Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When Crime was Horrendous In the Baldwyn Community

Mississippi Highway Patrolman Ralph Pennington, Lee County Constable Boyd Haygood, and City Marshal E. A. Surratt display a car trunk containing over 100 hub caps and several mirrors and fender skirts that were stolen by two youths from East of Baldwyn.

They were attempting a 3AM theft in Guntown, but were noticed and stripped the gears from their car transmission while attempting to get away. They ran but later showed back up at the scene in another vehicle and were apprehended and charged with grand larceny.

Did you ever, in your wildest imagination, think that we could wish for that type of crime only in our later years? The cars that those kids stole the parts off might even have had the ignition key left in it. They would never have taken the car, just the hub caps!

Back then, on Saturday nights downtown, kids would find an unlocked car to sit in and smooch - it didn't matter whose - and the owners didn't care. Fact was, the owner might leave the key in it so they could turn on the radio and listen to some music while cuddling....

If your grandchildren read this and ask, please take time to explain to them what "fender skirts" were!


Photo clipping courtesy of Ellen Mink.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don't mess with Mr. Brooks Prather!

August 27, 2008
Reenie's Ramblings
By Clarene Evans

"Ought not to mess with us old folk!"

Today is my birthday and I am 63 years old. I tell you that because I am proud to be alive and healthy and constantly in a state of euphoria. It is so good to be a part of this universe. I have finally come to realize that being a part means that I am integrated into the whole and thus have to contribute to its well being. In other words, I have to somehow give back as much to this universe as I take away and the only way I know how to do that is through my writing.

I get calls each week about someone or some sentence in my column that has touched someone in a way and that makes all my efforts worthwhile. Just when I think I will turn the column over to a younger, savvier person, someone makes my days with a word of encouragement and keeps me going on- Just last week I got the nicest call from a lady in Booneville. I've never met her but she is a sister to a girl I went to high school with, Buddy Miller. Carolyn Miller said she had been meaning to call me for a while but could not find my phone number. She tracked me down through one of my children. She told me how much she enjoyed the column and her mother could no longer read but looked forward each week to getting the paper so she could read the Ramblings to her. Others have said the same thing so here it is, write it down, 662-397-1276. Call me with your comments or complaints. The latter will probably be ignored but the comments will be appreciated.

I was recently asked how many stories I had left in me and I answered them by saying, "I have as many stories left in me as I have days left on this planet." They walked away not having a clue what I was really talking about and I decided not to try and explain. Miss Helen Keller once said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Thank you. Miss Keller because that's the way I have felt my entire life. Every day is a story in itself; you just have to take the time to listen and I listen, for in the listening, I've found a wealth of stories. Each person I come in contact with has a story; a story worth telling. I always see the humor or the sadness in each situation I find myself but, I just choose to write about the humorous ones. Today's story is no different.

Early on in my life I found that being the clown had its advantages. You could hide your sorrow or disappointments behind the facade of a clown's face. Making people laugh made me feel better about myself so I made them laugh in any venue it took, often at my own expense. The First Baptist Church in Baldwyn was the first place I ever felt completely accepted for who I was. The church family there quickly became my family and I loved being there at every opportunity I could squeeze in. I was in Sunday School on Sunday mornings and Training Union on Sunday nights, G. A.'s (girls auxiliary) during the week, participated in Bible Drills, went to Bible School in the summers, attended each revival service nightly during the spring and fall revivals, went to choir practice and eventually was even allowed to join the adult choir when I turned 15. I had found a home -a home away from Mama's house.

Growing up at First Baptist was not all about just attending 'this' or participating in "that', it was a place where fellowship abounded. Baptist folks like to eat and can put on a spread like you've never seen. I suppose all churches are like that but I only went to FBC and to a kid who had witnessed her mother praying on her knees that she could feed her children the next day, it was a virtual smorgasbord in the making for me.

I remember one particular Sunday Morning just after Mrs. Shellnut had dismissed us from Sunday School that a bunch of us were gathered outside the building under the big magnolia tree and someone was talking about this old man who had just passed by on his way over to the church building. He was a regular to the back row of seats under the balcony. Those were coveted seats and somehow none of us kids ever got to sit back there. I suppose someone had decided years before that the back rows under the balcony were taboo for kids (it was the perfect place to give birth to mischief).

