EATIN’ OUT, MILL STREET STYLE

THE ORIGINAL BIG APPLE INN, JACKSON, MS

Every metropolitan city has its Mill Street, that well-worn, warehouse lined, blue-collar worker street with its industrial atmosphere.  That’s never where one finds the fine dining establishments.  But that’s not to say that you can’t fine plenty of good eatin’ establishments!  There’s a big difference between great food and fancy wallpaper!  I suppose it depends on what you’re trying to feed… your face and belly… or your image and ego.

The heart of Jackson Mississippi has its Mill Street, located downtown in the very heart of the city.  It’s an old street, well worn from decades of traffic, history, commerce, and labor.  I’m blessed to have worked on Mill Street… putting in almost a decade of good times, satisfying labor, and countless fond memories.  Many of those memories have to do with dining out, on and around Mill Street… and a few miles beyond.

Among my first memories of ‘Mill Street Dining’ didn’t actually happen on Mill Street, but just a block away.  My introduction to a life-long love of Krystal Hamburgers was in the mid 1940s.  The Krystal was located on the North side of Capitol, on the East corner of Capitol and Roach.  Those delicious burgers were only 5c each at that time!  Oh well… back then gas was only 25c a gallon.  But… a ‘good’ hour’s wage was then only a very few dollars an hour… if that much!  

I began work on Mill Street (the first time) in the Fall of 1960… working in the Jitney-Jungle Sign Shop after school, while attending Mississippi College.  But this was after lunch, and before supper time… so I didn’t do much Mill Street Dining during this period.  However, I was back on Mill beginning in the Fall of ’67, when I started full time employment with Jitney… again working from the corporate office on Mill… and dining out quite a bit!

I’ll say this though, not every meal was ‘dining out.’  That wasn’t necessary.  The corporate office had a full kitchen, save for a microwave… as those were not a common household appliance back then.  So many folks brought their lunches. 

Most folks brought sandwiches and such, foregoing the need to cook.  But there was often an ‘issue.’  It was a common occurrence for someone’s lunch, even with their name clearly written on the bag… to be eaten by someone else!  I suppose that sandwiches, like watermelons, taste best when stolen!  So I devised a clever ‘trick’ which I felt might deter the food-thieves.  Instead of my name on my bag, I wrote HENRY HOLMAN, (the company PRESIDENT), on it instead!  Later I heard rumors that it might have been Mr. Holman himself who was satisfying his hunger!  Oh well!

The places where we ate were unique!  But several were off the charts in their uniqueness… so unusual that they were not always everyone’s favorite.  In no particular order they were…

I believe others will agree, that one of our favorite dining establishments was the WHITE HOUSE, located on High Street near downtown.  It was not your typical restaurant.  There was no menu.  Folks sat around large tables, and the delicious southern-style fried, stewed, boiled, or baked items were served in bowls or on trays, and one simply helped themselves… over and over and over again!  We waddled back to work… far too stuffed to be efficient back on Mill!   And then there was SCOTTIES, a much farther drive South,  located on Terry Road a few mile South of Highway 80.  True, it was a longer trip, but one that was well worth it!  I dearly loved their thick and cream milk-gravy and always asked for a double-serving.  One of my co-workers (Phil) once told the waitress that my wife made it at home… in 55 gallon drums! 

I can’t remember the name of the place, and as eat-joints go, it didn’t stay in business all that long.  It was not sit-down dining, but more like an ice-cream stand.  But they didn’t sell 41 flavors like Baskin-Robins.  This stand sold BURGERS… but they served somewhere close to 41 different burger-MEATS!  

It was located in the next block north on Mill, and on the same side as the McCarty-Holman Warehouse.  Just WHERE they secured this wild variety of weird and unusual burger-meat I don’t know!  I wish now I had asked.  But in addition to your normal beef and pork, they also had alligator, snake, buffalo, elk, deer, raccoon, rabbit.  The list was so strange, I really can’t recall it all!  I wanted to try the alligator… but was afraid to.  The buffalo was great!

