Interview with Clay and Virginia Rayner 7.12.07 OH# 373
Interviewed by Emily Weaver and Cam McMillen
Transcribed by W. Ray
EW: I’m Emily Weaver and I’m with Dr. Cameron McMillen and we are with Mr. and Mrs. Rayner on Thursday July 12, 2007 in the Capps Archives and Museum and we are discussing the Historic Neighborhoods in Cleveland, Mississippi. Do you willingly participate in this oral history project?
CR: Yes, I do.
EW: Okay, Cam do you want to begin the questions?
CM: Alright. I know that you said you grew up in Merigold. But you said you came here as a teenager. Tell us a little bit about why you came to Cleveland from Merigold.
CR: Well, back in those days I socialized with teenagers from Cleveland. In the Mississippi Delta it was a common thing to have private dances, so my mama, my mother gave a dance for my sister and I up there and we had teenagers from all over the Delta who came to the thing. Likewise, I came to Cleveland, and I got to know these people, the ones that were my age.
CM: Where would you go – where would you have a dance in Cleveland?
CM: Where in Cleveland would you have a dance?
CR: The American Legion Hut. It’s no longer – that American Legion is no longer here.
CM: Where was it?
CR: I believe it was on North Pearman.
CM: Is it where the Welfare?
CR: Somewhere along there in that area. And had dances in Merigold and it was at the Merigold Library. It was the American Legion Hut. But that’s the way I got to know – we socialized together. Not just Merigold. Merigold, Cleveland, Ruleville, Drew, Shelby, Rosedale, all of those places. So that’s – we didn’t have a picture show in Merigold. If you were going to the movies you came to Cleveland.
CM: Which you can’t do now.
CR: That’s right. Of course, we didn’t have all those videos then.
CM: What picture show? What movie theatres were here?
CR: There were three theatres here at one time. And don’t – the Ellis Theatre was here, and what was the name of the one over on – there was one over on the side of Sharpe Avenue.
VR: That’s right.
CR: And there was – oh, what was the other? At one time there were three theatres here. I can’t remember the name of the other one. I can’t remember the name of that one, but.
EW: Were they all one screen?
CR: Oh yes, just one screen.
VR: Back then that’s all there was anyway, the one screen.
EW: So would they have been showing different movies or would they all have the same movie?
CR: No, they would have different movies. And we could ride the train. The trains came through Cleveland and we could catch the train in Merigold at noon and go to the Saturday afternoon shoot ‘em up and catch the train back home about four o’clock, three-thirty or four o’clock. I knew I was – I graduated from high school the same year that the war was over. So it was gas rationing, tires were rationed, gas was rationed, so the train was a viable –
VR: And you couldn’t buy a car.
CR: And you couldn’t buy a car except an old junker someway, so.
EW: The train was your public transportation.
CR: Well my mama – my daddy was a farmer and he always had transportation you know but then I didn’t have a car as a teenager. And – but we could catch the train to Cleveland. We rode the train – now I’m not talking about every Saturday, but once a month or so a couple of us would ride the train to Cleveland.
CM: Was there someplace you went after the movie, a place to hang out or anything?
CR: Not really. You didn’t have a whole lot of time once the movie was over when the train went back north. It went to Greenville and turned around and came back north is what it did. But that is one of the things. And shopping, you know those were gravel roads to Memphis so shopping was done in Cleveland. Not just everyday shopping cause we had a lot of grocery stores and dry goods stores in Merigold at that time. But that shopping was done. You know those stores stayed open on Sharpe Avenue until 10, 11, 12:00 at night on the weekends.
EW: Wow! They don’t do that now.
CR: Oh no, no. That’s when the-
EW: That’s when town came to town.
CR: That’s when the country folks came to town on Saturday. And they’d park, man you could, man folks would just park on Sharpe Avenue and watch people.
EW: The way it feels now, it feels like maybe all of the shopping would have been done on the east side of the railroad track. And then maybe more cotton merchants and businesses were on the other side.
CR: Oh it was cotton merchants there. Automobile dealerships. It was about three or four automobile dealerships there.
CM: Where were they?
CR: The east side – the west side of the railroad track.
VR: You know where that Pawn Shop is now? There was a car agency there and whether it was Kossman’s or..
CR: Kossman’s? I don’t remember the exact location but they were all along there. Kossman’s, Cleveland Motor Company which was a Chevrolet dealership, and at one time, I was talking to Leland Speakes and he was telling me this just the other day – and his daddy had a Studebaker dealership where the Valley Gas Building is now. Yeah. But there was a Rhett Nelson’s Mule Barn was on the east side of the track. And he sold a lot of mules. Rhett Nelson was a Gypsy.
CR: Um hmm. And he was in the mule trading business and …
EW: Would that have been on Cotton Row?
CR: It was on Cotton Row. Yeah. It was on Cotton Row. And the Red Front Garage was over there which was a repair shop.
EW: Um hmm. You’d need to have that. Was there a hotel down there do you remember?
CR: Not to my knowledge on this side of the track. Grover was over there of course.
EW: On the other side.
CR: The other side, right.
VR: What was that other little hotel on the other side too?
CR: I don’t know.
VR: Not too – it was where that pool hall was.
CR: I don’t know. Course the two eating places when I was a teenager and high school that we came to Cleveland for was the Post Office Café and the Splendid Café. They were both on Sharpe Avenue. The Splendid in the same block that the Grover Hotel is in. And the Post Office Café was on the north end, not the extreme north end, but towards the north end of Sharpe Avenue.
CM: Was the post office in the building that it is now the Police Station?
EW: That was the café?
CR: No, this was called the Post Office Café but it was – it had no connection with the post office.
VR: It was fairly close.
CR: Now unless it did have some connection with – pre-dating me, it could have been the old post office or something.
