Freeman Works "Not all who wander are lost; Not all that glitters is Gold"

May 6, 2013

The Governor and I

Filed under: Mississippi — Gary Freeman @ 10:41 am

Governors MansionIn May of 1973, I graduated with a degree from Mississippi College in Education and a burning in my heart to set the world on fire. I fully expected the “super job” to come along with a new company car and a Gold American Express Card based in Los Angeles or Houston or Atlanta. The most I was able to do was to continue my position as a waiter at Poets Bar and Grill on Lakeland Drive, in Jackson. Six months later I was promoted to bartender and there I sat with my dream job being just that. A dream job.

Actually, POETS wasn’t too bad. I mean it was a “happening” place where the “in crowd” of Central Mississippi came to party.

Practically every night the place was hopping with the family crowd until about 8 and then the hard core drinkers came in.

One night a drop dead gorgeous redhead came into the bar and stood at the end of the bar closest to me.. A persistent young man who may have had a few too many drinks started “hitting” on the young lady. You could tell she had had enough of him and was trying to be nice about it.

Finally, I had had enough of him bothering her and so I went over to him in my nicest voice said “I would appreciate it if you would leave my wife alone.” You would have thought he was pole axed. Back in “The Day” the last person you wanted to upset was a bar tender at POETS. It was “The Place” to party in Jackson. He couldn’t move away fast enough and apologize enough. She smiled at me and the room lit up. She came to POETS for the next two weeks and we sort of clicked.  We sorta ,kinda fell in love.  She knew that I didn’t want to be a bartender forever. Turns out she worked at the State Capital building and knew practically everyone in State Government.  Turns out she also knew about a job in the Governor’s Office for an Ombudsman. Yeah, me neither.

Turns out that an ombudsman is someone who talks to the common man about his problems with state government on behalf of the Governor. The Governor at the time was William Waller.

Governor Waller had been the District Attorney for Hinds County, Mississippi . He was a bear of a man who did not frequently laugh, or be jovial. He was extremely honest, and one of the most just men I have ever known. When I was 12 to 13 years old, my father took me to the District Attorneys office to sell tickets to the Scout Jamboree.  Mr. Waller at that time, bought $20.00 worth and shook my hand and told me that Scouting was a great organization.  I never forgot that. The way that he treated me like a man. Not many men would have done that.

Doing the interviewing for the position of Ombudsman was the Governor’s press secretary, Mr. Charles “Charlie” McKellar.

Charlie McKellar was clearly a man who had a sense of humor. I really don’t know which appealed to him most. The idea of having a bartender answering everyone’s problems in Mississippi  or the idea of having a bartender working for a tee totaling Governor and his wife. In any case, I went to work for the Governor as an ombudsman. Working under the supervision of Ms. Joyce Shurford who looked like Jackie Kennedy and had probably twice as much class.

We handled somewhere between 30 to 40 calls a day from citizens all over the state. Some where serious like the man that wanted to get out of Parchman Penitentiary to go to his mothers funeral in Memphis.  (We were able to clear him and his escort) or the woman’s son who needed help for medical problems. (Who we were not able to help) My all time favorite was a lady named Jenny Lynn Fernandez who lived on a farm in Water Valley, Mississippi. Ms. Fernandez had a problem with the deer around Yalobusha County that persisted in eating her soybeans and wanted the Governor to put condoms on the deer so that they would not have any more baby deer. (Mrs. Fernandez became a great friend and came to my wedding in the Mansion).Needless to say the Game and Fish Commission was “resistant” to chasing down deer to put condoms on them.

Occasionally, we were allowed out. Once we went to a party given for foreign correspondents. I felt at home until the Governor came around the corner and asked how I liked life in this country. I explained that I worked for him and he bustled around the corner without another word to me. Oh well……

On a Friday morning, January 1975, a series of tornados passed through Macomb, Mississippi injuring 100 people and killing 10. We were at the edge of the relief effort, trying to coordinate with the Red Cross. We stayed late on Friday night and slept well not knowing the tumult to come.