Also, on the same side of Mill, and quite near the weird-meat place, was a cafe/honky tonk that sold the best fish sandwich I’ve ever eaten! The one ‘issue’ with the fish was NOT the taste… that was super-terrific!  The problem was the BONES.  The fish they used was BUFFALO FISH, noted for its plentiful bones.  

The sandwich was huge… and open-faced.  The bread was some type of French bread.  The deep-fried fish was placed onto the bread IMMEDIATELY out of the deep fat frier… I know… because the bread was soaked in delicious fish-flavored oil.  But on top, it was sprinkled with a very generous helping of bright red Louisiana Hot Sauce… very generous.

You felt that you were taking a double-whammy threat to your life in eating this sandwich.  If the hot sauce didn’t get you, the bones would!  But… these were large bones, rib bones, and very easy to find and remove.  Anything is better when one must work for it!  And those fish sandwiches were fabulous!  Of course, they were NOT eaten ‘like a sandwich.’

Farther north on Mill Street, but on the East side of the street, and up rather near but south of the Woodrow Wilson overpass was a place we called ‘Mac’s By The Tracks.’  I suppose that the actual name was Mac’s Restaurant… or Mac’s Diner or Cafe.  It’s no longer there.  It was not strange for it’s food-fare, but instead for it’s unusual layout.

Now remember, the mid to late 60s was a time not only of ‘weird’ things happening on the west coast… but it was a racially turbulent time in the deep south.  The ‘white only’ signs may have been coming down, but they were slow in coming down.  And in many places, like the water fountains of the Jackson Zoo, it was not simply a sign change/removal… those racial identifications were built into the structures.  And such also was Mac’s By The Tracks.

The basic building was somewhat square.  It didn’t have one ‘front entrance,’ but two!  The ‘front’ on the south side contained entrance one.  The opposite side/front contained entrance two.  Running east/west down the center of the building was an area that was much more narrow than the two opposite sides.  This center section contained the restrooms, the kitchen, and the storage area.  The south side, was the dining area FOR WHITES… and on the north side, the dining area for BLACKS.  

What made this doubly-unique was that from one side, you could easily see into the opposite side dining area!  The LARGE kitchen serving windows into both dining areas were perfectly aligned with one another!  Crazy huh?

Although eating there fairly often, I really can’t remember much about the quality of the food.  It was more the uniqueness of the building which stood out.

Although the above places were GREAT… the one food-fare that stands out as ‘extra special’ to me is still alive and doing well!  I think that I was the only one who dearly loved it, but I still do, and continue to stop by from time to time.  That place is the Big Apple Inn.  Their specialty, and my favorite, is the Red Hot Sandwich… and boy oh boy is it HOT!  They’re small, like a Krystal, but really pack a punch.  Personally, I get about one Coke per sandwich as they’re THAT hot!  They cost $2 each today, but back then they were only 50c each!

The story goes that the founder of the place approached Jackson Packing Company, and asked if they had any low-quality pork that was suitable for human consumption, but that they couldn’t sell.  And the reply was YES.  He took this pork, ground it, added his own special blend of spices and and such… and mixed this with his home-made coleslaw… and spred this blend of deliciousness on small Krystal size buns.  He had a winner! Ummm GOOD!  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it – just as they make my eyes water when I eat them.  And… the place was in walking distance from our offices on Mill.

I’ll wrap up this food-fest with a story unique to yours truly… a story that is no doubt still talked about among former Jitney corporate employees!  

Jitney prided itself in sincerely trying to make the customers happy… all of our customers.  Personally, I detest avocados… but that’s my problem.  We sold avocados galore to those who love them.  And… we sold some food products that, to be truthful, you might not even think of as food.  

I’ll clarify this by saying that the Murphy’s were active members of Grace Methodist Church on Winter Street.  As a youth, I was a member of the Methodist Youth Fellowship.  When we had a fund-raiser, we always had Spaghetti Suppers at the church.  When the adults had a fund raiser, they had CHITTERLING suppers (pronounced ‘chitlins’).  Yes they did!  And Jitney Jungle Stores of America (and Sack & Save) sold chitlins (always frozen) in the meat-market.  

