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Rivalry Between Towns Created Bar Ruckus

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  Believe it or not, the column about the school bus route that I traveled for eight years created some favorable review. I had been afraid that no one would care about where it began and who was picked up along the way, but I was pleasantly surprised.          

When I see these 60 passenger buses with air conditioning and heaters, and seats that face forward, I realize just how much progress we’ve made in school transportation.  

Now it is time to move to another subject. Today we hear about violence in clubs and drive-by  shootings.  Back in the 30s and 40s, Water Valley and Yalobusha County had a colorful history.  The difference is that we didn’t have the drug situation that we have today.  

We did have beer and liquor problems, but drive-by shootings were unknown. There was a rough little club located where Larson’s Piggly Wiggly is today  that was a rough place. A high school senior was killed at the club.

There was a trial and my old friend, Jim Oakley, recalled he and some friends cut classes to watch the  proceedings.  Jim said that the District Attorney was Jamie Whitten, who later was Congressman for many years.  

Even though he was a dedicated young prosecutor, the evidence was weak and he was unable to get a conviction.

Another club was aptly named Shady Springs, and was located on what is now old Highway 7, just north of Coffeeville in a rock building. The club was owned and operated by Henry Branum who tried to operate a respectable establishment.  Unfortunately there was always a rough element who go to places with the express purpose of starting trouble.  I knew Henry and he was a likable individual. Shady Springs gained a reputation that was not entirely his fault.  

I was too young to be part of that scene and my information comes from older friends who told me about some of the events.  During that time there was an intense rivalry between Coffeeville and Water Valley boys and when they were thrown together, fights were the usual outcome.  

Henry eventually grew tired of the aggravation, got married, had a son. They moved to the Delta where he operated a store for several years.  

Another rough place was the Watts Store at Springdale.  I first knew Mr. Watts when I was a small child. Papa Badley had leased some land on what was known then as the Andy Ross place.  Coming home late one afternoon, his shepherd dog, Joe, was hit by a car and Papa thought he was dead.

The next morning Mr. Watts sent his son to tell us that Joe was alive and they had given him water and tried to feed him.  Papa hitched a wagon and we all went down to bring him home.  He lived for several more years.  Papa always said regardless of his occupation, Mr. Watts had a good heart.  

Mr. Watts’ son and another man would drive to Ensley bottoms near Memphis and buy moonshine. They would bring it back and Mr. Watts would sell it out of his store  Eventually a revenue agent arrested him and he served a couple of years in a federal pen in Atlanta.  

When he came back he told Papa that he might still drink some but he was though selling it. He later sold his store and moved to Oxford and ran a small store and gas station.  

There was another joint just across the Lafayette County line on Highway 7 until someone torched it one night. A well known farmer was suspected for some reason. The farmer went to Texas for a few years and no one was ever convicted.

Teenagers always know who the bootleggers are and where they could drive to buy beer. In the late 1940s Carroll county was the place of choice.  

I’ve been writing this column for nearly nine years and I’ve tried to give a history of my home town and surrounding area as I remember it without judging anyone. Like it or not, as Walter Cronkite would say, “That’s the way it is,” or was.

I hope to continue writing it as long as I can keep it interesting enough that you still enjoy it.  So many of you have contributed over the years and I again thank each and everyone of you.

I hope you will continue to send your comments and suggestions to my email address or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tenn., 38101.

Lately my  paper has been coming on time and I thank you at the Herald.

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