One of those pews was always occupied by a man named Brooks Prather, the same ol' man us kids were talking about after Sunday School that Sunday. Mr. Brooks was a grouchy old bachelor who walked with a cane and pretty much kept to himself, or at least that's the way I remember him. All of us were a little bit scared of him or at least scared of his wrath that we might incur if we got in his way. Of course his being aloof only made us want to antagonize him all the more. After a brief discussion, we decided that this was the day we would play a little trick on him and quite possible rattle his chains a little. One of us would march in and sit down in his place under the balcony and make him sit somewhere else.

Everyone turned and looked at me and of course I volunteered immediately. Big mistake! We all ran past him and scooted up the steps of the church and waited in the hallway that led to the east door at the back of the sanctuary. I peeped inside to make sure he had not sat down yet and he had not. All those steps, leading up to the front church door, had impeded his arrival somewhat. I eased inside and quickly plopped myself down on his designated pew. The others took a seat on the back row so that they wouldn't miss the fireworks that were sure to follow when Mr. Brooks came in and found me in his spot. They were not disappointed!

He walked up to the end of the pew and cleared his throat. I just sat there. He boomed, "That's my seat you're in, young lady." I didn't budge. Moments passed and he finally gave out the long breath he had been holding in and reached out with his cane and rapped me right on the shin. "I said that's my pew." He lashed out at me with his cane. Oh, those back row Baptists! Whoops of laughter broke out and every head in the entire congregation turned to see what the commotion was all about. I jumped up and hopped outside and ran straight into my Mama. She took one look at me and the bump rising up on my shin and asked what I had gotten into now. When I told her, she made me go back inside and apologize to Mr. Brooks.

He just stood up and replied, "It's alright this time, better never happen again. These young'uns gotta learn you just ought not to mess with us old folk!"


Photo of Mr. Prather courtesy of John Olan Cunningham

Friday, September 26, 2008

Part 2: Playgrounds on South Second Street, 1945 – 1953

-click to enlarge-

by Dave Heflin

There were mystical playgrounds, basketball courts, open fields, woods, and any number of places of “friendly trespassing” on the south end of town. Thanks to “Comments” entered on Part 1, I should be ashamed to forget good pals like Milton Nanney, the Lytals, Billy Wayne Houston, etc.

Here’s a shot at recalling stomping grounds (literally, when it came to Joe Murray): Tom Shellnut’s basement, shady “jungle”, and open area for games offered immediate re-plays of Saturday afternoon picture shows.

Lowell Wallace provided tours of the Home Hotel, and the cliffs that extended south along the railroad tracks behind Mack Walker’s, Larry and Bob Johnson’s led to a unique ball court (will leave this as trivia right now).

The Depot and all the parked box cars invited “trespassing” and rummaging through the crates and sometimes, caskets. The open pasture behind Knowles and the house with renters served as an occasional ball field. Bordering it was the gravel road that began at Joe Murray’s, Houston Woods’s, the Castleberry’s, the Gower’s, Margie Purvis’s and ended at the large Walker house just before the Tabernacle. Why details? There was only one streetlight near the Gower’s and going home alone after the late show turned into a fitness trail.

Back to South Second, John Olan and Joe had a basketball court and a huge backyard filled with outbuildings resembling our ideas of the wild west. Heading to the dead-end to the Outlaw’s, there was a cutoff going across the tracks and “See Saw’s” plus the Cemetery Road. On the road headed south, we had unlimited privileges to roam through most of the backyards except Miss Fanny Bell Sloan’s. Starting in Henry’s back- yard, a vast wilderness opened up in all directions. Many homemade kites were tested in the open, hilly Gower’s pasture plus many adventures in the timber thicket just to the south. A clubhouse was built near the center made from scrap piles at nearby Davis’s Lumber Mill. It was short-lived as a “secret club” long enough to initiate several members via “forced eating” rotten candy.

