Interview with Ann N. Steen July 27, 2007 OH# 378
Interviewed by Emily Weaver and Dr. Cameron McMillen
Transcribed by W. Ray
EW: This is Emily Weaver and I’m here with Dr. Cameron McMillen and we are in Mrs. Ann Steen’s home and we are conducting an oral history interview on the Historic Neighborhood Project. Mrs. Steen will you share with us all the information that you do know about this historic neighborhood –
AS: And can remember.
EW: And can remember. Willingly.
AS: Anything I can remember I will share willingly.
EW: Okay, thank you.
AS: I have lived here 71 years. I was born down the street in what was then the old hospital on the corner of College and South Leflore. James Albert Wiggins lived there for a number of years. And I’m not sure, I don’t know who lives there now. But that’s where I was born. “Have you lived at any different addresses?” Do you want to ask me or am I ready?
CM: You can do it either way.
AS: You ask me.
CM: What other addresses have you lived here in Cleveland?
AS: One other. When I was born my family lived on what is now Cotton Row. Then my house, it was a boarding house and they called it the Floyd Hotel. And it burned in 1940.
CM: Where was this?
AS: You know where the old funeral home – the Westerfield lot – all of that area was my great grandmother’s. And she moved here from Clarksdale when her husband died. He was a farmer. She sold her land and moved down here. And of course this was a railroad town, but it was a boarding house. And I remember, I was in the house the night it burned, but I do remember things about the house. There was a very large living area, parlor or whatever, and the family lived in the homes on the side. And there was stairways that went to the second floor and then the back of that first floor was the dining room. And I was especially fond of the man, and tomorrow I can remember his name but can’t right now. He lived in the front room and he took me every day to get ice cream at Ben’s Drug Store. We’d walk across and then we would always put a penny on the railroad track. Isn’t it funny what you remember when you are four? And we would let the train smush the penny. And we had a collection of smushed pennies. And I remember the flavor and the smell of the grocery – I mean the drug store. It was wonderful. What else about that house?
CM: And when did you move to this house?
AS: When it – well, it burned as I said in 1940. And we lived down the street for several months in an apartment and then moved into this house.
CM: Is the apartment still there?
AS: The apartment is still there.
CM: What was the address of the apartment, do you remember?
AS: It was the second house from the end, I don’t know what it – right next to the Shoenholz’s old house, and of course they haven’t lived here in thirty years.
EW: Is it beside Avo’s house?
AS: Yes. That duplex next to Avo’s house.
CM: Did your parents build this house?
AS: No. It was built long before ’40. If I’m not mistaken, Cully Roberts built this house. Now Taylor Roberts who is a pharmacist here is this man’s grandson who built this house.
CM: And have you lived in the house…?
AS: Since then. Except during World War II when we went back and forth from my father’s family was from Cleveland, Ohio. And we’d go up there for a period of time and my grandmother decided the German’s or somebody would bomb Cleveland because it was a city in Ohio, so we came back to Cleveland, Mississippi. (Inaudible) from Cleveland being from Ohio.
CM: Who were your neighbors when you were growing up?
AS: The Scott’s lived on the south. He was a builder and he built that house. And really, when you look at that house, the windows and all are quite different and it hasn’t been changed since the probably ‘40’s or something like that. And Sarah Butler lived to the right. Her husband was, or had been a dentist, but he was dead when I remember her. And I spent many hours on her porch. She had one son who died. He had not been married long. And past that house was Charlie Capps’ mother and daddy. And that’s where June McClendon. And then two sets of apartments and and my best friend Martha Shoenholz lived in the next house.
EW: Can you spell that last name?
AS: S-h-o-e-n-h-o-l-z. They owned a department store downtown that was bought by Jay’s and now whatever is down there.
EW: Okay. Thank you.
AS: My mother, before I was born, would you like to know a little bit about her?
EW: Um hmm.
AS: I don’t know, I guess they lived in the hotel when she went to Cleveland High School. And she had a really good friend, Margaret, who lived where Cheryl Line lives right now. And they had behind their house, a peach orchard and watermelon. And their favorite thing to do was to tell Margaret that they couldn’t go out that night so they could go steal watermelons. You know, of course they could have had them, but they thought that was exciting. They also had conga line downstairs – downtown when mother would have spend the night guests. And this would be like Mrs. Bacon and Margaret Capps and Margaret whoever her name is. They were all about the same age which would be in the hundreds now. And they would get caught by the police having conga line. And I can remember in high school when I would have a group spending the night, and we had a conga line down their street.
CM: What is a conga line?
AS: Oh, you know how to do the conga don’t you? Well, just a bunch of girls get in a line and go down the street – do-do-do-do-do kick! You know, we would do it up and down the street. And my mother incensed that we would put out there in our pajamas at 1:00 doing the conga line. But my grandmother also lived here and she assured me that it was a lot better to do it on this street than downtown you know, so, we had a lot of interesting, you know…
EW: Oh yeah, a lot of fun!
AS: It was fun. It was fun. This was a good neighborhood. The Cassibry’s lived over there and the Kent’s, he was a sheriff, Willie Earl and Miriam Kent lived there, it was not that house it burned, Teddy Kittle’s house. And she used to take me when I was older to Denton’s Dairy around the corner and I had ice cream and root beer. And that is just one of my favorite things still. And Patty Weinstein lived in what is now that little bungalow, (inaudible)…
EW: McCaleb’s live there?
