Celebrating Fourth Is An Important Tradition
By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, I hope you are having a good week. As I promised when I started this column eight years ago, I would stay away from politics or religion except in a general or historical sense.
During these years there were many times when I really wanted to write on politics but I’ve restrained and don’t plan to in the future. The Fourth has come and gone and was very quiet at our house. Of course Jamie lives in Portland and had a birthday last Thursday and Elizabeth is in Hawaii with the Arkansas bands and are scheduled to do a concert at the Arizona Memorial today, (Sunday.)
I always get a little emotional on the fourth and feel that maybe too many people take this as just another day off, or a long weekend. When I was a kid we always did something on the Fourth, a barbecue or a family get together.
Papa Badley said in his day the railroad would have a picnic and people could ride the train for a very low fare. One was held north near Waterford and another south near Bryant Junction. There were large crowds as railroad employees and their families could ride for free. I think these were cancelled some time prior to World War I. I remember during World War II when gasoline was rationed, there were stamps designated “A,” “B” and “C.” Everyone got an “A” sticker which was good for three gallons a week. A “B” gave you more if you had an essential job and “C” for an even more essential job. Mother worked first for the Air Base and then at the Shell Plant in Grenada and had a B stamp.
This particular Fourth, in 1944 no activities were planned as gasoline was still rationed and just a month before the D-Day invasion had begun and things were pretty bad on the war front. Mother called her cousin, Vice Gore, and they decided that they would take Vice’s son, Earl, and me to Ford’s Well and cook out. We took some bacon and eggs and started a small fire near Ford’s Well and cooked by the side of the road. I remember that we were happy that we had done something on the Fourth.
If I remember correctly, gasoline sold for twenty-five cents a gallon at that time.
The next July the War was still going strong in the Pacific and everyone was dreading the bloody invasion of Japan. Little did we know that in a month the first atomic bomb would be dropped and the war would be over in days.
Also during that July my brother-in-law, Edward Scanlon, was born in Water Valley, and my future wife, Lupe, was born in Mexico. I remember when the news of Japan’s surrender was announced Blu Clark, who was the Fire Marshal at that time, led a parade of cars up and down Main Street blowing the siren and the cars blowing their horns. Mother told me later that when the announcement came over the PA system the line shut down in the Shell Plant immediately.
The first political rally I remember was in 1939 and local and State candidates spoke from the band stand on Main Street.
Paul Johnson, Jr. was speaking for his father, a candidate for Governor who was elected. Twenty years later Paul, Jr. was elected to that office in his own right.
I remember when Senator Bilbo spoke in Water Valley and I was over a mile from the scene and he came across loud and clear probably without a microphone. Old timers have told me that political rallies were more spirited in those days and sometimes led to fist fights.
One of our neighbors, Mr. Sullivan, said when he was a teenager a rival candidate of James K. Vardaman was to speak at Paris and he was paid fifty cents to stand in the crowd and yell “hooray for Vardaman.” He laughed and said that it almost caused a riot. It was claimed that merchants would call in people who owed them money and advise them how to vote, but it was never proved. I remember that Papa Badley was more interested in the Supervisor race because he lived in the lower end of Lafayette county and his farm ended at the county line of Yalobusha county.
He could only vote in Lafayette County, but he said he wished he lived in Yalobusha County because he liked Jim Oakley’s dad, Bob Oakley better than he did the supervisor in his county. Mrs. Maxine Tharp called me and corrected, reporting that Gloria Gardner was her cousin and there were a few other cousins about.
Mrs. Tharp, thank you for your input and feel free to call me any time. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.