Continuing at the Cunningham’s and the curve at Milton Nanney’s, we spent a good chunk of our elementary school years, playing “shooting” games in the two adjoining backyards of Joe Murray and Bobby Thompson’s. This was where some of Joe’s warped inventions were tested such as hide-and-seek with a loaded BB gun, “Annie Over” with anything other than a rubber ball, sling shot chase plus “catch”, and jungle crossings with vines made from borrowed garden hose.

NOW! My world from birth in 1940 – 1953, reached the rolling open fields just north of the Patton’s, west to beyond Caldwell Circle, east to the Kirk’s and Outlaw’s, and all the way to Billy Wayne Houston’s on top of Twitchell Hill. Eddie was our leader and opened the world to everything we saw at the picture shows, then re-enacted all behind his house and even up the steep hill to the Kirk’s backdoor. Just a few samples, Fall cardboard sledding; Civil War battles (nobody agreed to be Yankees---so they were imaginary or the poor chickens and ducks); all sports in their front yard; little cars under the house;, tree climbing; and more.

The Patton’s large storm house-greenhouse was a welcome excuse to huddle with the entire neighborhood during storm scares; the long tales should have been recorded, because we relished every detail.

Hayden Burns had the best basketball court with a real basketball. We respected it and kept our bantering clean due to Betty Jo and her mother. BUT, all rules were broken in Jap and Bud’s hilltop court. Their front yard was a perfect ball field, except for the universal problem of keeping air in footballs and basketballs---remember, we had Joe Murray and a barbed wire fence. Voit brand balls were usually flat, but served the purposes---many games came down to Calumet Baking Soda cans or rocks.

Caldwell Circle and beyond to the Grissom’s farm were magic. The Circle had live deer inside the fenced loop plus a pond that hosted colorful baptisms. The Norman’s backyard was loaded with outbuildings and another basketball goal. Rev. Dan Patch family occupied it before Gwen
Norman came in with a photography studio.

Okelala Creek was blessed with two blue holes. We hid and swam in the one below the Grissom’s. Let you wonder why? Buddy’s books document the creek and surroundings.

Twitchell Hill! What can I add to all who roamed around looking for Christmas trees; parking (a record of four smooching couples parked in a pickup after church one night---I’ll never tell.), buying beer (a tall boy was $.50 and it could have been “green” Eddieweiser---please, someone back me up!), and the pure pleasure of roaming about the many gullies?

Billy Wayne’s dad operated a serious car repair, junkyard, plus sales. Dreams started with sitting and pretending to drive all sizes of cars. Remember, a blind mechanic worked there (Mr. Taylor) and could perform miracles.

The challenge is still on for you North Second Street residents to bring together a list and description of your “play mates” and “playing fields”. I admit I mostly experienced only the Fish Lake and Twenty Mile Canal on the east, Arch and Lunelle Young’s on the west, and the brickyard north.

Please jump aboard and add to memories between 1940 and your moments of MAGIC in our timeless small town.

Photo courtesy of Milton Copeland

Orientation: You are flying directly over Twitchell Hill in 1950 or thereabouts. Old US 45 is seen going north toward and through town (toward top of photo). Henry Outlaw's home is at the end of the road at roughly 4 o'clock, and Okeelala Creek is at the lower left of the photo.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

1958-59 Girl's Basketball

This is the team from 58-59.

I, as some of you, was not there to see the games that these women played, but I'll bet they were very good in the Bearcat tradition.

Coach Vandiver always seemed to have a great team in those years.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ladies' Sunday School Class, 1950s

These are some of the ladies of the Baldwyn First Baptist Church. I know most all of the faces, but again, the names are not coming to mind. Of course, Miss Hallie Vandiver is on the front right and Mrs. Raymond Miller is to her right. I believe that is Mrs. Luna (Stubbs??) on the extreme right standing and Mrs. Crawford is 6th from the left, standing.

There were some good voices from some of these ladies that were members of the choir.

Any help with names will be appreciated!

Photo courtesy of Jim Miller.

Friday, September 19, 2008

More Old Photos

Some old photos that were laying around that you might enjoy seeing...


