Interview with Jody A. Correro Jr. July 18, 2007 OH# 374
Interviewed by Emily Weaver and Dr. Cameron McMillen
Transcribed by W. Ray
EW: This is Emily Weaver and I’m with Dr. Cameron McMillen and Jody Correro on the 18th of July, 2007 and we are discussing the Historic Neighborhood Oral History Project. Mr. Correro, do you willingly participate in this oral history project?
JC: I surely do.
EW: Great. Well, let’s get started with some general questions. Can you tell me your full name?
JC: Joseph Anthony Correro Jr.
EW: And could you spell Correrro for us.
EW: Okay, and what is your current occupation?
JC: I am a part-timer, full time retired, but I do work with FEMA, occasionally with the Cleveland News Leader and I also, an adjunct with the English Department of Languages and Literature here at Delta State handling correspondence classes.
EW: Okay, and before, what did you retire from?
JC: I retired from Delta State in 2002. I worked in the Office of University Relations as it is called today. I worked in that office for 27 years.
EW: Okay. And what is your current residence?
JC: My current residence is here in Cleveland at 1415 Terrace Road.
EW: Okay, let’s just jump right in. How long have you lived in Cleveland?
JC: Well, except for a short period, over sixty-one years, I worked with various newspapers over the state of Mississippi. I served a little, fourteen months, with the Delta Democrat Times after graduation. Delta State in 1968. Then my wife and I, who was expecting our first child at that time, moved to McComb, Mississippi. And we stayed there from August of 1969 to August 1971. And then we pulled up roots and went to Chicago, Illinois where I was employed by the Illinois Central Railroad in their corporate relations department as a writer, photographer, and associate editor. Came back to Mississippi about one year later, a little less than one year later, and worked for the Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper from May of ’72 to February ’74. And that kind of ended my journalism career. Stayed in car sales there with a friend of mine for about fifteen months, and then we moved back to Cleveland in 1975. August 1, 1975. And we’ve been living here since.
EW: Okay, let’s go back to your first address in Cleveland, I guess when you were born.
JC: My first address, I guess the house is still there. It was 105 South Second Avenue. It was just off the north end of, the Strange’s Park, many people do not realize today that that’s called Strange’s Park. The block between First and Second Avenue, and what used to be Lamar Street, used to run through there and separate Strange from Fireman’s Park. It was later closed off. When I was thirteen months old so I’m told, mom and dad moved down to 304 South Second, which is on the west side of Second Avenue facing Fireman’s Park. And I lived in that house until I was married in June – September 1968.
EW: Okay, so you spent your childhood in that house?
EW: Can you tell us a little bit about growing up? So close to the park I’m sure that was a very busy spot.
JC: Well, my earliest memories are of Fireman’s Park. The street in front of our home was sort of a graveled dusty street and so as much as I recall, First Avenue on the other side, and once or twice a year the city would have a crew come in there since it got so dusty in the summertime, they would drive these tar trucks around and they would spray that gooey stuff on to keep the dust from you know. Most people had no air conditioning then so they had their windows up but they didn’t want the cars coming by the dust billowing the dust up and getting in their homes. That was a great story there because all the kids I know that was just like I am – I was then. Mama and daddy said, “Don’t go out in there and get that stuff on your feet.” And that was the signal to go do it. And my dad had to clean my feet with either kerosene or turpentine to get that black tar off my feet.
EW: You would definitely get in trouble for that.
CM: Do you remember when the street was paved?
JC: The street was paved in 1952 I believe. I know that the mothers that lived around Fireman’s Park would actually fix supper and take it out to the men that were working on that. Because they worked into the night, I do remember that. The streets have been paved since 1952. And we had real bad rains back then and there was no – the storm sewer system was not large enough to handle deluges like we would get. I’ve been to the whole Catholic Church from my house in a boat before across that Strange’s Park or either down Second and across Maple and the Catholic Church then was on Court Street. The corner of Court and First Avenue. That was my earliest memories. That was not the first Catholic Church however, but that’s the one I grew up in.
CM: Where was the first one?
JC: The first one was over on Collins Street, across what used – everything was across the railroad track or this side of the railroad track. But this – do you know where there is a restaurant down there, what is that Cameron, the restaurant? Used to be Pickled Okra or something. It may be Pickled Okra. That side street there is Collins Street. And it one block down there and there was some buildings there, Kelso Cleaners down in there later. But that is where the first Catholic Church building was. It was a frame building.
CM: It’s no longer there?
CM: The other one is no longer there?
CM: Where did the one on Court and First Avenue move?
JC: We had a earth tremor, it was a quake, on the New Madrid Fault one Sunday morning. The church – this would have been 1967 I believe, 1967 or 68. The church was already being propped up and wired together and barred together and when they had that earth tremor everything in that – I wasn’t at Mass I was at home that morning. I had already been to 7:00 Mass. But at the 10:30 Mass, that ended services in the church. And they moved over to a building adjacent to it. It was called our Parish Hall, and had Mass, Religious Education, weddings, funerals there and everything until they built this church. They moved into it in 1970.
EW: The one on Bishop Road?
JC: The one on Bishop Road. Our Lady of Victories, yeah.
EW: Has it always been Our Lady of Victories?
JC: Um hmm.
CM: Were both the Church and Parish Hall demolished at some point?
JC: Yes. It was torn down around after that. It had to be because it was unfit structurally.
CM: But the Parish Hall is gone too?
JC: The Parish Hall is there but it is used as an apartment complex now.
CM: It’s on the corner of Court and First?
JC: Well the church was. The Parish Hall was between the church and the rectory. And the rectory is 510 Shelby Street. That building is still there as well.
EW: Okay. I have a quick question about the paved roads. So all the roads probably in Cleveland were gravel, or were there stretches of road?
JC: No, Court Street was paved back then. But this was called the Robinson Addition I think.
EW: Where you live?
