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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017

Soapbox speaker in Marshall

Posted Saturday, August 22, 2009, at 12:55 PM

Third Child posted this comment Friday, Aug. 21:

Public Square

When I was a lad there was a woman who would choose a position on the square in Marshall, usually on the south or east side, and give extemporaneous speeches to any and all that would listen. I was young and didn't really understand what it was all about but do recall damning jabs being thrown at the inhabitants of the courthouse across the street in a voice as loud as a bullhorn.

It was mostly fire and brimstone meant for all comers but there was a strong element of targeted political criticism, that at the time, I thought quite bold.

I recall teenagers mocking her but it didn't seem to matter. She would just turn up the volume that much more. Adults seemed to tune her out as they went about their business, much like today.

Who else remembers this?

Reminds of a book I read a few years ago (though I can't remember the title or author) describing the soapbox speeches given in the public square early in the 20th century. Apparently, it was a fairly common practice, especially when Big Issues like impending war ruled people's attention.

One question, Third Child: What time period was this?

--Eric Crump

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

The art of speaking from a soapbox (literally, sometimes) is still practiced in Hyde Park in London, if I'm not mistaken.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Aug 21, 2009, at 5:45 PM

I remember this woman It was in the late 60s early 70s she was always on the north side of the square some times on the south side I cant remember her name but a friend of mine who I grew up with there in Marshall it was his great aunt

-- Posted by S&S okla on Fri, Aug 21, 2009, at 7:56 PM

I remember her also, always on the north side, near the crosswalk, and preaching to beat the band. I also remember it being the late 60's.

-- Posted by BlackBird on Fri, Aug 21, 2009, at 9:32 PM

I remember her, too. She lived on S. Redman in a tiny house, the block between Yerby and Vest, on the west side of the street. Last time I noticed the house was still standing.

Always wore dresses, the typical house dress of the 50s. Dark hair in a bun.

-- Posted by Dawson16 on Sat, Aug 22, 2009, at 12:04 AM

Her name was Alta Patton and she indeed lived in the house on South Redman noted by Dawson16. She worked for years at the International Shoe Company and would come to the square on Friday evenings and sometimes on Saturday mornings where she would preach and hand out tiny Bibles to all who would take them. Some of the merchants (the square was full of them then) objected to her presence and some tried to put speakers outside their businesses to drown her out as her speeches could become rather harsh even for that time period. Their efforts failed. I have never responded to comments on the Democrat News blogs before. This one seemed so civil I couldn't resist.

-- Posted by Gray hair on Sat, Aug 22, 2009, at 9:53 AM

I just drove by there this morning to see if the house is still there. It is! Someone has painted and made repairs. How nice to see something redone instead of torn down.

-- Posted by Dawson16 on Sat, Aug 22, 2009, at 11:21 AM

Gray hair, nice to "meet" you. Please post again sometime. You'll find many cordial folks and civil conversations on the website. Often, though, you have to get away from the main page to find them.

I didn't realize Mrs. Patton worked at the shoe factory. When I was younger, we were accustomed to her presence on the square and I never remember being afraid of her. I'm sure many branded her as a tad bit crazy but it took a good deal of courage for her to stand there and preach her beliefs. I wonder if she tried doing that in today's times if she would be allowed?

-- Posted by Dawson16 on Sat, Aug 22, 2009, at 12:13 PM

Dawson16, She was practicing "free speech" just as the people speaking out at the health care debates are claiming as their right.

For a number of years, at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, a man would, with his bible in hand, preach salvation to the bemused students in an area known as the Pit.

It will be interesting to see how this newly formatted MDN blog fares.

Certainly keeping on topic is easier when the focus is defined. Witness the intense interest when the Tuscan home on Eastwood was torn down so quickly. Must ask Eric if a picture is available of the "newly improved lot:)

-- Posted by upsedaisy on Sat, Aug 22, 2009, at 10:23 PM

upsedaisy: I don't think we have a photo of the aftermath at 750 E. Eastwood. I'll get that asap.

I think it would be interesting if the old practice of stump speaking could be revived in some fashion. Arrow Rock hosted just such an event during their 4th of July festivities in 2008 for area politicians who were on the Nov. 2008 ballot.