Thanks to Ellen Mink and Jim Greene

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Fair and Talented Disciplinarian

by Phil Cooper

Carl, Seeing the picture of Miss Hortense brought back a flood of memories for me. As I have mentioned before, I was among the first of the Baby Boomers to enter the Baldwyn school system in the early 50’s. I was one of seven students that failed second grade in 54/55. I stuttered terribly and could not or would not read aloud. At any rate, when school started back in the fall, Mrs. Bryson’s’ second grade class was way over crowded, so, Miss Hortense took the seven repeaters into her room. Being the principal, she did not normally have students, but the influx of students and shortage of class rooms forced the situation. The seven were Jimmy Joyner, Jimmy Rowan, Jimmy Hester, Jimmy Raper, Billy Gray, Betty Gray and me. Now that I think about it, Mrs. Bryson might have had something against Jimmys!

From our first days of school in Miss Hallie Vandiver’s class, we were all scared to death of the infamous paddle Miss Hortense kept in the top right hand drawer of her desk. And, I am sure that every one of us, including Betty, had had our rear ends warmed up by it at least once. If you recall, the disciplinary practice back then was to stick any misbehavers out in the hall and wait for Miss Hortense to spot the perpetrators and take care of correcting things. So, all during the day as she was instructing us, she would frequently walk over to the door, stick her head out and peer up and down the hall. We were witness to countless tail warmings, but she never had to spank any of her seven students. Being an eyewitness to how well she could utilize that big oak paddle and how liberally she applied it was all the deterrent needed to keep the seven of us toeing the mark.

Probably the most beneficial part of being in her class with so few classmates was the individualized instruction we received. Yes, she was an excellent administrator and notorious disciplinarian, but she was also a gifted teacher.

Substitute teachers were almost unheard of then, so, if one of the elementary teachers had to be out, she would just march us into that teacher’s class and teach that group and us in the same room. The benefit to us was that we got exposed to fourth, fifth, and sixth grade material early. All of us did well under her instruction and were promoted. By the start of school the next year the student population had grown even more, so, Miss Hortense decided to keep the seven of us along with a few others who hadn’t done well during their first attempt at third grade. I ended up having her for two remarkable years and I did not stutter when I left her class for the fourth grade. I don’t know whether she scared it out of me or I just out grew it, but I never hesitated to stand and read when she called on me!

One day during recess I snagged a hole in the seat of my pants. We were playing on an old wooden fence that bordered the playground and, when the bell rang, I jump from atop one of the post and a nail ripped a large ‘L” shaped hole. Betty Gray sat directly behind me and when Miss Hortense called on me and I stood up to answer her question, Betty started pointing at the hole in my pants and laughing. Miss Hortense motioned for me to come to her desk, she looked the situation over, pulled out a needle and thread, bent me over her lap and proceeded to sew up my pants while never missing a beat with her teaching. My classmates thought it was very funny and I took quite a ribbing about it. But, as I remember it, I was just glad to have my skinny little butt covered up!

Fortunately, I got the opportunity to talk with her a short time before she died. I was home on leave, heard that she wasn’t well and went to see her. You would have never known she was ill by the strength in her voice and how tightly she hugged me. We talked and laughed at length. I went there to try to be of some comfort to her and all she wanted to talk about was how proud she was of me!

Thanks, Phil. Great story! I am sure there are many readers who agree precisely.

Monday, September 15, 2008

1957 Bearcat Basketball

This is the '57 team at the old gym.

You should know most or all of the team members.

Which Curtiss is that on the right? I can't keep them straight.


Click on photo to enlarge.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Some VIPs we have Overlooked -

- and not thought much about until now.

These are the cooks and servers at the BHS cafeteria in 52-57.

L-R front row - Mrs. Thomas Miller, Angie Milton, Mrs. Wilson, L-R back row - Mrs. Alton Miller, Essie Magers, Mrs. Rob Roberts (Alma).

For many years Ms. Marcella Arnold and her sister cooked in the cafeteria. I do not remember the sister's name. They were evidently retired at this point in time.

