A fun time in the old town

Photos by Richard Luken and Brian Wolfe
At top left, Briley Prather, 1, was among the more than 350 swimmers who flocked to Iola Municipal Pool Friday for a free swim night. At middle left, Don Burns, portraying “Mad Bomber” Charley Melvin, shares a laugh with his daughter, Becky Burns, prior to the Charley Melvin Mad Bomber Run For Your Life. The run drew about 370 participants, at lower right, early Saturday morning. Above at right, Boy Scouts, from left, Raymond Alumbaugh, Bobby Dunlap, Austin Tremain, leader Doug Dunlap and Andrew Waldman take part in a flag-raising ceremony Saturday morning. More photos from the event are available via the “Photos” link at www.iolaregister.com

From Friday night through Saturday morning, multitudes on land and sea — well, at least in water — helped celebrate Iola’s 150th birthday.
An estimated 850 people participated in three main events in a 12-hour time frame.
First was a free swim and movie at Iola Municipal Pool, where about 350 people enjoyed the entertainment amidst the cool waters from 9 to 11 p.m.
One glitch was that the pool lights went off exactly at 11, plunging the crowd into total darkness.
Luke Bycroft, Iola Recreation director, apologized for the miscue.
“We thought we had the timer set to turn off at midnight,” Bycroft said. “That obviously didn’t happen, and it created a potentially dangerous situation.” Luckily, no mishaps occurred.
Festivities around the Charley Melvin Mad Bomber Run for Your Life began at 11:45 p.m., when more than 350 people gathered at the post office to enjoy singing by a most harmonious barbershop quartet composed of Dan Johnson, Jim Rausch, Jim Gilpin and Ken Gilpin on the steps of the post office.
At about 12:15 a.m., local historian Clyde Toland recounted Charley Melvin’s bombings of three Iola saloons on July 10, 1905.
To add to the drama, Don Burns of Gas dressed in old-fashioned prison garb acting as the mad bomber Melvin, complete with a plunger of dynamite. Iolan Brian Wolfe contributed to Toland’s madcap retelling by screaming from the upstairs of the former Blue Front Saloon on West Street that he was trapped inside the burning building. Wolfe portrayed former saloon owner J.E. Thorpe, who suffered three broken ribs from the explosion.
At 12:25 a.m., runners and walkers began the countdown to the 12:26 a.m. time of the historical bombings. The memory was made all the more real by an explosion of fireworks to start the race.
Most of the crowd participated in the 1.2-mile walk in the still-warm night, heavy with humidity. About 80 opted for the 3.1-mile run that included a jaunt through Highland Cemetery.
Even those who stayed at home participated by leaving their porch lights on to illuminate the course. Some cheered on the runners as they passed.
The course ended at the Iola square where water and fruit was offered to participants.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, festivities took a more patriotic turn with a flag raising ceremony and a reading of the Declaration of Independence in front of the Old Jail Museum by 31 area citizens.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 55 performed the flag-raising ceremony and led a crowd of about 150 through the Pledge of Allegiance.
The morning’s ceremonies were capped with a singing of “America the Beautiful,” led by Jim Gilpin of Iola.
The Iola Sesquicentennial Committee organized the weekend of events, aided by the City of Iola, Allen County Crimestoppers, Thrive Allen County, Allen County Historical Society and the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce.