Sylvandell: More than a Myth

Tucked away in the environs of our historic neighborhood is a bit of Greek mythology. A wooded area at the eastern end of Pinehurst Street was once the dream of Jackson land developer L.L. Mayes who saw in its forests, hills and streams a domicilable setting for young families to begin their lives. Mr. Mayes began the development of Sylvandell in the late 1920’s and many of its homes of varied architectural styles may be found in the 1400 block of St. Mary Street (east side) and around the southeastern corner of Laurel Street to Laurel Street Park.

Pinehurst Street (named for the Pinehurst subdivision) was cleared and developed around 1915 as an integral product of Captain William M. Gillespie’s land purchase prior to the Civil War. Captain Gillespie moved to Jackson from Tennessee and for $840 purchased a country place consisting of 40 acres along the “Canton Dirt Road”. The Gillespie Place, which was the origin of the Belhaven neighborhood, was later known to be comprised of portions of North State, Arlington, Hazel and Wells (Poplar) Streets. After the captain’s death the old Gillespie place burned, but was known to have been surrounded by beautiful woodlands so dense only the gables of the house could be seen from the road. It was said that Captain Gillespie left a fortune buried on the grounds of his homestead and thus the land became the clandestine haunts of a number of treasure hunters shovels in hand. That legend, however, is a tale for another day.

Prior to the mid-twenties, that portion of Pinehurst Street that developed east along the southern campus of Belhaven College and on to St. Ann Street was previously known as Harper Street. At its terminus at newly-developed St. Mary (‘s) Street, it dipped into hostile typography: ravines and ditches, hillocks and gulches, filled with a multitude of critters and cries in the night. Most potential developers viewed it as worthless terrain. But not L.L. Mayes, then living with his family in a neoclassical home designed by Emmett Hull, which still stands on the southwest corner of Peachtree and Pinehurst Streets.

Entrance to Sylvandell

Mayes saw a residential niche in the six acres he initially purchased in early 1928. He was sensitive to the needs of young families who either could not afford to buy or preferred to rent their starter home. Mayes described his acreage as a “beauty spot where one would expect to hear Pan playing on his reed pipes and to see fairies and wood nymphs dancing in the dells to his irresistible music.” He therefore commissioned Mr. Joseph Barras, sculptor, to design a concrete entrance of wide steps anchored by nymphs and leading down to the bucolic setting which became Laurel Street Park. Behind the homes on St. Mary and Laurel Streets there were woodlands to the west and a meadow to the east. A descending natural stairway led from the entrance to a simple bridge and winding walkways built of crushed gray slag with white borders which dropped down to ravines and undergrowth and a “babbling brook”. The walkways coursed through rustic walls emulating old English country sides. Interspersed were several benches and tables also designed by Mr. Barras and cast by the N.W. Wright Stone Works that also cast the figures for the main entrance. Homes were built of buff brick, trimmed in white and topped with light apple green tiled roofs. Both the front and rear of the homes were set in a forested atmosphere designed to be attractive from the street.

Each new home was comprised of a living room, dining room, one or two bedrooms, tile bathroom, kitchen, basement, storage attic, “warm air plant”, electric cooking stove and hardwood floors. They averaged 1,000-1,200 square feet and according to the 1930 census, rent ranged from $65 per month at 1466 St. Mary to $85 per month at 1436, with rates based on the overall structure and size of the lot. There was a screened side porch for hot summer evenings, later closed in by most when AC arrived in the late 40’s. Community garages were built at suitable points so as not to take space and esthetics away from the original building. The homes were furnished prior to rental for according to an ad by the R.E. Kennington Company in 1929, “it has been our pleasure to furnish the shades, rugs, draperies and furniture for the living rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms of the beautiful Sylvandell homes.”

In addition to Kennington’s store, there were a number of local companies, firms and individuals who contributed to the ambience of Sylvandell. Among these were Enterprise Furnace Manufacturing, A.F. Nash, plumber, Eagle Lumber and Supply Company, Stephenson Brick Company, Jackson Lumber Company, Ricks Storage Company, McCleland, Addkison & Bauer Hardware, D.P. Denny, contractor, E.W. Cook Lighting Fixtures, Ray Wright Sheet Metal, Capital Paint and Glass Company, Moseley, Nelson & Smith Insurance, C.A. Hollis, builder, Ellis Stewart, painter and decorator and Planters Lumber Company.

While not directly in the Sylvandell plat, some residents remember a small building at the top of the hill on Laurel Street where some stone steps now lead to a vacant lot. The structure near this lot is reputed to have been a neighborhood library and careful examination of this garage building shows where this might have been possible. This was most likely a private effort on the part of a literary resident. It was a small but meaningful service to surrounding residents. But whose effort was it? Who cared enough to take the time? Who now knows?

Corinne Fox is a current resident of Sylvandell. As a former Jackson city planning director, she is professionally familiar with neighborhoods, architecture, codes and building policies. She has owned and lived in her home on St. Mary Street since 1971. Corinne knows the history of the development and remembers the remains of the alley dividing portions of her block and the community garage behind what is now an apartment unit on Laurel Street. For 41 years she has never regretted moving from other Jackson locations to Sylvandell and learning of its history since eye physician Dr. W.L. Hughes was her house’s first tenant in 1930. Other early residents in these homes according to the census were Bernard Lowe (fire insurance agent), P.R. Galbreath (automobile dealer), Donald Munroe (geologist and weatherman), Hamilton McRae (wholesale hardware), Freeland Gale (store clerk), Lacey Hughes (dentist) and Ernest Laird (bank cashier). “The people who settled this area were of some prominence,” she says, “and still are today through their myriad interests, achievements and gifts to this community.”

“I love being in this house,” she responded when asked of her home. “This is an area with an ideal mix of people – young, old, all income levels and interests in life. I feel safe here with furnishings of my earlier life and among friends who are part of my life today. My new neighbor is an FBI agent. No wonder I feel so safe!”

Special Agent Robert H. Ruby, who grew up in Starkville, came to Jackson from New Orleans about a year and a half ago. He kept hearing good things about “a small town setting (Belhaven), sitting in the middle of Jackson”. He at first considered building a new house on a vacant lot, but later decided to renovate an existing structure in Fondren or Belhaven. A Belhaven realtor told him about one of the Sylvandell homes which had fallen into serious disrepair. Upon first inspection of the property Robert said “no way”. But the more he learned of the neighborhood the more determined he was to live not only in Belhaven but that very house. His decision was made. “It took 13 months from the time I obtained the property to get the multitude of clearances from the city which had originally wanted to demolish the existing structure. I spoke with a builder who is college buddy and he told me he could make the house look like new while keeping the original appearance.” The task is now complete and Robert has moved into the house which is a showplace and he plans to have it as his “home forever”.

When resurrecting old structures one of the first things you want to know is if there is a ghost. “Of course there is a ghost,” Robert says, “one of a former tenant, and he welcomed me with sights and sounds the first week I lived here.” The first night, while Robert was sleeping, there was the sound of a picture falling from the wall. He turned on the lights, investigated but could not find where this had occurred. The second night he thought he heard a key turn in the front door. Again, no evidence. On the third night there was a ‘crash’. No motive could be found. Although there have been no incidences since, the new tenant feels confident he has been accepted by his ghost and there will be no further contact.

A garage in Sylvandell

You may now wish to pause for a moment and enter the heart and thoughts of the young couple viewing their new dwelling for the first time some 80 years ago. You can imagine their dreams of starting their life together in prosperous times, planning their family and roads to success. You might think of them walking hand in hand on the pathways along the stream, pointing out the hues in the foliage and discussing improvements and the larger home they would one day own. You can also see in the mind’s eye the development of this neighborhood and the foundations of its larger future.

The fairies and nymphs are gone now. Well, almost. The concrete foundations of Pan’s pipes remain crumbling at the dead-end of Pinehurst and the steps and little footbridge across the brook and into the park have returned to the soil. Sylvandell has given way to Greater Belhaven. Laurel Street Park is entered from the north. The remaining homes are now of varied hues and the woods have grown over the little footpaths. Driveways and garages have replaced the hidden community carports originally earmarked for resident’s vehicles. Pan and his music have gone back into the flocks and shepherds from whence they came. But a single nymph remains, hidden along a nearby driveway in the vicinity of her once statuesque beauty. She is quiet now and pensive, recalling her origins in folklore and proud of her singular role of helping frame one of Belhaven’s most classical neighborhoods.