It’s coming…  Yes I did!

Because the ad department CREATED the company’s grocery ads, we also photographed most of the products seen in these ads.  And chitlin’s came up this particular occasion.  So… I took this golden opportunity to cook up a small batch (breaded and deep fat fried) in the employees kitchen!  Sniff.  Sniff.  Sniff.  (The ad required only a photo of the CONTAINER… but I want the ad staff to experience chitlins!

Chitlins definitely do not have the same aroma as Sirloin Steak on the grill.  Not even close.  Most folks say they STINK.  So I created quite an uproar!  Folks up and down the hallways came looking for what surely must have died!  They definitely did not enjoy any of this intestinal experience! Needless to say, I was firmly forbidden to do that ever again!  Like I said… ole time corporate employees still remember that event today! 

Funny… nobody ever complained about our Krystal Hamburgers! 

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HUNT & PECKER

     I’m a strange bird in many ways, and I admit to that.  As a prime example, even as a fledgling writer, I’ve never learned to type!  Yes, I’m what’s called a ‘Hunt and Pecker.’

    Once I actually attempted to learn, or should I say, was encouraged to learn.  That was way back in the early days of computers, with their ever present keyboards.  Some folks believe that ‘typing’ is required.

    I began (full-time) work for Jitney-Jungle in the fall of 1967.  Those first few years typing was never a requirement, as I was producing silk screen and hand-painted signage for the company.  I’m sure that by today, somewhere, there’s a silk-screen apparatus that has a key-board… but back then… none was required.

    Because I’d formerly worked in the advertising department of the Clarion Ledger Newspaper, the heads of state at Jitney decided… why ‘farm-out’ print advertising when we have a warm body already on the payroll who can do that!  So, I moved across the street and into the main corporate office, hired a couple of co-employees, and we began producing the weekly print-ad artwork, camera-ready for the newspapers.  

    Our first ‘typesetting’ machine was among the first photo-typesetters on the market… and it didn’t even have a keyboard!  Although electric, it was in no-way electronic. Each and every type-font came on a large plastic disk about the size of an old LP record.  Oh, and each type-font SIZE had it’s own separate disk!  Early expense requirements meant that we could have only a limited number of type fonts and sizes.

     The way this machine worked was: in a darkroom, the 35 mm paper onto which the type would be ‘exposed’ was fed into a loadable cassette.  The type machine itself looked somewhat like a cross between a record player and a pinball machine.  To produce the words ‘Chuck Roast’ you placed the desired font/size disk onto the machine, inserted the cassette into the side, advanced the paper to the ‘expose film’ area, then turn the font-disk until the ‘C’ lined up correctly.  Then with your left hand you pressed a lever which locked the font-wheel into the correct position, and next with your right hand you pressed a corresponding lever on the right side which exposed this first letter onto the film.  ‘C’ was now done.  Then you moved the font wheel to the letter ‘h’ and repeated the left right, lock-print lever dance.  Next came ‘u’ followed by all the others.  Needless to say, it took quite a bit LONGER to print out ‘USDA Choice Boneless Chuck Roast’ than it does today!  You see, knowing ‘how to type’ was of absolutely no benefit in ‘typing’ with the Varityper!  It was basically ‘Hunt and Pecking by default!’  

     Also, there were physical limitations as to the type size we could use.  The minimum was 14 points (about 1/8 inch tall) and the largest was 72 points… around 3/4 inches tall.  So, for the larger PRICE NUMERALS we often had to use ‘clip art’ numerals, especially for the larger ‘featured’ items.  

    All of these various ‘labor intensive’ requirements required that these earlier four and eight page ad ‘tabloids’ displayed only a minimum number of items per page… something in the neighborhood of six to fourteen items.

     Because type-setting was such a long, labor-intensive process, there were many, many times, (in order to be home with the family) I’d take the Varityper home after 5 and set type sitting at our kitchen table!  Like I said, there was no NEED to learn how to type.  ANYONE can ‘hunt and peck’ 2 words a minute!

