Monday, March 31, 2008
It was seen often chugging through the streets of town, parked in front of the poolrooms, at Blue Mars, loaded down with kids cruisin' by the school, at the gym during events, and many other places including the Dairy Bar while it's owner was working.
Once all decked out with streamers and a couple of cuties it was at the front of a parade for an important ballgame. Maybe once seen limping home on a flat, once steaming a little, but always with a happy bunch of guys and gals hanging on the running boards and stuffed into the trunk.
It was only a two-seater but usually accommodated more than that at any time. Notice the foot and handprints all over the top, hood and running boards. At that time you could buy around 3 gallons of gas for fifty cents, so a nickel per rider usually kept the tank full!
Can you remember who its' owner was?
1 April, '08 additional story - Most of you remembered the old car. Several emails confirmed it as Larry's. The Dairy Bar hint was intended to be helpful.
Maybe you occasionally saw Darrell "Dog" Mathis on his bicycle hanging onto Larry's Model A and being pulled along. Darrell was often seen "hitch-riding" on cars like that. He would ride over to just anybody's slow moving vehicle and grab a door handle and hang on for a long way, until he had to go a different way or the car got too fast. Saw him one day going through Frankstown hanging onto a car headed for Booneville, I guess. Hope he had a return host that day.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Photo by Curly Copeland - submitted by Milton Copeland
Click to enlarge
This aerial photograph of the BHS and the area north of downtown Baldwyn shows that the damage of the two tornadoes only a few years before has been completely repaired. Notice that the gymnasium and woodworking shop have been completed. The date of the photo is said to be 1950. The lateness of the evening casts long shadows from the trees. Up is east.
From the Latimer home and barn in the upper left, where the road makes a 90-degree turn, to the then controversial concrete block home with a flat roof built by Carson Baker's family at the lower right, the detail is very good for an older photo.
The school, as the 40s and 50s students knew it, stands out with it's baseball diamond in front, the football field with bleachers, the primer/first grade/lunchroom building and the duplex home to the right of it, and of course, the principal's home nearby the gym. About this time Barry Henderson, recently discharged from the Air Force, lived in one side of the principal's home.
To the left of the gym is the drainage ditch that went through the tunnel under the fields. Look at the distance from end to end of the tunnel and try to imagine that dark, wet trip through it again. There was a slight right turn somewhere in the tunnel, I would guess about the spot where the shortstop position would be played on the baseball field.
The grass strip used by the local aircraft owners was just east of the line of trees at the top of the photo.
I just wish that a little more of the area to the left was shown so we could see Christine's Drive In. Trying to guess the time of year this was made - apparently summer since the foilage was thick and the football field wasn't striped with lime.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
In the early 1950s, broadcast radio in Prentiss County and the Baldwyn area was as full of diversity as one could imagine. There were many low-power stations locally with a variety of programming, mostly our favorite music, ballgames, and local and national news. If we, as youngsters, had an old car to run around in, and if it had an AM radio, that was a real luxury (if it worked). We loved music.
The best pop music stations were in Tupelo, WTUP and WELO. A great station to listen to was WVOK in Birmingham "The Mighty 690" ( see http://wvok-memories.tripod.com/ ). WVOK played a variety music format in those days. Whatever was in the top twenty chart in the pop and country category- they played it.
The local country station most listened to was WBIP in Booneville. Many humorous words were put to the station call letters: "We Built In Pasture", "Watch Booneville's Ignorant Players" (ball teams), and others too numerous to mention. The top draw at WBIP was an afternoon after-school show hosted by Jack Gardner, a very well liked DJ who would read request letters from listeners wanting top tunes of the time played for named couples. He would read the names in each letter and we thought that it was really cool (more appropriately then, "far out") to have your name mentioned on the radio. Although some "spoof" letters pairing some couples that didn't want to be done as such was read, the end result was that it was a lot of fun anyway.
Jack would also host as emcee/DJ for events. Once (or more) he hosted a cakewalk at the Baldwyn gymnasium. He was also seen at ballgames with a telephone hookup calling plays for the station to air. These were for Booneville games, or for their games away, such as at our gym.
At that period in time, it was forbidden to say things on-air that we hear everyday now - NO four-letter words and some songs were modified as they were played. One notably was Carl Perkins' hit "Blue Suede Shoes". When he sang "drink my liquor from an old fruit jar" the word "liquor" had to be cut out and not heard in our dry world. Jack was a master at that. Instead of cutting the word off, he would cut the audio and say a word like "pop" or "cola" or a variety of other words. We all waited patiently to hear what he would say; it was different each time. Jack would always emphasize the name "Ruby" when he read it in a letter. He would draw out the first syllable very long (Rooooo-bee) and there were a lot of gals by that name in those days.
Jack was a victim of multiple sclerosis and was partly paralyzed, causing severe problems with his walk and movement which got much worse later in his life. He was as active as possible in the community but eventually became immobile. Many of you may remember his wife Hazel who worked at NEMJC(now NEMCC) until about 1976 before retiring.
After dusk, when stations increased power, tuning across the AM band resulted in more reception of far away signals. We listened to WOAI, San Antonio, WSM, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry station, KMOX, St. Louis, WBAP, Fort Worth/Dallas, and many, many others. But it was a lot more fun to listen to WBIP when your and your "main squeeze" names were mentioned over the air!
Betcha didn't know that Jack Gardner had a more famous cousin - "Brother Dave" Gardner, who had several comedy record albums with such funny stories as "The Motorcycle Riders" (Chuck and Miss Baby), "Driving the Governor" (I thought he wanted to race, so I shoved the gearshift up into R), "Little David and Goliath" (He killed the giant with a flat smooth "Red River Rock"), and others. Brother Dave is the only comedian that we ever heard make stone-faced Dewey Phillips on WHBQ in Memphis laugh.
