Three’s a Crowd

Sara with cinnamon bread, Mamie and Tiny

“By the time I came along Mama and Daddy already had two little girls, and I am quite sure everyone but Mama was hoping that this one would be a boy. Mama was probably thinking how much more fun it would be to make dresses and buy dolls and make doll clothes for three little girls instead of two. “It was in the early evening when I made my appearance, delivered by kindly old Dr. W.B.Dickens. He was assisted by a nurse friend of Mama’s who she called ‘Big Lane.’ (‘Big Lane’ later married Mr. Poland, the mean mailman who threatened to shoot mace at our sweet dog, Brownie, after she barked at him.) Mama said that after I arrived Big Lane rushed out to the fence to tell Mama’s best friend Mrs. Caldwell that it was ‘another girl, and she has red hair.’ My hair really wasn’t red, but I guess that the little fuzz that was on top of my head appeared that way. Since Daddy had auburn hair she thought that I might have it too.

“Mama had had the other two babies in the hospital which was in the next block. She did not want to go there to have me because that would have meant leaving Tiny, two years eleven months old, and Mary, sixteen months old. Tiny had been the first baby born in the Kings Daughters Hospital on River Road. Then when Mary came and Mama was in the hospital it seems Tiny got very sick and, according to Mama, ‘almost died.’ The the nurse who was staying with her let her get burned with a hot water bottle. “This was the explanation given as to why I was delivered at home, and was, I feel sure, the beginning of Mama’s belief that Tiny was ‘the sickly one.'”

And so the original trio of Evans girls was complete. In the picture across this masthead, taken probably around 1927 or so, Sara’s on the left, the one with the impish hint of a smile. Tiny is in the middle, already showing signs of the near regal bearing and classic beauty that would mark her all her days. Mamie is on the right, a tiny version of the delightful woman I knew, just a picture of a little girl who’s scheming to get into something devious or mess with her sisters’ minds. They were as different as different can be, but in so many ways they were identical, and that led to some battle royales that are still legendary in Evans lore. More on all of them to come very soon.

Ed. note: The Kings Daughters Hospital was Greenwood’s third medical facility. The first was a “cottage hospital” on West Washington where a handful of minimally trained nurses took care of the sick. In 1908, the city provided $7000 for the purchase of the Bew house at 807 River Road and converted it into the first true Greenwood hospital. Sara’s aunt, Olive West Stott (“Big” to us) was the second RN to sign on there. By 1917, the rapidly growing town needed a more modern facility, and a three-story, dark brick structure, also on River Road, opened in April, 1918. Jessye Evans (“Tiny”) was the first baby delivered there, just a few days after the opening. The hospital was enlarged in 1936 and served the community until 1952, when the current complex was built just west on River Road. My memories of the old Kings Daughters Hospital are grim, as it was dark and dingy and the front screened porches came to be hidden behind decades of vines. The most daunting of high school dares was to speed through the dark tunnel that connected the front and rear wings, and a few brave souls actually broke in and explored the morgue. Not a place for the faint-hearted, which I was. In the late 1970s, the delapidated old hospital was pressed into emergency use as the courthouse. Only a slab and basement remain to mark the site of the original front wing; the back wing still stands as office and storage space for Greenwood Leflore Hospital. Behind it is the moldering shell of the Lois Aron Nurses’ Home, but that’s a tale for another day.

About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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14 Responses to Three’s a Crowd

  1. Jenny Adams says:

    I love this. It makes me so happy you are doing it. I want to read it every single day. I just had the greatest image of Mamie from my own childhood, helping me play with dolls and of her crazy-yet-wonderful voice. I loved Mamie. She always seemed the most eccentric of the bunch to me and always made me laugh. Keep going!

    • sec040121 says:

      Hi, Jenny. We were so lucky to have Mamie……she was like a little package of mischief, waiting to burst with something witty and outrageous. I was telling Allison yesterday, as we crept down a spiral stair, about Mamie’s condo and “Freddy the Elf Man.” A wonderful, warm lady, much missed.
      Did you dance in the streets of NYC last night?

