Cuba, Missouri traditions making it look like Christmas…

Christmas Garland Cuba MO

Holy Cross Cemetery's fence is decked out for the holidays by area 4-H volunteers.

To begin the holiday season, some families head to Black Friday sales while other folks put up the Christmas tree or other holiday symbols, decorate the house with lights, and start listening to favorite songs of the season. Churches plan special holiday events. Cookies are baked and holiday menus planned.

But communities also have holiday traditions. In Cuba, MO, area volunteers and city workers put in place some traditions that remind us that December is upon us.

For years, city workers have hung the wreaths on light poles. Last year, a Cuba transplant to the Boston area asked that I post a photo of the wreaths on Facebook because she had fond memories of them, and they made her think of home and Christmas.

Christmas wreaths Cuba MO

The raising of the Christmas wreaths along Route 66 signals the beginning of the holiday season.

Another tradition that beautifies the town and sets the holiday scene is the garland and red ribbons with which area 4-H volunteers decorate the Holy Cross Cemetery fence.  These seasonal decorations provide a festive entry to Cuba. It is great to see the young people of Cuba taking part in community traditions.

4-H Volunteers Cuba MO

Each year, 4-H volunteers, friends, and family come together to decorate the Holy Cross Cemetery fence at Christmas.

Viva Cuba volunteers, friends, and family also contribute to Christmas beautification by decorating the Viva Cuba Garden with wreaths and lights. Sunday afternoon, although it was breezy, workers turned out to untangle lights, make bows, string extension chords, and cover the train replica, trees, and bushes with lights.

Cuba Mo Christmas lights

George Reed works on making order out of the tangled Christmas lights.

LIghting the trees Viva Cuba Garden Cuba MO

Josh Cape and Stephen Land help light the trees at the Highway 19/Route 66 intersection.

Covering the bushes with lights

The Barnetts cover the bushes with Christmas lights.

Christmas Bows Viva Cuba Garden

Peggy Holland ties the wreath bows to hang on the brick wall.

Christmas Bow Viva Cuba Garden

Viva Cuba member Jill Barnett has to reach to get the bow tied on the sign.

But as you know from your own decorating at home, it’s the moments when the lights are lit, that makes it all worth the work. We hope you get by after dark to enjoy Viva Cuba’s contribution to the spirit of the season in Cuba.

For a history of the Viva Cuba Garden, go here.

Volunteer adopts historic district for cleanup efforts…

Volunteer Stephen Land Cuba MO

Stephen Land works on sidewalk edging along Route 66.

While the Viva Cuba beautification organization has been encouraging individuals and organizations to join the Adopt-A-Street program and clean up the streets of Cuba, one volunteer took the initiative to adopt the historic district along Route 66 on his own. Stephen Land, a relatively new Cuba resident, felt the need to improve the historic district with a few tools and some hard work.

His efforts are chronicled in this week’s Cuba Free Press in the article  “Cleaning up your life, cleaning up the town.” Read the story of a motivated volunteer who felt the need to make a difference in our community.

Stephen Land

Stephen Land learned to work hard growing up on a tobacco and dairy farm in North Carolina.

For more information on the Adopt-A-Street program read “Treasure Cuba, Adopt-A-Street.

The soldier with the red band on his hat…

Chip Lange is the soldier with the red band on his hat.

Chip Lange of Cuba, MO was a young man with a mission, but he didn't know that he would end up in the murals that he helped bring to his community.

Viva Cuba members have told the “Chip Lange story” on many mural tours, and it draws a postive response from listeners. The appeal of the story arises from three aspects: 1. Chip’s age at the time, 2. The magnitude of his accomplishment, and 3. The situation of how he found himself to be the “soldier with the red band on his hat.”

When Chip was 15, he came to Viva Cuba, a beautification organization that commissioned the murals, to offer his help in making the planned Civil War murals a reality. He was interested for a couple of reasons. He had been a Civil War buff since he was about nine and was a re-enactor with the 1st MO Lt Artillery Company M, Turner Brigade. For a young man, he had amassed a broad knowledge of the Civil War through reading and family trips to Civil War battlegrounds. In other words, he knew his stuff.

