By Pat Smith
---- — Years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing William Ralph Caskey whose father, James E. Caskey, owned the Greensburg Daily News from 1902 until his death in 1915.
Caskey, who started the Cheer Fund in 1911, married Mabel Kercheval who was of a family of doctors here at one time and the same family as Ken Kercheval of “Dallas” fame. When William agreed to the interview I asked Van Batterton if he would come too. I figured the two of them would have lots to talk about. William was 91 years old at the time and Van was 84. Van and William talked and I listened. It was wonderful listening to them. One day I must reprint what they talked about.
In 1997, I talked with Anna Paul Lowe whose husband Walter B. Lowe was with the Greensburg Daily News from 1923 to 1974. Walter B. would say many times, “It’s for the children,” and kept the Cheer Fund going. Anna Paul remembered the Cheer Fund from years back when the goal was not more than two or three thousand dollars. She said, “In the early years Faye Childress and I worked together and later, after Faye’s death, Freida Mae Miller and I worked together. She said they visited families to get sizes and determine what a family needed.
Greta Solgere, who had worked for the Cheer Fund since the 1960s as typist, boxer and doing whatever was needed said, “Our family has been involved in the Cheer Fund for so long that it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.” She also mentioned Jim and Sheila Doerflinger, Bob Scheidler, Bob Bostic, Patt Luken and others who had spent hours on behalf of the fund and its recipients. The Solgere children helped too and after they were frown, always wanted to help when they came home for Christmas.
This year I was especially interested when Lori Osting sent her “Decatur County History” email from the library. Lori is the daughter of Ray and Jackie Layton Osting and granddaughter of Margaret Osting who was a teacher here for many years. So Lori has a natural interest in local history. She sends Decatur County History by email to anyone who wants it. Recently she sent one about the Cheer Fund which I am sharing with you in case you didn’t get the email and especially for those who don’t have email.
From what we know now and from the news stories Lori send it’s easy to see how the Cheer Fund has grown. From Dec. 23, 1927: The annual Christmas Cheer Fund for the kiddies of this city closed last night with subscriptions totaling $329,48. This sum is the largest ever raised for making happy less fortunate children on Christmas. In addition to the money a large number of useful articles were presented, making the value of the donations well over $350. A bank balance of $36.74 was left from last year. A committee of women composed of Mrs. H. H. Mount, Mrs. Taylor Meek, Mrs. C. J. Ely, Mrs. Will Goddard and Miss Myrta Patton were busily engaged in arranging the many presents that had been purchased earlier in the week. Roy Kanouse had donated $5, Garland Milling $5, Tri Kappa Sorority $10 and Minear Dry Goods $5.
From Dec. 3, 1934: The Daily News announces opening of Christmas Fund. For the 24th year the Daily News announces the opening of its annual Christmas Cheer Fund as a means of making happy the less privileged children of Greensburg on Christmas Day. It has always been dedicated to the late James E. Caskey but this year it will also be dedicated to the late Mrs. Ira M. (Fannie) Sanders, who was in charge of arrangements whereby the articles were delivered to the needy children. It was in large measure through the efforts and faithful service of her that the distribution was so efficiently made each year.
In the early 1950s, the fund expanded to provide gifts to adults as well as children. In 1959, the Decatur County Rural Youth Club brought attention to the needs of people throughout the county, and the fund was expanded a second time to provide countywide service.
Deliveries of gifts were not made between 1944 to 1948 “during the war years and immediately thereafter.” In 1949, the fund was re-instituted and volunteers were able to provide presents for 50 children with money that had been on deposit since 1943.
We can appreciate the many people who have helped with the Cheer Fund over the years. And now, because this is the last column before Christmas, I wish you a Christmas filled with great joy.