I'm sure it would be different than it used to be. We're sort of out of practice as a society. The soapbox has moved online and we often have the comforting veil of anonymity to protect us from vigorous rebuttal.

I notice no one has mentioned any other (in)famous public square speakers since the topic came up. Was Alta the only? I imagine it's always been a practice that required more bravado or obliviousness than most can muster. I wish lots of people would speak so we could get more views out there, but maybe that's not likely.

Still, wouldn't it be interesting and possibly enlightening to have something like weekly "open mic" sessions on the courthouse square to discuss things like the school bond issue or the 911 project or courthouse renovation, etc. etc. etc.?

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Sun, Aug 23, 2009, at 8:16 AM

Hi everyone

Interesting topic - glad to hear so many views being expressed.

I, too, wonder how long it would take to get assaulted, accosted, or even arrested for the same sort of thing today.

Here's one of my favorite stories about street preaching:

I was traveling through Nevada once with a friend when he asked if I would mind if we stopped off in Vegas so he could do a little street preaching. I said "Why not? - so we parked the truck on Fremont Street (back then it was wide open and very busy) and walked to the intersection with the four busiest casinos - Gold Nugget, Four Queens, etc.

He pulls out this big old King James Bible and walks right out into the middle of the intersection and starts preaching the Word as loud as he could.

Some folks walked around him and ignored him - others complained to him and called him names - some even asked the attendants at the open front casinos to "do something about it." They said he had every right to be there. The police - when asked to make him stop - said the same thing. "As long as he's not hurting anyone - he has every right to do what he's doing."

He preached for about 30 minutes and then we just got back in the truck and drove away.

That was about 20 years ago. I wonder what would happen if he tried the same thing in today's world. And not just in Veags - but right there in downtown Marshall...


-- Posted by circuitrider on Tue, Aug 25, 2009, at 2:53 PM

Sorry to be so long in responding. W/the new blog, we do have to remember to check back:) Would an open mic format be possible in an area near the Farmer's Market? On Saturdays, in the olden days, people went to town, for groceries, haircuts--a great time to see neighbors and socialize. Hope the school board holds some public meetings and/or tours of present facilities to help people understand the needs. No one likes taxes, but education of children has to be a priority for our future.

-- Posted by upsedaisy on Tue, Aug 25, 2009, at 11:35 PM

I can remember only a few times that I heard Alta speaking. I'm thinking the time frame was in the earlier 60's. The first time, I remember catching snippets of sound at the opposite fringes of the square from where she was speaking. Her voice must have been bouncing off the buildings as she projected in different directions because as quickly as it appeared it was gone. It didn't take long to maneuver to locate the source and I'll admit that I was a little flabbergasted to find Alta, singly holding forth on the southeast corner of the square. I didn't understand what was going on so I took a seat, (there used to be benches on the square) and listened for a while.

There was religion of course but I recall there

were political criticisms of sort even though at my age I knew nothing of who or what she was referring to. Nonetheless, I immediately admired the woman for her fearless spirit.

I can't add much to the info about Alta. My mother knew of her and tried to explain what was going on when I asked question about it although I can't remember the conclusions I took away at the time. I can't recall thinking much about this over the years but I believe that the experience made an impact, whether I was aware of it or not.

The strength of Alta Patton, weathering the onslaughts of attack for speaking her mind should be an inspiration and fortification for all that are fed up with the go along to get along culture of the engineered society we live in today.

Remembering Alta Patton, singly preaching to the world and not being cowed by the crowd is truly an inspiration that should give us all an injection of backbone to take an independent stand for things we believe and against those that we don't. Time is running out for freedom and liberty in this country. We need more people like Alta Patton. God bless her soul.

-- Posted by Third Child on Wed, Aug 26, 2009, at 9:00 AM

Comforting Veil of Anonymity

"I think it would be interesting if the old practice of stump speaking could be revived in some fashion.. I'm sure it would be different than it used to be. We're sort of out of practice as a society. The soapbox has moved online and we often have the comforting veil of anonymity to protect us from vigorous rebuttal."

"Speak Out" is a form of stump speech but the problem is that it is anonymous so it doesn't amount to much of anything in the real world.

