Monday, October 6, 2008

My First Encounter with "Unlucky 13"

-click to enlarge-

By Carl Houston

The top photo is of a number tag from the Prentiss County Spelling Bee on the date shown. The original tag only showed a number, in my case, 13. I had heard of the number being unlucky, but had never had any bad luck attributed to it before.

The bee was held at the Princess Theater in Booneville (most distant white building in lower photo - notice marquee) and was moderated (words given to spell) by Mrs. Martin. She was so eloquent in her pronunciation and asked each word slowly and in syllables in order for you to sort out the word makeup.

There were several of us from Baldwyn in the bee, I cannot remember all. I know Barbara Bryson and Dean Rutherford were there, maybe Brenda Waters, and the others have escaped my memory. Were any of you readers entered in the contest at that time?

The tag has a couple of holes still in it, as it was attached with a hatpin. The printing above the number was put on after the bee was concluded, and was written on there by Mrs. Anderson, the owner of the Booneville Independent newspaper, who was the sponsor.

The event was broadcast live on radio WBIP. They had a remote set up and we had to spell into the microphone, which howled with feedback sometime when you touched it, creating a distraction. That was my first time to talk on radio. I had transmitted and received on amateur radio before, but using morse code only.

Photo of the Princess Theater courtesy of Willie Weeks,
most likely from The Nunley Collection


  1. Belated congratulations, Carl. And going out on WBIP as well. What could ever top that?

  2. What did you not spell correctly: antidisestablishimentarianism??

    Good job!


  3. If you had gotten to meet Piggy Bonds, that would have really been special.

  4. Hello Tony! Good to hear from you. The word I misspelled was "monkeys", a very simple word, but I was confused by that possibly being a possessive word not the plural. There were many lesser words misspelled that day by others, so I didn't feel too bad about second place.
    I didn't intend to toot an old whistle of mine with this article, it was intended to see if anyone else remembered being there, and to use an old photo of the theater.
    E/mail me and give me your email address.

  5. There were not very many things to win back in those days, Carl. The most coveted was a team letter if you were a ball player.
    The little money give-away on Saturdays downtown was illegal in a way of sorts, but in order to do it, they had to let the people at businesses that made money off of "punchboards" prizes go ahead with that.
    If you tried hard enough, you might get lucky and win a date with the football queen, and that was a prize worth getting!

  6. An old shot of downtown Booneville.

  7. The building just this side of the Princess was a large large pool hall. I lost a week's wages in there in 20 minutes once. That cured me and introduced me to pool "sharks". Never again -ever.