Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tammy's in Love & Pinky's in Trouble, Girl

Brookhaven author Cid Ricketts Sumner is best known for the series of novels about Tammy, a veritable female Huckleberry Finn, which gave rise to romantic comedies starring Debbie Reynolds and Leslie Nielsen in the late 1950s and two later sequels starring Sandra Dee in the ‘60s.

But Sumner’s impact on American pop culture was much more significant than quaint stories about a poor but ambitious barefoot Southern girl who has a thing or two to teach everyone else about real life. (Tammy and the BachelorTammy Out of Time are probably the two best known feature films.)

Perhaps not as well known is Sumner’s novel Quality.  It served as the basis of Hollywood’s first interracial drama, Pinky, depicting the conflicts and tribulations of a light-skinned Southern black woman “passing” for white while in nursing school up North.

Directed by Elia Kazan, produced by Darryl Zanuck, the Twentieth Century Fox 1949 film starred Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore, Ethel Waters and Nina Mae McKinney.

Critically acclaimed,* the film garnered three Academy Award nominations: Jeanne Crain (Pinky) for “best performance by an actress;” while Ethel Waters and Ethel Barrymore were each nominated for “best supporting actress.”

Despite Jim Crow laws and movie censorship boards, the film was widely successful in the Southern United States -- this, at a time the First Amendment rights to free speech did not extend to movies. 

The ground-breaking film was not without controversy, however. 

The movie manager in MarshallTX, W.L. Gelling, booked Pinky for showing in February 1950. The subject matter of miscegenation did not escape the disapproving eye of the town’s censorship board. 

The members unanimously banned it, saying it depicted a) a white man retaining his love for a woman after he learned she was Negro, b) a white man kissing and embracing a Negro and c) two whites assaulting Pinky after they learned she was colored.

Gelling was forbidden from showing the movie, but he disobeyed the Board’s directive and presented the film anyway in his segregated theater, where blacks were allowed, but only in the balcony.

Gelling was charged with a misdemeanor, convicted and fined $200. It might have ended there, but he appealed the conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

At the same time, similar lawsuits were moving through the federal courts on a parallel track. In 1952, after he filed his appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the landmark free speech case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson , which, for the first time, extended First Amendment protection to films.

The Burstyn v. Wilson ruling sounded a death knell for motion picture censorship over blasphemous and sacrilegious content.  Shortly after that ruling, the Court similarly overturned Gelling’s conviction, thereby broadening the scope and driving yet another nail into the coffin of censorship boards all across the country.

A Long, Productive Life Cut Short:

Born Bertha Louise Ricketts on Sept. 27, 1890, in BrookhavenMS, to Bertha Burnley and Robert Scott Ricketts, a professor at Millsaps College, the younger Bertha was “home-schooled” by her mother and grandmother because they felt public school was a “waste of time.”

As a young woman, she went on to earn a B.S. degree at Millsaps in 1909 and, shortly thereafter, she earned her M.A. from Columbia University in New York City.

She published her first poem when just a girl of 18, but she had a loftier goal early on -- a career in medicine. 

In 1914, she enrolled as a medical student at Cornell University.  There, she met James B. Sumner, a professor of chemistry and a man of brilliance who had lost his left arm below the elbow in a hunting accident, and who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1946 for his discovery that "enzymes could be crystallized." 

They married in 1915, and Bertha turned her attention away from a medical degree to rear their four children.  Most accounts say the couple divorced in 1930, although more than one newspaper story described the Sumners as a prominent "couple" residing in the exclusive Boston suburb of DuxburyMass. -- many years after their reported divorce. 

It is said that Mrs. Sumner turned to writing during World War II, choosing the pen name Cid Ricketts Sumner. Besides working in a munitions plant, writing served to take her mind off the worries about her sons and sons-in-law serving overseas during World War II.

A prolific writer, she produced in her lifetime almost 20 novels, numerous short stories, poems and other non-fiction works based on her travels.

Though she spent much of her adult life outside of the state of Mississippi, she returned from time to time, teaching English at a JacksonMS, high school and French at Millsaps.  She often returned to make special appearances at Millsaps.

