Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturdays in Baldwyn 1930s-40s


James "Jimmy" Cunningham

Baldwyn was a lively town in the late 30's & early 40's. Mr. Audie Coggins owned the Ritz Theater on Main St., and he usually had something special going on Saturday afternoon and night. He had a stage in front of the screen, so he would have a stage show of some kind if possible. There were singing groups, boxing matches, or even movie stars. Tex Ritter came with his group, and Mr. Audie had him to draw the lucky ticket for the Saturday drawing at 3:00 p.m.

Top attractions were the boxing matches in an elevated ring in the center of town. Local boxers were Sam Patton, Ed Wallis, Johnny Conlee, Raymond Easterling, "Curly" Copeland, Hasten Joyner, "Pee Wee" White & his twin brother Loyd, Mike Richey, Johnny Agnew, and Jess McGee. Most were amateurs who had never trained, but were pretty good boxers. "Curly" Copeland was fairly well trained and could usually win his matches even though outweighed in most cases.

For the finale on boxing nights ten or twelve boxers would enter the ring at the same time, and the last three standing would get the prize money. This was called a "Battle Royal".

Aud's admission tickets were fifteen cents to everyone on movie nights, but when he brought in "Gone With the Wind" it had to be $1.20 each. This movie lasted four hours with a 30 minute intermission.

Claude Gentry's theater (the Lyric) at Main & Front St. brought in the Jessie James movie which showed all night until 4 o'clock the following morning. These tickets were eleven cents to everyone, which was regular price, but only lasted a little over two hours.

Cars were not owned by many rural people in those days, and around fifteen school buses would bring people in to town around 10 o'clock on Sat. morning. They would shop until after the town drawing, go home and milk their cows, and then come back to town to the movie and visiting until after midnight. The stores would remain open until that time. I have worked in the grocery store until 12:00 p.m. and then gone to the barber shop for a haircut.

Hope this enlightens you about early Baldwyn. Normally on a week night, the GM&O Rebel passenger train going North at 10:51 was my signal to head home.


Images exerpted from "Around Town" film by Claude Gentry. Click to enlarge.

Thanks for the memories, Jimmy!


  1. Thanks Jimmy, I wish we had more gems like this from the "good old days".

  2. Jimmy what about the horse races and rodeoes East of town by the airport? What do you remember about them??

  3. Do you remember a fair or carnival that was set up in a pasture behind Mr. Charley Pierce's store? I was scared of it because there were gypsies there. (Or so I was told.)

  4. Didn't Gene Autry and Lash Larue also come to Baldwyn? I remember my mother talking about them.

  5. Carl the man in the far left in the first picture is my great uncle Jess McVey I think. If it is not him he had a twin...I remember him so well. In later years he had asthma and carried a little Chihuahua dog with him every where he went. The poor dog was so pitiful but seemed to help Uncle Jess' breathing.

  6. Thanks Jimmy. What a gem for me. I have never seen dad's name linked with boxing..heard alot about his boxing activities., however. Thanks so much for this little piece of keepsake.

  7. Mr. Claude Gentry told me that Tex Ritter came to Baldwyn. I believe he said it was 1938. I don't whether Gene Autry or Lash Larue ever came to Baldwyn. My brother and I saw Lash Larue about 1951 at the fair in Tupelo.

  8. I heard Lash LaRue did come to Baldwyn once. I was a loyal fan of his, but I only saw him in person once. The reason that I was not at the 1956 Miss-Ala Fair and Dairy show matinee that Elvis Presley did was I was at Lash's show twice that afternoon instead.

    I got to shake his hand and an autograph. He really did know how to use that 18-foot-long bull whip, actually snatching cigarettes from people's mouth and other tricks.

    He starred in B-westerns from 1944 to 1951 and in comic books until 1961.

  9. clarene-dont remember ur uncle Jess-but is not the man on the right Sam Patton?

  10. I surely would have known if Gene Autry was in Baldwyn. After all, he was my sweetheart. Or maybe he was there after I moved away. Boo hoo.

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  12. African-Americans from that era had a boxing ring at an intersection on Cemetery Street near a juke-joint. We used to stop and watch them when they were sparring. it was a bloody scene!

  13. The Saturday midnight show at the Ritz was usually a horror movie. After watching it, it was a scary bike ride home up North Second Street. There was a stretch past the schoolhouse where there were no street lights, and that was when the ghosts, goblins and gremlins "got" me!

    Glad to say, I tore away from them and am still living today...


  14. There is a painting of the Rebel train at the Corinth depot museum. I remember it coming through town late at night while listening WBIP sign off the air.


  16. Bob I also recall the time that Sunset Carson was in Baldwyn.

    I have heard the same story of an injured person at one of his shows - maybe somewhere in Mississippi.

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