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Polio Scare Caused First Missed Carnival

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  I’m sorry that I was unable to attend the Watermelon Carnival this year due to previous commitments.  

Once, during the late 30s, I didn’t attend due to a polio scare that year. This was long before Jonas Salk, and they warned us to stay out of crowds. We’ve seen many diseases conquered in the last part of the 20th Century and I’m sure that cures will be found for many of the killers of today, during this century.  

I was saddened to learned of the death of Evelyn Hamblett.  The last time I talked to her was several years ago at the carnival when she and Ruth Hyde were sitting in their lawn chairs. We all talked about old times.  

Evelyn’s father was the last school bus driver I had before leaving Camp Ground and, of all the ones I had over the years, he was my favorite. She was a gracious lady and my condolences to her family. My paper usually arrives a week late and, when I read Bill Sissell’s column about Nannette’s first day at school, it brought back a memory that I had almost forgotten.

In the 70s we  moved to Oklahoma City and leased a town house, as we didn’t know how long we would be there.  

It was in an area called Warr Acres, which was only a few blocks from the historic Route 66. Terri was four years-old and the rest of the children in the neighborhood were all school age. This meant that during the day Terri would have to entertain herself riding her hot wheels. Being an active four year-old, Terry would get bored.

 There was a school in sight of our complex and she would watch the kids playing every day.  On this particular day Lupe went inside to put her wash into the dryer. In that brief time when she came back out, Terri was nowhere to be found. She checked with all the neighbors and the complex manager, but no Terri.  

Naturally Lupe was pushing the panic button when Zane, the manager, called her and said the school had phoned and they had a little girl named Terri who wanted her mama.  

From what Terri told us and what the school confirmed, Terri saw the kids playing at recess and went over to join them. When the bell rang, the kids lined up and one older girl asked her which class she belonged to. Terri replied, “I don’t know.”  

She was tall for her age so the girl told her that she probably belonged to the second grade.  They went inside all sat down and there was no extra desk for Terri. The teacher asked where her books were and Terri couldn’t tell. It finally dawned on the teacher that she didn’t know this child.  

She asked here name and Terri told her, through tears, “I want my mama.” She told them where she lived and they called the complex office.

Terri told me the other day, “There I was not old enough to go to school and already I was being sent to the office.” I’m sure that most of us can tell a first day at school story, but back to the Watermelon carnivals.  

I remember that the first time I heard Gene Lowry and his Dixie Four Quartet was at the 1940 carnival. All the groups were playing the Albert E. Brumley song, “I’ve found a Hiding Place,” featuring Eiland Davis on tenor and Jim Waits bass.  Gene later took his group to Indianapolis, Ind., where they were popular in the mid west for many years.  

After the group disbanded Gene came back to Memphis and later had the Gene Lowry Singers sing back up for Charlie Rich in his early days.

To all of you I missed seeing at the carnival, I hope we can meet next year. As always, your input is always appreciated. My email address is still the same, or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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