Another early start, another really dull drive down Highway 45 South. We left
Tupelo about 7:30 to allow plenty of time to stop at Highway 45 Antiques, which is about ten miles north of . Marian’s had her eye on this place for years. She and Barry travel the route often to see friends in Meridian but oddly, he shows no interest in it at all. I share her interest, of course, so we spent about an hour browsing, and walked away with a huge bell for Marian and a pair of sparkly gold pumps for me. Don’t know that we would stop again for anything other than a good walk around, but it was fun and the people who work at the store are really nice. Alabama
From there we went to Causeyville, just outside
. To get there, we drove about twelve miles down a winding, two-lane country road that is really lovely. And then it’s not lovely. And then it’s lovely again. No, wait! It’s not. There are some zoning issues in Causeyville. Or rather, a total lack of zoning in Causeyville. Nice home, trailer, nice home, trailer, nice home, trailer, trailer, trailer.… Meridian
Advertisement for Coca-Cola on the wall of the General Store. It was beautifully preserved under the side porch. Wish I could have moved the Coke machine to get an isolated picture...just too nice not to share!
The theater has seen vaudeville and movies, and nowadays it sees all sorts of plays and concerts, in addition to various events (wedding receptions and the like in its huge ballroom). Basically, they rent it out for many things because they get no federal or state funds. The theater is privately owned, and it has to be a huge financial drain. The man who owns it (who may be from
Meridian originally, I’m not sure about that) lives in now and keeps an apartment in the theater that he uses when he’s in town. Now, that has to be one spooky place to stay! All alone in an old, empty 9,000 square foot building in a town that’s almost deserted at night. Shiiiivvverrrrr. Texas
We found the theater closed, although the internet site we had visited said it would be open. But, there was a man out front changing the marquee and he let us in and the lady who runs the place took us on a personal tour. She didn’t miss a thing! We even went onstage where – had either of us had any talent at all – we would have performed a little something.
Marian -- It is very obvious that Susan has been able to put my on-stage performance away in her memory bank......no, I didn't belt out "Tomorrow" like I would have like to have done, but, I did sing a few lines... The acoustics are phenomenal, outstanding, remarkable. I would love to hear a performance in this building!
also has one of only two theater organs in public buildings in the state, and it’s a whopper! We got to see its innards, and believe us, you’re not likely to see a bigger one. And, something that is totally unimportant, but fascinating to us nonetheless, is that Zoltar the Fortune Teller from the movie “Big” is there. The theater’s owner is a movie buff, and he bought him and put him in the old ticket booth once used at the “colored entrance.” (The box has been moved inside the building now, it doesn’t open to the outside.) Like all places in Temple back when the theater opened, there was a colored entrance with a set of stairs that went up to “their” balcony area which, by the way, has the same wooden fold-up seats as downstairs – sans padding.Ouch. Mississippi
We had a wonderful time at the
and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but by the end of the tour we were hungry in a major sort of way. We were directed to Jean’s, a “home-cooking” type place near the train station. We stuffed ourselves with country vegetables and cornbread until we just couldn't eat any more. Then we ordered pie! Yum. Temple
Our next stop was the most important of the trip – at least to Marian. We went to the Highland Park Denzel Carousel. Marian does love a carousel. It’s located indoors – surely one of the most brilliant moves ever, and not just because the carousel is so valuable that it couldn’t really be left outside either. (Although it is.) July is just no time to be outside in
Gustav Denzel was, for those of you who don’t know, one of the finest carousel builders of his time (turn of the 20th century), and I must say, he outdid himself here. It’s gorgeous! Just gorgeous! Not only are the animals magnificent – and there are lions, tigers, mountain goats, and giraffes in addition to the horses and sleigh seats – but the actual carousel itself with its painted scenes decorating the carousel top are magnificent too. The closer you look, the more exquisite it is. It’s a jewel. And…it goes really really fast. For a carousel, that is. I don’t ever remember going so fast on a merry-go-round.
A ride on the carousel costs 50 cents, yet apparently they still have a hard time selling those seats (or saddles, if you will). Marian and I rode it by ourselves. And so did the four people who started riding when we were leaving. We picked up a couple tee shirts on our way out – pink, of course.
We were a little disappointed about not getting to see the old Opera House, but we consoled ourselves with a visit to
. No, we have no relatives buried there. Rose Hill Cemetery is home to people far more interesting than anyone Marian or I are related to. It’s the final resting place of “Emil and Kelly Mitchell, king and queen of all the gypsies in the Rose Hill Cemetery !” Now, who knew? Certainly neither of us could tell you how United States came to be home to gypsy royalty, or why gypsy royalty would have such…uh…pedestrian…names. I mean, Emil’s okay, but shouldn’t the rest of the names be more Romanian, or European, or something a little more exotic than Bob, Joe, and Mitchell? Meridian, Mississippi
The grave of Kelly Mitchell -- Queen of the Gypsies
Emil Mitchell -- King of the Gypsies
A good number of Emil and Kelly’s family members share their small cemetery home with them – probably just as they did in life: Bob Sharkie, Joe Sharkie Mitchell, Diana Sharkie Mitchell, and Flora Mitchell are there too, and they’ve been able to make the most of Emil and Kelly’s status because some of the many gifts Emil and Kelly receive overflow to them. We were told that we HAD to take a gift to the king and queen, although we don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t left anything. And, while we don’t actually believe in gypsy magic, one just can’t be too careful these days, so we thought…why not? Actually, the many gifts that adorn their graves were how we were able to locate them – we saw a ton of Mardi Gras beads draped over some headstones and figured it had to be them!
Some people – people as ambivalent about (or as unprepared for) honoring gypsy royalty as Marian and I were – leave coins rather than gifts, so King Emil and Queen Kelly’s graves are all but covered in money (very low denominations of money). Other people get real creative – we saw a few empty beer bottles and a cell phone, and Marian and I would have been equally creative had we had even a stick of gum to leave, but we didn’t, so we paid our respects with a shiny new penny for each of them and went on our way. By the way, the headstones had photos on them, and they were very attractive people!
One of the old Hotels -- it appears that they have repainted some of the signs
But my favorite thing about
– the thing that made me laugh out loud – is a billboard. There’s a huge billboard downtown with a picture of a very attractive woman (40? 50?) smiling and holding a large platter of fried chicken. It’s an ad for a restaurant, her restaurant, I’m assuming, and it says, in huge letters: I sell chicken and chicken accessories! Meridian
(Okay, sorry to all of you who have never seen King of the Hill, but I just loved this and had to put it in.)
Picture from the second floor (from the Simmons Wright website)
Built in 1884 (picture from the Simmons-Wright website -- mine wasn't nearly as neat)Marian -- I was driving when we went through Toomsuba...all three times ... it is very unsettling to explain how it happened. Each trip was going east to west, each trip involved a stint on the nearby Interstate, each trip resulted in the same realization -- something isn't right. I will not speak of it again. As a caution to all who drive using an atlas in Mississippi ---- don't believe everything you see --- oddly, our GPS was more accurate ! And, no...a GPS in the backroads of Mississippi isn't normally overly helpful, it must be tempered with an atlas and a gazetteer. We've heard the phrase "recalculating" so many times, it's now our mantra.
Now here’s a town that spell check will never come to terms with, another town whose name lures people like Marian and me, and, by the way, it’s pronounced “sugar lock.” Who would have guessed? It appears to be a sleepy little place, but it does have a huge lumber business right downtown. And, just to add a little
Mississippi geography lesson here, Shuqualak is home to just under 600 people (70% black, 30% white, negligible % other) about half way between Meridian and . Columbus