Friday, October 19, 2012

Your Wate and Fate

That's what it read on the sides of the familiar old scales that stood in front of the Ritz theater on Main Street for many years. After inserting a coin, a penny I think,  into the slot your weight and a prediction for your future was shown in a little window near the coin slot. Some of us were gullible enough to be very careful if a gloomy prediction happened to be given us. The scales are in the Baldwyn City Hall these days. They are not in working order anymore...

This was the Ritz theater in its' glorious days. The
Building was a beautiful architectural structure on the outside front. The marquee and smell of freshly
popped popcorn drew you there like a magnet. It
was comfortable on the inside. Lots of times we would emerge from the show and find that a huge thunderstorm and inches of rain had occurred without us hearing it. The pointer shows where the scales sat for decades. Ritz theater image from Memories video by Claude Gentry.

Friday, October 12, 2012

First Christian Church Worshippers

   Need some assistance in naming as many of these Baldwyn First Christian Church attendees as possible. The only ones we have tentatively ID'd is Sidney Merle Duncan behind lady in black clothing and hat on right (holding baby) who may possibly be Mrs Stults. We think young boy standing on front row second from right may be John Melvin Duke (with striped shirt). If that is so, maybe his mother Evelyn Duke is directly behind Sidney Merle.
   Your help in the identification is greatly appreciated. We think this photo could be from 1948-50 and made at the old church on North Third Street, behind waters Funeral Home.

Photo courtesy of Jeanette Young Shackleford.

Another Baldwyn Aviation Story

   A  photo I obtained from Vivian Parton Kesler recently shows her father, William "Bill" Parton and Walter Greene, a postal delivery worker, at the old grass airstrip just East of town off Clayton Street, known then as the Pratts Road.
   Bill was a local pioneer in sport flying along with many others: Mr. Duke Young and his son, Duke Archer "Arch" Young, Murray and Evelyn Duke, Mr. Claude Gentry, Carl Martin, Mr. McCary,Fred Parmenter, Barry Henderson, Gerald McKibben, Walter's son, Jim "Jimmy" Greene, I believe Ralph Pennington, and  others whose names I have forgotten.
   It was a favorite Sunday afternoon pastime to go to the airstrip and watch the planes rolled out, checked over for flight readiness, prop started (manually pulling the propeller to start the engine) and taking off and landing. Cows and other livestock frequently got in the way of aircraft landing, so we boys would get on our bicycles and go kick and bump the cow with our bikes to clear the runway. We would get rewarded once in a while with a free short ride in the sky with one of the pilots.
   Claude Gentry wrote in his memoirs of trying to land one day after a fishing trip to Pickwick Lake (he would sneak off there on lots of Wednesday afternoons when the stores in town closed for a half-day) and a stubborn cow would not get out of the way so after a couple of unsucessful close buzz-bys close to her trying to scare her into moving. He finally decided he could go ahead and land and go around her after touching down, or apply the brakes in sufficient time to stop. It didn't work. He hit the cow and the propeller killed it, damaged the propeller blade,and he had to pay the owner for the cow. (From his book Fourscore and More in Dixie).
   The picture above showing Bill and Walter is a reminder of the phrase the post office uses - "neither rain, sleet, snow, or gloom of night, etc" - you know the rest - of how Bill carried the mail and Walter to outlying areas when the roads were so icy that a truck could not be used. The mail had to get through, so they flew to a spot where they were able to land and give the mail to the recipients that had been informed when and where to meet them.
   I really miss those days at the old airport. Several times some kids would get in touch with the electric fence wire and not be able to get loose until they were knocked loose. That was funny to those of us that had done it before and knew what not to touch!

Photo from Jimmy Greene

Theaters in Baldwyn Long Ago

As printed in the Baldwyn News, 11 September, 2012
By Carl Houston, Guest contributor

I think most of the Baldwynians my age and close can recall the movie theaters in town. It was a pleasurable way to spend a couple of hours of alternate reality watching great performances of musicals with the finely choreographed dance numbers, colorful costuming, and great music. We boys and most men were mesmerized by the beauty of the movie stars and the ladies really doted on the male “heart throbs” they saw on the silver screen.
   Back in those olden days, long before movie theaters, our little town always had some means of public entertainment. There were at least two stages in town at different locations that had live entertainment, and were, in their time, a nice way to be entertained. During the early years in Baldwyn many tent shows came and did live performing and movies. They consisted of Indian, but let me correct myself, native-American actors, vaudeville actors, and others. One tent show proprietor that was usually welcomed warmly was “Daddy” Crouch, a German man who made a living with his one-machine movie. He had only silent films to be shown, and according to Mr. Claude Gentry’s memoirs he narrated vocally everything that happened in his films. He would be the voice of all of the actors, and the way he did it was well worth the price of admission alone. He always sat up his tent show just across the tracks on the left where the storage rental center is now between East Main and Clayton Streets. Bandstands, like the elaborate one by the old Home Hotel around the first part of the 20th century had live musical concerts that rivaled larger towns and cities. Former mayor Lloyd Heflin, Sr. played in an orchestra.
   When movies got sound around 1927, they then became the premiere way to be entertained. Movies, news of the world happenings that could be viewed, and even some funny cartoons that moved and talked were well received by the public, thanks to an upstart cartoon artist named Walt Disney. His characters are still entertaining us even to this day.
   When money was scarce to many families in the depression era, they could find a way to get to enjoy a movie occasionally, providing a little break to the tough times they were living in.
   I am including a photo to this story that I have had quite some time waiting for the opportunity to find some more details about it. It is the old Lyric Theater that was at Front and Main in the early1940s. It was where the Azalea Court is located now, and where the original Bank of Baldwyn was located until destroyed by the fire of 1914. Mr. Gentry rented the building from Buster McElroy for about fifteen dollars a month.
   I remember just a little of this theater, being around five years old the few times I was carried into it. When you entered through the front, you passed under the screen – the projection booth was in the rear. Most often your shadow was cast onto the screen as you scouted around for a seat and people would yell for you to hurry and get seated and off the screen so they could see the action.
   The Baldwyn Theater was on West Main Street and Mr. Gentry bought it from Mr. Audie Coggins in about the mid-40s and moved up there. He renamed it the Ritz and we all remember its’ successful operation throughout the 50s and 60s. Wow-the memories those Saturday western matinees made to young cowboys with their stick horses and at least one .45 caliber toy cap pistol on their side! Once, a B-western hero named “Sunset Carson” came to town and appeared in person with an aide-de-camp who let him shoot  cigarettes out of his mouth and helped him do other rope tricks. I can recall it very well. Other Wild West “stars” of the day appeared locally infrequently and once one drew the first ticket of the Saturday money giveaway. The town was impressed.
   Later, the Lyric was back in business in a building next to the Western Auto Store across the street from the Ritz. It had a successful run only operating on Friday nights and all day on Saturday. It was located in the building currently containing Quail Ridge Engineering.
   Here is a photo (above) I was lucky enough to find some time ago and was taken in approximately 1942 or ’43. I have read that there were many other stores in the building in later years. I only recall one – a wheelchair- bound Mr. Thomas had a shop repairing radios and televisions there for a while. I would go beg tech advice and old parts such as condensers and capacitors from him to keep my ancient radios working.

Photo courtesy Buddy Spight.