Interview with Jenny Lucas  July 27, 2007  OH# 377

Interviewed by Emily Weaver  and Dr. Cameron McMillen

Transcribed by W. Ray


EW:     This is Emily Weaver and I’m here with Dr. Cameron McMillen and Mrs. Jenny Lucas, and we are talking about the Historic Neighborhood in Cleveland, Mississippi. Mrs. Lucas, do you willingly participate in this oral history project.

JL:                   Yes.

EW:     Thank you. Alright Dr. McMillen, would you like to begin?

CM:                 How long have you lived in Cleveland Jenny?

JL:                   I don’t live in Cleveland, but I did live in Cleveland growing up for 21-22 years.

CM:                 Were you born in Cleveland?

JL:                   I was born in Cleveland.

CM:                 And you lived there through your high school career?

JL:                   Yes.

CM:                 What addresses did you live in Cleveland?

JL:                   Growing up, the only one was 207 North Victoria.

CM:                 Can you tell us a little bit about the neighborhood and the house?  Who were your neighbors?

JL:                   North of me was Mrs. – Miss Elizabeth Smith.  She was a single person.  She and her father rented that house until he died, then she rented it from the Galloway’s.  South of our house, the Papasan’s lived there while I was young.

EW:     How do you spell that?

JL:                   P-a-p-a-s-a-n.  I think he was a barber and she may have been a – not an R.N., but some kind of nursing someway.

CM:                 Did your parents buy that house or did they build the house?

JL:                   I think they bought it in 1948 from a Somerville.

CM:                 Somerville.

EW:     Lucy?

JL:                   I don’t know.  In fact, I don’t think she was a Somerville, I think she married a Somerville.

CM:                 What do you remember particularly about that house?

JL:                   It was three bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, dining room, and a breakfast room.  My mother had a business that she ran out of the back of the house.  It was a Tom’s Distributorship so we had a big building in the back of the house.

EW:     Oh, had lots of snacks (inaudible).

CM:                 Is it used as an apartment now?

JL:                   I don’t think that it is.

CM:                 There is an apartment behind that house.

JL:                   Then that’s where we had the business.

CM:                 Were there other businesses in the neighborhood?

JL:                   No, and I’m sure that the neighborhood was just tolerant with mama having that.  because eighteen-wheelers had to come back up into that small driveway in the night.  They would come with their merchandise.

CM:                 And nobody complained?

JL:                   Well, no.  They were just fine.  They knew mother was running the business, my father had gotten ill, and they knew she had to have a living.  So nobody complained.

CM:                 Did your mother live in that house until she went into the nursing home?

JL:                   No, she moved out when I moved in there, I think about ’84.  And I lived there until 1989.  Then mama sold it.

CM:                 What differences did you see in the neighborhood between the time you were growing up and living there and the time you came back and lived there?

JL:                   When I was growing up, just about everybody that I knew of owned their house on North Victoria.  And when I moved back it seemed like a lot of rental houses by then.  I just thought of the street having not the same kind of care in their houses.

EW:     Where did you stay after growing up and then coming back?  Where?

JL:                   I moved to Canton.

EW:     Oh, okay.

JL:                   I lived in Canton for many years.

CM:                 Were there any annual neighborhood activities or memorable moments that you remember about North Victoria?  In the neighborhood?

JL:                   As far as the neighborhood, we didn’t celebrate as a neighborhood.  But at night, I remember growing up at night.  All the parents would come out and sit and talk and the kids would play.

CM:                 Did most people have air conditioning in their homes?

JL:                   Not until I was about eleven.  And we didn’t have TV, so, as far as I know, there was only one TV on the block.  The parents would go and watch Lawrence Welk and the kids would play.  That was like every week.

CM:                 Electricity comes from highway eight and everybody else gets their electricity from the same – I think it’s a transformer in the middle of the block.  Did you know that growing up or did you (inaudible)?

JL:                   No, I never knew that.

CM:                 When the electricity goes off, everybody’s goes off but hers.

JL:                   I remember Victoria flooding a lot when I was young.