AS: Not the….
AS: Laster’s live.
CM: Mary McCaleb.
EW: Yes. But the McCaleb’s lived there.
AS: They – he redid it. She was a character also. It was just an interesting, a lot of fun people.
CM: Were there any annual neighborhood activities or things that (inaudible)?
AS: Oh, that wasn’t really an annual event. That was a one time happening. My grandmother was, grew up in prohibition days, so there was no alcohol allowed in our house except at Christmas. And her eggnog was, I couldn’t drink it as long as she made it because it was so strong. And she made a rum cake that could walk out of the house. But that didn’t seem to count on her. But every year she had a Eggnog Party and everyone in the neighborhood would come and then around. They may have had it a number of times, I don’t know, but they had it in this house I know. No, we didn’t have…
CM: How long have you been having your Azalea Tea?
AS: I don’t know.
CM: That’s a neighborhood tradition anyway.
AS: Well it is.
CM: Especially a city (inaudible).
AS: Probably close to ten years.
EW: How did they start?
AS: Well, Betty Simpson from Shaw and I just decided that we wanted to entertain but we didn’t want to ask people. I just dislike lists. So we just decided that we would have a little tea. And we put a poster up outside and over a hundred people came. And so the next year, it was raining, a rainy week, and we changed it, changed the sign, we just scratched it out “azalea tea” and wrote “rainy day tea” and thought we’d have – and we had over a hundred people. So, you know, this year or last year, not this year, we had maybe less than a hundred, but Betty was sick and so I just had it and I didn’t do a lot of talking about it.
CM: I missed your sign this year.
AS: It was there.
CM: I’ve even driven down the street on purpose.
AS: It is always the week either before or after the Master’s Golf Tournament. Because that is when the azalea’s bloom.
CM: I was crushed when I (inaudible).
AS: Well I was crushed when you didn’t come.
CM: It was not because of a lack of (inaudible). Are there any traditions other than the Azalea Tea and any party that the neighborhood had or that you remember that Cleveland had?
AS: I remember Cleveland’s parade when I was young and all the flat bed trailers that, you know, would have the dancing classes, and the costumes and I can remember being exceedingly disappointed when I did not and my sister did get to be on one of those flatbeds you know. And I remember that Rufus, David Walt’s grandfather, was always the Marshall of the parade. Fireworks at the 4th of July out on Delta State’s football field. They always had that.
EW: The old field?
AS: The old field which is now….
EW: Now Keener Hall.
AS: And my uncle always set off the alarm. He was also involved with the Mule Racing, I don’t know why. They were – everybody did things then you know, it was not a…What else do I (inaudible)? Saturday afternoon serials and westerns.
CM: Did you go to the movie most Saturday afternoons?
AS: We did. We did as a child.
CM: And which theater did you go to?
AS: The Ellis Theater. Now there were three theaters in Cleveland. The Westco, the Regent and the Ellis. And there is a lot of dispute from people who lived back then as to which was the Westco and which was the Regent. They were both across the railroad track. The Ellis is where it is now. And of course when I grew up, Bob’s Drive In in the ‘50’s was right across from the theater. And it had, there was a routine for Friday nights. You circled Bob’s, cruised I guess Court Street and drug Fifth Avenue. And you just went around and around. Of course, you were looking for people (inaudible). And then generally once you found them you landed at someone’s home. And most every Friday night, according to age, there would be three or four homes open where you danced or played cards, but mainly danced.
CM: Was there a particular home that you usually ended up at?
AS: This was one of them. This was one of them. And the younger groups that – I’m trying to think, maybe Harriett Redding was a year younger, and two years younger would have been Cheryl Line. I hate to say on tape that Cheryl Line was two years younger than I. But that’s my mistake, anyway, we also had our churches were very ecumenical. A lot of times it was according to ages to. At my age we had a predominance of Methodists so a lot of other churches our age, young people would go to the MYF. And my friend Barbara Shoenholtz was always the Vice President which always kind of shocked her father, but she said she never made it to President because she was Jewish. But she was always the Vice President. So it was a really a neat, neat place for business like that.
CM: Do you have pictures? Any pictures of the others or associated with things that you did?
AS: Somewhere. I just as soon not go over this on (inaudible). We went – the house burned up town. It was my great-grandmother’s wedding present. My mother’s, my aunts and uncles, so much of that was destroyed. So I am very fortunate to have some pictures of mother, the baby and all. Cut that off and I’ll tell you (inaudible).
AS: Alright, other things that happened back then, I talk today and back then and I’m not real good with chronological.
EW: That’s okay.
AS: We have another little thing that we do here on Christmas Eve. And I guess I’ve been doing this for twenty years since my mother died. And that was – mama was such a part of our family Christmas and anyway, we just changed our Christmas. And I started having dinner for anyone. And we have sometimes forty or forty-five people who will come and eat dinner. And these are generally people whose families are elsewhere. It changes from year to year because someone may be here this year and not the next year. So this has been going on for about twenty years. So if ever you are by yourself on Christmas Eve, I’ll take two or three, but I’m not taking eight or ten people out of one family. I figure you got enough – cook your own turkey. And we do have a really good time. And then some people are always here.