Cid Ricketts Sumner continued her writing career well into her senior years, most notably shooting the rapids as a 65-year-old white-haired grandmother on the Colorado River and writing about that adventure as the only woman among 10 men in the expedition.

MURDER Most Foul

In stark contrast to the kind and gentle nature of her personality and her writings, life ended violently for Cid Ricketts Sumner in her 80th year. 

She was found bludgeoned to death in her home in the upper class area of DuxburyMA, on Oct. 15, 1970, after her 16-year-old grandson, John R. Cutler, presented at the local police station and alerted them to his grandmother’s body. A hammer recovered at the scene was believed to be the murder weapon.

Young John R. Cutler, the son of the Sumner’s elder daughter Roberta and her newspaper editor/publisher husband, the juvenile was charged with delinquency in the murder, but he entered a plea of innocence. 

No further information is available on the web as to the possible motive or the disposition of the case.

Cid Ricketts Sumner is in pictured in the center of the photo, autographing a book.  Photo courtesy of the website,  Further information is available by clicking the aforementioned embedded link.
(Note: Please see Wikipedia and the above links in turquoise for further information and attribution for the aforementioned "facts" as presented in my prose.  Special thanks to Don Jacobs and Marti Parker for alerting me and helping me research this remarkable Brookhavenite!)
*Click on turquoise words for embedded links.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

B&B Dairy -- Then & Now

Mr. Burris
UPDATE: That's Mrs. Burris sitting on the pony wall and Bill Hickman says that is Mr. Burris in the string tie. Picture circa 1959.

B&B Building today. 

A special Thank You to Marti Kinchloe Parker for providing all of the above photos.  B&B Dairy will always have a special place in my heart.  My mother was their bookkeeper for many, many years before she joined Brookhaven Bank as the switchboard operator.
Below are photos of the two principals taken during their years in the military.
Sidney Beasley

Hubert Burris

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jesse James' Women -- A Southeastern

Brookhaven and the surrounding vicinity has always had its cattle and its horsemen, so it was only natural back in the 1950s that some enterprising businessman would decide to clear some land east of town, throw up some fencing and seating and host rodeos, bringing in B movie cowboy stars to help draw a crowd.

Don "Red" Barry was among these Hollywood celebrities who spent time in the area, shaking hands, posing for photos and signing autographs.  A native of Texas, Barry, who stood 5'4" tall, was best known for his role as Red Ryder, but by the time he visited Brookhaven, he was ready to branch out and produce and direct his own movies -- or so he thought.

Apparently impressed with what he saw, whether it was the local topography or the area's equally beautiful women, he returned the region, scouted a location in nearby Silver Creek, and with the financial backing from a Meridian businessman, Barry brought in a movie crew to film Jesse James' Women.  

He even cast a few locals in the film in featured roles -- among the Lincoln County sheriff's 20-year-old daughter, Betty Brueck, a former Brookhaven High School cheerleader and water carnival queen.  She played a gunslinging, hair pulling Cattle Kate.

The 1954 film is actually available for viewing on YouTube, if you don't mind sitting through a few commercials.

But don't get your hopes up. Of all of Barry's movies, this one is perhaps his biggest clunker, according to Western movie aficianados.  Below is a review by Boyd Magers of Western, a website dedicated to old Westerns, who gives it zero stars:

"JESSE JAMES’ WOMEN (‘54 Panorama) Barry as an actor was fine. Barry as a producer/director guiding his own work is inept. As Jesse James, he vainly romances, trifles, and quadruple-times four women: a saloon lady from New Orleans (Lita Baron), Cattle Kate (local Mississippi actress Betty Brueck), saloon owner Peggie Castle and banker’s daughter Joyce Reed. Highlight of the boring film is a clothes-ripping, hair pulling cat-fight between Brueck and Castle. Rambling plot makes it easy to see why this was Barry’s only directorial job. Financing for this oddity came from Lloyd Royal who owned the Royal Theatre Circuit in Meredian, MS. Filled with plenty of local actors, this was shot on location in Silver Creek, MS."
Barry, who was born in 1912, returned to Los Angeles and continued his Hollywood career.  In July 1980, after a domestic dispute, he committed suicide.  He was 68. He is buried in Hollywood's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Betty Brueck, according to Find-A-Grave, went on to marry Ernest Edward Langford, who served as an assistant football coach at BHS. They had a son, Ernest Edward Langford Jr. in 1957.  Sadly, the father and their 14-year-old son were killed in a car accident in 1972.

