By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.
The other day I casually mentioned to Jim Peacock that I had just realized that of all the employees of Newman-Gardner and Hen-ry funeral homes in the old days, I was the only one left and he said “why don’t you write about it in the column?” I thought the only fair way to do it was to mention ALL of the people who worked there over the years.
The Henry Funeral Home began as a part of the J. W. McLarty mercantile store, where coffins were sold out of the furniture department to families who handled all the services themselves at that time.
In the early 20th Century people began to ask for help in planning funerals and as near as I can find, Benson Wright first started handling that part of the business. Then, an interest in embalming started because some people had to delay funerals for out of town visitors.
Bill Carter, who held license number 2 in the state of Mississippi, became their first embalmer. Hayes Thompson was their embal-mer for a while in the 1920s.
The employees worked in the store as well and in 1935 Hamric Henry started working there after graduating from high school. He assisted Mr. Carter and as he told me developed an interest in the business. Mr. Carter died in 1936 and “Skeet” Alexander from Grenada became the embalmer for a couple of years.
Hamric graduated from Gupton-Jones school of Mortuary Science in Nash-ville number one in his class and class president. He worked there until he entered the Navy in 1942 and Robert McLarty, who had never cared for the funeral business, sold it to Oscar Douglass and George Garner. It became the Water Valley Funeral Home and Hubert Edwards managed it for a couple of years.
Johnny Middleton and Carless Edgar bought the business at the end of World War II, but the partnership only lasted a couple of years and the business reverted back to McLarty. Then it was sold to Hamric Henry, who had been working for the Wells Funeral Home in Greenville.
Hamric told me many times that he really only bought the shell of what had once been a thriving business. In the beginning he ran if by himself using Jesse Cox, who worked in the store to help him on funerals. As the business progressed he was able to hire Paul Kiihnl who had managed the Newman-Gardner Funeral Home for several years.
When Paul developed severe reactions from the chemicals and had to get out of the business, John McNamee was hired. Hamric built a small flower shop which his mother and his wife, Dorothy Jane operated. This was when I worked there relieving employees on vacation. I could have worked there full time but I had decided to go into another field, which I did until the Korean war started and I enlisted in the Air Force.
As most of you know now this is the place in the column where I usually change directions and I’m not going to disappointment you this week. I realized from the start that this saga would take two columns so as the old time radio announcers used to say, “tune in again next week.” Then I’ll start with Newman-Gardner and eventually tie the two together. I’m hoping that old friend, Winfred McCain, will have a related mule story to go along with my experiences with old Mike, so search your memory, Wimp.
In spite of what you might have thought about my mule story, I’ve always had a deep affection for them. The poor creatures are hybrids raised for nothing but a lifetime of hard work, and yet they have inherited from their donkey ancestors an ability that is truly amazing. They are much smarter than a horse because they won’t over eat or drink when they are hot, they won’t blunder onto a snake and they know their limitations. A horse can be forced to run until his heart stops but a mule will simply refuse to go further and nothing will budge him.
The Grand Canyon tours use mules because they are more-sure footed. You see those four years of vocational ag were not wasted. I’ve heard Papa Badley speak fondly of certain mules he had owned and they all had names. I remember one named Jude who lived to be 35 years old according to Papa’s records.
My email address is email@example.com or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.