Dear Friends of LOFC,
With the approach of Memorial Day, Chris Hammett and her team of willing volunteers have placed American flags on the graves of veterans buried in LOFC. This project was the brainchild of Larry and Kathie Mayo, who have been invaluable in locating graves of veterans as well as celebrating them with the placement of flags. Totaling almost 400, it is a sight to behold. Check back, for shortly we hope to have a video of the flags flying posted on our website. As part of our continuing plan to honor the veterans buried in LOFC, and with your help, we will add photographs to the Honor Roll of Veterans. If you have a photograph of a family member, preferably in uniform, or in the field who was a veteran and buried in LOFC, please send the photograph to Norman Weathersby at email@example.com. Please use a high quality scanned image. To view the current Honor Roll of Veterans, click https://lexingtonoddfellowscemetery.com/veterans. Further, if you know of a veteran buried in LOFC who is not listed, let us know his or her name, rank, branch of service and years served.
In February’s newsletter, we shared the second installment of remembrances of the Lexington square by Dr. Banks Shepherd. The third installment follows. If any of Dr. Shepherd’s remembrances jog your memory with recollections of the square that you would like to share, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will try to include them in an upcoming newsletter.
Being a part of the LOFC community has been incredibly rewarding to me, and yes, so much fun. Not only has it allowed me to reconnect with many Lexington families who were part of my formative years, but also to remember the stories that make us who we are. Banks’ recollections provide a treasure trove of Lexington’s history during those halcyon days when he was growing up in Lexington. Building on his stories has allowed me to reach out to others, which quite naturally include my family and other keepers of Lexington history such as Parham Williams, Phil Cohen, Pat Barrett and Ed Thurmond. I hope that I have done my best to capture their memories correctly for in the end, it truly takes a village to write this newsletter.
As to Banks, I have concluded that there was no job that he did not undertake while growing up in Lexington. Whether delivering newspapers on his bicycle for the local newspaper or milk for the Moore family diary, bottle washing or waiting tables in a restaurant, erecting tents for The Rabbit Foot’s Minstrel, or pumping gas and repairing tires, he did it all. Admittedly, he did have issues making concrete blocks. His life story is a testament to hard work and perseverance, which in his case brought success as a student and editor of the yearbook at Ole Miss, service in the U. S. Navy as an officer and qualification to practice dentistry, from which he retired this past April. As you read this newsletter, you will have to wonder how he had time to do it all. As my sister Patty likes to say, “Banks is just another amazing Lexington success story.”
In Part II of the tour, we left you on Wall Street at the office of Dr. Gordon Russell, a longtime and beloved dentist in Lexington and a veteran who served in the U. S. Army Reserves with the rank of First Lieutenant, Dental Corps and in the U. S. Army as Captain during World War II.
By Dr. Banks Shepherd
Leaving Wall Street and going east on the south side of the square stood Watson’s Bargain Store, a grocery store owned by Raiford and Irene Watson. Later, Jimmy “Snorkie” Phelps had a dress shop in that space. Next door was a dusty stairway that led to the Holmes County Health Department where you got the dreaded typhoid shot. (I rather doubt that a broom ever hit the stairs!) This predated its move to a new location just off the square near the home of Julius “Pinky” and Ruth Boyd Flower and their daughter Emilie and the Ricky Theater, owned by Pinky. When originally built in the early 1930s, the Ricky was named the “Strand Theater.” Its principal claim to fame arose in 1939 when “The Wizard of Oz” was shown there. Starring Judy Garland, the “Wiz” was the first technicolor movie shown in Lexington.
Parham Williams adds that in addition to the Health Department offices, the second floor also housed the medical office of Dr. Frank L. Bott. His son, also known as Frank, was an autistic savant who, as an adult, often sat in a cane-bottom chair on the sidewalk adjacent to the stairway leading to the second floor. A passerby occasionally paused and asked Frank a seemingly unanswerable question such as “What day of the week was June 9, 1921?” Hesitating only a moment, Frank would reply: “Thursday.” If one doubted Frank, a search of the appropriate reference work would prove him to be correct. Frank, all agreed, was infallible!
