The Beginning of the End and the End of the Beginning

IMG_0003This looks like a happy day at 1212 Strong Avenue, doesn’t it? Sara, Tiny and Mamie are all dolled up in their best winter coats, hats, leggings and boots, probably on a damp winter’s day much like today, maybe 1926. My guess would be that Sara is 5, Tiny is 8, Mamie is 6. Whoever is behind the camera has no trouble getting a smile from these three, so I suspect it’s their father. Howard Evans, Sr.,built this house, a sturdy, roomy bungalow, with these three girls and their mother in mind. It was a house full of dolls and paper dolls and playhouses and music and books and laughter and probably a few hair-pulling, eye-scratching tussles between these angelic little ladies. It was very much a home and the place where, at least for Sara, the memories started. She tells us in her memoir that this was the happiest place for the Evans family, and though that may be the rose-colored recollections which we all have of our earliest years, there’s some truth there. A year or so later, Howard, Jr., would arrive, and that chapter of the Evans story in Greenwood would continue until 1929. That year, the house was sold, the Jackson adventure began, and a different family came back to Greenwood in 1932, knowing 1212 Strong Avenue only as someone else’s home for all the decades to come.

1212 Strong Avenue, 115 East Washington, 207 Walthall: All of these houses, never home to me, but as much a part of my childhood memories as our own house at 409 East Adams. My mother was a storyteller, a keeper of legends and a weaver of dreams, who filled my days with tales of an earlier time in those houses, so much so that I could walk through them in my mind and hear Mamie’s giggles and Tiny’s lectures to her younger sisters and my grandmother’s calls out the back door, reeling them in at dusk or offering wood stove tea cakes. I loved those old houses as much as my own and I still consider them a part of this family, even though the Strong Avenue bungalow has been another family’s for 86 years and the last Stott left 115 East Washington almost fifty years ago. Time flies, true, but it leaves strands of attachment in its wake, and I have a bad habit of getting tangled in those strands.

photo-25Look again at the picture above. The girls are standing in front of the bungalow’s front screen door, a wooden frame just a few years old with an elaborate scrollwork mesh protecting the screen. In a later life, when the big wraparound porch was enclosed, that door was moved to the new entrance. It’s still there, though curled and loose. The whole house is still there, somewhat worse for wear and surrounded by houses whose owners are not too concerned with history or dignity or the echoes of little girls long gone. The neighborhood, like so many in Greenwood, is struggling to survive, but 1212 will not. Not in its 93-year-old form.

My contractor came today, armed with crowbars and saws and hammers. He will take the bungalow apart, carefully crating up the big windows and the door frames and the old doorknobs and the mantle and the bookshelves. Then he’ll pull the bricks off and load it all up on a trailer, bound for Holmes County. There it will all magically come back together, not as a bungalow, but as a cabin for Jessie’s 4th granddaughter (that’s me!) and her grand-son-in-law and her great-grandchildren and her great-great-grandchildren and, hopefully, for generations to come that none of us will ever know.

We’re losing a big piece of our Greenwood history, beginning today. But we’re taking Jessie home, in a sense, back to Holmes County. And with her will come Sara and Tiny and  Mamie and Howard, Sr., and Howard, Jr., at least in memory and in spirit. That’s the beauty of an old house and of family: If you never forget, it’s never gone.

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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6 Responses to The Beginning of the End and the End of the Beginning

  1. Susan Evans Smith says:

    Beautifully written with love.

  2. Daniel says:

    Nice work! Jim has told me a lot about 1212 and y’all’s plans. It’s a beautiful story and a lovely reclaiming of the memories that get embedded in our objects. Best of luck with dismantling.

    • sec040121 says:

      Thanks, Daniel. It’s going to be an interesting process and will hopefully lead to a special space in Holmes County for future generations. I hope you’ll come visit there and help to make new memories.

  3. Rebecca Allison says:

    As one who called 1212 home for a short time, I am glad to know that its essentials will survive in Holmes County. Thank you for keeping the memories alive.

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