The “Waves of Green” Farm Progress Celebration, Nashville, NC, 20 May 1950
At 4 A. M., some folks in Nash, throughout the county, rose with the chickens to finish their float decorations, eat breakfast and travel to the Waves of Green Celebration in Nashville. It was a day much anticipated by many people because of the expected huge crowd, including many celebrities, local theatrical productions, stump speeches and, above all, the good food, for which Nash County was famous. All of these productions had been promised in the widely circulated advertisements of the event. Even the United States Secretary of Agriculture would be in attendance on this appointed day. All these people were coming to town to join with local folks in celebration of the improvements in farming and farm life in the nation and Nash County over the past fifty years. The main organizing force behind this special event was local Congressman and Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture Harold Cooley. Obviously, he did much of the heavy lifting in persuading some forty-five political figures, from every level of governance, office holders as well as aspiring candidates, to find this celebration THE destination of choice on May 20, 1950.
Some of the local excitement centered on the fact that the celebrities and newspaper reporters, many of them from Washington, DC, were traveling by diesel train to Nashville. In fact, a train had not run between Rocky Mount and Nashville since 1920, close to the time for the completion of the paving of Highway 64. It was near that date, that Highway 64 became the first paved road in the county. Some remembered that the last heavy use of the Nashville Branch of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad line had occurred during World War I when soldiers and other military personnel were transported through the county. Adding to the excitement was the fact that a diesel train had never before serviced the town of Nashville. As the train moved slowly over the final nine or so miles, it was met by a continuous, waving line of people all along the tracks. This spontaneous reception constituted nothing less than a proverbial hog heaven for all the politicians looking local voter support.
On this day, Washington Street was proudly dressed in green and white patriotic banners and placards welcoming visitors to the festivities. The crowd was estimated between 10 and 15,000 people, numbers that automatically made the day, arguably, the most important one in the history of Nashville or the county. Many of the visitors came from surrounding counties. Throughout the parade, an ice cream man plied his wares and the politicians worked the crowd. In the parade, John Rackley rode in a wagon drawn by one of his huge oxen. In fact, the ox made the wagon look like a child’s toy. The EVENING TELEGRAPH decided that THE two photos of most importance, in their coverage of the story, were the ones of the diesel train arriving at the Nashville depot and John Rackley driving his massive ox.
The parade’s twelve floats competed for prizes. In the division for young people the float winners included: the FFA of Nashville; Spring Hope Senior High School 4-H; Spring Hope Junior High School 4-H; Coopers Senior High 4-H; and Baileys 4-H. In the adult division the winners were: the Deans Home Demonstration Club; the Gold Rock Home Demonstration Club; the Dortches Home Demonstration Club and the North Nashville Home Demonstration Club.
The entertainment, beyond the parade, included a 40-minute movie presentation of “Waves of Green” at White’s Drive In Theatre, just outside of Nashville; a brief program of speeches at the filled 400 seat Nashville Theater and finally a “Waves of Green” presentation in a more traditional theater setting. The largely local production included three sons of Dr. and Mrs. John Chamblee, Ray Whitley, Mrs. Joe Wilson, Edgar Hollowell, two Jones brothers and Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Breedlove.
While the speakers, dramatic presentations and floats were tightly focused upon the progress in farming and farm life since 1900, the barbecue chicken and pig dinner, served by Freddie Cooper, amateur chef and local banker, seemed to attract the most attention from prominent guests, locals and visitors. After a long day of listening to speeches, watching the parade, being entertained by the theatrical productions and eating their fill of barbecue, with all the trimmings, the crowd slowly disbursed and returned home.
In the day of celebrating five decades of farm progress, a message or two, with an eye to future, seemed most relevant for the nation and Nash County. The Secretary of Agriculture probably said it best when he offered that it was important to the health of the United States that farm families have a fair share of the buying power in the nation. The importance of the Nashville sponsored Waves of Green celebration was best summarized by Representative Cooley when he called it “a red letter day that will not be soon forgotten.” Finally, at 11:30 P.M. the train, filled with Washington politicians and newsmen, headed back to the nation’s capital. Without a doubt, they were impressed by the hard work, talent, good spirit, exceptional food and love of America exhibited by celebration’s hosts: the good people of Nashville and Nash County, North Carolina!
[The primary source of the above information is the coverage reported on the celebration in THE ROCKY MOUNT EVENING TELEGRAM, Tuesday, May 23, 1950. Thanks to Lonnie Lorbacher of Westry for a copy of the article; his copy of it came from Maggie Lee Driver, wife of Ron Driver, and the daughter of John Rackley.]