Interviewee: McCaleb, Donna OH# 381
Interviewer: Emily Weaver and Dr. Cameron McMillan
Date: August 14, 2007
Transcribed by: K. Clemons
EW: This is Emily Weaver and I’m with Dr. McMillan and Mrs. Donna McCaleb on the 14 of August 2007 in the Capps Archive Museum Building, and we are talking about the Historic Neighborhood Project. Mrs. McCaleb, do you willingly participate in this oral history project?
EW: Thank you very much.
Dr. M: Have you always lived in Cleveland?
DM: All except the first two months of my life. I was born in Rosedale, October, 1925… went to Cleveland, December, 1925.
Dr. M: What are some of the addresses you lived at in Cleveland?
DM: 306 S. Leflore is the only address.
Dr. M: You lived there all your life?
DM: Well, my husband had a job at Gunnison, and I moved over there. Then we moved back to Cleveland. So I had other addresses later on like Villa apartments, but always in Cleveland.
Dr. M: So you started out in a historic neighborhood. Tell us a little bit about that house.
DM: It was a fairly large house. It was built by a contractor named Boseman, and we moved in there in ’25. It was relatively a new house. I think only two or three years old at the time. It was in, what I think is one of the older neighborhoods of Cleveland. I knew all the people next door, down the street, all around.
Dr. M: Who were some of them?
DM: Well, next door to me was the Bishop family. And Mr. Wattie Bishop was the mayor. It was his family that lived there. Then next to him was Mr. Bryant who was a policeman. And next to him was the Clark family. And next to him was the Fletcher’s, I believe it was. And the house at the end of Leflore St., north of where I lived, was a hospital at one time. In fact, I had my tonsils out there. It’s the one you probably know as James Albert Williams. That was, not the first hospital, but it was a hospital.
Dr. M: Do you know where the first hospital was?
DM: The first hospital was over on, where international harvest… Well, you don’t remember that, probably; but kind of along where the Fred’s Dollar store, over in there. It was a house; and that was the first hospital. Then the second hospital was a two-story house on Leflore, and then later on they built the hospital that is the nursing part of Delta State. The general house, the construction of the house? It was well built. It only had one bathroom, but it was at the end of the hall that went all the way through the house. It wasn’t air conditioned. I remember going around at night trying to find a cool place. That part of town never had any problems with water. At one time, it was a main highway. Cotton trailers came along going to the gin. It was a heavily trafficked road.
Dr. M: This is a little off subject, but do you remember the baseball team that was at Boyle?
DM: Oh yeah..
Dr. M: What was the name… Do you know who… They were a (word?) team for somebody. Do you know who?
DM: No, I remember the Cotton States was a league probably before that now. Because that’s why my dad came to Cleveland, playing with the Cotton State League. And Mr. Echols, who was the Chancery Clerk, had a rental house; and my dad stayed there. And he liked my dad so much that when he finished State, he offered him a job and he came to Cleveland or Rosedale, and worked for him. But I remember going to ballgames and where the stadium was. I guess you’d call it a stadium. I remember that, but I don’t remember the name of the team.
EW: Where would the games have been?
DM: Where the needle factory now is in Boyle. That was where games were played.
Dr. M: We heard about that team that Kent Wyatt founded.
DM: A hint might be Roy Jacks might know because his brother played on it. He might know of it.
Dr. M: Were there any neighborhood activities that you remember doing? Neighborhood traditions, holidays?
DM: Well, I know that Cleveland did decorate for Christmas… on a lot of outside trees, especially trees that were suitable. It was a big thing to decorate. I remember the parades. Dr. Walt’s grandfather was always Santa Claus. I remember a celebration we had, the hundredth year Cleveland had a celebration. They had… I know that I participated in a swimming contest that they had. But I don’t know much else about what… And I don’t know what year that was.
Dr. M: Where did you swim?
DM: Denton’s. Everybody swam at Denton’s. Denton’s was an ice cream place… where it is now. But behind there was a swimming pool. And I guess that’s where everybody… I learned to swim… I had a maid that would take me to the pool, and then I have a brother who’s ten years older than I am. So he was always there swimming, and he would take me out. And I guess he taught me how to swim.
Dr. M: What was the atmosphere growing up in Cleveland? Were there places that you weren’t supposed to go? Did you have boundaries?
DM: I had boundaries, but I was such a free spirit. I could go as far as I could hear my mother’s call. That was a signal for me to come home. So I couldn’t be out of that distance, but mainly it was the block there on Leflore where I lived. I could go down to the end of the block where James Albert lived. And then, mostly, I could go up two blocks north up to where the Varner’s live now. But that was about the extent of my distance. And then behind me were a few houses, and I could go back on Victoria. There was a nice (word?) that ran back of my house. And we played on that and caught turtles, and dug caves and made rafts and had a wonderful time.