The Nymph of Sylvandell

 

bill-and-nan-harvey-web
Bill and Nan Harvey

Nan Ertle Harvey is a native of Yazoo County, a graduate of Mississippi College and has lived with her husband Bill in the Belhaven neighborhood since 1994. She worked in a research position in the Department of Microbiology at UMMC, retiring in 2003. Nan’s hobbies are photography, nature study and family research. She is a volunteer at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Bill Harvey is a native Jacksonian, living most of his life in Belhaven. A MSU Bulldog, he has had careers in journalism, education and as development director of the Andrew Jackson Council, Boy Scouts of America. Bill enjoys photography, music, writing articles for neighborhood sources and sharing experiences with friends at a local coffee shop. (Text copyright Bill and Nan Harvey, used by permission of Bill and Nan Harvey)

Sources:

1) “Keith’s Beautiful Home Magazine”,  Jackson Daily News, March 3, 1929
2) Corinne Fox, Sylvandell resident
3) Robert H. Ruby, Sylvandell resident
4) 1930 Census (Hinds County, Mississippi, Beat 1; City of Jackson, Ward 5)

Shady Nook

How many of us have stopped at a gas station with cross front facing gable roof porticos supported by Greek Doric columns? How about one with an entablature below the pediment of the gable? Sure you have if you have dropped by the real estate office of Henry LaRose at 944 Poplar Blvd. or gassed up at 1301 Hazel Street and had a Popsicle back in the day.

The Shady Nook Service Station was built in 1928 (columns added in 1933) at Poplar & Hazel by A. Hays Town, a Louisiana architect who was getting his career started with N.W. Overstreet in Jackson. Mr. Town lived 101 years and designed over a thousand buildings throughout the country including Bailey Magnet School in 1938. Through the years his creation served as a provider of Sinclair (remember the dinosaur on the road maps?), Conoco, Phillips 66 and Chevron oil products. Later the building became the renovated home for the design, planning and selling of homes and office space for new horizons.

Shady Nook, 1969
Shady Nook, 1969

A caption under a photo in the July 29, 1937 edition of the Jackson Daily News described Shady Nook as “The only northeast Jackson residential section concern of its kind. Here the autoist can get everything in the way of expert auto service. This includes tire repairing, washing, greasing, and general lubrication. There are hundreds of satisfied customers who trade here exclusively.”

Through the years Shady Nook had numerous managers and product providers. The first was Robert U. McDaniel in 1928, followed in 1930 by R.L. Foster. That was in the days when it had only the one regular gas pump. Ethyl had not yet arrived. In five year intervals there were C.H. McKeithen & Samuel Reid (1935), H.H. Cutrer (1940), jobber Hugh S. Williford (1945), Roy Daffener (1950), W. Fay Demmings (1955), George M. Hill (1960), Jack DerMoushegian (1965), and Merle Ainsworth (1967). The final listing of Shady Nook as a service station was in the 1969 Jackson City Directory with W.B. Tull as manager. Following the final year as an independent neighborhood service station, Shady Nook remained closed until Goodman and Mockbee Architects bought it in 1978. When Thomas Goodman and Sambo Mockbee adapted the structure for themselves, two draftsmen and a secretary a lot of work was needed to convert the old gas and oil format to a modern, odor-free office. “We had no problem with the conversion,” said Goodman, “except to pull eight 5,000 gallon gas tanks out of the ground. One of them still had gasoline in it and we had to sleep with it overnight.”

Goodman and Mockbee moved on to larger quarters in 1980 and the building was sold to Tommy Thames, where it remained until 1985 as J.H. Thames Real Estate. For a number of years the building remained vacant or served as temporary housing for neighborhood events or a political headquarters (Dick Molphus in 1997). Henry LaRose moved into 944 Poplar on November 30, 1997 where his office remains today.

But how did Mr. McDaniel’s old Sinclair station become Shady Nook? Ah. Therein hangs a tale with its origins as nebulous as a curl of smoke. Down around the corner on Hazel and up Pinehurst a block or so was this all-girls school we know as Belhaven College.

Typing class, Belhaven College, c. 1928
Typing class, Belhaven College, c. 1928

Back in the Roaring Twenties, the matrons who guarded their little flock of princesses had to be careful where their charges would stray if not carefully supervised. Consequently, a number of local Jackson day and night spots were declared off-limits as they could tempt the unwary with transgressions such as cigarettes or beer or – God forbid – unchaperoned men. Shady Nook, however, was new and after all, a service station, not an alehouse so it was a time before guardians of virtue at the nearby college got around to issuing a forbidden designation for the facility. Thomas Goodman did a little research on all this before moving in.

It seems the little service station on the corner had become a hangout for the Belhaven girls. In addition to gasoline sales, the establishment had a small grocery store inside which sold candy, gum, ice cream, soft drinks and…cigarettes. It seemed that some of the girls would find their way down Hazel Street after class to the store and purchase a pack of smokes, lighting them up behind the store just like Bogie and Bacall. One of the girls was a student named (Mrs. Matthew) O’Riley, later Goodman’s third grade teacher. According to Goodman, It was Ms. O’Riley who suggested the name Shady Nook to the new owner and the name has stuck to this day.

Over the years many of the older residents of the Belhaven neighborhood remember their association with Shady Nook. Mr. Bob Canizaro recalls when he used his grass mowing money to buy Fudge sickles. Young Billy Harvey would take his bike by to air up the tires and buy a coke from a primitive drink machine where you slid your bottle down a little horizontal track and pulled up a spacer to get your soda. Kids would come by on their way to Laurel Street Park on Saturday mornings for a pack of Nabs or a bag of peanuts and it was always a good stop after school for an ice cream cone. All the while station attendants pumped $.25 gas, wiped windshields and checked the battery and oil. There was a bay on the left where cars were washed. The opposing space on the right was where cars were serviced and tires repaired. There was a counter in front for displays of combs and bobby pins. There were glass jars for candy and peanuts. There were some potted plants around for “atmosphere”. A few old trees were on the right and rear of the building shading the tiled roof.

Today Shady Nook is the real estate office of Henry LaRose, who first learned of the building’s history while dating Ann Tull in 1963. Her father Bailey Tull was then an employee of the service station. “As I walk up the front walk each morning,” Henry says, “I give thanks to God that I work here. Anyone with a passion for Belhaven and with a real estate license could walk into this building and make a good living.”

LaRose Realty
LaRose Realtor

Today the trees are larger or gone. The gas sells down on State Street for over $3 a gallon. Gum, candy and Dixie cups no longer cost a nickel and cigarettes are more than the gasoline. Henry has maps, computers and modern lighting. The telephones ring with a Led Zep riff instead of the old bell you could hear for a city block. There’s an arch now in front and the potted plants are gone, but never the memories. We hope that as long as there is a corner of Poplar and Hazel there will be a Shady Nook; that behind the modern façade of tiles and sheet rock and air conditioned comfort, there will be within the eight inch walls old grease spots and tire patch burns and perhaps an initial or two of some small boy who parked his bike long enough for the attendant to apply a hot patch to his tire puncture or that suspicious curl of smoke wafting up from that risqué co-ed entering womanhood with a Chesterfield like the one she saw Ingrid Bergman wave about at Rick’s Place the week before at the Paramount.

Shady Nook: It’s down at Henry LaRose’s place. For 87 years it has been a convenience and a part of this place we call Belhaven. Like many of us, it has a new façade and has stood the test of time.

Bill and Nan Harvey, August 2012

Nan Ertle Harvey is a native of Yazoo County, a graduate of Mississippi College and has lived with her husband Bill in the Belhaven neighborhood since 1994. She worked in a research position in the Department of Microbiology at UMMC, retiring in 2003. Nan’s hobbies are photography, nature study and family research. She is a volunteer at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Bill Harvey is a native Jacksonian, living most of his life in Belhaven. A MSU Bulldog, he has had careers in journalism, education and as development director of the Andrew Jackson Council, Boy Scouts of America. Bill enjoys photography, music, writing articles for neighborhood sources and sharing experiences with friends at a local coffee shop. (Text copyright Bill and Nan Harvey, used by permission of Bill and Nan Harvey.)

Sources:

(1) Shady Nook Photo: Jackson Daily News July 29, 1937
(2) “The Shady Nook Gets a New Lease on Life” by Lynda Smalbout, Clarion Ledger, May 14, 1979
(3) “Life After Death for Gas Stations?” by Andy Kanangiser, Jackson Daily News, Dec. 20, 1979
(4) Interview with Henry LaRose, LaRose Realty, August 27, 2012
(5) Narrative draft, application to U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service/National Register of Historic Places, August 20, 2012, p. 197
(6) LaRose Realty photo: Bill Harvey

The Powers That Be

Many in our neighborhood know Power School as the modern APAC facility at Riverside and Peachtree Streets, winner of major national awards and a proud educational exponent of excellence in the arts. But there was an old Power School as well, now a church parking lot, but instrumental in the early education of a number of Jackson’s finest citizens.

