Orange Crush and Outhouses

Tiny, Mamie and Sara, perhaps in Sledge. Sara's worried question: "What's a privy?"

“In the spring of 1927 there was a terrible flood on the Mississippi River at Greenville, and thousands of people had to flee their homes. Much of the Delta was under water. They put up large tents down the street from us toward the Buckeye and moved the refugees into them. They would walk past our house every day going to town, and we seized the opportunity to set up a lemonade stand. I don’t recall how good business was, but I don’t imagine folks who had had to leave their homes under water were willing to spend even a nickel on lemonade.

Yazoo River at Greenwood, 1939

“We did not see much of Daddy’s relatives as we did Mama’s because they did not live in Greenwood, and traveling in the 1920s was not easy. His sister, Aunt Bonnie, lived in Sledge…..we made one trip up there in the car, and it took all day going and coming though it probably wasn’t more than 75 miles from Greenwood.

Aunt Bonnie, ? with one of her five girls

Two of Aunt Bonnie's five daughters, Sledge MS

The old cars didn’t have windows, and you had big sheets of celluloid, something like plastic, which you snapped on the sides to try to shut out the wind and the dust. The roads were dirt and gravel, and the dust was horrible. You would be filthy when you arrived at your destination. You could count on at least one and probably more than one flat tire on any trip, and Daddy would have to get out and fix it. There were very few service stations (we called them filling station since that was where you filled up with gas). We would find a country store somewhere along the way and stop for a soda pop, usually a strawberry or orange crush.

” I

” “I was impressed on that visit to the little village of Sledge that no one had indoor plumbing and we had to go outside to the privy to use the bathroom. Since traveling was so hard we had few vacations and those we  had stand out in my memories. I wrote about our trip to the Gulf Coast and to Memphis for at least six years in school when we were told to write a story about our summer vacation.”

Isn’t it odd how one side of your family (usually the maternal side, at least in our family) comes to dominate your memories and remain in your life forever? All of our lives, we’ve heard tales of Jessie’s family: Bigma, Bama, Big and Uncle Roy, the Stott cousins, etc. Howard’s family is like a shadow, flitting along the corner of Sara’s awareness and now lost for good. Until I read this part of her memoirs, I had no clue that she had five first cousins in Sledge. Where in the world did they go? And where was the house pictured above? The Evans girls certainly look as if they had endured a harrowing road trip and Sara seems downright dyspeptic, probably because Jessie had lined them up for Syrup of Pepsin the night before and the facilities in Sledge were not up to the standards of Strong Avenue.

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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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2 Responses to Orange Crush and Outhouses

  1. Bart Liles says:

    Mary Carol,

    Mom just told me of your site the other day. I’ve finally caught up to the most recent post. Thank you for doing this. It seems appropriate now that the river is flooding to be brought back to my Mississippi roots. I long to bring Leigh and Mary Blake up there (little William should be born within the next 2-3 weeks). My memories of Greenwood have always been fond. The last time I was up there was at Belle Chase probably 10 years ago. It hurts my heart to know it’s been that long. To think, until a few years ago, mom never even missed the nativity scene. The last time I was there, Big Steele, Kathleen, and I had a “last supper” with Son out at the plantation. I’m getting teary thinking about it. Again, thank you for this. I beg of you not to stop! The highlight has been Jenny Adams’ posts. I don’t know how many years it’s been since I’ve seen her and Jeff.

    • sec040121 says:

      Bart,
      Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m glad you and Mary Emrey are enjoying this, as your grandmother Mamie was just a gift, all my life. As I said in Sara’s eulogy, to her grandchildren, the most enduring tribute you can give to the Evans girls is to bring your own children to Greenwood and be sure they know what a “sense of place” really is. Mamie loved living in Ohio but I firmly believed she recharged her spiritual batteries on those trips back to Mississippi. We just need to arrange some way to get all the granchildren and great-granchildren together at some point. It may take years of planning, but it can be done. Jenny, you’re in charge.
      Congratulations on William’s impending arrival…..Keep us posted!
      MC

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