Center Point’s Annual Labor Day Field and Track Meet was the biggest athletic event in the county between 1909 and 1923. The Association neglected no detail in providing the best entertainment ever pulled off in the county. Each year the program became bigger and better.
The first six Field and Track Meets were held just south of the Vandalia Railroad Station, which was northeast of town. Roof covered bleachers and seats accommodated 2,400 people. There was also plenty of shade for parking autos and hitching horses.
In 1914 officials of the Association negotiated for a ten-round boxing exhibition, and a wrestling match that attracted a great deal of attention. Coble, a former Brazil High School student, who was the champion amateur wrestler of the county, was to defend his title, which he had held for the previous three years.
A big entertainment drawing card was the Herrguth Brothers, who made successful double parachute leaps from their 80-foot hot air balloon at several Center Point Meets. In 1915 a newspaper article stated that “Kinzie, a famous French Aviator, was in the city last evening en route to Center Point” to make a flight at 4:00 at the Center Point Track & Field Day. However, the crowd was amazed when Marjorie Stinson flew her aeroplane at the event instead of a French Aviator. She was the 9th woman in the U.S. to earn her pilots license; she trained pilots for WWI.
In addition to the field and track events, there were a variety of other events including a clay pigeon shooting tournament run by C. O. Rentschler.
Throughout the years, bands furnished music during the entire program and at the free night carnival. The Vandalia Railroad ran a special train to Center Point in the evening, leaving Brazil at 7 p.m. and returning at 11 p.m. It stopped along the route at Knightsville, Asherville, and Stearleyville.
Prior to the 1914 event, a caravan of seven automobiles, gaily decorated with streamers and pennants and loaded down with twenty-nine Center Point boosters using megaphones, made a tour of the county traveling one hundred miles to advertise the event.
The members of the 1914 caravan were: Cecil J. Pollom, Charles M. Witty, Ross Lancet, C. O. Rentschler, M. S. Campbell, Dr. L., C. Rentschler, Dr. W. H. Roeschlein, Lon Neidlinger, Robert Mace, Sam Adams, James Wilson, Levi Hoffman, Herman Mace, R. A. Reny?, Robert Dressler, Leonard Roeschlein, U. G. Meadows, Clay Mace, Ivory Killion, William Booth, Mark Moss, Wm. G. Greaser, Otto Givens, Lewis Vicars, Frank Killion, James McCurley, and Ivern Dierdorf.
The 1915 event’s location was moved south of town, where continued to be held through 1923. It was discontinued due to the loss of the ground to Big Bend Coal Company. An extensive search was made for grounds adjacent to the town without success.
To read the articles with names of the event winners, ask for the Center Point Field and Track folder at the Genealogy Library in Center Point.
Sources: Centerpoint Centennial 1856-1956; The Brazil Times; information from Jeff Koehler and the Genealogy Library in Center Point.
Submitted by Patricia Wilkinson.