Old Power (1916-54)

John L. Power
John L. Power

The original Power School was named for John Logan Power (1834-1901). According to board minutes for August 21, 1916, two resolutions of definite importance were passed. The first concerned the election of Mr. Edward Bailey as Jackson Public School superintendent and a subsequent resolution named the “new elementary school for Col. J.L. Power.” (1)   While not a “school man”, per se, Col. Power served on several boards and committees which provided administration to Jackson’s early school system. A native of Tipperary, Ireland, he came to the United States when he was 16-years-old. In 1862, he entered the Confederate Army as a sergeant in the 1st Artillery Regiment, Company A. He served in the Vicksburg Campaign and was a prisoner of war until pardoned in July of 1863. In 1864, he was made superintendent of army records, with the rank of colonel. Col. Power was in the publishing business prior to the Civil War, being owner and publisher of the Jackson Daily News which he purchased in 1860. He subsequently helped establish the Mississippi Standard, which was later (1866) merged into the Clarion. In 1887, he and R.H. Henry of Brookhaven consolidated their two papers, the Jackson Clarion and the Brookhaven Ledger, into the Clarion-Ledger. In 1896, he sold his interest in the paper to become Secretary of State. He was re-elected in 1899 and served in this capacity until his death in 1901. For 27 years, Col. Power was superintendent of the First Presbyterian Sunday School and was a ruling elder in that church. He was Grand Secretary of all Mississippi Masons from 1869 until his death. (1) (2)

The first Power School was built in 1916 with an entrance facing North State Street on its southeast corner. The original entrance is shown on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History photo at the end of this article. Several years later, the school was expanded eastward and the main entrance faced Pinehurst Street across from what is now First Presbyterian Church. Land for the school was acquired from J.T. Harper (11/17/15), W. Carnahan (2/11/16) and F.L. Mayes (10/29/15). The two-story brick schoolhouse, designed by N.W. Overstreet and Hays Towns, was completed and ready for business by the fall of 1916. (3) (5)  According to an article in the August 27, 1916, Jackson Daily News, “Attention is called to the fact that the Col. J.L. Power School, which is now in process of construction, will be open by the first school day in September.” Classes actually began on September 18, 1916. The article goes on to state, “The final touches will be added in a week and the building will be in good shape for occupancy. Every new and up-to-date device, appliance, convenience and sanitary condition has been provided for the children who will, beginning with the coming session, begin school here. “ The Board of Education wishes to call attention to the fact that boundary lines have been established with regard to this new school and they will be strictly enforced. The boundary lines (are) defined as follows:  “On the south, the Power School will be bounded by Fortification Street, except those children who live on Fortification Street, west of State Street. These will continue to attend the Davis School. The (Power) school is bounded on the west by the Illinois Central Railroad tracks and on the north and on the east by the city limits.” (10)

Old Power School
Old Power School

Old Power was situated on the north end of town. Gillespie Street and east-west streets running southward into downtown Jackson were fairly well developed as shown by residences in the 1916 Jackson City directory. There were a few homes on the west side of North State (Canton Road) but most land areas were open fields and meadows. Pinehurst Street was largely undeveloped. (4)  The 1946 Sanborn Fire Insurance map indicates Power as facing north. It was a red brick structure with a east and west wing. The building had electricity and was heated by a gas furnace. “Air conditioning” was furnished by open windows. The main entrance was at 709 Pinehurst Street but there were also entrances off North State on the west and a basement entrance facing east. (5)  Architecturally, it was built along the lines of other early Jackson grade schools, e.g., Davis, Galloway, Poindexter, George, Lee, (Jim) Hill and Smith-Robinson. The original school building contained five classrooms. The school’s first teachers were first grade, Miss Emma Green; second and third grade, Miss Mabel Bridges; fourth grade, Miss Ruth Reed; fifth and sixth grade, Miss Jim Hailey; and seventh grade, Miss Marcia Gibbs, who was also served as the school’s first principal. (10) (1)

Several former students at old Power remember the structure well.  Mrs. Charlotte Charles, Judge Swan Yerger and Mr. Muller Addkison were contemporary students at Power in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Mrs. Charles lives in her three generation family home on Gillespie Street. Mr. Addkison lives in his family home on Gillespie Street and Judge Yerger is retired and a resident of northeast Jackson, although he spent much of his boyhood on Poplar. (7) (6) (8) Mrs. Charles remembers Power as follows. “The first floor contained grades 1-3 separated by a large center hall. There was the cafeteria on the south side and two cloakrooms. The second floor contained grades 4-6, an auditorium, adjacent library and the principal’s office. Bathrooms were in the basement.” She remembers the black slate blackboards and the rows of desks bolted to the floor. Desks were wooden with tops that raised over a space for books and supplies. The west yard facing State Street contained wooden swings, see-saws, rings for swinging and a hand propelled merry-go-round. There was also an open lot where the younger kids played their games and occasionally baseball.  “We were caught up in the war effort (WWII) as children,” Mrs. Charles said. “We planted a Victory Garden during the war and filled Red Cross boxes to send overseas to troops. Although the cafeteria served good food, some of the neighborhood children, including myself, came home for lunch each day.” (7)

All three of these early Power students were synchronous. All remember the same teachers from their years in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. According to all, first grades were taught by Miss Minnie Hill and Miss Emma Green; second grade by Miss Mary McLemore and Miss Alfreda Misterfeldt; Third grade, Miss Hattie Casey and Miss May Fulmer; fourth grade, Miss Elaine Mack and Miss Ellisine Butler; fifth grade, Miss Frances Parnell and Miss Marguerite Briscoe; and sixth grade, Mrs. Gray Hillsman and Miss Elizabeth Williamson. The principal was Mr. R.B. Layton (10) Miss Briscoe became principal upon the reassignment of Mr. Layton to Bailey Junior High in 1942, and continued in that role through the closure of old Power in 1954 and until her own retirement in 1960 at the new Power on Riverside Drive. She was replaced in her fifth grade classroom by Miss Nancy Parks. (1) (6) (7) (8)

Jackson oilman and republican philanthropist Billy Mounger remembers one earlier teacher. “I remember a Miss Miazza, my fourth grade teacher, who was good looking”. She became a ‘Mrs.’ Later in the year.” (9)  Judge Swan Yerger is most complimentary of his teachers. “These ladies were dedicated to their profession and took great personal interest in their students. They were good examples to follow.” (6)  Good behavior was necessary for learning in Power’s early years. According to Judge Yerger, “Miss Green had an enclosed dunce corner similar to a child’s room in her classroom but I don’t remember anyone being sent there. Excessive talking could get you sent to the hall in front of the classroom or you could be sent to the cloakroom.” Miss Green handed out rewards as well as corrections. She would send little slips of paper home with the well-behaved children on which was written the word “good” or other positive comments . Miss McLemore would use a ruler to maintain order. “She would ask a boy to hold out his hand for a mild slap to remind him to mind his teacher.” (6)

judge swan Yerger
Judge Swan Yerger

Judge Yerger remembers the classroom layouts and entrances on three sides of the building. “There was an auditorium on the second floor,” he said, “with a stage and folding seats. The east side of the building was mostly grass where the primary playground was located. “There was a ‘jungle jim’ see-saws and a slide. The west side was infrequently used and the northside was, of course, the main entrance. There was an alley behind the east yard where kids would ride their bikes and park them in racks located inside the basement door. Some children would be dropped off at the school by their parents in the morning and we would walk home, sometimes stopping by a friend’s house on the way. Children from further away would ride the bus.”  Walking and biking were primary means of transportation back when old Power was new. Only a few households could afford the new 1916 Dodge Brothers automobile or its companion the Maxwell. Remember Jack Benny?  Judge Yerger remembers an open field across from the school on Pinehurst where the older boys would play softball during recess and after school on a diamond laid out for that purpose. First Presbyterian Church, constructed in 1950, stands on the old sandlot today.

