When I saw the vintage photo of Coaching Day in Jeffersonville in Tuesday’s Democrat, it brought back some family memories. My great-grandfather William Kohler, who founded William Kohler and …
When I saw the vintage photo of Coaching Day in Jeffersonville in Tuesday’s Democrat, it brought back some family memories. My great-grandfather William Kohler, who founded William Kohler and Sons (now known as Kohler Lumber) back in 1907, often participated in these Coaching Days which were usually held on a Monday (!) in August.
On nyshistoricnewspapers.org you can find the archives of many old newspapers including the Sullivan County Record which was published in Jeffersonville from 1868 until 1970.
By searching for Jeffersonville Coaching Day, you can locate many articles stretching back to the early 1900’s.
According to the Record, the Jeffersonville Coaching Day of held on August 18, 1903, was a real doozy. The front-page headline proclaimed “Coaching Day! About 3,000 People in Town for the Parade Last Monday/ 30 Decorated Rigs in Line / The Greatest Event Ever Held in Jeffersonville! /The Weather Enticing and the People Gather Early-Main Street Blocked with Humanity and Vehicles-Decorations Surpass Other Years.”
Prizes were given to the best decorated float as well as the best single and double rig entrants. One of the winners caught my eye: “Single Rig, third, silver cup- Cart driven by Mark, the seven-year-old son of William Kohler, all in white.” Mark was my grandfather Percy Kohler’s older brother, who would go on to drive trucks at the lumber company.
On Coaching Day in 1914, Mark would go on to take First Place in the Double Rig dressed as Ben Hur driving a chariot. His prize was a brass fern dish.
Sidebar: I know you may be thinking that Charlton Heston was Ben Hur in 1955, but in reality, Ben Hur was a novel by Lew Wallace that had been first published in 1888 and according to Wikipedia became “the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century.” It was adapted for the stage and its first film iteration appeared in 1907. So Mark as Ben Hur was not an anachronism.
After the parade was over, a big ball was held at the Eagle Hall in Jeffersonville. Coaching Day was always a humdinger in Jeffersonville.
I have spent several hours searching the archives, but I could not locate the year that my great-grandfather William Kohler won for Best Float.
On this float, carpenters who worked for him built a two-story house on the float as it moved down the parade route. For this feat, he was awarded a cut glass pitcher which my sister Billie now cherishes. Great Aunt Evelyn, the youngest of William’s three children, shared this story with us.
My family’s Sullivan County roots run deep.