     But things changed when computers came along, and with them, computer-generated type-setting.  The next generation of computer assisted ad layout meant that type could be set directly in position and onto a page layout clearly and accurately presented right on your computer screen!  Now, typing was almost a requirement!  So… Jitney sent me to TYPING SCHOOL at the then new R & D Center!  

    I must not be ‘cut out’ for typing.  I was a miserable failure at it… much like I was at learning to play the piano during grammar school!  Oh I played (a bit) but my piano teacher, Miss Nellie Robinson, told Mom that I was not learning the notes… but playing by ear!  Typing was like that for me also.  So, folks at Jitney finally ‘gave up,’ by saying that I could type with two fingers far better than I’d ever be able to using all ten!  They were right.  I typed this using only two. 

    In my ‘can’t type defense,’ when I was hired on full-time at Jitney we had only 22 Jitney-Jungle stores.  Our little corporate in-house Advertising Department was instrumental in ‘growing’ that number, within a couple of short decades, into a mega-chain with the largest number of employees of any home-owned and home-operated company in the entire state.  Yup, I can’t help but be proud of what my two little fingers, ‘Woody left’ and ‘Wood’ right, helped to accomplish! 

Bill Murphy

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ONCE A GROCER, ALWAYS A GROCER

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

I suppose it’s simply ‘in my blood,’ this GROCER thing.  But I come by it honestly.  It’s actually something rather difficult to ignore, as I was practically born, bred, and raised in the grocery business.  It was almost the same for my Dad.

Dad’s first and only other job in his entire work-history was a short tour of duty working in the Dairy at Mississippi State College in the early 1930s.  And then he moved to the ‘big city’ of Jackson and found work as a stock-boy for the then new Jitney-Jungle.

I’ll skip forward to 1951.  I was in the 5th at George Elementary on the corner of Winter and Gallatin.  Dad had been the successful manager of Jitney #2 next to George, so when the new Jitney #19 was built and opened in Mart 51 at Terry Road and Highway 80, he was made manager of this new store.  Dad hired me to ‘help out’ after school Thursday and Friday afternoons and the weekends.   

I work there at Jitney #19 until I started my Freshman year at Mississippi Stare in the Fall of 1959.   You see, the grocery business is in my blood.

But I wasn’t finished with the grocery business!  In the Fall of 1967 I was called back into the grocery business when Jitney Jungle decided to form it’s own in-house ad agency and print shop.  This time as full-time… until the very senseless end of Jitney-Jungle in 2001.

I said all that to say this…  This very morning Carol sent me to Kroger for a few grocery items.  I found a spot to part right near the front of the store.  Great!  The store was crowded, even for a Friday morning. 

When I returned to my vehicle after shopping, I noticed that the nearby rack of returned grocery carts was completely overloaded with returned carts… most of which had be hurriedly and carelessly dropped off in willie-millie fashion!  Empty carts spilled over into the adjoining parking spaces!  My ‘grocer in the blood’ kicked in.  It simply overpowered me.  I couldn’t help myself.   It was like it was 1951 all over again and Bill had his grocery cart responsibility again!

Yes, I did!  After I’d packed my vehicle with my purchases,  I took my empty card over to this fine MESS… and quickly and efficiently did my work, in the true spirit of a good grocery company individual.  It didn’t take me long, perhaps 2 minutes at most, but it sure made me feel good about doing it!  I’m sure there must have been another customer within sight, scratching their head and wondering, ‘Why is HE doing that?’   

Why? Because it’s in my blood.  I can’t help it.  I’m retired now, and I miss doing ‘grocery stuff.’  Besides, those 5th grade years were among the happiest of my young life, and it was a barrel of fun this morning, an 80+ year old man, back again doing ‘fun’ 5th grade work!  It make me realize that I’ve still ‘got it!’

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IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO

2 CokeBill Murphy  2020    

I was young and impressionable at the time, hardly thirteen at most.  Impressions can be both negative and positive.  This one was a most positive impression, one that’s stuck with me all of my life.  

     It happened around 1953, the dawn of rock & roll.  Soft drinks were a nickle each, and came only in glass bottles.  When returned to the seller, you were paid a two-cent deposit on the empty bottle.

