Thursday, June 7, 2007
The winds of change
Holly Springs is changing every day. Last week while I was entertaining the DAR in my living room, there were helicopters circling over my house. They were looking for an escaped prisoner who was loose for several hours. Then the helicopters landed and the hunt was over. Our great lawmen had caught the rascal.
No sooner was it over than the fire sirens began to go off. Part of the uptown square was on fire. The building on College Avenue that used to be Leo Leibson’s Shoe Store was on fire. When our great firefighters put the flame out, the place was gutted but not all gone. That building was probably one of the first business houses in Holly Springs. What saved the rest of the block was the west brick wall.
That’s where Herky Lafever’s shoe store used to be and it was a narrow building that might have been a courtyard to the original building. The west wall of this courtyard was also brick and each of these walls had doors in the middle of the walls coming into this courtyard that faced each other.
Because of all this original construction, the rest of the block didn’t burn and was saved. For the past twenty years, this building was used as the “Holly Springs Upholstery Shop” where Norma Bradley did business in antiques, junk, refinishing, and upholstery (a great place) and five weeks ago she moved her business to Potts Camp. The building was being renovated by the owner and he plans to start over again.
When I was small, this building was Mr. Mackie’s Candy Store and was delightful to visit. Mr. Mackie dressed up everyday and came to work in a suit, a shirt with a detachable collar, a bow tie and a bolo hat! He was the best-dressed man in town! As far as I know, he had no family. He lived next door in a big two-story antebellum house that was torn down about 1960. I don’t know why it was torn down as the lot sits empty even today.
When the “Traveler’s Inn” hotel burned (about 1939, I’m not sure) we needed a hotel as motels hadn’t been invented, but there was something called a “Tourists’ Court” but Holly Springs didn’t have one of those either. The “Elks Club” had built the beautiful building next door to Mr. Mackey’s.
About 1910 and by 1940 the Elks had played out so Mrs. Rowan (Claiborne’s mother, Kay and Rowan’s grandmother) took over the Elks Club building and made it into a hotel. She called it “Van Dorn Inn.” The building was connected to Mr. Mackie’s house (Mr. Mackie had died by this time) and his house was then used as hotel rooms. In 1944 my junior-senior prom was held there. It was the social center of the town. This building is now the superintendent of education’s office for the county.
The compress is being torn down now, as it is no longer needed or in use. It will be strange to have those acres open and bare. The compress was built in 1918 to house the great cotton crops we had back in those days. Up until then, the cotton bales were stored on the square or at the depot. Someone recently brought the museum a photo taken with a glass negative of Al Beck’s house on West Boundary and cotton bales were stored all over his front yard. In other words, cotton was stored from one side of town to the other.
The location of the compress was between Compress Street and Bethlehem Street. In its day the compress received the cotton in bales from the cotton gin where the cotton had been deseeded and wrapped in burlap. The compress compressed the cotton, squeezing out all of the air. The compressing process could be heard all over town as a big “squashing” sound.
The compress employed many workers and was a huge industry. Cotton was shipped from this cotton port to points all over the world. Mr. Lea moved here from the plantation in the county as “Lea’s Crossing” to head the compress. It was known as the Federal Compress but was privately owned.
When I was young, wagons pulled by mules or horses jammed College Avenue, carrying ginned cotton bales to the compress. Nowadays cotton is no longer king as no cotton is grown here anymore and there isn’t a single gin in the county. Times do change. Recently, a tree fell on the southwest corner of the building and helped its demise. The building was used in the movie, “Cookies Fortune.”
Another change is shocking. The double building by the alley between the square and Alderson Street that used to be Brown’s Printing has been razed and now it is empty all the way through to College Avenue except for the bank deposit stand.
When I was young there was a house on that lot but I don’t remember who lived there. Across the street long ago was an ante-bellum house where General and Mrs. Arthur McArthur, parents of Douglas, lived during Reconstruction, as he was the federal officer in charge of the army of occupation.
Vicksburg, Jackson and Holly Springs were the only cities in the United States to be federally occupied in the 19th century and we were federally occupied for ten years after the War Between the States. General Douglas McArthur was nearly born here, but Reconstruction finally ended and the McArthur’s moved to Little Rock and Douglas was born on the Army base there.
I wish Reconstruction could have lasted a few more months so Douglas would have had Holly Springs as his hometown and we would have been a landmark as his birthplace.
I have beautiful flowers in my back yard and one day last week I went out and something had dug up my plants and played havoc with my flowerbed. I thought “Is it cats?” but my neighbor said it was squirrels and then someone else said it was armadillos, one of the few prehistoric animals still around in its original state.
Now, just how do I get rid of him? I wish armadillos had stayed west of the Mississippi River. They are unwelcome here.
I make mistakes sometimes because (as the cook used to say) “I disremember.” Last week I left out about Ira Christy being held prisoner of war after flying 26 missions as a B17 pilot during World War II. Ira was so wonderful, and I’m sorry I didn’t remember to put it in the article.
In the graduation article, the English teacher opened her desk drawer and there was a dead o’possum in it. She screamed “A marsupial!” I myself would probably have fainted.
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