by James W. Jacks
I have longed for this town, my hometown, for over 30 years, but can not find a way to get back to my first love. I want to share my thoughts about this perfect example of small town, southern America.
Cleveland, Mississippi, has had many names bestowed on it. One honor was being named the “cleanest little town in the nation.” Another was “the friendliest town in the South.” But the one I cherish most is what I call my hometown: “A great city to grow up in, where people love you and want you to succeed in life.”
The memories I have of Cleveland are special:
*** Rally Day . . . A great week of festivities! This competition was one of the single most important things Mr. Parks ever did for Cleveland High School. He started Rally Day to bring about a spirit of oneness and closeness that few schools ever experience. [Not a one of us who participated will ever forget our “group.”] Cleveland was fortunate to have Mr. Parks.
*** Sockhops and dances . . . How about the Knights and the Red Tops, and of course, the “halftime” activities? Halftime was initiation for all the out-of-town boys who mustered up enough courage to come to town. When they left they knew they had been “accepted” by all the Cleveland boys.
*** The peacock . . . Cleveland had a lady who lived a couple of roads over from Hatchery Road. We snuck across the fields to see her. She was always so happy we’d come that she screamed to let us know she loved us. Funny thing was, she almost sounded like a peacock. Could it have been???
*** Rainy day fun . . . Sometimes after a big rain the city maintenance folks postponed the draining so we kids could play in the flooded streets. Leslie Walker would get his father’s big truck and we’d have a blast skiing and running behind the truck, spraying other people with the water pushed out by the big tires going as fast as we could make em go in the knee deep water.
*** Old cemetery . . . When times were dull in Cleveland, the old cemetery would be opened up for us to scare some of our friends. I think some of the kids are still running.
*** Rice ditches . . . I also remember after hot sultry August football practices farmers often opened their rice ditches to let us swim and cool off. These farmers cooled the water down to 35 degrees before we got there so we could cool off quickly. What a town.
*** El Rancho . . . Ah, yes, the El Rancho where the city allowed us to go and eat--then if anyone wanted to they could indulge in boxing matches right there in the gravel parking lot.
There are so many things we did for entertainment growing up in our small Delta town. I’d have to have 8 or 10 pages to write it all down, but golly, it sure was fun recalling my favorite pastimes. We were a fortunate few, those of us who grew up in that wonderful city in the 1950s and 1960s.
For those guys who are still back there carrying on traditions, I say: “Be sure to teach kids to love their hometown.”
James Jacks is a graduate of Delta State University and lives in Florida with his wife Janet, also a DSU grad.
They are the parents and grandparents of a handsome brood.
Contact James at email@example.com.
Homesick for the Mississippi Delta? View these pictures of Highway 61 and get information about how these prints may be ordered.
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