Next was Patterson’s Variety Store owned by the parents of George Patterson and grandparents of Ann and Eleanor. They lived in a house behind the Lexington Grammar School. The store was what we knew as a ten-cent store. I think Mrs. Boatwright, Donald’s mother, worked there.
After Patterson’s there was another stairway to the law offices of Johnson and White, which occupied the second floor above Henrich’s Drug Store. Edwin White and his wife Julie were the parents of Carolyn and Borden and lived on Spring Street. Henry Herbert “Happy” Johnson was married to Mary Dalton “Mittie” McBee, and they lived diagonally across from the water tank that stood on the grounds of the grammar school. Happy and Mittie had three daughters Alice Dalton, Ada Herbert, and Mittie McBee “Bee.” Alice Dalton married William E. “Wet” Thurmond, and their children are Ed and Mary (Chaney).
Henrich’s Drug Store was next, and Adam Henrich was the owner. He filled many a prescription but was not a pharmacist. His sister, Liz, also worked there. One of my many jobs was delivering milk for Irving and Inez Moore. The Moores had a dairy south of town and came in each day in a pickup truck with bottles of milk in the back. Elroy Kitchen and I would stand on the running board, hopping on and off to deliver milk. Irving Moore was a big man and could hold three quarts of milk between his fingers on one hand. I lived for the day when I could do that.
We delivered one quart of milk to Henrich’s Drugstore each week. When the bottle was empty, they placed it on the radiator in the front of the store where we picked it up and left a fresh bottle. The Moores hated getting that empty bottle since it had been sitting there for almost a week, and the milk residue was almost impossible to remove. Adam was married to Mabel. They had a daughter, Betsy Harper, and lived on Clifton Street.
Patterson’s IGA grocery store was on the corner. George was married to Anna Margaret, and their daughters were Ann and Eleanor. When George opened IGA, he convinced Morris Flink -- who owned a butcher shop behind the Center Theater -- to rent space in the back of IGA for their mutual benefit. Mr. and Mrs. Flink had three daughters and lived in a boarding house south of the square. Their youngest daughter Myra was a classmate of my sister Penelope and tragically died at the early age of thirteen of spinal meningitis. Leon Armstrong worked in the grocery section, as did Willie Edwards.
The law office of D. T. Ruff, a sole practitioner, was located on the second floor above the IGA store. D. T. married Ida Rayner; their home was on Clifton Street where they had an “urban farm,” with a large vegetable garden, a milk cow and numerous chickens.
Traveling south on what was colloquially known as “Beale Street” was for the most part the African American business section, although the newspaper and a Chinese grocery were also there. Officially this street is Yazoo Street.
Our local newspaper, The Lexington Advertiser, the second oldest newspaper in Mississippi, was owned by Roland A. Povall, the father of Cass, Sessions, George, Sidney, Emily and Allie. My father was editor of the paper. I can remember visiting my father at the paper and sitting on the lap of Mr. Povall. Truett Phelps was the linotype operator (this name comes from line of type, I suppose). I am certain that there were a few more employees, for copy writing and proof reading, but I do not recall any of them but one. He was an African American man whose name has been lost to history who sounded more like Mr. Povall than Mr. Povall did. Once he was in one of the grocery stores putting on his imitation of Mr. Povall for a group of customers with his back to the door, when Mr. Povall came in and listened for a while. That got quite a laugh from the audience. [Editor’s Note: R. A. Povall was my grandfather, and family tradition has it that he had a roll top desk that backed up to the print shop. To keep an eye on things and ensure that everyone was working, he had a large hole cut in the back of the desk through which he could watch his employees.]
