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Squirrel Tails, James Dean, and Piccolino Shoes
by Pam Smith Williamson

Literary folks might label this article as being some sort of "stream of consciousness," but it’s not. It’s simply a list -- a list of memories about growing up in a small Mississippi Delta town.

I think the beginning is a very good place to start . . .


Merry-go rounds and jungle-gyms
Competitive kickball games
Teacher rang a big brass bell to call us in
Then long lines at the water fountain

Winter snowmen at recess
Art displayed in glass cabinets in the hallways (made us so proud)
Upstairs, downstairs
Over to DSU gym for rhythm activities
Marching to Mrs. Cain’s drumbeat
Spring pageants in the grass amphitheater
Hedges for the wings of the stage

Leaving class to go to piano lessons for an hour, off campus
Principal D. T. Oaks (we added -ead to the D and -ree to the T)

In 5th grade, took 3 squirrel tails for “show and tell” one day and put them in my desk. A couple of weeks later Mr. Lipe told us to clean our desks out – something in the room was stinking something awful. I was sent to the dumpster out back with the tails – immediately!

Balancing on the curved-top low wall while walking home on Oak Street
Riding my bike against the cruel north wind in the afternoon -- all the way to the end of the street

Living on 2nd Avenue with the families Rotenberry, Mallet, Brock, Givens, Goudelock, Johnson, Sanders, Murphey, Baskin, Collins, and McCool

2nd Avenue flooding in the rainstorms, giving us a “river” for riding around in fishing boats or rowboats

My black lab, Nick – the family pet, whom dad trained to retrieve ducks
Sometimes we opened the gate and Nick got loose -- the only way to get him back was to chase him around the neighborhood with a huge pan of dogfood. He would sniff that and follow us home. He lived to be 13. We loved him dearly and vice-versa.

Playing model cars in the dirt under the trees and hedges
White clover in the yard
Stepping on bees and getting stung
Lots of stickers always getting in our feet -- sometimes throwing younger “tag alongs” into a sticker patch if they got on our nerves

Running behind the DDT truck in the white fog and bumping into each other
Being in the house by the time that street light came on at night
Window fans and attic fans -- only Mom and Dad had a window AC in their bedroom

Weenie roasts in the back yard for birthdays – boys sticking their roasted marshmallows in the window fan as a prank

Gas furnaces in the hallway -- many a foot got “waffled” if we lost our balance

Sharing a double bed with a sister 3 and ½ years younger – bad news
Picking in the garbage in the alley for treasures, finding a chemistry set once, made a mixture that exploded and fumed

Found a hand-painted souvenir canoe paddle that Mom used as a real paddle -- it took the place of the hairbrush (bad find)

Switches from the willow tree in the Suttle’s yard, across the street – ouch!
Daddy’s big buckled, leather tooled, Western belt (often the design was repeated on our fannies)

Orange day lilies and wild roses climbing on the white picket fence in the back yard

Neighbor’s sour apple tree, silver-leafed maples flickering in the sun, huge old oaks, just made for climbing, making forts, and tree houses

Summers spent in Water Valley with Mama’s parents, Nona and Papa
Going to the drugstore, sitting at marble-topped tables in sweetheart chairs, sipping Coke floats

Buying 45 records and comic books at Ben Franklin’s five and dime store
Going to the skating rink in J.C. Higgins wooden wheeled skates and skating on a wooden floor -- had to have huge pom poms on our skates, learned to make them in various colors ourselves

Mama was Miss Water Valley and Watermelon Queen when she was 18. She was gorgeous!
Daddy was Mr. CHS and Most Handsome (the perfect pair), 50 years of marriage, till Dad passed away at age 73


Rally Day, 4 Groups -- showed our talents with skits, singing, athletic events
Pep squad, Friday parades and football games
Girls basketball – a must
Coach Margaret Wade, what a woman!
HS letter jackets

Lockers that always got stuck or we forgot the combos
Office monitors
Mrs. Jones socking us
Mrs. Glassco giving us the “fish eye”

Some of the football players picking up and putting Mrs. Glassco’s Metropolitan in her garage sideways so she couldn’t come to school to give us that test

Mrs. Peacock and Mrs. Moses making us rip the waistbands off our aprons about 10 times til we got it perfect; sliding the tomato aspic into the trash when they weren’t looking so we wouldn’t have to eat it as part of a well-balanced diet

Celeste getting her fingers caught in the electric mixer blades
Boring study halls – no talking, in the library – Coach Reid in charge
Coach Meadows – a hunk with dimples – swoon

Going to White’s grocery at lunch (against school rules) for Moon Pies and RCs

Going steady – boyfriends’ rings with tape or wax underneath or on a neck chain

Double dating, triple dating (before bucket seats)
Cotillion Dances, strapless dresses, pointy-toe pumps, and wrist corsages
Cars with glass packs, the louder the better, drag racing on country roads

Drive-In movies, the concession stand, Pic on the dashboard, teenagers hiding under blankets on the floor of the backseat or in the trunk to get in free