EW: You were very generous the first Christmas that I lived here on this street. You left me (inaudible) at my door and I didn’t even know that (inaudible).
AS: I do that but I think I’m through. I’m almost seventy-one and I can’t get every – I’ve got to cut out some stuff. I can do Christmas Eve or the tea party but maybe cooking the turkey. But I do try to do for my neighbors.
AS: Thank you.
CM: We’ve talked about some of the things that you all do for fun. What about your drivers’ license? When did you get your drivers’ license?
AS: Right. That was the – and you didn’t an emergency type – everybody just got theirs. That was the law.
CM: We got ours at fourteen in Arkansas.
AS: Did you? Now that doesn’t mean we started driving at fifteen.
EW: (inaudible) drive?
AS: At least fourteen, maybe a little younger, because there weren’t that many cars. And I tell you who tried to teach me to drive and she’s someone you do need to talk, although she did not volunteer, she’s from Greenville, is Jo Beth Janoush. A cousin of hers was a very good friend of mine and she said – I don’t think she said intentionally tried to do her in – but she tried to teach us to drive out in the country and we came close to more than one ditch. But there wasn’t much to do about driving.
EW: Do you remember about the car, what kind of car it was?
AS: Well it was a shift.
EW: On the column?
AS: Yes. Yes. It was this and I never did that without bucking very well you know. Then I guess it wasn’t too long before we – of course our car had no air conditioning. And I can remember getting up about 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning and go to Memphis for the day. And we tried to go early. And of course the stores opened earlier. Probably 8:00 or whatever, so that you wouldn’t get the sun. And then whoever piled in and went, if you would meet at the Peabody about the time that the ducks came out, because that was a good meeting place, and it was a good time and everybody could remember it. And then I can remember coming home and my grandmother was driving. She would put newspapers in the windows on the west side of the car – oh, I would hit the floor board, just too embarrassed. You know she was just trying to keep the sun out of the car.
CM: Did you stop (inaudible) and go through (inaudible) and go through Temptation Alley?
AS: Absolutely. But before we did that we parked in Desota, the Desota Garage.
CM: Which one was the new garage?
AS: Before they built the garage there. The big question was, “Did you eat at (inaudible) and see the models or did you go to the Teacart, all the way down,….”
AS: And then they had the wonderful little tea room – tea shop around the corner. Do you get the dessert cart or do you get the models? Probably had to do with your age. When your young, always the Teacart.
CM: (inaudible) when you had a party? Did everybody decorate? Did you do anything in the neighborhood? Was there a Christmas parade?
AS: Oh, there was always a Christmas parade. That was really big.
EW: What was it’s route? Is it the same as it is now?
AS: Pretty much. Pretty much. It’s always like come down Court and down College and down Main Street.
EW: Would it have come down here?
AS: I don’t know if it started and ended at the high school or the college? I don’t remember. Because at that time I was not involved in setting it up. Later years of course, one organization or another would (inaudible).
EW: You talked about playing Bunko?
AS: No! Bridge!
EW: On the front porch.
AS: Oh yeah, and reading Nancy Drew. And I tried to get my granddaughter a Nancy Drew and it just didn’t work.
EW: Are you going to carry her to the movie?
AS: Yes indeed.
CM: I can’t decide whether (inaudible).
AS: Oh no, he can. I can still see the light by her door and I hide it.
EW: Well, who taught you how to (inaudible)?
AS: Everybody in town. We started bridge nine, ten, eleven, and the most important thing when we first started – you don’t want all this stuff just tell me.
EW: Oh yes we do.
AS: Well the first three cards you turn them over and he was tall or short, the next card he was light or dark, and the third card he loved you, hated you, going to break your heart or give you a diamond. Now those were the most important things in playing Bridge for a long time. But you have to learn to play Bridge. My mother was quite an expert. And (inaudible) worked on us you know from day one. It was just the thing to do.
CM: Did ya’ll play Bridge the whole year long or mostly summer?
AS: Mostly when we were that age, in the summer. But as we got older of course.
EW: It’s a way for social interaction.
AS: It is and it’s an excellent way. With just (inaudible) and then four clubs, one of the club’s name is the pig – the (inaudible). We eat more than (inaudible). We eat more than we play that’s why we called it the pig. And we spent all one night with light chocolate, or dark chocolate, or (inaudible). And most of them are not interested in Bridge as they are the food. None the less, we have a good time.
EW: What other things would you have done out here on the front porch?
AS: Watch for the boys to ride down the street.
EW: On their bicycles?
AS: That was a little later, cars. Everything we did, just all the girl things. We had a lemon session one time. And I – it’s not a good thing to do.
CM: What’s a lemon session?
AS: Well when Pat McCaleb still lived here for part of this. Barbara Shoenholtz was part of this. I can’t remember but four. But you would tell things about the other person that they needed to do something about.
AS: And I wore glasses and they said I didn’t look good in glasses. Now what was I supposed to do about that? There were no contacts you know. Walk into doors – I don’t know. Fail in school? We were in seventh grade and it was my good friends. And I remember that. We had lots of little spend the night parties and ….
EW: Over here? Would most of them come to your house?