Printing the Newspaper: At that time, the paper was made up by hand work. If you had an article in the paper or any item, here are some of the necessary steps to get it into the paper. Somebody wrote the copy for the paper. It could be written by a copy editor or in case of small newspapers, probably written by the editor. He then took it to the printing area where the linotype operator would set it up. Sitting down at the linotype machine, he would copy the article into the machine on a keyboard like a typewriter keyboard. The story was done one line at a time. In a newspaper, each line of copy was a separate item and when the letters filled the width of the column, the machine would generate what was known as a slug. This lead piece of metal had the words on it printed backwards, naturally, as it was from that the newspaper was being printed. A slug was about two inches in width, the width of a newspaper column, maybe 3/4 of an inch in height and the thickness was about the size of the type. The slugs were hot as they were made from molten metal, one slug at a time, and stayed in the tray known as a galley until cool enough to handle.
When the type for the article was complete it was in the galley tray, and someone would quickly “proofread it.” It was in the tray upside down as it was easier to read backward type that way. The type was then inked, and a print made of it and proofread. Any mistake in the line of type required a new slug to be made to correct the error. The slug with the error was removed and the corrected slug was inserted. All the columns were made that way and the paper was generated in that fashion. If there was a headline for the article, you went to the “type” drawer and got the desired size type and each letter was on a wooden block with the metal letters on it and you made the words for the headline, one letter at a time. That type was re-usable in that when the paper was printed these beds of galley were broken down and then placed back in the type drawer. The lead slugs for the copy were re-melted and used over.
If there was a picture in the paper, it was a different process. A picture was photo engraved. It was compiled of many dots, and the difference in the tone of a picture was determined by the number of dots per inch. For example, the more dots the darker the color. Most small newspapers did not have that capability and the picture had to be sent to a photo engraver to make the picture. It also was on a block of wood the proper height to correspond with the height of the type so that when inserted into the bed of typed stories, it could be printed. Each page was a separate bed of type, and the pages were placed in the printing press and printed. They were arranged so that when the press printed the pages, the cut and folded the pages were in order.
When Roland Povall sold the paper to Mr. Mabry, the new owner “cleaned house.” As a result, my father went to Greenwood to work for The Greenwood Commonwealth. George and Sessions Povall opened Povall Printing Company just off the square on Carrollton Street.
Mr. Mabry then sold the paper to Hazel Brannon, who also owned The Durant News. She later married Walter “Smitty” Smith. Because of her political views on several subjects from the inequality of the African American to education and the sheriff, she fell out of favor with the town and the entire town quit advertising with her. Her advertising dwindled down to only legal notices and finally she had to close. The building literally fell in. Before it fell into ruin, my cousin Gordon Ashley went in and salvaged some of the old papers and articles. He found a lot of James T. Buck’s articles, had them printed and bound, and I have a copy of them. I would imagine that there are only two copies of this around now. [Editor’s note: In 1964 Hazel Brannon Smith was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.]
When I was a senior in high school, I won the MVP award for basketball. As an award, I received a silver basketball to wear on a key chain. The only problem was it was a baseball, not a basketball. Anyone could tell from the seams on the ball that it was smaller than a basketball replica would have been. I asked Coach Earle what should be done to correct the mistake, and he told me to speak with Smitty because he had organized the prizes on behalf of The Lexington Advertiser. I did, and Smitty looked at it and said it was a basketball. So today, I still have a silver baseball instead of a basketball award amongst my keepsakes.
Farther down the street was a Chinese grocery opened by Mr. Woo in the early 1930’s. In 1937 Mr. Woo returned to China to get married and produced his son Tony. After WWII, Mr. Woo went back to China, at which time his daughter Mary was conceived. He left his wife in China but brought back his son Tony and nephew Gordon Louie. “Chong Kee” in Mandarin means “Grocery Store,” and when Mr. Woo first opened the store, he put “Chong Kee” on the window. Everyone thought that was the name of the proprietor, and thus the name “Chong Kee” was assigned to Mr. Woo. [Editor’s Note: in addition to selling food, Chong Kee had items imported from China. Each Christmas while my father served as mayor, Mr. Woo sent my mother a pair of silk embroidered slippers. As she was the only one in the family with small feet, no one else could wear them. I always envied those beautiful silk slippers on my mother’s tiny feet.]
