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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: No secrets growing up in the 1900s years ago

MARION HISTORICAL MUSEUM PHOTO

Young friends Marguerite Saggau and Mildred Harris pose for a 1900s picture entitled "A Secret I'll Keep."

Worldwide, it was the decade in which a Connecticut lunch wagon produced the first modern hamburger, the Tour de France bicycle race began, Albert Einstein wrote a monograph that later won him a Nobel Prize, and “The Great Train Robbery” became the first hugely successful movie in America.

In Marion, it was a time of music, clubs, social gatherings and, often, the silliness of youth.

Such was the era in which Marguerite Saggau and Mildred Harris, shown here posing for a picture entitled “A Secret I’ll Keep,” grew up.

A 1906 graduate of Marion High School, Marguerite, daughter of Marion farm equipment dealer J.D. Saggau, took half a year off from high school to study music in Texas.

She returned an accomplished pianist and frequent performer in community productions — “Brother Josiah” in 1906, “A Bachelor’s Reverie” in 1907, and as pianist with friend Mildred on violin and eventual husband Carl Sheldon on trombone between acts of a “Dan Cupid” performance in 1908.

Public performance began early in her life. At age 10, in 1897, she wrote a poem, published as advertising for a Marion coal and fuel oil company:

Mr. Myers he is the man

Who, no doubt, you all know,

That pours the oil into the can

Wherever he may go.

And when you gather

Around the grate upon a frosty night

Remember it is Myers’ coal

That burns the fire bright.

Begin to fix the coal sheds now,

To fix them snug and tight,

So you may pile in Myers’ coal,

And it will be all right.

So burglars prowling roundabout,

As oft they do at night,

Can’t possibly get Myers’ coal

With all their main and might.

At age 12, in 1899, she did a recitation at an otherwise all-adult Thanksgiving program put on by the Methodist Church’s Women’s Foreign Mission Society.

The next year, she performed in concert with other piano students. Throughout the decade she was a frequent guest of numerous social clubs — Athena and Thimble among them — while also organizing her own social groups, known as the Big Four, which sponsored a leap year girls-ask-boys party in 1905, and the Silly Seven, which entertained in 1907.

That same year, she also worked as “local editor” — essentially, society editor — of the Marion Headlight, one of three Marion newspapers at the time, all of which ended up merging into the Record.

In 1909, when she and Sheldon, who ran his father’s jewelry store, married, later to move to Topeka, the wedding march was played by longtime friend Mildred, daughter of Marion physician R.F. Harris.

Mildred also caught the bridal bouquet — a relatively new custom at the time — and, sure enough, later that year married Roy Williams with Marguerite playing the wedding march.

Mildred’s wedding was largely private, but Marguerite’s was a community event at her parents’ now demolished home at 2nd and Miller Sts. Included was a serenade by Marion’s famous Coronet Band, of which Sheldon was a member.

Marguerite died in 1970; Carl, in 1976. Both are buried in Marion Cemetery along with their daughter, Jacqueline, and her husband, Orville Ross.

Last modified March 20, 2019

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