One of Judge Yerger’s many memories of Power was being selected as a Safety Patrol captain in the sixth grade. As a Patrol Boy he helped children cross the busy streets around the school and worked with Sgt. Allen, a Jackson PD motorcycle safety policeman. “Of course there were fewer cars then,” he said. The judge proudly attests “I still have my badge.” Judge Yerger has graduated so let’s be careful when crossing North State. (6)  Mr. Addkison remembers a number of his contemporaries from the halls of old Power. Some of these were James Boyd Campbell, Martha Harris, later to become Mrs. Campbell; Frances Heidelberg Coker, Wesley Ann Travis, Bob Travis, James Elliott, Catherine Swaze, Mary Ann McNeil, Martha Henderson, Libby Mounger, Fred Sanders, B.B. McLendon, Shannon Williford.  There were also Dennis Brown, Billy Cook, Bobby Davat, David DeCell, Anne Foy, Ronnie Horowitz, Barkie Johnston, Jane Laird, Billie Mahaffey, Bob Merryman, Betty Small, Bobbie Thrower, Dot Tingle, Olive Caldwell, Natalie Chance, Betty Eckles, Jack Flood, Billy Fulgham, Pete Hand, Ralph Hester, Bryant Horne, Chester Jones, Boyne Oxford, George Reed, Billy Riecken, Dolly Ann Shortridge, Claude Smith, Lois Smith, Ernest Spencer, Jimmy Stout, Haskell Turner, Victor Vance, Frances Ann Beecham and Virginia Cavett. (8)

All of Power’s students were not as conventional as Charlotte, Swan and Muller. Billy Mounger began his schooldays at Power in its final kindergarten session in 1931. Author of the book Amidst the Fray (2006), he shares his own experiences at Power School.

“I was an individualist,” Mr. Mounger attests. “I remember when Miss Green would give out the ‘good’ cards. Jane Best got one everyday, but I never got one.”  Young Billy relates how he got “run over” when he was in kindergarten. “I came out of kindergarten one day and realized I had missed my ride. There was a crossing policeman at North State but I decided to cut across the Millsaps campus to where we lived at the time. A lady in a Model A Ford ran over me on State Street. She broke my leg, knocked out some teeth and sent me to the Baptist Hospital. I had a cast on my leg for weeks but I have forgiven her.” Mr. Mounger related some of his experiences and impressions at Power to “just being me.” “We didn’t have much playground,” he recalls. “We had to improvise on the lot across the (Pinehurst) street and find things to do during recess in or near the main building. We could also listen to the World Series in the auditorium. One of the things I do remember is that while the building was not that old it was structurally unsound. It was held together with iron rods with stars on each end.” Young Billy made a discovery in his fifth grade class. School administrators had recently changed the grading system from A,B,C, etc. to VS (very satisfactory), S (satisfactory), N (normal) and U (unsatisfactory). The new ratings compared the current student achievement with that of the previous term. “I would take my report card home with a ‘satisfactory’. “My father would be upset because it would appear I wasn’t making progress. I was being compared to my former status not an advancement and hence could do no better. Dad would say, ‘why you’re just normal. You can do better than that’.”

William "Billy" Mounger
William “Billy” Mounger

Students were placed in 1930’s Power according to a “tracking method”. “I sat in the third grade with 28 girls and 13 boys,” Mr. Mounger said. “It took a while for me to realize I was in with the ‘higher’ students. Girls must have been smarter than boys in those days – or more motivated.”  Regardless of early behavior, leadership comes out in many forms. “Individualist” Billy Mounger was made a captain of the school’s Safety Patrol in the sixth grade. “I got demoted from the captain’s role for kicking a door in the classroom, almost hitting the principal. This even carried over to my high school days. I am probably the only West Point graduate to get kicked out of Junior R.O.T.C. at Central.”  Some of Billy Mounger’s friends at Power were Mrs. Homer (Jane) Best, Dr. Harold Caver, Doris Allen Jones of Bryant Galleries, Eddie Guillot, “Boots” Watkins, who headed up the first electrical engineering company in the state; Dickie Deaver who became a scientist, future oral surgeon Sam Sanders and Polly Wells who was selected most beautiful both at Central High and Ole Miss. (9) While “prominent” is a matter of individual taste, all four early Power students were the sons and daughters of pre-war Jackson citizens who grew up in a time of structure, sacrifice and personal responsibility. “We respected our teachers,” Mr. Mounger said, “We considered them on the same level as doctors and always invited them to our events.” Jackson was better for the time these youngsters spent at Power School and the families who sent them there.

Public transportation consisted of city buses which deposited kids at the school corner where crossing guards like Swan Yerger and Billy Mounger helped them across busy streets. Many students walked from home or rode their bicycles. You bought a meal ticket for $1 a week and ate in Mrs. Henrietta Yerger Lewis’ or later Mrs. Margaret Lloyd’s cafeteria. Mr. Mounger remembered Mrs. Lewis, the mother of his friend Van Lewis, as the cafeteria manager when he was at Power.       “Those who did not have a dollar for a ticket were provided one by the state. They could also bring lunch from home and eat in the cafeteria with their friends.” Young Billy Mounger remembers well when a single lunch meal cost anywhere from a dime to fifteen cents. “We lived over on Keener Street near the Mississippi Children’s Home when I was at Power. This was before the family moved to St. Ann in Belhaven. My father, who did not make money at the time, would give me ten cents each day for lunch. The fifteen cent lunch included milk and a dessert. My father also would not let me go to school barefooted in warm weather saying he did not want people to think his children had no shoes. Some of my classmates who lived in Belhaven at the time did come to school barefooted and I was jealous of their independence.” (9)

The co-author of this article was an individualist also and a first grader at Power in 1945-46.  I’ll tell you a little story about Billy Harvey and old Power School. As mentioned, it was a small building compared to today’s schools as Jackson was a much smaller (and more settled) place. Elementary schools back then were true neighborhood fixtures drawing their students and much of their faculty from well defined areas in the vicinity of their homes.  There have always been degrees of learning ability although this fact today is either ignored or blamed on society. In short, some students were smarter than others or had a better learning foundation at home. Unfortunately, all pupils were seated in the same classrooms – even special ed students who were described as “slow”. There was no provision in Mississippi, other than military schools such as Chamberlain-Hunt academy, for “problem” youth. As previously mentioned, I was an individualist.

Davis School on Congress
Davis School on Congress

I lived on Manship Street which was in the Power School district. Davis School was on the other side of Fortification. When I was five years old, a debilitating illness prevented my starting in the first grade with my contemporaries. I was sent to the Preventorium in Magee to recover. I did not have TB, but this was a state run facility for all types of youth who had to rehab from a serious illness.  While at the Preventorium we were given instruction at the grade level analogous with our chronological age. We had the same readers as the Jackson Public Schools so we still had Dick and Jane but they were read in Simpson County. When I returned to Jackson and my family, my mother, a third grade teacher, was hell bent and determined I would not fall behind. Consequently, she taught me reading, simple math, spelling and basic grammar at a higher level than first grade. Mothers want to be proud of their off-spring, want them to say smart things and if you don’t watch them, will unintentionally encourage their little treasures to be show-offs. Alas.

When I was able to attend public school I was placed in Power. Billy Harvey would be classified today as ADD or some similar type nervous disorder. Then (1946), I was considered to have the heebie jeebies, was an unruly child in spite of corporal discipline at home and spent much time in the hall outside the classroom. One of my tricks after getting “sent to the hall” for putting live grasshoppers in Mrs. Covington’s desk was to go down to the basement and hide. There I would watch old Henry, the janitor, stoke the furnace and he would let me know when Miss Briscoe was looking for me. “Henry,” she would call down the downstairs hall, “Have you seen Billy Harvey?” “No’m,” Henry would lie as I hid under the stairs. Henry and I shared a lot of conversation down in the furnace room, mostly about Miss Briscoe and after a while I would re-emerge saying I had been in the bathroom all that time and wanted to get back to my desk. By then Mrs. Covington, a Godly woman, had forgiven me and Miss Briscoe was none the wiser. I was good until the next time. I have to say after all these years that Henry was my friend. I bribed him with $.18 tins of Prince Albert Tobacco to inform me of impending danger and will have a tin of it ready as soon as I see him in heaven. After that, we are going to look for Miss Briscoe.

Old Power School’s day was done. Yazoo clay, structural problems and a rapidly growing Jackson community had taken their toll on Belhaven’s premier elementary school. First Presbyterian Church needed the land. The neighborhood was attracting many new families. It was time to move on to a new and larger building and in 1954 the school closed, to reopen at 1120 Riverside Drive. And what doors it opened!

