Thursday, April 30, 2009

Buckwalter Stadium — Meridian

Former home of the former Meridian Millers baseball team.

Buckwalter Stadium was located in the old fairgrounds of Meridian Mississippi and was the home field of the Meridian Millers who were members of the Southeastern League and the Cotton States League. I don't remember vegetation growing between the slats of the grandstand. The ballpark that preceeded Buckwalter Stadium was named Fairgrounds Field.

The first team to play at the fairgrounds was the Southeastern League's Meridian Scrappers who used the ballpark from 1937-1939. During their first two seasons, they were members of the St. Louis Browns organization. In 1939, they became a co-op team and in 1940, they changed their name to the Meridian Bears. In 1941, they changed their name again, this time to the Meridian Eagles and returned to the St. Louis Browns' umbrella. By 1942 they again were a co-op team. The league ceased operations due to the war after the 1942 season.

In 1946, the Southeastern League returned with the Meridian "Peps", which were members of the Brooklyn Dodgers association. The Peps represented the Dodgers for only one season before switching affiliations to the Cleveland Indians, where they remained from 1947 until 1948. In 1949, the team again went co-op and changed their name for the 5th time. Now, they were known as the Meridian Millers. They remained in the Southeastern League until 1950, when the league finally folded.

With the Class B Southeastern League permanently defunct, the Meridian Millers found themselves without a league to play in, and sat out the 1951 season. In 1952, a spot opened in the Class C Cotton States League, when the Clarksdale Planters ceased operations. Meridian hadn't played in the Cotton States League since 1929. They kept the name Meridian Millers, and instead, changed the name of the stadium from Fairgrounds Field to Buckwalter Stadium. They remained in the Cotton States League as a co-op team until 1955 when they moved to Vicksburg.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peavey's Melody Music Store — R.I.P.

The Last Day

Published: February 24, 2006 06:29 am        
Peavey’s Melody Music store shuts its doors today

By Steve Gillespie / assistant editor
The Meridian Star

A downtown business with a history of being a musical haven that spans more than 60 years will close today, February 24, 2006.

The music store was opened in 1945 by J.B. Peavey, father of Peavey Electronics founder and CEO Hartley Peavey. The upstairs of the music store served as Hartley Peavey's first home for Peavey Electronics when he was a young entrepreneur.

In July 2005 the music store's original sign, which had been part of the downtown landscape since 1945, was taken down before it could fall down after being damaged by storms.The sign sported a big cursive "Peavey's," framed by musical notes. Under that, it read "Melody Music Co. Inc." and "Everything Musical."

Pieces of the old sign are still located in the upstairs portion of the store. The establishment was more than a place to buy music or musical instruments and accessories. Many customers came to Peavey's to "escape" and play music.

Many have said ,"It was a business not only built on sales but relationships with customers.It was one of those down-home stores where you came in and didn't leave without telling your life story."

(edited for length-DNJ)  

Who, among us, didn't spend time after school hanging out in Peavey's, taking up space while playing and listening to the latest 45s. "Mutt" Peavey was always kind, patient and tolerant with us, Sometimes we even bought a record. Growing up, I loved the damn place.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Good


BORN: November 12, 1937

EDUCATION: Attended schools in Fayette and high school in Meridian, Mississippi; received a bachelor of aeronautical engineering degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1959.

SPECIAL HONORS: Decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, two Legion of Merit, Navy Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Meritorious Service Award. His NASA awards include the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, two NASA Space Flight Medals, and two NASA Exceptional Service Medals. He is also the recipient of the Air Force Association’s David C. Shilling Award (1978), Society of Experimental Test Pilot’s Ivan C. Kincheloe Award (1978), the American Astronautical Society’s Flight Achievement Award (1977), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Haley Space Flight Award (1980), the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy (1982), the Thomas D. White Space Trophy (1982), the Robert J. Collier Trophy (1982), the Harmon International Trophy (1982), the Federation Aeronautique Internationale Gold Space Medal (1984), the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Eagle Scout Award , and the Medal of Honor of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Nota Bene:
Dick was my Senior Patrol Leader in Boy Scout Troup 2 which met at the Central Methodist Church in '51 and '52. I was a patrol leader for the Crow patrol. I'm sure I speak for all who knew him when I tell you that he was an inspiring leader to us then — and to the rest of our country later. I find it shameful that I can find nothing about him in the Meridian Star archives.