EW: Who did you play with?
DM: Well, I had two friends—the Clark’s that lived in the white two-story house, Charles was one of them. And then directly behind me was a family named Janoush, and Frank was our age. So I had Charles and Frank, the three of us. And Frank had more of the farm chores to do. He had to stake the cow and gather the eggs and pick the butter beans. Charles and I had to help him so he could come out and play with us.
Dr. M: Where would he do those farm chores?
DM: There at his house.
Dr. M: Did most of the people in your neighborhood have gardens?
DM: No, not many. His family did. They had a cow. Always we were given instructions not to stake the cow near the bitter weeds.
EW: Made for bad milk.
DM: Yeah, made for bad milk. He had these things to do, but Charles and I didn’t. But he had to get his work done so he could come play with us.
Dr. M: Where did you go to school?
DM: I finished at Cleveland High School.
Dr. M: And it was where it is now?
Dr. M: Where did you go to grade school?
DM: I went to Cleveland. Now some went to the… Delta State had 1st through 6th grade. But I started at Cleveland and finished at Cleveland.
EW: Do you have any pictures of going to school?
DM: No I don’t. I bought one or two, but I’m not sure ya’ll… one of them is Mr. Malone and my father. He was a politician, a tax assessor for 38 years and sheriff for four. So my whole life was politics. I lived every four years, election every four years.
Dr. M: Do you have any stories about politics or when he was sheriff?
DM: Not really. You know, if you’re an official, every four years your job comes up, whether you have what’s called a strong opponent or one that’s not strong, it’s still an election. It would cause a good bit of concern… the family would have to work at it, too. We were lucky, in that, my father kept his job; but it’s a strain. It’s not like you have a job and you know you’re going to be there, for four years you had to show your work, you know.
EW: Did you have to go out politicking with him?
DM: I didn’t until I was older. And then I was in a job where I was working for the welfare department, and you weren’t allowed to politic. So I couldn’t. And then when he became sheriff, I stopped working at the welfare office and worked for him for four years. I was a deputy sheriff for him.
EW: What would be the sort of things that you would have to do, or you and your family when he would be out…?
DM: Politicians in those days were required or were expected like to give gifts to all of the graduates. You didn’t buy a new car until you had to. It was a good job, and he had people who ran against him every four years, so there were limitations on what a family could do back then. But it was a good life.
Dr. M: What did you do as a deputy sheriff?
DM: Mostly inside work. I sold car tags. People had to pay their property tax at the sheriff’s office. Those were the main things—bookkeeping work.
Dr. M: You never had to go arrest anyone?
DM: No. I never had any of that. He liked his tax assessor’s job, but he wasn’t real crazy about being sheriff. There were a lot of unpleasant things that he had to do. He was a real mild man. Cleveland was a wonderful place. It just was so… You never locked your door. You knew all you neighbors. I knew all of their telephone numbers. Knew when they’d be home for dinner… knew all their family.
EW: Would you come home for lunch…when you were in school?
DM: Yeah. I would come home for lunch. I lived there with my mother and dad until I married.
EW: When did you marry?
DM: I married in ’52, and I married a person who had lived in Cleveland all their life, so he had… His family had the ice plant. And he and I knew the same people. He had finished at Cleveland High. He had gone to State.
EW: How did ya’ll meet? I mean, you’ve known each other.
DM: Yeah. We had known each other. Age difference was… You know in high school, you know just kind of the people that are your age. And then, you get out of high school… Like LaPoint, for instance, she and I now are real good friends, but we never were back in high school because she was five years older than I. And Mike was two years older so I really didn’t know him until we started dating.
Dr. M: How did you start dating?
DM: He went to State on a fraternity party, and I went over there to visit some friends, a couple that lived at State. And we both… I had a date that afternoon, but he couldn’t… He had to study that night. And Mike had a date that afternoon, but she had another date that night. So Mike and I were thrown together at a party that was held that night. So that’s how we met.
Dr. M: So you grew up here and had to go to State?
DM: Had to go to State to date him. Had my first date with him in 1948.
Dr. M: What were the holidays like when you were growing up? Were there parades?
DM: Parades? Yeah. Yeah. Always the Christmas parade. I don’t remember any other big parades. One of the favorite things to do during Saturday night was to go uptown and park and watch the people on the street. People who lived in the country came to town on Saturday. They came to buy groceries, to buy clothes, to get haircuts, and that was one of the highlights that my mother and I did, was just go up and get a parking place and watch the people as they got their groceries and just did things. They also had a good hot tamale man, who sold hot tamales. And we’d usually eat hot tamales and watch the people. That was a big doing in Cleveland.