Betty later married Charles Ray Knight, who died in 1982.  Betty, born Sept. 26, 1934, died on Oct. 8, 1989, in Jackson.  She was 55.   She is buried in Brookhaven's Rose Hill Cemetery.

That's our own Betty Brueck on the saloon floor...

Monday, May 28, 2012

On a Wing and a Prayer ...

Yesterday, I published a tribute to my father's service in World War II.  Immediately I noticed a technical error and called the post up to correct.  Somehow, and I don't know how, I lost everything that I had spent a good part of the last two days researching and writing.

I have decided not to attempt to rewrite what was lost -- I got the eerie sixth sense that my late father really didn't want his "story" published.

And so, without too much elaboration but just enough to satisfy curiosity, here are a series of pictures in almost silent salute of a member of the Greatest Generation who, my brother and I learned upon reading his diaries last year, had more than one close call during World War II, and chose never to talk about it upon his return home to Mississippi.

As a crew chief, Dad survived the ditching of the B17-E Alabama Exterminator II on June 27, 1942, in Greenland. His plane, along with two others, Our Gal Sal (also called My Gal Sal) and the Sooner II, suffered similar fates that day.  They were part of the first wave of Operation Bolero, a top secret drive to move heavy bombers over to Europe.

It was believed that the planes got "lost" in bad weather shortly after take off from Maine, but others have suggested that it was a German submarine jamming radio signals that made it difficult for the planes to find their landing strips.

All three ditched and, miraculously, all the crew members survived, although the men of My (Our) Gal Sal had to endure 10 days in the cold and ice while the Coast Guard and Navy figured out how to rescue them.

The crew of the Sooner, which landed in a fjord, barely escaped a collective icy death when they realized that their raft was still tethered to the plane, which was sinking like a stone because the bomb doors had been jammed opened by the handle of a jettisoned duffel bag.

The fourth photo, showing Inuits gathered around his disabled plane, was taken by my Dad. The caption in his photo album read: "Forced landing at Egedesmindes, Greenland, 100 miles (from) Arctic Circle, June 27, 1942, 6 a.m. Picked up next morning by Navy in a PBY.  Eskimos in background."

The planes were carrying the top secret Norden bombsight.  All three crews were under strict orders to remove the revolutionary devices to keep them from falling into enemy hands.


The last photo was one that I stumbled upon while Googling Sarasota, FL, where he was stationed for training soon after he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941.  Besides learning how to be a crew chief for the Boeing Flying Fortress, he and his buddies were tasked with clearing land for what would become MacDill Air Field

The Saratoga photo had no identifications, but once I showed it to my brother and uncle, they agreed that that is my father on the far left.

The deciding vote was cast, when my husband, who had no idea I had found this photo, walked up from behind me, looked over my shoulder as I was studying the image on my laptop and said, "Hey, where'd you get that picture of your Dad?"

(Note: the first photograph is for illustration purposes only, although more than one website asserts that that particular plane was the one that ditched in Greeland that fateful June morning. On closer look, the tail numbers do not match. I've learned in my travels that B-17 nicknames may be duplicative, but that tail numbers -- well, they're gospel.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Semper Fi

Copy for Mildred Case ...
No other information available.  Please leave a comment or message me if you know the identity of this proud Marine.

Friday, May 25, 2012

God Bless Them All -- A Story from the Greatest Generation

She arrived on her 21st birthday, a Belgian war bride who had fallen in love with Staff Sgt. Versie Adams during the height of the German occupation of Europe.

Multi-lingual and educated in the classics, Janine Dardenne of Boirs, Belgium, was an only child born unto a family of hat makers, who spent summers in Paris sewing the latest in fashion -- before the War broke out and changed the course of oh so many lives.

At 15, she spoke Flemish, Dutch and French and was learning English when Hitler decided the "Funny War" was over and marched roughshod over the low country of Belgium to take a poorly prepared and bumbling France by storm.  