EW: Could you give us a date – give us some dates about when you were coming to Cleveland?
CR: In the early ‘40’s.
EW: Early ‘40’s. Okay.
CR: Well I’ve been coming to Cleveland all my life.
EW: Oh sure, sure.
CR: But as a teenager that was talking about, those dates were in the early ‘40’s.
CM: Do you remember the hospital in Cleveland?
CM: Do you remember the hospital in Cleveland?
CR: Oh yeah. I remember this hospital where the nursing center. Yeah.
CM: Do you remember, there was another one before this one?
CR: I don’t have a recollection of it, I’m sure it may have been, but I don’t have a recollection of it.
CM: Were you born in this hospital?
CR: No, I was born in Port Gibson, Mississippi.
EW: And that’s just fine.
CR: 1927. During the high water in the Delta.
VR: That’s how come they were in Port Gibson.
CR: That’s the reason I was in Port Gibson. At that time we were living in south Delta and the water was thirteen feet deep on the front walk of my house three months before I was born. So mama went back to her home town and I was born. She was from Port Gibson.
EW: It did run a lot of people out.
EW: It did run a lot of people out.
CR: That’s right. And finally after it flooded again in 1929, that’s when mama told my daddy, “we are out of this part of the delta.” And that’s when we moved to Merigold in 1929.
CM: When did you start going to Calvary Episcopal Church?
CR: In 1929.
CM: I thought that was going to be the answer.
EW: Who would you come to see? Or would you get on the friends to meet and hang around with?
CR: Well, George Warner, whose daddy ran Delta Hardware. Leland Speakes, Vern McDaniel.
EW: What would ya’ll do? I mean, I know you would go to the movies but..
CR: Go to the movies. The main thing at times when I saw those two, cause I had my friends in Merigold that I went to high school with. And, but, I remember spending the weekend with George Warner one time. I got an interesting story, I don’t know whether it’s anything that needs to be told but.
EW: Oh sure.
CR: I was spending the weekend with George Warner and we had salmon croquettes for supper. And we were just finishing supper when Mrs. Warner looked up and she saw the can of salmon. She had a black woman who did the cooking and she said, “Johnny Mae.” Or whatever her name was. “What did you make these croquettes out of.” She said, “that salmon fish.” She said, “here’s the can of salmon, where’s the can you got it out of?” It was a can of catfood. But we had all eaten it and enjoyed it.
EW: Well can we talk about your visits? Your spending the night? You stayed with George Warner?
CM: Where did he live?
CR: He lives at judge, retired judge, he lived at…
VR: Where did he live at that point and time?
CR: At that time, on Sixth Avenue. The corner, I believe the corner of Farmer and Avery or Farmer or Avery, one of those.
CM: Did you ever visit any of the homes in the historic district? Did you have friends that lived there?
CR: Well, off Leflore is where I met her.
CM: Tell us that story.
VR: Well you’ve heard the name Margaret Green?
CR: Margaret Green and my mother were first cousins. And Margaret was a very positive and far feeling type of person and when she said something you better listen. And she called me up and I’m a grown man now. I’m 26 years old. She called me my name, she said, “Sonny.” That’s what the family calls me. “I want you to be at my house Thursday night at 7:00. I’ve got someone I want you to meet.”
EW: And you did.
CR: And that was Virginia.
VR: And she called me with the same thing. And you went because Margaret spoke.
CR: And she, and the way, we are not kin but we have mutual relatives.
VR: Her mother was married to my cousin.
EW: That’s all right. It’s enough distance.
CR: So, that’s right. That was the connection with Virginia and Margaret. Virginia had moved down here from Missouri.
CR: So we were married six months later.
EW: And it did well.
CR: Margaret Green’s house was the house right across the street from the Methodist Church. The first house going north on Leflore now.
VR: Now. Cause there used to be another house.
CR: There used to be another house there where the parking lot.
VR: The one by the parking lot.
EW: That white house?
VR: Um hmm.
CR: That’s where we, that was Margaret. And her husband was Judge Ed Green, who was the Circuit Judge. He was a long time County Attorney and then later Circuit Judge.
VR: And he was one of those southern men with a great big deep voice.
CR: You know we were talking about Calvary Church, I don’t know whether we need to mention this or not. As long as he was in politics he belonged to First Baptist Church, but when he retired –
VR: Although Margaret belonged.
CR: Although Margaret was an Episcopalian. After he got out of politics he became an Episcopalian. But it just wasn’t – you know an interesting story along that same line – I ran for the city board in Merigold. And I had always come to Cleveland to church. And my uncle told me, Ed Rayner, who was in politics, he said, “Sonny, you don’t church with the people in Cleveland.”
VR: And that’s the way it works too.
CR: That’s the way it works. So Judge Green was a good example of that. There’s a whole lot more votes in the Cleveland First Baptist Church than there was in Calvary Episcopal Church.
VR: Let me back up a minute we were talking about old places here and there. The Denton Ice Cream Company is now located where they used to have a little (inaudible) and they had a swimming pool there. And when I was a child I thought that was the greatest place in the world to go. You can go there and go swimming and then eat some ice cream.
CM: Were you from Cleveland then?
CR: But she visited down here.
VR: I had relatives not in Cleveland but in Shelby and Rosedale.
CM: And you would come here. What were your views about Cleveland when you came to visit as a child?
VR: Well you know things look to a child, I thought it was a great place. And I remember, and this is so vague I don’t know that I can really tell it, but I remember as a child coming over here for the First Centennial Celebration of Bolivar County. And we went to a house, I was with my family and we went to a house on Leflore. And I’m not sure exactly which house it was but all I know is that it was close to that little grocery store that used to be down the street there on Leflore. Just the other side of the bayou.
CR: Yeah, Lee’s Grocery down there.