EW:     Bad floods.

JL:                   Bad floods.

CM:                 Did it get in the houses?
JL:                   I don’t ever remember it getting into our house, but it got into the warehouse and ruined a lot of our……

CM:                 The Tom’s warehouse behind your house?
JL:                   merchandise, because people were out in boats.  I remember that.

CM:                 Were there a lot of children on the street when you were growing up?

JL:                   Lots of children.  And we all just played freely.

CM:                 Were there restrictions on where you could go, or how far you could go, or what time you had to be home and that sort of thing?

JL:                   I’m sure I had to be home by dark.  I’m sure I couldn’t go off that block without asking.  But up and down the block I could.  You had to be in calling distance, had to hear.  Had to be able to hear.

EW:     If you were summoned home.

JL:                   Um hmm.

CM:                 What were the kinds of things you did for fun?  Summer activities and school days and such?

JL:                   I was thinking about that.  I remember Mrs. Beevers formed a girls club.

CM:                 Who was Mrs. Beevers?

JL:                   She was Betsy Bobo’s grandmother.  And she lived across the street from you.

CM:                 (inaudible)

JL:                   There would probably be 106.

EW:     Okay.  Just because in the future people won’t know where.

CM:                 I’m pretty sure it is 106 because the duplex is 108.

JL:                   I remember her forming a girl’s club and she would teach us how to do different things arts and crafts and things in the summer.  I remember she taught us how to make hotplate holders with covering the material – covering coca-cola tops with material and then piecing it all together.

CM:                 That kept you busy for a while.

JL:                   We liked it.  And there’s a woman, she still lives there I believe, but it’s on Leflore, and she’s an artist and has taught art at Bayou.  I can’t remember her name, but she would do things with children, you know, in the summer.  I do remember having Easter egg hunts in the neighborhood.

CM:                 What would you do for Halloween?  Would you trick or treat, or would you do anything in the neighborhood for Halloween?

JL:                   Halloween was a big thing.  We liked that.  I know you asked about decorating for Christmas, I don’t remember that.

EW:     Did you do a Christmas tree?

JL:                   I mean, everybody did a tree, but not outside decorations.  I don’t remember lights or anything like that.  It was on a smaller scale I think.

CM:                 What was typical activities, extracurricular activities, did you participate in high school?  Did ya’ll – where did you hang out?  What did you do?

JL:                   The people hung out at the Keen Freeze, across from Cleveland High.

CM:                 Was Bob’s Drive In gone by the time you grew up?

JL:                   No, Bob’s Drive In was somewhere that I wasn’t supposed to go.

CM:                 Why was that?

JL:                   Evidently they sold beer there.  But I, of course, had to go.  And another activity was driving through Bob’s continually when we were in high school.

CM:                 Did most everybody have cars?

JL:                   No.  My friends, very few of us, no, I don’t remember any of us having a car of our own.  Now we could use our family car on occasion.  But we did not have a car.  And I didn’t have my drivers’ license until I was about seventeen.  Because I wasn’t going to – mama wouldn’t let me use it – drive anyway.

EW:     So would you walk downtown?

JL:                   I’d walk.

EW:     Or ride a bicycle?
JL:                   Rode bicycles.  But a lot of time we just walked.  I was thinking when I was young and I lived on North Victoria I was little.  I walked with a friend whose father worked at Denton’s.  And we walked from Victoria.  We dressed up, you know, in high heels and all of that and walked to Denton’s.  We were little, like six or so.  And mama wasn’t scared to let us do that.  I know I – we went up town all the time when we were young.

CM:                 Was there any house on the block that – “Stop, you can’t walk in that yard.  You’ve got to avoid that person?”

JL:                   There was a Mrs. Hales where Brad Teague..

CM:                 That’s 105.

JL:                   Her yard you needed to stay out of.

CM:                 Was the duplex next door there at that time?

JL:                   No.

CM:                 Was that an empty lot?

JL:                   As far as I can remember it was.  And then Mrs. Elmore’s home, right there on the corner of Victoria and Court.  You weren’t really supposed to be in her yard either.

