Inspirational opening

Published 9:40 am Monday, June 30, 2014

Music filled the air before the Centennial Jubilee’s Opening Ceremony Friday night on the event stage at Cassidy Park.

The song lyrics of “I’m going home to Bogalusa,” from “The Bogalusa Stomp,” generally summed up the evening’s theme as the city kicked off its 100-year anniversary with a week of activities, culminating with the anniversary celebration on July 4.

“That song just topped it off for me,” Mayor Charles Mizell said in his welcome. “The magic is not dead. It’s just been asleep for a while.”

During Friday’s event, rain interrupted the proceedings at 7:30 p.m., as people scrambled for cover. The remainder of the opening ceremonies are scheduled to pick up where they left off Friday, July 4, after the 10 a.m. parade.

“We will proceed with the program where we left off and start up with the opening of the time capsule here at the Main Stage immediately following the Fourth of July parade,” Mizell said. “We urge everyone to return on that day to complete it.”

Other events which were postponed by the rain included Brothers of the Brush beard judging contest, introduction of Paper Queen Caitlyn Augustine, a reading by Mary Boulware, the processional of 100 children and a speech by Mizell on the city’s future.

Before the event was interrupted, Whit Gallaspy touched on the proud history of the city.

“In 1905, the Goodyear brothers, Charles and Frank, camped in close proximity to this place. Before long, they realized they were smack dab in the middle of 300,000 acres of pristine yellow pine,” he said.

In 1914, Gallaspy said, Bogalusa was home to the Great Southern Lumber Co., the world’s largest sawmill.

“I had the image of a rugged lady who had endured fires, riots, hurricanes, other natural disasters and a bad economy,” Gallaspy said. “I realized many times this patient was on life support, and the prognosis was very grim. But by the Grace of God, she pulled through. My birthday wish is we continue to be good stewards.”

Whit Gallaspy introduced his father, John Gallaspy, who shared his thoughts on former International Paper Bogalusa Mill employee Elette Cooper. Cooper retired from the mill at age 90. John Gallaspy said Cooper died Thursday night. Cooper was scheduled to be the grand marshal of the Centennial Fourth of July parade.

“(IP) had him come back every year during the annual shutdown to restore the giant turbines,” John Gallaspy said.

John Gallaspy said the Centennial Jubilee Committee named Cooper as its Male Citizen of the Century. Ninety-nine-year-old Rosemary Marx, who was in attendance at the ceremony, was named Female Citizen of the Century.

Former Mayors Mervin “Toye” Taylor and James “Mack” McGehee also spoke.

“When we think of Bogalusa, we think of a unique community with a purpose,” said Taylor, mayor from 1986 to 1988. “At one time, Bogalusa had the third-largest payroll in the state and was the sixth-largest city in the state. Yes, we have a rich history.”

The rain began just as McGehee was finishing his remarks.

“At one time, Bogalusa had 19 hotels, 37 restaurants, 20 barber shops and 28 industrial plants. That won’t happen again until we get the proper infrastructure,” McGehee said. “That will be the greatest thing that could happen to this community.”