Also, anonymous criticism of the 'speaker' lends to the wild west atmosphere that gets out of hand and turns people away that otherwise may have something to say. 'Grey hair' makes that point well.

Another blog could be set up, perhaps in memory of Alta Patton, call it Town Square or something where people, using their real names, could make their arguments and discuss issues with other 'real' people using real names. Anonymous trolls need not apply. The real town square is about people that know who they are conversing with and a cyber square can be the same.

Everything you've ever written on the web is already tracked, traced and stored in huge data banks so folks might as well sign their names. Big brother and Eric Crump already know who you are and so should we.

That's my suggestion..

Third child of William Raymond and Dora Ellen Narron

-- Posted by Third Child on Thu, Aug 27, 2009, at 5:25 PM

I like the idea of a nonanonymous forum. I know quite a few people who would prefer it over the 'wild west' atmosphere created by anonymity. I'll look into it. Not sure our software supports that option, but ya never know unless you try.

As for knowing who everybody is, I can't speak for Big Brother, who I don't know personally, but I can say that what we at The Marshall Democrat-News know about users on our website is only what they choose to reveal. When someone creates an account, the program asks for a real name and address, but it doesn't have any way of verifying what people type in that form.

I've seen some very fanciful things -- and occasionally some very obscene things -- that pass for "real" identification. Don't assume I know who you are. I don't make that assumption myself.

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Thu, Aug 27, 2009, at 6:19 PM

A software change seems a bit much I guess.

I was thinking more of a consensus kind of thing where posters would self indentify. A guy known only as 'slimey' should not be tolerated in shouting down someone that's willing to sign their name to comments. People should be able to remain anonymous but they would effectively lose all arguments based on a lack of standing and credibility.

-- Posted by Third Child on Thu, Aug 27, 2009, at 11:41 PM

I remember her too! Of course I was just a child then.............

-- Posted by luvthoseowls on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 4:30 PM

The issue of free speech is what started this discussion. Alta Patton exercised her right to free speech and stood her ground against considerable resistance.

We ask if this would be allowed these days and that boils down to a question about what WE have become.

Many blessings have been passed down to us as a nation, paid forward by the blood and treasure of others. Do we just forget what this nation is all about and toss away the freedoms handed to us by our forefathers? Why wouldn't one assume that they could still go stand on the street and say whatever they felt needed saying? What has changed?

Has the First Ammendment been rescinded? No. We have just been manipulated by different methods that effectively muzzle dissenting thoughts and ideas. We have been indoctrinated through the public school system and media to go along and get along. People that stand out from the crowd are viewed as nails sticking out of a board to be hammered flush with the rest.

Children are trained to line up submissively and take orders from those previously trained to line up and take orders. Individuality is now portrayed as having purple hair and rings in the nose instead of having differing views and ideas. If a child resists conformity and displays independent thought and individuality they are labeled with some sort of a psychological defect and drugged into a compliant stupor. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. I can't do justice to the issue at this time, got to go but I'll post some links later..

The initial issue is that of free speech and what are we are going to do about it? Alta Patton did

what all of us should have the backbone to do. We need to hold onto and protect the freedoms that have been handed down to us on a silver platter.

-- Posted by Third Child on Sat, Aug 29, 2009, at 9:51 AM

Back in the week of August 22nd on the main Speak Out blog several people spoke of Mattingly's. I remember Mattingly's too - particularly the basement toyland and riding Santa's sleigh at Christmastime. For those of you who want a blast from the past - if you are ever in Branson, MO go downtown to the Five and Dime store they have there. You will feel as if you are in Mattingly's!! The only thing missing is the basement, but they still have toys and all kinds of miscellaneous sundries just like Mattingly's!!

-- Posted by Typesetter on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 11:42 AM

I will try once again to comment regarding the Mattingly's post. My previous comment on Alta Patton ended up in a political discussion regarding 1st Amendment activity that I have serious doubts ever entered her mind which is the main reason I don't post often on these blogs.

Ahhhh! Mattingly's. Home of a well stocked candy counter where a real person weighed each sale to the ounce or to the monetary unit and bagged the purchase in a paper sack.

Home of Miss Maxine Waters who for years stood in the tiny checkstands at the front of the store to ring up your sale.

Home of fresh nuts oil roasting in a machine at the end of the candy counter--the spanish peanuts were wonderful when just out of the bubbling oil.

