shopping center. Many antebellum recipes were featured and door prizes awarded.
Friday was “Jefferson Davis Day” with a special noon broadcast by the late-great Paul Harvey, National News Broadcaster with American Broadcasting Company, who broadcasted live from Montgomery to salute the Commemoration. And “get this” – there was a Confederate Colonels Beard Judging Contest held at the shopping center. I do remember many of the Montgomery men growing beards and facial hair for that occasion! I wonder if any of you do?
At 10:00 that evening after the final presentation of the pageant and fireworks there was the Reenactment of the Arrival of Jefferson Davis. “HELLO!” He and his party arrived by train and were met by military units. There was a torchlight parade from the depot to the Exchange Hotel and there he was greeted by “William Yancey”. Paul Harvey acted as narrator of this event.
Saturday, Feb 18 was Inauguration Day. But I am worn out. I promise to tell you all about that in tomorrow’s blog. I can hardly wait, can you? Any comments today? I would love to hear from you if this has peaked your curiosity or aroused your interest or taken you down memory lane.