Sealed with a kiss, the post newspaper reported. Whether that kiss was a mere peck on the cheek or whether it was a wet, sloppy kiss isn’t clear.
Benning Boulevard was paved and civilians and soldiers alike were overjoyed. Since 1922, when the growing military installation moved south of town, the road to Fort Benning had been a slippery slope. A narrow gauge railroad was the only salvation for people going back and forth.
That changed in the spring of 1925 and it called for a celebration. The gala was held at the Springer Opera House that June and the main event was a wedding ceremony that would forever bless the union of the men in uniform and the folks in suits.
A United States Congressman agreed to officiate and the 29th Infantry Band was to provide the background music, brushing up on its rendition of the “Wedding March” by Wagner. General Orders No. 10 named the roadway in April and even then all concerned recognized its importance. Overnight that boulevard established connections that until then had been impossible to forge, especially during the rainy season.
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For the 250 civilian employees that made that trip every day, it was a blessing. For downtown merchants, it was a gold mine as soldiers began to pour into downtown for oyster roasts at the Muscogee Club and steaks at the Ralston Hotel. For the future, it laid the foundation for a warm relationship not always found in Army towns.
That long-standing connectivity is the topic of the fourth annual “Celebrate Columbus,” a program sponsored by the Historic Columbus Foundation. “The Spirit of Columbus” will be celebrated on March 19 at the National Infantry Museum. The speaker will be Army historian David Stieghan. Tickets are $35.
For more information, visit www.historiccolumbus.com.
Maybe Stieghan, after all these years, can tell us more about that kiss. Congressman W.C. Wright performed the wacky ceremony. Col. A.B. Warfield was the groom and Judge C. Frank McLaughlin was the blushing bride. Col. George Helms was best man and G. Gunby Jordan portrayed the father of the bride.
Next month’s HCF program will chronicle a more serious relationship that has covered more than 90 years. That long ago event held on the stage of the Springer provides only a silly symbol.
The origins of Fort Benning began with a lobbying effort that crossed all lines of society. The post has survived world wars, changes in military philosophies and the blending of infantry and armor. Now, with severe financial and manpower cuts on the horizon, the need for a joint civilian-military venture is needed even more.
The Infantry School News reported that the deal for Fort Benning Boulevard was sealed with a kiss. More important than the theatrics are the closing words of the Congressman: “What the paved road has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He is also found at www.richardhyattcolumbus.com