EW: Would he sell his hot tamales just out of a stand?
DM: Uh huh. He had a cart.
EW: Oh, a cart?
DM: And three… Oh I can’t remember the price, but he wrapped them up in newspaper, folded them up.
EW: Would they be in the corn?
DM: Oh yeah. They were delicious.
EW: Were they small like we know them now or…?
DM: They were a good size. I wouldn’t say big, I wouldn’t say small, but they were nice size. His name was Charlin. A lot of our Chinese stores on Main St., the family lived in the back of them. And I would say most all of the stores that were run by Chinese, the family lived in the back of them.
Dr. M: Was there one person’s house where everybody congregated?
DM: I thought about that and in my crowd I can’t remember one. We had a vacant house on the corner of where I lived and we all called it the haunted house. But it was only on Halloween that we participated in playing any jokes around it. It actually belonged to a family named Riley. And it was there until Dr. Russell built his house.
Dr. M: And he tore it down to build his house?
DM: Mhmm. He tore it down to build his house. The main thing was just, I played in the neighborhood—rubber gun wars, hopping cotton wagons. That was fun. The cotton wagons were drawn by mules and it was fun to get on top of them and jump up on the cotton, except I wasn’t supposed to, but I did.
EW: You and Frank and Charles?
DM: Charles and Frank. Charles turned out to be the 8th Circuit Judge in New Orleans and Frank became an engineer.
Dr. M: Was there one house where everybody was afraid, or you knew not to walk on their grass?
DM: Not that I know of? We stole clothes pins. A rubber gun had to have clothes pins, so we were real bad about… I noticed it was something in there about fences. We didn’t have fences, but we stole the clothes pins. There were several who had clothes lines that we stole clothes pins from. And we could make good rubber guns that could shoot 4 and 5 rubber bands, and they hurt too.
EW: So, you’d shoot them at each other?
DM: Uh huh. Yeah, we had wars. We made, took a flying Jenna that took off from the top of my garage. We built it, and it curved around. And we used cardboard, and we greased it with axle grease, and then we sat on the cardboard to come down. And it was alright until you got to that curve and you had to put your weight on the inside of it unless you’d be thrown off of it. But we had a lot of fun.
Dr. M: Was that something else you were not supposed to do?
DM: That’s something else I wasn’t supposed to do. But I did a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to do. But I had a wonderful time.
Dr. M: Did you think that you’d always live in Cleveland?
DM: Uh huh. I’m a homebody (word?). I like to be at home.
Dr. M: Were there any churches that everybody gathered at? Most of the churches were in that historic neighborhood.
DM: Yes, and the main one that I remember… It was a Baptist church, First Baptist Church. Brother Everson was the preacher at the time, and his daughter was in the same class I was, and he was the one who brought a lot of the Chinese to Cleveland. He was in China for a while. And he was the one I believe helped build the Chinese school. But the Chinese didn’t go to school with us. They went to their own school. But I do remember that… I was a Methodist, but I attended more of the Baptist services because of his daughter being in our crowd and he was a very active person.
Dr. M: And was the church a big part of your social life?
DM: Yes, in high school. Yes. It happened to be Baptist.
Dr. M: When did you get your drivers’ license?
DM: I got it when I was sixteen years old. I remember the first time I took the car out by myself. I drove it around one block, I was so glad to get home.
Dr. M: What do you think makes Cleveland such a special place to live and to raise a family?
DM: Well, I think the people do. The people I knew did. I was never afraid of anyone in the neighborhood or even people that weren’t in my close neighborhood. Never afraid even as I got older and could go further out. If you needed help, they were always there to help you. As far as I remember, everybody got along well. I don’t remember any big feuds that anybody had. I remember there was a census and I was trying to think how old I must have been. They were trying to get 5,000 people. So it must have been in the 30’s. I would’ve been five years old then.
EW: Did they determine if there were 5000 people living in Cleveland?
DM: I think we made 5,000.
Dr. M: What do you think about the changes you’ve seen in Cleveland over the years?
DM: Been a lot of them. I think most of them are for good. I know Delta State has been an asset to Cleveland. And I don’t think many people, until recently, have realized that. I finished at Delta State, but there were a lot people who sent their children to other colleges when, actually, I think Delta State was probably better off than some of the others. But I’m sorry that our business town… stores there, they have held up real good. They were the main thing. We didn’t have any malls or anything at that time. Everything was either on Main St or Cotton Row. So I just thought it was a good atmosphere. We raised our children here, in a different part of town; but I still felt safe, secure. Everything was good. I never wanted to leave.
Dr. M: Where did you live when you raised your children?
DM: On Deering.
