Monday, February 24, 2020

Memories of Mexico School

The following article on Mexico School was written by Mrs. Imogene Winstead, a well-remembered and loved music teacher. I don't think any student attending the county schools during the years of 1955 when Mrs. Winstead was hired as the public school music teacher to 1979, when she retired, that does not remember Mrs. Winstead as our music teacher. 

The love of music and folk dancing was introduced to many of us through her weekly visits to our schools. I'll always remember her greeting as she entered our classroom "Good Morning Boys and Girls" and we would all chime back "Good Morning Mrs. Winstead." What great memories that were being made in these small community schools, although we didn't realize it at the time. 

Memories of Mexico School by Imogene Winstead
The teacher in this school had no secretary and no machines to "runoff" material to enrich teaching. There was a blackboard and chalk. The teacher was kept busy at the noon hour and every spare moment getting things on the chalkboard for the pupils to copy. The studious looked forward to having material on the board. If the teacher had any extra spare moments, they were after school at 4 p.m., at noon and during recess.

The teacher was also the janitor. When very cold it was difficult to bank the fire in the stove so thee would be live coals in the morning. Cold mornings are remembered when the temperature was below zero, our hands would stick to the door knobs. Finally we'd get a fire going and in would come our students and we would spend half the day getting them thawed out. They would remind you they had walked, not across the road, but for miles.

There was no drinking water on the grounds around the school. Water was carried from the Nelson community well about one-fourth mile from the school and put in coolers. Imagine the opportunity to go for water. There was always a waiting list. Everybody wanted to make a trip to the Nelson well.

An interesting part of our school year was our trek to revival meetings. Yes, thank goodness we were allowed to go to the Cookseyville Church "under the hill" or the Mexico Church on the hill. We'd line up quietly, hold hands, a teacher near the front and one in the rear. Nobody rebelled, every child was eager to go. There were no rebellious parents either.

A thrilling experience at recess was getting to take our pennies to the Nelson grocery by the well for candy or chewing gum.

Some teachers were Katie Myers, Oscar Wicker, Allen Young, Mary Moore, John Yandell, Lola Patterson, Ruby Asher, Della Stembridge, Randall Woodall, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Crider, Bertha Graves, David Postlethweighte, Lois Hicklin, Gradys Graves, Mary Y. Conyer, Aline Stalion, Geneva Holcom, Ruby McMaster Tabor, Imogene Winstead, Gustava Cruce, Opal Wicker Scott and Gyneth Strong.

The history of the Mexico School ended with the school year of 1958-59. When school started that fall in August 1959, the school board made the announce that the school opening would make the discontinuance of the last one-room school in the county, the one at Mexico. Enrollment there was only 14 in 1958. The pupils and their teacher would be transferred to Frances.

Although the school was closed, the memories of the years spent at the Mexico school for students and families remain with them for years to come.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Marion Losing Businesses

Within the last month there have been two more local businesses that have closed their doors, Pizza Hut, which had been here many years, and Anna Mae's on Main, restaurant, closed this week.  

Marion is left now with only one Grocery Store, Food Giant.   At one time, in the 1980's, I can remember 5 grocery stores and they all had a good business. There was Gene's IGA, Sureway, Save-A-Lot, West Side Grocery and East Side Grocery. 

After growing up here and remembering Marion Main Street and all the stores full and busy it's hard to see so many of these buildings empty and deteriorating as they will, when left empty and unused.  I'm afraid it is the sign of the times as people don't need the small town shopping as they once did.  Too mobile and too easy to buy off the internet.

From an ad in The Crittenden Press dated Dec 1977 there was a list of Merchants that posted their hours for that month.  Many were staying open until 8 p.m. for shoppers.

Only 8 of these stores are still open today.  They are * Eighty-Eighty Dip, The Flower Shop (now Botanicals Flowers Shop), Marion Auto Parts, Marion True Value, Hodge Outdoor Sports
Johnson Electric-Furniture, Louise's Flowers, Sureway Food Store (now Food Giant).
  • Ben Franklin
  • Byford's Store
  • Children's World
  • City Drug Co.
  • Eight-Eight Dip *
  • T. H. Cochran & Co.
  • The Emporium
  • The Flower Shop *
  •  Marion Shoe Store
  • Marion Style Shop
  • Marion Tot and Teen 
  • Holeman's jewelry
  • Hunt's Dept Store
  • Johnson Electric-Furniture *
  • Louise's Flowers *
  • Gifts and Things
  • Goad Studio & Framing
  • Nelson's Pharmacy
  • Sears Catalog Store
  • Smitty's Men's Shop
  • Western Auto Store
  • Hodge Outdoor Sports *
  • T & W Electric
  • Tresslar's
  • Marion True Value *
  • Marion Food Center
  • Marion Auto Parts  *
  • Kwik-Pic Market
  • Gene's IGA Foodliner
  • Sureway Food Store *
  • Westside Market

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Mr. Albert Travis, Crittenden County Jailor from 1901-1909

Remembering The Old Jail and Mr. Albert H. Travis, Jailer, 1901-1908
A Crittenden County Folks Story

When buildings we grew up with are being torn down it causes us to think of memories of what we remember about the place all the years it had been there. So it was with Mrs. Dulcie Travis Dillard in 1974, when plans for a new jail were in progress. She shared some of her family memories with the Press about their life when her father was jailer from 1902 to 1909. Writing and sharing old family memories are a good way to preserve some of our history from the past, that otherwise is lost forever.
1974 - Although I have lived in Detroit, Michigan for 47 years, I have always managed to keep track of events in my home town of Marion through regular subscriptions to The Crittenden Press. Thus it was that I came to know something of the current plans to “phase out” the present “old jail” and replace it with a new one. This being the case, I thought readers of The Press would like to read about some of the adventures my family had during my father's eight years (1901-1909) as Jailer at Marion.

