Dear Friends of LOFC,
As a child, the arrival of Independence Day, colloquially known as the Fourth of July, signaled the beginning of the end of summer. Far too soon those leisurely days of summer would end, and it would be time to return to the discipline of school. Below, Vivian Stephenson McDonagh shares her memories of those halcyon days of summer in Lexington and Holmes County. The photo of the watercolor below by Dennis Heckler is the Stephenson home on the corner of Jordan and Pickens in Lexington. Vivian commissioned it in celebration of the happy memories shared in their loving home when her beautiful mother Billie moved into Lexington Manor.
As we look forward to celebrations of our nation’s independence this Fourth of July, childhood memories abound of activities surrounding the holiday and summer in general of our beloved Holmes County. Chances are most of those cherished memories include loved ones buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery. They were with us then as parents, coaches, teachers, and loved ones and continue to live on today in our hearts and minds as we all remember the sweet days of summer. Whether your recollections include a special fishing hole, free swimming lessons provided by the Town of Lexington and instruction by Coach Woodson Earle at the Holmes County Country Club, picking blackberries for future cobblers, twirling around Holmes County State Park’s roller rink, walking the creek looking for petrified wood, watching baseball by the VFW hut, or meeting your friends over a cool glass of iced tea at Fran’s Drive-In, summer was a fun and carefree time.
We all have memories of our mother hollering not to slam the screen door when running out to meet our friends; breaking popsicles in half to share with someone (you were living “high cotton” if you got a whole popsicle or better yet, you scored a store bought version); catching lighting bugs at dusk; playing “Kick the Can” or “Capture the Flag” with the neighborhood kids or sitting on the front porch shelling peas until your thumb turned purple (if you know, you know). All of this and more were memories we shared together.
Vacation Bible School was an integral part of summer with most kids making the circuit to several churches whether Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian. This was Holmes County’s version of “Mother’s Morning Out” and way ahead of the curve with parents organizing Bible lessons and songs that we still remember today. Admit it, you still recall a few bars of “Onward Christian Soldiers” or “Deep and Wide.” Art projects were a mainstay with children leaving with woven potholders, sprouted beans in cups, construction paper projects and macaroni necklaces that our mothers proudly wore home from the grand finale held for parents at the end of the week. No memory of Vacation Bible School is complete without remembering the cups of grape Kool-Aid, cookies arranged on silver trays, and in the case of the Presbyterian church, each person got their own bottle of Coca Cola. For that reason, and that reason alone, the Presbyterian Vacation Bible School was my favorite.
Certainly, summer was not complete without the arrival and abundance of watermelons. I cannot remember celebrating the Fourth without a watermelon. Whether enjoying an ice-cold slice on the wraparound porch of the Country Club or freshly cut from Mr. Riley’s garden down the street when he would crack one open for the neighborhood kids, watermelon signified summer to me. One summer returning from a family vacation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with a year’s hard-earned chore money, I was eager for just the right purchase to mark the trip. A few hours from home, there was a man on the side of the road selling watermelons from the back of his truck. I asked my father to pull over and with my coin purse in hand, I stepped out of the car with my mother eager to follow. My father, put his hand on her shoulder and said, “No, let her do it. This is her deal.” We negotiated and when the deal was done, shook hands, just as I had seen my father do when selling farm equipment. The gentleman followed me back to the car and asked my mother through the car window, “Where you want them?” She replied, “You can just put it on the floorboard of the backseat.” His eyes, widened as he said, “No mam, that ain’t gonna work. She done bought the whole truck.” My father laughed, my mother, not so much. We drove the rest of the way home with melons crammed in every nook and cranny of the car. The next morning, I got my little red Radio Flyer wagon and hit the streets, selling my watermelons door-to-door to the fine folks of Lexington for two dollars each. Today I am still selling, although no longer watermelons. However, I have never forgotten the kindness, encouragement and generosity that sprouted from a truckload of watermelons.
Ah, life moves too fast! Indeed, those days seemed slower, sweeter and made much more sense. To be sure, childhood did not last long enough, but I am so grateful we got to share sweet Holmes County summers together!
The Board joins me in wishing you a safe and happy Independence Day surrounded by family and friends. Like Vivian, may your memories continue to be blessings.
Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor
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Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery, Inc.
PO Box 1213
Lexington, MS 39095-1213