Our Journey to 100 Years: If the Walls Could Talk
To commemorate our milestone 100th anniversary, our series called “Our Journey to 100 Years” continues. In this series, we’re taking you through OHB’s history and highlighting people, events and notable moments that have gotten us to today. The information in this series is gathered from a book that was written by John Carter as a labor of love to chronicle the first 75 years of Omaha Home for Boys.
Today, we’re taking a look at some lighthearted happenings at the Megeath House from 1930 to 1945.
It is easy to romanticize the past…an era that is long gone can be whatever the memory allows. Most memories of growing up in the Megeath House are fond ones. Friendships of 65 years standing were made there in that majestic house on South 33rd Street.
The young boys living there were like one large family, with each boy being assigned a nickname to show he belonged. Sure, there may have been fights now and then, but only to determine where a boy belonged in the pecking order. The fight always ended when one fellow said, “That’s enough.”
The Megeath House not only served as a place of comfort and safety for many youngsters, but it also housed a library that served as the meeting space for the Home’s Board of Directors. On many a Wednesday, the boys were reminded that the Board had met there the night before. The smell of cigar smoke lingered for quite some time.
Miss Havercamp, the matron at the Megeath House, is surely remembered by all of the boys who knew her. She read Bible passages after dinner, and each Saturday night just before bedtime, every boy got in line in the medicine room for a spoonful of cod liver oil. Then Miss Havercamp would pull slivers and doctor scratches and cuts with iodine.
The boys at the Home considered themselves lucky as the Megeath House was sandwiched between two great places for youngsters to play, Hanscom Park to the east, and to the west a large play area donated by the Megeath family. It was simply called, “The Lots.” The space certainly provided a young boy’s haven for anything and everything outdoors, including many friendly games of baseball pitting the Home’s boys against a group of players from a nearby church.
The Lots even helped develop a Major League baseball player. Rex Barney practiced almost nightly on the ballfield with his father during the 1930’s, his blazing fastball carrying him to the big leagues after World War II.
We cannot talk about the happenings at the Megeath House without remembering the music that filled the rooms from the Masonic Home Boys’ Band. It all started on Christmas morning, 1935, when members of Omaha’s Square and Compass Club arrived at the Home with musical instruments. Enthusiasm was great and regular practices were held. Soon flashy red, white and blue uniforms appeared, more instruments were obtained, and there were appearances by the band at Masonic functions, county and state fairs, and in parades nearby.
Many boys went on to share their musical talents after leaving the Home. Donald Retz played in the U.S. Navy Band and Robert Moore played with the Wayne King Orchestra. Boyd Cockerill, so skillful with the baton, led the Tech High band.
If only the Megeath House walls could talk…we’re certain they’d have much more to tell about all of the youngsters who passed through!