The government-provided meats and cheeses were tastefully prepared by these cooks and were very good. The meals were only 20 cents ($1 a week) at the time. Often when everyone was served there would be seconds (the big guys would get it). There was always one milk for each meal, and sometimes two. No one was allowed to bring a cola to drink with the meal.

The lower grades were served first beginning at 11 AM or slightly before, and then upward through the top grades. The primer and first grade was in the same building and didn't have far to go, but we marched there in an orderly manner instead of running and pushing kids out of the way.

Imagine an orderly happening at a school these days....

Friday, September 12, 2008

One of the Best Seasons Ever

These players were part of one of the best seasons, if not the best, in 1956 or 1957. The games and results are listed. Good job, guys!

Okolona, Kossuth, Iuka, and Calhoun City certainly went home with their tails between their legs after those games.....

Bruce Putt looks as if he is ready to take on the Devil and whip him.

Click on photo to enlarge.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Final Days of the Baldwyn Dairy Bar

Shown is a photo of the Dairy Bar that we liked so well in the 50s. It lasted, under various owners, until 1965 or '66 before being razed to make way for the Ford dealership, bought from the Prathers and moved to this location by Ralph Pennington.

A few later additions were awnings and patios with benches, and as the sign reads, they evidently made fresh donuts there.

Some of the owners were, as I have found out, Swede and Larry Johnson, Jimmy Outlaw, and at the time of this photo, Woodrow E. Barnett.

The folks enjoying a cool something are Huse Woods, possibly Larry Carpenter (?) to the right of him, and I believe Kay Poling in white, who may have owned the business later. The couple with the child are not known - help us with the names if you can.

Even in those times money was not easy to get, but we would spend some of our meager income for the delicious treats there. Wish those prices would still get you a quality treat these days!

Also note one of the fashion fads then - penny loafers and white socks!

Photo from Bearcat annual yearbook. Courtesy of Clarene Evans.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Changing Baldwyn "Skyline"

A couple of early 40s photos that show the Home Hotel at the corner of Water and Front Streets. Note that the M. L. Waters store was not there at the time. He was probably still in business in Guntown.

Also not built yet was the Baldwyn News building and the poultry processing plant.

The Dixie Candy Shop was located at the West end of the row of buildings that housed the Ritz Theater and the Tapp store (before it moved to the corner of Main and Third streets).

That little building was later moved on a skid system by a John Deere tractor East on Main and put in place by the Cox building and became Inez Nelson's beauty shop building. I believe there was a shoe repair shop in it briefly before it was moved, maybe Bob Finger??? Bob later moved into the building that was formerly Leroy Orr's cafe.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The 1926 Baldwyn Football Team

This photo and story is a little off-time-theme for the blog, but these rough and ready guys were a hot team. The players were our parents and grandparents, uncles, and cousins. The reason we chose to run this is to point out a couple of things we need an answer to. (1) Notice the misspelling of Baldwyn on the football and (2) were they were called "Bearcats" at that time? If not, when did that team name start?

Back row: L to R Earl McElroy, Jack Strange, Lloyd White, Milton Davis, Coach Fatty Langston, Forest Grisham, Taylor Smith, Frank Norman, Gene Davis

Front row: L to R Frank Estes, Talmadge Hendrix, Carl Houston, Sr., Judd Bishop, (???) Glover, Herman Magers, Mansel Lindley.

My dad was 18 at the time, so I suppose he was a senior.

OR (3) was this the high school team or were they playing for another entity? That is the old downtown school building, I believe, comparing the windows against the photo of that building burning which ran earlier on this blog (I have a better closeup of the building other than the one in that story).

How about that belt Judd Bishop is wearing!

Anyone know how long BHS has used the "Bearcat" designation?


Photo and IDs courtesy of Cynthia Lindley Mink

I cleaned and cropped the original and made it into a nice black and white photo, but then chose to run it as it appears originally after age yellowing, showing the cluttered ground and graffiti on the building.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The games we played in school

Games Played by Boys in Baldwyn Elementary School
Circa 1946-1950


WHY Couldn’t I Beat Joe Murray?