VR: Um hmm. And I thought that was the greatest thing in the world that you could walk to the store.
CR: Probably the old Sommerville house.
VR: I would think so. I just remember that they didn’t want us children inside (inaudible). But I thought that was pretty neat.
EW: Wait now. There was a grocery store on North Leflore?
CR: No, South Leflore.
CM: Where the bridge is over the bayou.
CR: Right where the bridge is? That is now a residence I think.
EW: That was the grocery store then?
CR: Yeah. It was a grocery store.
CR: It was an interesting thing. Blue laws were in effect back in those days.
CM: Blue laws. You couldn’t sell certain things on Sunday?
CR: Sunday. The stores were closed on Sunday. But this store was open on Sunday. So if you needed something on Sunday afternoon…
VR: That’s where you had to go.
CR: That’s where you had to go.
EW: Why were they allowed?
CR: They just got by with it.
EW: Okay. That’s fine. So is that kind of the edge of town then?
CR: It was the edge, right. Well of course the compress was there. Memorial Drive was down there you know. Those trees were planted…
VR: They were planted after World War I.
CR: World War I. That Memorial Drive was named after World War I.
CM: Was that still Highway 61 at that time?
CM: At that time was it still Highway 61?
VR: I thought it was.
CR: Yes it was. Yes.
VR: And wouldn’t you hate to think that was the only way to Greenville?
EW: A lot of traffic.
VR: No, there wasn’t much traffic.
CR: The road from Merigold to Cleveland was gravel.
EW: Uh oh.
CR: And I remember, well, now you know I’m talking about it was gravel in the ‘30’s. Highway 61 was paved in – through Merigold in 1938, but I remember having to go to Port Gibson. And at one time the only paved road from Merigold to Port Gibson, Mississippi was in Washington County. Highway 61 through Washington County.
CM: Do you remember when Sharpe Street – Sharpe Avenue was paved?
CR: Sharpe Avenue? No, I don’t guess I really do. It was paved in, I don’t really know exactly. Merigold had better streets than a lot of towns did back in those days. Merigold was a thriving community. You were going to ask me some more questions and I’m rambling.
CM: And rambling is good. Tell us about Calvary and how Calvary grew and the buildings of Calvary.
CR: The present church building was built in 1954, we moved into it in 1955. And the present, the building is now called Rayner House was the church at that time. And it sat right where Calvary Church now sits. And it was moved over to where it is now located as our parish hall before the church was built in 1955. It was a (inaudible). I’ve told Cam this story. I remember as a little kid that we had wooden folding chairs. And the new ones were just the cushions that were down on the floor like this, they weren’t even raised, they were on the floor. And when you get, the wooden chairs were put together, they were fastened together. But if you weren’t careful when you got out of the chair to kneel you would turn the chair over. So you had to be very careful.
EW: Turn everybody over.
CR: Yeah, well, I just remember them turning over a couple of times. And, but, and then another story that I would like to tell is one hot, this is after we got the pews in the church.
VR: The new church?
CR: No, this was the old church. Still the old church. This was before we were married.
VR: Well I was there the Sunday that you are talking about.
CR: Jack Russell?
VR: Um hmm.
CR: I thought that was prior to that.
VR: Uh huh.
CR: Okay, I’m confused about the time. I just remember Dr. Jack Russell who was at that time a senior warden of the church. It was hot as (inaudible) as Hades and that’s how I knew. He stood up in the back and says, “Good folks, next Sunday when you come to church, this building will be air conditioned.” He put the air conditioning, the first air conditioning in.
EW: Oh how wonderful! Then everybody definitely wanted to come to church.
CR: That’s right. But it was a real small church. I can remember when the budget was $5,000.00.
EW: Goodness. They did good things though.
CM: I’ve heard stories about when the building was, I can’t remember who was telling it, but the ladies were painting, the men of the church painted the church, and there was a story about tricking somebody into painting the steeple.
VR: Duke Goza.
CR: Duke Goza who was a lawyer up at, now at Oxford. Let me try to think of the exact wording of the little sign. “This church is being painted by the people. Duke says he’ll paint the steeple.” And they hung it up real high on the church.
EW: And he had to get up there and get it.
CR: Well, we got it painted.
VR: But everybody was involved.
CR: Everybody. Everybody in the church. We painted the whole church.
CM: Was that when it was built?
VR: That was later.
CR: Later, after it needed it. The first paint job didn’t hold up real well.
CM: That was the original church?
CR: No that was the..
CM: New church?
CR: That was the new church.
CM: The new church itself is getting old. When was the building next door to it built?
CR: That – Virginia and I have argued about the parrish hall, no the parlor room. That’s now – I can’t have a recollection of this when that parlor – when that part was added. But it was before we moved here – or after we moved here?
VR: I’m nearly positive it was before, but I’m not positive. But some of the women in the church did a luncheon, they called it the business men’s luncheon or something like that. And it was on a Thursday, now whether it was once a month or every two weeks I don’t know. But they did it. And I think the purpose was to pay for that addition. You know the side part?
CM: Do you think we could get the church to do that today?
VR: I doubt it.
CM: Is it true that ya’ll were the last couple to be married in what is now…
CR: We were the last couple to be married, and the first couple to be married by Duncan Gray, Jr., who later became Bishop.
CM: Was the rectory built for him?
CR: The rectory was built for him.
VR: Um hmm.
CM: When was that?
VR: The present Bishop Gray laughs and talks about playing in the dirt piles in the church yard while they were living in that house…
CR: While they were building the new church.
CM: Where did the minister live before they built….
CR: We had the house built when he got here.
CM: But ministers before that, where did they live?