AS: Well, we went around. But we did. My parents were very good about opening the house and I tried to do the same thing when my children came along.
CM: Is the house – I know you’ve added a room on the back and one on the side, but is it primarily pretty much like it was when you were growing up?
AS: Structurally it is. It is. So the big living room was a wonderful place to roll the rug up and down. And also to put sleeping bags down and sleep. The den was not there then.
EW: Would you have slept out here in the sun room?
AS: Oh no, no, no. It was not air conditioned.
EW: I mean, you’d catch a breeze. Was the house air conditioned when ya’ll moved in?
AS: Oh, I’m sure not. In the ‘40’s we had ceiling fans, attic fans. I can remember in one room, and I mean it sounded like a train was coming through but it did cool you off. Then we, I guess the first air conditioners were window air conditioners. And I still like those because they make a wonderful noise and they block out all the lights and sleep forever, which we did.
CM: Was there sometimes you avoided somebody that you knew weren’t supposed to walk in their yard?
AS: We made up a lady, she didn’t really care. I mean you hear about type of things and you tried to find a – she really was a nice lady and we just did that. We- let me see, I was trying to be a little more organized. The things that I remember about church. We had the most wonderful thing in the summer, which was, two weeks in the summer students would come from Milsaps or somewhere and for two weeks they would – we would have programs and they would plan our schedules and we would have skits and we would go to Delta State to swim and have watermelon. It was a wonderful two weeks. And this again was ecumenical you know and it was really, really good. I remember the first funeral I went to in a church. And it was so hot. And I can remember the fans, the funeral homes provided fans. I can remember Mrs. Walt, David’s great aunt, who taught me the books of the Bible in the third grade. Our church was a very, very important social place for us. There were no teen clubs, there was one picture show. There were no TV’s. And if you had a TV it was snow, and wrestling, none of which interested us much. And so our church and our school, the park, Fireman’s Park, we would go over there and square dance some.
EW: Did you ever go to Rosedale for their dances?
AS: Oh always (inaudible) but that’s high school, and I was thinking younger then. This was before we had cars. This was before we could – of course, nobody had a car. The family car. But I had one friend who lived in the country and so – her name was Lucille Redmilsaps. And her parents, instead of driving her back and forth Sunday night to church and to school, she had a car. And if we didn’t think we were the cat’s meow. You know, that was great.
CM: I know in this house it was Tyler Poole’s house. Was there a pool there when you were growing up?
AS: No. My cousin lived around the corner where the Baptist minister lives. That was her house. And she bought that corner lot and two houses and tore them down and built the Poole House and the pool about the time we came out of, came from graduate school. Because my children were little and that’s where Ashley, my daughter, – I cannot swim, and I was in the pool with her – shallow end, age two, and she got out and ran around to the deep end and she swam to the side. And this is, you know, anyway, that’s the story of that house, the Poole House. And then it divided, the property divided after she died.
CM: Were there many fences, or did most of the yards flow into each other?
AS: We used to walk the fence. There was a fence that ran between the houses on North Bolivar and North Leflore, I don’t know why. And it was just great fun, because you could walk that fence. I mean nobody cared. It wasn’t to keep people out so much. There weren’t dividers on – I don’t know why there was a long fence.
EW: Wood fence or…?
AS: A wood fence. It was a grass stained wall.
CM: What did you think about growing up in Cleveland?
AS: I loved it.
CM: Did you think you’d always live in Cleveland?
AS: Probably. I was not a very aggressive person. I was not a very secure person back in those days. And I was comfortable here. I lived a couple of years in Clarksdale in school. That was safe. I mean I didn’t stay up there except during the school year.
CM: What do you think makes Cleveland a special place to live and raise a family?
AS: I think it is more urban in some ways because of Delta State. We always had people coming and going from Delta State. And that brought in people that were from different cultures. And even if it was just Pennsylvania, it still kept people coming and going and I think that we are a lot less in restrictive in Cleveland, than say Clarksdale, Greenville, or Greenwood. And we had a warm society I think, or I felt. Now on the flip side, I think the Mississippi Delta can be a very difficult place to grow up. There is this unwritten culture type – the Delta. Even in the dictionary the Delta is designated as this area of Mississippi, instead of the Delta – the river. And although our area during the Civil War had very little, I mean it was mosquito ridden, and the river of course has always had, but a lot of this was not here. There were no antebellum homes in this part of the Delta. But none the lot, there is a mystique and it has been furthered and sometimes when you are young and you are growing up in that, you have that feeling of not belonging. You know it’s tough. Where did you grow up?
AS: And it can be tough and this was even true when my children came along. And as hard as we try not to make it that way, and I hope that sometimes we are even aware – I do like the Delta you know, and I like to say, “I’m from the Delta.” Although there are a lot of bad things about it.
EW: You survived the Delta.
AS: I survived the Delta. And we read things when we’re young that are not true you know. All the insecurity. I think there was some difficulty. Not everyone agrees with me on this, but I think too I can remember making a point, and I don’t know if this is good or not for tape, sitting on (inaudible) church steps in (inaudible). Slanted. And crying. I have no idea what made me cry. But I can remember being in high school and thinking, “I’ll not forget this. This is pain. And everybody says this is not history. It’s not important.” But it was important. (inaudible) so I remember high school students and I have a special attachment for them, because this is a hard time in their lives. Even though we came and went (inaudible). There’s still those (inaudible) for young people.