Thanks to Sue (Kimbrell) Honeycutt of Booneville who greatly assisted with some facts of this article.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
In the fall of 1962 the college town of Oxford, Mississippi, erupted in violence. At the center of the controversy stood James Meredith, an African American who was attempting to register at the all-white University of Mississippi - "Ole Miss." During the ensuing riots and skirmishes, two people died and dozens were injured.
The Mississippi National Guard stood with Federal Marshals and the eventual intervention of US Army troops that came to the campus. NG units from Tupelo, Baldwyn, Booneville and other cities were either activated or on standby.
Some "veterans" of the so-called Battle of Oxford have expressed a desire to open a dialogue with others that were there.If you would like to share your experiences and stories of your time during that period, leave any comments here or use the email group address to contact Bobby Hamblin.
Monday, March 24, 2008
I found this photo on the internet by accident. It was taken in front of the "old" Hill Homeplace in Wheeler, Mississippi around 1935. Do you remember any of them? I'm sure you'll recognize "hizzoner" Bernard Coggins. Many of the others were prominent Baldwyn residents, especially the Coggins family. I thought at first the photo date might be wrong, but Bernard looks to be about 12 years old then and he was a veteran of WWII, so that could be about right. Clyde Hill (father to Ted Hill) later was school superintendent at Wheeler HS. Audie and Ollie Coggins helped pioneer the weekly newspaper and the first theatres in Baldwyn. My dad worked for them in both businesses, he told me.
Left to Right - Back Row: Unknown, Ruby Robertson Hill, Columbia Hill, Jeffie Hill Brinkley, Essie Hill Coggins, Ollie Hill Coggins, Viola Hill, Clara Hill Stubblefied, Anna Lee Hill Leach.
Middle Row: Dora Hill Miller,child in lap-Bill Miller, Clyde Hill, Dock Hill, Almys Brinkley, Herman Coggins, Audie Coggins, Howard Stubblefield, Fred Leach
Front Row: Carolyn Miller, Bobby Miller, Doris Coggins, Bernard Coggins, Child, Kenneth Brinkley, child in lap-Conwell Coggins, Harole Stubblefield, Child in lap-Gloria Coggins, Malcolm Stubblefield, Lenoir Coggins.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Baldwyn's "Babe" McCarthy was affectionately known as 'Ol Magnolia Mouth because of his so-called "honey-dew Mississippi drawl." In fact, Babe could always be counted on to come up with appropriate "Babe-isms" during games to motivate his players. "Babe-isms" were short funny phrases that earned McCarthy his nickname. A few of the more famous (and often used) Babe-isms were:
"Boy, I gotta tell you, you gotta come out at 'em like a bitin' sow,"
"My old pappy used to tell me the sun don't shine on the same dog's butt every day,"
"Why panic at five in the mornin' because it's still dark out?" and
"Now, let's cloud up and rain all over 'em."
McCarthy may best be remembered for his team crossing the color line in the segregated south of the 1960s. Even before it was certain that Mississippi State would face Loyola of Chicago and their four black starters, racist elements in the Mississippi media got into the act. On Thursday, March 7, 1963 the Jackson Daily News printed a picture of Loyola's starters to show that four of them were African Americans. As a caption to the picture, Daily News editor Jimmy Ward wrote that "readers may desire to clip the photo of the Loyola team and mail it today to the board of trustees of the institution of higher learning" to prevent the game from taking place. State got the invitation. A temporary injunction against the team leaving the state was drafted and sent to the campus by state police.
The team's original plan was to leave Starkville at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. But learning that the Hinds County sheriffs would be expected to arrive in town at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night to enforce the injunction, MSU put their sophisticated contingency plan into effect.
Coach McCarthy, the athletic director, and the assistant athletic director drove to Memphis, and then flew to Nashville. The team itself sent the freshman squad to the airport as scheduled-posing as the varsity team. The real varsity team hid in a dorm on campus. The next morning, they boarded a private plane at the airport and flew to Nashville to meet up with the coach and team officials. From Nashville, the whole group took a commercial flight to the game at East Lansing, Michigan.
State lost that game, but the deceptive tactics used to get to the game is still talked about when Babe's name is mentioned.
Friday, March 21, 2008
-Photo by Curley Copeland - Thanks to Milton Copeland
(Click to enlarge)
This photo of a 1950 BHS band parade on Clayton Street shows a part of town that has changed very dramatically in fifty years. Looking left, you can see part of Al's Cafe, formerly Murray White's Cafe. The long building with many windows was the so called "shirt factory". I think it was named the Baldwyn Garment Factory at the time, before becoming Blue Bell and moving to a new location on US45 North. (I'm not sure of the name at that time period ??)
Next is the power company building, where Mr. Grady Nanney worked. Although largely crippled. he could fly about the office on his rolling office chair. A robust push on his desk would propel him swiftly across the room to a file cabinet or other destination. When asked why he didn't have everything he needed placed close to his desk, he would say that was the only way he could get any exercise. He had a very powerful grip while handshaking. Hardly anyone could overpower him in an arm wrestling challenge.
The small building was an office for Victor Davis. He made loans and notarized papers there. It was just large enough to hold an enormous safe, which was left open even when he walked away for coffee, and a desk with a checkerboard always on it. One other corner was devoted to a stack of several years' issues of Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press-Scimitar, and other newspapers.
Farther East is the water company building with the "room full of water" that was treated by Mr. McVey prior to pumping up to the tank a block away. Mrs. McVey worked as bookkeeper upstairs.
At the end of the block was Cunningham's Grocery and Market. You could buy a half-STICK of some of the best bologna ever made for a couple of bucks. That was a really busy place on Saturdays, as was the entire town. Merchants donated a few dollars to a cash-prize drawing that occurred about 2 or 3 PM and was the traffic stopping event of the day in the center of town.
