By Betty Shearer
After delivering papers to the stores early Wednesday morning, I began a super four-day holiday. Jim was arriving at 4:10 that afternoon and Jimmie and I were picking him up at Memphis International. Not wanting to waste the trip to Memphis, we shopped and ate until arrival time. Shopping is an overstatement. We actually looked—didn’t find anything we wanted to take home. The styles are just plain tacky, so we’re wearing our vintage clothing—which looks better than anything on the racks.
We did pick up a couple of pairs of sandals. Shoes do wear out and a few basic tops to replace those destroyed by grease popping in Mom’s kitchen as I fry chicken, okra and squash.
Jim arrived right on time. We drove up to the terminal, the phone rang, and he says, “Where are you?” Jimmie answered, “We’ve just started around the top level, come on out, we’ll be meet you at the door.” He popped out the door as we came to a stop—can’t beat that timing! He looked great and it was so good to get that big ole bear hug.
Usually we stop to eat in Memphis, but Jim says, “I just want to go home!” Home to him is Sissie’s and Uncle Bill’s, MamMaw’s, or our house. We went to the Cole house, heated up some southern barbeque, made baked beans and slaw, and topped it off with a lemon pie—made just for him. Visited until the wee hours and then Jim and I came on to the Valley.
Since the rest of the family had to work Thursday, Jim and I had the day to ourselves. Our only agenda was to get a monument for Ed’s grave, which I’ve procrastinated on. We were going to Davidson Marble Works in Winona, when, as we passed Seven Oaks, Jim says, “I bet they can handle this, without us having to go to Winona.” In we went and sure enough Wesley Vanlandingham took care of the job for us, with the aide of Jack making a picture of Mom and Dad Shearer’s marker—we wanted to match it.
While in the parking lot at Seven Oaks, we visited with Cathy Sartain and Frankie Brown, who had lost their brother, Lonnie Dale Farmer. I’d been disturbed by not being able to get to this family because of Jim’s visit—God does take care of things.
After we’d completed our “to do” list Jim’s asked, “Now how can be enjoy our day?” We both like to cook and eat, so I suggested that I’d like to sample Paula Deen’s Restaurant in Tunica and commented, “I only go to casinos with you.” It’s in Harrah’s. We went and I can report that the food is delicious (just plain ole southern cooking—no better than we can cook, but great for cafeteria food). The variety was unbelievable—there were salad, seafood, bread, dessert, vegetable, casserole, regular meat, and grilled/smoked bars, each one with 20 to 30 choices. Jim and I sampled mostly different dishes, with fried tomatoes and okra being our overlaps, and it was all good. He says the smoked oysters were the best thing he’s every eaten. I had to take his word for it—I don’t like oysters.
After stuffing ourselves, we toured the River Museum and tried to take a ride on the Tunica Queen. The Queen only has one tour each day and it begins at 2:30. We inquired as to who the captain was and the young lady says, “Mr. Don” and I added Landcaster before she could get it out. She says, “You obviously know him.” Don and Ed were classmates and he sends greetings to all his classmates and friends in the Valley. As the boat was docking, Jim and I waited, thinking we’d speak if he came our way. He did and even though I didn’t get to ride the Queen, I did get a hug from the captain. Jimmie and I plan to get over for a riverboat cruise later this summer. Don says take the dinner cruise—the food is delicious.
After visiting for a time and learning a bit about the Tunica Queen, the river and the museum, we say good-bye, thinking we were keeping him from getting home. He caught us at the first exhibit and made it so much more interesting—we’d have enjoyed having him as our tour guide for the entire trek.
The entire museum is tremendous, but the two things that Jim and I most enjoyed were a very realistic dive in a diving bell and a helicopter tour. You stand in small darkened area, with port holes. As the bell descends, you see fish and other underwater activity. It is so real that you believe you are moving down and then up in the water—I firmly believe I could feel myself moving and I know we were standing on solid flooring.
Second was the helicopter flight over Memphis, the museum, and delta farm land. You stood for this and believe me they need to provide seats with seat belts. My knees were wobbly and I felt like I’d fall down. Then when the thing swooped down on the building we were in, Jim says I yelled, “Get it up, get it up!” This flight was that real.
There is so much to see that you need at lest a whole day—we had about an hour and a half and that was by keeping an attendant overtime.