     On weekends, I worked in the Jitney grocery store that my father managed in Mart 51.  I did odd jobs around the store, keeping the shopping carts orderly, and bagging groceries.  I was also tasked with emptying the trash containers in the check-outs stands.

  I was emptying a bag of trash into the dumpster when I heard the distinct clink of glass.  “Oops, ”I remarked aloud, “Someone carelessly threw away a bottle.” 

     “No, not one, but two!” The remark came from Authur England, one of the store’s full-time employees.  “One bottle can’t rattle!”

     I stood frozen in my tracks, allowing this jewel of truth to sink in.  

    Almost seventy years later, when my grandkids and great-grandkids begin to bicker and fuss, most often as not pointing a finger and proclaiming, ‘They started it!’  I stop them with this simply truth: It takes two to rattle.

     Thanks Arthur, for sharing your wisdom!

 

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Not The End Of The World

© 2019 Bill Murphy

   I’ve never wanted to be a cowboy, or a fireman, or a movie star.  I learned early in life that art, especially commercial art, was my thing. In the early 1960s I was fresh out of college, and dreaming of that cushy job as as a creative illustrator, in the advertising field.  In those days we had no cell phones, no Google.  We had a telephone attached to a wire and a thick telephone book by the side.  And… the yellow pages were profusely illustrated!  It was THE job to be had.  

    The Yellow Page office was located upstairs over a Promos Restaurant on North State Street in Jackson, MS.  That fateful day, downstairs in the restaurant, I sat across the table from the art director for an interview.  He ordered coffee for us.  I took my first sip, and promptly SNEEZED INTO THE CUP.  There was an explosion of coffee.  It went everywhere.   

    That embarrassing interview didn’t last long.  I was not hired.  That was a huge dissappointment, but it was not the end of the world.    

    Not even 3 years later, the vice-president of Jitney Jungle called me for an interview.  They wanted to create an in-house graphic/advertising department.  Was I interested?  Yes, very much so.  41 years later, Jitney closed its doors.  I was the first one in the ad department, and the last one to leave.

    I look back now and I’m glad I sneezed in my coffee that day.  

    Oh, as a footnoote.  After a couple of years at Jitney, I had a visitor.  It was the Yellow Page Art Director and his side-kick.  They wanted me!  This time, I told them ‘no thanks.’

   That day of the coffee explosion wasn’t the end of the world.  It was the beginning! 

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GOODBYE FAMILY HEIRLOOMS

Table

© 2018 Bill Murphy

Today, another heirloom from the Murphy’s past has exited the scene, stage left. I had mixed feeling about this one, both sad and glad.

A few years after my Carthage grandparents passed away, their beloved old barn was torn down.  Now that was a relic to be sure.  My Dad helped split the cedar shingles which formed its roof.  As a child, all the young Carthage-Cousins practically lived in that old barn.  Knowing it was to be demolished was like seeing an old friend on his death bed.  Before the barn was no more, I removed dozens of those worn and weathered cedar shingles.  I still have many of them… kept as unusual, but treasured keepsakes – heirlooms if you will.

This very morning, a formal dining room table which had been among the first pieces of furniture my parents acquired after marriage, left my possession – sold in a yard sale.

Mom and Dad married in the mid 1930s.  Dad was working for Jitney Jungle.  One of their customers, who owned a moving and storage business, approached my father with an offer.  He explained that several years back, a local doctor put an elegant dining room suite into storage.  Now they’d moved away, and could not be reached.  He needed the room, so… would Dad be interested in buying it?  He did.  For only $35.

This was NOT particle board and veneer furniture… but GOOD stuff.  Included was 6 padded chairs, the table with 2 extensions, felt table pads, plus a china cabinet and large buffet.  All for $35.  I sat for 19 Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations around that table while living at home… and many more after moving away.  Yes, I had a fond attachment for it.

