Interview with Noel and Lynnelle Funchess June 22, 2007 OH# 370
Interviewed by Emily Weaver and Cam McMillen
Transcribed by W. Ray
This is Emily Weaver and Cam McMillen and we are speaking with Noel Funchess and Lynnelle Funchess and we are in the Capps Archives and we are talking about the historic neighborhood in downtown Cleveland.
Do you agree to share with the public any statements that you may make?
EW: Thank you very much. Alright Noel can you state for me your name and spell it for me?
NF: Sure. First name, Noel, N-o-e-l. Last name, Funchess, F-u-n-c-h-e-s-s. Which is technically a Junior, although my father is deceased.
EW: And Lynelle?
LF: Lynnelle. L-y-n-n-e-l-l-e. You don’t want my maiden name?
LF: Mayatte. M-a-y-a-t-t-e Funchess. F-u-n-c-h-e-s-s.
EW: Okay. And all the questions that I ask ya’ll today, you can each answer any way you want to. You can feed off of each other. Don’t feel like anybody has to be silent.
EW: Okay, Noel can you give me your occupation?
EW: And before you retired what did you do?
NF: Nellybelle and I had a dollar store in downtown Cleveland.
EW: And your current residence?
NF: 1210 Farmer Street in Cleveland.
EW: And how long have ya’ll lived there?
NF: Nellybelle has lived there a long time. I just moved in when I came back and romanced her.
LF: Early ‘70’s.
EW: Okay. Alright now we are going to go back to childhood times. Okay, Noel, how long have you lived in Cleveland?
NF: I was born in Cleveland in 1940 at the old Cleveland Hospital just over there where the Nursing School is now. Sat over there I should say.
EW: It’s a bit different isn’t it?
NF: Yes it is.
EW: And Lynnelle would you prefer for me to call you Lynnelle or Nellybelle?
LF: Nellybelle will be fine.
EW: Okay, would you care to share with us when you were born?
LF: I was born in 1941.
EW: And have you always lived in Cleveland as well?
LF: No, I moved here when we – I was in the second grade.
EW: So what year would that have been?
LF: I can’t figure that in my head.
NF: About ’48.
LF: Yeah, about ’48.
EW: Okay, and Noel, growing up in Cleveland, how many different addresses have you lived at?
NF: Oh, in Cleveland, one, two, three, four.
EW: And could you tell me a little bit about where you started out?
NF: Sure, when I was born – I should say five. When I was born my parents lived on Court Street in a house that is no longer there. It was a duplex that has been replaced by some apartments. My first memory from the mid ‘40’s is on Victoria Avenue, about the 300 block as I recall.
NF: South Victoria, yes. Really kind of right behind where Albert Wiggins lives.
EW: Okay, so what was that first memory?
NF: Really, just in that house. Growing up in that area. My father, across the street there were no houses at that time and this was during the war in the early, probably ’43 or ’44 first thing I can remember, and I vividly recall he had a victory garden as so many people did at that time. My father did not serve in WWII, he was older and never drafted. But he had a victory garden I remember at that time. And about 1945 we moved briefly to Tunica, Mississippi and lived there for less than a year before coming back, at which time we moved to Andrews Avenue, right behind Kossman’s in a house there on a corner, right behind where Kossman’s is located today, and lived there for about a year until my father built a house at 700 Maple Street, which is on the corner of Maple and Second Avenue on the northwest corner. It is a two story house. Then about in the early ‘50’s, he built a house on College Street, 725 College Street, and lived there until I graduated from Mississippi State and moved away.
EW: And then your last residence is your current one?
NF: Current one is coming back, when I came back to romance my high school sweetheart here, and I always said you ought to always marry a woman that owns a house.
EW: You did good.
NF: It’s much better than buying a house.
EW: Okay, you’ve talked about your dad and the victory garden, do you remember any of the neighbors that you would have had?
NF: Yes, next to me were the Pleasant’s. Dobie Pleasant was Mr. Pleasant’s first name. His wife was Thelma. He managed the gin that sits there right there where Brown’s Scrap Iron is today. It is no longer there and hasn’t been for years. His wife, I think Thelma may have taught school, but at the time she was a housewife.
LF: She was a graduate of Delta State.
NF: Yeah, she graduated from Delta State about the same time my father did, which was ’20, I’m sorry, ’32 I think, somewhere along in there.
NF: Dobie Pleasant P-l-e-a-s-a-n-t. And his first name was Dobie B-o-b-i-e. He served in World War II through the National Guard. He was away, I remember when he came back home after the war. Randy Pleasant, of course my childhood friend and playmates and we grew up there together. And at that time, running behind those houses, I know James Wiggins referred to it in his write up, there was, he called it a bayou, it was really in my opinion a ditch, that ran diagonally along behind those houses and crossed under Victoria there at about Victoria and College Street. Which it was dry most of the time. The only time it had water in it was when it rained.
EW: Was that the scene of many afternoon activities?
NF: Many afternoon activities after the Ellis Theatre after we had been inspired by Sunset Carson or Roy Rogers or other bad guys who had those six shooters that could shoot twenty-seven times and kill people without drawing a drop of blood.
EW: Right. Right. Well who were some of the folks that you hung out with, played with?
NF: Randy Pleasant who doesn’t live here anymore. Still here, Nicky Griffith still lives here who is married Anita Griffith who has Griffith Real Estate. Nicky has been here that whole time. Ned Mitchell, whom I really didn’t meet until high school age – he moved here from Skene and is still here today. The Denton Family, Joe Denton was my age. He no longer lives here but we grew up together. Butler Denton who runs Denton’s now still lives in Cleveland today, was a little younger, and as most grammar school age, we didn’t have much to do with him other than try to run from him. Mike Sanders who is here was growing up at that time and he is still here. Nell who can you think of that is here today that we grew up today that is still in Cleveland?
LF: Off the top of my head I can’t think.
EW: You’ve named a lot of young men, were there many girls to play with?
NF: Oh yes, yes, yes. The Dalton Family had, gosh Mrs. Dalton must have had about six or eight. Dinky Dalton was my age. Ruby Jean, she married a Newman. (inaudible) But there was a Linda Cates who has recently passed away within the last few years. She was a Ray in later life.
LF: Rachel Marshall.
NF: Rachel Marshall, right.
LF: She went to Hill Dem School.
NF: Rachel Outz she is now. She went to the Dem School over here as I did. Juliet Kossman, the Kossman’s that have lived here long. Juliet Kossman is my age and we grew up together. As a matter of fact, they built right across the street when I lived in the Maple Street house that I mentioned, the Kossman’t built a house right across the street and we played together many, many times. Many, many days.
EW: What are some of the things that ya’ll would do?
NF: At that time, you had a lot of sandbox type toys. Soldier sets, before the days of G.I. Joe which my father always referred to as a doll. He could not understand how I could let my children play with a doll. But toy soldiers, playing in the sandbox. We always had a sandbox out in the front yard that we played in. In the house we had comic books quite often. Children just made up games in those days. Anything from hide and seek, I know many times growing up a quite popular game was called Hide and Seek. Which is nothing more than one person taking off and hiding and everybody else trying to find him. And this of course was at night which made it harder to find them. And that was all through the neighborhood and would branch over to probably a five square block area there on Maple Street. Jimmy Logan who no lives here was a neighbor who lived right in that neighborhood. Nicky Griffith I mentioned earlier, lived right up the street.
LF: Lloyd Brown.