Home of bolts of cloth for sale and lots of other soft goods, although I did not frequent that side of the store as I was not too interested in those items as a young boy.

Home of parakeets in the back of the store chirping as shoppers walked by.

Home of Mode Anson who managed the store for years and could be seen stocking shelves in addition to his managerial duties, and

Home of the famous Toyland in the basement. Now during most of the years the toys were upstairs on the main floor, but at Christmas time the neon sign (which I purchased years ago) came on with the arrow pointed to the staircase going to the basement.

Balsa gliders, superballs, squirt guns, board games galore, if you wanted a toy, you could find it there. At the time, there was no Walmart and the only other toy store was Ripple's and the Ben Franklin Store on the East side of the Mattingly's store also had some toys.

Times have changed and reading these posts stirs a nostolgic chord in my memory. Thanks for letting me relive my past.

-- Posted by Gray hair on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 5:37 PM

Grey Hair,

I would like to hear more about why you think that Alta Patton didn't consider the issue of free speech. I would have to think she relied on the first ammendment very heavily.

Remember, my memory is very poor on this and everyone sees things differently, but I'm remembering Alta Patton as a free speech activist.

-- Posted by Third Child on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 10:22 AM

Alta Patton was a very simple woman who worked her job and came to town as many people did during this time. I listened to her speak frequently and my recollection is that her speech was religious in nature; I never heard her criticize any level or branch of government.

While it is true that religious speech is protected by the 1st Amendment, as is pure political speech and to a lesser extent commercial speech, to that extent her speech was protected by the 1st Amendment, it is my belief that her preaching was based on her religious beliefs and not delivered as a demonstration of "free speech activism" in the sense that I understand "free speech activism."

We may just be splitting hairs here (and mine really are gray). I mean no disrespect to your opinion. My comment was that I had doubts that being a free speech activist was a compelling reason for her preaching on the square. Nothing more; nothing less.

-- Posted by Gray hair on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 11:39 PM

Thank you Gray Hair. I could very well be idealizing the memories of Alta Patton, over the years. We all choose to remember what we want, I guess.. memory hasn't been my strong point since I was about 16. It's all coming back now..

-- Posted by Third Child on Sun, Sep 6, 2009, at 9:28 PM


Did any of you posters who seem to use disrespect of others as your favorite tool witness that last exchange between Gray Hair and Third Child?

Great example of what a discussion board should look like. No disrespect - just the possibility that they see things differently - and an obvious "agree to disagree" mentality. No cheap shots - no personal agendas in your face.

How refreshing.


-- Posted by circuitrider on Tue, Sep 8, 2009, at 2:57 PM

I agree, circuitrider. A rare moment of civility. Thank you, TC & Gray hair!

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Wed, Sep 9, 2009, at 12:54 PM

Working on a Sunday, are you Kathy?

Do you ever rest?

-- Posted by Third Child on Sun, Sep 13, 2009, at 1:07 PM

Deleting comments is a slippery slope.

It may not be pure censorship at the beginning but it inevitably becomes so. I voiced a complaint yesterday about it and got one reversed, a small victory by calling attention to the action. Some posts may not be worthy of publication but when that decision is given to another person then public discourse is limited to the lowest common denominator.

Evidently, some things are censored by reason of being off topic. I posted two short lines and a link the other day in the soapbox blog that Eric set up. Someone felt it was off topic perhaps? They didn't say. It's hard to tell when something just disappears.

I don't see how it could have been off topic, though, as that blog is about soapbox speaking in the first place. What better place to leave a link, to the injustice of Leonard Peltier's ordeal as a political prisoner, in the land of the free, home of the brave?

I try to post things that I feel are important for people to consider in their own self interest and that of the country. We are force fed so much misinformation and propaganda in the mainstream media that I feel a responsibility to present a different view. I resent the pressure of a few to oppress the free exchange of ideas and thoughts based on the limitations of themselves to agree or understand.

There is a difference between editing and censorship. Once 'editing' gets started it becomes easier and easier to hit the delete button on things the editor may just not agree on.

Then it is censorship and that is tyranny.