My father, Albert H. Travis, was elected Jailer of Crittenden County in November 1900, and took office in January 1901. The new jail was being built at that time but still lacked a little being ready to move into. It was 1902 before the jail was ready for us to move into it.

(Albert Henry Travis and his wife, Ida Cain Travis.)

Some of the happenings I am about to relate I can't remember; I only heard them discussed in the family through the years. However, my father was elected for two terms of office and by the time he had worked eight years, I was well onto nine years old and so remember a few incidents quite well.

Saloons were prevalent in Marion at that time and the jail was a busy place on Saturday nights, locking up the fellows who had indulged in a few too many.

We also got our share of the mentally ill people who had to be kept until their trial was held to declare them insane enough to be sent to institutions. One woman in particular I remember was quite violent and had to be put into a “straitjacket” to keep her from doing bodily harm.

My father was a prisoner once in his own jail. Two of the inmates made it up between them one night that they would tell my father that there were bedbugs on their beds and they could not sleep (knowing my father would not stand for that) and so would start a renovation of their cells the next day. That is what he did – came up armed with disinfectant, mop and pail, and when he unlocked the door and stepped inside to unload, these two fellows ran out the door and turned the key, which my father had unthinkingly left in the door. They fled, taking the key with them and left my father locked inside. By the time my father attracted my mother's attention to his plight, which took quite a little while, and she in turn had gotten hold of a locksmith to come and saw the lock off the iron door, the two prisoners were well on their way. 

They had to flee on foot, of course, for back then there were no cars. But the Sheriff was notified and he, with a posse and the help of a couple of bloodhounds, finally tracked them down. They had made it to the Ohio River and were waiting for the ferry to take them across to Illinois. Needless to say, there were no bedbugs in their cell. By the way, the key was later found by some children a few houses down the street. One of the prisoners had evidently dropped it as he jumped over a fence.

The spring of 1905 – when the town of Marion burned, was a trying time. My father happened to be far out in the country on horseback when Marion went up in flames. Somehow he happened to hear about it during the day and he immediately started for home, running his sweating, panting horse every step of the way, not knowing what had happened to the jail, the prisoners or his family.

At the height of the fire, some officials would come down and tell my mother not to worry, that the jail was made of brick and iron and would never burn. On the other hand, others would say, “Better be getting your things out and freeing the prisoners for it is sure to burn.”

Some of the businessmen, however, had such confidence that they jail would not burn that they had all their merchandise carried down and piled in the jail yard. Needless to say, there was quite a lot of looting going on.

My mother kept reassuring the prisoners, who was frantically hollering and banging on their doors, that she would not let them burn up, that she would free them first. The heat was so intense in the jail house yard that it was almost unbearable. 

During this nerve-wracking time, a neighbor woman was so worried and upset that she took a sum of money out of her house and buried it and, yes, you guessed it, forgot where she had put it.

Lynching mobs were prevalent in the early 1900's. A criminal stood a good chance of being taken from prison and hung. Several times this was threatened and the jail was guarded while we slept.

On one occasion, when a lynch mob was gathering, I remember my Dad took a man out of the jail and into the country and he and the Sheriff guarded him all night. They were hiding in a woods and at one time some of the would be lynchers came so close to them that the three “fugitives” could hear them talking. When my father knew they were getting near, he had the prisoner, who was of very slight build, crawl into a hollow log. 

My dad and the Sheriff hid behind some huge trees. One of the lynching party crossed over the log, in fact, stood upon it for a second and was heard to say. “We might as well quit searching and go home as they must not be in these parts.” The prisoner was saved that time as it was very dark and all the light that any of them had was lantern light.

There was a large barn on the jail premises and my Dad always kept a saddle horse, a milk cow and chickens. My mother made her own milk and butter. She did all the cooking for the prisoners as well as for her own family of five children.

There was one teenage boy who was repeatedly locked up for larceny. He made the remark one time, as the jail door closed on him, that he had to come back to get some more of Mrs. Travis' good cooking.
For entertainment of the visitors, my Father would hire a three-seated hack at the Livery Stable, Mother would pack a picnic lunch and we would all drive to one of the historic spots around Marion, such as The Crittenden Springs, Old Piney Camp Ground, or The Jim Pickens Spring, and spend a happy day.

I hope the readers of The Crittenden Press have gotten some enjoyment out of my reminiscing about the old but then new jail. Today, whenever we three children get together, my brother, Hobart, sister Bertie and I, one of us will invariably say, “Remember when we lived at the jail?”
All these Crittenden County folks in the story have long passed away, but thanks to Mrs. Dillard's story her family and their part in our past history lives on in the pages of the Press.

Mr. Travis died Feb. 26, 1954 and Mrs. Travis died Dec. 4, 1944.  Both are buried in Mapleview Cemetery.