The most important structure in this area, not seen in the photo, but fondly remembered is the "one-holer" behind Cunningham's. If you had an emergency while downtown, it was the best place to go. You hoped it wouldn't be occupied upon your arrival, but was occasionally. If there was no paper, which more than likely would have been an outdated Sears catalog, you could exit and clean up a few steps to the left at a combination antique hand pump/running water faucet on the Davis Lumber Company lot. Requirement: be sure and sprinkle a bit of lime through the hole before leaving!
John Olan (or Jimmy), isn't there an old story about someone being locked up in the outhouse and a red-devil whistling torpedo thrown in through the opening near the top? Please comment!
Milton Copeland would like to have the band members identified. Let us know if you recognize anyone.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
From the "Booneville Pleader" newspaper, 1882:
Dr. W.J. Rogers of Marietta sent a wire Tuesday. His message was in obedience to an invitation extended to our subscribers sometime ago and his response was prompt and agreeable. We learn from the doctor that the hotel at Marietta will be completed by the 15th of June, and "ample accommodations will be made for all visitors who may wish to test the curative properties of the Purple Shell Mineral Springs."
The earliest buildings constructed in Baldwyn were a log store and log blacksmith shop. The first real frame house or building was a two-story building hauled by wagon in sections from Marietta and reassembled. Marietta buildings were sold and shipped to other locations when business declined at the springs.
Chief Tishomingo, a Chickasaw war chief during the "Red Stick War" against the Creeks, was a believer in the healing powers of the waters of the Marietta springs and the many others that were found near Baldwyn and scattered about the area east of town. He and other chiefs would soak away the pain and wounds of battle and drink the waters. A pow-wow was held in Iuka and Marietta yearly for the Chickasaw nation leaders to enjoy the springs and plan their strategies.
When the chief is said to have died in 1841, he was reportedly more than 100 years old, so maybe the water had a profound effect. The name "Tishomingo" was probably an American corruption of "tisho miko," which was a title (assistant chief) rather than a name.
Chief Tishomingo at one time lived in what is now the Bethany community, in the northwestern part of Lee County, but at the time of Tishomingo's residence that area was a part of Pontotoc County. There Tishomingo owned two sections of land.
His daughter, Tippah, was a beautiful princess and the County of that name is in honor of her.
Miss Jessie Archer wrote a poem "Nemo-Akim" in the 1930s that was published in the high school annual and local newspapers of that time, among other places.
Submitted by Henry E. Outlaw:
NEMO-AKIM (THE PURPLE SHELL)
(This legend refers to one of the group of springs at Marietta, MS, which is supposed to contain the Nemo-Akim or Purple Shell of the Indians)
When the red man here was monarch, as the old-time legends tell,
Once he owned a priceless treasure, 'twas a shining purple shell,
And it held the power of healing, hid within its mystic hue,
He who touched its polished surface pain and sickness never knew.
Oft it healed the wounded warrior, with the foe before his face,
Oft refreshed the bleeding hunter, faint, returning from the chase,
Oft when burning, deadly fever smote the red man with its breath,
Purple shell, the Nemo-Akim, saved him from the sleep of death.
Far across the distant mountain, hunters came o'er rock and dell,
Many weary moons they wandered, just to touch the magic shell,
Long was it the red man's treasure, guarded with a jealous care,
Long was it the red man's blessing, Nemo-Akim bright and fair.
Autumn's painted leaves were burning, dancing, falling soft and still
When a spring was gurgling, rippling, in the sands beneath the hill;
When the mighty Chief Makonah, paused to rest him in the shade,
Gazing on the limpid waters where the gay leaves danced and played.
Then the bright-hued leaves in circles, flutter'd round the warrior's head,
"Let the great Makonah listen, he is thirsty now," they said:
"He must drink from Nemo-Akim, then his slumbers will be sweet,
And the leaves shall dance together, in the sunlight at his feet."
Then the chief, as in a vision, saw them dancing as they fell,
And he, in the laughing waters, idly dipped the purple shell.
But it slipped between his fingers, bright waves snatched it from his hand,
Then in vain, the mighty sachem, sought it in the shallow sand.
Then he came before his people, on his face in anguish fell,
"Woe my brothers, to Makonah, he has lost the purple shell.
Nemo-Akim! Oh my people, let the careless warrior die.
He has lost the red man 's treasure, never shall your tears be dry."
Then from every scattered wigwam, every lodge beside the rill,
Came the warrior and the maiden, to the spring beneath the hill;
Vainly searching, searching, searching, till the red man's heart was sore.
But no hunter, squaw, nor sachem, ever saw the treasure more.
In the sands where Nemo-Akim vanished from Makonah's sight,
Bubbled forth a fresher fountain, it was clear and pure and bright,
And it held the power of healing, still they came and found it true,
He who drank its limpid waters, pain or sickness never knew.
Long, oh! long ago has vanished of the red man's every trace,
From the hillside and the hollows, that were once his dwelling place,
Every token has departed, where his tribe were wont to meet,
And his ashes long have mingled, with the dust beneath our feet.
But that spring is gushing, rippling, in the sand beneath the hill,
Where concealed from white man's vision, Nemo-Akim lieth still;
Still its healing balm distilling, thro the bubbles as they rise,
From the heart of Nemo-Akim that in viewless splendor lies.
Still when autumn paints the forest, with her tints of red and gold,
Bright leaves dance again in circles, gaily as they did of old;
Holding every breeze enchanted, while they keep their mystic spell-
Thus they hold their yearly revels, o're the spring of purple shell.
And 'tis said the red man's spirit, to this fountain as of yore'
When the midnight moon is beaming, brings his earthen cup once more,
Quaffs again the healing waters, that are gushing, rippling still,
O're the long lost Nemo-Akim in the sands beneath the hill.
- Miss Jessie Archer, Baldwyn, MS
Monday, March 17, 2008
Remember the way Mr. George Gentry could take a pound of ground beef, add flour and seasonings and wind up with three pounds of a mixture to fry up in patties and put on a burger bun? Don't get the idea that there is a garden dwelling, crawling, slimy critter somewhere involved because of the name. That is definitely not the case. In Baldwyn years ago, the word "slug" meant something we would try in a coin machine and the slimy crawler was called a "snail". The burger's name is derived from the original price - a nickel - which was called a "slug".
