Growing Up

Sara in 1935

“At night our crowd would meet at someone’s house. We played boy-girl games such as ‘Post Office’ and ‘Clap in and Clap out’ and changed boy friends every week. I liked one of the boys, Billy Mallette, a lot, but after about two or three weeks he started liking someone else. One night when Tiny and her boyfriend B.J. were on the front porch, Billy stayed after the others went home, and we sat in Big’s front yard together. He was the first boy I ever kissed, that night in the swing. At fourteen, it was easy to fall in and out of love every day.

The amorous Billy Mallette

“I can remember when they passed the law that you would have to have license to drive and I went with Lena White to the Court House to get hers. Prior to that kids from twelve on up were driving, and in the summer of 1935 we would pile in any car that was available and our main thrill was to go fast (probably about 25 miles an hour) over the railroad track near Williams and Lord Funeral Home which we called ‘Pollard’s Dump’ (the track, not the funeral home) and we would all bounce and hit the top of the car. That was our idea of doing something that we knew we shouldn’t be doing.

“My real love in the eighth grade was my math teacher, Howard Lewis. He was about ten years older than me and knew that I had a crush on him. I even had Mama make some divinity so that I could take it to him. He was made principal of the Junior High School the next year after Mrs. Stinson died, and asked me to help him in the office toward the end of school. I turned up with a bad case of malaria, so had to miss the end of school and was crushed that I could not do it. When we went on to high school he was named high school principal. My senior year of high school, I skipped school every Friday afternoon, and when we were ready to graduate he threatened to give me a book of excuse blanks because he had signed so many of them for me. We have remained good friends to this day [1990], though it was many years before I could say ‘Howard’ instead of ‘Mr. Lewis.’

I suppose we all assume our parents had no life before we were born, and it’s always a bit of a jolt to find out that boys existed before your dad and girls existed before your mom. I do know that Sara admired Howard Lewis all her days, for good reason, and Greenwood was fortunate to have him as a citizen.




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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5 Responses to Growing Up

  1. Holy cow, Billy Mallette is my father ! I’m floored I found this web page, who are you ?
    Mike Mallette

  2. oldflute says:

    What my cousin Mike did not say is the my late “Uncle Billy” went on to serve in the Marine Air Corp during WWII. He was a bomber pilot and served in the South Pacific in the Solomon Islands. He never talked much about his experiences there. A few years ago while my uncle was in hospital, his eldest son discovered Billy’s collection of medals from WWII that included a Distinguished Flying Cross and several other awards for valor. After the war, Billy worked in sales for the family business in Greenwood, Mallette & Co., wholesale meat distributors and manufacturers of the best German sausage and wieners I’ve ever tasted. The business closed in the mid-1950s after their market shrank due to immigration away from the Delta to the North after the introduction of mechanized cotton farming. Billy then moved to the Memphis area and became a designer of corrugated cardboard shipping containers, working in this industry the rest of his career, while raising a large family.

    • sec040121 says:

      Thank you so much for giving us some more background on Billy Mallette. When I look at my mother’s pictures of all these happy, hopeful young boys in the 1930s, I always wonder which of them left for war and never came back. Or came back and just never mentioned that they had a drawer full of medals. My father was like that. Amazing.

  3. Jack Mallette says:

    Thanks for the wonderful snapshot of my teenage Uncle Billy. My Father was Tommy Mallette, who passed away on December 18th, 2013 in Jackson, and my mother Cathy joined him 2 weeks later on January 2nd, 2014. I never quite knew what to make of the fact that every time I met a lady who had known my father growing up in Greenwood, she would invariably get this dreamy expression on her face, gaze wistfully right through me, and say something like “your daddy was SUCH a good kisser!!” I guess it runs in the family! )))

    • sec040121 says:

      Jack, thank you for your note. I was so sorry to hear about your father, then your mother, both of whom I knew through Bob and Mary Currier. The Mallette boys were obviously fondly remembered here in Greenwood, for their romantic skills as well as their other talents! I hope you’re all doing OK; please give my best to all your family and let me know if you’re ever up this way.

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