EW:     Was it because they were so (inaudible) or you just didn’t want to disturb the women at home?

JL:                   I didn’t cross that line.  My brother crossed the line, you know, and they would call my mother.

EW:     Didn’t challenge that authority.

JL:                   I know my brother broke a limb out of one of Mrs. Elmore’s trees (inaudible) and that was upsetting.  And he picked all the flowers from Mrs. Hale’s yard and that was upsetting.  So we had to stay out of those yards.

CM:                 Were there many fences in the yards as you were growing up?

JL:                   Not that I remember.  The only fences that I can remember was there on the corner, the other corner of Victoria and Court…

CM:                 Where the Sledge’s live?

JL:                   Correct.  Yes.  That’s the only fence that I remember.  We thought of them as wealthy and that’s why they had a fence you know.

CM:                 Most of the church’s right around there – was the Catholic Church still on the corner before it became a Presbyterian Church?
JL:                   It was.

CM:                 Do you remember anything particular about any of the church’s?

JL:                   I remember that the Catholic Church was a mystery to me.  I grew up in a Baptist Church and I remember going in there, they’d leave the doors open.  And it was a beautiful, beautiful little church. I do remember that.  I don’t remember  about the Presbyterian’s – I know I remember it was there, I just didn’t go into the Presbyterian’s that I remembered.

CM:                 Was the church a part of your social life?

JL:                   It was all of my social life just about.  We always went to church every everything revolved around First Baptist.

CM:                 (inaudible) even known Baptist’s go to the youth groups and such or did you…?

JL:                   No, I stayed pretty much with – there was a big youth group at First Baptist and I think other kids came to our group, but we pretty well stayed within.  Macklyn Hubbell who was the preacher when I was a teenager and he kept us busy.

EW:     Vacation Bible School and things like that?

JL:                   Vacation Bible School was wonderful at First Baptist Church.  Wonderful.  I loved it.

CM:                 Was there a house where everybody congregated particularly?

JL:                   No, not that I remember.  We played up and down.  No, depending on who your friend was that, you know.  But mainly we were all sweet on that street.

EW:     Was there a lot of sleeping over?  Sleeping parties and things like that?

JL:                   Uh huh.  Right.

EW:     What was some of the people’s houses that you would stay at?

JL:                   The Bobo’s usually.  There was Marilyn Griffin Corbin lived on that street.  She and I would spend the night and there was a Putnam Family that lived in your house that we – that I was friends with.  Just girls my age.

EW:     And ya’ll would get together and do girls things.

JL:                   Right.

EW:     Would ya’ll ever sleep on the porches?  Or were there porches?

JL:                   My house had a porch at one time but it was closed in.  Then we got air conditioning I think.

CM:                 So it had a porch when you moved there?

JL:                   Um hmm.

EW:     We are interested also in porches.  It seems to be a congregation spot in the afternoons for mama’s to gather.

JL:                   I don’t remember that.  By the time I was thirteen my mother went to work at the hospital so, the congregation she didn’t do that.

CM:                 Did she quit doing Tom’s…
JL:                   Um hmm.

CM:                 and went to the hospital?

JL:                   Right.  So I don’t remember the porch activities much.

CM:                 Did you think that you would spend – I know that you’re not in Cleveland you’re in Merigold – but did you think that you would spend your life in this area?
JL:                   Probably not.  No.  I was ready to go.

EW:     When you graduated from high school did you go then?

JL:                   No, I stayed and went to Delta State.

EW:     Okay.  Um hmm.  And then you….

JL:                   Married and left.

CM:                 What do you think makes Cleveland a special place in which to raise a family?  How old were your boys when you moved back?  I know Matthew was a baby?

JL:                   The other boys were like five and six.  I just always felt like Cleveland was safe and I know my mother thought it was safe or she wouldn’t have let me walk anywhere with friends.

CM:                 Did you let your boys do that when they were growing up?

JL:                   No, not so much.  No.  I know that ….