JC: Yeah, where I live. And when my dad died I was going through papers and things and I found a receipt my mother had sent to Cleveland Lumber Company I believe. And she was paying on that lot they bought down at 305 South Second. Daddy was in the service and mama was paying $5.00 a month. Daddy would send part of his check and she paid $50.00 for that lot there at 304 South Second.
EW: Okay. Wow. And did they design the house or was it (inaudible).
JC: It was a, pretty much they were all similar wooden type frame houses. Three bedrooms and one bath.
EW: Um hmm. Can you kind of give us a walk through of the house, the living room.
JC: Okay. The house as I said faced the street, Second Avenue. And that is facing east. The kitchen, there was a kitchen window that looked out across the park and just to the, alright I’m looking out the kitchen window now, and the kitchen was sort of u-shaped up in – wait, that was after we remodeled. Okay, the kitchen was on the north side of the house. I’m getting ahead of myself. Gas stove, sink that I remember my mother putting me up in there as a child and giving me a bath in a big old, I call it a roasting dish really for lack of a better term. But anyway, we, my brother, my sister younger than I am, we all had baths at one time or another in the kitchen sink. Off the kitchen there was a little small hallway that would go on back to the back of the house west, and off of it was a bath. No showers in those days. And then very small. And then if you went straight down that little small hallway you would run into one of the bedrooms in the northwest corner. There were six of us – eight of us living in that house. Three boys and three girls. (inaudible) oldest girl (inaudible). My youngest brother and my youngest sister wasn’t born when they first moved in there but for a long time, eight of us lived in that house. And then made another left hand turn and there was a bedroom on the right and mom and dad’s bedroom was the end of that hallway. And that’s it. House couldn’t have been much more than 1,100 square feet.
EW: Yeah. So the three boys were in one room and the two girls were in one?
JC: Well I think when my baby brother was born in 1950, they actually had a baby bed – bassinet in there. Later a baby bed until he got (inaudible). There was a living room on the front side of the house that a had a door into the hallway and a door that led out. And off the kitchen to the north there was a step down door to the north and people next door were the Hancock’s lived there.
EW: Did you spend much time in the house, or was most of your time outside with the boys?
JC: In the summertime we were in the park. Fireman’s Park there. And we had that wonderful playground and it had a bandstand over there. Bands performed. The city asked a band to perform over there and I’m sure, I don’t recall but there were other groups that came in and performed on the bandstand. And it stayed there probably until the late ‘60’s, early ‘70’s. A storm came through there and it finally lifted that metal awning type top off and later they came back and built the shingled roof over it where it is today.
EW: Do you remember getting air conditioning in that house?
JC: Yeah. In 1959, I sure do.
EW: Were you excited about that?
JC: Yeah. In 1962 mom and dad added a bathroom and what became the den area with some storage area. It had a freezer – a built-in freezer in the wall. You opened the door and it was an upright freezer and they extended and made the kitchen new on the east side of the house. The kitchen, rec area and another bathroom. Half bath.
EW: So you were still living in the house at that time when these changes were being made? Did you live there? You got married in ’69?
EW: Okay, yeah.
CM: You got married in ’68 though didn’t you?
JC: Yes. They added that I remember. There’s a date in the carport area there March 1962. One of us, I think it was my brother did it in the concrete when they poured the slab there.
EW: Did y’all often decorate for holidays or…
JC: We always had a tree. A Christmas tree. And daddy was firm, pretty firm that we waited until right before, three or four days before Christmas to get our tree and decorate it. Advent was a time to prepare and Christmas and the days afterward was the time to enjoy it, the season. That was a big, big event when daddy would bring the Christmas tree home.
EW: He would go get it?
JC: He would buy it uptown usually at a grocery store that Mr. Charles Feduccia owned, it was called “The Little Store.” His son, Charles, has the Lee Street Liquor here today.
EW: Okay, what was some of the things y’all would do? Would y’all have specific ornaments that you had to hang?
JC: Oh, we did. There were special balls. You know they were all made out of glass or something like that. I knew I had a, there was a blue one that had white like it was painted on. I think that was before the days of air brushes and all that. And then there was a little metal cross and that was like this. It was blue and it had a hook in it. And that was one of the ones that I liked to hang up. We had old, old, metal foil tinsel that we would put on the tree as well.
EW: Do you remember taking any pictures or did ya’ll have family….?
JC: Oh we did take pictures. I do not – you know, I told you at one time seven years ago our house burned and we lost everything that we had in the attic. My other brothers and sisters probably have got things stashed away in their attics of things that we took there. Pictures that we took there. But yeah, I know. Yeah. The living room was the living room. That was where everybody – we didn’t have television until 1959 also, yeah, somewhere along in there.
EW: Were ya’ll allowed in the kitchen when your mama was cooking?
JC: One at a time.
EW: Would she prepare three meals a day?
JC: Mom didn’t go to work until my little brother started first grade, so that would have been 1957, ’56 or ’57.
EW: So she stayed at home with ya’ll?
JC: Yeah, she stayed until he got into school and by that time, two years later, well a year later, my other sister married and moved out in 1957. And my brother married and moved out in 1959. My oldest brother. But mom cooked, and my dad cooked as well.
JC: Yeah. He worked at the postal service for 38 plus years but we had a garden in the back yard. He worked that garden, he and mom. We’d have butterbeans, peas, you know, tomatoes, squash, watermelons. Daddy loved trees and he had plum trees, figs. He would go down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast with the men’s group and he’d bring back a live oak in a paper cup, just enough to get it back home and plant it. There’s still one in the front yard at the house there that we’ve had for fifty years.
EW: Were ya‘ll allowed to help, or were you required to help?
JC: In the garden?
JC: Oh yeah, we all helped. We did.
EW: Good lessons learned out there in that garden.
JC: Oh yes. I learned to wear shoes in the garden. I was weeding one day with a three prong rake and I stuck it right into one of my toes. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. It bled and bled and bled.
EW: Oh yeah. Did ya’ll all have chores around the house, responsibilities?