The Bad

April 6, 1938–September 11, 1999

Wayne Roberts

Alton "Wayne" Roberts was the triggerman who killed Civil Rights workers Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney on Rock Cut Road on the night of June 21, 1964. He was identified at trial as the killer by fellow Klansman James Jordan, Roberts was convicted, and sentenced to only ten years in prison for killing three people by Federal Judge William Harold Cox. Roberts served only six years of his ten year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Roberts was a rough and rowdy twenty-six-year-old ex-marine in 1964. He was dishonorably discharged from the marines for fighting, drunkenness, and being absent without leave. He was, by many accounts, "as mean as a junkyard dog." When he returned to Meridian he worked as a car salesman for awhile before opening up a nightclub dancehall called "The Other Place" which he operated in Meridian for several years until his death in 1999.

Roberts began loudly calling for Schwerner's execution soon after joining the Lauderdale County Klan. Roberts was among the Klan members who participated in the beating of blacks at the Mount Zion Church on June 16. He seemed especially proud of his brutal deed, raising his bloody fist in the air as proof of his work.

Even after his arrest as one of nineteen conspirators in December, 1964, Roberts was a man to avoid. After a hearing in 1965, Roberts raced across a courthouse yard to kick a CBS camerman in the groin, then slug him in the head.

by: Douglas O. Linder, Professor
University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dunn's Falls - Near Enterprise, MS.

The way it used to look.

Click on it to enlarge.

In 1854, John Dunn an Irish immigrant rode his horse into the shallow bed of the Chunky River just north of Enterprise. Dunn, at age thirty-four, had come to America from Ireland at the age of four with his parents. They first settled in North Carolina, then Alabama, and finally East Mississippi. He decided to find a spot to settle in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain Chain. In 1860, Dunn constructed a three-story frame building for a water-powered cotton factory. The machinery for the mill had been delivered to the Enterprise railroad station when the War Between the States was declared. The Confederate government confiscated Dunn's buildings and machinery, and under Dunn's supervision, the mill was used to manufacture blankets, hats, and knives. During the war, a building was added which housed a blacksmith shop, a distillery and machinery for carding wool used to make soldier's clothing. According to sources, the mill and hat factory continued to operate for many years after the war.

Famed hat maker, John B. Stetson is said to have learned and practiced his trade at Dunn’s Falls.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dentzel Carousel - Highland Park

Our "merry-go-round".

Click on it to enlarge.

The carousel was manufactured in 1896 by Gustav Dentzel of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition and later sold to the City of Meridian. A cabinet maker by trade, Dentzel was a young German immigrant to the United States. In 1860, he established the Dentzel Factory. His family had manufactured carousels in Germany and offered great support to Gustav's American venture. The Dentzel Factory manufactured two or three carousels per year and supplied parks throughout the East and South.

All of the animals were hand-carved out of poplar or basswood. The carousels often had original oil paintings as well. The arrival of the Great Depression spelled the end to the factory in 1929. The Dentzel Carousel arrived in Meridian in 1909 and has occupied its same location in Highland Park. Its house is the only remaining original carousel building built from a Dentzel blueprint.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meridian's Gypsy Queen, Callie Mitchell

From the Meridian Star:
Published: April 12, 2007 11:49 pm

A royal burial

By Anne McKee / guest columnist

" The year is 1915 and the sudden death of beloved Gypsy Queen Callie Mitchell brought an estimated 20,000 people to the Deep South and the small southern town of Meridian to attend her funeral and burial.