Dr. M: What was the address?
DM: 1002 Deering. Mike and I married and we moved into that house. It wasn’t quite finished when we moved in. And we lived there until he had the job in Gunnison, and then we moved out there. At that time, both of our children were in college. I would not have liked to live in the country with children going to school in Cleveland, because I like the country.
Dr. M: Do you have any local stories about Cleveland that you heard growing up?
DM: Well, you may have heard of the murder that was in Cleveland.
Dr. M: Tell me about the murder.
DM: I’ll tell it like I heard it. There was a man, a Negro man, who had moved to Cleveland that had been living in one of the northern cities, I think Cincinnati. And he’s still got a paper from Cincinnati. And in the paper was a picture of a girl who was making her debut, and she got a threatening letter and they traced the postmark back to Cleveland. Then they checked the post office, and he was the only one that got the paper that had the girl’s picture in it. So that’s how they located him. And two deputy sheriffs were in the post office when he came to get the paper. Then when they went to his house, it’s kind of gruesome. They found parts of bodies. And he had murdered a family up where the Pic-a-Bit. It was family there that he had gone in and killed the mother and 1 of 2 children; and they had not caught him. But from having been in his house in Boyle, they put the two together. And I can remember the… They called out the National Guards because they thought they were going to lynch him. And I can remember they had barbed wire around the courthouse. And they had the soldiers with the bayonet on the gun guarding the court house. They didn’t lynch him. They did hang him. And the jail at that time was a separate building on this side of the courthouse. And it was about three stories tall, and it was a small building. They, of course, tore it down when they built the new jail. But that’s where the jail was, and that’s where they hung him.
EW: About how old were you?
DM: I must have been six or seven. It was written up in all the detective magazines. It was just the talk of the Delta. Actually they had to take him away from Cleveland. They moved him somewhere else. They actually thought another man had killed them, a white man. You haven’t heard that story from anybody else?
Dr. M: Not all those details.
DM: That’s the details I heard. He was a big man, like 6’4”. He also had written on certain houses on Memorial Dr. On the outside, he had some kind of… I don’t know what it said, but Dr. McCarty lived on Memorial Dr. at one time and he wrote on the side of his house.
Dr. M: Did he ever give a reason for killing them?
DM: Not that I know of.
EW: Do you remember what it felt like? The tension in the air?
DM: Oh yeah, very much so, especially after they caught him. I think it was more so then because people were so upset over it, and they didn’t want him lynched. They didn’t want anything like that to happen, and they were so afraid that he would be. But even though my dad wasn’t sheriff at the time, he was in politics and at the courthouse and we probably knew more of it than some people in the county.
Dr. M: Do you remember the fire with the Robinson-Carpenter family?
DM: Mhmm. I do.
Dr. M: Can you tell us about that?
DM: They lived in my neighborhood, but right behind where I lived. And they were a wonderful couple. All of them were–Bunny and Dot. And athletic, played tennis. They had had their house painted. They’d had it redone and painted. And all the windows stuck… the paint. They didn’t break them open. There was something that went wrong with the furnace. I never did know, except maybe it went out and the gas got in the house. And there were signs that they had tried to get out by opening the windows; but the paint had, as it often does, it makes the windows stick and they couldn’t get out. And they all suffocated. It was a horrible tragedy. Mr. Robinson, Dot’s father, was still living; and I think, Bunny, I think his mother was still living. His father had been a doctor, but I don’t think he was living at the time. It was one of those horrible things.
Dr. M: We noticed in the alley behind there, the house that faces, that would be Bolivar behind it, there’s a brick wall, a low brick wall that’s kind of in disrepair on that alley. It doesn’t look like it belonged to the house that’s there. Do you know anything about it?
DM: Behind the Carpenter house?
Dr. M: It’s on the other side of the alley from them.
EW: Their house faces Victoria, so this would be on the Leflore side of the alley. It looked like the fence might have… before the alley was run through. Do you remember?
DM: I know that around the last house where Brian Varner lives now, there was a brick thing all the way around it. I don’t believe it‘s there. But it was concrete, made out of concrete. It came up about a foot high and rounded at the top. And every so often, it had square… Like at the sidewalk, it would have a square pillar, and then it wouldn’t (words?), and then there’d be a square pillar on the other side. And it went all the way around that lot, but that would be too far away.
Dr. M: This is at the other end of that lot.
EW: But it does kind of look like that, doesn’t it?
Dr. M: It’s not concrete though, it’s all brick. But it has like a little pillar and then a low part and then a little pillar?
DM: I sure don’t know. But I…
EW: You should stop by and see that.
DM: I will. It’s just one block off of where I knew everything.
EW: Yea, every inch of space.