JC: We were supposed to keep it as neat as we could. My oldest brother loved model air planes and trains. And our room was probably the junkiest room there because it had partially built airplanes laying on the bed, under the bed and on the floor. He had a big drafting board he put in . I don’t know how we got that in that room, but anyway he did. Yeah, it was a close knit group. We knew all of our neighbors of course and nobody locked their houses at night. Like I said, we didn’t have any air conditioning in the summer time, we would sleep on pallets on the floor. We had a screened front door and daddy would sit a fan over here and we looked like engines in a round house with our heads up by that door trying to catch a breeze from outside and a breeze off that fan. We would line up in that door on the floor.
EW: Oh yeah. Had to survive the heat somehow.
JC: I was going to say, being sort of a train buff, you could hear a steam engine from where we lived on Second, you could hear the steam engines. Working in the yard, or switching, or if they were just idling you could hear the clank and the shhh in the night of the steam engines.
EW: Good night sounds.
JC: Um hmm.
EW: With all those brothers and sisters, would your house have been the meeting house of all of your friends or…
JC: Well if we could get a few more in there, yes. My sister had a family, two sisters, the Hill’s, lived down, lived at 310. It was Susan and Martha and, they called her Gin, Virginia Hill. They all, they had something, all three of my sisters had something in common with them. They’d be in our house or we’d be in their house doing something. Their dad, my daddy would borrow Mr. Hill’s jeep, Willy Wagon, because we didn’t have a car.
EW: Not at all?
JC: Not at all. To go see my grandmother’s. One in Drew, later Clarksdale. They moved to Clarksdale. And then my mother’s mother, they moved away right before I was born from Cleveland to Memphis. But daddy would always have to ask somebody if we went out of town to use their vehicle. And several times I rode up to Clarksdale or to Memphis on the train to visit.
EW: Oh sure. That was an easy way.
CM: And the post office was downtown then so you could walk?
JC: The post office was where the Police Department is today. Yes.
CM: To get groceries or to shop, what would you do?
JC: Like I say, there was that grocery store called The Little Store that Mr. Feduccia had.
CM: And where was it?
JC: It was on Sharpe Street down, let me think, it was closer to the Sunflower end than it was – there’s a street that comes across right in between there – right at Abraham’s from Central Avenue, we call it Cotton Row, but it was actually Central Avenue. So in relation to Sunflower Road here and that road cutting over it was right there in the 160 numbering process along there.
CM: And would they deliver the groceries?
JC: No, they didn’t. Daddy, many times daddy would walk all the way home with a pasteboard box with what he could bring home. But lots of time he would catch a ride home or somebody.
EW: Sure. What about your transportation? Would it have been a bicycle?
JC: My sister, my oldest sister had bicycle and that was the family bicycle. We all, I did, I don’t remember about – and I think my sister got it that is just two years younger than I am, learned to ride that bicycle.
CM: When did you get a car?
CM: When did your family get a car?
JC: We had a grand announcement and I would say it was May, June, no it was earlier than that, in ’59, and we told everybody in our neighborhood, First and Second Avenue, behind us on Third, that we were getting a car. Bringing a new car home. And boy we were lined up on the curb in front of the house and here comes daddy with this blue car. And I said, “Oh my God.” But anyway, our first car was a 1949 Plymouth, 4 door, no air conditioning. Had a heater. It had belonged to Miss Hammett who taught English at Delta State. Daddy paid three hundred dollars for that car. I will never forget it. Later that month we put over 6,600 miles on that car. We went from here, the six of us in it, to Peoria, Illinois, and from Peoria, Illinois to Seattle, Washington, and from Seattle, Washington back home.
EW: What was the point of that trip?
JC: That was to see my oldest sister who had left, the first one who had left, and my mother had a brother who had retired, well, he had met a woman, his wife when he was in the Air Force in World War II and they settled down in Coulee City, Washington, which is in the wheat growing area, the desert area as I call it of Washington State. So we went to see them; stayed a week with them; went over on the west coast of Washington which was all green and pretty, mountains, and daddy had a sister who had gone after World War II and her husband out there, right outside Seattle. And we stayed a week with them.
CM: That was quite a road trip.
JC: Oh unbelievable! Before interstate highways.
EW: Fifty miles an hour?
EW: Long days.
JC: Daddy got a ticket, he wasn’t speeding. He was in Utah, I will never forget. The officer said he passed a car with the yellow stripe inside his lane.
EW: Ya’ll were on a mission. You had to get there.
JC: We were.
CM: Where did you go to school?
JC: I grew up here. I went to Pearman School. Old Pearman. It is no longer there.
CM: Where was it?
JC: One or two of the wings of Margaret Green were part of the old school. That portion of it is there. It was on Sunflower Road. It had a big cafeteria in the front and my mother played basketball. They also used it for the gymnasium. Miss Wade’s first year to coach at Cleveland High School was my mom’s senior year in high school in 35-36.
CM: Would you walk to school?
JC: Yes. Almost every day. Sometimes we would catch a ride with one of the neighbors. I figured it you know, it wasn’t uphill and it wasn’t snowing very often. We could make it. It was about a mile I guess from our house to Pearman. But the park was just a magnet for kids in those days. I mean it was a summer program there to get people – and I later worked and did it myself when I was going to school at Delta State. I did it. There were times when we counted as many as three hundred children out there in that period. So it was a softball, little league baseball – it wasn’t a complex, but they used it for both sports. And I played there in the ’50’s down there. And then there was an old building. We just called it “the building.” And they would come open it up and they’d have all kinds of games. Pull out benches and tables there and do modeling clay and paper mache and they would have contests. They would have dress-up contests for the kids. They’d have pet shows. You’d dress your pets up and bring them over there.
EW: You said you did have a dog?
JC: Yeah, Bob.
EW: Bob. You want to tell us about Bob?