I have eaten a few hundred slugburgers over the years, and when in Corinth usually stop at Borroum's Drug Store for one or two and an old-fashioned milkshake, both of them the best around. The slugburger is still available all over the three corners (MS, TN, AL) area. There are at least two suppliers that make and distribute the mixture and vary a little on the spices for a certain restaurant. In Baldwyn it is called a "doughburger" and if you order a slugburger you get a frown but they know what you mean.
The burgers are made quite differently these days using soy grits as filler instead of flour and meal. Mr. Gentry made his really good, but when he moved to his new restaurant on south Second Street, Jake Lindsey moved his cafe into that building and the "mealburgers", as he called them, weren't as good.
The little burgers are so well liked by so many folks that there is a slugburger festival in Corinth during the Summer each year. It is a really big event with live bluegrass bands and the works.
A better explanation and a history of the slugburger is at:
It is told that a customer at Gentry's was eating a bowl of beef stew and found a bug in it. "Scram" grabbed it and hurriedly took it away. He told the customer never to say anything about it to anyone - they would want one in theirs, too...
Photo of Slugburger courtesy of Linda Stradley, on the web site What's Cooking America.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
On this day 66 years ago Baldwyn was struck not once, but twice by tornadoes during a 35-minute period. March 16, 1942 was a Monday, and the storms came in the late afternoon between 4 and 5 PM as I have read on the back of a photo.
A widespread outbreak of tornadoes had occurred across Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana. As many as 25 tornadoes of F2 intensity or greater were recorded. Seventy-five fatalities occurred in Mississippi.
The two tornadoes that hit the town (one category F4 and the other F3) were only 35 minutes apart. Not expecting anything such as that, the residents were caught off-guard. After the first strike, people went hunting for their family that had not been with them and were caught in cars and away from shelter when the second twister struck.
The photos above are:
Top: the Christian Church damage.
Left Top - Looking West on Thomas Street from then-US45 (now Fourth Street).
Left Center - Brownie Coggins' Service Station on then-US45.
Left lower - The school the next day - At the center of the photo is the boiler room and part of the chimney (looking NW).
Herb Spivey told me of his extraordinary experience in that storm. If you would, Herb, please write in the comments section of your scary and very lucky ordeal. I have forgotten some key points.
In the aftermath of the March 16, 1942 tornadoes the Caldwell Clinic was very busy with wounded and traumatic patients. That night, by candlelight, Lanny Outlaw was born. The doctors and nurses used all available lighting for treating patients for several days until power was restored.
Double-click on each photo or copy the photos and open in your viewer for better clarity.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
The science lab at BHS was lots of fun. We always knew we were going to see something different, amazing, or yucky. Dissection was only for the bravest. Worms weren't so bad to cut up, some of us had being doing that and putting them on fish hooks since an early age. Boiling water and adding chemicals to it to cause spewing and bubbling over into the floor was OK, but caused a big mess, and we sometimes wondered why that was necessary. But, if you reasoned about it, it became evident that there WAS some science at work that would be beneficial to you.
While I was there, Mr. Gaddis (hope I got that right) was the Science teacher and was he cool! He was, I realize now, a true redneck speech expert but only when he wanted to be. His teaching ability was just about average, but I could learn easier listening to him than any other teacher. He had an unusual classroom manner - he used the long room window shade ropes to fashion a lariat which he could twirl just as good as Will Rogers. It was, of course, too small for him to twirl around his big waist, but twirl he did nevertheless, sometimes around his head. There was usually a hangman's noose or two he made and left hooked to the shades, and he would state that they were for the guys that messed something up. Imagine a teacher getting by with that these days! Grover was really good in the lab, and Mr. Gaddis called him "Grover-Leo" a spin off of Galileo (the ancient physicist), I suppose.
We learned to do some things, and some things we learned not to do. One of the do-nots had to do with phosphorous. It has a low kindling point and will burst into flames at room temperature, so it's kept under water. After handling some barehanded one day, and wiping his hands on a cotton hanky, James Lominick went to the next class. In a short time he felt heat on his butt and pulled the hanky out of his pocket in flames. I don't recall him getting into trouble, but it took some explaining.
I did get into some minor trouble while in a class (not science) once. I was using a magnifying glass and the sun coming in a window to create a burn point (as I had learned in Science class) onto a big bug that had crawled across the floor. Just a few seconds of the burning caused the bug to explode with a very audible bang. Miriam Baker sent me to the office with a report that I blew up a bug. Just got a stern warning. Mr. Gaddis had no explanation of what caused the bug to explode.
And, I still have some notes that were written in a "Big Chief" tablet and some others in a "Write-Right" pad. There was another notebook brand "Blue Horse" that had a cut-out coupon for something. I can't ever recall getting anything with the coupons. These were all bought at the school store near the inside door to the boy's restroom. I probably bought them from Martin Howard, an attendant. I have looked and don't find those brands anywhere these days.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Dr. Henry Outlaw requested this tribute be posted here. It is a fitting memorial in verse to a good friend of ours from long ago.
In my dream I meet my dead friend. I ask, "How you been?" She grins and looks at me. "I been eating peaches off some mighty fine trees."
Her face was the face of dreams,
As time goes by, and memory shapes itself
Around the heart, I cannot always be sure of
What I remember; cannot even know for
sure if it was real or not, or whether it ever
was at all. But it doesn’t matter in the end,
So long as it is real to me and I can carry it with
me into the life that remains.....
There comes a day
when the light glints through the evening shade
when the cicadas slow their call,
when the north breeze cools your face,
when streams and sky blend a blue color,
when the autumn days begin their short run,
when the church bell tolls clear,
when the leaves go gold as an evening sunset,
when light and color and sound and time change to a softer tone,
when the chestnut burrs plop quickly to the earth,
when, in a gust of wind, the chinkapins are falling,
when summer is over but the sun is warm again,
when the great shadows lengthen in the fields,
when the wild geese, high in the evening sky,
spread out over the the landscape
I think of you.