El Rancho at night – The Do-Drop In, with the little door

Listening to Wolfman Jack on the white plastic radio, volume turned low so Mama wouldn’t hear after “lights out”

Keen Freeze – skinny, greasy, fries with lots of ketchup

Eva’s red and gray hotrod, built by her Dad – Ford Tractor colors

Girls with pageboys, bangs and ponytails with scarves
Guys in Levi jeans, white t-shirts, white socks and black loafers; crew cuts and flat tops

Jr. High dances in Drew, Ruleville, Leland, and Rosedale
Sr. High dances in Greenwood and Greenville
Dancing to the Red Tops, Andy Anderson and the Dawnbreakers, and Bo Diddley

Shopping at Kamien’s, Leon always greeting and smiling
Standing on the steps of the courthouse, saying “Vote for my Daddy”
Dance lessons with Mrs. Hart on Saturday – tap, toe, and ballet
Lavish recitals with many numbers and special costumes

Sunday School, church, and MYF at First Methodist Church
Daddy always giving us corsages on Easter Sunday, to go with our straw hats, white gloves, patent leather shoes, and our gorgeous and special Easter dresses

Skiing at Lake Whittington, the big boat with slot machines and double-decker wooden raft in the middle of the lake

Parties on Lake Beulah
Going to Merigold Hunting Club, sunbathing/swimming off floating dock
Fishing in the Blue Hole, picnics on sandbars in the River, riding in the woods in the Scout

Going to the Ellis Picture Show downtown
A quarter at night - 15 cents in the daytime for a matinee
Putting Red Hots in our Cokes, getting Milkduds, and popcorn
Sticking gum under the seats with hundreds of other pieces - yuck
Sitting on one side of the movie balcony
The usher checking with a flashlight, making us keep our feet off the chairs (we were terrified if he shined the light on us)

Captain Marvel, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and The Lone Ranger
Premier of Elvis’s first movie – souvenirs for sale in the lobby (I wanted them all)
Pin-ups on my bedroom wall of James Dean, Elvis, Audy Murphy, Alan Ladd, Sal Mineo, Jeff Chandler, Paul Newman, Tab Hunter, to name a few

Hatchery Road (now Bishop Road) for “parking”

Shopping in Memphis at Goldsmith’s, walking from the parking lot through the underground tunnel to get there

Clothes from “The Snooty Fox” and Casual Corner
Lunch at the Peabody with the ducks walking the red carpet
Going to Greenville, the only place to get Weejuns, at The Smart Shop
Piccolino shoes, all colors, with toe cracks showing
T-strap shoes, sure to cripple you
Pastel straight skirts with matching crew neck sweaters
Angora or lace collars to wear with cardigans, buttoned up the back

Lots of petticoats -- I lost one coming down the stairs at CHS; it was red/white striped, made by Mama and starched – safety pin at the waist gave way. I just stepped out of it, threw it over my arm and kept on going. Tried to act normal but was mortified

Going to Ole Miss for fraternity and sorority dances, staying the weekend with friends or at homes in Oxford (Mom always calling first!)

Basketball games of “horse” in Marion’s driveway – lots of concrete in her driveway - always sure to find the guys there

Horseback riding out at Granny’s on Seelbinder Bend
Watching Dad hitch up the electric milkers to the Golden Gurnsey cows, feeding the calves with buckets with little nipples on them

Going in the barn, playing in the “sink seeds” (oats)
Climbing into the hay loft and swinging down on the rope and pully
Riding in the cotton trailers to the gin
Picking cotton for hours, weighing in gunny sacks only to find out we earned a quarter

Going to summer camp as campers, Jr. Counselors, and Sr. Counselors
Swimming at the Country Club, sunbathing, having crushes on the life guards, and eating in the snack bar

Little League baseball games after being sprayed with Off -- mosquitoes the size of bombers

Riding around in Mom’s 1959 black Chevy with the pointy fins that looked like Batman’s car

Senior parties given by your parents’ friends or relatives
Picking magnolias and hydrangeas for the flower chain, Seniors handing down (responsibilities?) to Juniors
Graduation gifts (Mom saw to it that I got that set of luggage with my initials on it, complete with round hat box and make-up case, pale blue, Samsonite, to take to college)


DSC (Delta State College)
Delta Belles, football games, performing at the Gator Bowl, marching in many parades with hoola hoops as props.
Performing all over the Delta, routines on ladders and big boxes that looked like dice, tiny flashlights for effect
White shorts or black toreador pants
Greyhound bus trips to out-of-town football games with the band

Living in the dorm – curfew – signing in and out – being campused! (for too many demerits)

Tri Delt, Big Sisters, Pikes, Rush, lasting friendships, and many great theme parties

Getting pinned, which led to getting married (to a Southern gentleman, of course). Still married to him after 40 yrs. Have lived in Florida since 1966, but the Delta is still “home."

Yes, these are only some of the memories. I could go on forever -- there is nothing like growing up in a small Mississippi Delta town.


Write Pam at this address: [ Pam's E-mail ]

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