JC: Bob was a – I wrote – after I had seen “My Dog Skip” based on Willie Morris. I wrote a little note and sent it to Beth Jacks that has this, she is the editor of this web site called “The Deep South USA” and I sent her my dog Bob. I said, “My dog Bob was really a real dog and he was known in the community.” I got emails from people that I hadn’t seen in thirty, forty, fifty years after they had seen that. I had people call, I had emails from a guy in Europe, somewhere in Europe, a guy in Alaska, wanting to know, “how did you do it” but I mean, it just happened. You know, every day life.
EW: But you said the priest at the church, the Catholic Church would ….
JC: When he died they had a little in the church bulletin, “Bob Correro, in case you didn’t know it, Bob Correro died, such and such.” But my dog would follow us to church. We were only two and a half blocks away. And if some of us would go to 7:00 Mass on Sunday mornings and some of us would go at 10:30 Mass. And he would go over there with the 7:00 crew and come back and go with the 10:30. And if it was cold, he would come inside the church. And just a very, very small area in the back. You came in the front door and there was a little area here and then there was a gas heater, forced air, and he would get right down just on the slab. The floor was cold. And that was his perch in the wintertime. In the summertime he just tried to find him a cool spot on – and he’d move around. But he always, he came to Sunday Mass twice every Sunday, I mean every week.
EW: Right there with you.
JC: And he’d follow me across the park, I was an alter server and he would follow me to Daily Mass in the mornings sometime. He’d come over there in 1959. And that was a memorable year for some reason. So many things happened to us. A car, air conditioning, but we had one of those floods. We had about nine inches of rain. And of course all the streets, you know where the Griffith’s live there on the corner of Second and Maple Street? It’s a big white house? That’s where the Kossman’s lived when they were growing up. Ed, Juliet, Chuck, Chester and Carol. And I spent a lot of time at their house too. But that house would flood, it would get water in it every time it flooded.
EW: Oh no, like high water?
JC: It would get in their house you know. They would have sand bags and everything else. And finally the Griffith’s built a levee, of course they landscaped it, you can’t see it as well, just to keep the water out. But we went to Mass – Jimmy, I think it was Jimmy Rocconi who had a boat. And he came by our house and said, “We are going to Mass. y’all want to go?” So daddy, me, and probably Pam, maybe Dot, I don’t know if Quin was with us or not, he probably was. Bob swam in that water. It was deep enough for him to swim. And we went down Second Avenue to Maple Street. Turned on the north end of Maple Street. That’s where Tom Wiggins and Mary Jane and their mother and daddy lived, down there at the end. And then around the corner there to the Church. Bring that boat – would come right up to the top step, almost the top step of the church. We’d get out.
EW: Well, sounds like you could roam just about anywhere you wanted to. Were there any restrictions as far as where you could go?
JC: Well you know we were supposed to be in at dark. In the summertime we’d come in and eat supper and go back. Cause the ballgames were in the summertime. There was a game just about every night except Wednesday night I think. And we’d play out there under the lights – it’d be enough where you could see well enough to play on the park. We – one great thing that everybody did – it wasn’t great at the time when I think back on it, but they sprayed DDT then for mosquitoes. We’d run behind that truck or ride our bicycles behind that truck. We’d run to the end.
EW: Get doused.
JC: Get doused. Clothes would be almost wet you know from DDT. Didn’t have mosquitoes like we do today.
EW: Well what about fences or yards that you just knew to stay out of those, or?
JC: We climbed the fences anyway.
EW: Were there many houses with fences or was it just..?
JC: The Barbour’s down on the corner of College and Second, had a wooden fence around their house. The people behind us, the Mann’s, had a son, Mark, and he had a sister. They owned Jay’s Department Store. They had a fence around their house, cause my dog would roam. Back then there were no leash laws and Bob would go with us uptown. If he could get inside the theatre, the Ellis, he would come in there with us.
JC: Yeah, the summertime especially cause it was air conditioned.
EW: Oh yeah. Wanted to be there.
CM: Did ya’ll go to the Ellis a lot?
JC: Ellis. We went to the Ellis and there was another movie theatre. The Regent. Right there between I would say the Pickled Okra and Simmons Walgreen Store down there, and the Vaughn’s had a sewing machine shop. Mr. V.D. Vaughn I believe. But there was a Regent Theatre there. Because I remember my brother and I and one of his running buddies had gone to see John Wayne and “The Sands of Iwo Jima” and there was a bad electrical storm and it knocked out everything so we had to get up and leave the movie. We didn’t get to see the end of it.
EW: Have you ever seen the end of it?
EW: Don’t want to leave you hanging.
JC: But we walked. If we got brave enough we would walk across Jones Bayou on a sewer pipe. Because back then there were no roads across the bayou. Then College Street didn’t go through, nor did Maple go through there by Lindsey Meador’s and Gerald Jacks’ old former law office there. That was the bayou went all the way down without a crossing.
EW: Oh, so your only crossing would have been Court Street.
JC: Court Street. Memorial Drive and Sunflower Road. That was the only three crossings. And we would walk across there and saved a step or two.
EW: Do you remember when they put those roads in, or what the point was. Obviously for transportation.
CM: Was it common for people not to have cars?
JC: Well, I don’t know if it was common or not, you know. I’m trying to think who didn’t have, most of my friends folks had cars.
CM: Did they have one car or two?
JC: Most of them had one car. Some of them had two. The Lowry Tims family you know, they had two cars I know. Cause Mrs. Tims – and then later when the kids got up into high school they would get a hand-me-down or something like that. But for the most part, people had one. And like us, we didn’t have any –didn’t have one until 1959.
EW: But you still got everywhere you needed to go.
JC: We did. We did. We walked. My dad, not only did he walk, his mail route all those years, he walked up to the post office to get there many mornings. And then if his route didn’t start right there, and it didn’t, he would walk with his mail already sorted in his bag and they would bring out the rest of it to one of those big mailboxes you used to see on the corners. Those kind of olive drab colors with U.S. Mail painted in gold letters on it? Before the red, white and blue and all that stuff. But he probably walked the total of more than a hundred thousand miles in his life.