NF: Yes Lloyd Brown who still lives here. The Brown’s lived across the street when I was on Maple Street. They were on Second Avenue in a house there. His sister, Helen, was a little older, Lloyd was a couple of years older than I, and Helen was one year older. And they had two younger sisters, Robert Ann Brown was your age I believe, no excuse me, Audrey was your age. Audrey Brown was my wife’s age, one year younger, and then there was a Robert Ann Brown who was two or three years younger. And I think they are still in the area but I’m not sure just where.
EW: So most of the children you played with were about your same age?
NF: Um hmm. It tended to be pretty close together. It grammar school it ranged a little bit. We had cub scouts in those days and that used to meet at our house. My mother was a den mother.
EW: On Maple Street?
NF: On Maple Street right. Interestingly Mrs. Kossman always told a story about my mother how she convinced her to be a den mother when she didn’t have a child Cub Scout age. Mrs. Kossman was a den mother as well. Chester and Chuck, her children, were both younger than the Cub Scout age at that time. But we had Cub Scout meetings at the house and those games would generally consist of just playing outdoors with a ball, throwing it and being creative.
EW: You’ve mentioned about twenty names here, so that was a pretty big group that would just roam the neighborhood. So it was very easy for you to go house to house, yard to yard.
NF: Yes, yes, yes.
EW: What sort of rules did you have?
NF: What time to be home and that sort of thing?
NF: Oh you had to be home, you had to come home before dark and let them know what was going on, but if you wanted to go outside and play, I don’t remember a specific time of having to be home, but it was just kind of understood that there was a bedtime of around nine or ten o’clock and you were going to be home by then. Everybody was ready to go home by then anyway, they were tired. One thing I remember quite well from those days back in Cleveland, late ‘40’s in Cleveland, virtually every boy at least, and maybe girl’s too now, had their dogs, and dogs just followed them everywhere. And everywhere you went you’d see, well that’s Nicky and his dog, and that’s Noel and his dog or John and his dog. And most boys had a dog and they just ran free. There was never any problem. Very very seldom did you have any problems getting into fights, or biting anybody or anything like that, it just didn’t happen.
EW: How sweet. Were there any neighbors or any yards that you just knew not to go in there.
NF: Well Mrs. Glassco lived on the corner and everybody respected Mrs. Glasco. Although she was a wonderful lady and taught everyone a great deal…
EW: What corner?
NF: She lived on the corner of Second Avenue and Court…
LF: On the south side.
NF: On the south side, right. And I was talking with Ed Kossman, another fellow that I grew up with. I told him this morning about Mrs. Glassco. We were commenting on what a wonderful teacher she was for everyone. And my first remembrance of her, I was playing in her yard and she had an old garage in the back that was so separated from her house that at the age of six and seven, I didn’t think the two were connected. The garage which looked abandoned to me didn’t belong to anybody in my mind. So I threw some rocks through a window in this abandoned garage and broke it. And I saw this lady come to the back door and I started to run and she called my name and says, “Noel, stop.” And I said, “Uh oh, no use to run because she was just going to call my daddy and I’m in deep trouble.” So I stopped. And it was Mrs. Glassco. And she called me back over there and she explained that it was the wrong thing to do and sent me over to pick up the glass and put it in a neat stack and told me that if I did that and went home she would not tell my parents and I should never do that again. And I always remember that lesson.
EW: Now you don’t break windows.
NF: I don’t break windows.
EW: That was a good one.
LF: Another thing we did a lot was go to Fireman’s Park. There was – during the day time during the summer months especially, there was some type of planned activity at Fireman’s Parks.
EW: And who would organize those?
LF: The city.
EW: Really, so the city….
LF: You could take your pet and there’d be a pet show going on, or they had some type of little craft things to do or the wading pool was there.
NF: There was a building there that is no longer there that was sort of a central meeting place if you will, where you had the crafts that you talked about, and had rest rooms and during the summer it was open and had someone there, college age student probably that was working for the summer, herding the kids and organizing the kids Nellybelle was talking about.
CM: When you were roaming around with your friends, how far could you go?
NF: Pretty much as far as you wanted to.
LF: I couldn’t. Fireman’s Park was as far as I could go.
NF: Okay, well for guys…
LF: That way. You’d get into heavy traffic when you got to Court Street.
NF: Right. There was – I don’t specifically recall limits, but it wasn’t across Highway 61 out there for example, that was too dangerous. You just wouldn’t have done it, it wasn’t a matter of forbidden.
LF: You weren’t told not to.
NF: You weren’t told not to, you didn’t want to go that far. There was enough to do close to home that you didn’t have to range more than six or eight blocks away. And you tended to have friends that lived within this bicycle range so to speak.
EW: I was about to ask.
NF: Oh yes, everybody had a bicycle.
LF: Oh yes.
NF: And those days you didn’t worry about where you left it. It would always be right where you left it. When you came back to get it, nobody would borrow it. The Ellis Theatre. You could drive by the Ellis Theatre on a Saturday afternoon and there would be thirty or forty bicycles parked out front. Waiting for their owner to come out and ride home.
LF: My parents never locked the house unless for some reason we were going out of town for a week or so.
LF: Then they might lock the doors.
EW: Okay, can we go over where you lived? Where did you – you said you moved here in the second grade?
LF: When we first moved here I lived on east Highway 8, on the east side of town about where the nursing home is out there now.
LF: Then we moved on 222 North Third and then we moved to 700 Deering Street. My family bought a house actually from Noel’s father. He was working in the Cleveland Lumber yard at that time. And our house on 700 Deering Street for a long time was the only one out there. There were cotton fields all in front of us.
EW: Oh really? Okay.
LF: And it only went one block to the west.
EW: When was that?
LF: That would have been late ‘40’s or early ‘50’s. Early ‘50’s. Cause Deering and Farmer and all those streets didn’t…
NF: Didn’t go through.
LF: Didn’t go through. They didn’t go past Fifth Avenue.
NF: They stopped at Fifth going to the west. And coming in from Fifth only went like Nelle said, for only a few blocks and then they would be riding in somebody’s cotton field. All that area out there when you went south of Fireman’s Park was cotton fields in the late ‘40’s.
EW: So you’ve seen all this develop?
NF: Oh yes.
EW: (inaudible). Did you ever expect it would be the size it is now?
NF: Never thought about it. As a child it was something that never entered your mind what Cleveland would be like years from now. But if you had asked me I would probably have been surprised.
LF: I was trying to remember, after I – in later years after I graduation and after I married I went and lived on University and Harvard which was about one block apart, and then I bought over a house at 1210 Farmer Street in the early ‘70’s and I haven’t moved since.
EW: It’s been good for you hasn’t it?
EW: Okay let’s talk about maybe some of the special times around the year downtown. Would there have been festivals for the 4th of July, special decorations for Halloween, and Christmas.
LF: Christmas was decorated downtown, but I don’t remember any other.
NF: Halloween was not a decorated event in our childhood years. In those days Halloween was a trick or treat thing that children went out alone to trick or treat and parents didn’t carry their children around. And you just trick or treated to get some candy or whatever. Nobody decorated their front yard as you see today, and there was no Halloween decoration per say.
EW: Probably no fear of bad stuff in homemade candy.
NF: Oh no, that all came much much later. I was probably in high school or later before you started hearing about children having to watch what they were given and children being abducted and that sort of thing. It never even came up.