For now October has come back again,
The strange and lonely month comes back again,
And you will not return.
-Henry E. Outlaw
In memory of Monte Jean Caldwell who died in a
tragic automobile accident near Lebanon Mountain, MS
in October, 1957.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Thanks, as best as I recall, to Ellis Wayne for the photo.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Did Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth spend the last years of his life hiding out in a house in Guntown, MS? Did Thomas Edison visit the same area to promote the use of his improved telegraph machine, and did Jesse James use the local hotel as a hideout before robbing a nearby bank? These are just a few of the historical mysteries surrounding the community of Guntown in northern Lee County.
After the war ended and wounded soldiers left Guntown, another injured man with a much more sinister past may have moved in. John Wilkes Booth, who broke his leg leaping from a box in Ford's Theatre after firing the shot that killed President Abraham Lincoln, supposedly perished in a Virginia barn fire only 12 days after the assassination. But many local residents still believe today that the body found in those ashes belonged to another man and that Booth actually fled south to spend the remaining years of his life living quietly among their ancestors.
As the legend goes, Guntown resident Dr. John Fletcher Booth hosted a mysterious family visitor in his home in the years after Lincoln's assassination. Emily Epting Pressey, Dr. Booth's granddaughter, told local newspapers in the 1970s and '80s that she had some possible evidence that the houseguest was her grandfather's cousin, John Wilkes Booth.
Further backing up the Guntown story, Booth's presumed death in Virginia has been disputed by a faction of historians who say federal officials may have acted to cover up the truth--that they lost track of the country's most wanted man. And for good measure, here's another plot-thickener: Booth may have had another tie to Mississippi in the form of a wealthy Pontotoc County plantation owner who might have met the murderer in Canada and was "at least knowledgeable of, if not involved in, the plot against Lincoln," according to a 1985 Daily Journal article.
The presence of an unmarked grave in the local Booth family cemetery, now part of a privately owned pasture, has only fueled the flame of this legend. In 1990, an anonymous person added a marker to the site that reads "John Wilkes Booth, Born 1838, Died Unknown, Rest in Peace."
WATCH THE VIDEO:
Friday, March 7, 2008
A photo of the Bearcat football team at some point in time. This was the old football field on the school grounds. You can see the "Visitors" goalpost in the background near the highway (old US45). During a game, when a point-after or field goal was attempted, someone would run into the highway and stop traffic until the kick was completed, recover the ball, and throw it back over the fence. One night Bernis Tapp stopped a large truck which evidently irritated the driver. Just before the kicker got to the ball, the trucker blew a long blast on the air horns and the poor guy missed the ball completely. I don't recall if the OK was given to repeat the kick or not.
Another story of this location is the drainage ditch tunnel that ran under the football field, baseball field, and part of the yard of Mr. Baker's house. It started at the back of Roy Strickland's house (near the home bleachers) and ended at the back of the Frank Norman home. An initiation for something (The Purple Raiders?) required a trip through the tunnel without a light. That seemed an eternity for first-timers. They were put into the tunnel first and pushed through. I believe that was the first time I ever got heart palpitations and a blood pressure rise. It was pitch black dark in the middle.
How many of the players can you identify? At least nine of them were at the reunion Friday night dinner in 2007.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
and, most likely now, will outlast me as well.
I help Laurie lift it up the winding stairway
into her third-floor apartment.
Underneath the countless layers of refinishes and paint,
it’s white pine, and with the three drawers removed,
not heavy at all, since memories are not weighted
It was my Christmas gift in the seventh grade.
My father had Carl Martin, the parts man at Prather Auto,
by avocation a woodworker, make it for me.
Not long after that Carl saved the Prather building,
and maybe several lives, by grabbing a flaming oil pan
in his bare hands and carrying it into the street,
receiving for his bravery a thank you from the owners
and a $200 hospital bill.
Later Carl was my warrant officer in the National Guard,
and we helped defend James Meredith at Ole Miss.
I used it through high school, left it at my parents’ house
during college, loaned it to my brother-in-law for two years,
reclaimed it for graduate school, using it as a typewriter stand
for the old Royal that Kaye’s dad had acquired for her college use
by trading a heifer calf.
She and I both sat at the desk and used the typewriter
to prepare our graduate school papers.
In Missouri over the last forty years it has been our desk,
our son’s desk, Kaye’s sewing table, a computer desk,
and now our daughter’s desk.
In its various avatars it has been shellacked, stained mahogany,
painted green and then white.
Laurie eyes it curiously, already planning its next color,
but she’d better know if she ever offers it in a garage sale,
I’ll disinherit her.
- Bobby Hamblin
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Some parents were called, but no serious consequences resulted. John's father, Papa Red-Mr.O.O., a real no-nonsense kind of fellow, actually found a bit of humor in the prank. However, for many years to come when Mr. Baker would see John O. at ball games, he would ask him if he still smelled like a goat.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
In the summers of our youth, there was nothing better in the midday heat than to take a refreshing dip (skinny-dipping allowed) in the closest cool water we could get to fast. There were numerous places like that, but since most of us didn't have, or even own, a pair of real "swimming trunks", we would have to go far from prying eyes.
There were many "wash-holes" and moving water creeks to choose from. We had Okelala, Twenty Mile, and fish ponds such as Rowan's, the lake out east at the turn to Pratt (the "fish lake"), a very snaky one at Ratliff's, and many others. Someone with an automobile at the pool room only had to mention the idea that we should go, and he would have a loaded vehicle in seconds. There would even be some riders on the fenders and running boards if needed. I always tried to chip in on gas to the tune of a nickel or dime, just so the driver didn't think I was a deadbeat.