EW: Oh, definitely.
CM: Where all would ya’ll hang out besides the Ellis?
CM: As you got to be a teenager, where would you hang out besides the Ellis or the Regent?
JC: The Keen Freeze was a hangout up there across from the high school. There was a place called Bob’s Drive In, kinda, Ellis is facing Court Street and Bob’s Drive In was right here where Leland Speakes and that one story office complex is there now. But that was Bob’s Drive In. It was Vince Barbati I think and a brother, Robert. Anyway it was called Bob’s Drive In. It was gravel all the way around it. And then back up, still in the same block and on the same side of the street, Mr. E.V. Brock and his wife had a café and it was called Brock’s Café. We’d stop in there going to the movie and sometimes going home after.
EW: Do you remember the swimming pool where Denton’s is now?
JC: I do remember it. I never got in it I don’t think. Never did. I came out to Delta State to the uncovered pool – it was uncovered then. You know just had a cyclone fence around it?
EW: Would that be where a lot of children would go or would be…?
JC: The Country Club came along about ’55 or ’56 and a lot of them would go there.
EW: You would have to cross highway 8 to get there.
EW: Was that big? Big deal?
JC: Well, it was just two lanes then see. It was just two lanes and it was gravel. Gravel road up, almost all the way up to the Country Club.
EW: Really. Okay. Wow. Of the streets that we are targeting, the historic streets, do you remember visiting any of the people on Pearman or Bolivar, Leflore, Victoria? Going into any of those homes? Special events going on in any of those?
JC: I don’t. I remember the streets very well. I have a picture, it’s just, it’s nobody in it, but it is one taken in the back yard of the house where, on Second Avenue. And there were no houses behind our house then on Third. And very few on Fourth. And in the wintertime when the trees were bare, you could see the campus at Delta State, all the way from Second Avenue.
EW: Wow. We would love to see the picture. Do you think you can find it?
JC: I have that little picture. It’s a picture of my dad’s weather rain gage thermometer is all it is. A louvered white thing up on stilts. I don’t know. That picture was taken in the late ‘40’s I would say. But there was also, when we were kids another place we would like to come, right here where Sonny’s is out here?
EW: Um hmm.
JC: There was an old store, like it was a country store. Had a wooden front porch on it. Seems like it was just some concrete poured up like this and you could step up there and then had those double screened doors with Wonder Bread or Double Cola or something on there, and wooden floors all on the inside. And you could go in there and they had a drink box in a chest, and you’d get your drink out of there. And drinks were a nickel then.
EW: Did ya’ll have like a tab there? I know some people would have a tab.
JC: Yeah. Or usually we would bring our empties back and get credit. And if we would get, I think we would get I think two cents for the returnable bottle. We’d go all over town and get a croker sack or somebody might have a wagon, and we’d haul our bottles to the store. And sometimes we would get enough to go to the movie, and then anytime we could get a snack or a cold drink and a Moon Pie or Twinkies or what have you.
CM: Do you remember the hospital that was down in the historic district on the corner of College and Leflore?
JC: I don’t. That was before my time. But one of my good friends whose home I did spend a couple of nights in was on Leflore. And it was the old funeral home.
CM: Where was that?
JC: 313 South Leflore. Let’s see, Mr. and Mrs. Grissom. Jimmy was the youngest son, he was my age. Had a brother Edgar who is a doctor. And Tommy, the oldest, is teaching out in Washington State somewhere. He was a smart, smart, brainy guy. And they had a sister Gerri. Gerri married – the oldest Brown son, Curtis, whose dad had Brown and Sons, the junkyard Their oldest son. And Jeri and – I think they live in Arkansas. They left here, well, all of them did. They lived in – I don’t know if it was Fletcher Funeral Home or what, but they told me it was the old funeral home at that time.
EW: It was a funeral home and they lived in it?
JC: Yeah. Well it wasn’t the funeral home, but that was the building. Their home after it was the funeral home is what I’m saying.
CM: You don’t normally see them doing that.
JC: The hospital, was it on the southwest corner there where the stop light is?
CM: It would be the northwest.
JC: Northwest? That’s where James Albert Wiggins lived.
JC: But I remember, for as long as I can remember you know, that had been there. And I knew that mama and daddy talked about it. But I was born in this old city hospital over here that is the School of Nursing.
CM: Do you remember hotels?
CM: Grover and then was there another one?
JC: I remember Grover and the Pool Hall, City Grill. You walked into the Pool Hall and it had tile on the floor in there. And out in front of it, it seemed like it had “city grill.” It had something in tile spelled out in the sidewalk there. But Cleveland was a division point for the railroad. And the crews would change there and sometimes, way back when, that’s where passengers would get off and spend the night, at the Grover Hotel. But I can remember when it was just old dirty colored brick. It wasn’t red brick. But it may have been weathered from steam engines and just weather and age. I hope Raymond Heurta does fix that up. He has grand plans for remodeling it.
EW: That would be good. So growing up, what were your feelings about Cleveland, the area. Ever a threat, or just a good place to be?
JC: It was a great place to live you know. Great place to live. The only trouble we ever got in was, you know, being mischievous you know.
EW: Well what were some of the things that you would do to be mischievous?
JC: Well, we put large firecrackers in the toilets and flushed them and blew them off level with the floor in the restrooms over there. My sister and one of the Hill’s – two of the Hill sister’s and I, decided this woman who lived two doors down from us, was a witch. So we got our crayons and did the whole front of their house, the front porch, under the windows, all the way around with crayons.
EW: What would ya’ll write – were ya’ll just drawing?
JC: Just scribbling, yeah.
CM: Did you think that would release the demons?
EW: It would do something to vex the witch.
JC: We had to clean it off, I remember that. I mean we went all the way around to the back of the house.
EW: Oh goodness. Ya’ll didn’t have much to do that day.
JC: Well, that was the kind of mischievous things we did.
