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Interesting Characters Won’t Be Seen Again

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  

Sometimes the best of intentions seem to offend somebody, which bears out my long held belief that some people have too much time on their hands and they need to get a life. As that philosopher, Forrest Gump always said, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

This week I received an interesting letter from Mr. Michael D. Carroll, who writes under the pen name of “R. Buckett Monday”  and now calls Water Valley his home. He brought up a  story that I had heard but forgotten. In 1902 then Pres-ident, Theodore Roosevelt went bear hunting in Mississippi and let a bear escape,  I think because it had a cub. Somehow the story hit the news wires and Nationally syndicated cartoonist, Clifford Berryman drew the picture of a little bear cub up a tree and titled it Teddy’s bear.

The idea caught on and a new industry was born. Today Vermont Teddy bears are known all over the world and I have a friend that collects them. Mr. Carroll’s idea is to establish a Teddy Bear museum in Water Valley and, who knows, stranger things have happened. I think I read that some place where spinach is a major crop there is a statue to Popeye.  

Mr. Carroll was very complimentary about my column on Dec. 30 about older workers who are still very productive. It’s letters such as his who make writing this column such a pleasure and they out number the critical ones by a large margin. I always thought that the Teddy bear was more like a Koala bear than our American bears, but who am I to question success?

Mr.  Carroll, good luck in your museum idea and if any of you would like to take on this project, contact Mr. Carroll at 100 Hunt Lane R #40 Water Valley.  

I hope Jack Gurner won’t care if I do a brief profile of his grandfather, Marvin Groves. Mr. Marvin was a World War I veteran and worked as a barber all his life.  When I first knew him, he was operating a one chair shop in the back of the lobby of the Blackmur Hotel. He even had a shoe shine stand operated by a black man named Mose. I regret I never knew his last name, but he could make a shoe shine  like a mirror. Mr. Marvin was one of those rugged individualists who minded his own business and  didn’t interfere with the way others ran theirs. 

Wade Doolin told me an interesting story about Mr. Marvin.  He said that all the barbers in town wanted to raise their prices and they all delegated him to go and talk to Mr. Marvin. Wade said he told him what the others planned to do and when he was finished Mr. Marvin smiled and said, “Son tell them whatever they do is fine with me.” Wade said as far as he remembered  Mr. Marvin didn’t raise his prices then but did later when it suited him. The rest of the story is that he would come to have Wade cut his hair when Wade was working at Claude Terry’s, and Wade said he would leave a fifty cent piece on the arm of the barber chair. I could tell that Wade told that story with a great deal of affection for Mr. Marvin.  

Papa Badley said that at one time Mr. Marvin would open his shop on Sunday after church, as in those days traveling salesman often stayed there at the Blackmur and would want a haircut before making their Monday calls.

I think Edwin Blackmur believed that it added  a touch of class to have a  barber on duty for guests. In later years my dad would sometimes work out of Water Valley and he would stay at the Blackmur hotel and he always got Mr. Marvin to cut his hair while he was there.

In retrospect we had so many interesting individuals in town, it’s a shame we don’t have more documented records of them as their kind will never be seen again. I was fortunate to have known many of them when I was young but I never appreciated what value they could have for posterity.

I remember seeing George Wagner standing in front of his store when business was slow, Fred Kendrick walking from his home to the Bank of Water Valley at the same time each morning, Mr. Turnage driving his Buick and making a U-turn at the Bank of Water Valley and parking in front of the store,  Shine Tyson driving his Ford pickup with advertising boards about coming movies, and how exciting it was for us kids to look at all the movie still pictures in the front of the theater.  

Again I want to thank all of you for your input and remember my email address is or write me at P.O. Box 6131189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.

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