LF: Well in the radius that we played in the majority of the mothers were at home during the day. People weren’t working. And all the mothers in the vicinity that these children played in, they looked out after these kids. So if you were eight houses down from where you lived, the mother that’s in that house, she knows you’re in her yard and blah, blah, and playing with all these kids. And if something happened she tells your mother.
EW: Good or bad.
LF: Good or bad.
EW: And the news was going to reach your mama before you go back.
LF: You can bet by the time you got home, punishment was already laid out for you.
EW: Well I have one more quick question about Halloween. Was there ever a scary house?
NF: The high school had one. In fact, now that I think about it, the high school did have on Halloween night, and it was designed to give the children something to do to keep them from getting into so much mischief. But they put on a Halloween Carnival it was called. It was a fund raiser really for the senior classes because those were the days when we took senior trips and you had fun houses. They’d take usually one of the old shop buildings and cover the windows up with cardboard and make scary paths to walk around in the dark and that sort of thing. And they also had games where you would toss feed bags or those sorts of things and for little tike prizes.
LF: Fishing, Go Fishing, those games.
CM: Did they have the scary part where they walked through and saw the eyeballs?
NF: Yeah, those sort of things. That would be what whoever did the funhouse it was up to them to come up with creative ideas as to what they would put in there. The grapes in the bowl for eyeballs and whatever. But,…
CM: Where did you go on your senior trip?
NF: Ours was the first class at Cleveland High School in 1958 that did not go on a senior trip. We were mad!
EW: Oh no! You must not have (inaudible).
NF: The class of ’57 – well they had been saying for years that they were cutting out the senior trips but each class was able to push forth and save enough money and go and we were working on the same thing and we had raised quite a bit of money in fact. The idea that we were going to raise enough money that everyone could go without their parents having to pay, cause that was one of the objections. Some of the children couldn’t afford to go and others could and it was discriminatory. So anyway we were the first ones – they succeeded in eliminating the senior trips.
CM: So what did you do with the money you raised?
NF: We donated it to the school, they were supposed to do something with it, put a plaque on it, but that money went into the general fund.
EW: Were there any – ya’ll obviously were the good children, ya’ll never got into trouble when you ran around and played? Were there any of those notorious friends that who no matter what they did, they were going to get into trouble. Or find a way to get into trouble.
NF: None whose name I would like to put on tape.
EW: Well could you tell me about maybe some of the incidents, the activities. Maybe is this the time for the Delta State Post Office story?
NF: Oh the Post Office story, yeah. I can tell the Post Office story. I won’t necessarily mention other names because some of those people are still – the former president’s younger brother was involved, so I won’t mention that. But Delta State at that time had a number of buildings on the campus which was, if you have ever seen some pictures of the 1940 Army bases, there was these two story wooden buildings that were barracks. After the war these things were pretty much available and Delta State among other schools moved these things in large numbers to be used for everything from classrooms to whatever.
LF: Married apartments.
NF: Married apartments and so forth. And one of these was the Post Office. And we had been to the Ellis Theatre and had seen some kind of movie about Post Office robbery. So we decided we should rob the Post Office. And we succeeded in reaching into a few mail boxes and reached around through the front into the back and pulled some letters out from this and right across the hallway was a cleaning closet. And we were so smart that we went right over there to tear the things open looking for money. Figuring the parents were going to be sending money to their children and we were going to steal it. Anyway we opened a number of pieces of mail and ended up leaving. Well it probably took them all of thirty minutes to figure out what had happened. They actually did call the FBI, and I recall an actual issue of the Delta Statement, I forget which one back in 1947 that mentioned the FBI was investigating postal thievery at Delta State. We were rather severely punished for this. It was considered quite severe at the time,
CM: Post Office heist.
NF: Yeah, the great Post Office heist.
LF: You didn’t get any money.
NF: No, there was never any money. I don’t think at that time parents didn’t’ send their children money in those days.
EW: They wired it. Alright, so ya’ll were good children.
NF: Pretty much.
EW: What was your favorite place to hang out as you got older? I guess backyards would have been it for awhile.
NF: Growing up, across from the Ellis Theatre there was a drive in called Bob’s Drive Inn, which was quite the hangout in the late ‘40’s. Up the street was Brock’s Café which is where the Attorney’s office, Griffith’s Attorney is now this was a café. That was kind of a hangout place. Anything close to the Ellis Theatre there was a main source of entertainment in the late ‘40’s. And across from Sharpe Avenue where the vacant space is now, between the Grover’s Hotel and Grover’s Corner was a theatre there during this period called the Regent. And then further down at the other end of the street where the furniture store is today, right next to the corner where Warner Cable is, was a third theatre called Wesco.
CM: (inaudible) owned?
NF: No. Mr. Ellis built them and owned all three at that time. Then later Mr. Ellis sold them to perhaps Davis or whomever.
CM: (inaudible) Davis owned theatres, a couple of theatres.
NF: Mr. Ellis may have bought it from them, I really don’t know. I know the Ellis Theatre was named for a Mr. Ellis. One thing that I recall, every year at Christmas he would show cartoons all one Saturday and kids could get in free and he would dress up in a Santa suit and sit in the lobby and hand out popcorn to the children as they came through.
LF: Well when was the Booker T. built?
NF: I’m not sure but it was there the whole time as far as I know. That was during the days of segregation when you had the black, colored as they would have preferred to have been called then, on one side of town and the whites lived on the other. And there was a theatre called the Booker T. Although the other theatres had, it was segregated seating, a black area in the balcony which opened to black families who wanted to come to the movies.
CM: (inaudible) black theatre in one of the others?
LF: It could very well be.
NF: That probably is true, I just don’t know for sure. I just know Mr. Ellis owned theatres and I thought he owned the Regent.
CM: Did ya’ll go to the Keen Freeze?
NF: The Keen Freeze was a major hangout across from the high school there. That was owned by several different people. I think Mr. Nance was the one that I recall personally most vividly. But there were other families that owned it at various times.
EW: Across from the high school?
NF: Across from the high school, yes, there is a little strip mall that has been put in there now. Some lawyer’s offices and…
EW: Oh is that where Lynn Pace is now?
NF: Yes, yes, that was a drive through.
CM: They had a famous hamburger. Keen Freeze hamburger.
NF: Yes, hamburgers, the drive. They first opened as a pure drive-up. You drove up to the window and went to the window and carried it off yourself. And then later they added on to it and built a little dining room where you could actually go in and sit down and order hamburgers and stuff.
CM: How old were you when you got your first drivers’ license?
NF: Fifteen. That was the age at that time.
LF: I don’t remember if I was fifteen or sixteen.
EW: Okay, you got your drivers’ license so could you drive? Or what did you drive?
LF: Oh, I took Drivers’ Education. Coach Meadors at the high school taught me. I learned to change a tire, change the oil in the car. Knew where the spark plugs were. We learned inside the hood and learned how to do maintenance on the car I think. Of course now days it is so computerized it wouldn’t do. We learned all that in Drivers’ Education.
CM: When you started driving did your home start to change?
NF: Not really. My folks were funny about driving. They didn’t mind me taking the car to do something, but they didn’t allow me to just take the car and ride around. That was forbidden. That was a no-no. You ran errands or delivered things here and there and yonder and whatever. I do recall interesting, they talk about how times change. The drivers’ test was given by the State Highway Patrol, at now what is now the city hall, and I guess it is still the city hall now, but made somewhat different back in those times. The water tower was down there. And I recall one time going down with my father on I believe my fifteenth birthday and the driving test consisted of the Highway Patrol turning to my father and saying, “He can drive can’t he?” And my father said, “Yes” and that was the driving test that I was required to take.