EW: I agree. You know what you’re talking about.
CM: What kind of rules did you have to abide by? Did you have to be in any certain time, or restrictions on what part of town you could go to?
AS: For me personally?
CM: Um hmm.
AS: I was jealous of my friend Pat McCaleb because her mother put restrictions on her. Mama really never said anything to me. I made up my own restrictions. I would say, “My mother said I had to be in by 10:00.” Now of course if you had a date you’d say, “My mama said I had to be in by 9:00.” I mean, a little more restrictions than I had as a child, but I didn’t ever do anything. I mean, there was no reason. I went nowhere. We didn’t go. The worst thing we did was if you went to the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread – even Mr. White which was where, going up North Bayou it’s right there on the corner.
AS: That Pic-a-Bit was Mr. White’s grocery store. My grandmother had a running battle with Mr. White, the butcher, because she always wanted him to grind her meat there with her watching. But he would say, “But I just ground it.” And she would – it was just pitiful. But anyway, if we went there to pick up a loaf of bread, I had to pick up five people and it would take me an hour and a half to go up to Mr. White’s. And I would get chewed out every time about that. And the next time I’d say, “Oh I promise I’ll never do it again.” But as far as saying I can’t go here or to be in, my grades were good. We didn’t drink, we didn’t smoke, we didn’t do anything, but have a congo line down the street. I mean, we really were not (inaudible) and we didn’t do anything. Danced a lot in the streets. We would be riding along and Randy’s Record Shop – listened to it out of Nashville. A song would come on and everybody would do just as they did – stop the car and we would get outside and dance in the street and hop back in. We did it.
EW: You’re kidding!
AS: Oh no, I’m not. And it was, you know, that was….
EW: Was it paved streets?
AS: Yeah, just like…um hmm. There were not a lot of cars.
EW: And nobody would run you over.
EW: Cause they were stopped too.
AS: Probably. There just weren’t that many cars.
CM: Do you remember any stories about particular homes in the neighborhood. The neighborhood that we are looking at is Pearman, Bolivar, Leflore and Victoria.
EW: And I know that’s a wide neighborhood.
AS: Well, on Pearman was the American Legion Hut and that’s where dances were held. (inaudible)
EW: And you would go to dances there?
AS: Not really. By that time – I did as a young girl, but my sister who was going to the dance and a friend of mine, dressed in long dresses, but we weren’t there and my friend – somebody walked along beside me saying, “Oh Ann, your dress is so pretty.” And it was. I could have shot her you know. But there were dances there. And the swimming pool and the ice cream bars.
CM: When did that close?
AS: I don’t know. I’m not a swimmer so I would go but I never – they had a slide and I can’t imagine getting on a slide and sliding into a swimming pool. So I don’t know. Elections were wonderful.
AS: The Bolivar Commercial was down from Denton’s, towards Court Street. And they had a great big chalk board outside on the window and they kept the tallies on there and you could see it. Across the street from the courthouse was a funeral home, that later became the health department. Below the funeral home there was a fig tree and we would sit in the fig tree and eat figs and watch and listen to what speakers (inaudible).
CM: Would you all campaign?
AS: I campaigned when Kent. I handed out cards and got $5.00. I would have done it for nothing because he was a neighbor but he gave us $5.00. I had an awareness of politics and there was a lot of political talk in those days. But I never got involved in it at that time. I mean, you know, except for high school. But it was a lot of people came and there was a lot of activity and we thought it was just wonderful.
CM: Did you go to the Keen Freeze?
AS: Oh yeah. Bob’s Drive In was really our hang out through high school. But the Keen Freeze came along about that time. Bob’s Drive In was great.
CM: I’ve heard their hamburgers (inaudible)?
AS: Keen Freeze. They were all good. (inaudible). Real.
CM: Would you park at Bob’s Drive In and go in or did (inaudible).
AS: We’d go in – again before we were driving much and we would go to the Friday nights show also a lot when it was not football season or basketball season or something like that. And we would go in and sit at a booth and I can well remember the boys would sit at the counter and turn around and watch – which meant of course that you didn’t eat your hamburger. And they delighted in type of …
AS: It was.
EW: Did you walk to school?
AS: Yes. I did but my children didn’t but I always managed for someone to pick them up, right up the street. School was Rally Day. There was so much going on at school. Choral Festivals, Y Teen (inaudible), ….
CM: May Day?
AS: We had Rally Day, we didn’t have May Day or whatever. And the whole school when you were in the seventh grade. When you were in the seventh grade and you were put in group one, two, three, or four, and you stayed there six years. So it became very intense and I will tell you on tape that Group Three was the best without a doubt.
CM: Which group were you in?
AS: Weeelll. And Group Two was the worst. That was the one that my sister was in. But you had two days, the first day you had whatever, you had speeches, declamations, ensembles, sextets, quartets, and things like that went on all that day. The next day in the morning you had skits, big skits. Everybody was dressed in costumes, and you had cheerleaders, and a skit that went on. We were envious and Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean was always played by our band, Group Three. And that was all morning and all afternoon you had track events. Just like a track meet. So for one and a half days the whole school was out doing this and it was – I thought it was great.