Janine quickly learned to cope with life in a country occupied by hostile forces, to survive air raids on the surrounding countryside, and to help the Allies in whatever way she could.

Able to speak English better than most in her tiny village, Janine participated in what was a perilous effort, punishable by death if caught by the Nazis, to spirit an injured American air corpsman back to the safety of England.

The underground's decision to help S/Sgt Joseph J. Walters, ball turret gunner who had parachuted from the crippled B-17, “Chugalug Lulu,” and landed broken and bruised in an apple tree in Boirs, is a celebrated WWII story on both sides of the Atlantic.

Thanks to a snapshot taken of the frightened Pittsburgh native by a local resident, the rescue has been memorialized at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA, and online on numerous websites, including at least one in French.
As the war wore on and her formal schooling ended, fate would have it that Janine would meet Brookhaven's own Versie Brooks Adams at the ordinance depot in Liege, where he was the staff sergeant in charge of the parts room and she was working as a typist, switchboard operator and interpreter.

It was NOT love at first sight: he thought her sarcastic, she thought him arrogant. 

But love did bloom and on Dec. 22, 1945, they were married in both civil and religious ceremonies in Europe. She walked down the aisle to the strains of "Here Comes the Bride," played by a German Prisoner of War.

Five short months later, she, along with some 300 other war brides, was crammed -- 9 to a cabin -- onto a steam ship to New York. 

After a itinerary mix-up that took her overland to Lexington, arriving on the chaotic day of the Kentucky Derby, she eventually found her way to Memphis -- several months ahead of her husband's stateside return.  There, Versie's two brothers were summoned via telephone, and they appeared in short order to bring their brother's young war bride home.

It was in the dark of night on May 5, 1946 -- her 21st birthday -- that she first saw the small Southern town that would become her new village.

Within two weeks of arriving, she had landed a job at the Southern Bell telephone company, first working as a "number please" telephone operator for 9 years, and next acting as a service representative for the ensuing 25. 

She quickly acclimated to the cadence of Southern accents, although she laughingly told a story about writing on her ticket a long distance call to Pensacola as a request to speak to Pepsi Cola. 

With a keen sense of humor, she adapted well, learning to love Southern food as much as Versie loved her mother's Belgian fried potatoes when they were first courting. 

Her parents, finding themselves alone in Europe, soon sold everything they owned and joined their daughter and son-in-law in Brookhaven in 1948.  Her father, who had already suffered two strokes in Europe, died of a third in 1951, at age 54.  Her mother lived on, taking a job she loved in the alterations department in Benoits, and passed away at age 80 in 1978.
The above summary only hits the high spots of Janine Dardenne Adams' recollections of her life in Europe and her new life in the Deep South, as recorded in an Oral History interview at the Lincoln, Lawrence, Franklin Library.

She was interviewed as a widow, by Dr. Russell Burns on March 16, 1999, just two weeks shy of the third anniversary of Versie Adams' death.  The transcript is on file at the library under Oral Histories, which see.

I found her story to be one of the more riveting reads on file.
As we honor our armed forces this Memorial Day Weekend, I would urge you to take time to read the full interview to get a truer sense of a World at War and to comprehend one person's view of what the Greatest Generation did to save the World from Evil. 
Her closing words of the interview will encompass my thoughts for this holiday weekend: 

When asked by Dr. Burns if she had anything more to add, she said:

"Just one thing: I am forever grateful to the American GI's. So resourceful, so competent. They were given an impossible task and they did it with good ole American know-how.

“A bunch of ordinary guys, amateurs, really, who together managed to defeat the strongest War Machine the world had ever known.

"I say a prayer each night for those who died and for those who live. God bless them all."

The Southern Belles -- the Centennial Float sponsored by Southern Bell, August 1959.  I do not know if Janine is among the beauties on this float, but one thing is certainly possible: the switchboard is likely something she operated back in the day. Photo from the John Holly Williams Collection.

 Note the birthdate.  Pearl Harbor occurred on his 20th birthday. Photo courtesy of Find-A-Grave.


In the Pines, In the Pines ...