DM: Yea, I knew from where Dr. Russell’s house was. All that block I knew. I knew every bit of the gutter down there. I didn’t go down that way too much. I had peaches in the summer and I would put them in a wagon and sell them… go up and down the street and sell them.
EW: Did you grow the peaches in your yard?
DM: My dad had a few peach trees in the back. At one time, we owned the lot behind us at Ms. Pleasant’s house. At one time, our lot went all the way through to Victoria. And then that’s where he had the peach trees.
Dr. M: And you lived in a house on Leflore, too, when you married?
DM: Got married in ’52. Mhmm.
EW: Did you get married in that house?
DM: Yes, I got married in that house.
Dr. M: Do you have pictures of that?
DM: No, I don’t. I sure don’t. I have a picture of Mike and I, but I didn’t have any photographer take them or anything like that. I don’t have a picture of the house. I built an attic fan for my family. At that time, we didn’t have air conditioning; and I could build it, but it was so heavy I couldn’t put it in the attic, so we had to have someone to install it. But when Mimi Dossett bought the house, she asked me if I would like to have the fan, but I had no use for it, so it’s still in the house.
EW: And you built it?
DM: Uh huh. I also painted my mother and dad’s house one year, one summer. Didn’t have anything else to do.
Dr. M: She’s also built some habitat houses.
EW: My goodness.
DM: And then, we had a double garage back behind our house and I took half of it, and make kind of a summer house. I had a barbecue pit and it was screened and furniture out there. And that’s where the flying jenny had come off of.
EW: You were very…
Dr. M: Who lives in the house now?
DM: Mimi Dossett bought it, and Mary Jane… Her husband works for the oil rig, two weeks. I’ll think of it in a minute. But they bought the house, and it’s relatively the same. She’s added a bedroom and a bath and laundry room, but the floors are the same, and the house had a vaulted ceiling made out of 1 X 4’s… box. It wasn’t vaulted, I guess, it was scored with these boxes of things about every four feet. She didn’t take that out. And the bathroom is where it was. But when she added this room, she added a bath onto it. So it’s relatively the same.
Dr. M: To go back to your wedding, who married you?
DM: Brother Bolling.
Dr. M: And where did you have the reception?
DM: At my house.
Dr. M: In the yard or inside?
DM: Inside. My mother had a real good friend who made my wedding cake. We just had family for the wedding, and then we had a few friends to come in for cake and punch. I never wanted a big wedding.
EW: You said Mike’s family owned the ice plant.
DM: Uh huh. They owned the ice plant.
EW: Ok, did he do that? He still worked in the ice plant?
DM: Yeah, well he was working at Baxter’s when we married, but his family owned the ice plant for all of his young years. And he delivered ice. And that was a big thing back then, delivering ice. You may not remember, but there’s a card that has four sections on it. It has 25, 50,100, and 150. And you put it out to tell the ice man how much you wanted. If you wanted 50 lbs., you put it so the 50 showed. I wish I could show you.
EW: You want to draw on it?
Dr. M: Well let me show you how. It was a square like this. And then it was, like this. And it had 50, and then it had 100, 150, and then back here it probably had 25. So that if you wanted 25, you fixed the sign so that the 25 showed. And if you wanted a 50, you turned it so that the 50 would show. That told the ice man who was pulling a wagon by mules how many pounds you wanted. And that’s what he brought in.
EW: You put it in your window or something?
DM: Uh huh. And there was one lady here in town that had a scale on her back porch, and when you brought in 25 lbs., you weighed it on her scale first because if it wasn’t 25 lbs., you went back and chipped off enough to make 25 lbs.
EW: Had to have it just right.
DM: That’s right. He was an ice man and he knew. And one lady here in town, he said every time he delivered ice to her, she didn’t have on any clothes. And I said, ‘Mike, she was bound to have…’ He said, “No, she never did have on any clothes.” And sure enough, when she died, they found her naked in the bath tub.
EW: So he would just go into the house and put it in the ice box?
DM: Uh huh. Yeah, he went in, usually the back porch. He knew where the ice box was and put it in the ice box. They had to have ice. And another big thing the guys did, they iced down the cars, private railroad cars that would come through here. Mr. Mays happened to live in Cleveland and had a private car, and he would have to ice down his car for the coolness. They had a fan blowing over the ice to make it cool. So it was several hundred pounds of ice that would have to go into that.
Dr. M: When did the ice house close?
DM: I really don’t know. Also, they cured meat in connection with the ice plant. I really don’t know. Mike was not working… They did not own it when we started going together in ’48, and they did not own it then. But I don’t know… They had cold watermelons. And then they cured meat. A farmer would bring in his meat that wanted cured and they would cure the meat. Boarding houses had to have ice there at a certain time. We had Fletcher Boarding House, it was a certain time they had to have the ice there. It was imperative.