After the deaths of Mom and Dad, it became mine.  As nice and elegant as it was, it really wasn’t 100% practical.  The legs were large, and the ornate lower bracing seemed to always get in the way.  Coupled with those tree-trunk-like legs, it could be annoyingly uncomfortable.  When Carol and I moved to Illinois, we put the thing in storage!  One of our daughters attempted to use it, but soon discovered it’s annoying ways.  She bought a new set, and back into storage the treasure went.

This weekend, we’re having a yard sale.  We decided that its about time to part company with this uncomfortable heirloom from the past.  A couple paid $75 of the table and chairs… more than doubling Dad’s original investment.  I think he would have been proud.

 

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REMEMBERING GRACE METHODIST CHURCH

Grace Church copy

©2018  Bill Murphy

Grace Methodist Church sat diagonally across the street from George Elementary School, on the north/west corner of Winter and Union streets.  Why is it that you fail to take a snapshot of those people or places you most want to remember?  Above is a photo taken by my mother sometime in the very late 40s, of a George School activity.  I suppose I’m in there somewhere.  Behind us is the old church building, before it was remodeled in the early 50s.  The parsonage is immediately to the right.  The white frame structure to the far left is the adjoining Sunday School rooms.

Grace was a neighborhood church, with no church parking lot.  There was ample parking on the streets for those who drove.  I walked to church many times.

This was my home church for my first 19 years.  Dad was on the Board of Stewards, and Mom was Superintendent of the Primary Department.  I sang in the choir when in high school.

Our family was always there – dependable, we were.  Sometimes we did miss a Sunday or two, but only for a valid reason… such as vacations.  Driving to Quebec, lower Florida, Vancouver, or deep into Mexico… on those pre-interstate 2 lane highways, you needed all the travel time available.  But our family attended church as we traveled – so that my sister and I could still be in the perfect attendance category.  One Sunday morning in Utah, we couldn’t find a Methodist Church anywhere – so we attended a Mormon service held in the Bryce Canyon Lodge.

I dearly loved Grace Methodist Church.  I am who I am today largely because of the instruction, foundation and examples I received from Grace Church.

I’m blessed to have participated in many memorable, spirit-filled, soul-jarring, life changing worship services in other churches over the years, yet I can truthfully say that none of those ‘pinnacle’ services compare to a typical service at Grace Church.  How? Why?

Because Grace Church was what it was!  I miss those wonderful days there, the place we thought of as “God’s House.”  We considered it to be a Holy Place.  And why did we feel this way and why did we feel such awe in simply entering the building?  Because… as small kids, we were taught that it was not just a building.  We were taught that it was “The House of God,” as if He dwelled there!  We learned to reverence it, respect it, and love it.  It was special… very, very special.  And because of this, we expected Him to be there with us and among us each time we entered that Holy place.

Were we lied to?  Was this some adult trick or ploy to make us behave?  Hardly.  Scripture plainly tells us that where two or three are gathered together in His name, then He is there! (Matthew 18:20).  And we knew to respect and reverence not only His presence which actually was there, but also His ‘house.‘  It was all real, very real.

Grace church was never locked when I was a child.  It was alway open to those who wished to enter, to feel His presence and love, to come kneel and pray.  There was a water fountain in the hallway of the ‘education’ department… and on hot summer days, we kids often entered the church to cool off and drink.  Although just a hot and sweaty pack of 8, 10, or 12 year olds, our parents may as well have been watching over our shoulders.  When we passed over the threshold, our very countenance transformed, automatically.  Why?  Because we knew to respect and to reverence that place, be it Sunday morning during church service or Tuesday afternoon.  We had been taught to give honor where honor was due… and God’s ‘house’ was due our honor and respect!  We neither talked loud nor ran in the hallways.  We had ingrained respect for where we were – because we’d been taught to have that respect.

I appreciate those life-lessons more and more each day that I live.

We didn’t have a ‘praise and worship leader’ at Grace Church.  But we had praise… and we had worship.  We had both in bountiful measure.  We had a choir director, but his duty was to direct the choir, not to serve as a cheer-leader.  We didn’t require a cheer-leader, because we knew that God was there, in our midst.  One could not help but feel His presence.  It was easy to worship Him at Grace Church.  This was His House!  And we respected it.  We hallowed it.  I think that it was this ‘attitude’ of respect and reverence that we brought with us to church that made it so easy, so natural, to worship.  We passed through the door expecting to meet Him inside!  And we were never disappointed!