CR: All over different places in town. An interesting story about Mr. Gary, we called him. Father Gary. He had been a missionary in China, but (inaudible). And he came here and he was an older man. And he had one suit of clothes, and so my daddy gave him some money one day and said, “Mr. Gary, I want you to go buy you a new suit.” Well he kept waiting for Mr. Gary, we called him Mister. My father did and that’s why….to come out in a new suit. And finally daddy said, “Where’s your new suit? I’ve been waiting for you to come out in a new suit.” He said, “I found some somebody that needed that money a whole lot more than I needed a new suit. So that’s what I did.” Daddy said, “Well I can’t argue with that, but I tell you what, you’re going to have a new suit of clothes.” So daddy went, we had a local tailor so daddy contacted him and told him, “You go measure Mr. Gary and pick him out a suit, let him pick out the cloth, and you make him a suit of clothes.” So that’s the suit of clothes he was buried in. He died while he was here.
CM: Where was the tailor located?
CM: Where was the tailor located?
CR: He didn’t have – he just traveled around, he didn’t have a …
CM: Was that common for people to have a tailor make a suit for them rather than…
CR: No, it was exclusive to have a tailor made suit.
VR: I think that probably few people did.
CM: Do you remember when the church got the building that is the office building?
VR: Oh yeah.
CR: Yeah, that came about in, me let me think now.
CM: I read yesterday that that was a duplex.
VR: It was.
CR: It was a duplex home, yes. It belonged to Dick and Lee Nance.
VR: And that’s when we had the project that we painted everything inside.
VR: Everything that was in front of us we painted.
CR: That’s during, that was during…
VR: Ray Pratus.
CR: Ray Pratus ministry, which would have been in the late ‘60’s. And Jim Pulliam came in ’71.
CM: Did the church make it into one?
CR: Yes. And it’s not the exact same floor plan that it is now. It was a duplex and they connected it together. That was during Ray Pratus. And now if you ever want to talk about. I look back at Calvary Church’s pre-Duncan Gray Jr. Duncan Gray Jr. (inaudible) some bad times in there.
VR: Except for…
CR: Except for Jim Pulliam.
VR: Uh huh. McGinnis.
CR: Oh, Clifton McGinnis that followed. But then we had some downtime. And then Ray Pratus came in here as the priest – rector, no the vicar, cause we were still a mission then, and Ray Pratus put Calvary Church, he made Calvary Church known to folks in Cleveland.
CM: When did Calvary become a parish rather than a mission?
CR: In 19.. during Jim Puliam’s ministry here which would be the ‘70’s, I think mid ’74 possibly.
VR: That rings a bell.
CR: When we became a parish. But…Ray Pratus was a ball of fire. Ray Pratus was on the go, visiting and doing things. 18 hours a day.
CM: Do you remember anything about the brick house across the street or the carriage house?
VR: Nothing except we were there.
CR: Nothing other than the fact that we wished we had bought it at one time.
CM: You could now.
CM: You could buy it now.
CR: We don’t need it now.
EW: You for you, or you for the church?
CR: No, for the church.
EW: What did town look like? What did the area look like around the church at that time? All the houses were there?
CR: Oh, yeah, the houses were there but…
VR: Now when was the…
CR: I can go back further, I remember when, I don’t know whether ya’ll remember Alyce Richardson lives? Alyce West Richardson on Deering? When Deering was dead end. That was a cotton field and a slew where, just south of Fireman’s Park. I remember when Fireman’s Park was kind of a mud hole.
CM: I read somewhere where they referred to South Victoria as the slough
CR: Yeah. Right.
CM: A lot of the houses that were built in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s there, and they referred to that as the slough.
CR: Right. It was between Victoria and Fifth Avenue. It was nothing. That built up later. That’s all built since Fifth Avenue.
VR: Well seems like it was a skip. That Fifth Avenue was there but all that in between there wasn’t much there.
CR: Wasn’t anything in there.
CM: Was that because of water?
CM: Was that because of water?
CR: Well, just filled, just had to be filled in. It was low.
VR: In fact, the church is built on a fill.
CR: Yeah. That’s the reason we had so much trouble with the settling.
EW: Oh, okay.
CR: But Fifth Avenue was a viable street back in the ‘30’s but not Victoria, First, Second, Third. They were not.
EW: Um hmm. They weren’t there.
CM: How long have the men been doing the Pancake Supper?
CM: How long have the men been doing….
CR: Ever since Ray Pratus’ second year here. Which would ’68.
CM: How many people did you feed in the beginning.
CR: Well we cooked them all, let me tell you the story how it came about.
CM: That would be great.
CR: The first year they had the – and you can go by the Crosstie records, it’s the exact time. The first year of Crosstie, they had Crosstie, but they didn’t have any food concessions. And at noon time came, everybody left and didn’t come back. Cause they went to get them something to eat, they had to go eat. And they didn’t have anywhere, they couldn’t eat at Crosstie. So they tried to get different folks to feed the – I mean to have a food concession, so they Ray Pratus again said, “We’ll do it.” The others just wouldn’t do it.
VR: “Will ya’ll help me?” We just said, “We’ll do it.”
CR: “We’ll do it.” So we took, we hauled my grill from my house and other people’s personal charcoal grill up there. Dropped one of them out of the back of a pickup truck and tore it up. That’s what we cooked on. At that time, so we made arrangements with Nehi, we had the cold drink concession and hamburgers. And we must have sold three or four hundred hamburgers.
VR: And our young people in the church were out walking up and down Sharpe Avenue with those big posters on front and back advertising.
CR: And it was held on, where, the railroad tracks.
VR: Where October Fest is.
CM: Was the train still running then?
CM: Was the train still running then?
CR: Oh yeah. But then we, that thing, as Crosstie kept growing they moved it over to the courthouse. But can you think that the merchants on Sharpe Avenue complained that their folks couldn’t park and they were losing business.
VR: They were very short sighted business men in the early years.
CR: So anyway, that, one year Cam we sold 2700 hamburgers.
