Saturday, February 28, 2009

No.13: Milam Coaches

Milam Coaches: Jerry Clayton, Bubba Thompson, and Walker Wood

Jerry Clayton was the head basketball coach at Milam until he succeeded Kermit Davis as the basketball coach at the high school. Davis left to become the head basketball coach at Mississippi State after winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles in 1965 and 1966 (I think). Clayton left coaching a year or two later when he was elected Lee County Chancery Clerk. When Coach Clayton left Milam to go to the high school, he was succeeded by Freddie Joe Chiles.

Bubba Thompson was the laid-back head football coach at Milam. I remember having him for PE in the seventh grade. It seems like he popped popcorn everyday and ate it while he watched us sweat. Coach Thompson was a gentle sort, but he could swing a mean paddle if he were pushed too far.

Walker Wood (even now I cringe at the thought of calling him anything other than Coach Wood) was just out of the Marines when he came to Milam to coach eighth grade football and assist with ninth grade football. He swung the hardest paddle of anyone I ever saw, and he seemed to enjoy doing it. I had him for eighth grade health, and we were all absolutely terrified of him. Those who knew him best could tell story after story about how he gained his reputation. I ran into him in Tupelo several years ago and really enjoyed visiting with him. He had really mellowed. More recently I ran into a group of his former football players enjoying a reunion with him over lunch. What a guy.

No.12: The Lyric

Built originally as an "opera house" for use by traveling vaudeville acts and other entertainers, the Lyric is now the home of Tupelo Community Theatre. But in my day, it was a grand movie theater. As young children we sometimes went there on Saturdays for matinees that lasted all afternoon. Later on it was the primary destination for dating couples. It seems strange to think of it now, but in that era movies repeated on a continuous basis with only the cartoons in between. So it was not necessary to know exactly when the movie started. You could always watch the end and then watch the beginning after the cartoon. When the movie got back to something you remembered, someone would always say, "I believe this is where we came in." Of course, many would watch the movie more than once. I suppose that came in handy if they didn't really understand it the first time.

The alternative movie house in my day was the Tupelo Theater, located on the south side of Main Street next to Reed's. (It's now part of Reed's.) A long, narrow building, it only had two seats on one side of the aisle and maybe six on the other side. The other alternatives were the two drive-ins: the Lee Drive-In on Robert E. Lee Drive and the 78 Drive-In on what is now McCullough Boulevard. Who can forget pulling into a spot on the gravel lot of those drive-ins and hooking the speaker to the rolled down window. Before air conditioning was commonplace, we didn't really think about what an uncomfortable way that was to watch a movie.

Now all of those old movie houses and drive-ins have given way to multi-plex theaters. And the movies aren't quite as good, either.

No.11: Dudies Diner

Some will remember this Tupelo landmark better than I do. I'm not sure I ever ate there, but people always talked about Dudies Diner, Home of the Dudie-Burger. I believe it may have been at one time a Memphis trolley car that was moved to Tupelo to become a diner. In my memory, it was parked just south of Crosstown on the east side of Gloster. Dudies Diner has been restored and is now found at the museum at Ballard Park.

Thinking about Dudies reminds me of other similar dining experiences from my childhood and youth. O'Callaghan's Dairy Bar was located on the southeast corner of the intersection of Gloster and Jackson. The large parking lot was gravel rather than paved, and I can still hear the sound of the gravel when you pulled onto the lot. That sound was known to make a child salivate like Pavlov's dog. You could honk your horn and a carhop would come to the driver's side window. The driver placed the order after consulting with the other riders. When the carhop brought the food (burgers, malts, shakes, or maybe just an ice cream cone), the driver rolled his window down part of the way and the tray hooked onto the window. Of course you could go inside and eat at the counter from the stools or sit in a booth if you were lucky enough to get one.

Folks on the east side of town had similar dining experiences at Johnny's Drive-In. Johnny's is still an operating diner. Of course, the carhops have long since retired.

At the top of the 'Blog is a picture of Sherer's, by far the most popular spot for teenagers when I was that age. Before Sherer's there was Little Joe's Clover Leaf Drive-In on the west side of Gloster, just north of Jackson. I believe it took its name from the planned interchange of Highway 78 (now McCullough Boulevard) and Highway 45 (Gloster). The interchange never became a full clover-leaf, but Little Joe's kept the name.
A blog follower sent the following link to some historical information about the Sherer's franchise:

No.10: An Interesting Experiment

In the early 1960s, Tupelo and Lee County students began to experience what is now known as "distance learning." Today's distance learning is via the Internet. In our day, the innovation was "educational television." Channel 9 (WTWV, now known as WTVA) in Tupelo began broadcasting educational programming during the school day at the request of Tupelo school superintendent Charles Holliday. Some of the stars of educational television, Tupelo style, are pictured above. Left to right, they are: Senora Wilson, Betty Duvall, John Shelton, Terry Thornton, and Sarah Tate. You may remember another, Elizabeth Taylor, who taught a science class via educational television in the last stages of the educational television experiment. Some of us had her live and in person for ninth grade general science class at Milam. One day she wanted us to watch a recorded version of her television lesson where she sang: "The earth is like a great big grapefruit, 26,000 miles around. You could dig right through to China, if you could get through the ground." (If you want to charm your grandchildren with that little educational ditty, she sang it to the tune of Rueben, Rueben, I've Been Thinking.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

No.9: Tupelo High School Band - 1968

(Photo courtesy of S. Byrd)

The 1968 Tupelo High School Band is pictured above with their director Jim Scott. As I look at the faces in that picture, it seems the band would have been very small indeed had it not been for the sophomore class.

Did you ever wonder why the band wore red and blue uniforms when the school colors were blue and gold? I think I remember someone telling me years ago that the official school colors were actually red and blue, but the blue and gold were a later version after the athletic teams first started being called the Golden Wave. If anyone has a better explanation for the colors of the band uniforms or any idea when the Golden Wave became the Golden Wave, please add a comment.

Monday, February 23, 2009

No.8: Tupelo Golden Wave

This 1968 newspaper photo shows D. Adams, J. Reed, Coach Purvis, D. Cruse, and B. Worthen. Coach Purvis came to Tupelo along with Coach Cheney and other staffmembers Coach Waite, and Coach Thompson in the late 1960s. They brought option football, isometric exercise, and wrestling mats to Tupelo. The football uniforms in the late 60s were a washed out yellow and the white helmets had a large T on the sides. On the whole, they looked a lot like Tennessee Volunteers. "Here's to old Tupelo, faltering never. We pledge our loyalty forever and ever ... Fight, fight, fight with all our might for Tu-pe-lo. Tahee, taha, tahee, ha, ha, Tupelo, Tupelo, rah, rah, rah." Does that bring back memories?