Bill and Nan Harvey October 2013

Bill and Nan Harvey
Bill and Nan Harvey

Nan Ertle Harvey is a native of Yazoo County, a graduate of Mississippi College and has lived with her husband Bill in the Belhaven neighborhood since 1994. She worked in a research position in the Department of Microbiology at UMMC, retiring in 2003. Nan’s hobbies are photography, nature study and family research. She is a volunteer at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Bill Harvey is a native Jacksonian, living most of his life in Belhaven. A MSU Bulldog, he has had careers in journalism, education and as development director of the Andrew Jackson Council, Boy Scouts of America. Bill enjoys photography, music, writing articles for neighborhood sources and sharing experiences with friends at a local coffee shop. (Text copyright Bill and Nan Harvey, used by permission of Bill and Nan Harvey.)

Sources & Acknowledgements:

1. A History of the Public Schools in Jackson, Mississippi (1832-1972), William
Moore Dalehite, Board of Trustees, Jackson Public Schools, 1974, pp. 138-39;
291-92
2. Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, edited by Franklin L. Riley,
secretary, Vol. III; Oxford, Mississippi, printed for the Society, 1900, p. 73
Courtesy of the Mississippi department of Archives and History (2013)
3. Story of Jackson, William D. McCain, Vol. I, J.F. Hyer Publishing Company,
Jackson, MS 1953, P.250
4. Jackson City Directory (1916)
5. Sanborn fire Insurance Company maps (1925,1946)
6. Telephone conversations with Judge Swan Yerger (10-03-13) (10-17-13)
7. Interview with Mrs. Charlotte Charles (09-27-13)
8. Interviews with H. Muller Addkison (10-08-13) (10-24-13)
9. Interview with William D. Mounger (10-11-13)
10. Jackson Daily News , Sunday, August 27, 1916, page 5

Special thanks to Mrs. Nancy Smylie, assistant to Dr. Marlynn Martin, Power APAC School for background information on the history of the school and her personal appreciation of its mission; Mrs. Charlotte Charles, Judge Swan Yerger, Mr. H. Muller Addkison and Mr. William D. Mounger for sharing their personal experiences at Power back in the day; Dr. Jean (Sister) Simmons for her extensive contributions to Power APAC School and for leading discussions on both the old and new schools; The Mississippi Department of Archives and History for the photo of the original Power School; A History of the Public Schools in Mississippi (1832-1972), William M. Dalehite 1974 (p. 13), for photo of John Logan Power; and Old Henry, to whom I shall always be grateful.

Eudora’s Jitney

“Guess who I saw at the Jitney today?” Depending on the compendium of time it could have been Eudora Welty, Willie Morris’ grandmother, Marie Hull, James Canizaro, Mrs. Fred Sullins, Mrs. R.E. Kennington, Betty Edwards or even my own mother who shared the aisles with them all.

Since around 1930, Jitney Jungle 14 has been a fixture in the Belhaven neighborhood providing food, conviviality and a hub of small town news to those who shared its aisles on Fortification. While the Jitney served the culinary needs of a diversity of incomes and interests it was the equal servant of all. The price of eggs was always the same for everyone. This article will be primarily about Jitney 14 but in the course of its journey we will learn a few things about its famous corporation, early Jackson and two of its foremost families. Settle back, pour yourself a cup of Jungle Queen Coffee and enjoy shopping the aisles of our history at the Jitney.

There could have been no “14” if there had not been a “1”. That “1” was born April 19, 1919, the dream of three young men whose fortunes lay ahead of them in the risk and rewards of yesterday’s America where a man could fail and rise again to prominence and success with God’s help and a good plan. Such was the destiny of Judson McCarty Holman, William Henry Holman and William Bonner McCarty, the fathers of the little store where you could “Save a nickel on a quarter.”

A Bit of Family History

W.B. McCarty and Jud and Henry Holman were cousins who first operated a store together in September 1912, on the southwest corner of Adelle and Grayson (N. Lamar) Streets in north Jackson. Each of the cousins put up a third of the start-up cost. This business had relocated from a block north at the corner of Grayson and McTyere Streets which was torn down to build houses for the McCarty sub-division. That store was operated by W.B. McCarty, Sr. and Jud Holman and A.N. Brannon worked for him. It was a cash and carry store and had initially been operated by W.B. McCarty’s father W.H. McCarty and located in the 1200 block of N. West Street near Millsaps. It was called Jackson Mercantile Company, the name given to it by Mr. W.H. McCarty, its founder.

W.H. McCarty had moved his family to Jackson in 1905 after operating the McCarty Store in Hemingway, Mississippi in Carroll County. Jud Holman came to Jackson in 1907 after working in the grocery business for Greenwood Grocery in Greenwood and began work with W.H. McCarty in his Jackson Mercantile Store along with Anthony N. Brannan. W.H. McCarty died in 1909. W.H. Holman came to Jackson in 1910 and worked for Mississippi Motors in Jackson, run by Joe Coffee McCarty, bother of Will McCarty, until Holman and McCarty joined together in Jackson Mercantile. When Will McCarty and Jud Holman opened the first Jitney Jungle #6 on East Capitol Street in April 1919, W.H. Holman was in France during the end of WWI. He returned to Jackson in June 1919 and helped his two cousins proceed to convert their other stores from credit to cash and carry and self service with the Jitney Jungle name since that first self service store was doing more business than all the other five McCarty/Holman stores combined.

Mr. W.B. McCarty attended law school at Ole Miss in the early Jitney days and returned to continue with the operation and growth of the stores with his Holman cousins. His legal acumen came in handy with an early patent infringement suit which the Jitney stores won. Mr. W.B. McCarty continued to franchise grocery stores in those days in addition to being heavily involved in the chain’s wholesale and retail operations. In his later years, Mr. McCarty would continue to go to his office checking on sales volume as well as the back storeroom doors to be sure they were always locked or attended. Never would a Jitney store manager or worker leave the back door open lest a theft might occur. The Junior Food Mart convenience store company, JFM, Inc. is still in business today and operated by H. Russell McCarty. It had its beginnings in the supermarket franchising that W.B. McCarty started and W.B. McCarty, Jr. continued until his death in 2001. (1) A railroad strike in 1916, left credit customers in such a bind the founders decided to quit the credit business. Business improved and a second store was opened on South Gallatin Street and the McCarty Holman Store chain rapidly grew to seven including stores in Greenwood and Canton. (2)

The First Jitney

The first Jitney Jungle store was opened April 19, 1919 at 423 E. Capitol Street. A photo provided by Bill McCarty, III, grandson of co-founder William Bonner McCarty, shows the store’s interior as an open front surrounded by shelves alongside walls containing canned goods and other non-perishables. In the foreground was a glass case of tobacco products and sundries and in the rear a meat counter with glass bins displaying produce on beds of crushed ice. The prices were interesting. Bacon was 34¢/lb., salt jowls 15¢, veal steak 17¢, meat loaf 19¢ and baby beef roast 22¢. The manager was A.N. Brannon. (3)

How did Jitney get its name? According to Mr. Will McCarty, at the end of the First World War, returning soldiers would buy an old car for riding about town. They called it a “jitney”. The term “jitney” was slang for a London taxi cab and became jargon in the states for a nickel, the cost for a downtown cab ride.

Back when the establishments were McCarty-Holman Stores, it was the habit of Chancellor V.J. Stricker, who lived just up Adelle Street, to invite the three young merchants, who were living in a nearby boarding house, to his home for Sunday dinner. Mrs. Josephine Bailey’s boarding house at 343 Adelle, could be a dark and foreboding place. Mr. Will relates there was only one light bulb in the entire house and tenants would “borrow” it and pass it around from room to room. One Sunday the boys told the judge they were considering a strictly cash and carry business which would save the customer 20¢ on the dollar over their deliveries. Cash and carry could thus save “a nickel on a quarter.” The merchants asked Judge Stricker to suggest a new name for their stores. Since a cab ride to town cost a nickel, the term “jitney” became popular and it was customary for patrons to shop with “nickels jingling in their pockets.” Judge Stricker suggested the name “Jitney Jingle” but McCarty made a variation when he observed that a wide variation of stock in the new stores would make the store itself “look like a jungle of values.” The name stuck. (1)(2)

1920’s-30’s

Throughout the 1920’s, the owners added a number of stores, each with its own numerical designation which changed over the years. According to the 1930 Jackson City Directory, Jitneys were listed as:

No. 1 – 400 E. Capitol
No. 2 – 1077 S. Gallatin
No. 3 – 121 W. Pearl
No. 4 – 2908 W. Capitol
No. 5 – 209 S. State
No. 6 – 423 E. Capitol (formerly No. 1)
No. 7 – N. State and Fondren Ave.
No. 8 – 412 W. Capitol
No. 9 – 719 N. Gallatin (later 1209 N. State)
No. 10 – 146 N. Farish
No. 11 – 167 E. Capitol
No. 12 – 850 W. Capitol
No. 13 – 1241 N. West

This brings us to the birth of Jitney 14, which, according to the 1930 Directory, existed at that time. The listing contained the 904 E. Fortification Street address, a telephone number (9119) and a manager, Charles Alford. It is conjectured that the original store was small and became a “super store” some four years later. (4) Mrs. Betty McCarty Edwards, daughter of co-founder William B. McCarty, can remember when the new Jitney was just a hole in the ground. “My father had bought some cheap land around the Jefferson-Fortification Street corridor for investment. When the 1930 store was in its planning stage he offered to buy some fill dirt from a local vender. Mr. McCarty thought the price was too high and demurred. After a time the vendor went to him and said, ‘Just let me dump some of my dirt in that hole. No charge.’” Mrs. Edwards’s memories reflect back to when her brother (W.B. McCarty, Jr.) ran a Christmas fireworks stand as a youngster in front of one of the stores fronting Fortification. “He did well,” she said, “but would come home so cold on those December days he would question the wisdom of early entrepreneurship.”

