Monday, April 14, 2008

Our Old Community Center - The Tabernacle

Photos from the Simon Spight collection courtesy of John Olan -click to enlarge

UPPER: Fire claims the old downtown schoolhouse. This happened sometime before WWll was over. Had it not have burned, some of us would probably have started school there, since it was being used as an elementary school. The time has been mentioned as 1942.

The tabernacle (left) was saved and suffered no major damage. It was an all-purpose building, our community center, so to speak. Boy Scouts used it for drill practice, politicians campaigned there, quartets sang and Mr. Red Purvis held his "singing schools" in it for years. The Baldwyn Quartet (Mr. Purvis, Ellis Arnold, "Googe" Prather, and a Mr. McCarley(Roy?)) was always the headliner act at singing conventions.

Old fashioned revivals were held there in the extreme heat of the summer when the only breeze that blew in it were from cardboard hand fans. You could skate in it if the bleacher-type benches were moved against the walls. There was even some wooing there by young couples in the late evenings. It was largely open with windows that could be removed and put in place when needed.

BOTTOM - Hon. John E. Rankin gives a political speech on the stage of the old tabernacle. He was a congressman from Mississippi and came to Baldwyn on numerous occasions. He served sixteen consecutive terms (March 4, 1921 - January 3, 1953) as Mississippi's First District Representative. One source states that the couple on the left is Doc Nelson and wife. The headwear on the men would date this photo probably after WWll when the VFW was really active in town. Just a guess.

And there were lots of square dances. A Cartwright (Rebecca?) girl taught me some of those dance moves. There was a festival at the tabernacle one summer and one of the games was a pie-eating contest. This was one where you didn't use your hands to hold the pie. Bill "Horsecollar" Rowan was the undisputed winner. After finishing his entire pie rather handily, he tried some of the others that were uneaten. They had to make him stop. Before the blue ribbon was pinned on him he had to run outside to "Europe". Then he came back in to receive his prize - the ribbon and a fresh whole pie to carry home.

There were also Halloween parties there with washtubs full of floating apples to bob for, hay bales, cornstalk and pumpkin decorations. The party ended with a sudden lights-out when a "witch" held a flashlight under her chin to appear gruesome. She screamed so loudly it scared some kids rather badly.

There'll never be another like it.

More from Billy Bob Lampkin:

The tornado hit Baldwyn about 5:25 on the afternoon of March 6th. It picked up Tommy Ford's horse and carried it several yards before putting it down, running like crazy. The twister headed up the new highway and got the school auditorium, where the senior class had just finished play practice. It got the north end of the school building, the ag building, the gym, the house next door, and some of the houses along the railroad. Jack and Bob Christian's mother was killed in their house across from the school.

Just at 6:00 a very strong straight wind hit town, doing all the downtown damage. My mother and I were standing in the entranceway to Mr. Gorden's store. They were both rough. Six people were killed.

That was 1942.

That summer the grammar school burned. It took out five grades. The town enclosed and divided the tabernacle. Fourth grade took the stage. Fifth grade took the northwest room. And the other three took the other three rooms. The building in front of the tabernacle was the cafeteria. There were two outhouses - one one-holer for the boys and one two-holer for the girls - just west of the tabernacle.

The play yard equipment was moved to the corner behind the cafeteria. Not a good year.

The tabernacle was used quite a bit, especially in the summer. I think Mr. Dalton Gentry taught singing school as well as Mr. Red Purvis.

About those caps in the stage picture - they are American Legion. The Legion was started in 1919 in France. We have one of the earliest posts in the USA. They are numbered consecutively. Ask a member for our number.

The Boy Scout building (originally the school cafeteria) was a sectional building from Camp Shelby. A crew of volunteers went down before the War, took the building down in sections, brought it up, and put it back together.


  1. Whwere were all these buildings located? Downtown, I don't seem to remember.

  2. Thanks, Mr. Lampkin. That has cleared up some thoughts I had about the old tabernacle, I only remembered it as a very open building with cloth pull down curtains on the windows.

  3. Well, now the time frame for the information on the posting is established. The dates I put in there were incorrect, but not intentional. I had some info on the back of a photo, and guessed at the dates. Thanks to Billy Bob for the correct dates and additional story.

    Location -the school grounds and tabernacle covered an entire city block south of Main Street and East of then-US 45.

  4. Great stories and keep 'em coming, Billy Bob. And yes, Mr. T.D. Gentry taught singing schools as well. I went to one later but it didn't take.

  5. I have all my life remembered a big fire downtown. I now bet that it was the school. I can still visualize the summer fun in the playground, as I think it was called.
    Thanks for the story.

  6. Unless my memory has failed the American Legion Post in Baldwyn was No. 130 and the BSA was Troop 33 of the Yocona Council. Hope that is spelled right and the numbers are also right. I belonged to both. Miss those days when we would go camping in the hills on Mr. Glover's land.