Jan - Around the Square with Banks Shepherd, Vol. 1

Dear Friends of LOFC,

With the arrival of a new year in a new decade, we can only hope and pray that it will evolve into a better year than 2020. Sadly, it has not begun well, but with the arrival of vaccines there is promise that the beast COVID will be tamed and some sense of normalcy will return to our lives. Let us also hope and pray that we can bridge the deep divide in this country and together celebrate our great Republic.

One of the many gifts of my involvement in LOFC has been the opportunity to renew connections with others who grew up in Lexington and like I, call it their ancestral home. Dr. Banks Shepherd is one of those people. This month, and to follow in subsequent newsletters, we will feature Let’s Go Around the Square in Lexington, Mississippi by Dr. Shepherd. Although he has had a successful dentistry practice in Aberdeen that spans many years, Dr. Shepherd also has a journalistic background. His father Tom Shepherd was the Editor of The Lexington Advertiser. My grandfather Roland Austen Povall was the owner and publisher of that paper, so I guess Banks and I both have printers’ ink in our blood.

As a young boy, Banks delivered newspapers on his bicycle, and later in high school, he and Adelaide Ramsay served as co-editors of the L. H. S. newspaper, The Beacon. While a student at Ole Miss, he was twice editor of the yearbook. While attending the U. S. Naval Officers' Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, Banks was editor of the class book. After serving in the Navy, Banks chose to become a dentist instead of a journalist. Nonetheless, while in Dental School at the University of Tennessee, he once again served as editor of his class book. Banks and his wife Mary Ann (Murphree) arrived in Aberdeen in 1964, where Banks opened his dental practice and has continued to practice to this day. As evident below, he has not lost his keen eye for observation and the ability to tell a good story. I am immensely grateful to Banks for sharing his recollections of the Lexington Square. Below is the first installment in a series. It is a treasure. Enjoy!

By Dr. Banks Shepherd

Growing up in Lexington and living in proximity to the Square, which is the hub of business in any town, I was intimately familiar with it. Periodically, in our adult life, Adelaide Ramsey and I would get together and talk about the old Square. We would both, say, “We ought to write down what we remember about the Square.” Sadly we cannot do it together as Adelaide has died, but recently I found Bettye Rabb and she has jogged my memory.

I have a picture that Elizabeth Rhyne painted and gave to my mother Grace. Since no one in my present family knew Elizabeth, (who married my mother’s first cousin Vernon Rhyne) I thought maybe one of her children/ grandchildren might want it. In “googling” Tommy Rhyne, I found that his wife Glenda Peavy Rhyne had died. Her obituary had a message of condolence from Betty Rabb. Through Facebook and Google, I found Betty, and we have reconnected. This is how I remember it in the late 1930’s and 40’s.

1. Starting on the northwest corner of the Square was The First National Bank. The president was Max Scobey; his wife’s name was Ann and their daughter Patricia Ann, a close friend of my sister, Penelope. At his death, Malcolm Phillips became President. Later Jack Yates, who married Patricia, became CEO and Chairman of the Board. My banking experience was certainly limited in those times, although I made my first loan for $120 from the bank in early 1950’s to buy a camera. I thought that I was big time, but of course my mother had to co-sign the note, and I worked and paid the note off myself.

Going north from the bank was the Office Price Administration (OPA). During WWII, some of its duties were the rationing of gas and sugar. We had stamps in a booklet and had to produce them to buy these two items. It was also the place where you had to register to buy a bicycle, giving them a reason that you needed one. I had just begun to deliver papers, so I applied for a “Victory Bike” -- the one with bigger wheels and skinnier tires. Daddy got me a bicycle in Greenwood, so I never got the Victory Bike. I am not certain about the rationing of shoes. It may be that the cost of shoes and one’s financial ability to pay for them were a consideration. Between the OPA and the Methodist Church was the Mississippi Power and Light office. Later, after WWII the OPA office became a record shop run by Bill Jordan. My recollection is that my sister Penelope worked there. It could be that she only spent money there. Bill also developed film and printed pictures which probably initiated my photo developing interests.

2. Now returning to the corner, and crossing the street, the next business was Beall’s Drug Store. Mr. Ben Beall and his wife, Tallulah, owned and operated it. Mr. Jesse Walton worked there. My first remembrance of the drug store was getting a prescription filled for quinine. It was in powder form and folded in pieces of paper. Mother tried to get one dose down me with no success, so I went back, and Mr. Beall put the rest in capsules. As an added note, I recently purchased in 2020 an old medicine bottle with embossing from Beall’s Drug Store on it.

