Dodgers and Desperadoes

208 Walthall Street, once the home of the Meneese family, later Sara and Russell's first home.

“In the house behind us, where we lived when we first married, were the Meneeses. Mr. Meneese was a big fat man, and Mrs. Meneese was bent over terribly. They were having a rough time, and she would work all day down at the school canning fruits and vegetables, a WPA project. Their daughter, Dorothy, whom we called Daughter, was a teacher at the Indian school in Philadelphia. The Galey family had lived there before them.

“Next door to them were the Bennetts, a Jewish family who had two boys, Charles and Jerome, and a daughter, Helen Rose, who we called Sister Baby and who had one black eye and one brown eye.

Sara's lifelong friend, Jerome Bennett

They were very studious and quiet. Jerome was in my class and Charles a class ahead of me. Both have been extremely successful. Jerome was chairman of the board of White Motor Company and held high level positions with Ford Motor Company and Xerox.

“There was a big two story house across from us on Washington Street. Mr. and Mrs. Coburn lived downstairs and there were apartments upstairs. Mr. Coburn would get drunk and start hollering and cause quite a commotion. The Bilellos who lived in another big house next to them rented rooms to baseball players and, in the fall, to men working at the Cotton Association, so that made the neighborhood more interesting when we got old enough to notice.

The 1938 Greenwood Dodgers

George Patton, catcher for the Dodgers, with Sara, 1938.

“The Blumenthalls, another Jewish family with no children, lived on the corner across the street, or rather next to the corner. There was a vacant lot where all the boys in the neighborhood gathered to play baseball and football. They kept poor Mrs. Blumenthal upset with their noise and once or twice they hit a window with a ball, breaking it. Finally she would emerge from her house and shout, ‘Go away furder, boys, go away furder.’ Whenever they would have chicken, the Rabbi had to come and kill the chicken and bless it before they could cook it. We did not buy chickens ready to cook from the store then, but would buy a live hen and they would kill them by wringing their necks.

“Miss Fannie Weaver lived around the corner on Market Street. She was quite a character who had had several husbands and kept a parrot on her porch. We would love to walk by and hear the parrot say, ‘Polly wants a cracker.’ Early settlers recalled: “a Sunday morning in the early 1900s when a wholesale jail break freed a dozen or so prisoners from the village jail located on the corner of Main and Market streets. In making their escape, they headed east on Market Street for the ‘commons’ or a wooded tract near Miss Fannie Weaver’s home. When she heard the commotion she ran out to see what was going on. Soon she was out in the road beckoning to the prisoners and shouting, ‘Run, run fast! Come this way.’ Meanwhile the jailer, John Groves, was in full chase after the escaping prisoners, shooting as fast as he could fire his gun and reload it. The bullets whistled in and around Miss Fannie, who had joined the run-aways and was urging them on to freedom. When it was all over, Mr. Groves said to her in indignation, ‘I nearly shot you, and it would have served you right if I had.’ When the writer asked Miss Fannie why she aided and abetted the fleeing prisoners in their wild dash for liberty, she replied, ‘I always felt sorry for the fellow who in trouble, even if he deserved it.'” [ed note: Sara copied this story from an old Commonwealth article.]

Let’s see: Here we have a three-city-block area, one block from Main and two blocks from Howard, that featured a talking bird, friendly professional baseball players, loud drunks, a future Fortune 500 executive, an agitated immigrant with glass issues, chicken-blessing rabbis, a massive jailbreak and an unlikely partner-in-crime maiden lady. And, as we’ve seen in recent days, there was also the neighbor who had supper with her mother’s ghost each night, an eventually notorious murderer, a steamboat captain and the heir to Jefferson Davis’ china. Would you buy this book or put it back on the shelf as just too outlandish? Were the Evanses and the Stotts, piled up on each other as they were at 115 East Washington, the “normal neighbors?” Wouldn’t you love to drop in for a visit along about, say, 1940? I certainly would.

In the center of it all, 115 East Washington: Mamie, Jessie, Rena(Rawa), Son, Sara, Big, John and Uncle Roy, with Tricia and The Cat seated on the floor, 1944.

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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 Dodgers and Desperadoes

  1. jemiller25 says:

    Trying to figure out what Uncle Roy is holding in his hand…Could it be that the Stotts not only had the first TV in Mississippi, but one with a remote control? Certainly appears that way.

    • sec040121 says:

      Very mysterious. Let me ask Tricia. A lot like the photo Allan and I are working with from 1938 or so; highway construction worker appears to be talking and laughing on a cell phone. Hmmmm.

      Things must be slow on the reservation today.

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