Dr. M: Was Fireman’s Park there when you were growing up?
DM: Fireman’s Park. No. That was all just wooded area and had a sun tree, and that’s where I hunted. When I hunted, I could go there. I could go that far.
Dr. M: With a gun?
DM: With a gun. I had a 410. I hunted rabbits. And that was where I could go to hunt.
EW: By yourself?
DM: Sometimes. But sometimes, Charles and Frank. But mainly I hunted by myself.
EW: So were you an only child?
DM: I had a brother that was 10 years older. But I never… until later life, we never did really know each other.
Dr. M: Do you remember the mule races?
DM: Yes I do, sure do—Rosedale, in the park. It was a big thing. The farmers would bring in their best riders and the mules and there’d be a lot of betting on who could win. I can’t remember whether it was a certain day of the month. I can’t remember whether it was on July the 4th, or just a date picked. But I do remember the races.
Dr. M: Were there any in Cleveland? I know there were some mule barns.
DM: Yea, we had a mule barn. Not that I know of. We had a skating rink down on Memorial Dr. Now I don’t remember much about it, but it was kind of an army building down there. It hadn’t been there for a long time, but there was a skating rink there at one time.
Dr. M: Where was it on Memorial Dr.?
DM: It was about where Rut lives. If you know anything on Memorial Dr. A little closer to Cleveland than Boyle. But it was a big army building and they had a skating rink there.
EW: So it would be north of the four-way stop?
DM: It’s a little bit south of that. The building’s been torn down so long. And the mule barn was on cotton row. And there was this filling station called the Red Front, Mr. Berger ran. And Mr. Nelson had the mule barn. Riley’s and Nelson’s had the mule barn. And then most of those buildings, when I was growing up were cotton offices. There was a drug store over there at one time. Clarence Simmons had a drugstore over there. They had a cotton office, and that’s where my dad… They played dominoes and poker. This is my dad and that’s Mr. Malone. That’s Rachel Malone’s father-in-law. Do you know Rachel?
Dr. M: No.
DM: Rachel started “I Can Cope.” She had cancer back many, many years ago. And this was her father-in-law. And the only other pictures I have I don’t think you’ll be interested in. That’s my mother and grandmother, and these are… I can’t say that these were taken in Cleveland or not.
Dr. M: Do you know where this one was taken?
DM: I have an idea, but that might have been taken in Cleveland. This is my mother and this is my grandmother.
Dr. M: Is this you?
DM: I doubt it. I have on a dress. I doubt it. They may not be at all interesting. I don’t have any others. I tried to find some that maybe showed buildings or something. When I went to the picture show on Saturday’s… always a big outing. But I ran across a footbridge that was… I would go across to Bolivar, and then there was a rental house there…(words?) apartments. And there was a footbridge across there and that’s how I got across town to go to the picture shows. I always took rocks because there was bound to be a turtle to throw at.
Dr. M: Were most of the streets paved?
DM: Not many. Leflore was paved, blacktopped. Court St. was. Main St. was.
EW: When you say Main St., do you mean Sharpe St.?
DM: Yeah. The alley behind is named Virgin Lane.
EW: Really? You mean the one that we call Kamien Lane now?
Dr. M: Why was it Virgin Lane?
DM: And we had a real interesting cafe called the Chat ‘n Choo. It was across from where Dr. Russell’s office used to be. I can remember my mother calling a grocery store that she shopped at and ordering her groceries, and in a few minutes they would be brought to her house. They’d charge it and she’d pay her ticket once a month. Eggs were… You went and picked up one egg and put it in sack. It wasn’t boxed over.
Dr. M: Where was the grocery store?
DM: Well, we had the modern store was one of the big ones. And then Charles Feduccia had a… There were several of them along Main St. We had a pool hall, hotel. The hotel was where the person who took the pictures in Cleveland—Pearson. That’s where you went if you wanted your picture taken, you went by there. And I had a goat. So I took my goat there and had my picture made. I do have that picture. I’m sitting on a bench with the goat next to me.
EW: We would love to see it.
EW: We would love to see it.
DM: Would you? Okay.
DM: Well, I’ll bring it. But yeah, we had a lot of drug stores. Like I say, one on Cotton Row one time, Clarence Simmons had it. I think he moved across the street on the corner. We had three picture shows in Cleveland at one time, but only two were really in operation any length of time—Regent and Ellis. But at one time we had one called the West Brook.
EW: You said that you had a maid who would take you to the pool. How long did you have that maid? Was she there all your life?