This old penny post card is from Louisiana, but it serves to illustrate the size and type of pine that was the basis of the Piney Woods economy, which began in the 1880s and had its "zenith" from 1910 to 1920.

These trees were considered virgin timber and had a tight grain of some 200 rings, according to an interview of Tom L. Moak, whose father worked at Norfield, a sawmill town that once rivaled Brookhaven in size and is now not much more than farmlands and a road sign speaking silently to what once was.

In the early years, the stumps were cut high and nothing of the tree was used past the first limb, according to Tom Moak.

By the time the lumber industry started operations in Bogalusa, the owners were beginning to understand the necessity of reforestation, a concept that was not readily embraced during the boom years.

There is an online version of the copyrighted book by C.W. Goodyear, Bogalusa Story, which contains plenty of information and some really fascinating old photos. If you have time and are so inclined to read more, here is a link to that book.

To read more of what Tom Moak had to say about the industry in Lincoln County and the history of his own family, who came here from Switzerland and whose name was correctly spelled Mog, here is a link to that oral history interview.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Great Anticipation ...

Trade Day, Wednesday, July 19, 1922, Downtown Brookhaven, MS -- Here is a triptych of a panoramic photo from the Bicentennial Scrapbook, published by the Daily Leader in 1976.

Note the parasols and crisp white shirts, the various style hats and caps, knickers and the occasional "ice cream" suit on what was undoubtedly a hot, sunny day.

What everyone was anticipating arriving from the north is unclear -- the Leader speculates it could be the arrival of the circus train.

A quick Google of Trade Day, Mississippi, 1922 turned up an interesting snippet from an ICRR newsletter of the time period stating that an "Aviator Irving" entertained a crowd at a Trade Day in Hazlehurst in November 1922.

Perhaps these folks were awaiting the arrival of a barnstorming pilot in his Amazing Flying Machine?

If anyone has an idea what may have prompted the anticipation among the townspeople around the train station at mid-day, please advise.
A special thank you to Bettie Hatcher Cox and Deenie Tallant for sharing this.  Photo originally provided to the Leader by Mrs. Lutie Boadwee Allen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Charles Henri Ford -- The Man Who Beat the Beats by a Generation -- Gertrude Stein

Charles Henri Ford. Born Feb. 10, 1913, Brookhaven, MS.  Described as an "American poet, novelist, filmmaker, photographer and collage artist best known for his editorship of the surrealist magazine View (1940-1947) in New York City."

Earlier, I posted a professional photograph of actress/model Ruth Ford, the elder sister of Charles Henri Ford, an international literary and artistic force, who, like his sister, was born and bred in Brookhaven.

The Nouveau Bohemian siblings' parents hailed from Mississippi, but lived in numerous places in the South.  Roughly 100 years ago, the elder Fords owned/operated at least four hotels, among them the Inez in Brookhaven, which is how their two children came to be natives of Homeseekers' Paradise.

In 1929 Charles Henri, by now a Columbus, MS, high school drop-out at age 16, was lured to New York by his friend Parker Tyler, a native of New Orleans.  Ford started a magazine, Blues, subtitling it "A Bisexual Bimonthly."

In 1933, he and Tyler, who would go on to become a highly respected film critic, co-authored The Young and Evil.  The book has been described as "an energetically experimental novel" that was "obviously" influenced by fellow writers Djuna Barnes and Gertrude Stein.

Stein would later declare that the novel had "beat the Beat Generation by a generation."

The snapshot above is of Charles Henri, Ruth, and Indra Tamang, a native of Nepal who served as their butler in the Dakota Apartments in Manhattan for many years.  It was Tamang who inherited their combined $8.4 million estate upon Ruth's death in August 2009, at age 98. (Charles predeceased his sister in September 2002.)

Interestingly, Ruth Ford's last will and testament completely cut out out her only child, Shelley Scott.  The New York Post reported in May 2010 that Ruth's estranged daughter flew to New York and had lunch with Tamang.  