CM:                 When you came back and your boys were growing up, were there children in the neighborhood then?

JL:                   Yes.

CM:                 And was it still a neighborhood where most people owned their house?

JL:                   (inaudible).  I just wasn’t as trusting of the people as I had been.

CM:                 Was it a different world?

JL:                   Yes.  Well when we were growing up, we all knew all of the neighbors.  And they all knew all of us.  They didn’t hesitate to – they just acted like they were your mother or your father.  They disciplined you if they needed to or told on you, and when I moved back there wasn’t quite that sense.  Times had changed.

CM:                 Can you think of any local stories about Cleveland and about the neighborhood?  When you were growing up?  Were your parents from Cleveland?

JL:                   No.  My father was from South Carolina and my mother was from Tupelo.

CM:                 How did they end up in Cleveland?

JL:                   They bought that distributorship from Tom’s and moved here and built that business up.

EW:     You said your dad was a barber?

JL:                   No.  That was a neighbor.  My father owned that distributorship and my mother owned it after he got sick.

CM:                 Any other stories (inaudible).

JL:                   No.

CM:                 What about parades in town?  Holiday celebrations for the town?

JL:                   I know that we had parades every Friday in football season.

CM:                 High school parade?

JL:                   High school.  Homecoming was a very big parade.  I don’t remember that much about the Christmas parades when I was young.  I don’t know if we had them or not.  I do remember one time though a community event that I’m trying to find out more about, but they had all the children  – it was a patriotic thing.  I was probably five or six and it was on the field at the football field.  And it was a big deal because everybody and every grade was in that pageant.  It was a pageant.  I don’t believe anybody else can remember it very well.

CM:                 Do you remember, you would have been five or six in 1976, but do you remember any particular activities on the 4th of July that year?

JL:                   No I don’t remember.

CM:                 Do you have any pictures of the neighborhood, or your house when you were growing up?

JL:                   Uh hmm.

CM:                 Would you be willing to allow us to copy some of them to exhibit?

JL:                   (Inaudible) mama had them of the house.

CM:                 That would be wonderful.

JL:                   I remember we had a really hard time growing grass.

EW:     Oh no, why was that?

JL:                   I don’t know.  We played out in the front yard so much that we couldn’t keep the grass there.

EW:     Got it down to the dirt.

JL:                   She had a hard time growing it.

EW:     Would ya’ll have had a garden?

JL:                   No.

EW:     Just mostly went to the grocery store?

JL:                   Well, with mama being a single parent, she didn’t have time to work and do a garden.

EW:     Oh sure.

JL:                   But yes.  White’s Grocery – we probably went there every day.

EW:     Not quite Kroger, but definitely everything you needed.

JL:                   Right.  And Mrs. White would either – she’d tell on you if you tried to buy something that she knew mama wouldn’t let you get.

CM:                 Would you have a charge account and you could just go pick up stuff?

JL:                   Um hmm.

EW:     That’s nice.

JL:                   It’d be the meat for the day.  Whatever meal – the main meal – you’d go get the meat every day.  Cause our refrigerator only had a little bitty ice box.

CM:                 She’s been asked most of these questions, do you have some?

EW:     Well, I may be out of time sequence, but would things have been delivered, were there any groceries or…?

JL:                   Milk was delivered.

EW:     Was that from Denton’s or would that have …?

JL:                   I’m almost positive that it was Denton’s.  They’d leave milk on the back steps.

EW:     Okay.

CM:                 Was the swimming pool closed when you were growing up?

JL:                   I don’t remember that at all.

EW:     Was it a time when you were growing up when you did lock the doors or you didn’t lock the doors?

JL:                   I don’t remember us ever locking our doors.

EW:     Um hmm.  So the windows were open to (inaudible).

JL:                   If mama locked the doors I didn’t know it you know.  But no, we didn’t have to (inaudible).  I never heard of crime.

EW:     Yeah.  Well being so close to highway 8, I know it is a lot larger than it was then.

JL:                   Right.

EW:     Was there a lot of traffic on your road or down highway 8.