The entrance to the store was recessed and on either side of the entrance were two plate glass windows. Inside the windows were steam radiators, each with a thick wooden board on top, so you could sit down. One had to be careful in the wintertime as the radiators got hot and you could easily burn your legs. On the north side the men gathered to talk. The south side was the magazine section, where you could read magazines and funny books. I am sure that the Bealls would have preferred for us to buy them, but I do not ever remember them telling us not to read them. Inside, over the entrance, was a fan. It was very loud and looked like an airplane without wings. Come to think of it, it sounded like an airplane. Beyond the magazine and newspaper stand running along the north wall was the soda fountain. As I remember, they sold Seale-Lilly ice cream. As much as I like milkshakes, my fondest drink was chocolate milk over crushed ice in one of the old Coca-Cola glasses. I still like them that way. Earl Alexander, Earl Tate, and Marion Petty were the soda jerks. Beyond the soda fountain was an area for sitting and enjoying an ice cream sundae or whatever. Many of my hours were spent in Beall’s Drug Store. I have a set of the children’s chairs and a table from that era in my possession now or at least one of my girls has it. Across from the soda fountain was a set of scales where for a penny you could weigh yourself. Some of the scales in those days gave you your fortune, but the one in Beall’s was not so fancy. Next to the scales was the tobacco section, and it was there that I bought my first and only can of snuff. After almost choking on my first dip, I vowed it to be my last and so far, I have been faithful to that promise.

Although cigarettes are not as popular now, there were many brands: Old Gold, Phillip Morris, Chesterfields, Camels, and Lucky Strikes. Pall Malls were considered a lady’s cigarette. It had a red tip on it, so a lady’s lipstick was not so noticeable. In those days, a popular radio program on Saturday nights was The Hit Parade which gave you the latest and most popular songs for the week. The program was sponsored by the American Tobacco Company, which made Lucky Strikes. Its radio ad was an auctioneer doing his chant and then when the hammer went down, he said, “Sold, American! Lucky Strike means fine tobacco.” As the world stopped to tune in on Saturday night, my sister Penelope would sit down and listen to what was the number one hit that week. This was getting into the Frank Sinatra popularity days.

As I said above, my snuff experience was limited, but I guess every boy had to try chewing tobacco at least once. Day’s Work and Brown Mule were two popular chewing tobaccos -- the latter being mighty strong. Most beginners ended up with Beech-Nut tobacco. With nowhere to spit and swallowing the juice, which made me sick, my chewing was relegated to Double Bubble gum. The wrapper contained a comic strip, the Katzenjammer Kids.

The Ben Beall family included Julia (who died at an early adult age from breast cancer, I think) and Elizabeth (Libba) who married Louis King.

3. Underneath the drug store was the pool room, where a few of my leisure hours were spent. Since it was below street level you could not see inside, and I am sure that it was thought to be a den of iniquity. A pool room was not held in high esteem in those days. There were three pool tables, two for straight pool and one a snooker table. Shooting snooker required more skill, so it was not as popular as the other tables. I think it was a dime per rack or game. Usually, it was played with the loser of the game paying the cost. That usually was the extent of the gambling. Beyond the pool tables were two card tables for playing a game that was called “set back.” It was played with “rocks” which were like dominoes but had playing cards on their face. In the pool room, the deuce, ten and jack through king and ace were used. Each player got to select a hand and bid their hand as to the number of “tricks” that they anticipated they could win. You could “shoot the moon” and win the game, but otherwise you played and got points for each trick. Failure to win on your bid, you were “set back.” With that game the stakes were more, usually twenty-five cents. I think beer was sold there, but I do not ever remember seeing anyone drink a beer, and I was not at beer age at the time. But if you ever ventured down there and stayed any time at all, you left with a telltale odor of beer, urine and cigarette smoke. When I told my mother that I had been to the drug store, my smell would let the truth be known.

Some of the regular “Set Back” players were Carl Rogers, Bob Farmer and Russell Chennault, who worked at the funeral home. Mr. Farmer was a painter/ carpenter, and Mr. Rogers had a “store” on top of Miles Hill south of town. My cousin, Arch Rhyne, ran the pool room, and he may have lived there. He had lost a leg earlier in life and had an artificial leg. Sometimes if you came late at night, he might have taken the leg off, and it would be standing in the corner. My daddy said that Arch lost his leg in an accident while racing a car in the county fair.

4. Leaving the drug store and heading down the block, there was a set of stairs leading to the second floor where Attorney Peter Paul Lindholm had his office. Evidently, his father had had a jewelry repair store there before Paul moved in as there was a big safe belonging to Mr. Lindholm. Shortly before Geneva, Paul’s wife, died she sold the safe to somebody, and it was opened and emptied. I was at Geneva’s house after she had opened it, and lots of jewelry and a few watches were in it. She was going to sell it to somebody as scrap metal. I would have loved to have had some of the contents from the safe, but I was there picking up some things that she had given me from under her house -- an empty clock case, which I recently had a movement put in, an old clock and a walking stick cabinet. I did not want to be greedy, so I did not ask for anymore. On the wall in Geneva’s house was a picture of the King of Sweden and a personal letter to the elder Mr. Lindholm from the King in an envelope attached to the back. Not many people knew it was there and when Geneva’s estate was sold, I am sure that the letter fell off and no one looked in to see what it was.