EW: Do you think he – they were afraid to get in the car with you?
NF: That might have been it. Might have been it.
CM: What did ya’ll do in high school to entertain yourself?
LF: Sock hops on Friday night after the home football game. In the old girls gym.
EW: What are some special times, special memories for you there? Just going?
LF: Just going and dancing with everybody and dancing of course.
NF: Football games were big social events Friday nights. Home games anyway. We didn’t travel around that much, or follow the high school football team like folks do nowadays I think. We just didn’t drive around quite as much as people do now.
CM: What extra curricular activities did ya’ll do in high school?
NF: I worked after school just for spending money pretty much the whole time and was really not that active. I went out for baseball one year and football one year. And after one year of each decided that…
CM: Where did you work?
NF: Cleveland Lumber Company. My father was the manager of the lumber company and I walked right there from school. It was walking distance. I worked there after school and on Saturday’s they worked until noon.
CM: Where was it then?
NF: It was where – Brown Scrap Iron has bought the place now, but that was before Cleveland Lumber moved out to the highway. That’s when it was located there. And briefly later in high school I worked at Mistlelow Gardens. They had an old purple panel truck and I would deliver flowers. At that particular time as I recall there were a lot more people would order flowers delivered to residences or the hospital here or there than you see today.
EW: But you’re sitting by your high school sweetheart. Did you ever deliver any flowers?
NF: I always took a corsage before a major dance and I brought that with me when I came. That was sort of a ritualistic thing. I think it was kind of mandatory if you were going to take your girl you had to have a corsage.
LF: He certainly would not come to pick me up to take me to a Red Top Dance without bringing me a corsage.
EW: Red Top Dance?
LF: The Red Tops were great. They were a band that played. They were all black. They were originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi but they played the delta and I think they went over into Louisiana and Alabama some, but they played for a lot of dances and social events in the delta.
NF: Rosedale Courthouse was a major scene of that what was the courtroom, well it is still the courtroom.
NF: Just moved the chairs back. Elsewhere in Cleveland for example, the gym would be used. The high school gym. Later years after the Country Club opened occasionally there would be dances at the Country Club.
EW: Were there any issues that the Red Sox were a black group?
NF: No, but under the social mores at the time, they very much stayed to themselves. In fact, the fellow who ran them was adamant that he did not want his band members to talk to any of these white people. Cause he knew there was some element out there, especially with young girls who were going to get very upset if they started flirting for want of another word, with young white girls. So they were very well behaved in the sense of segregating themselves from. You didn’t hardly engage one in conversation between plays.
CM: What did you do, what extra-curricular activities did you do in high school?
LF: In the fall it was Pep Squad. At Cleveland High School there was the band and then there were two groups of girls that formed what they called Pep Squad. And they did about twenty to a group, so it would be about forty of the girls, high school girls involved. And they would split up into two groups and I marched in that. We performed with the band at halftime ballgames. And then I played basketball.
CM: And tell us about you and Noel dating?
LF: Okay, we would go to the Ellis most of the time because it was a little nicer theatre than the Wesco or the Regent. And at times, sometimes we would be dropped off. In other words his parents would drop him off and I would be dropped off. And other times his mom would pick me up and take us. And then it got to the point where they would let us go in the car. But ya’ll must remember, there was only one car to a family and you didn’t have access to the car like the young people do now. You only got to go in the car when your parents were not using it, and the majority of the time, the father was using the car in the daytime to go to work and occasionally you could use it at night. My father had a rule you could not go out on a school night unless it was connected to the schoolhouse. A ballgame, or choir practice or something of that. You didn’t go out to the movies or anywhere like that during a week night. It was just on the weekends.
CM: Was there any day of the week that everybody went to the movies like Saturday afternoon or Wednesday night or something that everybody was at the movies?
LF: Well when we were younger, Saturday afternoon you would go stand in line when they opened up the ticket window and you got a ticket, you didn’t come out, you just kept sitting through the movie until your parents came back and picked you up at 8:30 or 9:00. You could continue to watch the same movie over and over, the news reel and the short story that they would do. The little serial they would do.
NF: Um hmm. They would have serials. Sure did.
EW: What about spending the night with each other, not ya’ll two, but like your friends. Did you ever go over and just stay the night?
LF: Oh in high school we had what we called “Supper Club.” And we would meet at one of the parents house each Friday night, a group of about ten to fifteen girls and the parents would prepare hamburgers or hotdogs or some type of light meal. We would eat and most of the times it would be a football game that we would go to that. Then come back to that parents house and have we called a slumber party. We’d spend the night and sleeping on the floor or in chairs or bathtub. Wherever you could find a place to lay down.
CM: Who were some of the people that you were friends with. We talked about Noel.
LF: Oh gee. Well he and I had some of the same friends.
NF: Joyce Logan.
LF: Yeah, Joyce Logan. Rachel Marshall she was, she’s Rachel Outz now. Corrinne Wiggins, Kay Beevers, Shirley Salmon.
EW: These were kind of the girls that you ran with?
LF: Yeah, uh huh, I think once they consolidated schools our junior year, Anita Reed Griffith came from O’Reilly. But that was, we were juniors that year when they Boyle School closed and came to Cleveland. There were some girls from Merigold that came in at that time. Mary Beth Howell, gee whiz, I’m trying to think.
EW: Well was there anybody’s house that if you went over there you knew you would have a good time. Like their parents would let you have fun.
LF: Oh, I know another one. Barbara Boswell she was. She’s married to G.R. Harden now. Oh her mother could make the best homemade biscuits. I mean, yes. We always had a good time. They lived out on McKnight Road out in the country. We’d go out there and eat and play and ride horses, swim in the rice ditch.
EW: Oh, that sounds safe.
LF: Yes. It was. We thought.
EW: No snakes there.
LF: Uh uh. No. Uh hmm.
EW: Okay, so we are kind of in the country, were there people who had maybe chickens or anything in their back yards?
NF: I don’t remember the back yard as much. I do recall earlier years when the Modern Store on Main Street sold live chickens. When you bought chicken, if you were going to cook a chicken at home, they had inside the store a little bin, live chickens that they would take out, turn upside down and tie their feet together, which somehow calmed them I guess. And then you carried this live chicken home which they would then take out into the back yard and wring its neck.
EW: Oh, that sounds like fun.
NF: Then boil it and get the feathers off and…
EW: Did you ever have that chicken?
NF: Oh yeah. That’s the only way we got chicken. If you were going to have chicken, that was in the days before frozen foods in the ‘40’s.
LF: Oh yeah, at my grandmother’s we’d go out early in the morning and she caught a chicken and wrung its neck and dipped it in the water. We plucked that sucker and fried it and cooked it and had it for lunch.
LF: There was no going to the grocery store and picking up one already cut up in little pieces, boneless.
EW: Not so quite pretty and neat as we have now. I have a couple of questions about James Albert Wiggins. Do you have any further questions yet?
CM: Not that I know.
EW: My first question after reading James Albert Wiggins stuff, did that stir any specific memories or…?
NF: I made some marks on my copy. Yes, I thought it was very good and very interesting. He did mention, and when he was talking about the names of Cleveland, I was under the impression that Cleveland was first named Coleman Station, but he didn’t make any mention of that in his write-up. So I’m a little curious about that. And he mentioned Rosedale being the first county seat, and I was thinking Prentiss was the first county seat.