EW: They were hungry people.
EW: They were hungry people.
CR: That’s right.
VR: Well you still haven’t told them about the Pancake Breakfast.
CR: Oh, the Pancake Breakfast. I was talking about the – oh the Pancake Supper. That’s been the…
VR: It was about the same time.
CR: Oh, it started the same year. That same year. I would think it started the same year. And you know, I’d say the first time on Pancake Supper we served 150 to 200 people. I’m guessing. But…
CM: How many did you serve this year?
CR: This wasn’t necessarily the biggest year, but we usually serve around 700. That’s eat in and carry outs.
EW: Pretty good.
CR: Yeah. Crosstie was our big money maker in the early days. Now Pancake Supper is where the men (inaudible). And it’s all for, that money, all but a little of it is used for the local church. Most of it is outreach.
CM: What was the white house that’s been torn down where the Methodist parking lot is now?
CR: What now?
CM: That white house next to where you met Virginia? You said there was a house where that parking lot is now?
CR: Yeah, there was a house there but I don’t remember what it was.
VR: Wasn’t it a duplex? It was two story.
CR: I really don’t know. She notices buildings more than I do.
VR: And it was a different design – an older house. I’m sorry it had to go but I don’t remember that much about it. The church, the Methodist Church owned the house a long time before it was torn down.
CM: Where the rectory is now, was that just a vacant low?
CR: Oh yeah. Yeah.
CR: The only thing that we purchased in that area is where the office building is now. Former (inaudible).
CM: Do you remember when the library was built?
CM: What was there before the library?
CR: Don’t remember.
VR: Don’t remember.
CR: Don’t remember either. I remember at one time we used the library for Sunday School class on Sunday mornings, before we bought the….
CM: When was that?
VR: Before we bought the Sunday School building.
CR: Yeah. It was Tom Henry’s (inaudible). I would say early ‘60’s. I should have gone by and gotten the dates off the thing in the front of the church. (inaudible). I believe it was Tom Henry.
CM: Do you have pictures of Calvary or things that were going on as you were growing up or as ya’ll were married?
CR: I didn’t ever take pictures. Virginia took pictures but that was ….
VR: The only thing we had was a few, well the wedding pictures aren’t at the church.
CR: Their in the parish hall?
VR: No, they are in Jeanette’s house.
CR: The reception was my home in Merigold.
EW: Was it a small wedding?
VR: Um hmm.
EW: Just the family?
CR: No, we had guests but not…
EW: Did ya’ll do anything special for the wedding? You know people today do like unity candles and …
VR: This was before church had a lot of rules.
VR: The main thing that I remember that has always been kind of special was Keith Godfrey played the organ for us.
CM: Do you have – do you remember some stories about Keith? How long was she the organist at Calvary?
VR: A long period of time off and on. She and her husband traveled a good bit, so I think she didn’t do it all the time. But I don’t know who else did it.
CR: Oh, we had several different ladies in the church.
VR: What’s her name, Helen?
VR: No, that wasn’t her.
CR: I can’t remember who the organist was. We had a number of different organists in the last few years. We even had a black man from out here at Delta State that played the organ for us at one time.
VR: He was an Episcopalian.
CR: He was a Episcopalian.
VR: And very good.
CR: They had, but, the organist changed pretty regular.
VR: Keith –
CR: But Keith was a friend and she played the organ for our wedding.
VR: She played for church a good bit but I don’t know how regular.
CR: Her daughter even, Douglas, even played some.
CM: Her daughter is Douglas?
CR: That’s the oldest daughter.
CM: And one is Keith?
VR: Um hmm and the one is named – I’m blank.
CR: Pete was the youngest.
VR: Yeah, Pete was the youngest and Katie is the middle one.
CR: And Douglas is in New York. Let me think abo8ut some more stuff about the church.
EW: It has some interesting landscaping outside.
CR: That landscaping that we have now is fairly recent, fairly recent.
VR: I think the Jacob’s family donated the fountain and the women of the church made the money to do – well actually to do the planting and the landscaping, you know the plants and that part of it.
CM: The benches in front are in memory of Charles Jacobs.
CM: The benches out front are in memory of Charles Jacobs. Who was he?
VR: He is the son of Rosemary and Charles Jacobs.
CM: And Rosemary, is she still a member of the church?
VR: Um huh.
CM: She is.
VR: Yeah, they come to church pretty regularly.
CM: When was the Rayner House, when was it named the Rayner House?
CR: Just about four or five years ago.
VR: About five.
CR: It’s been about five. It caught me completely by surprise. I was…
CM: Tell us that story.
CR: We were, I was the lay reader at church that day. I was sitting up in the alter area during announcements and they made – I said, “What are ya’ll talking about?”
VR: He can’t hear very well.
CR: They called me down and they named it out – it’s not named out to me it is named out to us.
CR: Virginia taught Sunday School for twenty-five years.
EW: My goodness.
VR: And I don’t even know how many years I sang in the choir.
CM: We could use you now.
VR: If I could still sing – I can’t read anymore, so it makes it a little bit difficult unless you know all the words.
EW: Oh sure.
CR: And you know, an interesting story about Sunday School, Duncan Gray, when he first came here, after he had been, he came in June I believe along about in first of August he told me, he said, “I want to talk with you. I want you to be superintendent of Sunday School.” I said, “Duncan, I never taught Sunday School in my life. I’m not –“ He said, “I didn’t ask you to teach Sunday School, I want you to be the superintendent.” So I reluctantly said, “Yes.” And seventeen years later I’ve relinquished that job. Said, “I just want you to be here and see that things are done on and so forth.”
EW: It seems like ya’ll had a very active congregation and very active in the community.
CR: When Ray Pratuk got here that’s when things started happening.
VR: And they kept on going.
CR: And they kept going.