After this Jim wanted me to see a steersman crop duster in the Hollywood Casino, which he believes is the a plane flown by the late Johnny Dohr (Ed had taken him to Mr. Dohr’s airfield when he was quite young and he’d seen his plane). Ed would have know, but I’m not that good. We copied the N number and Jim, I’m sure, can find the identity of the plane with this info. Jim had not been in this casino since shortly after it was built. We were both fascinated by the movie memorabilia housed there. There were several other planes and helicopters, hanging from the ceiling, – all having been used in movies. I still have a crick in my neck from looking up. On eye level there are pictures of the stars, Elvis’s car from Spinout, the Titanic going down, a Batmobile, King Kong, and much more. It’s basically a movie museum and Jim and I were the only people there interested—the rest were gambling.
While here he did have to give me a gambling lesson—like I’m ever going to do such a thing. Jim has through the years giving me several book for Dummies— I use my Bridge one. In the non-smoking room, there was a machine dubbed “Gambling for Dummies”. It was a penny slot and apparently simple enough for anyone—I understood it. Jim put in money to show me how it operated and with one pull took away a voucher for more money than we’d spent all day. Now this was a fluke and it did not entice me to take up gambling—but we did have a fun day.
Traveling home from Tunica, we came down Old 61 to Highway 315. We took it, went through Sledge, Pleasant Grove Community, then Sardis. We both assumed that 315 would stop in Sardis, but it didn’t, so we continued and it came out on Sardis Dam. We went back to Hwy. 6, then back-tracked to pick up 315 again and on home.
Friday morning Jim, Jimmie and I went to Jackson where we met T. J. Ray of Oxford, Bennett and Mary Sue Anderson from Olive Branch at the Mississippi Agi Museum. Jim had never been here and wanted to see the print shop that his dad and the others have put much time into. He was surprised that he could still feed the presses, set type out of a case and enjoyed watching Bennett run the Linotype and all of us take turns on the Ludlow.
He, like me, was fascinated by this machine—we never had one in our shop. Jim says, “This thing is so neat, why didn’t we have one?” Guess we were just not affluent enough. Even though Jim had never operated this piece of equipment, he did sort a font of mixed-up Ludlow type for us. The light in the print shop is very bad, so he took it outside (was a very small type face) and spent several hours getting it corrected—got a sunburned face, neck and head doing this.
Friday night we again shopped (looked)—didn’t spend a dime, before eating a late supper. Had intended to go to a fish house, but with it so late, we decided to eat in the shopping center. Our choice was Up-the-Creek and the food was delicious. Jimmie and I had smothered chicken and Jim had shrimp and grits. Both meals came with two sides. We had enough food for at least 10 folks and we ate most of it. None of us slept well. The next morning we were still so full that we just ate the complimentary motel breakfast. We were at the Sleep Inn on Lakeland.
On Saturday morning we did more printing and one thing we were especially proud of was getting a print off a 100 year-plus engraving that Travis York had found with his metal detector. It is a photo of a man and was a sizable engraving for that day. as early engravings were very expensive. Jimmie, T. J. and Jim cleaned it up, mounted it, then pulled several impressions.
It printed amazing well for its age. Travis was pleased to see his picture and we all wished that engravings could talk—we’d like to know who this gentleman was, his station in life, and especially if he was Valley connected. Travis found the engraving on Wood Street, but it could have come from anywhere.
Came on home after lunch and then we had more food Saturday night, with a family steak dinner at Bill’s and Jimmie’s. We also had home-made ice cream, with peaches—Jim’s favorite.
Sunday, Patti Goodwin let Jim direct the music at Woodland Hills and he always enjoys this. He’s also excited to see all his friends at the church and to meet the new members. He and Bro. Ken got in a long visit and they’re becoming great friends.
Another welcomed visitor at church Sunday was Courtney Lynn Warren Murray of El Paso. Her family did not know she was coming in. Jim and Courtney live 35 miles apart but they have to come to the Valley to see each other.
We were also so glad to see Mrs. Etta Hoddnett and her daughter, Wanda, of Memphis. “Miss Etta” is now living in the Parkview Apartments, near daughters, Wanda and Martha.
Of course, all Jim’s favorite foods were served at Mom’s table on Sunday—peas, lima beans, field corn, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and pork loin, topped off with more lemon pie and cheesecake.
After an evening of visiting Jimmie and I returned him to the airport, where he departed at 7:10. Jim did not check bags and for you who don’t know many airlines are now charging a $25 bag check fee. He flew American and it has this charge, so he packed light and just had carry-on. For many years the airlines discouraged carry-on, with very tight bag size restriction. I’d better wrap up this book, and help get out this edition of the paper. One lady just called to inquire why new Heralds are not in the rack—though I’d missed a day, but looked at the calendar and was glad to find it was Tuesday.