JL:                   I think highway 8 would be fairly busy.  It didn’t keep me from walking to school.  I guess there’d be a guard but you know, I started school when I was five and I walked the whole time by myself.

CM:                 Did you go to school at Pearman?

JL:                   Yeah.

CM:                 Did you walk to White’s Grocery?

JL:                   Yeah.

CM:                 You would have crossed highway 8 then.

JL:                   By myself.

EW:     It must have been pretty safe.

JL:                   Or either she thought I that I was not going to get hurt.  I don’t know.  It had to be safe, she (inaudible).

EW:     What about the roads?  Were they paved?  Or would they have been gravel?

JL:                   They were always paved as far as I know.

EW:     And when old highway 6 – was that highway 61 now here, or was it still the old highway 61 that went down Memorial and Leflore?

JL:                   I don’t remember anything but this highway 61.  I don’t remember the other roads.

EW:     Okay.

JL:                   Mama said when she moved to town, I think she said that all the roads were paved until you got to Fifth Avenue and not a whole lot beyond there.

CM:                 When did she move to town?

JL:                   They must have moved here I think in ’40.

CM:                 Did they move into that house?

JL:                   No.  They lived several different places before they lived there.

EW:     Do you know where they would have lived?

JL:                   They lived on North Leflore for a while in a house that is a single residence now, but was a duplex.  You know how they lived with one bathroom and two families.  Her kitchen did not have a sink so the water had to come out of the bathroom.

CM:                 Did she have to wash her dishes there?

JL:                   Um hmm.  They didn’t live there a long time.

EW:     I would have been so upset about just one bathroom in the entire house.

JL:                   And two families shared that.  And the wash, doing the wash.  She could not have a washing machine.

CM:                 But you lived at 207 North Victoria when you were growing up?

JL:                   Um hmm.

CM:                 Were you born in the hospital?

JL:                   The old hospital.

EW:     That’s now the nursing school?

JL:                   That’s right.  (inaudible) at the old hospital.

EW:     It was a small hospital.

JL:                   You weren’t in a room by yourself I hear.

EW:     Is that where your mother worked or did she go to (inaudible)?

JL:                   She started back working at 65.  I don’t know.  I think that other hospital was already built, but it was only two-story then.

CM:                 So she had the distributorship until she was 65 and then she changed careers?

JL:                   She was always an RN but she worked with my father until sometime, and then she went back into nursing.

EW:     Who was some of the people that you would have hung out with?

JL:                   On that street or general?
EW:     In general.  I mean I know you have kind of covered your childhood playing from house to house, maybe just riding around.

JL:                   (inaudible) group of us, most of them don’t live here anymore but there was Sharon Davis.  Her mother was a first grade teacher.  And Barbara Robinson – Robinson Electric – that family.  And Nancy Faulkner, that was my best friend.  Her mother lived on Bolivar.  Those were the closest friends and we all went to the Baptist Church.

EW:     And ya’ll would ride around and see everybody.  Who would drive?  Or whose car did ya’ll…

JL:                   Probably Nancy’s because her mother was the only one would ….

EW:     Let you ride.

JL:                   I think she actually got a car.  I think she did.  It was not a good car cause we all had to get in on one side.  But it was A car.  And drove around and around and around.

CM:                 (inaudible).

EW:     Well what about dances?  Were there dances?

JL:                   There were dances up until – at the high school after every game there was a dance.  Up until I think ’68.  I graduated in ’69.  As soon as we integrated, they stopped almost immediately.  We had a junior – we still were part – when they had junior-senior games when you would carry in the flower rope.

EW:     I didn’t know about that.

JL:                   You didn’t know about the flower… That was a nice tradition.  I think the seniors would carry it in and the seniors would carry it out.  Taking over then.  But you made it out of magnolias and some of those flowers that bloom in May on a bush.  Hydrangea’s.  They were beautiful.

EW:     I love hydrangea’s.