To keep up with the dozens of swimmin' holes, they were aptly named something by the users if they weren't named already. I would have to think a while to recall most of them, but I am certain that the most remembered, although not the most-used was "Blue Mars". I haven't a clue as to how that name was given to the rippling falls and deep washout, but Dr. Henry Outlaw (Bo, as he was known then) has written a short verse about the place, and I'll bet he is right-on with the origin.
One Sunday afternoon after a couple of hours of playing in the water there, a couple of adults came by and began feeling up under the bank for fish. They soon came out with a decent-sized moccasin which we hadn't known about. Well, at that time we decided it was time to get back to town, amid the laughing of the "grabblers". Maybe they just wanted to run us off. They succeeded beyond expectations.
Take the cotton gin road
Past the airport
Leading down to Prather’s Bottom
A field road,
Dotted with farm houses,
Negro and white sharecroppers
Both with patches of cotton and corn,
Then to the artesian well,
Cool water spurts forth like time,
Constant as the seasons,
Quaff for families farming on shares.
Below the well a path,
Down a sandy bank
To the swimming hole
In blue clay where mules and stock mired up;
The Blue Mars
Hued out by many floods,
A hole deep and blue
As the fall sky after a rain,
Water forced deep
By a water fall,
Aerated and pure.
Where only the brave and strong-willed
May touch bottom,
Where water runs deep
And cold in the summertime.
Lined with white hissing sand
Sifted over many years
From the creek bank,
Home of sun perch, bream and goggle eye,
Cottonmouths claim the waters
Edge behind logs
Where flow is silent and still.
Above the boundary of sandy beach
Giant cottonwoods stand like sentinels,
Reflected in Blue Mars,
Guardians of the river bank.
When the wind blows
The leaves clap like a thousand
People in the Tabernacle,
Like an audience’s applause at an opera.
On a calm day you can hear
The carolina wrens and white throat sparrows
Call out in the high branches.
Beyond the creek
The Indian mound
Looms over the bottom land;
Sacred burial grounds,
Some ancient culture
That peopled the land
For untold centuries;
Where Indian spirits whisper,
A voice from another time,
Resonant in the leaves of cottonwood
and babbling in the crystal
Waters of Blue Mars.
A harp of voices somewhere
In the high pines.
Where coons come to drink
And wash clams by moonlight,
Where bobcat, deer, and bear
Roam and suck the
What track is frozen in clay
With sharks teeth of another age?
Do the cottonwoods applaud their past?
Does the fountain
Boil over their bones?
In the depths of Blue Mars
Where is their secret?
Who will touch the bottom
And bring back that ancient clay?
Henry E. Outlaw
Monday, March 3, 2008
Some said it was the fault of Curtis Tappmeyer. Others blamed the fiasco on Sister Beulah Clark or our friend Grady. Still others named Sam Huddleston and Jimbo Boynton as the culprits. I suppose you might even say, when you get right down to it, that the old general himself, the Confederate hero Nathan Bedford Forrest, was responsible. My Aunt Mary, a hardshell Baptist, insisted it was all predestined to happen. And Howard Huckaby, the only educated member of our community, likened the events to the actions of the Greek Furies.
Whichever the case, the whole sorry episode led to the banning of baseball at Brice’s Cross Roads, and that, I’m convinced to this very day, cost me my chance to play in the big time.
It all started with the monument. That’s why the general may have been to blame. On June 10, 1864 old N.B.’s cavalry surprised the hell out of General Sturgis’s Union forces at Tishomingo Creek and Brice’s Cross Roads and claimed one of the most celebrated victories in all of Confederate history. The oldtimers who sat on the front porch of my father’s general store, just across the road from the monument, whittling or playing dominoes or checkers and spitting tobacco juice into the dust and gravel, recounted the story over and over, sometimes for visitors and feature writers from the Memphis Commercial Appeal or the Chicago Sun Times but mostly for their own amusement.
“Yes-sir-ee,” they would say. “Old Forrest sent them Yankees a-scamperin’ back to where they come from. And with a bayonet prickin’ their ass at every step.”
They loved to tell how Sturgis force-marched his army for seven days from Memphis hoping to engage Forrest and thus protect the supply lines for Sherman’s march to the sea. And how, after the ambush by Forrest’s cavalry, Sturgis’s army, its tail between its legs, made it back to Memphis in just three days. Of course they were traveling light on the return trip, having left behind most of their wagons and cannons and supplies, and several hundred corpses and prisoners (as the monument recorded) to boot. No doubt about it, the oldtimers related, old Nathan Bedford really kicked some Yankee ass that day. Why, to listen to those stories, you would have thought, as all of us kids did, that the South had won the whole war.
Anyway, they built a monument to commemorate the battle, and surrounded it with a lush green, perfectly manicured lawn and a six-foot steel-wire fence. Then they erected a flagpole and stationed cannon on each side of the monument and planted a historical marker with a map of the battlefield and got the park listed in the National Register of Historic Places. So that, by the time Gene and Sonny and Cootie and Joe Nathan (who was named after David’s best friend in the Bible) and James and Billy Joe and Hugh Ray and I and all the rest of our gang came along, Brice’s Cross Roads had become a popular tourist stop for civil War buffs and historians; and the local farmers and unemployed factory workers would sit on the store’s front porch, munching on their hoop cheese and crackers and moon pies and sip on their R.C. Colas while waiting for their wives to come home from their jobs at the shirt factory in town, and bemusedly watch the out-of-state visitors walking the grounds and retracing the troop movements in General Forrest’s greatest victory.
