The Man I Never Knew

Another 28th day of June has rolled around, intensely hot and humid, as I am sure almost all of these days have been since that one in 1894. 119 of them, to be exact. It must have been a scorcher in McNutt, Mississippi, in that old courthouse where my grandfather made his entrance into the world. Howard McTyiere Evans was the fourth child of an itinerant Methodist preacher whose make-do parsonage was that repurposed Sunflower County government building. An odd beginning for a cryptic man.

I never knew my grandfather. None of his grandchildren did. He was gone in 1932, nine years before his first grandson was born and 22 years before I arrived. As I age myself and realize just how tragic the death of a 38-year-old father was and how that death continues to echo down the generations, I miss this fellow that I once thought of as a stranger, a lost soul who my grandmother never mentioned. But as I’ve worked on Sara’s memoir and this blog, Howard Evans has come to life for me, captured in her words as a sweet, affectionate and doting parent. I would love to slip back to those days of the 1920s when he sat down in the yard with his girls and read the funny papers. I’d like to be in his lap with Sara, laughing at Gasoline Alley and Little Orphan Annie.

The only house Howard and Jessie ever owned is slowly collapsing on Strong Avenue, forgotten by its owner and most of Greenwood. I’m working on a way to save it, and you will be hearing more about those plans on this blog. Stay tuned and tell me I’m not crazy.

I’ve never known what to call Howard Evans when I talk about him. But more and more, the natural name seems to be “Granddaddy.” So here’s a birthday wish, Granddaddy. I love you and I miss you.
Evans Album 11_0001

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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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8 Responses to The Man I Never Knew

  1. jennyadams22 says:

    YES! I want more of this story told.

  2. beckyallison says:

    Was the address 1212 Strong? I believe I read that on one of your earlier blog posts. My family lived there from 1965-1975, and it broke my heart when I visited Greenwood last year and saw what it had become.

    • sec040121 says:

      It is pretty sad, and there’s not much future for it where it is, unless the hospital finds a use for it. But I do have a question: Was the large bank of cabinets in the back hallway when you lived there? I’m trying to figure out if that feature was original, since my mother never mentions it. It’s quite impressive. Thanks for any descriptions you can give of the house during your time there.

      • beckyallison says:

        Yes, I do remember those cabinets, so they were placed at least before 1965. My parents moved there after the Sledge family (he had been the hospital administrator) moved to Texas. My mother was the Director of Nursing Service and she would walk to and from work every day. I had just gone to Ole Miss and so was only home holidays and summers. My favorite room was the den – I suppose now we might call it a Florida Room – to the right of the front porch, brightened by all the windows.

      • sec040121 says:

        The windows are deceptively large throughout the house, just pouring light into the rooms. That area to the right of the porch was originally open, as you can see in the old photos from the 1920s. The concrete downspouts are still there; Sara talks about her mother flooding the porch so they could have a “pool,” with the water then draining down the spouts. Very clever. Please do share any more memories which you might have of this special house.

        ________________________________

      • beckyallison says:

        I remember the size of the rooms. The kitchen and den were “cozy” but the dining room, formal living, and both bedrooms were spacious. That was probably important for the young family! There were large trees in the yard west of the house, giving summer shade and easing the load on the window air conditioners. The ceilings seemed taller than usual but that may be just my memory. The driveway between the house and the “nurses’ dorm” next door was very narrow! My father would often just park in the front.

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