On Sunday evening, Colonel Tom Parker called Charlie and said that Elvis Presley felt bad about the tornado and wanted to do his part. He proposed that he do a benefit at the Mississippi Coliseum and that he would pay for it all himself.

I never found out who spread the story that Elvis was coming home to do a show in Mississippi but by six in the morning on Monday, the phones rang continuously for tickets to see the king. Our orders were specific. Write down everyone’s name and number until we figured out how the tickets would be allocated. One thing was sure. By six in the morning all the tickets to the coliseum were gone. Elvis eventually did another three shows (all of which sold out) paying for all expenses by him.

I got to see the “King” briefly but this was not the young Elvis of Love me Tinder and Jail House Rock. He had gained a lot of weight and the drugs had made him puffy but he was still Elvis.

 

As far as I know, he never got the credit for putting on those shows and paying probably close to a million dollars to benefit those victims of the tornados.

In April of 1975, my father passed away after a yearlong battle with a brain tumor and a 12 hour operation to attempt to remove it. When I came back after my week off, the Governors staff was called into a meeting on the third floor in the Governors office. The Governors staff has about 30 to 40 people in it and we were all shoved into the room. I took my seat in the back of the room. The meeting was very short. “I am thinking about moving some of you to another building or down on the bottom floor.” “What do you think,” the Governor said. And stared directly at me.

“Governor Waller , you are hard enough to find on two floors, much less on three floors. “ For some reason, he thought that was funny and that was the end of the meeting.

At the first of May, I received a phone call from the Governors Secretary. She said that the Governor wanted to see me at the Mansion.

A word about the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion. It had been in very poor condition, when the Governor was elected. Mrs. Waller took the point in restoring the mansion and in bringing it back to the condition it was at the turn of the century. It became a show case with antiques of the period and golden guild on the ceiling.  The eight rooms in the historic part of the mansion were totally rebuilt and refurnished and the family portion of the rear was rebuilt and the porticos were rebuilt. The gardens were redone with a beautiful rose garden in the rear.  When I got to the mansion, the highway patrol said that the Governor was in the Rose Garden. I walked to the back and found him looking over toward the Capital Building.  He turned to me and said “Gary, we have finished the construction now and now is the time to show it off.” As it stands now, When Carol (Mrs. Waller) calls me thirty times a day I have to answer each and every one. As of now, you will be the Executive Director of the Governor’s Mansion. Instead of her calling Bill, I want her to call Gary”. “Buy some new suits and lets get this show on the road. “ He turned back to the rear portico and started to walk.  He stopped turned around and said “I’m sorry about your father. He was a good man.” Up until then I didn’t know that he knew who I was.

The next day, I got to meet the lady who would share my waking life for the next 8 months.  Mrs. Carol Waller. Mrs. Waller was a tireless worker who never slowed down and was bound and determined to show off the Governor’s mansion to everyone in the state who could get there.  Mrs. Waller had a secretary, a staff photographer and me. We worked and prepared to “Take the State to Lunch.” (My phrase; not theirs.) Prior to Governor Waller and after him, convicts from Parchman Penitentiary who were serving life sentences would provide labor at the mansion.  Governor Waller as District Attorney of the largest county of the state of Mississippi sent a number of these “lifers” up to Parchman. He was not interested in having them under the same roof as his family and himself. So I was given enough money in the budget to hire two maids and a janitor. We had also enough money to pay the Waller’s cook. Lorraine who had been with them for years.

I was able to hire two maids and Amos.