But it was not the historical and military significance of the place that attracted the kids of the community to the park. It was that wide expanse of neatly trimmed lawn, that green jewel among the dry, dusty yards and fields—an ideal layout for the pickup games we played every chance we got. Even the high school and town park playing fields scattered across north Mississippi had bare dirt infields, so the Civil War park at Brice’s Cross Roads, though no larger than a Little League diamond, presented a temptation too grand to be resisted. And, again unlike most of those other fields, ours had a fence, one close enough to occasionally power a home run over and tall enough to lean against to snag a high fly. When we didn’t have the ten or twelve players needed to field two opposing teams, we would play makeshift games by bouncing the ball off the monument. Its broad surface, with its decorative curves and angles, would ricochet ground balls, line drives, and pop flies in all directions. For us kids it was a perfect baseball setup. In fact, it seemed to us at ages nine and ten and eleven that the sole purpose of the Civil War had been to provide us with this magical place to play our favorite sport.
The only obstacle to our fun was Curtis Tappmeyer. He was the custodian of the park. The story was that he had secured the job because he was a disabled veteran of World War I, though no one seemed to know exactly what his disability was. He seemed healthy enough to us kids, especially when he got his dander up. A short, rotund little man with sharp, piercing eyes and a limping gait, he lived in a small frame house on the lot adjacent to the park. All day long (we were convinced) he stood at his window, peering around the curtain and just waiting to rush screaming and swearing at us kids if we dared set foot upon his sacred ground. (Years later when I first witnessed a Billy Martin tirade I was reminded of the temper tantrums Curtis Tappmeyer used to throw.) Though his disability (he said) prevented him from doing any work more strenuous than standing idly by while Nippy, the black gardener, mowed the grass and raised the two flags to the top of the flagpole—the American one, to the disgust of the diehard oldtimers, flying above the Confederate one, and quite frequently both of them mounted upside down—it was health be damned when he came charging out of his house and across the field to terrorize the Stan Musials and Ewell Blackwells and Joe Dimaggios of Brice’s Cross Roads.
But we country kids of Brice’s Cross Roads were no less ingenious and pragmatic than our counterparts in Baldwyn or other neighboring towns, so we had predictably found a way to circumvent Curtis’s rage and slip into the park unseen. Every day around high noon Curtis would enter the Baptist Church, situated just across the road from the park, climb the ladder into the dark, steamy attic, strip down to his birthday suit, and take his daily “sweat bath.” For the next hour or so he would sit there (as we imagined the scene) in that suffocating, airless heat, with the perspiration dropping from his body like slow curves and rolling down the loose folds of flesh onto the attic floor and falling through the ceiling cracks onto the pulpit and pews below. He insisted that this was the only means of ridding his body of its gross impurities, and that without this regular “treatment,” he would die within a matter of weeks. We didn’t know about that, or care. All we knew was that when he entered the church we would have the next hour and more to play unhindered in the park. So as soon as Curtis disappeared through the front door of the church we would spring from behind Willie Quinn’s barn, our arms loaded with balls, bats, and gloves, unhinge and pour through the park gate, and resume the game for the All-Time Championship of the Whole Wide World.
On this particular day, however, all the Fates were working overtime to wreak havoc on our best-laid plans. As events turned out, we would have been better off if we’d gone searching for Minie balls in the gullies and creek bed or skinny-dipping in Barmore Agnew’s pond. But then, how could we have possibly known that we were in for a rout and riot that would rival Sturgis’s ambush and retreat for confusion and chaos?
Our first miscalculation was that we agreed to let Grady play. Grady was an adult, at least age- and size-wise, but mentally he had been left stranded on first base. To us, though, he was just another kid, as he was always hanging around and begging to be a part of our childhood games: checkers or monopoly around the pot-bellied stove in the store, basketball or football in Jim Parham’s back yard, washers or marbles or mumble-peg under the cool shade trees behind the Baptist Church. Grady’s forte was football: with his bulk and strength he cold advance the ball with one of us kids astride his back and two more draped around his waist and leg. He wasn’t very good at baseball, with his big feet and all thumbs and slow, lumbering swing, but he could occasionally get hold of a pitch and loft it over the fence and sometimes over the road into the churchyard or the adjoining cemetery. That’s why we seldom let him play in the battlefield park: he hit the ball (when he hit it) so hard and so far that we lost valuable playing time chasing the ball, frequently having to search for it among the tombstones. And wouldn’t you know that this would have to be the very day that Grady would hit the longest home run in the history of Brice’s Cross Roads baseball—not only over the fence and across the road and onto the church grounds but with one bounce right through the stained glass window of the Baptist Church.
Now that would have catastrophe enough, but it so happened that this was the day for the monthly potluck dinner and prayer meeting of the Women’s Missionary Union. Ordinarily we were grateful when a church meeting coincided with Curtis’s daily sweat bath, since we knew he would be trapped upstairs until the meeting adjourned and, as a result, we would have longer to play, or at least an advance warning of his impending exit. But no such good fortune on this day. When Grady’s long drive crashed through the window, raining shards of colored glass into the midst of the women (I have this part from my mother, who was a member of the WMU) at just the moment when Sister Beulah Clark was leading the group in prayer for the missionaries in China and imploring the Lord to “Come, Lord Jesus” and establish His Kingdom on Earth, Sister Beulah lifted her head and let our a victory shout that we kids heard all the way across the road and recognized as hers because we had been hearing it at brush arbor revival meetings all of our lives. Apparently thinking that the crashing of the window was the archangel Gabriel breaking through the veil of eternity to announce the Second Coming, Sister Beulah opened her eyes and shouted for joy just as Curtis Tappmeyer, wearing not a stitch, came scampering down from the church attic. (What happened next I learned from general hearsay; my mother’s eyes, I’m sure, were closed from this point on.)
Curtis, of course, was under no delusions whatever about the Second Coming being at hand. When he heard that window break he knew exactly what had happened, and all he could think of was that those no-good rascal kids were trampling once more on his newly-mowed grass. And that he would never tolerate, whether clothed or naked. So, altogether disregarding his pile of clothes, and with sweat streaming from every pore, Curtis scooted down the ladder, charged through the group of astonished, now wide-eyed women (except, of course, my mother), exited the church, and raced toward the baseball game across the road.
