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Reflections

Many Vallians Overcame Handicaps

By Charles Cooper


Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  First I’d like to acknowledge some much appreciated emails.  Buddy Kelso, who I believe is a cousin to Curtis Berry, sent me the first email from him in several years and it is always great to hear from him.
Then an old friend,  Winfred McCain, sent a comment in reference to the school bus column. He said that his uncle, Henry Henderson, bought a 1938 or 1939 Chevrolet truck without a cab or seat and drove to the Bluebird factory in Georgia siting on an orange crate. I was in error when I said it was a GMC and Mr. Henry had the distinction of having the only factory made school bus body at Camp Ground school and certainly the safest.
Stephan Greenlee sent a thank you email about the column that featured his grandfather, Sherman Greenlee. He didn’t say where he lived but apparently someone showed him a Herald for that particular week.  
Just a suggestion—since the Herald subscriptions are such a bargain, why not take one and maybe you’ll find a lot of interesting things about Water Valley.
I’m sorry I don’t know more about Sherman, but I’ve always admired how he overcame a handicap and became a productive citizen.  
Another Water  Valley native who overcame a handicap that caused him to spend his life in a wheel chair was Ralph Wells.  Ralph, who was John Ashford’s brother-in-law, would run with other boys when he was young and keep up with them in his chair.  
As an adult he learned the watch repair trade and during World War II he had a repair business at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg that was the induction center for the Army in Mississippi.  
Another individual with a handicap was H.O. (Hot)  Thomas, who lost a leg in a railroad accident.  Mr. Thomas opened a barber shop on North Central street about where the Regions Bank is now and fitted a bicycle seat that allowed him to sit and cut hair.  
Many north Water Valley boys, Jim Peacock being one, remembered going to him when they were young. We lived across the street from him for a time and he kept  regular hours coming home for lunch and going back to work Monday through Saturday.  
A young man, and I’ve forgotten his name, but maybe someone will write me, had a severe speech impediment but became a Methodist minister. I heard him preach when I was a kid and we understood his message perfectly. If memory serves, he had a long career in the ministry.
When I was a small child an old black gentleman named Omery Freeman who lived with his son, Rufus Freeman, on the farm next to Papa Badley and was to old to work in the fields would sit and weave baskets and chair bottoms during the day.
Old friend, Elmer Higgin-botham,  who wrote a column similar to this in the Oxford Eagle and walked with a cane,  would pick cotton for walking around money since he had no social security.  
Ray Charles, blind since he was a child, became one of the best loved musicians of the 20th Century.  I’m sure some of you could share similar stories with us and they are always appreciated. 
My email address is cncooper1@hotmail.com or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101  and have a great week.

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