Ozark Baptizings, Hangings, and Other Diversions: Theatrical Folkways of Rural Missouri, 1885-1910
Ozark Baptizings, Hangings, and Other Diversions is about the people of a unique corner of America and how they entertained themselves at the turn of the century.
In the years from 1885 to 1910 most Ozark communities were still relatively isolated from the outside and from each other. Thus they had to rely on their own resources for diversion from the difficult and often solitary business of everyday living. The most popular of their entertainments were those that brought some "theater" into their lives. They especially delighted in "literaries," debates, mock trials, closing-of-school programs, suppers, picnics, brush-arbor revivals, and baptizings.
Then there was the occasional hanging that for audience attention was rivaled only by the political rally. The hanging took on all the flavor of high drama, even to the impassioned farewell address by the condemned, who was carried away by the excitement of it all.
By their entertainments shall we know them, and this account of Ozarkers' diversions reveals them in all their independence, conservatism, sense of place, humor, dedication to learning, love of the spoken language, and religious and political intensity.
No "come-here" (an Ozarker's term for a newcomer), Robert K. Gilmore grew up on an Ozark farm, reared by grandparents who were young in the era described in this book. Years later he went back to the rural Ozarks and encouraged the people to recall the early days for him.
They described the entertainments of their youth with a special clarity of recall. The files of the Ozark weeklies also proved richly rewarding. The editors and their rural "correspondents" delighted in describing the local entertainments in vivid reportage loaded with editorial comment.
This book, illustrated with rare photographs of turn-of-the-century diversions celebrates the centennial of an era.