CM: What would you do for Halloween?
AS: A carnival. I don’t ever remember a trick or treater. We had a carnival. And you are going to interview Donna McCaleb?
AS: And her mother, Ruby McClellan, her father was also a sheriff here. Was always the fortune teller. And she would put on gobs of beads and do her face and tell fortunes. And she was one of my favorite people in the whole world. She made aprons for us. She was a wonderful person. She was one of mama’s card players. That was Halloween. And that’s all I remember about Halloween. We had kings and queens and stuff like that.
EW: Speaking of, weren’t you a queen?
AS: Of what?
EW: Junior Auxiliary?
AS: Oh yes. That’s way later than this neighborhood. Our neighborhood, I’m trying to remember flags out here (inaudible) in fact this whole street. This whole area was once called the (inaudible) District.
EW: Really! Why?
AS: Well it wasn’t because we were living here. (inaudible) affluent people up and down, that part of Court Street. The Cassibry’s and people like that.
CM: Do you remember the houses where the playground is now at the Methodist Church?
AS: Yes. Leon Kamien lived there. I played many a Bridge game there and went to many of, after I was married, many a day party.
CM: What about the vacant lot that sits on the other side of where the Baptist minister lives now? Was there a house there?
AS: Yes, there was. And the Perry’s lived there I believe. He had some office in the county, I don’t know what it was. But they lived there. And then around the corner, the Bradford’s lived where JoBeth Janoush lives. And Roberta Wiggins lived across the street where your preacher lives. And she was Roberta Smith. Smith being an old family.
CM: Is that the Smith that started Cleveland do you think, that family?
AS: I didn’t know they started Cleveland but she would say they did. Yeah. And then Margaret Capps lived when she was young, I can’t think of her maiden name and I should, where, it may be where the Jeffrey’s live now. That house that was redone?
CM: With the blue porch?
AS: Does it have a blue porch? It’s a white house. Lee Speakes, if I’m not mistaken. Anyway, a lot of old families lived on that street and it has changed a lot. As has this one.
EW: Did Mrs. Avo always have that car?
AS: Where the law office is?
EW: Um hmm. Um hmm.
AS: But before the beauty parlor was there, that was just a blank field and there was a house there, but I don’t think Avo lived there. I may be wrong. I know that our coach, Billy Marsten, and his family lived there at one time. The beauty parlor was on North Bolivar then and they had a monkey. The name of it was Modern Beauty Parlor. Had a monkey.
EW: It had a monkey? A real live..
AS: Mr. Russell owned it and why I do not know. Ya’ll surely remember all the old permanents when they burned your scalp. But that lot was vacant and it had a few trees, but not many. And that’s where the Pep Squad practiced. And the high school, across the street there was a teacherage, a little red house that some of the unmarried teachers lived in. And then the principal, the Superintendent of Schools lived on the corner where Margaret Green is now. All that was there. But Coach Wade was the Pep Squad leader. And Margaret Wade. As well as our Basketball Coach. And if you would like to know my personal basketball career, I played in one game and there were two sets of uniforms, and then three uniforms that didn’t belong to anything. I got one of those. And we played in Indianola. Well they played here and we were winning 100 to nothing so she let me go in and I made three fouls in five minutes. That was the end of my career. The next year I broke my nose during class games and I managed from then on and kept the score, because you had to be involved in basketball. Girl’s Basketball in this town was it. Well, I was not a basketball player. In fact, when my children were in junior high and the parents were playing the teachers, I could do all the figure 8’s and all the little things that she taught me o do. I just couldn’t play basketball. And Coach Wade came to watch us and I came out for practice. And I lasted two minutes in the game and then I went over and sat with her. And she said, “Ann, I looked at you coming out and I thought, well why didn’t she ever play?” And she said, “It didn’t take me long to remember.” Well I was a Pep Squad leader and I decided not to wear those glasses that everybody thought I didn’t look too good in them, and we went to Charleston or Tallahatchie County or somewhere and I led my fifty girls to the wrong side – I couldn’t read the 40 yard line or the 50. I took them to the wrong place. Well I lived in fear and trembling for 48 hours until Monday morning. First thing I had the message, to come in to Lily Margaret Wade’s office. And I thought, “Well my dead body, you know they can just raise it on the flagpole if they want to.” And I always wore glasses after that. I never tried to be cute. So…
EW: It’s better to see. Stay alive.
AS: It is. That’s correct. Cause I was as near dead as ever. But I especially, I just liked high school. We had sock hops after every football game.
EW: Oh fun.
AS: And there was no such thing as David dancing and it just appalled me when I started chaperoning. Which I did too much when my children were in school. My son told me after he was in college that it would have nice if he could have gone to one dance in high school when I was not chaperoning. But anyway. If you danced two dances with the same person you felt like you were a wallflower. It was terrible. You’d start perspiring and think, “Oh, can I get someone to come over you know and break?” You never danced with the same person.
EW: And it’s not quite as entertaining as it is now. (inaudible)
AS: I know. No they’re no fun. We had the Redtops all the time and fun. It was good. All the things about high school. I told you about church. High school.
EW: Oh, when did you meet Dr. Steen? Is that okay to ask?