The Queen of the Gypsies of America and her tribe were camped near Meridian when the Queen died during the delivery of a child. The chance location of a Meridian Funeral home and the Episcopal Church, which was equipped and willing to conduct the services for larger numbers of her people, plus Rose Hill Cemetery, a well-maintained and historic location even in the year of 1915, all played important roles in making the decision.

The Feb. 7, 1915, issue of Meridian Dispatch Newspaper describes the scene. “At one side of the parlors, with candelabra at the head and foot stands the magnificent silver-trimmed metallic casket. Hermetically sealed within, in all the barbaric splendor of a medieval Queen lays Mrs. Callie (Kelly) Mitchell, Queen of the Gypsies of America. Her swarthy face with its high cheekbones is typical of Romany tribes and the head, the upper portion of which is covered with bright silken drapery pinned at the back with pins, rests upon a cushion of filmy silk and satin. The hair is braided Gypsy fashion and the dark tresses shine. The body is attired in a Royal robe of Gypsy Green and other bright colors contrasting vividly with the somber hues usual under such circumstances. Two necklaces are around the neck, one of shells, an heirloom that was descended through generations. The lower part of the body is draped with “Sacred Linen” treasured by Gypsy bands for the use only when death overtakes one of their numbers. When the children arrive, each will put a memento of some kind in the casket and it will devolve upon the youngest child to place her mother’s earrings in the ear.”

Her tribe believed the Queen’s journey into afterlife would require certain items of comfort, such as comb, brush, and other toilet accessories, as well as a supply of clothing for use on the other side of the Styx. Some even thought she was buried with valuable jewels, and perhaps she was?

Members of the Mitchell Tribe, at the time one of the largest in the country, came to Meridian from all parts of the United States to pay tribute: a newsreel was made and exhibited throughout the country relating the mystery and homage paid to a woman of high esteem as she made her final journey to be laid to rest.

The funeral services took place Feb. 12, 1915, and were held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, with rector, The Rev. H. W. Wells officiating. On the final day of the Queen’s impressive Romany inspired funeral traditions, more than 5,000 people were at the cemetery to witness the last rites. It was a large and imposing funeral procession that made its way from the undertaking establishment to the Episcopal Church. The local college band headed the procession, followed by male members of the Gypsy band on foot and bareheaded with Chief Mitchell, members of his immediate family and the women and children in carriages. The hearse, with the remains of the Gypsy Queen, headed the carriage procession. The attendance at the church was large…so large that it was impossible for all of the people to gain entrance, so many stood out in the street. The church services were those of the traditional Episcopal Church and were in no way added to by the Gypsies.

This account of a beloved queen and her tragic death has brought thousands of people to her gravesite during the last nearly 100 years since her burial, also bringing gifts to be left on her tombstone. Our curiosity for this glimpse into the early 1900’s and the immense love and respect one woman received from her people still brings many visitors to her grave even until this 21st Century."

Emil Mitchell family story. Warning! It's long, but interesting.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Key Brothers

Old photo that's in the Smithsonian.

Click on to enlarge and read the description.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Weidmann's we knew

Since 1870 -- at 210 22nd Avenue. Photo is circa 1953.

Mississippi's oldest restaurant opened with four stools and a counter in 1870. Ignoring for a moment its regionally popular signatures, such as Crab Belvedere, Wiener Schnitzel a la Holstein and Black Bottom Pie, Weidmann's is a marketing landmark in the historical sense.

For example, it is 139 years since Felix Weidmann, a Swiss ocean liner chef, left his kitchen on the open sea and settled in Meridian to create his own taste of the American Dream. "Felix started a tradition here, and we are just carrying it on," said Gloria Chancellor in 1993. She was five generations removed from the original Weidmann. She wistfully remembered growing up in the restaurant with her four sisters.