EW: Oh wow. Yeah, ya’ll did get into it.
EW: Let’s see.
CM: Who were some of the people you ran around with? You said you lived near Ed Kossman?
JC: Chester and Chuck and I palled around. Kent Fletcher, whose mother and daddy owned Fletcher Funeral Home at that time. Was a real good friend, and still is, I stay in contact with Kent who lives out in Texas. His brother, Jack, lives here. Jimmy Grissom a little bit later. I mean, I went to school with him from the first grade at Pearman all the way through Delta State. And some of the older kids, my brother was nine years older than I am, but I know a lot of his friends because they came to the house too and they played in Fireman’s Park. Homer Sledge, Ron Sledge, Lloyd Brown. I lived next door to Lloyd Brown today. Jimmy Logan, seems like E.R. Raney was one of those. Bob Reagan. But they’d get out there in front of my mother’s house across the street and they had this half, it was a half a gross of cherry bombs. I mean those things are like a small grenade. And they would throw them at each other. And one time, somebody bounced one into one of the boxes and everybody scattered. I was a firebug too.
EW: Run for the hills. Let’s see, what do you think it is that has made Cleveland such a special place to be, to raise your family?
JC: There’s always been a civic minded group of people that wanted Cleveland to be a good place in which to grow up you know. As far back as I can remember, Mr. Bishop, Mr. Wattie Bishop was the mayor. I don’t remember anybody before him. Mr. W.C. or W.L. Dempsey was the Chief of Police. It was a safe place you know. Crime was almost unheard of. I mean, Cleveland had crime. The schools were good you know. I had the, it was just a great town. We had a good community. We had libraries, we had good schools, we had a good city park.
CM: What made you decide to come back to Cleveland when you had been to Chicago and Greenwood?
JC: I always wanted to work at Delta State and in Sports Information. My three newspaper jobs I was the Sports Editor and those respective newspapers. And I loved Delta State athletics and when I was a student here I worked on the campus newspaper and the campus yearbook and athletics and did that. I wanted to come back and be in Sports Information. So I came back in ’76 and started on my Masters’ Degree for the second time. And I got a full time job in 1976 in that office and I stayed until 2002 and then right after I retired, Warren Byrd left Delta State right after the division of the L & L had implemented the Journalism program. So I came out of retirement and taught three years in Languages and Lit for Journalism and English. Mrs. Shawhan had asked me would I please do that. She came down to my office one summer, “Oh please.” So I did.
EW: She was very convincing.
JC: I’ve done two things that I said I would never ever do in my life. And that was sell cars and teach school.
EW: And you did it for a while.
JC: Yeah. I did. And enjoyed it.
EW: Yeah, indeed. Probably a legacy with all the students you’ve taught.
JC: She was in the first class I taught in ’94?
EW: ’95. First English class. Um hmm. Let’s see, Cam, do we have any more follow up?
JC: There was a, let me tell you, I don’t know what it was, somebody else older than I am, Ned Mitchell might remember it, Ed Kossman. But up on Sharpe Avenue, we always said it was where they tied the horses up. There was this metal post and it had a kind of circular thing at the top of it. And it stayed there for a long time. I don’t know when it was taken down.
EW: Where would it have been?
JC: Somewhere between Western Auto and just north of Cleveland State Bank there.
CM: Where was the Western Auto?
JC: Western Auto was down, just below where Lowrey’s Jewelry was? Clark’s had it at one time and then they moved to their present location.
EW: I know.
JC: It was there. Kamien’s, Lowrey’s, and there was another store. Then Western Auto and then the Camise’s had a ten cent store there, they were an Italian family. And then there was Ward’s Rexall Drug Store on the corner there where Neysa’s Fireside Shop is.
EW: But that….
JC: Had a soda fountain in there and everything.
CM: And there were doctor’s offices…
JC: Upstairs. Dr. Fitzgerald was my doctor. And Dr. Russell back there. Dr. Ringold. Dr. Russell was the one that delivered me. Dr. Jack Russell.
CM: Can you tell me anything about Dr. Ringold?
JC: He was a character. Best I can remember. I never saw him in an act but I know that he liked to take a drink. And he was actually Delta State’s physician at one time when the infirmary was in the bottom of Taylor Hall.
EW: We have some great pictures of that.
JC: Do you?
CM: Do you know what happened to him?
JC: I don’t. I know, seems like there was a shooting incident.
CM: I heard that.
EW: Was he shot?
CM: I heard that his wife shot him and that she was acquitted.
JC: I can’t remember, I don’t remember what you heard. That may have been after I left Cleveland – I just can’t remember when it was. But I remember him.
CM: I live in his house so I am curious.
JC: Where did they live?
CM: 109 North Victoria. But not where he was shot. He was shot in another house. They had moved and I don’t know where they had moved.
JC: 109 North Victoria. That’s behind Homer Sledge.
CM: It’s beyond – Homer Sledge is across the street. He’s on the east side and I’m on the west side. And I’m a little further down. It’s the Johnson’s in the duplex and then where the Teague’s live, which was Mrs. Holman’s or Mrs. Howen’s, something, and then Gene Bishop’s house, and then mine.
JC: Okay. That was one of my streets to walk to school, to Pearman. I’d walk up Second one day, First one day, and Victoria one day.
CM: Do you remember anything about walking to school or any of those streets that was particularly….
JC: The other day we were riding up town and I told my son and I told my wife this story too. I said, “You see those concrete – pieces of concrete stacked up there?” I said, “Those were there when I walked to school.”
CM: And where was that?
JC: First Avenue. Northeast corner of First at Court Street. There’s those town homes that face Court and they go around and there’s some that face First. Right over here that was a sidewalk and there was these – I don’t know, they’ve been there as long as I can remember.
CM: It’s like a little low fence. How tall are they?
JC: Oh, they are about this high I guess. And they just look like broken up pieces of concrete. And they would be covered with honeysuckle sometimes. It was all grown up in there you know. No telling what goblins lived across in there.
