Over 300 neighbors and former neighbors attended the second annual Lost Cane Reunion Saturday at the Manila Airport Center. Old pictures and stories were shared throughout the day that brought back memories of Lost Cane when there were houses on every 20 acres, a school, and stores. Friendships were made that have lasted a lifetime.
Many of today's Lost Cane residents were present, along with former Lost Cane residents from all over Arkansas, Missouri, and other states including Tennessee, California, South Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Wyoming, Mississippi, New York, and Kansas.
Boyd Estes of Mammoth Spring, one of the reunion planners, explained that a Lost Cane Reunion was talked about for 20 years in passing. Last year he talked to Harry Parks and Glenda Towels and action joined the talk and the first reunion was held. It was even more successful than they had hoped.
Two special awards were presented at the 2003 reunion. A plaque in memory of James Lloyd Mathes, former principal of Lost Cane School from 1944 to 1956, was presented to his daughter, Weltha Kay Bradberry of Jonesboro.
The plaque was inscribed:
"Webster's Dictionary defines a principal as being the chief or head supervisor or person in charge. Lloyd Mathes was much more than that. Being in so many ways a man before his time, he had that unqiue capacity and the will to make a little country boy see beyond the limits of dingy cities, drab people and his own little world of uninspiring circumstances and dare to believe in a world of vast opportunities and his ability to achieve."
"I think he was the greatest educator that ever lived," Estes said. "Many of his students went on to be leaders of the communities where they live. I am just sorry that we did not have the reunion before he passed away."
"Mom and Dad would have been very happy," Bradberry said when she accepted the plaque. "They say you can't go home but a couple of years ago my granddaughter and I visited back in the Lost Cane community. People were kind and good. The only problem with that visit was a lot of you were not there anymore," she said.
Bradberry said she has fond memories of the years they spent at Lost Cane. Her mom, Alma Mathes, taught there also. In addition to being principal, at times her dad drove the school bus, worked as janitor and picked cotton during the split term and chopped cotton in the summer. He also served as superintendent of Lost Cane, Lennie and Whistleville schools.
The second special presentation went to Kenneth "HeHi" McWhirter, Lost Cane's mailman for 50 years.
Estes said HeHi McWhirter knew every man, woman, child and dog that ever lived at Lost Cane during his years with the Postal Service.
His plaque read:
"For over 50 years of dedicated and faithful service to the Manila Postal Service and to the community in and around Manila. You were so much more than our Mailman. You were a very good friend. When we were in need you always had a smile and an encouraging word. From all the appreciative people who have been served by your wonderful friendship in and around Manila."
"He delivered mail to four generations of our family. He was more than our mailman, he was a friend," Mrs. Jimmy Baugher said.
Renee Bourland Bell, former Lost Cane resident, said she and Mr. McWhirter's birthday was on the same day and every year on Jan. 4 he would leave her a note wishing her a happy birthday that read, "You are getting older and I'm getting younger."
Mary Jane Brady Bourland, who served as cook at Lost Cane School for over eight years remembers when McWhirter would take time to eat lunch with the adults at the school cafeteria along his mail route.
The Sivage sisters, Louise Sivage Bowlin of Ft. Smith, Bobbye Sivage Gilbert and Betty Sivage Wyatt, both of Shreveport, La., were in Manila for the reunion. They too, had a special memory of Mr. McWhirter.
Their brother, Leon Sivage, was the first casualty of the Korean War in 1950. He was 20 years old and had been in the Army for about a month.
"I was young but I do remember that Mr. McWhirter came with someone to inform our family. I remember Mr. McWhirter doing the talking. He was a friend," Bowlin said. "Several years later, Leon's body was returned and buried at Ft. Smith National Cemetery."
They also said they remember how the community supported them during that time.
Pat Owens Davis said that one of her memories of the community is that the people really cared about each other.
"If someone in the community got sick or had a tragedy and got behind with their crop, all of the other farmers and neighbors would come and help chop or harvest the crop," Davis said.
Another memory related was one of the first televisions in the Lost Cane Community that belonged to the Bus and Mabel Lewis.
"You could hardly see the television for the people, especially when Saturday night wrestling was on," Bill Lewis remembers.
Some of the other names mentioned as educators at Lost Cane included Mr. Manning who also taught school, coached ball and served as the Baptist minister; Ritter, Lewis, Mobley, and Hayley.
Some of the earliest settlers of Lost Cane attending the reunion were B.A. McCann, Letha Veach, Rosie Williams and Willy Faught.
Everyone enjoyed looking at stacks of old pictures, copies of the Lost Cane School newspaper, school year books, and visiting.
A potluck luncheon was served at noon.
It was decided that next year's reunion will be held on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2004 at the Manila Airport Center.
"I want to thank everyone that helped. These things don't just happen, it takes a lot of work," Estes said.