Jack’s Mid-Missouri Memories: “Washington Park”
I am still hearing about this story that appeared in the Sedalia Democrat Feb. 29, 2000. It was even popular with those too young to remember when the park was still around.
I wonder how many people miss Washington Park the way I do. That two block piece of green that used to be where the East Broadway Shopping Center now sits. I wonder how many more picnics would have been enjoyed there, and how many more games of horseshoes would have been played there if it were still around. How many more hearts would have been carved into those wonderful old trees by couples strolling along its shady paths.
Washington Park was the center of the universe for the east side of Sedalia, Mo. when I was growing up. I remember dragging the bottoms off many a tennis shoe on the swings, and merry-go-round there. I scraped my shins on the ruins of the Katy Hospital that occupied the land before it was a park. Those ragged concrete remnants that had been its foundation were the site of many a game of capture the flag in my youth.
In those days, the park was the place people of all ages gathered to discuss everything from bunions to politics, carve their loves name on trees and picnic tables or just spread a blanket on the ground under one of the large shade trees to picnic or nap. There are many love stories that started under those trees, some of which continue to this day. I think it is sad that so many carved hearts and other symbols of those stories were destroyed when they cut the trees and poured concrete over the grass.
The park seemed bigger than the flat area the shopping center now occupies, perhaps because of those trees. I remember the land had a gentle rise back then. It started low at Sixth Street and ended as a steep hill down to Broadway Boulevard. We used that hill for sledding in the winter months. There was a one lane road that wound through the park back then, and in the summers a concession stand stood beside it that sold candy and soft drinks to those who drove or walked through the park. The park was a cool oasis for harried mothers and fathers who would bring their children there to drain their pent-up energy into its open spaces.
The park was also a wildlife sanctuary and was a good place to commune with nature. It had a large population of birds, squirrels and occasionally a deer or some other form of wildlife would wander through it. My friends and I thought of it as an amusement park too. We were definitely entertained there by the old men who would tell us some pretty colorful stories as they played horseshoes there. Those old men are probably all gone now, but I'll bet they are still the topic of conversation once in a while in the households of those who recall them and that wonderful place that was Washington Park.
If you were to take an aerial photograph of east Sedalia for the expressed purpose of locating the perfect spot for a park, my guess is that you would find the two blocks that used to be Washington Park would still be a great choice. I know we can't go back, and the stores that are there now offer much that we didn't have in those days, but I'm probably not the only one who misses that tree strewn piece of green and wishes we could walk those paths once more.
Tune in to Jack Miller on Newstalk 1050 KSIS every Monday morning to hear excerpts from his book of Mid-Missouri memories, titled ‘Unhurried Days.’