February 16, 2014

Amanuensis Monday ~ The Stories That Should Be Told, Part 36

The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
Good Times on the Island... 
A big event on the Island during the 1930s was the traveling tent shows.  All the children, in particular, would get excited about the traveling tent shows.  They would come in here, put up a big tent, and have a movie projector.  
Sometimes they’d stay a couple of months; usually in the Fall of the year when the farmers were ginning cotton and had a little money.  It would usually be a man and his wife, a dog and maybe they’d have a monkey with them.  Boy, when they’d move in and start putting the tent up on one of the old vacant lots it was excitement in the air!  
There would be a show every night.  It would cost a dime to go in.  It was just wonderful!  The closest theater was up at Wisner and I don’t think they put that theater in until the late 1930s.  So the traveling tent shows were the only time we got to see a picture show.
Lord, we used to look forward to that event.  Somebody would say, “A tent show is moving in!”  We’d all run down to see where they were putting the tent up.  
Concordia Sentinel - October 16, 1920
Us boys would usually try to slip in the tent shows.  We would wait until the projector lights went on and the movie started and then we would try to crawl under the tent.  I’ve done it a many a time.  
Of course, we’d get caught sometimes.  The man or the woman who owned the show would catch us and run us off.  That was a challenge!  That was a Thrill!  It didn’t make any difference whether you had any money to go in or not.  Keep that money and try to slip into the show!  If you got to crawl under the tent and get in without paying, that was a real game!  A challenge.
The traveling tent shows came through here for years.  They came through before my time.  I heard my mother talk about a small circus that came to Sicily Island years ago.  They had an elephant.  
The traveling tent shows that came through here in the 1930s didn’t have an elephant or anything like that.  The shows that came through during my mother’s time were better and came through more often. 
Another big entertainment was the school plays.  They would give plays and the children would have parts.  Sometimes the grown people would get up a play to raise money for different things.  The whole community would turn out to see the plays at the school. 
Grandma Steele's Stories...
Grandma Steele with granddaughter, Evelyn Ogden
Grandma Steele loved to tell stories about times in the past and I listened to every word she said because I had a genuine interest in it.  
Something that stuck out in my mind was her telling about being in Natchez and seeing a parade of the Confederate Veterans.  The band was playing Dixie.  I was just a small boy when she told me about that and it began my interest in the War Between the States.  From that time on I have been interested in reading the history of that time and the war.
One time when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, I was out in the back yard with Grandma.  This place where I live was Grandma and Grandpa Steele’s old place.  Men were cutting down some of the old cottonwood trees in a vacant lot across from us.  
Those cottonwood trees had been there for years.  The men were over there sawing them down for the logs, I guess.  Grandma Steele said, “Come on, let’s walk over here to the fence post to where they’re cutting trees down.  I want to hear the trees fall.  When I was a girl, I always loved to hear the trees fall.”  I didn’t know what she meant.  
Louisiana Cottonwood
We walked over to the fence and stood there.  The men had those cross-cut saws they were pulling back and forth by hand.  One man on each end of the saw.  Finally one of the trees began to break over as they sawed into it.  As it went over, the limbs were whipping towards the ground.  The falling limbs made a swishing sound for just a moment.  That was what Grandma Steele was talking about.  She loved to hear the trees fall.
I also remember how sad it made me feel that day to see those old cottonwood trees falling over.  As a small boy, I spent a lot of time out in the cottonwood grove playing with some of my little playmates.   We played Cowboys and Indians and Tarzan the Ape Man.   
I remember one little fellow, Benny Causey, Jr. who used to come spend the day with me.  He lived out in the country a ways.  He and I would spend all day playing out in that Cottonwood grove.  Benny was killed in WWII on Okinawa.
Grandma Steele was born and raised here on the Island.  Grandpa Steele came here from Texas back in the late 1800s.  He followed his Uncle Tom Chisum to Sicily Island.  Grandpa Steele’s mother, Lucinda Chisum Steele was Uncle Tom’s sister.
Lucinda Chisum Steele and Thomas Jefferson Chisum
Uncle Tom Chisum had been here for ten years or longer when Grandpa Steele came here to go to work for him in his store.  Grandpa Steele rode a horse here from Texas when he was eighteen years old.  It took him six weeks to get here. 
Grandpa Steele
Grandma Steele’s mother was Virginia Jane "Jennie" Smith and her father was Joseph A. "Frank" Blackman.  

Note:  Parts 1-35 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of the blog.

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