Chip also wanted to use the mural  for his Eagle Scout Project, which had to be completed before he was 16.  He began compiling a notebook with the information about the The Battle of Pilot Knob that would be the basis for the mural panels. Chip made his proposal to Viva Cuba and to his Eagle Scout board. After some discussion, he was made part of the project, and it was approved by the Eagle Board.

Scout Chip Lange Cuba MO

Boy Scout Chip Lange develped into a formidable fundraiser to make these murals a reality.

Chip’s notebook continued to grow with mural-related activities as the project progressed. He, along with Viva Cuba members, researched artists, and he began raising money by conducting fundraisers and contacting donors. Viva Cuba had agreed to match his fundraising up to $15,000. Chip and Viva Cuba members worked on the various stages of the project. During his months of organizing and fundraising, Chip developed his presentation skills and became a formidable fundraiser.

When the organization tallied the fundraising, Chip had raised over $21,000 in donations and fundraisers. Viva Cuba contributed their $15,000, thus making the Civil War murals the most expensive and extensive to date. They would cover several buildings and transform Buchanan Street.

Buchanan Street Civil War Murals

The murals transformed the look of Buchanan Street.

Artist Don Gray of California was hired to paint the murals, and it was arranged that he would stay in a garage apartment belonging to Chip’s parents Bill and Catherine Lange. Chip and Don Gray begam a friendship through emails prior to Don coming to Cuba, and it continued once Don was on-site and painting.

Toward the end of the mural painting, Show Me St. Louis’s videographer Jim Viehman of  KSDK came to Cuba to film a segment about the murals. During the filming of the Civil War murals, Viehman interviewed Don Gray, Viva Cuba’s Jill Barnett, and Chip Lange. Chip tells the story  about how he discovered that he was part of the mural this way:

I realized Don was painting me into the mural only after I was talking with the St. Louis network that was interviewing me on the day it was being completed.  I noticed that there was one last blank spot on the wall and that it was a silhouette that I was sure he would be finishing briefly.  When I was looking away, he had finished the painting and only after someone had commented on that mural did I turn around to see that I had just been painted into the mural as the last figure.  Without a doubt, I was very surprised and the media caught that moment.

Today, the murals draw Route 66 travelers from around the world. Chip presented his Eagle Scout documentation of the mural project to his review board, and they had never seen anything like it. Chip is now an Eagle Scout.

Viva Cuba continues to maintain the murals. This summer Don Gray, who has moved to Oregon, visited Cuba and repaired some mural damage caused by moisture. While he was in Cuba, he once again stayed at the Lange’s garage apartment. Unfortunately, he was not able to visit with Chip for he was studying in London as an Accident & Emergency intern at the King’s College Hospital, a hospital with a prestigious background in academia.

Chip is now completing his senior year at Westminster College in Missouri and applying to graduate schools. He is reviewing Physician Assistant programs across the country.  He is also planning a special research project that will involve his self-designed major of Biomedical Psychology. Besides some campus activities, Chip is in the Mixed Martial Arts Club, a firefighter for the Central Callaway Fire Protection District and an EMT at the Steeelville Ambulance District. And he is still a member of the Turner Brigade.

Viva Cuba members like to say that every mural has a story. This set of murals tells the story of The Battle of Pilot Knob. But they also tell the story of a young man who set a goal and contributed to his community in a way that will always be remembered.

Leasburg panel of Civil War Murals

The Leasburg panel of the Civil War Murals showcases young Chip Lange of Cuba.

Update: Go to here to see information on the Battle of Leasburg Reenactment on Saturday, Oct. 1st and Sunday, Oct. 2., 2011

Go here to see the Show Me St. Louis episode on the Cuba MO Murals website.

Remembering…Glimpses of the Veterans Day Ceremony Cuba Missouri 2010

Veterans Ceremony Cuba MO 2010

The program shows that the ceremony is a carefully planned event.

Bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” A Cuba High School choir and band performing the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.” Presentation of the colors. Stirring words of remembrance. It all came together today in front of the Veterans Memorial on Smith Street.

