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Porches Provided Comfort For Hotel Guests

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, I hope you are having a good week. My thanks to Bill Sissell for filling out some of the information about Velma that I started when James Person sent me information, along with a picture, of his grandfather, “Pet” Person.

He wrote about the Halls, but we had no pictures until Bill provided them in a recent column. That’s why I always ask for any input that any of you might have – pictures always welcome.  

This week has been really hectic and I didn’t have a column completed in advance. Friday Jamie and Nicole flew into Little Rock and we met them at the airport and drove then up to Eureka Springs to attend a wedding of their close friends. We knew the bride, as she lived down the street from us and was in school with Jamie. They now live in Seattle, Wash., but she wanted to be married back in Arkansas.  

The wedding was held in the Thorn Crown Chapel and was conducted by David Fleming who is senior pastor of Pine Bluff United Methodist Church. He was Associate Pastor in West Memphis when Jamie and Lori were active in the youth group as teenagers. It was good to renew our friendship with him and it was a very impressive service.  

Eureka Springs is a unique town dating back to the 1870s. The downtown streets are narrow as they were in the horse and buggy days. The buildings are old and have been maintained in about the same look that they had back then. The Crescent Hotel, where most of the wedding party stayed, is supposed to be one of the oldest hotels that has been in continuous service for over a 100 years.  

It had been so long since I had lived in the mountains that I found driving a little tiresome.  It’s a good place to visit, but I really wouldn’t care to go back a second time. It’s good to have Jamie and Nicole with us as we hadn’t seen them since their wedding last September. They plan to visit Water Valley one day while they are here.

I recently talked to old friend, Tommy Fairchild, who has retired from his quartet, The Spoken 4. He reported his wife has some health problems, and after over 50 years as music director for the John Daniel quartet, the Oak Ridge Boys, and the Blackwood Brothers, he was thinking about moving back to  Florida where he grew up and doing some fishing. My best to him and Sandra and my thanks to him for being a good friend for many years.

It’s unfortunate that the gospel music business has always existed as a poor relation to country music and so many talented people barely made a living doing it. I haven’t been active in singings this year and my good friend, Bobby Barnett, who is a past President of the Mississippi State Singing convention, invited me to attend the Union County Convention hosted by a mutual friend of ours, Lavern Browning. I had to decline because I want to spend all the time I can with Jamie and Nicole.

I mentioned the Crescent Hotel and I failed to mention that it had a porch, the length of the front, with chairs all around.  Most of the old hotels had porches in the pre-air conditioner and television days.  This was about the only way guests could be comfortable on hot summer days. Although it burned before my time, the Oak Hall hotel in Water Valley had a porch with chairs and swings  according to my information. It sat about where the City Hall is today.

Some of their guests went on to become prominent citizens of the town.  Among them was Shine Tyson, who owned the Grand Theater for many years.  

Many of the old hotels, such as the Oak Hall and Granny Matthews in Oakland, were located near the railroad and attracted railroad workers and passengers alike. When I worked for Newman-Gardner one of the first funerals we had was Ed Block.  In 1878 when the Yellow Fever struck, Mr. Block’s father, who worked for the railroad, sent his wife and children out of town for safety.  He stayed at his job, caught the fever and died. Mrs. Block  moved back and the railroad hired her to run a hotel and boarding house to accommodate railroad people.

Her daughter, Minnie, was married in the hotel to Earl Leroy Brewer, a young lawyer who went on to be District Attorney. After successfully prosecuting the Ed Gammons murder case, he served one term as Governor of Mississippi.  If I rambled more than usual, blame the fatigue of driving over 300 hundred miles today and I’ll promise to do better next week.

Let me hear from you at my email address or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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