AS: Well, he is four years and four days younger than I. And don’t think at first – well that didn’t bother him at all but now he’s enjoying this to the utmost. Since I’m seventy and he’s sixty-six. I had called a friend’s house. A friend called and asked me if I would come over and teach a new fellow that they had met how to play Bridge, and the four of us would play, and I said, “Yes.” I’ll call you back in just a minute. So when I called back I didn’t pay any attention to who answered the phone so I did my normal little flirt bit or whatever, and it was Jim. And he was the person I was supposed to go teach, so I did. And this was during Christmas holidays. Then I saw him at the Rosedale dance that same Christmas and he asked me for a date. And we married the next Christmas.
EW: And when was that – what year?
AS: Nineteen Sixty.
CM: What day in December?
AS: Eighteenth. Which was just ghastly. Why I would do that to my mother I don’t know. But you know…
CM: (inaudible got married on the 18th, and I got married on the 28th which is maybe marginally better, but maybe not.
AS: Well, that’s just a terrible thing to do. But you never think about your parents when your trying to get married. They had moved here seven years before that.
EW: Oh so he was a local boy.
AS: Well, he doesn’t call himself a local boy because he has only lived here forty-something years. That’s not long enough. Almost fifty now. But when we gather and friends come from high school, and we pull out the old annuals, one night several years ago, we were seated on Barbara Shoenholtz’s front porch. Five or ten years ago. And Ed and Kitty Kossman, Cheryl Line, Barbara, Jim and I were seated. We went all the way through the annual. We started again. And when we started the second time, just in unison, Kitty and Jim popped up and said, “We have done this once. We are not going through it again.” And they left and went home. So he doesn’t real feel he is from Cleveland because ….
EW: Had he already finished high school when he lived here?
AS: He was off in school. He went to a military school. He was in the ninth or tenth grade when he moved here. But he never went to school here, except at Delta State.
CM: Do you remember anything in particular, you told us about the Methodist Church, do you remember anything about the other churches in this neighborhood?
AS: The next church that we would spend the most time in was the First Presbyterian which was down the street. But no, I don’t remember very much your church.
CM: All the church’s were on that street then weren’t they?
AS: Right. And I don’t remember a whole lot about the Baptist Church. Mainly the Methodist and the Presbyterian. I think the class under us primarily went to the Presbyterian. So that’s probably why – it was (inaudible) – having lived here always we – our friendships did spread the grades, but not as much when we were younger as when we got older. And I had special – and I love to say this on tape – difficulty with Cheryl Line. You wouldn’t know the others. Jane Horn Turner, Barbara Muller. They were two years younger and I had my drivers’ license two years before they did. And Sara Lee would call me and say, “Ann wouldn’t you like to take the girls riding this afternoon?” What do you say? You know, I would have loved to say, “No, I do not want to take the girls riding this afternoon.” But of course I said, “Yes.” And I would drive them around. And I had, you know, those little people. But Cleveland was that way. People would call and say you know, will you do this, or take these, and that is they watched out for the other. This part is good.
EW: We have heard of flooding in this area?
EW: Did it always flood bad down through here?
AS: Yes. And mine still does. But that’s because the gutter is right there and one night twenty years ago, it was raining and my children stopped the gutter up so that they could ride their bicycles in flooded streets. And that night there was a ballgame at Delta State and we had an ice storm. And the whole thing, it all froze. It did. And the power went out and people – you know. But anyway, we had a party that night. And all those people that came in the rain went out in the ice.
EW: Oh no.
AS: It was worse on Second and Third. There were times that they have had flat bottom boats out in that area.
EW: I can’t imagine. So you remember those houses being built, or were they already built?
AS: They were there.
EW: They were already there.
AS: Right. And I can remember, it’s the house where Ben Griffith lives now, was the Kossman house.
CM: Where is that?
AS: On the corner of Maple, is that Maple, and Second over by the Park. It’s a big white house. You know where Weegie Walker lives? Do you know where (inaudible).
EW: Maple runs beside the park.
AS: Parallel to Court. It’s the first street over and it’s a big white house. I think it’s still white. And they have this beautiful drive now with the Crepe Myrtles around the drive and all. But when we moved back I can remember Ed calling Jim to come and they helped sandbag, put sandbags around his daddy’s house because when motorists would come, the water was so high it would get in the house.
EW: Oh no.
AS: And that’s forty years ago.
EW: Have they built it up?
AS: Oh they have. That’s all been corrected.
CM: Do you remember people living in that big brick house across from the Methodist Church?
AS: Yeah. The Dakin’s. Mrs. Dakin’s.
CM: Did you ever go there?
AS: Yes, I can remember going to Thoma’s. Thoma was living there when I – Thomas was her name. I can remember going to some little coke parties there and various things. She didn’t have anyone my age, but maybe visitors in town. Right. And what they called the Carriage House behind it, which was never a Carriage House, according to Roberta, the Noel Pace’s lived there. Okay. There used to be put-put golf when I was in high school where the library is now. And next to it was some homes. You are straining my brain. Margaret Norman. The Norman’s lived in a great big house back there and I can remember Sissy who went to Wellsy and we thought she was just something grand. We would ride horses around there.
EW: Oh wow.