EW: They were back and back, back and forth.
NF: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking about. He was talking about the mule barns and in fact I recently was talking to John Brown who has Brown Scrap Iron down there and the barn is still there, and he was telling me just recently that the stalls are still inside that building. They have never been taken out. Apparently he’s never remodeled the inside of that thing or done anything with it. Where Brown has his scrap iron service, there is a big metal barn there.
LF: That used to be a mule barn.
NF: Yeah, they sold – had mule auctions once a week – had live mules there that they sold and so forth. And that’s what he was saying, the barns are still in – excuse me the stalls are still in there. And I was asking him and he said the last actual sale of mules took place in the very early ‘50’s. Probably the last time any mules were dealt with. I do recall my grandfather on Maple Street next door to where we lived always planted a very large garden. He had a big plot next to his house. And he would hire a man that used to walk over from east side with a mule, walked over there with a mule and a plow and break that field up for his garden to save him having to hoe and do it himself and that sort of thing. In the late ‘40’s is the last time I recall a live mule being used in a field.
EW: Would he do that for anybody else?
NF: Oh yes, he would have done it for anybody at the time. Sort of call him up and rent his mule.
EW: Because everybody would have had a vegetable garden.
NF: A lot of people would, yes. A lot of people would.
CM: Did everybody have phones?
NF: Yes, phones had been around even in the days when Cleveland had operators. When you picked up the phone and tell them who you wanted to call. I can’t remember not having a telephone. Even in the early ‘40’s we had a telephone.
LF: Tell her what your number was.
NF: 162W. I can’t remember where the car keys are but I remember my telephone from 1940. If you had a letter on the end of it, that meant you were on a party line. Which meant of course that someone shared that line and if you picked up the line and someone was talking, you were politely supposed to hang up. Of course being a child, children are often want to listen in. But at any rate, there was a certain numbered ring that we’d have when it was supposed to be for you and your phone. And then a different ring for the other party.
EW: Did you ever hear anything interesting?
NF: No, I’m afraid not. Well, how about you?
LF: I don’t remember our first telephone number.
EW: Was it a party line?
LF: Yes, it was. And we were lectured repeatedly about not picking up the phone and if someone else was talking to hang up immediately, very softly, you don’t slam the receiver down. And then you wait more than four minutes before you pick it up again.
NF: Yes, you would have one phone in your house, in fact I – the house on Maple Street was a two-story house, and my father designed it so that the telephone – the houses at that time were built with a little alcove in the wall that held the telephone. That’s where your telephone sat. And on the stair landing going to the second floor is where he put this phone thing, so that whether you were upstairs or downstairs you could get mid way to this telephone more or less in the center of the house. There was only one phone.
LF: Yes. Only one telephone in your house.
EW: And one bathroom.
LF: One bathroom.
NF: Typically yes, one bathroom. That’s right.
LF: And one plug-in in the bathroom.
LF: It didn’t accommodate all these blow dryers and curling irons.
NF: There was no such thing as a hand held hair dryer.
EW: What about air conditioners?
NF: The first air conditioner that I remember were the early ‘50’s. That I can recall – home air conditioners. Buildings became air conditioned in the ‘40’s I think, businesses, and there always a big sign out front telling you that they were air conditioned. But homes, probably the early ‘50’s, when they started to get window air conditioners. I think I recall the Carpenter’s who lived over on Leflore that had the first central air conditioning that I remember.
EW: Oh wow.
NF: At the time which would have been early ’50’s.
EW: So you would have had to have the big window, the attic fans?
NF: Every home was built with an attic fan and you just opened the windows and I don’t remember it being especially hot.
LF: Well it was.
CM: The mosquitoes were not as bad as they are now.
NF: We were talking about that the other day. I don’t think so. And we were talking about he mosquitoes, we were talking the other night, we don’t think it was. The rice farmers say it’s not the rice fields, but for some reason there seems to be a lot of mosquitoes now. Now one thing they had in those days was DDT. But the trucks came around with those foggers. And if DDT was going to hurt you, all the kids in Cleveland that grew up in the ‘40’s would be dead because following around in the fog behind the DDT truck. And this was thick fog, not like you have today. And just riding in it for fun.
LF: And he’s said riding, he’s speaking of riding a bicycle.
NF: Bicycle. Yes, yes. But at any rate, the DDT was perhaps more effective, I don’t know. No, the mosquitoes were here, they were bad, they would run you indoors sometimes, but nothing like today.
CM: Did you spend a lot of time outside on porches or in the yard with neighbors?
NF: Um hmm. Yes. Porches of course were screened. So mosquitoes weren’t a problem there. And playing outside was typically right at dark would tend to get heavy mosquitoes.
LF: But not as bad as today because we used to – Rachel and myself and Shirley used to camp out in our back yard. And Mother would just take the quilts and throw them over the clothesline to make a tent for us to sleep out – camp out as we called it. I know the mosquitoes weren’t as bad then as they are now. It’s just no way that we could have slept outside in the grass.
EW: And Deering would have been very close to city limits.
LF: Yeah. We were.
EW: By the fields.
LF: We were. But the stuff they sprayed that cotton with might have been ….
LF: Yeah, there might have been some DDT in that killed the mosquitoes.
EW: Oh yeah. Were all the houses, typically when your dad built his house did he build it with a porch? Had to have a porch cause that was like an outside room?
Did both of you have porches?
NF: The house on Maple Street did have a large porch, but no, not all of them, your house on Deering did not. When they built the house on College Street it did not have a porch, screened porch in the sense that we are talking about. But they were common then, the screen porches.
EW: Good place. And I’ve heard of sleeping porches.
LF: My grandma had a sleeping porch. But we didn’t have patios the way you think of a patio today. But there was a certain spot in the yard where the lawn chairs were set up and some little, old, I call them coca-cola cases, or some type of wooden box thing to use for tables, where my parents would sit out there. On Sunday afternoons most of the time my father made homemade ice cream. And we were sitting in the grass, the chairs and all that. It was not a concrete slab or a wooden deck or anything. And we’d stay out there until after dark.
EW: Just hanging out with your family?
LF: Yes, yes. I can remember sitting out there and you could see the Sputnik when it went over.
EW: Oh really?
NF: You talking about homemade ice cream, I recall too that a landmark in Cleveland was the old ice house that sat in really what is now the parking lot to the Warehouse Restaurant. But in that open area right there sat what was called the Ice House. Denton’s owned it and ran it. And you could buy blocks of ice. I think a small block was a nickel. That was enough to do a thing of homemade ice cream. A nickel block of ice was probably six inches square by a foot and a half long. And it went all the way up to probably a hundred pounds twice for people that had commercial uses for these sorts of things. And during the watermelon season they would take cold watermelon kept inside the icehouse that you could go down and pick yourself out a watermelon and they would plug it for you so you could take a look at the inside so you could make sure it was a good watermelon before you took it home. And people ate quite a lot more watermelon I think than people do these days, at least here in Cleveland.
EW: Well if they kept it on ice like that I think I’d eat it more.
NF: Yes, you’re right. I think that was the big attraction.
EW: It’s already cold, so much faster than your Frigidaire right now.
EW: That’s right. That’s true. Okay, the railroad. Are there any memories for ya’ll about the railroad being in town? Was it used a major form of transportation for ya’ll or family?
NF: I can remember riding on it, and we took trips to Memphis occasionally, but it was not a common.
LF: I remember taking a trip on it.
EW: Did you ever put pennies on the track?