EW: What were some of the things that ya’ll would do? I know that (inaudible).
CR: Well just the Pancake Supper and the Crosstie involvement and Ray Pratuk was the first one that –
VR: He liked things going on.
CR: He liked something going on all the time. And just – we’d have cookouts, cookout for the college students, cookouts for the – men would bring their own steak supper. That’s just – just something going on all the time. I liked that. I wish we’d get more of it going on. About to old to get it going.
VR: Jim (inaudible) got it going and so did John Brewster.
CR: Yeah, I kind of (inaudible). Duncan Gray, Ray Pratuk, Jim Pulium, John Brewster, and Austin ohnson. Is kind of (inaudible) and things they did. (inaudible) grieved me when Austin Johnson left us.
CM: I think it did a lot of people.
VR: Oh yes.
CM: He moved and I (inaudible) so I didn’t know him well, but my contact with him was all good.
CR: Yeah. He was a go getter.
CM: Who were some of the people who were active in the Episcopal Church during your (inaudible). Besides the ministers.
CR: Jack Russell, Carrie Byrd. I got an interesting story about Harry Burd.
VR: I think we all do.
CM: Now we have to redact.
CR: Carrie Byrd was Dr. Jack Russell’s mother. And she was another one of those kind of people that you said “yes ma’am” to.
VR: Oh and energy – and she cared.
CR: But she planted a holly bush right before the sidewalk comes by the Rayner House and intersects with the covered walkway now. There was a holly bush right there and it was always trimmed to the bush. It got to be tall as the ceiling like a bush and it was moving out this way and it got where the sidewalk, you couldn’t get down the sidewalk. Have to get out on the grass to get around it. So I took it upon myself to one weekend to go up there with the loppers and shear it and make it into a tree so you could walk under it, instead of a bush. With fear and trembling. Sunday when Mrs. Russell came to church she said, “Oh, I love my tree now.” I breathed easy. I really breathed easy. Cause that was a – it was a beautiful tree but we had to cut it when we built the walkway.
VR: Well it was starting to get –
CR: It had gotten diseased and so forth. Cause it was planted in the ‘50’s.
VR: It was a big holly tree and I imagine it was at least as tall as the roof on the Rayner House.
CM: I wish somebody had pictures of some of this stuff.
VR: Probably somewhere there are some.
CM: I wonder if we could ask any of the church (inaudible) if they have pictures.
VR: I think so.
CM: I bet – that might be a source. I hadn’t thought about that. Do you remember more stories about Carrie Byrd?
VR: (inaudible) about Carrie Byrd. I don’t know that I can remember all. She taught Sunday School forever and a day.
CR: Taught me when I was a little boy. We had a sand table. It was a table and sand about that deep in it. And I was a little bitty kid that sand table sticks out in my memory.
VR: …always very active and Jack Russell’s wife, Agusta Russell, was very active in the church.
CM: Do you remember where they lived?
CR: Yeah, on South Leflore.
CM: Were you ever in their house?
CR: It was a nice brick house down there on the corner of South Leflore and Lamar I believe.
CM: Did you go to their house?
VR: And before they lived there they lived in a house on the corner of Leflore and what?
CR: Which house are you talking about?
VR: Well I’ve got to go down there and look to see which house they lived in.
CR: She knows, she watches. She keeps up with houses better than I do.
EW: Well we’re kind of interested in some of the interiors of these homes as well. Can you maybe describe a little bit of what it was like inside the homes?
VR: When did the Russell’s build that house? In about 1960?
CR: Yeah, something like that. I’m not sure.
VR: And it sort of a southern colonial style. One story. On the inside there is a – I can’t remember exactly but the floor plan was very much like a lot of houses in the area because you went into the living room. You went into a hall and then into the living room and dining room and the kitchen was there. The bedrooms were down in the other part. The furnishings were very nice. As I recall, oh, what was his name, decorator out of Memphis.
CR: And this was Dr. Russell’s house, not Carrie Byrd’s house. This was Agusta.
VR: And there’s a little house on Leflore that Mrs. Russell lived in.
CR: Yeah, right.
CM: Did most people have help at that point, maids and cooks?
CR: Oh yeah, everybody did.
EW: Did ya’ll?
CR: We did until I went broke farming. And some afterwards but not much.
VR: Uh uh.
CR: We had, I grew up with a maid and a yard man and she cooked seven days a week. Saturday night off and Sunday night off.
VR: The rest of the time, three meals a day.
CR: Three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
VR: That’s a big meal at dinner.
CR: Breakfast, dinner and supper.
EW: There you go.
CR: Breakfast, dinner and supper. The big meal was at noon.
EW: Did you come home from school to eat lunch?
CR: Yeah in Merigold.
VR: Nothing (inaudible) in Merigold.
CM: Did most people come home for lunch?
CR: Yeah. Now the country folk, that was the term that was used, the country folks ate at the lunch room in school. The town people went home for lunch. My daddy came in from the farm. I came in from the farm for years.
EW: Do you remember sitting on any porches? Would that have been a gathering place when you would go visit?
VR: I did. That was the only cool place around and most people had ceiling fans on their porches.
EW: Screened in porches?
CR: Now the houses were built entirely different. They were built for cross ventilation. My house that I grew up in Merigold on the old highway going through Merigold.
EW: I’ve been there.
CR: It’s painted blue now. My mama turned over in her grave, but that’s the house my daddy built in 1938. But it was built for cross ventilation in every room. And that was in the days before air conditioning.
EW: You said church had air conditioning but did your house have air conditioning by the time your church had air conditioning?
EW: Do you remember when you put air conditioning in?
CR: When I first got the window unit? Yeah. I definitely remember the first window unit. I remember –
VR: I remember the first air conditioning unit in church. I remember riding to Rosedale to my cousin’s wedding. Mae and so forth was leaving home. We had a two-story house. And the back of it, we used to on the second story.