CM: Was the sidewalk as crooked as it is now?
JC: Probably so. Maybe not quite as. Dr. Wiggins built that house right there and it was right next door to where my mother had a brother who lived in that next house on First Avenue. Adrian Houston. And he was a long time mechanic with Kossman’s. And his pictures is in one of those early Fire Department pictures. Cleveland Fire Department pictures that I have seen. Maybe here or somewhere. My mother had nine brothers and one sister.
CM: Do you remember walking down Victoria Street – Victoria Avenue? Was there anything that stood out about it?
JC: I just remember the big oak trees, you know being there. And I’m trying to think, the Sauders, Judson Sanders and had a sister. Mrs. Sanders just died not too long ago.
CM: And where did they live?
JC: They lived almost to highway 8 and Sunflower Road there. On the west side of Victoria. Mrs. Turner who was in the Park Commission in the summers and who taught at Delta State – Mary, I think is her name. But she has two daughters who have that Cotton Row Book Store. Mary Virginia? One is an O’Neal and I can’t think of –
JC: Farmer, yeah. But their mother was my – I mowed her yard there and she ran the Park sometimes. She and Mrs. Effie Brown. But they lived up on North First and I always make a point of going by their house in the morning. And the Christensen Family lived about two houses north of them. Then there was this deaf and dumb couple that lived there right along where Mrs. Helms, Mr. and Mrs. Moody Helms lived on North First there before, about two houses back off the highway. Then the Church of Christ was built there on that corner. Now it is a Lutheran Church.
EW: Did everybody keep their yards pretty much up? I mean, you know, you ride around today and some people just don’t care.
JC: It was pretty much – down where the Tyler’s lived in the southeast corner there where there is a four way stop by Fireman’s Park. The Tyler’s lived catty-cornered across the intersection was a big house. The Tims built that house and before that it was a barn down there and fenced in area and the family had some cows, a few cows and horses. And those cows would get out somehow and they’d come out and you could look out and see the cows grazing in Fireman’s Park. That’s really getting way on back. I’d say ’52 –’53. Way, way…
EW: But they never were a nuisance?
JC: No. You just wouldn’t go around them when they were out there.
EW: Cows are big.
JC: And my next door neighbors had chickens.
JC: In their backyard. The Hancocks. And they had the meanest rooster. Of course we pestered that rooster. That rooster would chase you and he’d try to claw you with those spurs. Yeah, Sammy Hancock, she just died last year or not too long ago. Her husband is Dennis Hancock. He had a radiator shop. And then the oldest son, Dennis, married one of my dad’s sisters, Elizabeth. And Lanis married a Wherry girl, Sandra, and they’ve lived in Greenville a long time. And then George Hancock was the youngest of the three boys is a band director and I think lives somewhere around Jackson. We played cowboys and Indians there right after Christmas and one of the kids from the other side of the park had a fire rocket – wooden stick. I broke it in two. It was an accident and he stabbed George and put out his eye, one of his eyes. I will never forget that. Scared me to death.
EW: Oh no. I’ll bet. Oh goodness. Who were the cowboys and who were the Indians?
JC: George was the cowboy. George had a set of two guns. Maybe it was a Hop-a-long Cassidy type thing. And the other guy was, I want to say their name was McGaugh, Ronnie McGaugh sticks in my memory. That was way back. My first experiment with smoking. They were putting new trees in over there and they had big trees…
EW: In the park?
JC: Um hmm. And they dug out an area and John Hill, who was four or five years older than I am, had gotten some Picayune’s. And so we got down in that dugout area and we puffed on Picayune’s. Made me sick as a dog.
EW: I guess so.
JC: But it’s hard, memories, I remember, I can remember going down to the depot and waiting on the train. My mother’s brother, the one that lived out in Washington State was coming to see us. And we were waiting on his train. And there was also another passenger train waiting for that one to come in. At one time Cleveland had three north bound and south bound passenger trains and of course before I came along the Peavine would actually come out of Cleveland and make that loop around Boyle to Skene and out that way. But there were four railroad tracks at one time you had to cross going, on Court Street to Sharpe Street.
CM: Would ya’ll ever just go down to watch the trains or put pennies on the track so (inaudible)?
JC: Oh sure. And what I would do on that bicycle that my sister had. I’d write my grandmother a letter and what I would like to do is speed up town when I heard the train coming in and back then, that’s how mail, most mail was moved by train, and the RPO, the Railway Post Office Car in the train, had a letter slot in it about this long and you could raise that letter – the lid, and drop the letter in there and instead of having Cleveland, Mississippi, it would have Train 24, or Train 12 postmarked on it and the time. I still have a letter somewhere from my grandmother which was postmarked with the Railway Post Office cancellation.
EW: Really! Oh fun.
JC: Sure did. We’d go down to the railroad tracks and play around in the yards there where, down below the compress and up back towards where Mr. Toler had his Gulf Oil place and Mr. C.P. House was there. Been there as long as I can remember.
EW: In the present location?
JC: Um hmm. And there were three tracks and then it branched out into the yards and all the way down there. This is something Cleveland should have tried to save, was that turntable where the steam engines, and later even diesels I guess, would turn around you know. It was a giant, I say giant, to me it was giant, coal tower down there where the engine would pull the tender under there and some railroad worker would fill it with coal. And there was a waterspout just north from the depot across Court, but it was right on the track. And when the trains would come in there they’d swing that thing and turn that water on and fill up, put the water in the tender. And just south of the depot there was a big water tank that seemed like it had shingles around me. I can’t say for sure about that (inaudible) stuff like that. There was also what they called the house track that came off the main line track and behind the depot, you know where the street goes now?
EW: Um hmm.
JC: They’re right there where James Walker’s or somebody has a law office right there, there was a Mr. Solomon who had a coal and transfer business, called “Soloman’s Coal and Transfer” and they would back a coal car in there, a hopper car, and he had this thing that could roll over there, a conveyor belt type thing, and somebody in the coal car would put the coal on the conveyor and it went down into a storage area. And he had a horse that must have been seventy years old – the horse – the wagon and he would go around selling coal to people for heating furnaces.
