Star Dust and Strikeouts

“On March 31, 1938, Tiny and B.J. were married at a friend’s house in Jackson and went to New Orleans on their honeymoon. B.J. was still over at Mississippi State, and he and Tiny lived in Starkville until the end of school. They had announced their engagement at a dance over there, and the orchestra dedicated ‘Star Dust’ to them, and I thought it was all terribly romantic.

Jessie Evans ("Tiny"), about 1936

“Buddy was at State so the crowd had thinned out some at 115 East Washington and Mary and I had moved upstairs. In the summer of 1938 my friend Mack and I somehow convinced our mothers that we were old enough to date baseball players. We had been going to all the ballgames and had met a few. I dated a school teacher (at least he told me he was one) from Cornwall, Pennsylvania, named George Patton. He was a catcher. She dated Woody Combs, who coached at a high school in Georgia. We both fell head over heels in love with them, even though we only dated them about the last month they were here.

“It was easy to fall in love when you were seventeen. We would go to the ballgames and watch them play and then they would come to see us after the game. We even talked Mack’s mother into taking us to Greenville and to Helena, Arkansas to ballgames. The trip to Helena was especially exciting because we had to cross the Mississippi River on a ferry boat and got to be with them on the boat. They rode home with us.

Eddie Amelung, Woody Combs and George Patton on Mississippi River ferry.

“We would go to Giardina’s and the Alice Cafe, which was on Market Street. They would drink beer, and we would play our favorite tunes on the nickelodian. Our favorite was ‘Thinking of You’ by Kay Kyser, and after they left we would cry when we heard it.

Kay Kyser and his band

George Patton and Woody Combs

They left for their respective homes in late August, and Mack and I just knew we would never want to date another high school boy after our exciting summer. We corresponded for about a year, but after that we had gotten interested in others closer to home. About five years later I got a call one night from my ballplayer friend. He was stationed at Camp McCain in Grenada and wanted to come see me. He did come, but the spark was gone, and I didn’t want to be with him. In fact, I could not see why I had ever been interested in him at all.

“I dated some of the players the next year, but by this time Mama was not liking the idea too well. She looked out one afternoon and I was going by in a convertible with three of them (one of whom was Tucker Clark from Morgan City) with a watermelon. I really caught it when I got back home and she told me that it was ‘common’ for me to be riding with them. I usually managed to have a good time, but it was not always to Mama’s liking.”

George Patton and Sara, 1938

The only comment needed here is that “common” was as low as you could go on Jessie Evans’ scale. And I doubt that Sara was ever in a convertible with a watermelon again.

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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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