CM: Do you remember when Cleveland had, there was a professional ball team in Cleveland, which was a Class D. Wouldn’t that now be like a Class Double A and they had ball down at Boyle?
AS: Skene. My daddy played.
CM: Do you remember the name of the team?
AS: I do not. My father played for the Chicks and for Greenwood and he played in the Cotton League. And that’s how he came down south and met my mother, was he came down to play ball. I do, I do, and I have some articles that were given to me about that team.
EW: What about, a couple of people have mentioned help that lived in the house with them. Did you ever have a maid or anything?
AS: That lived in the house?
EW: Lived in the house or would come on a regular basis and watch the children.
AS: Oh yeah. Unfortunately, yes, I mean, oh yes, always.
EW: That was a normal thing to do?
AS: Yes everyone had help.
EW: Do you remember growing up with one or was that (inaudible)?
AS: Very briefly did I employ one. But always, always. We never had a washing machine. The clothes were packed to a wash lady. And she washed them and starched them, even all those horrendous petticoats that I had and all those full – and ironed them. We never had a washing machine and we never, ever, mama never did, as long as she lived. Everything went to the laundry after that. I mean, you know. Once you didn’t have that anymore. I remember going to the country to get buttermilk and fresh butter.
EW: Would you have had a garden here?
AS: Yes she did. In fact my grandmother had chickens in the backyard at one time. She would wring her chicken’s necks. An excellent cook and a feisty lady.
EW: To wring a chicken’s neck I think you’d definitely have to have a personality.
AS: Yes, well I don’t. And unfortunately I do not have help well. I do not do that well. So when I got married I took one day a week maybe, mama’s help. And I found out, I can’t remember what they were paying them, this really shouldn’t go on anybody’s tape, but it was $3.00 a day, $4.00.
JS: Hi, how are ya’ll?
EW: Well hi. Good to see you.
AS: You know Emily and you know Cam, whom I call Edie. I’m being interviewed. Do you want to be interviewed about Cleveland?
JS: No, I don’t know anything about Cleveland.
AS: See, I told you. He’s only lived here fifty years. He does not feel that he is a part. I’m serious. And so, I paid her more and so I got into serious trouble.
EW: And you didn’t have any help after that?
AS: I grew up. It was a difficult time. I didn’t understand a lot. Still don’t understand a lot. Got sent away from the dinner table most every Sunday.
EW: For speaking out or questions.
AS: Yes. For questioning the social morays of the day. And I can understand a lot of those, but I can’t understand church, having closed doors. And I had to come to realize that people my mother’s age, my grandmother’s age. Her mother in law lived through the Civil War. I mean, they, I think perhaps, I told someone the other day, the man that I never knew, that I admire more than anybody I have ever known was Hodding Carter. Because he had the testimonial fortitude to stand for what he believed was totally unacceptable.
EW: Very unpopular.
AS: Very unpopular. But I only spoke in my dining room and got sent out. But they couldn’t help a lot of it. They just couldn’t help a lot of it.
EW: Okay. Well done. Cam, are any other…
CM: I think we’ve asked most of the questions, do you have anything else?
EW: I know. We’ve come through the questions. How do you feel?
AS: Like I have been rambling.
CM: And that’s exactly what we want.
AS: I wish I could remember some – and I will, I’ll go to bed tonight and at 3:00 this morning I’ll think of something.
EW: Shall we leave this?
AS: No. I have an allergy to them. I love Cleveland. I think that there’s an opportunity in a small town that you don’t have in a large city to actually be a part of things that go on. But you’re in high school or wherever your little niche is, you know I think you can do, and I think you come in contact with people in your neighborhood. Love my neighborhood. I love my neighborhood. I love my new neighbors. I think Mary McKay and Aaron are wonderful, you know? I have a neighbor next door who has finally I think decided that I am okay. And we carry on fun conversations outside.
EW: It’s important to know your neighbors.
AS: It is important to know your neighbors. And it’s a good feeling to know that they’re – and I really miss them, my next door neighbor. I’m really going to miss Jean. But she’s going to a good place and she’s going to some good neighbors. I can’t think of anything else, Pearman and Bolivar. I can remember on Pearman. It is now Mimi Dossett’s house. When I was young, that belonged to the House’s. They were originally from Rosedale. And my sister’s very good friend lived there. My sister is four years older than I so you know I was always, if she had to take me somewhere, it was not willingly. And I always got the least favorable position on anything we did. And their favorite thing to do was to dress up. And I was always the maid. I was never allowed to put on one of the pretty long dresses that they had. I was always the maid. You know – but it was good. You could ride your bicycle all over Cleveland.
CM: And would you be allowed to just ride all over town?
AS: Anywhere I wanted to go. There were lines that were drawn that were not spoken. I had no reason to ride past downtown. But when I got holder of course, I picked up the maid. I mean, you know. I never rode over there. But I probably would have been as safe as I would have been over here, but I had no reason to go over there. I went to someone’s house you know. (inaudible). I think we have improved. I think there’s a lot of progress that has been made and I think our little town has survived and worked toward working together. I think that there is an effort that has been made. I hope so.
EW: Well thank you very much and we will end this now.
AS: Would you like coffee, tea?
CM: We can take the pictures.
Tape cuts off.
END OF DOCUMENT