By Dave Heflin

During the school sessions we had two Recesses lasting fifteen minutes each and a wonderful one hour noon-lunch break. If we jumped rope with the girls, nothing else was going on. However, there seemed to be fads that were short lived such as marbles, yo-yos, tops, paper or balsa wood planes, and etc. in elementary grades.

First, marbles were played under bushes or on level ground with about two foot circles drawn. One set of rules was for a “loser” marble shot into the circle and then in turn, we shot at that marble. If “it” was knocked out and the “shooter” remained, we continue knocking out other’s marbles and keeping them---our “shooter’ had to remain if it failed to knock one out. As I recall we had to stay in our original location around the circle. Remember “dubs one mine” or the rule on using a “steely” as a “shooter” ? I can’t remember why it was claimed, but Joe Murray abused these rules plus several others to eventually capture your best marble, the “shooter.” By the way, we were warned to NOT keep others’ marbles via “tattle tales.”

Tops. Same size ring in the hard-packed dirt was etched, but out in the open in order to use full standing coordination. Basic game was to choose a “starter” and he tried to spin his top successfully into the ring and back out. If it stopped in the circle, the guys to your left had the opportunity to knock it out keeping your top; usually, more than two tops were stuck there. When your time came again, you could do some damage. I remember a pretty red top getting split in half by “you know who.”

Yo-yos. Cheap up to fancy brands were somewhat competitive, but you got to keep it if you lost the challenge. All types of tricks such as “walk- the- dog, round-the-world, swing set,” and others were popular.

Other schoolyard fads included pitching pennies (mainly, losing pennies), sword fights, pea (usually spit balls) shooters (always hidden from the teachers), “King of the Mound,” dodge ball, washers, chase tag, and a big hit, pull riders off of “horses.”

In secret places out of sight from Mr. Baker or teachers, we had some forbidden games played with pocketknives and slingshots. For “stretch,” each had a knife facing each other attempting to force a side-to-side stretch with only a shoe length target stickup until you missed; then, your opponent had the same chance. The game was over when one could not stretch any more. Sling shots games were limited to breaking Coke bottles, “going out for a pass” (Ouch!), and gathering around touching the shooter and scattering wildly when the rock was shot straight (?) up.

Girls, I challenge you to finally reveal your recess games. So-o-o much pleasure came from the common bonds of “boy stuff” and our frequent ecstasy of being included. Winning was not assured, but we waited a few days for a possible chance to find our niche, even if it were a simple toy purchased at Epting’s or the Golden Rule store.

I REPEAT, “Why couldn’t I beat Joe Murray?”

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

BHS Graduates 1963

-click to enlarge-

The composite of the graduating class of 1963.


Courtesy of Clarene Evans

Monday, September 1, 2008

Need a gift, call Popeye, any time, day or night!

Back in the 50's, I dare say there was not one single young lady in Baldwyn who had not stopped by Popeye's Jewelry Store at one time or another and tried on that special diamond ring she dreamed would someday be permanently placed on the third finger of her left hand. Gentry's was "THE" place to shop for diamonds, gold, crystal, china and silver and of course the 'perfect gift'. Popeye helped many a young lad out by selling him that perfect ring on credit and thus creating a customer base that would last throughout both their lifetimes.

Having worked there for Popeye some 17 years off and on afforded me a wealth of stories told by none other than the great storyteller himself. My all time favorite however, is one about a young man who called him at 2:00am one Christmas morning and begged him to meet him at the store. He asked Popeye to just come open up and and sell him something, anything or he'd suffer the fate of a dumb stupid husband who'd forgotten to buy his wife a Christmas present. Popeye, of course came to the rescue wearing his pajamas and an overcoat. It seems the young man had finally gotten his excited children into bed around 1:00 am and had set the alarm for 2:00 to do his "Santa thing" when he overheard one of his little boys ask the other, "I wonder what Daddy got Mama for Christmas."

I don't remember what it was that Popeye told me the man ended up buying but I bet you it was very nice.

Photos from BHS Bearcat Annual and From J. M. Duke