By this time all the Fates had turned their hilarious and mischievous gaze on Brice’s Cross Roads and wanted to get in on the action. “It’s my turn!” “No, it’s mine!” “Let me play!” they jostled one another, falling all over each other in their haste and excitement to add to the confusion. One of the sisters cast her spell toward Jimbo Boynton, while another zeroed in on Sam Huddleston.
Jimbo Boynton was a veteran of the Korean War who was having trouble settling into civilian life once again. “He’ll be allright,” his mother said. “He just needs more time to find himself.” To give him a little more time, my father hired him on occasion to help out with the clerking in the store. Maybe it was the recent experience of Korea, or maybe it was the proximity of the battlefield and the monument and the cannons, but for some reason Jimbo still fancied himself a soldier. He always showed up at work wearing combat boots and fatigues and an ammo belt strapped around his waist. My father put his foot down, though, the day Jimbo came into the store carrying a carbine and live ammo; but he did allow Jimbo to bring with him the large, machete-like sword he said he had taken off a North Korean at Pork Chop Hill. Jimbo used the sword to slice the hoop cheese and bologna for the field hands and telephone linemen and farmers’ wives who were our principal customers. He also waved the sword to accentuate the war stories he told and to threaten us kids when we proved too bothersome. And he used it about once a week to keep Sam Huddleston in line.
Sam Huddleston was the local drunk. Sober, he was kind and civil and polite, but when operating under the influence he was vulgar and uncouth and, in the opinion of some, even a little dangerous. Unlike many heavy boozers, Sam was never content to do his drinking in private. With his first few drinks, he would stuff his bottle into the pocket of his overalls, slide behind the wheel of his pickup truck, and make a beeline to the front porch of the general store, where he would publicly proclaim his opinion, cursing and ranting all the while, on every subject known to man. Or at least such had been his habit until Jimbo Boynton returned, armed with carbine and machete, home from the war.
Jimbo’s actual job, as I said, was to clerk in the store; but he saw himself as the self-appointed constable of Brice’s Cross Roads, the defender of law and order, the Ultimate Umpire single-handedly enforcing the rules of public morality and decency. And since the only threat to any of these principles in our sleepy community was Sam Huddleston’s occasional drunks, Jim and Sam became bitter antagonists.
As I say, the Fates were working overtime on this particular day. By the time Grady stepped up to bat across the road, Sam had finished off his bottle of Old Crow and was well into his thick-tongued, stumbling diatribe against preachers, presidents, bankers, sheriffs, county agents, and the NAACP. And at precisely the instant that Grady smacked his memorable home run into the middle of the WMU prayer circle, Sam caught a glance over his shoulder of Jimbo Boynton opening the screen door and advancing toward him, eyes glowering and machete in hand, obviously intent on ending once and for all Sam’s public displays of impropriety.
The pandemonium that ensured from this remarkable convergence of events is still the stuff of stories told by Brice’s Cross Roads grandfathers at family reunions and ice cream socials in neighbors’ backyards. Only the whittlers on the store porch and Grady, standing bat in hand halfway between home plate and first base, were isolated from the general chaos. What they saw was a dozen kids scurrying in all directions, seeking safety behind trees and tombstones, inside Willie Quinn’s barn, or under the floor of Miz Laura Robinson’s house. Chasing them, and almost catching Cootie Davis, the slowest runner, was Curtis Tappmeyer, buck naked, his fat arms and belly (and other vital parts) bouncing like a bad hop grounder to second base. Hot on his heels, and gaining ground, was sister Beulah Clark, still celebrating the Second Coming but not about to miss her chance to see a naked man, even if it was Jesus Christ. Close behind her was Sam Huddleston, now entirely and permanently sober (and too frightened to remember to look for his truck), his mad dash being considerably wind-aided by the massive swings of the machete blade brandished at his rear by Jimbo Boynton. This riotous parade, with the American and Confederate flags flying upside-down overhead, impressed the oldtimers frame-frozen on the store’s porch as a Rookie League replay of Sturgis’s ragtag retreat from Forrest’s ambush on the same ground years earlier. Old General Sturgis, if he was looking in on the scene, must have dropped his harp (or pitchfork, if, as we were constantly told, God was a Rebel) from laughing so hard. After nearly a century of embarrassment and disgrace on the tongues of the community’s inhabitants, he was finally having his sweet revenge on Brice’s Cross Roads.
Well, predictably I suppose, that was the end of baseball games at Brice’s Cross Roads. That very evening the community elders, my father among them, met in the Baptist Church and voted to “hereafter condemn, ban, bar, and absolutely forbid” the playing of baseball within five miles of the Cross Roads. After that the only baseball we country kids had access to was through the sports pages of the Tupelo Daily Journal and Harry Caray’s broadcasts of the St. Louis Cardinals’ games over WCMA, Corinth. My playing days now abruptly ended but my love for the game as strong as ever, I quickly developed a rabid enthusiasm for those radio broadcasts, delighting in Harry’s descriptions of Stan Musial’s hitting (“It might be, it could be, it is! A home run!”) and agonizing over his call of Solly Hemus’s innumerable errors (“Boy, oh boy”). And convincing myself, as I still believe, that were it not for those fateful events that led to the banning of baseball at Brice’s Cross Roads, Harry would one day have announced my name in a starting lineup at Sportsman’s Park.
This account was first published in Elysian Fields Quarterly (Hot Stove Issue, 1992): 23-28. According to the author, every word is absolutely true.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
This is probably the foremost account of a politician getting his way with both sides of an issue. The speech is still mentioned these days in conversations concerning the issue of "waffling".
This is the famous "Whiskey Speech" then-Rep. N.S. "Soggy" Sweat Jr. delivered on April 4, 1952, at a banquet while the prohibition issue was before the Mississippi Legislature.
"I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.
"If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it."But;
"If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
"This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise."
Sweat, 73, died at a Corinth nursing home on Friday Feb 23, 1996. His professional and political career included stints as a legislator, district attorney, circuit court judge and college professor.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
a chance to try some of either or both.