Reflections

Water Valley Trip Opportunity To Visit Friends

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  Last Monday I had the pleasure of visiting the Valley for the first time since Veteran’s day.  First I visited my in-laws, Virginia and Edward Scanlon, then on to see Jim and Jo Peacock. I went by Robert Montgomery’s but he wasn’t home.  

Next on to Turnage’s and visited with Jim Oakley, Wade Doolin, Jim Allen, Jesse Barnes and Mayor Bill Norris.  In addition to a great cup of coffee, someone had baked two cakes, a black walnut and a strawberry.  I chose the strawberry and it was delicious.  In addition to the pleasure of seeing old friends, I always get information that can be used in future columns.  

Jim Oakley shed some light on a fatal shooting of a high school senior and I’ll come back to that later.  Then I went by Mr. and Mrs. Chester Joyner, as always it is pleasure to visit these fine people.  Mr. Chester called me after  my surgery and sent me a get-well card with a personal note. I told him how much I appreciated his thoughtfulness.  He told me how much he appreciated the columns I did on him.  I told him I was the one that should thank him not only for the opportunity but for the service he did over sixty years ago.  As usual he  shrugged it off by saying, “I had a job to do and I did the best I could.”  

When you see his medals, as I have, his best was very good indeed.  He started talking about his days at the Stave Mill that he started at when he was fourteen years old.  The job he did had a quota of ten thousand units a day and sometimes would be twelve thousand.  They had a steam whistle that alerted everyone to get up and another to begin the shift and another for a break. lunch and quitting time.  He said in the years following WWII they would get a nine o’clock “sweet break” where they would pool their money and send a designated runner over to Dale Johnson’s grocery for cinnamon rolls.  

The Mill stood about where the Dollar General is today and Mr. Wright was the manager.  Mr. Wright had two sons, Gene who worked on the railroad and H. F. who was a grade behind me in school and became an infantry second lieutenant and was killed in Korea.  We sat out on their front porch and it was so pleasant that if I had had more time I could have spent hours.  Mr. Chester is now home confined but he has such a laid back outlook that it’s hard to think of what he went through as a young man and still have this calm outlook on life.  I promised that I would visit again and let him give me a detailed description of the stave mill operation which I believe will be very interesting.  

Now back to the story Jim Oakley related to me.  Just about where Larson’s parking lot was a small beer joint in the late thirties.  A high school senior named Corita Carr started hanging out after school,  One night she was brought to Dr. George’s hospital with a bullet wound.  The story was that the men were showing a pistol and it accidentally went off and hit the girl.  From the beginning, the story sounded fishy and finally they arrested Aaron Heafner and he was brought to trial.  

The prosecutor was a young District Attorney named Jamie Whitten, who later served as a congressman for many years.  Jim said that he and other students went to the trial and said Mr. Whitten did an impressive prosecution. He showed the girl’s coat with the bullet hole and he asked the jury to imagine if it were their daughter in that situation.  Jim said that they went home believing that a guilty verdict was inevitable and they were shocked when they found Heafner not guilty.  There was a lot of speculation about a third party deliberately shooting the girl but nothing was ever proved.  Since all of the principals in the case are long dead we’ll never know the truth.  

Jamie came in from Portland yesterday (Saturday)  for Elizabeth’s graduation next Friday and we’re all looking forward to a visit to the Valley.  

I received an email from Ed French who said he  was a son of Dr. D. C. French who practiced for many years and he asked about pictures of early days which I don’t have and I referred him Jack Gurner. Let me hear from you as I always value your input and try to use it in my columns.  

My email address is charlescooper3616@sbcglobal.net or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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