Sonny Boy and Sweet Tooths

“We had a Victrola in our living room. It had a handle on the side, and you had to wind it up to play records. We didn’t have a lot of records and we would play the ones we had over and over again. I had to stand on something to reach the top where the record went. I particularly remember ‘Bye Bye Blackbird,’ ‘My Blue Heaven,’ and ‘Among My Souvenirs’ (which Mama said reminded her of her courting days in Memphis when she was going to business school.)

Jessie in her Memphis days at Macon and Andrews Business College, circa 1913

Daddy brought us a record from Jackson from an Al Jolson movie. The song was ‘Sonny Boy,’ about a little boy who died, and we would play it a lot and get real sad. On the other side was Jolson singing ‘Rainbow Around My Shoulder,’ and that was a happy song.

“We bought a piano, and Tiny started taking music lessons. I later too lessons for three years, but none of us became musicians. Radio began to appear in the 1920s, but they were not like today’s radios. They had a big horn, and you had to put on earphones to hear the scratchy sounds that came out. They mostly played music. We had one, but it was not very satisfactory.

“Sunday afternoons there was not much to do, so Daddy would take us for a ride and to get a drink or ice cream cone or an Eskimo pie. Sometimes we would get candy bars. Mary always wanted a Baby Ruth, but I liked Milky Ways and Snickers. There was an ice plant on Fulton Street, where the Greenwood Utilities office is now, and also an ice cream factory. Every Sunday we would stop by there after Sunday School and get a bucket of ice cream for Sunday dinner, which was always special.

Mary and Sara on the swings

“We always had birthday parties, and mine was usually something to do with Easter since my birthday fell around that time. Mama used all sorts of ideas to make them fun, and I remember on my seventh or eighth birthday she hung a sheet up, and the children fished for Easter favors. One time for Tiny’s birthday she put little baby dolls in blankets on a clothesline and the children chose them for favors.

“That was the party which almost broke up when Buddy Stott fought in the ditch across the street with a boy named John Seng, who had spotted him as the only boy at the party and called him a sissy. All of the girls lined up to watch them roll in the ditch. Buddy had a bad temper and was always getting into a fight.

Buddy with Rawa, Tiny, Mamie and Sara

Boys used to fight all the time at school, and the other kids would form a big ring around them to watch. One time Rawa [Rena Stott, Buddy’s older sister] had to call Uncle Roy at the light plant to tell him to come quick, that Buddy was going to kill Webb DeLoach, a boy he was fighting with. We always got a kick out of going to the Stott’s house when Buddy was being punished by Big giving him a dose of Castor oil or Milk of Magnesia and putting him to bed.”

Uncle Roy and Buddy

Victrolas and cabinet radios, Sunday afternoon rides for ice cream. Imagine three little girls in their Sunday best, piled in the back of a Hupmobile with no seat belts, anticipating their arrival back on Strong Avenue for Sunday dinner. My suspicion is that Sara was in the ice cream before Jessie had even put the beans on to simmer. She had the most insatiable sweet tooth of anyone I’ve ever known (yes, Emily, even more than you) and believed that there was no food that could not be improved with a spoonful or six of sugar. She would hop out of bed at 3 in the morning to get in the kitchen and begin baking. Baking, not cooking…..There were so many mornings when we awoke to the aroma of chocolate pies or red velvet cake or bake sale cupcakes. When I set up my first apartment, Sara carefully typed out her favorite recipes for a cookbook that I still have. There are maybe 4 recipes for “real” food and dozens of cookies, cakes and pies. It’s a wonder Cathy and I weren’t diabetics in diapers.

Uncle Roy and the Stott clan are a long story for another day. Suffice it to say that if Buddy was devilish, his father was a saint. He saved Jessie’s family and was a gentleman in every way. Much more on Uncle Roy, Big, Rena, Buddy and John later.

Ed. note: Milky Way bars were invented in 1923 to capitalize on the milk shake craze. Snickers didn’t come along until 1932, but I imagine Sara snatched the first one in Greenwood. She later became a Goo Goo Cluster fiend.

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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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