Someone said dissent is the highest form of patriotism. I'm not so sure but I do know that when we are no longer allowed to dissent, the last patriot rolls over in his grave, for the country is lost to despotism.

I have been censored in this venue for trying to warn the public about health effects of fluoride. The issues are simple enough, and I provided numerous links to back up my assertions.

Based on two complaints from anonymous trolls, I was advised to drop it. No debate, just drop it. **** the facts, drop it because of that is what 'hat full of hot air' and an obvious troll that assaults the readers daily with his chosen anonymous handle, "what the f..", said so. This is the tyranny of the lowest denominator and I don't like it one bit..

I imagine if I keep complaining it could lead to a permanent banning. It happens all the time.

That being the case is why I've set up the Saline County yahoo group. Pre-emptive free speech. I will be heard as long as the 'inter tubes' are still free. People have to be heard.

No disrespect to Eric, I think he is doing an admirable job considering what he faces. That said, just in case I'm dissapeared into the memory hole, I may be found speaking my mind at:


If anyone else feels the need to get something off their chest, I invite them to do the same.

-- Posted by Third Child on Tue, Sep 15, 2009, at 9:42 AM

"Why Propaganda Trumps Truth"

Paul Craig Roberts Sept 15th, 2009

An article in the journal, Sociological Inquiry, ["There Must Be a Reason": Osama, Saddam, and Inferred Justification, Vol. 79, No. 2. (2009), pp. 142-162. [PDF] casts light on the effectiveness of propaganda. Researchers examined why big lies succeed where little lies fail. Governments can get away with mass deceptions, but politicians cannot get away with sexual affairs.

The researchers explain why so many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it has become obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with the event. Americans developed elaborate rationalizations based on Bush administration propaganda that alleged Iraqi involvement and became deeply attached to their beliefs. Their emotional involvement became wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality. They looked for information that supported their beliefs and avoided information that challenged them, regardless of the facts of the matter.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler explained the believability of the Big Lie as compared to the small lie: "In the simplicity of their minds, people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and continue to think that there may be some other explanation."

More at:


-- Posted by Third Child on Tue, Sep 15, 2009, at 10:16 AM


-- Posted by HOLLYHOCK on Fri, Sep 18, 2009, at 5:47 PM

Thank you Hollyhock, I was remembering early 60's and you say even the late 50's. Wow. She did this for 20 some years..

Hollyhock, do you remember much about the the content of the earlier speeches? I can't recall much of the specifics but do remember jabs at politicians or officials in the early 60's. Those that remember Alta Patton from the latter years, 70's, probably got a politically sanitized version of the earlier finger pointing fire and brimstone.

It would have been very difficult to weather the onslaught of merchants, politicians, busy bodies and complainers for 20 odd years, living in the same town, without that having effect on the content.

It took a great deal of courage for Alta Patton to do what she did. That has stuck with me over the years. I don't believe that part has been over-idealized in my memories.

-- Posted by Third Child on Sun, Sep 20, 2009, at 8:27 AM

hello Peeps,I remember those beautiful days as a child,sure wish I could bring them back,lets not forget Humphrey's always after the trip to Mattingly's stop and get a cherry coke or malted,and take home a pint or 2 of the ice cream.

Those were the Days!!!!!!

-- Posted by DocHolida2u on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 9:19 AM

I remeber Alta Patton, and how my dad always said "BE QUIET AND LISTEN, YOU WILL LEARN SOMETHING ", did not know then what he was saying.

We always come to town on Sat. to grocery shop, go to the Diary Queen, which was on Odell where City is now, by Caseys, then returning to the square where we kids played on court house lawn, until Coon Dog Crawford and his boys played music on North side of square, good ole country music, by then we had eaten our picnic supper mom always brought, Man was that food good, we sat on the car and eat, thought we were kings and queens of the world and did not waste a bite, we would be so tired and sleepy going home we would sleep all the way there.

We could not wait for the next Sat. to get there.

You ask how our groceris stayed good all day, mom only had to buy staples, sugar, flour, salt ect. we lived off the land, had our own fruits and veggies that mom canned, our own meat, milk, eggs ect. so there was nothing to spoil,

How I would love to go back to those simple days, not a care in this world,

-- Posted by buttons on Thu, Aug 4, 2011, at 11:07 AM

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