House dresses, c. 1933, image via Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing.

The new Super Jitney made a special point of catering to women. According to Mrs. Edwards, when you entered the store there was a platform area to the left for the ladies to sit and visit before they shopped. “There was a woman who taught knitting and the ladies would knit or read as they visited. It even had the first restroom for ladies in a Jackson grocery store. There were also chairs for children to sit in but keeping them still in those seats could be a problem.” There were “Jitney dresses” for sale at all store outlets. “They were not made by Jitney,” Mrs. Edwards says. “They were ‘house dresses’ as slacks were not in vogue at the time. They were good sellers but of course, no two were alike!” As the business grew, however, more space was needed to display groceries and in time the ladies area was discontinued. (5)(6) Mrs. Edwards grew up in the Belhaven area living first on State Street at Manship, where the new Baptist Hospital building is being constructed, then moving with her family to St. Ann. Later the family moved to the Council Circle area. In the early years of her marriage while still living in Belhaven, Mrs. Edwards and her husband would walk to the store and shop. Few had cars during the war. She would bring home the perishables and her husband would bring the other groceries when he came home from work. (6)

The formal grand opening of “The New Super Jitney-Jungle Store” took place on Friday, November 10, 1933, when according to articles in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger of that year, “Jacksonians gave a hearty welcome to the newest addition to stores of the city Friday and Saturday when thousands of persons visited the new Super Jitney-Jungle at the corner of East Fortification and North Jefferson streets.” (7) (8) Back then 14 was known to the neighborhood as the “Big Jitney” and No. 9 on North State, the “Little Jitney”. 14’s manager was Charles Alford who got his start at the first store in 1919. Mr. Alford brooked no sloppy doings. Clerks were dressed down for failure to dress up. Ties were compulsory. Alford, however, did have a sense of humor as related in Henry Holman, Jr.’s publication “Save a Nickel on a Quarter”. According to Alford, the store butcher waited on a customer late one Saturday evening who had come in to buy a chicken. The butcher reached into his case and brought out his last chicken. He showed it to the lady but she wanted to see a larger one. He put the chicken back in the case, bent over, moved his arms about, rattled the ice a little – as if looking for the right sized one – and ceremoniously came up with the same chicken. The customer replied with a satisfied smile: ‘Yes, that one is just fine. I’ll take them both.’” Oops! (5)

The first Jitney 14, facing Fortification (photo courtesy Bill McCarty)artyThe new Super Jitney was a honey. Bill McCarty, III’s photo shows it facing two-lane Fortification with red and green awnings, tile roof and a glass front through which the shopper could see fresh fruit and vegetables displayed. The interior consisted of wooden floors, school room lighting and aisles of shelving. It contained a bakery, a refrigerated meat counter and a glass delicatessen. It became only the second grocery store in the United States and the first in Mississippi, to have air conditioning. Its Tudor Revival style was designed by neighborhood architect Emmett Hull and contained only the grocery and the new Price Cain Drugstore at the Jefferson & Fortification corner. There was a small area for angular parking in front of the building and a loading dock and parking area around the corner on Jefferson. Belhaven was a rapidly growing neighborhood and shoppers came from throughout the area to see the new store which featured specialty items and select cuts of meat. (4)(9)

The Jitney chain had expanded rapidly throughout the “roaring twenties”, but by 1930, the Great Depression was beginning to take hold. On a typical Saturday you might drive your new $495, Ford coupe to the Jitney to shop. As you walked the aisles with your grocery basket you would notice green beans, three cans for 25¢; Wesson oil, 49¢ a quart; lemons, 12 for 20¢; cigarettes, 15¢ pack; roast beef, 19¢ lb.; bacon, 26¢ lb.; eggs, 25¢ dozen; lettuce, two heads for 15¢; sugar, 10 lbs. for 50¢; light bulbs, 20¢; fresh salmon, 29¢ lb.; mayonnaise, 29¢ pint; flour, 12 lbs. for 12¢; fryers, 35¢ lb.; Irish potatoes, 4 lb. bag, 55¢; and house coffee, 19¢ lb. Most of these items you would carry home and place in your brand new $33.95 Ward’s refrigerator. (10) Refrigeration was just coming into play in the early 1930’s. Most people still had iceboxes. Meat was displayed in coolers on crushed ice and fresh fruits and vegetables, usually purchased from street vendors, went quickly early in the day. “Are the greens really fresh,” a housewife would keenly inquire of the store vendor in his white apron. “Yes ma’m,” he would respond. “Always.”

A trip to Jitney 14 was always a special event for the family shopper. An ad in the August 2, 1930 Clarion-Ledger announced “Your Jitney Jungle is arranged so that you can shop from front to back and from side to side without taking unnecessary steps. Your Jitney Jungle fixture arrangement not only provides a one-third more merchandise space than any other fixture plans in the world but is the most convenient. By shopping at Jitney Jungle you ‘save a nickel on a quarter’ on your grocery budget and many steps.” It was obvious these grocery stores were far ahead of their time. (11)

The 1940’s

Jitney 14 in the '40s,photo courtesy of Bill McCarty
Jitney 14 in the ’40s,photo courtesy of Bill McCarty

In 1941, Jitney Jungle 14 underwent its first expansion, enlarging eastward to include space for several small businesses. By 1942, the original grocery and adjacent drugstore had added the Beauty Lounge, Marjorie’s Shop (notions) and Snow White Cleaners. It took on the name English Village after its Tutor design. America was at war and throughout the early 1940’s, food items were scarce and rationed and neighbors pulled together and shared what they had. No one minded the sacrifice for their country and its sons overseas. On occasion there were vacancies in the store fronts and Mr. McCarty would let the Junior Red Cross use an empty space rent free to pack boxes to send to the Europeans after World War II. (4) (1)

Henry Holman, Jr. relates this story of an event at Jitney 14 during the days of food rationing. “On a certain April Fool Day, my father had one of the office force impersonate an O.P.A. investigator (rationing enforcer), who telephoned, of all people, the personable switch board operator at the store to find out why she had been getting extra sugar stamps. Since it was strawberry season, she impulsively implied it was to can strawberries – a fruit she and her family never ate! A few moments later father had the ‘investigator’ call back and say he was coming by her house that afternoon to check on her canning. Immediately she scrambled to the warehouse and bought a whole crate of strawberries, then came by to ask my straight-faced father for permission to rush home and can the fruit.” (5)

rationing posterMy own memories of rationing were going to the store with my mother. She would hand me a ration book with pages filled with stamps and instruct me “Billy, tear out half a sheet of tanks and a third sheet of planes.” Regardless of how much money a person had to spend, they had to produce these stamps for sugar and coffee when they were available and a host of other scarce items. Soft drinks such as Coke, Grapette soda, Orange Crush and Royal Crown Cola (twice as much drink for a “jitney”)- like bubble gum and comic books – were mostly unavailable until after war’s end in 1945. There were red meat points for steak or bacon and blue points for canned goods. Tokens, worth a fraction of a penny, were used to “make change” for sales tax. Sometimes the most respectable ladies would don an old cloth coat and slip across the Woodrow Wilson bridge off South Jefferson and into the Gold Coast where black market items such as bobby pins and local beef were available without a ration book. Few questions were asked. A lot of commerce over the years has been done “across the river”.