My very favorite memories of Grace Church were the Sunday night services.  After 2 or 3 songs, and the announcements were read, the pastor gave his message.  Then we sang another hymn.  The lights were lowered, giving one just enough illumination to see, and then the pastor told us that the altars were open for those who wished to come and pray.  I always went forward.  There, in that darkened and quiet time, in that Holy place, it was as if I was not among dozens, but rather, alone with God.  It was so easy to feel His presence, His loving hand on my shoulder, His breath on my cheek.  It was just the two of us.  I worshiped Him.  And He filled my young heart with His presence, and His love.  It was like Heaven on earth.  I treasure those memories.  To think that the creator of the universe paused long enough to spend quality time with me!  A reverent soul is but putty in the hands of God.

Alas… Grace Church is no more.  Even the new building grew old… and time marched ever onward.  Folks prospered and moved away to bigger and better things.  Due to his strong work-ethic, Dad continued to get promotions at Jitney Jungle.  He and Mom moved away from Evergreen, to a larger, nicer home in north/east Jackson.  The congregation of Grace Church began to dwindle… until it was no more.  Sitting unused and uncared for, the leaking roof began to collapse.  A few years ago, the building was leveled.  Where the House of God once stood, and where heaven once opened its doors to a young boy… is now but a vacant lot.

Grace Church may be gone – but Grace Church is not forgotten!  Not in this heart anyway.

 

 

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PRIMOS PIG OUT

© 2017 Bill Murphy

There are things from the past you never think you’ll see again.  Among these are gems your grandkids would find hard to believe.  I was amazed to run across this (poor) copy of a 50s restaurant menu.

MenuDuring high school I worked weekends bagging groceries at Jitney Jungle #19 in Mart 51. Our pay scale was no where near what kids make today.  But then, our expenses where no where near what they are today.  I made 75c an hour – plus tips.

My father insisted (and enforced) that I put $5 a week in the bank.  From the remainder, I still had money for Friday and Saturday night dates (which usually included dinner and a movie) gas for Dad’s car, and enough pocket money for snacks and soft drinks until the next pay day.

On 75c an hour? Yes!

One of my favorite date-night meals was the heavenly Primos Fried Chicken Dinner. I wish the photo above was better – and the prices were the same today!

Honestly, I think they battered the chicken twice.  That thick and crunchy crust was Thanksgiving-delicious!  The menu says – Half Spring Chicken, Un-joined with F. F. Potatoes, Hot Roll, and Butter… $1.25.  Later, the price went up – to $1.50.

This was not a pigmy chicken.  It was a regular sized chicken, cut in half.  Take-out boxes were new then, and this delicious bird barely fit in the box! Growing boys, even on a date, find it difficult to share. We each had our own!

You know all the jokes about going to the drive in movies and not seeing the movie. Our excuse was that, thanks to Pop Primos, we were feeding our faces!

 

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Just Call Me…

The following short piece is yet another Little Egypt Writer’s Society writing challenge. Our subject assignment was NICKNAMES.

 

Just Call Me    © 2017 Bill Murphy

If nothing else, I’m well documented.

My first documentation being the hospital birth certificate issued minutes after my birth. The second, my official State of Mississippi birth certificate, followed by the certificate issued for my very first day of Sunday School at Grace Methodist Church on Winter Street in Jackson. And, yes, I still have them, as well as my one and only Social Security Card issued in 1953.

The list goes on and on from there.

If ever my identity needs to be changed, someone is in for a LOT of paperwork! And that’s just for my official (legal) name.

That official name is William Hendrix Murphy, Jr., after my father, who was named after his Great-Grandfather, William Hendrix. In reference to the Hendrix name, my Dad went by ‘Hendrix,’ shortened by his family to ‘HINX.’ My mother chose “Billy’ for me, and so it was, for the next dozen and a half years.