NF: Oh yes. Every year the Boy Scouts used to camp downtown on what is now the Green Strip. And once a year, that was in the days of parking meters, once a year they would let the boys give out tickets. And they’d give you a ticket book working with the City Police, you’d walk around and wait for somebody’s parking meter to expire and write them a ticket. Of course I don’t think they ever tried to follow up on those. People came in and paid the fine and that was fine, if they didn’t they didn’t worry about it. We would spend the night down there and the trains at that time would come through at least two trains a night. By that I’m talking 10:00 and 2:00 in the morning and that sort of thing. And yes, we would always have to have a penny or something on the track to watch it get smashed flat. Occasionally we would take some lard and put on the track to make the wheels spin, but that, it really didn’t cause the train any problems. We would just watch the wheels spin and that thrilled us young kids.
CM: Did you ever as young kids at night drive down and see the train?
NF: Trains weren’t that uncommon. In fact, I recall the last trains came through Cleveland when we had the store downtown. Once a week a flat car would back in from down at Leland and get a load of scrap iron from Brown’s and leave. You could almost count on it. I forget what day it was. But that ended somewhere there in the mid ‘90’s was the last time that they came. And after that is when they abandoned the line so to speak.
LF: I can remember when I was in high school. Occasionally Coach Wade would send me to the grocery store. There was a certain type coffee that she kept made in her office in the girl’s gym. And it was a certain brand that had a star on it. And she saved these stars and you got so much built up till you got some type of prize. She had sent me to the grocery store which was on the east side of the railroad track during my gym class, “Lynnelle go over there and get me a five pound can and bring it back.” “Yes ma’am.”
EW: How did you get there?
LF: In her car. This was high school. Then I got the coffee, got back in the car, and the train was on the tracks and I could not get across the tracks to get back to the high school. And I was late getting back and Mrs. Glassco was my next class, my English class, and I was late. And I can remember Coach Wade had to write me an excuse so she would let me in class because she did not believe that I had gone in Coach Wade’s car to the grocery store.
EW: Did that happen more than once?
LF: No, that’s all. That incident only happened to me one time. Then another time though, Betty Barrett which played basketball, she and Gloria Sullivan, they lived on the east side of town. And the basketball team was leaving to go somewhere to play a game. And we were supposed to be at the girls’ gym at such and such time and Coach Wade was very punctual. That was her – she was a lady, but everybody should be on time. There was no excuse for being late. But at any rate, they were late arriving. And that was what happened to them, they got caught on the east side of the track and a freight train was coming through, and of course there was no way to get through and they were about ten or fifteen minutes late.
NF: Now you had one or two trains a day that simply shut off the east from west Cleveland when the train came through. Cause the freight train would take, I’m going to guess ten minutes to pass. So for ten minutes you could not cross.
CM: (inaudible) people living on the east side was not as divided as it is today.
NF: I think it was as divided…
LF: A lot of people farmed on the east side.
NF: Yeah, but they were, you’ve got to remember the whole town had grown. So you’ve got an east side of Cleveland that’s predominantly black today that goes – was cotton field just like the west side of Cleveland was cotton fields then. But that side of the railroad track was the black part of town which if I recall, the blacks at that time were colored as they preferred to be called, referred to as the quarters. That was the term that they would use to refer to that part of town. But there were white families on that side of town. The railroad track was not a firm dividing point per say.
LF: There was a lot of people living on the east side that did farm, their families farmed family land.
EW: Was that between the railroad and where 61 is now, did they live in that space, or would they have lived even further on the outside of 61.
LF: On the other side of 61.
NF: Some on the other side. I mean Andrews was where I grew up is right behind Kossman’s. That was all a white section of town at that time. White and black sections of town were quite close to each other. It’s just starting at this street black families lived and starting at this street white families would live. And they were just separated themselves.
EW: Just feels like it kind of maybe shifted a little bit to where it feels like the railroad today is a barrier between us.
NF: I think it is. I think it is because areas there, as I said, the Andrews section of town is completely black today. Friends of mine that lived along the east side of Sharpe Avenue there, Linda Cates that I mentioned growing up lived along there, and that’s all black section of town today. Demographics change.
EW: In one of the History’s of Bolivar County, or maybe it was Reflections, and it talks about Saturday night downtown would be just a huge social arena.
LF: Oh yeah. Saturday afternoon late. Yeah. (inaudible) Saturday.
EW: Was that not more of your mom and dad day or would that have been the teenagers?
LF: Well I can remember, it was my mom and dad because dad had the car all week. So he and mother and they drug us along cause we couldn’t stay home by ourselves I guess, I don’t know, but anyway we’d go out and mother would do her dry goods shopping. If she needed some thread or material, or we needed a pair of jeans or whatever. And then the last thing – all that type shopping would get done and if any medicine had to be bought at the drugstore – and then the last thing she would do would be go to the grocery store. Which all of these were on Sharpe Avenue. She’d do the grocery shopping and then we would go home. But usually my brother and I had to sit in the car with my father. He took a book and he sat in the car and read and we would what we referred to as “people watched.” All the different people that were downtown walking down the sidewalk. That was our entertainment.
NF: Saturday was a big shopping day. Downtown Cleveland was just jammed. That was like later years the parking meters came in because they had to move cars through so people could get in to shop. Most of the stores along Sharpe had these wind out canvas awnings that late afternoon they would lower to keep the afternoon sun from coming in through the windows while people shopped. I don’t recall how late – I assume they stayed open late.
LF: Some of them stayed really late. At least till 10:00.
NF: We weren’t down there but shopping Saturday was a major, major day. Much more so than today because people worked. And like Nell said, the women who stayed home didn’t have cars, their husband had the car if they were working, So on Saturday when everybody was there and they had the car and daddy was home, they’d go shopping.
CM: Was there any kind of public transportation?
LF: Not in Cleveland.
NF: For a very brief time in the ‘50’s some fellow out of Greenville tried to run a city bus. And it ran for part of one summer but I think it was something that people weren’t used to and it never drew the kind of ridership. People had not – you have to plan your life around public transportation if it’s going to be effective and Cleveland had never had it and people had already made whatever arrangements they made.
EW: More relaxed lifestyle.
CM: Were there taxis?
NF: Oh yes, yes. There were taxis. Twenty-five cents and you could go anywhere in Cleveland. The taxi stand, one that I remember so much was right there where the old Gulf station is closed, down next to the Ellis where they are doing the arts thing. Right behind it was a very small, I’d say 6’ by 6’ building was the dispatcher if you will. City Taxis I believe it was.
LF: City Taxis.
NF: There was more than one taxi company. There was no meters. There was flat rate. Twenty-five cents they’d pick you up and take you anywhere in Cleveland within the city limits, and dropped you off for a quarter. And also those were in the dry days in Mississippi. It was dry. And for twenty-five cents plus the price of a bottle of whiskey, you could call the taxi company and they would go over to the Do Drop Inn or one of the other places along Highway 61 out there and pick you up and whatever kind of whiskey you wanted and bring it to you for twenty-five cents plus whatever the whiskey cost.
EW: Oh my!
NF: Adults only, they wouldn’t do that for children. I don’t mean that. But my parents. I can remember my mother ordering her a new bottle of Old Crow from time to time.
LF: Well she would have never gone to the liquor store anyway. Women did not go into any type of liquor store.
EW: There would not have been beer battered French fries and beer batter pickles or anything like that?
NF: Probably not.
LF: Probably not, but women just did not go to places like the liquor store. That would be really tabu.