When asked about the butler's receiving the lion's share of the family estate, Shelley asserted to the Post she was self sufficient, did not need her mother's money, and simply could not understand why anyone would be interested in reading anything about "an old woman."
Photographer Unknown. (Cursor over the turquoise words for links to further reading.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Collision with a Southbound Train -- New Year's Eve, 1948

A Ford sedan, circa 1946 model, is demolished in a collision with an ICRR train on the evening of Dec. 31, 1948.  The car has Phone 65 painted on the driver's door. It is believed that the car was a taxicab.  John H. Williams, owner of Art Studio, was employed by the railroad to document accidents involving its trains in downtown Brookhaven, MS.
A look up the tracks northward.  Mr. Williams was standing approximately in a line where the car came to rest.
A view south, toward the overhead bridge.  A crowd is gathered around the wrecked automobile.  On the right in the distance is the Dixie Theater.  The Marquee is advertising the showing of a B Movie "Angel in Exile."

This darker picture above, if enlarged, shows the fully lit neon sign of the old Travis Cafe (on the same level as the light colored skirt almost directly in the center of the photo.) Note the absence of street lights.  
Surveying the damage. Mr. Williams, the photographer, is facing north, northwest.

No further information was available as to whether this accident proved fatal to the driver or any passengers. This accident occurred before gates were installed at the major crossings downtown.  The only admonition was "Mississippi Law: Stop - 2 Tracks."  

It appears to me that the accident occurred at twilight.  It's easy to speculate that the driver, traveling east on Cherokee, simply failed to see the train in the dimming light of day, or, after one train passed northbound, he (or she) did not see or hear a southbound barreling down in the opposite direction.

As always, if anyone out there has additional information or corrections of my scant details on this accident, I would sincerely appreciate hearing from you. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Brookhaven's Own Ruth Ford -- Getting Ready for Her Close Up

Photo by Carl Van Vechten, Nov. 9, 1947
Many thanks to Marti Parker for the newspaper clipping.

Ruth Ford was born in Brookhaven, MS, on July 7, 1911, and died at age 98 in New York City, where she and her brother owned apartments in The Dakota.  A long-time friend of William Faulkner, Ruth Ford starred in Broadway's Requiem for a Nun in 1959.  For further reading about Ruth and her brother Charles Henri Ford, see this link.

And for an even greater insight into the influence that the Ford siblings had on art and culture of the day, please see this inside story.

Most intriguing the statement in more than one publication: "West Side Story"was "born" in her living room at The Dakota.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The McGraw Family -- Picking, No Grinning

Date estimated to be 1900 to 1930.  Location unknown, from Mr. Williams' Old School Collection. Identified as the McGraw Family.

As always, if anyone has further information on these folks, please leave a comment or send me a message on my Facebook page.  Thanks!

UPDATE: I'm told by Marti Parker that this photo was displayed in the town library many times, but no one came forward with additional information.  There is a McGraw family in the area east of Brookhaven between Enterprise and Ruth and it is thought that these folks MIGHT be related to them.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bogue Chitto's Own Recording Artists -- Or Should We Say Ruth's?

Stumbled upon this earlier this week trying to find more information about the Bogue Chitto River.  I have never heard of this band, have you?  Could be because back when they were recording their Ole Time music in the 1950s and 1960s, most of us were listening to rock and roll.

Their music is tight! The band members are Hodges brothers Felix, Ralph and James, and John White.  Here's a link to this album. (Click on the little arrow in the orange circle to listen to a sample of the song.)

If anyone has any further information on these gentlemen, please leave a comment here or on my Facebook page.

UPDATE:  I am told by someone who knew the Hodges that the previous information posted here regarding their musical career was inaccurate, and I have opted to remove it.  I am told one of the Hodges brothers is still alive, and I am hopeful I can speak to him to learn more about their career firsthand. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Whoo a whooo! A View of the Steam Train Engine from the ICRR ...

From the Luther Hamilton Collection on file with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History ... Date unknown.  Photo taken in Crystal Springs by Luther Hamilton Sr.

NOTE: Luther Hamilton Sr. died in 1944, so this photo has to be from the 1940s or much earlier.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Rocket Scientist and His Missile Dog?

A copy of this picture was in our family's picture drawer for years and years. (Robert E.'s mother was my Great Aunt Mary on my father's side.)  I always liked it because of the look on the dog's face. 

I did not know, however, until a few years ago that Robert E. was a rocket scientist during the height of the space race with the Soviet Union.  