Traditions, in fact, are so established at Weidmann's that they've become part of the city's official mythology. In Meridian, you know what day it is according to Weidmann's. If they're serving seafood gumbo, it's obviously Friday. This is the sort of stuff marketing stories are built from. Its famous peanut butter is another. The peanut butter tradition began during World War II when butter rationing made it difficult to serve bread with meals. Henry Weidmann, who was then proprietor, took the suggestion of a local customer who said peanut butter and crackers would taste better than nothing.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dement Printing Company in business for 134 years in MERIDIAN

It is not a misprint when you see that the founding date of Dement Printing Company is 1875. Five generations of members of the Dement family have been involved in the business that has provided for printing and book publishing needs in East Mississippi for 134 years.

The family actually started in the printing business even before 1875. James Prentiss Dement first learned the trade as an indentured apprentice with W.B. Wallace of Florence, Ala., in 1831. His son, John Joseph Dement decided to follow in his father's trade, and started his own printing business on the second floor of the Lockhard Building on Front Street in 1875.
John Joseph Dement sold the business to his son, John Vance. Later the business was moved to the 2300 block on 4th Street, and John Vance Dement took on his brother, Frank, as a partner. The business began to grow adding one printer and one helper to assist in printing letterheads, envelopes, statements, circulars, order blanks and other odd jobs.

In 1900, the Dements moved down the street to 2315 4th Street, where they stayed for seven years, adding equipment, personnel and a line of office supplies and equipment. In 1909, the Dements built their own shop. The Dement Building is still occupied by the business nearly a hundred years later. Over the years the Dements added on to the building several times, adding a new composing room, press room, offset printing department, bindery, new space for offices and additional space for rentals.

At one point the business that was one of the largest printers in the state covered the entire block except for a portion at the east comer, which was operated as a service station. The staff eventually grew to 70.

"No printing job was too large or too small," said John Dement, current president of the company. "Over the years it has included book binding, ruling, lithographing, photostating, blue prints and rubber stamps as well as trade work for firms in Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas."

During World War II the company did a lot of work for the military including filling an order for $26,000 worth of carbon paper for Brookley Field in Mobile and another order to print copies of all the blueprints used in the construction of the Air Base at Key Field.

Frank Dement moved to Texas in 1913, selling his share of the business to his brother. John Vance Dement passed away in 1949. All of his seven children, including three sons and four daughters, worked in the business at one time or another.

In 1974 son and present owner John Ernest Dement bought out other family members. Currently his wife, Judy, daughter, Corey, and son, Scott, are involved in the business. Corey and Scott are the fifth generation to be involved in the family business.

The advent of desktop publishing had a major impact on printing businesses such as Dement.

"Computers and copy machines have greatly reduced the amount of printing being done at outside printers," said Dement. "We aren't nearly as big as we were at one time. We're down to about 22 employees. When linotype was used to set type, few could do printing. You had to be in the business for six years before you could even master the trade. But once we went to computers, that opened the door for just about anyone to do printing. You can get a computer and small printer, and you're in business."

One thing the company did to adapt to the changing business was starting a Generations Department that specializes in weddings and babies, making the most special of events treasures on paper. Judy and Corey oversee that side of the business, which Dement says has really taken off. The company also continues to sell a lot of office supplies.

Because not as much space is needed for the printing services, the Dements rent out portions of their building now to a barbershop, travel agency, real estate agency and a bonding company.

If the longevity of employees is a measure, Dement Printing Company must be a great place to work. Many Dement Printing Company employees have stayed for decades. Kleo Blue began as an apprentice bookbinder in 1909, eventually becoming plant superintendent. He had 44 years of service at his death in 1952. Albert Roberts worked as a stock clerk for more than 40 years before passing away. Other employees with more than 30 years experience include the late Clarence Keeton, who was sales manager, and Jube Hancock, city salesman. The late Evelyn Murphy worked for the company for more than 50 years.