Amos was a army veteran who was a pleasure to be around and had more stories than any other man than I have ever met. He wasn’t much of a janitor though .
Mrs. Waller had worked extremely hard to rebuild the mansion and grounds. Now that it was through, she worked extremely hard to make sure that everyone who could come to the mansion; did come to the mansion.  Five days a week, we had a luncheon for as many people that could come to the mansion.  We served “Chicken Lorraine” which had chicken breasts covered by a cream sauce, with vegetables and ice tea. Lorraine did all the ordering of food for the family but I also had the authority to do so. One day, I ran into the Wallers youngest son , Eddie asked me to order him some ice cream sandwiches. I did so and never thought about it again. Ok, I did eat one when they came in.

After  a particularly hard day, I drove to my apartment in Clinton and took the phone off the hook. Two hours later, I was awakened by a knock on my door. When I opened the door, a highway patrolman stood there, hat in hand. “The Governor wants you to put your phone back on the hook. “ I thanked the patrolman and went to put my phone back on the hook 30 seconds later the phone rang and I answered it. “Hold for the Governor” the operator said and I waited for the Governor to come on. The Governor came on the line. “Gary, don’t buy my kids anymore ice cream sandwiches. OK.?” I said ok and that was the end of the discussion. He told me later that he had to do what came up at the time or he would forget.

During the last seven months of the Governor’s term, we had several celebrities through the Mansion.

Corrie Ten Boon
Pat Boone
Van Cliburne

Sargent Shriver,

Jerry Clower
Mary Ann Mobley
George Wallace

Jimmy Carter.

Presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter came through Mississippi and spoke to a handful of people at Millsap’s College. During this time, I got to act as his chauffer throughout the city. He was greatly impressed with the mansion and hinted that there might be a place for me at the White House when he was elected President. I knew that Mr. Carter had no chance to be elected president but Seven months later he was on “Meet The Press” as the new President.

Governor Wallace was an interesting man. He allowed the photographers to film his entrance into the mansion in a limo but would not allow them to film him being put into a wheelchair.

This was also my introduction to the US Secret Service who spent several days around checking, rechecking and watching for uninvited guests.  Note: Do not ever break the Secret Services Tape over a door before the VIP’s day. Also a lapel button means that you have a firearm and changes every day  in color and design. The design and color is chosen by a computer and as such is not open to hacking.

Probably the greatest thrill of my life was getting to guide through the mansion, Jessie Owens.
Mr. Owens had won four Gold Medals in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. This was to be Adolf Hitler’s Olympics and a chance to show the world the “German Superman.”  Owens , an African American from Cleveland showed up the myth. He had been a hero of mine since I read about him as a boy. He was warm, personable and a real pleasure to be around.  He died less that three years later.

During this time, The Governor invited dignitaries of the Kuwaiti Government to come to Mississippi with an eye toward investing in Mississippi products.

It was decided that the Mansion would be ground zero of the effort and that the Kuwaitis would stay at the Mansion.  The first thing that occurred was that the Kuwaitis put their shoes out to be shined that evening.  Mr. Paul Fugate, director of the Mississippi Economic Council and I having no one else to do it shined their shoes since the staff had already gone home.  For a couple of a billion dollars, we figured it was a small enough price to pay.

The next day after negotiations, each of the banks in the Jackson Metro Area was given a Billion dollars in investments during a closed door meeting between the bankers and the Kuwaitis. The only non-banker, non-Kuwaitis in the room was The Governor and I.

At around this time, one of the Kuwaitis decided that his suit needed pressing. Since the dry cleaners had closed, I asked the staff if anyone knew anything about pressing a suit. Of course, Amos said that he could press it. I thanked him and gave the suit to him. Amos got a steam iron and heated it up past the white iron stage. He then proceeded to put starch on a suit that had to have cost $4,000 in London and pressed it within an inch of its life. Needless to say the Kuwaitis decided that they would no longer need us to press any more suits.

The last night of the Kuwaitis visit, I was able to meet the two US Senators from Mississippi. Senator James Eastland and Senator John Stennis both living legends in Mississippi politics.

