Friday, March 21, 2008

East Clayton Street, 1950

-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 If there was no paper, which more than likely would have been an outdated Sears catalog, you could exit and clean up a few steps to the left at a combination antique hand pump/running water faucet on the Davis Lumber Company lot.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.


  1. LMAO!!! I would liked to have seen that. I would probably have taken the door with me, or the whole out house.

  2. Sears catalogue paper was rough, but plentiful. An additional perk was you had something to read during the process. I guess that is where I developed my literary needs while stationary for long periods.
    Great thoughts. Thanks.

  3. VB says, the leader of the band has to be Mary Tom Gordon?

  4. VB, yours is another vote for her, so we can assume that is correct, thank you.

  5. I was hopeing that John O would tell about the red Devil torpedo. That would be intresting.
    I went to sleep lots of nights listening to the cotten gin running way into the night in the fall. I lived just over the hill east of it.

  6. Got to be Mary Tom's sister Edith Ann Gordon on right front row beside her sister.

  7. First songs I remember from al's jukebox were "Mockinbird Hill", "Goodnight Irene", "If you love me half as much as I love you", "I'm sending you a big bouqet of roses", "Candy Kisses",