Mummies and Midways

Mississippi's New Capitol, home of the mummy and other scary things, like the Senate.

“We went to the museum in the New Capitol Building and were most impressed by the Egyptian mummy which many years later was found to be a hoax and made up of wires and other things. I’m glad we didn’t know that then though because she was good for a lot of stories we had to write in school.

The New Capitol Mummy

“Every year we attended the State Fair back of the Old Capitol and enjoyed the exhibits and the rides. Daddy would go with us on the rides, and the one I remember the most was the caterpillar which had a big green cover which came down over you while you were riding. I would not have dared go on it without Daddy.

Crowds at the State Fair in the late '20s or early '30s. Sara may be on the loose in this crowd with her taffy.

“They had taffy you could buy which I always wanted to buy as soon as we got there. It would almost pull your teeth out, but I loved it.”

Entrance gates at the State Fairgrounds

I remember only one trip to Jackson before I was in high school and college. I must have been just five or six, but I do recall looking from the Old Capitol down the long vista of Capitol Street and how Sara claimed this as her territory. We practically danced from dime store to dime store, in and out of drug stores and all her old haunts (or those that were left) and then over to the New Capitol. It seems by that time (late 1950s) that the infamous mummy should have made its move to the Old Capitol, but if memory serves me correctly, I saw it in the New Capitol. Regardless of where it was, Sara lived to regret that bit of nostalgia. I was a squirrely sleeper at best, and one look at that hideous creature sent me into an extended tailspin of nightmares and heeby jeebies. What in the world was she thinking? Except for losing some nighttime peace, I think she got a major kick out of “sharing” her old friend, the New Capitol Mummy. And she didn’t feel the least bit duped when a medical student hauled the old girl in for X-rays at UMC a few years later, revealing a clever pastiche of wires, paper mache and shredded newspapers dating back to the late 1800s.

That is the only time I can remember going to Jackson with my parents. Greenwood was a Memphiscentric town and both of their “home offices” were there in Tennessee, so we just never went south. When I started college in Clinton, one of my first big dates was to the State Fair, and I called Sara the next morning to tell her how much fun it was. She laughed and said she was glad that it was just as thrilling in 1971 as it was in 1929. The caterpillar was long gone, but not the taffy, which will be sold on the midway once again this fall.

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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