by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
If you are a resident of Grain Valley, you must have been held up by the trains that blocks the tracks on an almost daily basis. You may also know that without the tracks making an almost straight line from Oak Grove to Blue Springs there would not be a Grain Valley. Nearly 150 years ago when the Chicago and Alton Railroad made that decision there were not over 15,000 Grain Valley residents traveling north or south through our town. Sometimes we have to take a detour. But I’m getting “off track;” no pun intended.
Recently I was south of town when the train stopped and so I took the long way home, east down AA Highway (Old, old 40 Highway) to Lefholz Road, Howell Road and eventually Duncan Road. As I approached Monkey Mountain Park, I thought again of the many years I went there on Easter morning for Sunrise Service. For me, it is a treasured memory.
Easter was not just one day. It was a special season. Of course, it meant a new dress, new shoes and socks (usually with lace when I was young), a new hat, and new gloves. It meant getting up early to see what the Easter bunny had left for my brother and me. Did the Easter Bunny ever leave you a bunny, or a baby duck or chicken? It also meant spending all day Saturday helping Mom prepare potato salad, deviled eggs and other treats to go with the ham roasting in the oven, all in preparation for Easter Sunday dinner with relatives and friends.
But it was Easter day that was special. During the days before, the youth from church would go to clear any tree branches and debris that covered the path to the spot on the rocks that marked our tomb where the Easter pageant would take place. At the beginning I only remember members of our Church, but through the years it became a community service and the three churches at that time (the Christian, Baptist, and Methodist) all came together to celebrate the Risen Christ. I remember a few years when my family, along with others, would take our camp stove. After the service there would be eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits; a regular Sunrise feast!
Over the years, organizations in our town have sponsored gigantic Easter Egg Hunts. For several years, the churches had a community Good Friday service with special music performed by a combined choir made up of members from all three churches.
At some point, in the 1960s we stopped going to Monkey Mountain, but the service at Church and breakfast continued for several more years. When our church went to two services we discontinued the breakfast. I still miss this special time. Somehow, being “high up on Monkey Mountain” put me closer to the true meaning of Easter.
Photos of Easter celebrations from years gone by. Photo credit: Grain Valley Historical Society