Hello everyone, hope you had a great Independence Day. I was thinking back on past fourths and realized that two really stood out in my memory.
It was 1944 and gas, tires, sugar, and many foods were rationed so nobody could travel far to a celebration. Mother got the day off, which was surprising as she worked in a war plant that made shell casings. She got some food together and we picked up her cousin, Vicie Gore, and her son, Earl, and drove to old Ford’s Well. She stopped and built a small fire by the side of the road. We fried bacon and hot dogs and had cokes to drink – we had a great holiday.
The other one was a year later in 1945 and there was a show and dance scheduled at Legion Lake which was about halfway between Coffeeville and Oakland. Buck Turner and his Buckaroos from Memphis were the country group and their featured vocalist was Ray Burney, who was a Coffeeville native. The other group was the Daniel Quartet also from Memphis.
Their baritone singer was Jake Hess, who would later become a legend in gospel music. Other performers were Judd Phillips who, along with his brother, would found Sun Records and introduce the world to Elvis, Cash, Perkins and many other country singers.
I remember it rained almost all day and we all crowded into the small Legion hut and the roads got really muddy. This was the time when country and gospel groups would appear on the same program and everyone thought this was the way it was supposed to be.
In the days before automobiles, candidates would come to Fourth of July picnics and bellow out to the crowd from a wagon bed. It was said that Mississippi’s James K. Vardaman could be heard a mile away – all this was before microphones were invented.
Southerners, for many years, didn’t shoot fireworks on the Fourth because that was the day that Vicksburg surrendered. It was said that the Confederates thought they would get better terms on Independence Day.
There was some validity in that because most of the Southern soldiers were allowed home on parole rather than going to a prison camp. My great grandfather, Bill Jumper was among them. When I was growing up fireworks were shot at Christmas, not on the Fourth.
Today we shoot fireworks on the Fourth just like everyone else. I mean Southerners collectively; I don’t go in for it myself.
The point I’m trying to make is that we never forget the meaning of Independence Day. Last week in the column about the Block boarding house, I mentioned other boarding houses that I remember.
Mrs. Bart Shaw had a stucco house on Main Street next to the building that once housed the Union Hall. It functioned just like the Block house with several tables and the food on the tables just like you were at home. The food was absolutely fantastic and you merely asked for what you wanted and it was passed to you.
At the time, I remember it so well during World War II the room cost fifty cents. It had to be the best in town. Mrs. Shaw was a small lady with a soft voice and sometimes she would preside at one of the tables – more often she would go from table to table to see that everything was satisfactory.
I had first hand knowledge of her place as well as cousin Callie Walker in Oxford, and Mrs. Moore in Senatobia. They were all elderly grandmotherly types with the exception of Mrs. Moore who was a salty old lady that I’ll discuss in the future.
I suppose every town of any size had at least one boarding house and all operated about the same. Those establishments are one thing about the old days that I genuinely miss. Those of you that have some memories that you want to share, about any subject, please let me hear from you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.