Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dont Run Over the Children!!

Since today is Halloween, I would like to share a little history of one of our local landmarks and a Halloween prank that traveled around the world. In the late 1940’s the Walker Cut Stone Company erected a large 5 x 9 foot stone slab across K-18 highway from the Spring Valley Country School house. It would demonstrate the quality of the stone and direct buyers to their quarry, a quarter mile south of the school.   It would eventually have a metal sign on top, but for several years, just the stone stood next to the road.
                Local pranksters were busy in the days leading up to Halloween of 1950. The Monday Daily Union reported that “a quantity of popcorn was poured into the gasoline tank of a parked car” near the Webster apartments.  On West Thirteenth “police reported the removal of tires” from a half dozen cars. The tires the football team used for training were also missing. Other more minor incidents included the soaping of windows and placing of barricades in streets.
                As Halloween loomed it was decided that four police cars with radio would be on patrol due to the increase of incidents. In addition, special police were walking the streets and city employees were stationed in the city parks to ward off mischief-makers. The extra security seems to have scared off the hooligans because the only real incident to make the next day’s paper was a 3 ½ foot bull snake that had been released in the front lobby of the Municipal Building.
                The paper did not report the incidents out in the surrounding countryside. Those outside of town remember several pranks being pulled. Mary Kay Munson remembers coming home that night with her family from a Spring Valley school Halloween party program to find several harrow sections (each weighing a couple hundred pounds) piled in front of the garage. Several others reported farm equipment moved and outhouses toppled that night. Perhaps the most well-known prank was that someone had decided that the Walker Stone slab across from the Spring Valley Schoolhouse needed a message.
                Josephine Munson writes in the Project Heritage book “A Halloween prank in 1950 caused Spring Valley School to be known as the school with the sign ‘Don’t run over the children, wait for the teacher.’ Pictures of the large stone which displayed these words have been published in magazines and newspapers all over the world.”
                Many military personnel took photos of the stone as a memento of their time stationed at Fort Riley. These photos helped in circulating the landmark and message around the world.
                Mary Kay Munson remembers her parents laughing with Maynard Coe, President of the National Safety Council. He said that it was one of the most effective safety signs he had seen because everyone slowed down to read and think about the message.
                Not only has this become a familiar prank but its perpetrators have also been a well-kept secret as no one has come forward and admitted to painting the sign. The hand-printed message has been repainted over the years and still stands as a Halloween prank remembered fondly by many.  

                If you have memories or photos of the stone you would like to share please stop by the museum Tuesday-Sunday from 1-4pm.