CR: Is this in Missouri?
VR: No here!
CR: Oh okay.
VR: I was pretty hot when I got out of the back. Then we got into the house – the car to ride to Rosedale and we went the back way which was a gravel road. We had lots of dust. I felt like a mudpie by the time we got to the wedding. You know, no air conditioning in the car. You had to roll the windows down. Your hair has gone everywhere. It wasn’t – you know they make it sound like the good ole days? Well there were some things about it that weren’t so good.
CR: I remember the first air conditioned automobile that I ever rode in.
EW: Oh really!
CR: I had a friend, and Cam wouldn’t know him but they belonged to our church. Well Steven and Jamie Smith’s grandmother? Steve and Jamie’s father was a real close, close friend of mine. He was several years younger but we were always really close friends. And after I had gotten old enough, I got a drivers’ license when I was thirteen. It is going to be hard to believe, but I did. My uncle told the Highway Patrolman, “Give the boy a license, he can drive as good as anybody.” It was during the war and he needed me to drive his truck on the farm. And he did. But the Ms. Sarah called me one day. I was out of college then so Jimmy was still in high school. I may be in high school and he called me one day and said, “I want you to do something for me.” I said, “Fine, what is it?” And she said, “I want you to take my new Roadmaster Buick and go to Jackson and pick up a friend of mine.” And incidently, it was the first air conditioned car in Merigold.
EW: Oh, I bet that was a nice ride.
CR: It was a nice rice to Jackson in air conditioning.
EW: I know.
CR: But that was an interesting story. I remember the first gear shift on the steering wheel.
EW: Oh my. Well what about house parties? Oh, well, let me back up. You said ya’ll moved to town – to Cleveland?
CR: We moved to Cleveland in ’67.
EW: Now where did ya’ll move to? What was that address?
VR: We moved to Robinson Drive.
CR: Robinson Drive yeah. New subdivision.
VR: And when I first came to Cleveland I lived on (inaudible). I don’t remember whether that house is still there, do you?
CR: It’s back up to the bayou, the next to the last house on the left.
EW: Is that where the Hubbell built…
CR: On down beyond that. Down on the other side.
CM: What brought you to Cleveland?
VR: Well my cousin lived in Rosedale and he was a good friend of Orin Taylor who was at Baxter, Personnel Manager. And he decided that I needed to come down here.
CR: And she was recently divorced.
VR: I was living in West Plains, Missouri with my mother so I went and interviewed, got the job and we moved down here.
EW: We, who…
VR: My mother. My mother and I.
EW: And so ya’ll bought a house on Pearman? Or did you rent?
VR: Rented. And I think Margaret Green found a house for us, I’m not sure. I believe that’s how we got that house.
CM: Okay, can you tell us how Margaret Green Jr. High is named for Margaret Green?
VR: I don’t really know. She was acting on the school board. Margaret Green. Margaret was named for her.
CR: Because of her actions on the school board. She was a member of the school board and she was a long time member of the school board, and very active and very outspoken. And really pushed the – for the school.
VR: What was it that Bishop Gray said about her?
CR: I don’t recall.
VR: Something about that she was so smart that she didn’t have to let you know how smart she was.
EW: I want to be that smart.
CM: Do you remember, I think the area around the courthouse has changed a lot. Do you remember anything about that area?
VR: Not really.
CR: Not really. Course the Baptist Church Building, you go to church there, so, I just don’t remember. I remember when the Bean Counter was the service station. And a very active service station.
VR: I remember when Booth had it?
VR: A man named A.B. Booth. He was from Merigold.
EW: Do ya’ll happen to remember Amzie Moore?
CR: Amzie Moore? I remember the name.
EW: Do you remember his gas station? Didn’t he have a service station on the highway?
CR: I don’t know. If it was it was back over that section.
EW: It just occurred to me to ask.
CM: Was there a drive in restaurant somewhere around here?
CR: Yeah. Right where the Commerce Building is, where Leland Speakes is.
VR: Oh, and they had the best hamburgers. I’d like to have one right now.
CR: I’d tell you the name, but I’m blank all of a sudden.
VR: I am too.
CR: Lord how mercy. As many times.
CM: What was the name of the other hamburger place by the high school?
VR: Oh that was the Dairy Queen – the Keen Freeze.
CR: The Keen Freeze. The Keen Freeze.
CM: Did ya’ll eat at the Keen Freeze?
CR: Oh yeah, yeah. The Keen Freeze. I was going to tell you the Keen Freeze. And what was the name of the drive in?
CM: Bob’s Drive In?
CR: Bob’s Drive In. I ate there many times. Right there where the Commerce Building is now.
VR: Have ya’ll heard about Redman’s Boarding House?
CM: Not really. Is that the one where Molly’s Bed and Breakfast is? Okay, tell us Mrs. Redman.
CR: Mrs. Redmon was in there where Levingston’s Furniture is.
EW: Okay, yeah. My daddy used to talk about that.
CR: Yeah, she served – Mrs. Redmon’s Boarding House.
VR: A lot of people ate there.
CR: A lot of people ate there. She was famous for the table she set.
EW: Was it a community table? Where you all sat together?
CR: Yeah. I never ate there. Mama always told me she’d say, “You’ve got dinner at home.” Mrs. Redman’s Boarding House was well known. She had rooms for people but also the noon meal was open for anybody that wanted to come by.
CM: Did people still live in the houses on North Pearman or were they offices?
VR: They were still houses. (inaudible)
CR: Yeah where Glen, Attorney Williams office is now, that was Margaret’s –
VR: No, it was not Margaret’s.
CR: Are you talking about Mark Koonce?
CR: No, it is the building south of there.
VR: No, that was the one that they moved there.