The story came together for me when I found the above news story on a CD of family memorabilia that my favorite uncle had burned and shared with me.  

I decided to do more research and while I didn't find a whole lot out about Robert's work, I discovered that the dog just MIGHT be one of eight missile dogs used at White Sands during the 1960s to retrieve small rocket parts that had been buried on impact during test fires. 

(The scientists would coat the parts with shark liver oil and then send the dogs out into the desert to track and alert to them in the glimmering white sands.)

The dogs had a 96% recovery rate, which beat the old method of humans wasting countless hours searching and digging for parts that could explain a success or failure of their test fires.  

I have been unable to determine definitively if Sheiba was part of the Missile Dog pack, but that is not to say I'm not still trying. Sadly, very few family members who knew of Robert's work are still alive to share their own knowledge and information.  

And Robert E., who suffered from familial Rheumatoid Arthritis from the time he was 1, passed away in 1992 at age 65. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Horn Went Beep, Beep, Beep

Brookhaven, Miss. -- It's Wednesday, Nov. 14, 1951.  Lincoln County resident Colon Fuller had celebrated his 41st birthday only the day before.

Colon was in his new car at Railroad Avenue and Cherokee Street, in the shadow of the McGrath building, when suddenly, there's a right-of-way miscue. CRUNCH! A 1950 Dodge Wayfarer, driver/owner unknown, and Colon's car collided -- a classic fender-bender in small town America.
Colon Fuller is the man in the hat, behind the car, I am told by a reliable source.

Who was at fault?  It's hard to say.  The passenger side fender of the Dodge is crumpled around the headlight, while the quarter panel behind the driver's side wheel well and part of the door on the other car are dented.

My unscientific best guess is that Colon Fuller was attempting a left turn west onto Cherokee and the Dodge was proceeding east on Cherokee, coming off the railroad tracks.

Photographer John H. Williams, owner of Art Studio on Cherokee, just a sprint or two away from the scene, was called to document the accident for insurance purposes.

And now, a confession: I have spent many a day scrolling through the pictures that the Lincoln Lawrence Franklin Library has posted on Flickr.  I always puzzled over this series, fascinated by this strangely UGLY car.

It was only now, after countless passes, that it dawned on me that I was looking at a piece of American automobile history -- a rare Hudson Hornet, a vehicle that car aficionado Jay Leno ranks among the Top Ten collectible American automobiles.

Celebrated in Pixar's Cars, the Hudson Hornet -- because of its lighter weight, lower center of gravity, over-engineering and over-building -- handled much better than other cars of the day, making it a natural for stock-car racing on the mostly dirt tracks.

The horse power in the 1951 models was 145, and a good mechanic could install racing parts to help the car reach top speeds of 112 mph.  A"souped up" Hudson Hornet was considered unbeatable in its day.

Even without race car tweaking -- the Hornet, with engineering innovations and luxury extras, including an electric clock, had more cachet than a Cadillac to some buyers back in the early 1950s.

Colon Fuller's was one of 43,656 units produced in Detroit in 1951. The car, which came in a four-door sedan, a hard-topped coupe and a convertible coupe model, sold for $2,543 to $3,009.

According to Find-A-Grave, Colon Fuller died on July 8, 1977, just three months shy of his 67th birthday. He was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Brookhaven.

I understand that he may have owned a junkyard, that he was a good friend of the fabled Turnbough family, and that he had a sister named Bobby Summers, who worked for Brookhaven Funeral Home, selling insurance.

Other than that, I have little information on the man and his life.

The burning question: whatever happened to his Hornet?

A 1951 Hudson Hornet Sedan, fully restored.  Photo Credit: Christopher Ziemnowicz, via Wikipedia

Today, according to old car auction sites, a fully restored Hudson Hornet can fetch as much as $100,000 at auction. 

Makes me wish I had held onto my '65 Mustang. 

(A special thank you to Will Turnbough for helping me with Colon Fuller's bio and history.) 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Cowhides ...