JL:                   We would make it.  But I’m wondering if we weren’t about the last class that did that. And the girls wore a certain color like pastel’s, or if you were a senior you wore white.  And then when my sister was growing up they had that and they would wear formal dresses.  Because there were pictures of her carrying the rope with a formal dress on.  And it was so pretty.

CM:                 Would there have been some kind of (inaudible) to carry it into or out of?

JL:                   We did it on the football field.  It was class night.  And I know there would have been singing and just kind of turning over the torch, you know to the juniors.

EW:     That was special.

JL:                   That was a nice tradition.

EW:     Um hmm.  What do you enjoy – do you like how you’ve seen Cleveland grow?  I mean coming back to the town after a while after being gone from here, are you proud of where it has come?

JL:                   I think Cleveland is a wonderful town.  I do. I think it is really pretty.  It’s the nicest town in the delta.  The cleanest town around.

EW:     You see the street sweeper all the time.

JL:                   It is really a nice delta town.

EW:     We (inaudible) try.

JL:                   Delta State adds to it.

CM:                 What do you think makes it special?

JL:                   I guess the town has had good leadership.  That’s what I credit it to.  They’ve kept it up, kept – probably the Chamber has done their part (inaudible).  Businesses here and it hasn’t died.  I was looking at some statistics a while ago.  I think Cleveland has decreased in population, but it seems like our downtown has stayed pretty vibrant.  And we have a shopping area.  I think people come here and shop.  Definitely do.  You know when I was growing up I don’t think we had but two places that I would call nice.  Out there on the highway where KC’s there was a Michael’s. It was called Michael’s.  And I can’t remember the name of the other place, but there were only two.  Not (inaudible).

EW:     Not quite so much eating out as these days.

JL:                   (inaudible)

EW:     (inaudible) cooking at home.

JL:                   We didn’t go out at all much.

EW:     Except for (inaudible).

CM:                 Would you eat at your friends houses?

JL:                   A lot.  My best friend, Nancy’s mother, (inaudible), this was back in the time, but they had a maid and she cooked.  She was a wonderful cook.  And then there was another.  It was a male friend, and his mother cooked.  And she was a wonderful cook.

CM:                 And where did Nancy live?

JL:                   On South Bolivar.

CM:                 Which house would she have lived in?

JL:                   I think it’s 305.  Next to the Wheeler House. South of the Wheeler House.

EW:     Okay.

CM:                 Her name was Nancy…

JL:                   Faulkner.  She doesn’t live here anymore.

CM:                 (Inaudible)

JL:                   Her maid’s name, she’s dead now, but she was a wonderful cook.

CM:                 Would she have come in just for the day?
EW:     The cook.

JL:                   She did everything.  She was just everything to them.  She reared the children.

EW:     Okay, well you’ve done very well.

CM:                 Would most of the people in your neighborhood had maids?

JL:                   You know, I really don’t remember that.  I know we did.  Until mama went back – went to work at the hospital, we did.  Had someone full time that cooked.  After mama went back to working, I guess our financial situation changed and we didn’t.  But yes, I would believe that – mama tells a tale that, you know I was telling you about (inaudible) before that she lived (inaudible).  She had my brother.  She stayed in bed like for two weeks.  My mother had someone.  My grandmother came.  My mother had a maid and then she also had someone come in at night specifically to take care of the baby. Can you imagine having all that help?

EW:     Just to raise one baby.

JL:                   But she did.  And they were not in a wealthy family and that was just how you did it.  My grandmother didn’t think all of that was necessary but my mother did.

EW:     So how many are there of you?

JL:                   Four. Just four.

EW:     And you had an older brother.

JL:                   The youngest.  A sister and two brothers.

EW:     Okay, that was a good mix.  Do they all live here?

JL:                   My brothers are dead, and my sister lives in Arizona.  She left Cleveland when she was eighteen.  Cleveland hasn’t been her home in a long time – about fifty years.

EW:     Okay.

CM:                 I had fun.

EW:     I’m good.

CM:                 Well thank you very much.  We appreciate your time and all the information.

JL:                   Love to talk about it.

Tape Cuts Off.