CR: I said it is not that house, the house has been torn down.
VR: Whose house?
CR: The one that Barbie and Phillip had.
VR: No, they renovated it.
CR: Okay. Alright.
VR: Mimi and her husband.
VR: Yes they did.
VR: I promise you. I know. Don’t argue with me about a house.
CR: You drive in to the back – how do you get to it?
VR: There was a front porch and there always a front porch on that house.
CR: I’m talking about the parking lot or Barbie and Phillip?
VR: The house now beside them was moved from over on, (inaudible) the next one over (inaudible).
CR: Okay, I don’t know. I surrender.
VR: Hilda moved that house there.
CR: I know. I’m not saying that was the house.
CM: Hilda moved which house? The one next to first house?
CM: That used to be the Baptist parsonage and they moved it there.
CM: Hilda Povall moved it?
VR: Uh huh.
CM: When did she do that and why did she do that cause that’s not their office?
CR: Not many years ago. Where Glen Williams office is.
CM: It looks like it has always been there.
EW: I know it.
CM: Why did she move it? To save it?
VR: Yeah. She couldn’t stand for it to be torn down.
CM: Where was it?
VR: Probably as far as she could find out, it was probably one of the oldest, if not the oldest house in Cleveland, and she just couldn’t stand for it to be torn down. Did a lot of research and all and when they had to replace door knobs or anything else they got copies of that era. And I think Mimi did the same with the other one.
CM: Was there a house there before she moved it or was that an empty lot?
VR: It was an empty lot.
CM: What was where, is it the funeral home that is right next to it?
CM: What was there before?
VR: I don’t ever remember anything.
CR: I just remember where Thweatt-King was. Thweatt-King Funeral Home was there for years.
VR: And it was originally Mr. Thweatt’s I guess.
CR: Yeah, it was really Mr. Thweatt’s before Martin King married Mr. Thweatt’s daughter.
EW: That will change a name.
CM: And that’s Martin King who was the mayor?
VR: Um hmm.
CR: And Sue his wife, was Mr. Thweatt’s daughter.
VR: Now somebody that can tell you a lot about Cleveland is Sue King.
EW: We are looking forward to talking to her.
EW: And LePoint Smith.
VR: LePoint would make a good.
CR And Leland Speakes.
EW: We’ll get him.
CR: He said he would talk. I talked to him and he said he would do it but he was on a airplane headed to Argentina right now. Going hunting.
EW: Oh gosh.
VR: He goes hunting.
CR: He goes down there every year.
VR: A bird hunter.
EW: We don’t have birds up here?
CR: Well yeah, but not this time of the year. They will kill a thousand birds. And they give them to the natives. They are edible birds.
EM: Can you think of anybody else that was active in the church?
VR: There were a lot of people. Hattie Bell Hallam is one of the old, old ones. And then Delia was a little active, her daughter. What was her name?
CR: Yeah, Gary.
VR: Well, I know where they live. They live on Court Street.
CM: Where on Court Street.
CR: The house that has been recently renovated.
VR: No, that was the schoolteacher. Mrs. Ann, her cousin. Lee lives there. I can’t think of her name. Mrs. Glassco.
CR: Mrs. Effie Glassco. Lee Speakes is living there now. He bought the house.
VR: And Pat Kirkland lives where the Gary’s lived.
CM: Who is that?
VR: The place where there is no yard, there are plants out there on the porch.
CR: On the south side of Court.
VR: Yeah, the south side of Court.
CM: It’s about the second or third somewhere up in there?
CR: You know, I’ll never forget, I might have talked about this earlier where there was a slough in there and going to Alyce Richardson’s house, the first time I went there when she and Rich were married, I knew Alyce West before she married Richardson, he’s dead now. But anyway, there was a dead end street. Deering dead ended at her house. There have been a lot of changes down there. And of course nothing to amount to anything past Sixth.
EW: Oh yeah. You’ve seen Cleveland grow then?
VR: Oh gosh yes.
CR: Oh yeah.
EW: Do you like how it’s grown?
CR: Oh yeah, I do.
EW: We’ve stayed kind of tight here locally.
VR: Yeah, but recently they’ve started building some of the bigger nicer homes out…
EW: Way out.
VR: And the town that I’m from starting doing that, oh, thirty or forty years ago. So I’m kind of surprised that it happened in Cleveland.
EW: I think we like being close together though.
VR: I think so too cause I used to think it would be kind of nice to live out in the country, but I don’t now. (inaudible)
EW: Takes too long to get anywhere.
CR: I tell you every time, every now and then we get in the car and ride around and every time I do, I find a new subdivision. I found a new black subdivision way out on White Street to the right. I didn’t know was out there.
VR: Well the one we found out there by the Sunflower River was (inaudible).
CR: Are you familiar with it? Do you know where Redwine’s?
VR: Do you know where County Line Road is?
CR: Countyline Road. Going toward Ruleville? And the salvage yard there?
EW: Um hmm.
CR: Alright, just past there you turn on a gravel road to go back east to go to the Sunflower River and there’s some beautiful homes built right along the river bank there.
EW: What do you do to live out there?
CM: I think (inaudible). One of those subdivisions that you are talking about, I guess on the south side, what was that drug to lose weight and they found out it affected your heart, Phen Phen?
EW: Phen Phen.
CM: Maybe it’s Phen Phen money that does those houses.
VR: I thought it was Phen Phen that built that subdivision around Renova.
EW: I did too.
CM: Well we sure appreciate your help with this, and if you find any pictures or you have any other – things come to mind, let us know.
VR: I’ll try to look, but it could be an Easter egg hunt or something, there could be a picture with that tree in it, that holly tree.
EW: Oh, any just –
CM: We’re going to try to have an exhibit in October, and we are sort of thinking….
Tape Cuts off.
END OF DOCUMENT