EW: Neat. So there were still horse and mule drawn vehicles.
JC: He did. He surely did.
EW: What about the ice house? That spur to…
JC: The ice house was up behind the West Implement place. It was the John Deere dealership right at the end of Sharpe Street there where, I don’t know what’s in there.
EW: Where Will Jacks is?
JC: Pawn Shop.
EW: Oh, Pawn Shop.
JC: And behind that, and I know Mr. Tharpe ran that ice house there for a long time. It was between the back of that building now and where the Warehouse Restaurant is today. But yeah, I remember going up there. Daddy would go up there and fill up a drink box you know, and get it crushed and pour it on the soft drinks and put the sandwiches and stuff. But my dad’s dad, this has nothing to do with Cleveland, but my Grandad Correro built the ice house in Drew in 1924. Sure did.
EW: Well it’s suggested that that is the oldest building.
JC: In Cleveland? Could well be. That and that warehouse. But I can remember the days when the railroads were in the heyday and there would be cars on the side there. The Brown’s had a siding and Cleveland Lumber Company was right there where the Entergy office is, and just north of where Brown’s Salvage is now. And they had a spur track that came off there and they’d get lumber and stuff off there and Brown would load up his metal. Nowell Lumber was just north of the Warehouse now and there was a siding there. Concrete Products, the Walker’s, Mr. Walker, Bo Walker had it and sand and stuff like that all the way up.
EW: Do you remember that little cemetery that is there?
JC: North Sharpe? Um hmm.
EW: Do you know why that one was there?
JC: I think it was a black cemetery, I think. Like this one out here on Bishop Road you know by the Presbyterian Church. You know they just had a place out there. I remember the old county home, we called it the Poor Folks Home, on that gravel road going to the Country Club?
EW: Um hmm. Um hmm.
JC: And Mrs. Garrett, who is an aunt to Thomas Harris, the author, she and her husband lived there after it was done away with. And then when somebody died, there were unmarked graves and I don’t know if they have been desecrated but there were 21 graves out there on the north side of Country Club drive. And when they put that addition in I’m afraid that they might have gone through those. But that is where they buried the paupers. No markers there or anything.
CM: What was that building that was the theatre for awhile? What was it used for? The old depot or something?
JC: It came from over at Sherrard or Rena Lara. And it was just moved over there. Of course, that is how it took its name, Whistle Stop. But it was an old…anyway, they brought that in the late ‘50’s I would say. Cause I did the story for the paper about Mrs. McClendon and Mrs. Kossman. Ed was telling me his mother got up on that and helped put roofing on that Whistle Stop Playhouse. And didn’t somebody buy it? Somebody bought it?
EW: I don’t know what the current state of it is. Well Cam, have we come to the end?
CM: I think so. This has been fascinating. Thank you very much.
JC: Well, good. Good. I enjoyed it.
EW: We ought to just send you home with the tape recorder. Well thank you very much for participating today.
JC: I love it. My brother, the first time I ever went hunting, what I call hunting, was where the DSU cafeteria apartments are. Mr. Cork had hogs in there. Pigs. All the way down that back area there. Of course there were no homes back then. There was no cafeteria at Delta State at all. So he would shoot doves in those tree lines. That tree line there.
JC: Yeah. And Bishop Road was a gravel road and was called Hatchery, we called it Hatchery Road but that wasn’t the name of it. That’s where all the high school kids used to park.
EW: If you had a car.
JC: Mr. Cork – the building has finally been torn down but he had a dairy right out here on Sunflower. And you noticed the pecan trees on the north side of Calvary, what is that, Calvary Baptist that is north of the Catholic Church there? That..
EW: All of that was his space?
JC: That was part of the old Cork Farm. And the daughter, or granddaughter owns that property where that strip mall is now. But he had animals there and then our church bought it all. From Sunflower down to the Delta State property and back to the back of Fairfield Subdivision. Then Our Lady of Victories Church sold ten acres to Calvary Baptist Church to move from the other side of town. (inaudible).
EW: Okay. Yep, you do know it all.
EW: You do know it all.
CM: Do you remember anything about any of the churches on Court Street?
JC: Methodist Church has been there as long as I can remember. The Baptist Church was much smaller then, because they have made so many additions to it. It was there. And right across the street was a Pure Oil Station there and next to it was Kennedy Ford. Right there on that corner that faced part of the – well, the edge of the Baptist Church property across was Kennedy Ford and it went all the way down to the stoplight there where the library is now. Before, the library was built, there was a putt-putt golf course there.
EW: Really! I didn’t know about that.
JC: Yeah. Sure was. In fact, my sister and brother-in-law lived in a garage apartment right there, I don’t know if the alley was right behind their house, or their apartment was on the other side of that alley now, between the Episcopal Church and where the library is.
EW: Yeah. Yeah.
JC: And there was a big old house in there somewhere. And I used to go by there and they had a big pear tree. And I’d get a pear going up to the drugstore orgoing to the movie. That was (inaudible). But I do remember as a little child on Fifth Avenue was the last street on the west side of town. And the Hilburn’s had a grocery store, the building, I don’t know, they may have torn the building down, where Fifth Avenue dead ended into Yale?
EW: Um hmm.
JC: The Hilburn’s had a grocery store there.
EW: It’s a church there.
JC: Immanuel Baptist is…
JC: They bought that property.
EW: Got all that subdivision growing back there.
JC: Yeah, that’s only about ten or fifteen years old I guess.
EW: You like how Cleveland is growing?
JC: Oh yeah. I was shocked that it showed a loss of 1,500 on the last census, the most recent.
EW: Doesn’t feel like it.
JC: No. It’s bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s fun being part of it.
EW: Oh definitely. Well thank you again.
Tape cuts off.
END OF DOCUMENT