  2. Jenny Adams says:

    Do you remember the day we all went to get snowcones? Tricia made Mamie get a peach one. I think it was cream of peach or something. I can remember Mamie screaming and hollering that she hated it. Just literally freaking out in the car, waiving her hands around, snowcone threatening to go everywhere until we pulled the car over so she could toss it out on the sidewalk. I remember being about 7 and thinking to myself “this woman is hilarious.”
    I did not dance. I actually cried on the couch with my roommate. He lost a lot of friends in 9/11. It’s been surreal, hasn’t it? Ten years. He managed to hide for a decade as the most wanted man in the world with a $20 million dollar price tag on his head. It’s frankly amazing. I haven’t been out in the city today but I’m thinking it will be a strange one for certain.

  3. sec040121 says:

    Sadly, I was not on that snowcone trip, but it has entered the realm of family legend. Mamie gave up on me as a culinary critic when we went to Columbus and I insisted on having a hamburger with just mayonnaise: No meat, just mayonnaise on a bun (I was about 4). She never got over that, but she always made a special bakery run to bring me stick donuts when they came South. We need a “Mamie Blog.” Melanie, are you out there??

  4. Jenny Adams says:

    They were such wonderful women. I wish I’d had the chance to know Tiny. I remember my grandmother’s little “girlish” things that I was so enchanted by because my mother never seemed to have a use for them (probably because by the time she had me, she was just tired of having grown up around all the girl-ness haha).
    But i remember her nails and her worn down nail file. How her nails were always shaped so perfectly. And I remember only filing my nails ever in her bed in the morning, right after i would help her pin up her hair in those ANCIENT bobby pins and curlers. (always curious why she never bought new ones?) …. and then we would sit with her hair in curlers and she would point out things in the paper with her perfect fingernails. I can still hear the sound of her nail hitting the paper, and then she’d tell me gossipy stories about whatever person was featured in the paper. And the stories always began with this wonderful, “this-isn’t-for-repeating” kind of secrecy. She knew everyone and some other side story on their family history. I remember feeling so grown up as a kid when she would fill me in on some sordid funny skeleton someone had in their closet from way back when. We definitely need a corresponding Mamie blog.

  5. Jenny Adams says:

    Oh, and i meant to say this earlier. Will you please post pictures with each blog? I know it might be a pain, but I would love photos from the corresponding times you are talking about. Please?!

  6. This is wonderful! I have loved reading through all of your posts. It’s nice to hear Sara’s voice after reading so many of my grandmother’s letters. “They were as different as different can be, but in so many ways they were identical.” So true! Jenny, I’d forgotten about the nail files. Thank you for that. Of course! They were scattered everywhere, and you’re right- she was the best at telling gossipy stories. And did they all speak in basically that same high-pitched cracking voice, or am I lumping the sisters together in my memory?

  7. Emily says:

    Isn’t there another/still a Kings Daughters hospital in the state? Seem to remember having to request medical records from there…

    • sec040121 says:

      There’s a Kings’ Daughters in Yazoo City and a remnant of one in Greenville, technically owned by Delta Regional. Maybe one in Brookhaven as well. I think this was a common name for early 1900s hospitals, with no formal affiliation, but I have no idea which king or which daughters we’re dealing with here.

  8. Mary Emrey Ellis says:

    Mary Carol- I absolutely love the blog, and can’t wait to read more. This has brought back so many warm memories. It’s so funny that I never thought of Mamie as quirky or whacky. I just thought that all grandmothers had imaginary elves in the attic. Freddy the Elfman moved to Monroe with Mamie years ago and lives on in an air conditioner vent at my parents’ house. We talk about having a sign made for him every Christmas to mark his spot in the house. I’ll have to remember to follow through with that this year. And, Kathleen, I seem to remember them all having that voice.

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