By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.
When you read this the Watermelon Carnival will only be two days away and I’m looking forward to visiting old friends and making new ones. In the past two columns I’ve tried to tell you about behind-the-scenes activities that went into this happy event and as I wrote it, I remembered things that I hadn’t thought about in years.
It has been estimated that at its peak over 25,000 people attended, which was a tremendous crowd for those days. Of course the streets were blocked off and only foot traffic was allowed. But even then it was difficult to make a way through it.
The word carnival aptly describes the excitement in the air as people visited with friends and relatives they hadn’t seen in years. The gym had shows that featured songs and comedy acts and it was all free. It was there that I first saw Gene Lowry and his Dixie Four.
I remember one of the songs was Albert E. Brumley’s “I’ve found A Hiding Place,” which was being used by all the quartets affiliated with the Stamps-Baxter organization. I can still remember how moved I was by the great Eiland Davis singing the high tenor part.
As I mentioned in a previous columns, Mr. Herman White was the biggest watermelon grower in the area and each year he would set up a tent and give away free slices to anyone who wanted them.
I hope Jack won’t mind me telling this true story about his grandfather, Mr. Marvin Groves. The Jaycees had a tent where they were grilling and selling hamburgers. Mr. Marvin was using a mason’s trowel to flip the burgers and this drunk kept giving him a hard time. He was connected to the largest radio station in Memphis and he knew how to throw his weigh around. Finally Mr. Marvin had enough and slapped him on the face with the trowel and went back to flipping burgers without missing a beat. The drunk, now sober, had sense enough to quit while he was ahead. Mr. Marvin was a good man who minded his own business, but he expected everybody else to do the same.
As sunset approached there was an air of anticipation as everyone looked forward to the parade which started at the park and ended at the gym where the coronation ball was held.
Buck Suratt was always in charge of entertainment and he would bring in bands from Memphis to play for the dance that followed the coronation of the Queen. My only regret is that I was too smalt to go to the ball but it’s still a pleasure to write about it after all these years.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these trips back in time and hope you enjoy this year’s events.
My email address is email@example.com or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and I hope to see you there.