"Men's Baseball Team, 1930-1949
Identified in the Daily Leader as a community baseball team, the "Cowhides." Left to right - front: Fred Smith, Ira Smith, Harvey Smith, Poley/Polie Lofton. 2nd row: Tom Smith, Wilton Foote, Alert Smith, Vince/Vence Adams. Standing: Horace King, Shelton Case, Ernest "Cutworm" Smith, Anderson Lofton, and Curtis King. According to the identification, many players were brothers or cousins."
 -- This is the caption provided by the library.  I am told by Wilton Foote's nephew that these men hailed from the Johnson Grove community near Bogue Chitto.

Monday, May 14, 2012

1825 Log House

This past weekend I visited an antique store in Havre de Grace, MD, where I found for sale numerous Deep South Cards from Brookhaven.

Here are two of them -- this old log home was relocated at least twice in its lifetime -- first, to the Andrew G. Smith's backyard, and next, to a grassy area opposite the old City Hall (now the Chamber of Commerce Building) in Downtown Brookhaven. 

The two cards from the 1950s or 1960s state, "Owned by the Andrew G. Smith family -- located at rear of their residence, 430 Storm Avenue.  Originally built in 1825 -- moved to present location (430 Storm Avenue) in 1955 -- is an excellent example of early pioneer construction.  Open to public by appointment."

Some of us might remember bobbing for apples on Halloween at this old cabin, which Mrs. Smith opened up for the trick-or-treaters to enjoy.  I do believe she might have used that copper pot in the bottom photo for the apple bobbing. 

Photo credit: Gilbert Ford.

UPDATE: I found the answer to where and who built this cabin -- from the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce website:

"The Foster-Smith Log Cabin – located across from the Chamber of Commerce in Railroad Park.  This charming log cabin was built in 1825 by John Foster on an old post road in Copiah County.  Its hand-hewn logs and simple furnishings exemplify the pioneer spirit.  In 1997 it was moved to its public location in downtown Brookhaven Railroad Park.  Contact the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, P. O. Box 978, Brookhaven, MS 39602 - 601-833-1411 or 1-800-613-4667."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A New Baby ...

Names, date, location unknown ...

From John H. Williams "Old School" collection, on file at Lincoln, Lawrence, Franklin Library

Saturday, May 12, 2012

For the Well Dressed Man

Gulley's Men's Shop.  Circa 1950s.  I am unclear on where this shop was, but I believe it was on the same side of the street as Benoits, perhaps in the Storm Building?

Photo from the John H. Williams Collection at the local library.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

R.C. Applewhite Home Circa 1900

This image and caption is from a commemorative anniversary edition of the local paper, supplied by Bettie Hatcher Cox and scanned by Deenie Tallant. A big thank you to both for sharing.

This house and the grounds are so appealing to the eye. And now, the $64,000 question: does this house still stand today?  I took a "drive" via Google Streetview and could not find any structure that resembled it from this angle.  

If anyone has information as to its fate, I would appreciate a comment here or a message on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This Old House Mystery ...

Photo Courtesy of Bill Hickman

This old house faced the railroad and backed up to the old Coffee Pot cafe operated by my cousins, to whom we affectionately refer as the "Dixie Springs Carruths."

Bill Hickman took this photo in 1986, and the structure, which evidently was beyond repair and probably infested with termites, was torn down soon after the picture was taken.  The house at one point was used as a business office, and for a long time after it was demolished, Bill reports, an old brick safe survived the razing.

If anyone has any idea who built this house and when, or knows any of its history, please leave a comment either here on the blog or on my FB page. 

After the Coffee Pot ceased existence as one of the South's very first "fast food" places, Bill's grandfather took over the cafe's location and used it as an office to run his masonite business, from around 1940 until he died in the 1980s. Between this old house and the Coffee Pot was a pole yard and a storage shed.  The wood his grandfather traded in was loaded, along with poles and pilings, next to this old house and onto rail cars.

Thanks, Bill, for the photo and the information!  It's good to keep Brookhaven's history alive.

UPDATE:  Marti Parker reports this house was unusual in that the rear of the home faced the railroad, while so many others built in the same time frame had their fronts facing the tracks.  We are not clear on when this house was built, but for many years it was the home of an African American family by the name of Dow.  The family members were well known for their activities promoting higher education in the community.