Just South of Washington and Walthall

Standing: Mamie, Nell Upshur's cousin, Mary Torrey Saffold. Seated: Nell Upshur, Tricia, Sara. Probably 1936 or 1937.

“On down Walthall lived the Saffolds and Joneses. Mrs. Saffold and Mrs. Jones were sisters, who had inherited money from their father but lived in the same old houses until Mrs. Jones died and Mrs. Saffold went to the nursing home. Finally when the houses were sold after Mrs. Saffold died, they took a bulldozer and tore them down for a used car lot. Mr. Saffold had a drugstore and was also mayor for about 12 years.

“They always had a lot company and a lot of fun. Mary Torrey, the Saffold’s daughter, was very shy. She and Mary were good friends. She was afraid of boys until she met Jack Hughes, whom she later married. When she had her first date with him and they walked down Walthall and Washington to the Paramount Theater, the neighbors started calling each other and saying, ‘Look out the window, Mary Torrey has a boyfriend.’ Then Jack was called up with the National Guard in 1940 and later sent overseas and they could hear her screaming.

“The Balls lived on Walthall Street and were close friends of the Saffolds and Joneses. One night when Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Saffold (Rite and Torrey) were out walking, we heard them as they passed by the Ball house call out, ‘Yoo hoo, Jabie (Mr. Ball), we see you in your pajamas.’ When Henry, the black postman, would get near the house the neighbors would hear Mrs. Saffold shouting, ‘Yoo hoo, Henry, here I am!’ She was trying to get the mail so Mr. Saffold would not see all the bills. After they inherited their father’s money, they went to the World’s Fair in Chicago and stayed for a month.

Chicago Worlds' Fair, 1934

They also enjoyed watching folks going in the Weiner Hotel across the street, and were horrified when they saw the same lawyer who tried to assault our Negro seamstress, Delia, standing in the window of his hotel room with no clothes on.

“Charley Jones, who was a vice-president of the Bank of Greenwood, lived with his parents, and later, after his father died, with his mother and sister Stig. He had a pet monkey named Susie who also lived there. When everyone started building bomb shelters, Charley started one in the backyard but it was never finished. In later years when both of the houses became so run down, Mrs. Saffold noticed one day that something had leaked in the ceiling of one of the rooms. She could hear noises in the attic at night and finally, after much searching, a possum was discovered in the attic.

Botts Blackstone, Sara and Mayor Allen Saffold, posing for "G.I. Jabber" in 1945

“Mary Carol was in the same carpool as Torrey Hughes, and Mary Torrey and I alternated taking them to school. Once, Mary Torrey picked them up at the high school and told them that Mrs. Saffold had had a terrible tragedy befall her. It seems she had gone out on Carrollton Avenue to get some liquor from the Likker Legger store and a Negro man grabbed her purse, containing about $900. She never did get her money back, so that was expensive ‘likker.'”

In old towns like Greenwood, there are families who dangle on the periphery of your awareness, just there and accepted but never truly relevant to your well-being. Sort of like the folks in Mayberry who only appear on one episode. And then there are families like the Saffolds, whose generations overlap your own and who are so deeply endearing across those generations that you realize your family wouldn’t be the same without their proximity. They are the next-door neighbors to Aunt Bea, the continuing characters who add spice and flavor and hilarity and dependability to this place where we live. Sara and Mary Torrey were daily chatters for decades and they leaned a lot on each other as Torrey and I navigated childhood and teen years. The broader Saffold and Jones families were chock full of eccentric but deeply kind and thoughtful personalities, and Greenwood is a less charming place without them. I never drive down Walthall toward Carrollton Avenue without thinking of those two grand old white houses with their precious little ladies and happy memories.

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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