The next few businesses were owned by African Americans, and I do not remember a whole lot about them. Anchored on the hill above the railroad was “Red Cliff,” a large dull-red brick mansion built by George Wilson about 1900. Mr. Wilson owned the Lexington Compress Company and built a large warehouse where the Lewis Grocery Company started and later became the Holmes County Co-op. Red Cliff was considered a “showplace” and was viewed with awe by passengers on passing trains. Eventually it was converted into a boarding house with rooms for rent. “Blondie” Wilcox, his sister Wanda Mac and their mother lived there, as well as Mary Norwood (who later married Coach Hosea Grisham) and her family. Blondie was a handsome fellow and played football. Wanda Mac was the drum majorette, and boy, could she strut! In 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Red Cliff was burned.
Behind Red Cliff was a large field where on occasion a traveling circus or minstrel would set up. I can remember once that I worked as part of the crew erecting the tents, my pay being free admission to the show. The Rabbit’s Foot Minstrel featuring Silas Green from New “Orleens” would perform in an area often used by the circus. It had dancing girls, which we thought exotic, but they came on well beyond our bedtime. That field later was used as the football field for both Ambrose High School and Saint’s Industrial Junior College.
Next was the Holmes County Co-op Building and alongside the tracks was Fincher Propane. Still going south, and across the tracks was a Standard Oil Service Station where Bud Hammett worked. He left and attended the Standard Oil School in Texas. Much later, he and his wife, the former Jeffie Lou Jones, were killed in a plane crash shortly after takeoff near the Lexington airstrip.
Curtis Gibson purchased the Standard Oil Service Station and was married to Irma Johnson, sister of Wallace Johnson and Curtis was the brother of A. L. Gibson, owner of Southern Funeral Home. At the outset of the Korean conflict, Curtis was called into service, and Allen Murtagh bought the station. When Allen returned to farming, he sold the station to Hardin Ervin. I worked for all the owners of the station and so did Shorty Smith and Junior Webster. I worked there on weekends from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Saturdays and 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Sundays. In the summer, I worked every day. I did not wash cars much, but I pumped gas, changed oil, greased cars and fixed flat tires. Flats were fixed by hand, using tire tool and hammer to break it down, repair the inner tube, put it back together and back on the vehicle.
Next to the service station was the Lexington Concrete and Block Company (Lexington Construction Company) owned by Harden Ervin and Wilburn Hooker. It made concrete blocks, known commonly as cinder blocks. I guess they started as a substitute for brick. In making the block, concrete was poured into a mold, then vibrated to fill it evenly. A board was placed on the top of the mold filled with concrete, and the whole mold and board were inverted very quickly, or the concrete would spill out. This took some skill, practice and strength to accomplish, and I never was able to make blocks. I learned that I could pump gas better than pour blocks.
Past the Concrete Block Company was a pecan grove. I can remember horse shows being held in the grove. This area went all the way to Black Creek. I have old photos of some of the horse shows. Ellen Ramsey is in one of the pictures. She was kin to Allen Ramsey and was in some area of farm services. There was an African American neighborhood also known as Pecan Grove.
Parham Williams recalls that the “Holmes County Colt Show” was an annual event held each August in the pecan grove after the crops were “laid by.” Farmers from all over the county brought in their finest specimens of carefully curried horses and mules to be admired and judged. Ribbons were awarded in various categories ranging from “Finest Saddle Horse” to “Ugliest Mule.” Ladies from various “Home Ec Clubs” and “Homemakers’ Clubs” sold sandwiches, slices of cake and pies, and glasses of ice-cold tea. The featured event was the “Backass Mule Race,” in which the jockeys were small African American boys who sat backwards on each mule! When the starter fired his big pistol, the mules galloped off in all directions to the merriment – and consternation – of the crowd.
Crossing Highway 17 and returning north to the square, the John Rhyne home was first on the right. He and his wife Lyda were the parents of Martha, John, Jr., Billy and Clarabel. John Rhyne’s father was a brother of Miranda Rhyne Swinney, who was my great grandmother.
