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Optimist Tom J. Agnor, Marshall Postmaster circa 1950, is involved in the first two election parties. Photo courtesy of his granddaughter, Rev. Mary Kathryn Kirkpatrick of Jefferson.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met online Wednesday with President Le Ila Dixon sharing a positive medical development from the past. In 1941, Australian born pathologist, Howard Florey, carried out the first-ever clinical trials of penicillin at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. Howard Florey, Ernst Chain, and Alexander Fleming shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945 for their roles in the development of penicillin. Their discoveries are estimated to have saved over 82 million lives. Our prayers today are with their successors working to conquer the COVID-19 virus.

Le Ila reported that our October slate of officers is nearly ready for publication and voting. Watch for an email in the next few days. In addition, all responses so far to the Mini Monet Art Show as an event to be jointly sponsored with the Marshall Regional Arts Council have been in the affirmative.

Continuing our celebration of seventy-five years of Optimist history in Marshall, Richard Magrill shares another tidbit of club history from its earliest days—

Probably the most long-running activity of the early Optimists was an annual election party held on the courthouse square each July beginning with the first one in 1948.

At the time it began, the last Saturday in July was an important date on the Texas political calendar when the occupants of local offices like county commissioners and the sheriff were decided. It remained so in 1960, the last year the Optimists held a party.

Today, most will remember 1960 as the year John F. Kennedy was elected president; however, a Panola county resident, when quizzed by one of her daughters-in-law about who she voted for that year could not recall her presidential vote, but she knew exactly who she chose for county sheriff!

The second Optimist election party was held in 1950. Plans were made for the erection of the giant blackboard, supported back then on the bed of a truck to elevate it into full view of the partygoers. Soft drink and ice cream concessions, essential for a late July evening, are promised.

However, it is noted that the Korean War, which began on June 25 that year, is cutting into early interest in the election. Nonetheless, the News Messenger tells everyone that “The highlight of election day in Marshall will be the Optimist Club election return party.”

On Wednesday the 19th, people are reminded that the concession proceeds will go toward new MHS band uniforms and that “perhaps there will be enough money raised to cover three or even five.” The following Tuesday, the party is “pronounced a success” and there are more than enough funds to buy four uniforms.

The scoreboard which had to have its paint revised each year and the erection of strings of outdoor lights are just two of the reasons Optimist Elwyn H. Young gives a post-election “thank you” to the various unions (electrical, painters, and sign painters) for their help. News Messenger, July 16, p.25, July 19, p.6 and July 25, p.10

By election day, Saturday, July 28, 1959, the Optimists have had a decade to polish their party routine and it is fully reported in the next day’s paper under the headline, “Election Time Here Assumes Carnival Look:”

“Election night took on all the aspects of a carnival on Marshall’s courthouse square. A crowd of around 300 persons jammed the east end of the square to keep track of local and area election returns on a huge scoreboard erected by the Marshall Optimist Club — and to enjoy themselves at the same time.

“They came to play bingo and to cakewalk and to patronize the re-freshment stands set up by the Optimists — they stayed to look over their shoulders at the big scoreboard as the early scattered returns drifted in. Later they stood in front of the scoreboard and watched intently as returns were reported from the larger city boxes.

“Posting the returns were Philip Thompson and Hendricks Hightower, local Optimist club. Reporting the returns from inside the courthouse as they came in was Frank Green, also a member of the club.

“The trio has handled the score keeping chores on the square in major elections for the past eight years, Mr. Thompson said.

“The Optimist Club sponsors all booths and games and all proceeds go to the organization’s boys’ work fund.

“It was late in the evening, after the returns from the populous city wards had started to come in, before the crowd in the square began to break up and leave for home.” News Messenger, July 27, 1958, p.2

But for 1960, the election date is changed to May, specifically for the 7th. Optimist Ray Lawson and his committee of Bill Dempsey, Bob Lea, Joe W. Hirsch, Frank Green, Jerry Beckett, Charles Jaudon, and John Whiting announce in mid-April full details of who is charged with which tasks.

Then on May 1, political ads begin appearing and many urge their supporters to “be sure and attend” the election party sponsored by the Optimists. (This is the first time such references are included and must be a testimony to the success of last year’s party.) On Monday, May 2, the Optimists meet in their committees for any last minute needs for Saturday’s party. The concessions will open at 6:30 p.m., rather than last year’s 7 p.m. “So far 40 prizes have been donated for the Optimist Bingo games, and others are expected.”

On Friday the erection of the election blackboard is duly photographed and printed on the front page. Sadly, it is the last election party the club holds. May is not as good a time for an election party as July. News Messenger, May 1, p.7, May 3, p. 3, 9 & 12, May 4, p. 6 & 11 and May 6, p.1