EW: And obviously probably everybody knew everybody they would know quickly.
LF: Oh yeah, before you got back home.
CM: Were you involved in church activities?
NF: In high school yeah, my parents were active, they just kind of drug me along I guess. Like most kids, whatever their parents were doing, the kids are doing too. My parents were in the Baptist Church growing up and I think at that time you were too.
NF: You were in the choir. I have a picture of you in my choir robe would you believe it? It was just a way of getting Nellybelle out of the house on Wednesday night. Her daddy would allow that to go to choir practice. And sometimes there was a little while after choir practice was over before she got home.
EW: Oh Noel! Can you sing?
NF: But not too long.
CM: Was that part of your social activities – the Church?
NF: Yes. Everybody would go to Sunday School about 9:00, not it was about 10:00 I’m sorry. 11:00 the preacher would start in.
CM: Was it First Baptist that ya’ll went to?
LF: Yes, we sat in the balcony. Most of the young people sat up in the balcony then.
EW: Well can I move on to Nancy Seawright.
EW: You talked about naming Jones Bayou?
NF: One of the histories of Cleveland mentioned that Jones Bayou was named for a child that drowned in the bayou. I don’t know that, but her write-up or James’s write-up one mentioned that it was named for a laborer. I don’t know but an early history does mention the bayou. She did recall, she was talking about in her write-up she talked about as if there was a Splendid Café down near the north end of Sharpe Avenue. The Splendid Café was actually part of the pool room. There in that vacant area between the bank and the flower store today. There was a café down that way called the Post Office Café somewhere on Sharpe Avenue north is the way I recall it once again.
EW: And again we were not super sure of what her dates are that she is referencing.
NF: No I’m not. But she said down here on North Sharpe Avenue.
EW: – after that Jones Bayou naming thing. Did any of the people she pointed out, did they spark memories of..?
NF: No not so much the people. I did recall – I did want to mention that she talked about Denton’s Headquarters there and that Denton had a swimming pool. But in the late ‘40’s, mid ‘40’s I should say there was a very large – larger than the Delta State swimming pool that was open at that time.
EW: The new one?
LF: No, the old one.
NF: No, the old swimming pool, excuse me. The old Delta State swimming pool. It’s still here. It was a larger swimming pool than that. It had a big sliding board on it I recall.
EW: How did you get to swim there?
NF: My father would let me. Back when I was four or five years old I didn’t do that much swimming myself.
EW: Was it kind of a club kind of thing?
NF: No you paid whatever it cost to get into it, which I imagine was not over a nickel or a dime. But it is right where the Denton’s warehouse is today. I don’t remember exactly when it was filled in and the warehouse built but it was sometimes in the late ‘40’s, mid ‘40’s.
LF: When we were in grade school you could come out to Delta State on Saturday, pay a dime and swim all day long in the old pool.
CM: Did both of you went to the school here on campus?
LF: No he did. I went to Pearman, which is sitting where Margaret Green Jr. High School sits today.
NF: The Dem School sat where the library sits today, which if I understand from the old histories, was the old agricultural high school originally, but turned it in to Delta State College and later turned it into a Demonstration School, first through sixth grade where student teachers could use as a laboratory.
EW: We have some great pictures of them and we have just gotten a new scrapbook from John Thornell. He just discovered two new ones.
NF: I want to see that sometime.
EW: I bet you might recognize some folks. Were there any houses that you – I know today at my age I sometimes drive down these historic streets and I think, “Oh, that’s a beautiful house, I wish I knew more about it.” Any houses downtown that you just wish you could have, or know special things about?
NF: Where the law offices were that Jacks bought as a private residence again, the Denton’s were living there when I grew up. Before that I think it was the Pearman’s. The Pearman house. That was an old, old house that I think was quite interesting and I was in there a lot with the Denton’s because I grew up with Joe Denton. And I recall that it had a basement in it which was unusual. A coal fired furnace at the time.
LF: It was an upscale house. Very upscale.
NF: It had a speaking tube that went from the kitchen to an upstairs hallway that was designed for someone in the kitchen or upstairs to call down to the kitchen for something that they wanted. And this for kids that was something else.
EW: Just magic.
NF: Yes, that’s the word. But that house stands out as being quite unusual and noteworthy.
LF: And the heating system, that was unusual. Most people just had space heaters or a fireplace. Real wood burning fireplaces and the Denton house had a furnace and going to the different rooms. It was not exactly central heating but like I said, it was an upscale house from what most folks had in our area of the Delta. The Gooch House.
CM: Where was it at?
LF: Dr. Adams lives there now, I’m not sure.
NF: The big house there on the corner of, what is it, South Pearman.
CM: It’s a great big brick house with a yard?
NF: Yes, with a yard beside it.
LF: It’s not on Leflore.
NF: What is that street that cuts across there?
NF: Pearman okay. Right down the street from where the Jacks Offices were. It is the same, Bolivar is an older section of town as I recall it, originally settled by the families. Cause there’s a ridge along there too as I understand it. The highest point in Cleveland is right along that line so naturally people tended or settlers tended to build along that overflow area of the bayou.
CM: Did ya’ll ever see any flooding?
NF: The streets would flood, the drainage was not that good. Much as some parts of Cleveland still do today. But over there on Maple Street was a bad flooding area. I have some photographs at home of people actually in fishing boats out there and two or three feet deep. It didn’t get in the houses or anything like that. But at that time houses were pretty much built not on the slab as they are today, but off the ground, have crawl space underneath and that sort of thing.
CM: Did Fireman’s Park flood?
NF: No, it was high enough it didn’t actually – the streets were where you would get the flooding. Fireman’s Park was built probably in the early ‘50’s. And I do recall, one of the things I do recall is that the north end of Fireman’s Park is a part, if you would like at early maps you will see that it is listed separately as Strange’s Park.
LF: Where the tennis courts are now.
NF: Where the tennis courts are today. Mr. Strange donated that land and interestingly, to me anyway, he donated it with the stipulation that nothing would ever be built on it. Because as a boy growing up he had lived in a city and the thing that he did not like was that you could never find a big open field to play, so that was given to the City of Cleveland with that stipulation and since then I’ve noticed that they built tennis courts and any number of other things so you gotta be careful how you bequeath things.
EW: Well there is kind of a looks like it kind of starts a street that might have crossed.
LF: It did.
NF: When it first built the park it actually was a street. You could drive across it.
EW: That would have been the two different parks.
NF: Yes. It was noticeably different when it was originally put in. Although it was done at the same time. But then later they closed that off so it’s not a street.
EW: And it is Fireman’s Park, because of the Volunteer Fire Department.
NF: Yeah, the south end of that is and I still assume is Fireman’s Park. Because the Fire Department is the one that donated – I think someone donated the land but the firemen put in the equipment and so forth. In fact if you go out there now it’s a large marble marker that is there, it has the names of all the whole families that were active in the Fire Department at that time.
EW: Volunteer Fire Department.
NF: Volunteer Fire Department, yes. As it still is today.
EW: Absolutely, what a great group of Volunteer Fire Department. Are there any other reminiscences of families or individuals that stand out in your mind growing up with a larger than life kind of figures or people that you played with, that gosh you never thought that they would grow up to be so successful.
LF: Kay Beevers has just retired from the Office of Supreme Court. She’s a judge. And she was always real smart in school and very likeable but I – her mother and father farmed on North Bayou. The Beevers had land out there and farmed and she certainly was capable of doing all that she has done, but I have been very impressed with her conquest that she has done with her life.