Ezell’s Drive In was next. You would drive up, honk your horn and either Mr. or Mrs. Ezell, Jewell or Billy Tate would come and take your order. You could also phone in and order ahead. I remember the bacon and tomato sandwich; the bread was buttered, and skillet fried. Makes my mouth water now. The hamburgers were unlike any burgers I have ever eaten. So delicious, arriving in that brown paper sack! I suspect they added a filler to make them tender and perhaps stretch the meat to make more patties. The Ezells never shared their recipe. What a pity! Interestingly, Mr. Ezell met his bride while his Army unit was stationed in Belgium during WWI. Smitten by the beautiful young Belgian girl, he married her and brought her home to Lexington.
Just beyond Ezell’s and off the highway was the sale barn where livestock was sold once a week. Billy Herring had a small restaurant at the barn, and I was the chief cook and bottle washer for a short period of time. Primarily because of its out of the way location, it did not stand a chance of economic success nor did it last long.
Next door to the sale barn was the Henry Ice Plant which sold ice and provided cold food lockers for rent. In the summertime, you could store your garden grown vegetables or meat in your locker. A hind quarter of beef was ample for most families. Naturally, it was cold in there and going in there barefooted to pick up something for mother in the summertime was not fun. You learned quickly to find what you came for and get back into the heat. Not everyone had an electric refrigerator, so the sale of blocks of ice was a big business. Using an ice pick, they would chisel off a block of ice of whatever amount you wanted. Mr. Henry owned the business and A. B. Holder, who married his daughter, Virginia, worked there. Sometimes, I would go over to get change for the small restaurant or buy some ice, and A. B. would greet me with a “Hello, Neighbor,” and I responded with the same. From that time on, we always greeted each other with a “Hello, Neighbor.” People would hear us and look at us quizzically knowing that we certainly were not neighbors at home.
Back on Highway 17 heading north to the square on the right was, and still is, the Epworth Methodist Church. Next to the church was the cotton compress. This was where cotton was compressed into bales and stored. Les Gilliland was the manager. Two African American men worked there with the surnames Armstrong and Glover. It was said that Armstrong could take a hook and place a bale of cotton on his back and carry it. I never saw him do it, but neither do I doubt it.
Crossing the railroad tracks was the railroad station built in 1908. It was operated for many years by Mr. Trull, father of Curl Nichols and Frances Fowler. In the mid 1940’s, it was taken over by Mr. Bowie.
Next was Southland Service Station run by Bob Tidwell. His wife Dora Pearl owned and managed a restaurant known as Tidwell’s next to the service station. Again, as I worked on weekends, I did not have a lot of occasion to eat there. Dora Pearl was also the chief operator and manager for Southern Bell Telephone Company in Lexington, which was an old local cord board from which the operators answered your call and asked “Number, please?” We were taught to say “354, please ma’am.”
A sometimes-open Cities Service Station was next. For some reason I want to associate Charles Lee Truett with it. They also sold hand-dipped ice cream. You could buy eggnog flavored ice cream in the summer – a real treat!
Next, there was the brick home of Dr. Frank L. Bott and his family. A real estate entrepreneur (of sorts), Dr. Bott built tenant houses on his bottom-land property along Black Creek and rented these to African Americans. One of these developments, bearing the eponymous name of “Bott’s Bottom” was situated behind Miss Willie Moore’s house on Spring Street. Dr. Bott also owned property just south of Black Creek on the east side of Highway 17 known as “Balance Due.” It was said that whenever someone came to Dr. Bott to make a payment on their mortgage and asked how much more they owed, Dr. Bott would reply, “Just a little balance due.” As such, many were never able to pay off their mortgage.
The Porter Funeral Home, owned by Lynberg Porter, later moved into Dr. Bott’s home on Yazoo Street. His brother Harry Porter worked at the Cities Service Station and possibly the Gulf Station while also driving a taxi. The Gulf Service Station was owned by Clarence McDaniel and operated by a Mr. Elliott.
To be continued . . ..
As you gather to celebrate Memorial Day, please remember not only the veterans buried in LOFC, but also all veterans both living and dead and those men and women who presently serve in our armed forces. Through their selfless service, we continue to enjoy the freedoms of this great country. May God bless them all.
Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor
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