Jitney Jungle in the ’40s, photo courtesy of Bill McCarty

I learned to shop at Jitney 14. I used to swing on its wooden turnstiles when I didn’t weigh quite as much as I do now. I was sent down one aisle for a five cent box of salt and another for ten cents worth of baking soda. I learned the brand names of foods and how beef and poultry were weighed. I looked for cookies and ice cream cones at Cain’s and helped carry grocery bags to our neighbor’s car since we did not have one. Later on, when I was a bit older, us neighborhood kids hung out near the freight dock on Jefferson. Mr. Elliott and his staff would unload oranges and apples and lettuce and onions and throw the boxes, crates and sacks out the back door for trash pickup. The orange crates were the prize catch. Made of sturdy wood, they had a divider in the middle. We would grab a couple, take them home, stand them on end and connect them with a board. The consummate lemonade stand was born with a shelf on either side for the cash register and the lemons. Profits were spent on Hershey bars and milkshakes at the drugstore. Our mothers loved the apple crates which were used as storage boxes and ideal for new bedding plants in the spring. Of course the lemons, sugar, paper cups and straws all came from inside the store where the high lights and lesser lights came and went. All were on a mission of their own, delighting in the plethora of food and furnishings made available at war’s end. Grand times!

Us kids, however, were only familiar with the outside of the dock area. Mrs. Betty Edwards’ son Steve, who began as a bagboy at “14” knew it as an assistant store manager from the inside out. “The only unusual feature of Jitney 14,” he said, “was the tiny back room area. When the trucks came in, many of the cases of fast moving large items, such as toilet tissue or seasonal extra goods were sent by a conveyer belt to the dark cavern beneath. It was the most challenging storage room of any store in the company except the Jitney in Philadelphia, MS., regarding truck unloading, dock area and storage.” (12) Since all our readers know by now there is or was a ghost in most of Belhaven’s early digs, this one might have lived in the stock room. Belhaven, from time to time, has been the haunts of several ghosts – most of them good. Rumor has it one lives in the water fountain at Laurel Street Park. One of these days we are going to have to look further into the adventures of these elusive creatures. Throughout the 1940’s and 50’s and into the 60’s, “the Jitney” was the neighborhood’s hub of commerce. And oh, the stories; some not always verified but all, of course, true.

One of the primary ways a young boy could make a little pocket money was to be a bag boy at a local grocery store. It didn’t pay much and was hard work, but rewarding back in the times of self-reliance and personal responsibility. Such a bagboy was Coleman Lowery who, as told by his daughter Maggie, “From the summer of 1946, when I was in the 8th grade at Bailey Junior High School, until the spring of 1951, when I graduated from Central High School, I was a package boy at Jitney 14 where Miss Eudora Welty was a regular customer. She tipped the package boys a dime. We were making thirty cents an hour – so we fought over the ladies who tipped. Mrs. Fred Sullins and Mrs. Robert Kennington tipped a quarter! Sometimes Miss Welty did as well. “In the fall of 1951, I entered Vanderbilt University, where I graduated in 1955, and that fall in my freshman English class we read ‘Why I Live at the P.O.’ During the discussion that followed I raised my hand and said ‘I know Eudora Welty. I carried her packages at the grocery store at home.” And just to think, Miss Welty could have written “Why I shopped at Jitney 14”. (13) Perhaps someday a manuscript will be found!

Being a package boy was many a youngster’s first introduction into the business world. Both Henry Holman, Jr. and Bill McCarty, Jr. served in this capacity as they learned from the ground up the intricacies of their family business. Store manager Alford once said “All young men in Jackson should start out carrying packages for Jitney.” The Jitney Jungles back in the 1960’s published a little handbook which was given to all the newly hired boys. It began with a mission statement “The purpose of this manual is to show you in step by step fashion, what you should do to be successful in your Jitney Jungle job, and what the store needs and expects of you as one of its important employees.” (14)(5) The manual goes on to outline instructions on neatness, promptness, making sensible decisions, care and packaging of the grocery product, courtesy and thoughtfulness and always leaving the customer with the comment “come back again and bring a friend.” It concludes “We welcome you into the organization. We hope you will like playing on the Jitney-Jungle team. The game is just beginning. We’d like to see you become a seasoned star – a veteran…you can – and will – if you do your best.” (14) What wonderful lessons for a 14-year-old boy to learn and practice. What good advice on which to enter the professional world.

Willie Morris, image courtesy of Yazoo City Historical Museum
Willie Morris, image courtesy of Yazoo City Historical Museum

Writer Willie Morris grew up in Yazoo City. He didn’t get down to Jackson often but many times when he did he visited his grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Percy Weaks who lived at 1017 N. Jefferson Street. The house left the tax rolls in 1968 and the home site has been a vacant lot since. A Tote-Sum Store once sat at the corner with Fortification with a loading area in the rear. Bill McCarty, III remembers as a child an artificial limb maker behind the Tote-Sum and several times going by with his dad at night and seeing prosthetic legs or arms reaching skyward from a pile outside. “That certainly terrified us!” Just north along the sidewalk a small, battle – scarred magnolia remains on which, according to Joanne Prichard Morris, Willie once carved his initials – but time has removed them. Willie Morris was familiar with Eudora’s Jitney. (1)(15) Writing in his book “Homecomings” in the 1989 article A Return to Christmas Gone, the author tells of his purchase of a half dozen roses in Oxford and brought with him to the gravesites and former homes of his antecedents, the last of whom lived in Belhaven. “I retrace the Christmas journey – down Woodrow Wilson, right on North State Street past Millsaps, left on Fortification to Jefferson….My grandparents’ house is no longer there, long since a parking lot near the Jitney Jungle across the street. The magnolia is still in front, but where the house was is grim, bare asphalt, cold and wet now from the rain. ….Mamie and Percy, Maggie and Susie would be greeting us now, just beyond the magnolia where the front porch was. I close my eyes and hear their happy welcomes. Old Skip has raced beneath their feet into the house in search of turkey livers, and my great-aunts follow in their flowing black dresses.

“I stand in the parking lot where the parlor was. I feel the ripple of the lost voices. I drift back into the kitchen. Time, as one ages, is a continuum. Past and present consume themselves into the ashes. There is no good place for the last two roses. I put them on the asphalt where the dining room table was. Tomorrow someone will run over them in the parking lot. But who would disturb them today?” (16)

1960’s – 80’s

As the years approached the 1960’s, another expansion of English Village and Jitney 14 was underway. It was a massive undertaking of space increment and modernization. New businesses were Pridgens Florist, Collins Barber Shop, and the Beauty Lounge to accompany the older establishments. Cain’s had given way to Parkin’s. Other enterprises that have occupied English Village over the years included the Automatic Laundry Services (washeteria), Neal’s Barber Shop, Ben Franklin Hardware, Southern Pulmonary Clinic, the ABC Coin Laundry, the Village Inn & Pub and now Basil’s. (4) [Basil’s went out of business in early 2014, and a new restaurant, owned by Louis LaRose, is scheduled to open soon.jly] A new and enlarged parking lot was constructed to accommodate growing patronage. A major feature was a complete and enlarged bakery at the front of the store. The pungent odors of fresh bread, cookies, pies and cakes wafted through the store attracting shoppers like a magnet to the freshness and taste sensations of these delicacies.

A photo provided by Bill McCarty, III depicts modern floors and lighting, wider aisles, shelving throughout the store, frozen food cabinets, an up-to-date refrigerated meat market, two turnstiles, six efficient checkout lanes with new calculators and scales and a lunch counter near the front of the store. As a young man, Bill cut his Jitney teeth here. He tells of when he first went to work to learn the shelf stocking end of the business. “Wooden floors were under newer tile throughout the store. One of my jobs was to do shelving on the sales floor. When I stocked the orange juice, I had to put my foot beside one wheel of the cart as I loaded juice into the retail case or else the cart would roll across the aisle. This was simply the result of the wooden floor’s old age. The eastern most addition to Jitney 14, when the entrance was moved to that side from Fortification Street had concrete sub flooring throughout.

“One clear memory was the kitchen directly behind the former Fortification Street entrance where Mrs. Pitts, the deli manager, and the ladies who had cooked there for so many years used a gas burner as part of the stove to cook icings and other bakery items. I once tried to change her brand of flour but after being told that she only cooked with one brand, I went to buy that flour at the best price I could get since I knew I was not going to change her wonderful ways. Mrs. Pitts, who catered many a reception and social event with her great recipes, also had a hand in starting the development of the delicious pimento cheese still available for purchase in McDade’s deli.