DM: Mhmm. She came every morning, walked. She lived across town but she walked every morning. She was really more like my mother because she would get my breakfast and if I went out to play, I usually told her where I was going. And she kept my clothes, told me what to wear, and had her way up ‘til I was in high school. And then she got sick and died, but she left a daughter. She had two daughters, but they… When we moved from Rosedale, they moved in with us. They were working for my mother and dad in Rosedale, and we had a servant’s house behind our house and that’s where she lived and raised these two girls. And they’re older than I, but one of them is still living; and lives here in Cleveland. And they asked me to be one of the delegates of maybe Habitat when we went to the Ladies of Elegance. I asked Cleo, that was the daughter’s name, to go with me that night. So she was along with me, because I’ve kept up with her. Now she never worked for me. She worked for Ms. Cathing that lived here and Ms. Jones and other people, but I’ve kept up with her. She still lives here, but the maid that we had, her name was Ophelia. But I couldn’t say Ophelia, so I called her O.B. And that was my nickname for her. And she came regardless of the weather and fixed breakfast and cleaned up, washed and ironed, and cooked lunch; and then she did not come back for supper unless we were having duck. My dad was a big hunter, and when we were having duck, she came back and cooked duck for us.
Dr. M: Did she eventually move out of the servant’s house?
DM: Yea, she eventually moved out… Built her own house where her daughter still lives. And we all… She was sick for a while and we visited her. I think she was in Vicksburg at that time. And then we went to the funeral. She was like part of our family.
Dr. M: When you went to grade school, did you go to Pearman?
Dr. M: Was it over where Margaret Green is now?
Dr. M: Did you walk to school?
DM: Well, I could catch a ride with Charles on his bicycle, but Frank had to ride too. So there were three of us on a bicycle—most of the time. I would sit on the handle bars and Charles would ride and Frank would sit on the fender.
Dr. M: Did you and Frank not have bicycles?
DM: We didn’t have bicycles. Charles had a bicycle. And then later on, I guess we got one. But when it was real cold, we’d ride as far as Mr. Bishop’s service station, which was where The Bean Counter is on the corner. And then we’d go in there and warm up. He had a stove and we’d warm up. That was about half way to the school. And then we’d ride on to the school. One day, we thought it’d be so much fun to play hookey. That just would be great. So we didn’t go to school. We stayed in a ditch all day long, and we didn’t have any lunch, and we didn’t get to see anybody, and we didn’t get to play, so we decided hookey… We couldn’t get up then and just walk out and play because we’d be noticed as not being in school. So that wasn’t so much fun. So we went back to school.
EW: Did you ever get caught?
DM: Oh no, but what now is called a helicopter, landed close to our school one day and it was at recess. And oh, I was wanting to see it. So I was in the second grade and Ms. Robb was the teacher, and after we all got in, she lined us all up against the wall and would take one at a time and whip them. And when you’d come back in, you’d be crying. So when the one next to me came crying back and I started crying and she thought she had already whipped me. I didn’t get a whipping. But we were not supposed to do that because it was quite a ways from the school. But it was so exciting to see that plane land. It wasn’t much I didn’t… But I never thought of stealing anything. We stole clothes pins, I guess. But we never thought of any real bad things to do. We just had a good time. The neighbors all knew us; and if my mother called them, they probably could have told where we were at all times.
Dr. M: Did Frank and Charles mother discipline you, too or tell you what to do if you were at their house?
DM: If we were and had done something, yeah they would.
Dr. M: And your mother would they?
DM: Yea, very much so. Luckily, we were all in the same class. We didn’t think too much of the children that had gone to Delta State. They were kind of outcasts. I guess it was the… Do you know how many years they had the…
Dr. M: Demonstration School?
DM: I can’t believe that it was the sixth grade before they came. Anyway, for a while, they were not our group. They had been to a different school. But eventually, they…
EW: Did you see all the houses grow up between Leflore and…?
DM: Oh yeah.
EW: You saw all that clearing out?
DM: Yeah, I saw all of that.
EW: Did you ever think that houses would survive the boggy bottom?
DM: No. Now all of the lots across from where I lived were vacant. The oldest house on that street is one that at one time, was a funeral home. It was Fletcher’s Funeral Home, and it’s the house next to the Sledge’s. I don’t know who lived there. But that was at one time, a funeral home. From there on to the corner were all vacant lots… Stealing watermelons. There was a garden, and I got caught doing that. Shot at. I think a man just shot the gun, but I did leave my mother’s good butcher knife in the field, and I got caught about that when she wondered where it was.
Dr. M: Did you offer?
DM: I had to tell. I had to tell. I always got caught. My brother played the drums. Oh, I loved to play them. But he went to Texas one year. So I took all of his drum set out in the yard and I was having a good time, playing his drums when a girlfriend of his came by and saw me and of course she wrote him right away and I got in trouble for that.
