July 4 promises to be ‘mad’

By SUSAN LYNN
Register Editor

Courtesy of the Allen County Historical Society
Iola’s Red Light Saloon on West Street was a victim of Charley Melvin’s Mad Bombing rampage on July 10, 1905. Behind the saloon stands the magnificent Grand Theater of yesteryear.

Charley Melvin was a destructive kook.
In the wee hours of July 10, 1905, Melvin bombed three saloons in Iola and had enough ammunition set to bring Iola to its knees. As it was, Melvin’s Prohibitionist rage leveled a large swath south of the current post office, broke hundreds of windows throughout Iola and was felt as far away as Neosho Falls.
Melvin fled the scene to be captured a month later in Iowa. The jury rejected a plea of insanity and he was convicted for his crimes.
Festivities on July 3 and 4 will commemorate this wild time in Iola’s history. Beginning at dusk on July 3, the Iola Municipal Pool will open its doors free to the public. Promoters have secured an inflatable movie screen on which a family-friendly film will be viewed by floaters and others enjoying the cool waters on a midsummer’s night.
Downtown Iola also will come alive long after its normal business hours on that Friday night, all in preparation of the big event — The Charley Melvin Mad Bomber Run For Your Life.
The walk/run will begin at 12:26 a.m., the witching hour when Melvin rocked Iola’s very foundation. It’s hoped that at least 100 locals will turn out for the late-night event, partly in celebration of Iola’s sesquicentennial and also in the hope that the walk/run can become an annual event. Besides Iola’s Jingle Bell Jog in late November, the city has no other community-wide event that encourages a healthy lifestyle.
The walk is 1.86 miles — about the distance from the square to Buchanan Street and back. The run is 3.1 miles — likely a loop from the square up along North Cottonwood and back, perhaps through Highland Cemetery, just to add to thrill of the late-night activity. (Be sure you walk with a buddy.)
The run/walk is a fund raiser for Allen County Crime Stoppers and Thrive Allen County. Registration is $10 for individual walkers and youths; $15 for individual runners and $10 apiece for teams of four or more. With registration comes a T-shirt emblazoned with the Charley Melvin logo designed by Iola native Stephen Gilpin. Race forms are available at the Thrive office, 2 E. Jackson, and can be turned in there. For those who register the night of the race, an additional $2 fee will be attached. Late-comers have until 11 p.m. the night of the race to register and can turn their forms in at a registration table in front of the historical museum.
So far only a fraction of the local population has registered, said David Toland, executive director of Thrive. A colorful brochure promoting the event has been distributed statewide to race coordinators as well as in mailings throughout a five-county radius.
“We want this to be Iola’s thing,” he said in his effort to get locals enthused about enjoying the holiday in downtown environs. For more information on the race call the Thrive office at 365-8128.
Local historian Clyde Toland will briefly recap Melvin’s exploits at 12:15 a.m. on the steps of the Iola Post Office before the walk/run begins.
Long before the race, the downtown square will be hopping with live music, DJ-spun tunes, treats such as sno-cones and popcorn, retailers who will keep their doors open extra late for the occasion and a display of 30-40 cars by members of the Crossroads of Mid-America car club.
“It’s more than a race, it’s a weekend of activities,” said Jana Taylor, executive director of the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce.

AN EARLY enticement to get you out the door Saturday is the Masonic Lodge’s all-you-can-eat pancake feed from 7-10 a.m., 213 W. Madison. The record to beat is 72 pancakes. Tickets are $6 for adults; $4 for children and are available at the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce or from Masons.
To set a more reflective mood in recognition of our country’s great heritage, locals will participate in a reading of the Declaration of Independence along with a flag raising ceremony at 10 a.m. in front of the Old Jail.