I think maybe Dr. Ash’s office was above Beall’s. I remember little about Dr. Ash, other than that his name is on my birth certificate. I have written that Dr. Ash was in the office adjoining Peoples Drug Store, but I may be wrong on that.

5. The next stop on the Square was The Welcome Inn Cafe, owned by Diamond Klonaris. He had four sons; I think. I knew Johnny and Billy. The other sons were Nick and one more. They may have been kin to another Greek family, the Dinas family. I never have completely understood the connection of the Klonaris and Dinas families. In the late 40’s Pete Cora came from Greenville via Tchula to cook. His son, Spiro, was a good friend of mine. Spiro’s daughter, Kat Cora is a famous chef on TV now. Diamond’s wife usually was at the cash register. I remember Mary and Rebecca Rathell working there as waitresses. Stuckey was also a longtime waitress at The Welcome Inn. The cafe had a counter and stools along the right wall and table and chairs on the other side. As we did not go out to eat much, I do not remember more about it.

6. Next to the cafe was a barber shop, owned by Mr. Upchurch. As I remember it, I called him “Mr. Upchuck”. I was probably three or four years old at the time when Daddy would take me in for a haircut. His children were Walter (who was the projectionist at the Star Theater), Sparky, Martha Julia and Billy Adams. Billy Adams was my age and when we were in about the second or third grade, a window shade fell on him and the roller hit him in the eye, and he lost the sight in it.

7. There may have been an entrance to a beauty shop next door.

8. On the corner of that block and Spring Street was the office of Mr. Curtis Carr. I think it was the Federal Land Bank. I remember that on Fridays he sometimes went to Greenwood and on occasion I would ride to Greenwood with him and spend the night with my father and then come home with Daddy on Saturday.

9. Mr. G.H. McMorrough had a law office on the second floor of that building but it was accessed by stairs on Spring Street.

10. Just beyond this stairway on Spring Street, Claudie and Scott operated the Orchid Beauty Shop. [Editor’s Note: There are many stories originating at The Orchid Beauty Shop, worth a story on its own.] Later in the 1950’s they built a house and lived across from us on Carrolton Street.

11. Above the beauty shop was the telephone exchange. At that time there were live telephone operators and they talked to you, asked what number you wanted and then plugged you in on the switch board. Dora Pearl Tidwell was the manager. Our telephone number was 13. Adelaide’s was 191 and Mamie Hooker’s was 28. Alice Byrd and Fran Wynn were also operators.

12. Further down Spring Street stood the City Hall built in the Bauhaus architectural style. Charles Glover was the longtime City Clerk. He was later followed by Alton Parker.

13. The Coca-Cola plant, a large red brick building, stood on the corner of that city block and was owned by D.C. Lundy. Roy Gelston worked at the Coca-Cola Company and lived across the street behind the plant on Boulevard Street. Every year at the beginning of school, each student would get a pencil and tablet or notebook from Coca Cola. The pencils were red with Coca-Cola written on them. They were bright and stood out. One got a tablet in the lower grades and then got a notebook in the upper grades. We felt much older when the year came, and you got a notebook. We felt grown-up then.

After moving to Aberdeen, I had an occasion to return to Lexington and for some reason, I visited the closed plant with Roy Gelston. He opened the safe and gave me a pencil sharpener in the shape of a Coke bottle. I still have and treasure it.

To be continued . . . .

Despite the uncertainty of this past year, we are pleased to advise that LOFC had a successful year due to the many volunteers who donate their time, energy and treasure. Ed Thurmond continued to serve as our President and Julian Watson as Chairman of the Board – both with distinction. Pat Barrett most ably oversaw our treasury from the incorporation of LOFC until he retired as treasurer the later part of this year. Chris Hammett gave countless hours making sure that donors receive a tax receipt as a well as a myriad of other tasks. Betsy Padgett kept our Board minutes and assisted Chris with other tasks. Harold Hammett spearheaded the Maintenance Committee, so he could often be found at the cemetery overseeing the grounds keeping team. The Investment Committee made up of Phil Cohen, Julian Watson, Pat and Harold oversaw the investment of the endowment fund in prudent investments. Norman Weathersby, III, our newest volunteer, made significant improvements to our website, cemetery management system and mapping, as well as creating the “Honor Roll of Veterans” and a blog. The columns at the third gate were rebuilt, and the gate and archway repaired. Thanks to generous donors and the Davidson Monument Company in Kosciusko several of the monuments and headstones in the old section were repaired. Todderick Brooks and his team maintained and beautified the grounds. Presently, he and his associates are also reinstalling cornerstones. Your generous donations make this possible. We have come a long way since the incorporation of LOFC in June 2018, and with your continued support we will move forward with our goal to maintain our historic cemetery and create an endowment that will support LOFC in perpetuity.

With heartfelt thanks to all of you who love and support LOFC and with best wishes that our journey continues with hope and promise,

Yours sincerely,

Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor

We appreciate your support and could not operate without your generous gifts.