Reflections

Greenlee Coal Kept Water Valley Warm Before Gas

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. As you’ve probably been watching the news, we had a car bombing in West Memphis last Wednesday. We know this goes on in Baghdad or Gaza, but this eventbrings it all into the realization –  there is no real safety in the world today. Dr. Pierce was not only our family doctor for many years, but also sings in our church choir. He is active in civic affairs and is loved and respected by everyone who knew him. I just had to include this to show how this has affected not only me, but my family and everyone in town.

As I’ve said before, usually one of my stories will lead into another one, so here is one of them. A couple of columns ago I mentioned how Paul Kiihnl and I responded to a wreck on the Old Oxford Road and I recalled a related incident that I had almost forgotten. As I said, these people were all drunk and a crowd had gathered by the time we got there. Frank Greenlee was a respected businessman in the Valley and, at times, had a fondness for the bottle. He told Johnny Middleton that he suspected that they had hidden their bottle and he looked around and found a bottle of Gin under a bush. He told Johnny, “After seeing all that , I needed a drink and I took it.” Frank ran the Greenlee coal yard which did a good business before natural gas came to town. His brother, Sherman, was stricken with what was probably Polio, because it left him unable to use his legs.

Clinton Thomas had a brother who had the same illness and he died. This didn’t stop Sherman from being a productive citizen. He had a specially made wheel chair with bicycle chains running from the wheels to two hand controls, which were at shoulder level and easier to propel than having to reach down to the wheels as most wheelchairs did.

He ran a radio shop in the back of the Greenlee store on Main, just below Peoples Wholesale. His mother had a popcorn machine in front of the store. They did a good business, as the only other place in town to get popcorn was at the Grand Theatre. People who didn’t have the money for a ticket at the Grand usually could afford a nickel bag of popcorn. I’ve seen Frank take Sherman in his arms into the store and put him in his chair. Sherman was independent and when the weather was good, he would roll up the street to his house in his chair. Sherman was a good singer and he went to the local all day singings and directed –  he did a good job.

In later years Frank bought a car and he told me for the first time in years ,Sherman could ride inside out of the weather instead of in the back of the coal truck. Frank never married but took care of his parents and his brother, and even introduced him to his future wife, Mary. They had children and all were respected members of the community.

I read with interest in Betty’s column, how she had received a letter from Jimmie Kathryn Woods-Morgan who now lives in Dayton, Ohio. Jimmie Kathryn would email me from time to time when she still lived in Nashville, although I haven’t heard from her in a long time.     

Jimmie Kathryn, if possible let me near from you again. She graduated several years ahead of me and I didn’t know her, but I did know her husband, Stanley Morgan. I remember the beauty contests she mentioned, but the only photographers that were around then would have been either Mr. I.J. Mars, Sr, or I.J., Jr. I haven’t a clue if any of their descendents are alive, or would have copies.

My readers are good about sending me information so let me hear from you. My email address is charlescooper3616@sbcglobal.net or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tenn. 38101 and have a great week.

Leave a Comment