Thursday, April 12, 2007
Tidbits from Holly Springs
In 1878, gas came to town. Holly Springs, New Orleans and Memphis were the first to get gas in this section of the world. Christ Episcopal Church still has the original gasoliers and they are beautiful. Gas lampposts were placed around the square and were there for decades.
At our other building Chesley Smith and Frank Hopkins gave the museum three of the original lampposts that were around town. Then about the 1880s, electricity came to town. Mr. Edison’s invention was indeed miraculous. Glenn Fant said that businesses around the square got electricity first but it was only turned on at night. Businesses weren’t open at night.
In the early 1930s when TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) came into being with President Roosevelt’s New Deal, it provided affordable electrical costs to everyone and it was like a new day for communities.
Also with the New Deal, came the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps. All around the county, the CCC planted forests and built wonderful buildings. All around Spring Lake (now Wall Doxey Park), they rebuilt the lake, spillway and roads around the lake, even including a fiord over the wonderful sandstone. Chewalla Lake was rebuilt and restocked with fish.
The Depression was a depressing situation in the 1930s. It began with the stock market crash in October of 1929. The New Deal saved us and gave employment to the locals and brought money back into being.
Hoboes came to town on trains. Nobody knows the origin of the hobo. Some were big businessmen who were millionaires one day and broke the next. Some took to the rails as a way to survive. The hoboes were, in a way, a brotherhood, and had campsites where they met to camp and eat. Some went from door to door and asked for small jobs in exchange for food. My mother never turned one away hungry. She always fed them on our kitchen steps. (She had the same cook for 54 years.)
Not all the tramps were men. A few were women. I remember a black girl named Pearlie from Chicago. I don’t know why she did it but my Mother let her in to spend the night and try out for a job. It didn’t work out. One day a white girl came to the front door and asked for food. I was four and was playing dress-up wearing my sister’s new pink pumps, which were gorgeous. I was very timid but Mother left me standing at the door with the beggar or tramp, woman hobo, whichever category she fit into, while my mother went to the kitchen to get food so that she wouldn’t be hungry. The lady hobo asked me, “Do you like dolls?” I nodded yes. (I adored dolls; they were my favorite things on earth,) She then said, “A doll that’s big, with eyes that open and shut, that cries and says Mama?” I nodded yes. Then the person who was looking kind of jaded and worn out said, “If you give me those pink shoes you are wearing right now, I’ll bring you back a big doll. But don’t tell your mother or I won’t come back!” I nodded yes, took off the beautiful pink shoes and gave them to her. She grabbed them and hurriedly left. When my mother came back from the kitchen with a big plate of food, there was nobody there except me. I didn’t tell her about the shoes or the doll. I didn’t tell my sister either until 50 years later. She had wondered where her new pink shoes had gone.
When people were generous and good, the hobos had a way of marking the curb with an “X” to let other hobos know that this was a place that would share.
Always being a Baptist, I was in the girl’s organization called “Girls Auxiliary.” Mrs. Henry Walker was the jailer’s wife and she also was my G.A. teacher and we met at the “parlor” of the jail. Jailers and their families lived in the jail at this time. We never saw the prisoners until one day three runaway teenagers from Chicago were found in Holly Springs and put in jail until it could be decided what to do with them. They were invited to our G.A. meeting so they could hear about Jesus.
After that they were returned to Chicago. Later on, I saw a woman on TV from Chicago, who told about running away from home to Mississippi and I wondered if she was the one who sat with us in that jail parlor to hear about Jesus.
Mr. Earnest Best recently wrote a book about being a hobo during the Depression and coming through Holly Springs. I asked him if he stopped at my house so long ago and he said “maybe.” He said he learned a trick that worked every time. If a man comes to the door, he would pretend he was a deaf mute, but made motions that he was hungry and it worked every time and was easy as he could forego the conversation and have the food just handed out. If a woman came to the door, he would converse with her and then she would feed him.
Gypsies: Real gypsies used to have us on their circuit, too. At first (before me) they traveled in colorful covered wagons with decorations on them. At night they would camp in a circle and have a campfire in the middle and cook supper for everyone on the fire. When I knew the gypsies, they traveled in big black cars but the camping was the same — edge of town, camp in a circle, fire for cooking and music. They loved wild, fast music and they produced music from their own circle. However, the gypsies were notorious for their stealing. We had heard they would steal babies and children so we were naturally scared to death of the gypsies and being kidnapped. I was about 13 when the last batch came to town. I had a job at Hopkins 5&10 cent store. There were no labor laws and I worked because I wanted to work. They paid me $1 per day. A large number of my friends worked too. It was exciting and the $1 was great. On this particular day, Mrs. Hopkins came back to my counter, which was the jewelry counter and whispered in an excited whisper, “The gypsies are coming into the store. Don’t let them steal from this counter.” What a responsibility to give a 13-year-old! As far as I remember the counter was all intact after their visit and a great amount of relief was sighed! I was really envious when Virginia Wynne (Bonds) and her father went down to have supper one night with the gypsies. I wanted to go, too, but my father wouldn’t go and he wouldn’t take me either. Her father said that the gypsies were a vanishing species and they might never have the opportunity to eat with the gypsies. They probably never did, the gypsies never came again to my knowledge.
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