EW: Well not to move to a more morbid subject but the cemeteries. I knew I wanted to ask about the cemeteries. The difference between today New Cemetery, North Cemetery and the old cemetery. Can you tell me where those are and what the difference is?
NF: The old cemetery was the only cemetery when I was a young child. What is now referred to as the New Cemetery. The New Cleveland Cemetery was built probably in the ‘40’s, late ‘40’s maybe, but the original cemetery is the original – it’s still there of course.
CM: And that’s the one by the theatre on North Bayou Road.
NF: The newer cemetery is the next one down and interestingly enough though, after we moved here I was checking, the old Cleveland Cemetery still has plots available. It is not full.
EW: Is that where ya’ll are being buried?
NF: Yes we are, right at the feet of Mrs. Glassco.
CM: What is the cemetery that’s by the old Coke plant?
NF: That is I believe a black cemetery and has been there, and I don’t know anything about it. In recent years some groups have – I think the 100 Black Men in Bolivar County, I believe they have taken it on as a project and it is in good shape now. Even when I was a child growing up it was abandoned. It was not an active cleaned up cemetery.
LF: If you go further out North Bayou, it is another cemetery out there called the Beevers Cemetery.
EW: Is that maybe the new North Cemetery, would that be it?
LF: No, this is a family cemetery.
EW: Kay Beevers?
LF: Some of her relatives.
NF: I think the far North Cemetery was originally going to be a Jewish Cemetery.
LF: Yes, it was.
NF: And none of the Jewish families would be buried there, they wanted to be buried in Greenville at the large Jewish Cemetery there. And I think it was just a failed project. I don’t remember who started it, but when it was first put in, that was going to be a Jewish Cemetery and Jewish families just did not want to avail themselves of it.
CM: But we still have Jewish families in town (inaudible)?
NF: Oh yes, yes, yes.
CM: Is the Jewish Synagogue still active?
NF: Oh yes, very much.
LF: A lot of Chinese, the Chinese Baptist Church, and all was very active.
NF: And the old Chinese School I can recall when we were in the Dem School in probably the Fifth Grade having a tour there if you want to call it that. They took a load of us children and went over to the Chinese High School. Excuse me, the Chinese Grammar School and sat in and kids did some of the they do on the board, just various things to expose us to the Chinese culture there. I don’t remember what year the Chinese School was closed and came in with the regular school, I don’t know.
EW: I think it might have been around desegregation.
NF: It was before that.
LF: It was before that.
NF: When I was in high school, when I was in high school, all the Chinese students were in high school.
LF: Yeah the Chinese and the Jewish and a few Hispanics, not very many Hispanics. But that was in the ‘50’s when we were in high school. We were all going to the same school.
NF: But by that time the Jewish families for the most people that I knew, the Jewish Church or Synagogue was simply another church to the white angle Saxons, or whatever you want to call us –Christian. People in town were simply not thought of as particularly a different religion. And I would think of the Presbyterian or the Methodist or something, they went to a different building.
LF: Well when we were going to the First Baptist Church when we were in high school and there were a few Chinese members of the First Baptist Church.
NF: Yeah, there were a lot of Chinese that were Baptists.
EW: The Baptists made an effort to make sure the Chinese had a ministry.
LF: And they may have been in other Church’s. I was not attending the other Church’s.
EW: What are your thoughts of Cleveland now? Are you happy that you came back here or that you stayed? What do you think the atmosphere of Cleveland is today?
NF: Great. I’ve lived all over the country and you couldn’t beat it. I mean it is a nice quiet small town. Very good.
EW: Do you think that is why people move here to raise their children?
NF: Well I think people move most places because that is where their job is. But once they get here I know very few people who lived in Cleveland that didn’t like it. That said this is a bad place to live. It might be that their single and don’t have a social life they may not care much about it, but it is not living in Memphis or Jackson. But a family, anyone with a family, I can’t see what they would dislike about Cleveland.
EW: I know the dynamics have changed slightly that we don’t have – we are much more advanced technology wise. More people have a way to get away from being at home, but do you think it is that makes Cleveland such a special place? The neighborhoods. Do you feel like you could walk the neighborhoods?
NF: It’s just a decent place. And Mississippi, and Cleveland especially, I’ve lived all over the country and for all of our so-called race problems, there is a probably a smoother race relationship in Cleveland as anywhere I’ve ever lived. When I lived in New York I would never have approached a strange black person and spoken to them. I would have no hesitancy at all in Cleveland of approaching a black person anywhere if I had a question or wanted to talk to them. And would expect a courteous interchange. It’s just – people get along in that old southern hospitality or whatever it is, everybody is friendly. Nobody is threatened by anybody else. Since nobody has much of anything I guess nobody is jealous of what somebody else has.
EW: Do you like the way that Cleveland is growing now? Do you see good things in how our communities are growing up a little bit outside of town now?
NF: Yeah. It’s still the same old Cleveland. I can’t see that it has changed a whole lot. I mean it grows and changes slowly, but it’s still pretty much the same.
EW: Do you miss the train at all?
NF: Yeah, I do.
EW: I do too.
NF: The train was nice.
CM: Do you miss the movie theatre?
NF: Yes, very much. In fact since the theatre out here has closed. In growing up with the theatres we are very much a movie person and we tend to go out and see the latest flick. Right.
LF: We’ve always enjoyed the movies.
NF: We were very disappointed when that closed.
LF: We watch a lot of the old movies as we could recall, being old now.
EW: Wouldn’t it be fabulous if David Dallas just turned BPAC into a theatre and one night every week and just showed a movie.
LF: That would be fun. You know Jeff used to do the International Foreign Films once a month. That was fun except he never served refreshments. Emily did, but Jeff didn’t.
EW: Well I’ve enjoyed talking to ya’ll about the neighborhood. Were there any other things? I know Noel and ya’ll probably talked for hours about this.
NF: No, I think that was it.
LF: Well I love where we live now. It’s not quite the same as when we were growing up. You mentioned the technology and different things have changed, but we still have the old fashioned neighborhood on the block that we live in. We have Joe and Ann Davis across the street, and Noel and I are out of town then Joe comes over and picks the papers up for us and brings them up and puts them in the garage.
EW: Common courtesy.
LF: Yeah, common courtesy. Noel does the same for him. If something that they have fixed, people next door to us, Francis Scarborough’s daughter. We still have a little – we don’t see each other on a daily basis like probably it was in the late ‘40’s, but we’re not sitting outside, we’re sitting inside where it is air conditioned. And we don’t have quite as many mosquitoes in the house as we do outside. But we still interact and show respect and kind of looking out for each other.
EW: It’s still important to have this relationship.
LF: Yes, I think so. I would not like to live in a city where I didn’t even know who was living beside me or not speaking to them. I mean, you just walk out in your yard and somebody else is out and you strike up a conversation and they may end up coming over and sitting down and having a cookie and having a glass of tea or a glass of lemonade.
EW: It surprised the fire out of my neighbors in Atlanta when I stopped and talked to them. I’ve never seen such frightened people.
LF: Well when you go to the grocery store you make a new friend every time you go because you are standing in line waiting on somebody and waiting to get checked out and you are talking to the person that’s either in front of you or behind you.
CM: And about half the time they ask you a question.
EW: Well, this has been good. Thank you very much.
LF: You’re quite welcome, we enjoyed it.
Tape cut off.
END OF DOCUMENT