Historical Highlight: The Saxophone and the Civil War Vet
It’s fun to make connections between people we know and long past historical events. This one stretches back so far, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Some years ago, I worked to restore the old 1938/1939 Cameron Historic Film. In the first part of the film is footage of our first Armistice Day Parade on November 11, 1938. It may just seem like some parade footage but there’s a not so secret and yet amazing thing that happened that day.
During the parade you see the Cameron school bands marching downtown and then on to the football field behind the Missouri Wesleyan College. Among the parade attractions are two cars. One which contains two Gold Star Mothers. These were mothers that had lost sons in the great war. The other was driven by Earl Wills and his father, J.W. Wills was his passenger. James William Wills was one of the last two surviving Civil War Veterans in Cameron. Wills had joined the 12th Missouri Cavalry of the Union Army in 1863. He survived the war, got married, and made Cameron his permanent home.
How does this relate to a saxophone or anyone we know today? In the parade of school bands that day, there was a young high school student playing the saxophone. He’s even visible in some of the parade footage. His name is Larry Graham and he has been a life long resident of Cameron where he had a popular dental practice for many years. He and his wife, Sarah still consider Cameron to be home, however they now live closer to family in the Kansas City area. Two years ago, he and the family donated the saxophone he was playing in that parade to the Depot Museum where it’s on display.
The stretch here is this, a man who lives today and calls Cameron his home marched in a parade with a Civil War Veteran. That is a span in history of over 150 years. For those of you that know Dr. Graham, you know he’s one of the most beloved members of our community and has been a champion of historic preservation in Cameron for decades. It’s fitting that he be the one known for such a wonderful stretch in our community’s historical timeline.
I enjoy hearing and reading your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about Cameron History.