Eudora Welty, photo courtesy of fanart.com

“Extra thin sliced bread was so popular we spent hours preparing it on a noisy cast iron slicing machine that was in action every time I went into the kitchen. My personal favorite was the Old Fashioned bread in the wide loaf, one of six sandwich bread items baked in the Mill Street bakery. It came in a white bag with the logo printed on it and tasted much like real homemade. During the Christmas holidays we had red and green and other colors for each holiday that followed designed to compliment party sandwiches requested by our customers. You could just about tell the holiday by the color of the bread. In addition to governors, mayors, lawyers, legislators, doctors and everyone else in town, I vividly remember Eudora Welty coming by and talking with me as I stocked shelves or ran a checkout stand. Frank Haines (former Jackson Daily News entertainment editor) asked me when we were going to get a supply of George Washington Seasoning, so I ordered some for him. One item Jitney 14 always stocked was the small glass jar of Smithfield Deviled Ham spread. I learned to love it in 1972 and special ordered it for myself until it was recently discontinued by the distributor. I remember Mrs. Noone, an elderly lady from up around Madison Street with an Australian accent who came by every day to buy Ryvita Wafers for herself and a small bag of litter and a bit of liver for her 14-year-old cat. ‘The liver had to be tender,’ she told me, ‘or my cat will not eat it.’ On occasion she returned it the next day for more tenderization.

“I recall the Jefferson Street side entrance to Parkin’s Drugstore and going in to their soda fountain as a child where I either had a banana split or chocolate malt.” (1) How many young fellows in the Belhaven neighborhood running barefoot along the hot sidewalks of summer must have done the same.”

Jitney 14 was an icon, attracting patrons from throughout the Jackson metro area and beyond. The pace was quick, the new computerized checkout stands crowded and the clerks challenged with the need for speed and accuracy. One in particular caught the attention and love of many customers: Johanna Wade. Johanna, a native of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, was a 16-year veteran of Jitney 14 when she appeared in a local newspaper article. She was a popular favorite of Jitney shoppers and as the head checker knew many on a first name basis. “I know them by name,” she told the reporter. “I know their children. I like the people. I’ve got lots of friends here in the neighborhood. They’ve always been real good to me.” This goodness came through in 1986 when her husband died. They invited her over for the holidays to relieve her loneliness and they were happy to share their family day with her. When her parents died in 1988, and she made two trips to Holland in a week, customers expressed their sympathy by helping send her. “I came back and it was all in the office- money, checks, everything.” Then store manager Sam Holley called her not only an asset to the store “but to the entire neighborhood.” Such are the rewards of a friendly smile, accommodation and knowing the rhythms of Belhaven. (17)

The 90’s

Eudora’s Jitney rolled into the 90’s with a full head of steam. The company had expanded to hundreds of stores throughout the southeastern United States. Bill McCarty III reports that “business was brisk and by 1994 the Jitney-Jungle chain had expanded to 105 stores in six states and annual sales exceeded a billion dollars. That large volume continued to produce a profit for the company through hard work and efficiency.

“Beginning in 1987, the Jitney 14 structure was completely rebuilt from the inside out with the entire building being replaced except the exterior brick facades and walls along Fortification and Jefferson Streets and the north walls and east main entrance. This preserved the historic character of brick, tile and copper exterior with big improvements to the 30,000 square foot store. The store remained open during this period and the grand reopening was October 8, 1988. Parkins Drug Store was relocated to the structure occupied by Basil’s Restaurant today.” [See note above, jly](1)

The 21st Century

Times change; new generations take over and old ways are altered by current need and circumstance. The sale of the Jitney Jungle chain was finalized in March 1996 and at that time the annual sales volume was approximately $1.2 billion. After the sale, some difficult times followed with subsequent companies. However, Greg McDade purchased the old Jitney in 2005 just before it was to be closed forever and it flourishes today at the same location. Through the 84 years Jitney-Jungle was a McCarty-Holman enterprise it was state of the art as the store remains today. Its staff was courteous and well-trained, its stock and produce of the highest quality and its reputation a solid testament to what a family business can attain with vision, hard work and careful attention to the needs of its customers. Simply put, it did the right things at the right time in the right place.

Eighty-two years after the “Big Jitney” and Price Cain’s drug store first anchored the northeast corner of Jefferson and Fortification, McDade’s Market sits proudly on the site of Jackson’s very first air-conditioned supermarket. Our neighborhood owes a great debt of gratitude to the McDades for saving our store and making it viable. Road equipment churns down the new Fortification bustling with innovative ideas and the coming aesthetics resulting from countless hours of careful planning. Twenty-first century patrons pause along the aerated bins of fresh produce and the well-trained cashiers, stockers, sackers and department managers who hustle to fill their daily needs. The world is faster now but shoppers still pause to say “good morning” and “How are things?” And the employees say the same. It remains our neighborhood grocery.

McDades Market on Fortification in a rare Jackson snowfall. (photo by Jesse Yancy)
McDades Market on Fortification in a rare Jackson snowfall. (photo by Jesse Yancy)

As we shop McDade’s this Christmas season and gather together the spices and condiments of the year in anticipation of family reunited, we can reflect on Eudora’s tips to package boys and the spirit of Willie’s roses in the rain. Together they, as have we, been a part of the little store which became an exponent of the American dream as it brought its bounty to our dinner tables and conviviality to our lives. But remember also its journey. The early footsteps are stilled. The old hand-cranked adding machines have been replaced by computers. The aisles are brighter and bracketed with a plethora of universal foods, spices and specialty items. The turnstiles have given way to electronic doors. Roast beef costs a bit more than 35¢ a lb, but on sale days you can still save a nickel on a quarter. New writers and artists recreate its glorious past and its future shines like a freshly polished apple. But beneath it all, through the wooden and concrete floors clad in contemporary colors lies the ground that heard those footsteps in 1930 and above the main entrance, under the archway looking eastward into the sunrise, still stands a harbinger, a numeral that takes us from yesterday to tomorrow at Eudora’s Jitney: “14”.

Bill and Nan Harvey, December 2012

Bill and Nan Harvey
Bill and Nan Harvey

Nan Ertle Harvey is a native of Yazoo County, a graduate of Mississippi College and has lived with her husband Bill in the Belhaven neighborhood since 1994. She worked in a research position in the Department of Microbiology at UMMC, retiring in 2003. Nan’s hobbies are photography, nature study and family research. She is a volunteer at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Bill Harvey is a native Jacksonian, living most of his life in Belhaven. A MSU Bulldog, he has had careers in journalism, education and as development director of the Andrew Jackson Council, Boy Scouts of America. Bill enjoys photography, music, writing articles for neighborhood sources and sharing experiences with friends at a local coffee shop. (Text copyright Bill and Nan Harvey, used by permission of Bill and Nan Harvey; photos of Jitney Jungle copyright Bill McCarty III, used by permission of Bill McCarty III)

Sources:
(1) Conversations with Bill McCarty, III, Nov. 2012 [Details are from memory, family members and an April 3, 1962 interview between W.B. McCarty, Sr. and his son W.B. McCarty, Jr.]
(2) “Lesson Learned from Strike Here in 1916 was Start of Jitney-Jungle organization” [Jackson Daily News, Oct. 1, 1950]
(3) Jitney Jungle is Celebrating Start of 12th Year of Service [Clarion-Ledger, Oct. 12, 1930
(4) Jackson City Directory, 1930, 1916
(5) “Save a Nickel on a Quarter: The Story of the Jitney-Jungle Stores of America” [Address by William Henry Holman, Jr. to Newcomen Society in North America, Jackson, Mississippi, April 18, 1973]
(6) Interview with Betty McCarty Edwards [Madison, Mississippi; Nov. 12, 2012]
(7) Formal Jitney-Jungle 14 Grand Opening Invitation [Clarion-Ledger, November 10, 1933]
(8) “New Super Jitney-Jungle Has auspicious Opening” [Clarion-Ledger, Nov. 12, 1933]
(9) Registration Application/National Register of Historic Places/NPS – P. 74.
(10) “Store with a thousand Items” [Clarion Ledger, June 26, 1930]
(11) Store ad, [Jackson Clarion-Ledger, August 2, 1930]
(12) Conversation with Steve Edwards [Nov. 14, 2012]
(13) “Knowing Miss Welty: I was Miss Eudora’s Package Boy” – Coleman Lowery as told by his daughter Maggie [Lemuria Book Store blog, Aug. 9, 2012]
(14) A Handbook for Package Boys (1960)
(15) Conversation with Joanne Prichard Morris [October 31, 2012]
(16) Homecomings by Willie Morris (University Press of Mississippi, 1989)
(17) “Check Her Out” by Sherry Lucas [Clarion-Ledger, Feb. 7, 1994]

Acknowledgements:
Special thanks to Mrs. Betty McCarty Edwards, Steve Edwards and especially Bill McCarty, III who provided significant family information and assistance in writing and structuring this article, and appreciation is extended to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for newspaper articles as noted above.