Moving Memories

Mamie, Tiny and Sara on the bungalow front steps, circa 1926

Mamie, Tiny and Sara on the bungalow front steps, circa 1926

Since it’s too hot to breathe outside, perhaps this is a good day to stay in and post an update on the bungalow demolition. I’m grateful for air conditioning and my study’s ceiling fans, luxuries which Jessie didn’t have when she likely sent these three out into a steamy Greenwood summer day, 1926, telling them to play paper dolls on the porch or hopscotch on the sidewalk. I wonder if she was in the kitchen with Bama, baking teacakes and fixing the girls lemonade, or perhaps she had carved out a bit of time just for herself, to read or listen to her favorite radio shows. And who knows why Sara is clutching a pillow; in most of this era’s pictures, she’s wagging around a raggedy doll or a book. Maybe this was a foreshadow of her adult years, when her preferred spot was her big bed, whether she was making bottle dolls or mixing up cake batter or writing a story for the newspaper. I’ve never known anyone who could accomplish as much in a semi-recumbent position.

1212 Strong Avenue in early July, 2015, just a shell now.

1212 Strong Avenue in early July, 2015, just a shell now.

Back to the bungalow: Day by day, it vanishes from Strong Avenue, moving brick by brick and beam by beam out to Holmes County. The roof is about 1/3 gone, revealing attic rafters and joists that were fashioned by carpenters nearly a century ago. Their craftsmanship continues to amaze us as each layer of the house peels away. The chimney is coming down this week, leaving dark mortar and soot in the high grass of the lot. There’s not much left to deconstruct, mainly the porch bricks and the floors, and then we’ll be ready to call in the bulldozers to finish it off. That will be a tough day, and one when I will once again wonder, as I do so many days, whether I have properly honored my grandparents in this crazy venture.

The bungalow's front door, stacked in the shed at "West of West."

The bungalow’s front door, stacked in the shed at “West of West.”

Our farm shed is packed with doors and windows and sash weights and lintels and molding now; along the fence are 6000+ bricks, looking as if they emerged from the oven just last week. Architectural drawings cover our dining room table, plans for that old wood and those perfect bricks and generations of memories to be reshaped into a “home in the woods” for our children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren.

2015-04-24 09.41.08

I’ve dealt with old houses all over Mississippi, everything from elegant to ruined, for a very long time. Some are saturated with the spirits of those who built them and loved them, a very palpable presence that is in no way frightening or unnatural. The bungalow, happily, is one of those houses. And I’m delighted to say that whatever Evans family influence marked it as a place of joy in Greenwood has survived the piece-by-piece trip out to West. There’s just nothing like turning a doorknob which your mother turned with little sticky fingers in 1925 or looking through the window which your great-grandmother raised to call the girls in for teacakes. The circle is, for sure,  unbroken.

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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5 Responses to Moving Memories

  1. deborahwiles says:

    It sounds like you have quite the project underway! Much good luck with it. I’m catching up and seeing these posts from you… my granddaughter was born on April Fool’s Day four years ago… something we share in common with Sara. You do such a wonderful job in honoring your family history and taking care of its legacy. I’m so impressed, and I’m glad to know you. Hope all is well. xo Debbie

    • sec040121 says:

      April Fool’s birthdays are the best, as I think those folks are born with a sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously! Good to hear from you, hope to see you soon.

  2. What a fabulous story of life as it was in Greenwood, Mississippi during the 1920’s!
    My father’s family moved to Greenwood from Liberty Center, Indiana in1910.
    I am sure the Turpin’s knew this amazing family.
    I have been told “ all my life” that my Granddaddy, Thomas Turpin, planted the wonderful trees on Grand Avenue!
    I could continue, but not enough time in a day could cover it all!
    Lucy Turpin Hill

    • sec040121 says:

      Lucy, thank you so much for your comments. It’s always a pleasure to find connections to Greenwood around the country. The Turpin name is so familiar and I must ask my aunt, who is now 86, if she knew any of your family. It is very possible that your grandfather helped to plant our wonderful Boulevard oaks, under the direction of Sally Gwin. Quite a few of them are still alive, although most have been replaced through the years as they became diseased or died of old age. I would love to hear more about your family and their time in Greenwood and since. Take care.

  3. deborahwiles says:

    It’s fun to see this post land in my mailbox again. I’d forgotten about dismantling the bungalow until you told me this past fall the story about building your new place — forgot you’d made a post about it. Sometime I hope to see that place out west! Love to you and Tricia. xo Debbie

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