EW: Well, can I ask you about the Chinese school?
DM: Ok, as much as I know.
EW: Was it already built?
DM: Well, I think Brother Everson had a big part in building it, but it was built during my early years, because they didn’t have any place to go to school. They just weren’t allowed to go to school with us.
EW: Did you mingle with them?
DM: No. They just were not. I can’t remember how he got to teach them, but they had a good school. And it was in operation for a long time. Then they finally integrated the Chinese with us. But he was responsible for as many Chinese coming to this part of the Delta as anyone because he was a missionary in China.
EW: And being a friend of his daughter’s, I’m sure you saw a lot of his…
Dr. M: Was the synagogue real active when you were growing up?
DM: I can’t remember much about the synagogue. I knew where it was. We had a lot of good Jewish people in our area. I know in some parts of the country, they’re not as well thought of as the ones that live here, but they all here have good reputations. I had a friend who told me about painting the synagogue. He was a carpenter, and his father told him that they hired this artist from Memphis to come paint the synagogue. And when he came, he had to have a scaffold to get up. Well, he bought the wood, but the deal was that he could bring it back. So he never put a nail in it. He would stack it so he didn’t have to nail it. So when he got through, all of the wood was absolutely unused except… so he took it back. Now that’s the tale I heard. Denton’s was a big place. It had a swimming pool. It also had a lunch counter. It had drive-in service at one time. It was a big meeting place for everybody to come—summer and winter. A big day at school was a rally day we had. We were assigned to four groups and when you were in the first grade, you were assigned to a group and you stayed in that group all the time you were in high school. And during the time that we had rally day, we had people on the debating team, and we had track events and relays and things like that, and each year you chose cowboys or sailors or something, and you wore costumes or something like that. It was a fun day.
EW: Did you play any sports?
DM: I played tennis. I played for the high school team, and I played for Delta State.
Dr. M: Did you all do anything for May Day?
DM: Oh yeah, we had the Maypole dance. I don’t remember much else besides that. I remember there was a house up there that Mr. Parks, who was the superintendent, lived in, and I remember I did the Maypole dance in his yard. But I don’t remember much else about that.
EW: Was the confederate monument already up on the courthouse?
DM: As far as I can remember. There is a monument on the side of the courthouse. And I don’t know what it is, but I went up to its dedication. I remember getting out of school and marching in line. It faces Denton’s. And I’ve often thought I’d go up there and see what it was. Anyway, I don’t know what grade I was in, but we marched up there to dedicate it.
Dr. M: Was Highway 8 a very busy road?
DM: Oh yes.
Dr. M: But you all would cross it, all three of you on a bicycle, would cross it to go to school?
DM: We rode on the sidewalk, crossed it to go to the service station. We didn’t ride in the street. It was an effort to get three people. I played in the band, and I played a French horn. But I guess I left it at school because I know all three of us couldn’t ride on that bicycle with a French horn.
Dr. M: Do you have any other questions?
EW: I think that was it for me.
Dr. M: Did you know Dr. Ringold?
Dr. M: I live in his house. Do you know any stories about him or the house?
DM: No. His first wife died.
Dr. M: Was that Sadie’s mother? Or was she from the second marriage?
DM: She was from the first marriage. And then he married again, and they didn’t live in the house. They moved to one of the apartments—one of the apartments closest to Delta State. She shot him.
Dr. M: That’s what I heard.
DM: After his wife died, he became a heavy drinker; and she was, too. They had a trial. I can’t remember a lot about that, but I know she was not convicted of it. I think it was more or less defensive shooting. They were both real bad about drinking. In fact, I don’t think he practiced the last years. He was in with Dr. Fitzgerald at one time. He was a real nice, real pleasant man. I never did know his wife, and I barely knew Sadie Mae. But I do remember the house.
Dr. M: Because I live in it, I would…
DM: Yea. It was one of the older houses in Cleveland.
Dr. M: Well, this has been very enjoyable. You’ve told us a lot of information. Thank you very much.
DM: You’re quite welcome. I’ll bring my picture with the billy goat by sometime.
EW: Well can we keep those?
DM: Oh sure. You’re welcome to have these. I don’t want them back. I have another picture of my dad and Mr. Malone. That was a big thing for Cotton Row. A lot of them would go up on Cotton Row and play dominoes. They actually had a domino table. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one or not, but it has a board that has holes in it where you can move a slot to count 5 and 10. It was built by a local man. I don’t know where it is now.
EW: Well, thank you very much. It’s been great.
DM: You’re welcome. I hope I’ve helped some.
END OF DOCUMENT