The family Hendrix/Murphy name brought on my first nickname. ALL of the relatives in Carthage, even to this day, call me BILLY HENDRIX. When I graduated from high school, one of my Carthage aunts gave me an engraved key chain – engraved with the initials B.H.M. I still have that too.

I really messed up the records for the Jackson Public School System during high school. In the 10th grade, I was still ‘Billy.’ In the 11th I went formal with ‘William.’ And then back to informal with ‘Bill’ in the 12th.

I picked up two nicknames during my 1967 to 2001 years with Jitney Jungle, both of which have endure to this very day. We always considered ourselves over-worked and under-paid in the advertising department. If nothing else, EVERYTHING was ALWAYS on a TIGHT deadline. It was stressful.

BreakThe smokers went outside to smoke to relieve their stress. I never smoked. But in a bottom drawer, I kept a small model airplane (under construction) and a few basic modeling tools. While they smoked, I cut balsa wood. One day, Mr. McCarty came in, not at all happy with my stress-relieving activity. He blared something like, “If you don’t put that airplane away and get back to work, you’re name’s gonna to be Mudd! And it was, from that day forward.

Oh, that – and Murf. I still answer to Mudd, Murf, William, Billy, Bill, and Billy Hendrix, and hey you.

You can basically call me anything. But just be sure to call me for lunch!

 

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Oh Happy Days!

Drive© 2017  Bill Murphy

Background: My last day working for Jitney Jungle was in early 2001. I accepted the closing of Jitney as just an early retirement.  I stayed home and played at being retired for almost 2 years. Then our pastor’s wife had a suggestion,  why not sign-up to substitute in the local school system. I did.

School today is not what it was when I was school-age. When our teacher’s said, ‘jump’ – we asked how high on the way up. Not knowing karate, I was not always ‘at peace’ in the classroom. And then I got a call to sub in a special education class. Nervously, I accepted the assignment – and immediately and positively fell in love with it – and those precious children. Mrs. Odom’s classroom that year in Madison Middle School had 13 children (3 of those in wheelchairs), and two assistants. They stayed BUSY. I told her to call me ANYTIME they needed me. That December, she was approved for a 3rd assistant and asked me. YES! YES! YES!

Soon I was a full-fledged member of that happy family. And that’s how we felt about it, it wasn’t a JOB, this was – well – family! The photo above is the beautiful route I took out of my neighborhood on my way to ‘work’ each morning. What a way to start the day!

I’ve had folks tell me, “I just couldn’t do that.” I may have thought that way myself at one time. But I tell them that if they spent only an hour surrounded by those precious children, they too would fall in love with them. For the most part, they are the happiest children on earth! It was an honor and a privilege to work among them – and most days it hardly felt like ‘work’ at all! Oh the heart-warming and fun-filled stories I could tell!

One day I was walking with one of our girls down the hallway, when she asked me about my mother. I responded that my mother had passed away. She was silent for a moment, thinking. Then she asked about my father. I replied that he too had also died. Immediately she stopped, and looking up at me with deep and sincere concern etched across her young face she asked, “Then who takes care of YOU?”

I was glad to get to her destination, so that I could turn aside and wipe my tears away. My tears were not for Mom and Dad, but for the deep and tender CONCERN she’d expressed for me! Now maybe you understand why I embraced Special Ed.

I retired again in 2013, this time from the school system – and within a matter of weeks Carol and I plus furniture, dog, and memories were on our way to Illinois –  where we now live. I’ve often thought about subbing again – in special ed of course. But at 76 it takes me longer to get up off the floor than down onto it. I was always happiest on the floor with the kids when asked – at their level – eye to eye and heart to heart.

Zoo 1948

The photo above was taken at the Jackson Zoo in the spring of 1948. The kid sitting beside our teacher, Mrs. Wilson, is yours truly. (The ‘baby’ on the front row is my sister, Mary Lily.) Years later, our Madison Middle class also visited the zoo each spring. The photo below was taken 63 years later, in the exact spot as the above photo.

Spring 2011

I’m not sure which photo shows a happier me, but I believe it’s the one above!

To everyone who had a part in making this part of my life possible – I say THANK YOU!

 

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