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Reflections

Taxis Once Roamed Water Valley Streets

By Charles Cooper

    Hello everyone, I hope you are having a good week.

  Jack, again, put a timely picture with last week’s column. Elgin was one of the watches, along with Illinois, Ball and Hamilton, that were approved by the railroad. Mother had an Elgin watch that she got in the early 1920s and I still have it, along with other keepsakes. I even have an Elgin that was given to me, although I prefer my Seiko, which I’ve had for years.

  Bruce said the watch cost less than $40 in 1919, which doesn’t sound like much, but was a lot of money at that time.

  I remember that if two or  more railroad men were talking on the street, in a few minutes out would come those watches. At one time Frank DeShon was an authorized watch inspector. He had a jewelry store on Main Street next to the Peoples Bank, located in a building that became the City Hall in later years.

    After World War II Jake Cooper was authorized by the railroad.

  I remember when I lived in El Paso, the Southern Pacific inspector was Art Kassel, who was an old man when I knew him. I had a Hamilton watch that dad had given me for my high school graduation and it needed cleaning. Mr. Kassel told me that most people merely dipped the watch in a solution and blow dried it. He said he took it apart and cleaned it, piece by piece. Today, of course, no-body takes that pride in their workmanship, as everything is geared for speed.

  Ralph Wells, who was crippled from birth and confined to a wheel chair, learned the watch repairing trade and during World War II he repaired soldiers’ watches at Camp Shelby. Ralph’s dad, Mr. Dean Wells, had the first taxi in Water Valley – back in the 1920s. His taxi was a Model T Ford. Years later his sons, Aldean and L. P., carried on the tradition.

  After Camp McCain closed at the end of World War II, Bennie Appleton, and many others, saw their jobs eliminated, so Bennie took a good 1939 Chevrolet and started a taxi service. Cars were still scarce at that time and his business boomed, so he bought another 1939 Chevrolet and hired Coon Everett to drive the second car. He told me that he finally “burned out” with the long hours and night work and got out of the taxi business and bought a cafe.

    All of us teenagers were crazy about him because he would lend us his Juke Box for dances. He presented that ornery demeanor, but underneath he was a good-hearted individual.

  Years later, when he was on the police force, he counseled many teenagers instead of arresting them, and many of them today are good citizens as a result of this. You never heard about this from Benny, as he always kept a low profile. Since I never got into trouble and did not need his counseling, he treated me almost like I was a member of his family and I’m proud to have been his friend.

  Since my new computer is up and running I’m wandering all over the place as usual. Let me hear from you whenever possible as I always value your input and use your suggestions.

    My email address is still cncooper1@hotmail.com or write me at P. O. Box 613189, Memphis, TN 38101.

    Have a great week.

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