Monday, December 17, 2012

Early 1950s Christmas Parade

  After attending the very good 2012 Christmas parade in Baldwyn recently, I pulled out an old dusty photo of another one around 1954 plus or minus a year or so. I can remember it pretty well – I know I was there because I can be seen in the photo along with Rachel Christian, my friend and neighbor at the time. We school children had been primed and ready for this parade for quite some time. We were about to see some real reindeer from the Far North! And, by all indications, they were indeed. If the photo has been printed large enough, just look at those antlers!
   The Chevrolet sedan in front pulled the entire sleigh mechanism with the reindeer walking attached on each side to a single attaching pole. They had loudly ringing large bells everywhere and were really melodious. Santa rode standing in the sleigh and threw candy and laughed, but someone noticed the passenger in the front of the car had a microphone and was helping him by doing the chore of his greetings and laughs over a PA system. Santa was really busy with candy and children running to touch his hand.
   This parade started near Mort and Jack Jr.’s service station on the highway and proceeded to Main and then to Front, then to Clayton Street, then west on Clayton to the Dairy Bar lot on the highway. Some of you may not recall those particular points, but today it would be the Dixie station starting and end at the former Ford car dealer building. This was a weekday – I do not remember if school was dismissed for the holidays or not, but the crowd was staggering in number. In those days anything special was well attended, especially on Saturdays.
   Look around the town and notice the stores of the day; McElroy’s grocery on the west, then the GE store, Arnold Dry goods, Western Auto, McGee’s grocery, and the Bank on the end. Also notice the absence of the Tom’s Drug Store sign, which is still very much in prominence even today. I think it had to be refurbished once and maybe that is the reason it’s not in this photo.
   The following photowas taken by me of the parade on Clayton Street in front of the power and water compnaies. If you look close, you can find Ellis Christian holding up Dean Rutherford so he can see. This was probably the largest attraction I ever witnessed in Baldwyn for a long time.


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.

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.

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!

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.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Prather Family Record

 While looking for some other Baldwyn historical information, I ran across this marriage license for Mr. Brooks Prather. We have often wondered if he had any family - maybe some of you already know he had his own family at one time. As shown here he was married to Martha St. John in Tennessee on the 12th day of June, 1906. I really like the language of documents like this in those times - "has this day prayed and obtained License". At least no one was ashamed to invoke deity on papers back then.
  He also had a daughter born around 1909. The 1920 census lists him as head of the household, Martha as wife, and daughter Kathryn. Brooks was then 43, Martha 33, and Kathryn 11. He is listed as a retail merchant in a general store. That store was possibly owned by him and could have been located over the old bank building that was on the SW corner of main and second street where the Palmer pool room was in the 50s.
  The 1930 census shows Brooks (53) and Kathryn (21) living in Forrest Prather's home but Martha's name is not listed and her outcome is unknown at this time. I cannot find Brooks nor Kathryn listed in the 1940 census - maybe they were living somewhere else or did not get on the enumerator's roll for some reason. Brooks was a smart man, but hated to get beat playing pool and would have a hissyfit if he had to pay a dime for losing.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

FFA Members Of Baldwyn High School 1959

This photo was included in a yearbook, however this the original photo. I am estimating the year of origin. There are so many '59 seniors in the photo I guessed at the date.

FFA was a really good course. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned to weld in shop and that helped me through the years. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Prospective Football Players

An undated photo of local Baldwyn boys who might be interested in joining the Bearcat football team at that time. Coach Vandiver is at left rear, and Bro. Gene Crawford in center at rear.

This photo was made in the basement of the old Baptist church on Main Street. Most on the young men are recognizable but if you get stuck for a name, send a comment, please.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Once Proud Train Depot Reduced to Rubble

I am one of the many that regret that this had to be the disposition of the old depot. So many of us spent so many days hanging out there listening to the telegraph and watching the final waning days of passenger train service - people from far away getting off and on the passenger cars to leave going on to other parts of the world. We really didn't know then just how big the world was. We really longed to get on the train and go somewhere ourselves.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Morning Coffee Gang

The regular morning coffee group at the Git-N-Go south of town were joined recently by some of the old Baldwyn gang. L-R John Olan Cunningham, Robert Thomas, Jim Baxter, Joe Murray Davis, Billy Hamblin, Carl Houston, and David Heflin. Not shown is Henry Outlaw, who took the photo. Joe had some very old photos and objects d' art to pass around. For an hour and a half or more, many old football games were replayed, the goats were again put in the school library, and bootleggers once again got a visit late at night. It was very good time we had, guys. Thanks for the memories!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Caldwell Motor Company

   If any of you were treated by Dr. Mitchell Ford, you will remember he built a new office at the corner of South Second Street at Water Street which is still there and being used a medical facility even today. This building was on that same spot. This photo I would guess to be made in early 1910s. I don't see the E. A. Shellnut home across the street to the left which was built by Dr. R. B. Caldwell around 1915-16. Dr. Caldwell moved to a new home in 1927 and Ben Caldwell bought the house. He later sold it to Mr. Shellnut.
   This was the local Chevrolet dealership and garage and Second street was US highway 45 at that time. I also notice that the street appears to not be paved. The downtown streets were concreted starting in about 1926 or '28, I have read. C. G. Henderson later bought the dealership and eventually moved it to South Fourth Street (U.S. 45 at that time). This building burned and I can't remember if Henderson moved prior to the fire or not.