Stories Abound From The Old Dennis Bakery
By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. I was thinking recently how I wish I had kept a diary as a lot of people do. Since I didn’t, I have to piece these stories together from memory.
A couple of doors north of where the Herald office is now, Earl Dennis had a bakery. He had come originally from Ohio, and was not only an excellent baker, but also an outstanding businessman well-liked by everyone. In the beginning his father was in the business, but bad health caused him to move back to Ohio.
I remember Mr. Dennis telling Mother he had gone back to visit in Ohio, and his father died while he was there. I also remember how you could smell the aroma before you reached the store.
Mother never failed to get fresh bread or rolls every time she stopped at the bakery. On this particular afternoon Mother, Lucie, Elmo Bagguley, and Mr. Dennis were chatting in the front of the store when this man came in.
I never knew his full name, but knew as everyone else did, Old Man Morgan. He was known to have a fondness for the bottle.
He was also a leathery old guy who might have been in his 60s and as some people would say had that Old Crow tan.
He pulled out a dollar, and announced that he wanted a dollar’s worth of cakes to BEGIN. He then took out his watch and from that everyone decided that in his drunk, befuddled state he thought he was getting in a gambling game. It got a little tense when he said, “And I’ve got a forty-five to back it up.” At that Mr. Dennis walked around the counter and checked to see if he indeed had a gun, but apparently he didn’t.
About this time Elmo slipped out and called the law. Dee Gore came in and said, “Go on home Morgan.” That was enough as no one talked back to Dee Gore. After they left Lucie said, “Thank you Earl for providing us with a floor show along with your good bread.”
As a footnote, I never saw Old Man Morgan when he wasn’t under the influence and I don’t know what became of him. On another, more upbeat note, I had known Clinton Thomas from going to singings as long as I could remember.
We became friends, and since I had a car he and his wife Lillian and daughter Patsy and I traveled to singings all around the area.
Clinton had a great tenor voice and previously sang professionally with the All American Quartet from Quincy, Illinois, located just across the Mississippi River from Keokuk, Iowa.
This was the same Quartet that the great tenor singer, Bill Shaw, sang with before coming to the Blackwood Brothers where he remained for nearly thirty years. Clinton said that there were internal conflicts in the group that caused him to return to Water Valley. He was a top salesman for the James Thompson studio for many years and sang in a family trio at singing conventions.
He had studied under E. M. Bartlett and Albert E. Bremley and he would coach me as we were driving and I learned more about phrasing and directing than I would have ever learned anywhere else. He said something that I’ve never forgotten.
He said, I don’t care how well you can read music, You’re still going to have to know how to sing.” Clinton died in his early 50s and, as far as I know, there are no recordings by him – which is unfortunate.
I talked to old friend Jim Allen the other day and was sorry to hear that he had been in the hospital in Tupelo. He says he is doing much better now and was glad to be home. Jim has provided me with a lot of information over the years that I have used in this column and it has been greatly appreciated.
I’m beginning to make notes when something comes to mind. I appreciate the input from all of you this past year and don’t forget that my my email address is email@example.com or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.