Saturday, May 2, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Lawn Party

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featuring 4 nurses on a Jeep reminded me of a photo I have used before:  my grandaunt Velma Davis with 3 friends standing on a truck.
Velma and friends July 1925
July 1925
Unknown, Velma Davis,
Virginia Cole, Thelma Hockman

The truck was being used much like a billboard to advertise an upcoming Lawn Party at the Mt. Olivet Church in McGaheysville, about half-way between where the girls lived in Shenandoah and where they attended the state Teacher’s College in Harrisonburg (now James Madison University – GO DUKES!).

Looking for a big write-up in the newspaper, I was both surprised and disappointed to find just a small ad:
from Harrisonburg Daily News Record 1 Aug 1925

It was sandwiched between other local announcements and MANY other ads for lawn parties.

“Lawn Parties” might be an unfamiliar term to some readers. In the Shenandoah Valley, lawn parties are STILL a big thing. They are fundraisers typically sponsored by civic organizations like Woodmen of the World, hunt clubs, community civic leagues, Sunday School classes and church groups, volunteer fire departments, and any other organization with the manpower and place to host one. There is no set format but usually there is a big dinner and music; sometimes there are bake sales, games – including Bingo, and carnival rides. Some lawn parties are held several days running.

What I did NOT expect to find were lawn party ads like these:

from Harrisonburg Daily News Record 12 Jun 1925
from Harrisonburg Daily News Record 21 Aug 1926

from Harrisonburg Daily News Record 25 Jul 1925

I always thought the KKK was a secret organization whose members hid themselves behind white hoods. In the 1920s – and probably other decades as well but I did not keep looking – they were rather wide open. The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the Shenandoah Valley must have felt very confident and comfortable enough to promote its big attraction:
from Harrisonburg Daily News Record 2 Sep 1925
A "firery cross"! That’s entertainment??

No thanks. I’ll stick to dinner and music at the Mt. Olivet Church.

Grab a few friends and check out the weekly lawn party known as Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. I also thought that the KKK was an underground secret operation. It is crazy that they boldly advertised in the newspaper!

  2. Wow, that was interesting about the KKK. I too thought they were secret. I bet you are anxious to have lawn parties again when this is all over.

    (In reply to your comment, I did get sent home to work from my previous job but the stress of working at home when I was still undergoing training got too much for me. I had problems with the computer, internet problems, etc., so I quit that job and then like my last post said I picked up the temporary job. I'm fairly confident once businesses start operating again I'll find something else or just continue to work other temporary jobs).


  3. That info on the KKK was a new to me! Yipes. Talk about audacity and pure gall.

  4. I saw a documentary once on the KKK and so I knew a little about their leanings. If I remember correctly, they didn't start out as the organization we now it to be. That said...WOW! Great post!

  5. A great post beginning with the happy photograph of the four girls and celebrations in a Lawn Party - a new term for me. But the advertisements of the KKK threw a new and disturbing light on the gatherings. I too had always thought of the KKK as a secret organization.

  6. Those girls standing on the side of the truck were good at balancing for the photo, and having fun probably. The Jim Crow era in the south began the minute the emancipation proclamation was signed...and it's only more recently (not at this time unfortunately) that racism became the secret by the hateful who were hiding behind legal integration. KKK and those crosses didn't need to go underground until maybe the least that's my impression. A hundred years, and still passed on generation to generation. Racism isn't over! And the current US leaders are bringing it out to rear its ugly head.

  7. That is crazy ! I’ve never heard of lawn parties at all, so I think we are missing out here. But the KKK? Wow ! I also didn’t realize that women had any association with the KKK. I thought it was men and like you and others have said, I thought it was secretive.

  8. Lawn parties are making a comeback in my neighborhood right now. People being a their own chair and beer\wine and hang out together separated a minimum of six feet apart. One of the few positives out of this pandemic.

    As to the KKK lawn party, that's just one of their deceptive family-friendly events used in the 1920s to recruit new members and appear like decent civic-minded citizens, which the KKK were most certainly were not. The klan
    reached its biggest popularity in the 1920, partly due to the success of the 1915 silent movie "Birth of a Nation". In 1926 the klan organized a gigantic parade in Washington DC that brought thousands of members, men, women, and children, marching down Pennsylvania Ave. One of our democracy's worst moments.

    Recently I discovered a small object left behind by some great-great relation that I'm ashamed to say probably was once kept in the vest pocket of my great-great grandfather, a Maryland tobacco farmer. It was a souvenir matchbox of that 1926 parade. It doesn't have any writing on it, just a small image of a kkk knight on a horse and a flaming cross. Researching family history sometimes uncovers dark stories maybe best left forgotten.

  9. That's a shocker. I'll have to search the KKK in some of my ancestors' hometown papers. Hope I don't find anything, but afraid that I will.