The Veterans Day program illustrates the planning and number of people who came together to honor our Veterans.   Those in attendance were urged, “To always remember” by Pastor Don Martin of the Cuba Freewill Baptist Church.

Here are a few scenes from the event for those who could not attend.

Bagpiper Dan Jackson

Bagpiper Dan Jackson of the St. Louis Police Department led the posting of the colors.

Veteran of Korea

Veterans from many conflicts were in attendance.

Attendees at Veterans Ceremony

Many participated in honoring area veterans.

Presenting and posting colors

American Legion Post 522 presented and posted the colors.

Lesa Mizell Cuba MO

Lesa Mizell, a veteran herself, serves as an organizer of patriotic events.

POW-MIA ceremony

The table was part of the POW-MIA ceremony for those who did not return from the wars.

Retiring the colors Veterans Day

The colors were retired, "Amazing Grace" played on the bagpipes, and "Taps" played at the end of the ceremony.

Veterans Memorial Cuba MO

At the location of the Cuba Veterans Memorial, with the church in the background, symbols of God and Country unite.

For the story of Cuba’s Veterans Memorial read “Two brothers spark remembrance of Cuba, MO veterans.”

Gold Star Boy Mural Salutes Cuba’s Veterans…

Viva Cuba's Gold Star Medal Mural Cuba MO

Viva Cuba's Gold Star Mural depicts sacrifices made during WW II.

The Gold Star Mural just off Route 66 in Cuba was painted just after 9/11 although it had been planned for months. With its tribute to the young men from the Cuba area who had lost their lives during WWII, it seemed an apt expression of the feeling of patriotism that swept the country at the time.

The train in the mural is  The Blue Bonnet. During W.W. II the Blue Bonnet, a Frisco train named after the Texas state flower, was a familiar sight with its distinctive blue and white cars.  It was this #7 train that whisked away Cuba’s service men as they left their homes to protect America’s way of life and values.  These young men sometimes gave their lives to keep the light of freedom burning.

Cuba’s Gold Star boys who gave their lives during WW II were the following:  Ralph Burnell Fishwick-Navy; Preston A. (Bud) Gibson Jr.-Army; Lawrence E. Grant-Navy; Dale K. Hudson-Navy; Rex Hilliard Powell-Naval Reserve; and Floyd Cecil Vaughn-9th Air Corps. Their names on listed on the red background on the north end of the mural. Their names can also be found on the Cuba Veterans Memorial on Smith Street.

According to a Cuba Free Press letter to the editor at the time the mural was painted, Wilbur Vaughn remembed his family taking his brother Cecil to this train during World War II.  He then went home, sat on the porch, and heard the whistle of the Blue Bonnet as it left.  He remembered how sad it sounded. His brother Cecil Vaughn is one of the young men who did not return from the war.

You might wonder why these men who died in the service of their country were called “Gold Star Boys.” With Public Law 534, the 89th Congress directed the design and distribution of a lapel button–known as the Gold Star Lapel button–to identify widows, parents, and next of kin of members of the Armed Forces of the United who lost their lives during hostilities.  The pin is depicted on the north end of the mural.

Gold Star Medal

The medal and names of the Veterans who sacrificed on are displayed on the mrual.

The pin, which is issued by the Department of Defense, is gold and is on a purple background for combat death and all gold for death while in service.  When one of the service men was killed in combat, his relatives received this gold pin. Servicemen’s mothers often wore the medal to show that they had lost a son.  It was a badge not only of sadness for loss but also one of pride because their sons had sacrificed for their country.

On this Veterans Day, Viva Cuba would like to remember these young men and all the young men and women who have served their country both in time of peace and in time of war.

For more information on the Gold Star Mothers’ organization, visit

The Artists…

Michelle Loughery, of Canada, who painted the A.J. Barnett mural, along with her assistant Sara Lindsay, returned to Cuba for this mural.  Local artist Shelly Smith Steiger assisted on tthe mural. Steiger now teachers high school art at Cuba High School.

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