The next morning the Kuwaitis were to leave to go to South Carolina on a jet provided by that state. First, they were to have breakfast at a local industrialists house. At 11:15, that night, the Governors Aide told me that that plan had been canceled and that we (meaning me) would have to feed them.

The problem was that I don’t know how to cook.  So I fed them scrambled eggs, bacon, OJ and Pillsbury sweet rolls.

What? They didn’t complain and I waved goodbye to them.

In November , I started dating Barbara Williams who had a four year old daughter.  I made the mistake of mentioning it to Mrs. Waller and the next thing I knew we were getting married in the Mansion with the Governor being the best man. It was a beautiful ceremony with a reception of around 3,000 people.

wedding

 

 

 
I could not have asked for anything more from the Wallers. They were class acts. The kind we will probably not see  in our lifetime.

 

 

 

 

April 26, 2013

Letter to Bill Jr.

Filed under: Mississippi — Gary Freeman @ 12:26 pm

Editors Note: This letter was written by the Father of Captain William C. Washburn to Bill’s son, William C. Washburn Jr. Bill had been born into money as his family owned the Great Southern Hotel in Meridian, MS. Bill went onto College at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Gary Freeman 2013

 

 

June 23, 1949

Written by Nat I. Washburn to his grandson, William C. Washburn, Jr.

Dear Billy ,

Ever since I had my first glimpse of you, several days ago, I have felt the urge to put down on paper my thoughts. You see this is a momentous occasion in my life; you are my first grandson to bear my name.

 

You will be twelve years old when this letter is given to you. By that time, I may have passed from this life and so, I am anxious to pass on to you some of the things t have learned and at the same time to give you a brief history of my life as well as to tell you what I know about my parents (your Great Grandparents) and my Grand Parents’ (your great, great Grand Parents) I also want to warn you of the many pit-falls, temptations and rough roads you will travel if you decide to learn the That is: not listen to advice.

 

As I looked at you that first day, my heart swelled with pride in the consciousness that you would carry on the Washburn name. While your Dad is a great improvement over his Dad, It is my prayer and wish that you will be an improvement over both of us. This is not a small order because (not bragging) your Grand Dad, in spite of many mistakes and travel down roads that led to a “dead end”, has been fairly successful. And’ Your Dad has done even better.

 

So, let’s start at the beginning. I was born on August 17, 1889 In Yazoo City, Miss. My first remembrance of my early Life was that I was standing in our front yard. Surrounded by a picket fence (most houses were fenced in those days and many people kept cows, chickens, etc., and the front yard was covered with a very poor and stubbly grass. How or when we moved from that location, I don’t remember but later on I remember us living in a small three room house on a hill at the edge of town. This hill was known as Peak Teneriff. I remember playing in the hills around the house, of finding berries and a big spring close to the house. Your Uncle Bob and I played. with other boys in the neighborhood. We would find a chicken and take it to a place “up a gully” and there we would camp and cook. There was huge peach tree on the side, of the house which bore the most delicious and largest Alberta peaches I have ever known. The tree was so large, we could climb up into its branches and the peaches ripened just a little previous to my birthday.

 

In those days, we were very poor. You see your Great Grand Mother (Emma Link) married your Great Father, (John Mitchell Washburn) and the marriage was not approved by her Mother, (My Grandmother, Rachel Link.) There was quite a row and my Mother left home and from thence on refused any help of a material nature; although my Grand Parents on both sides of the family were quite prosperous. They both owned large plantations. Our poverty was brought about by virtue of the fact that my Father suffered from a disease known as inflammatory rheumatism. This disease caused his hands, arms and legs to swell and become so inflamed that the pain was unbearable. I have seen him with pillows under his hands and legs and the swelling was so great that the skin would burst. Trying to find a cure for this disease caused him to spend every dollar he could spare; Of course, he could not work all of the time and this also contributed to our dilemma.

 

Back in those days, river transportation was one of the main modes of travel and moving freight. My father was a pilot on the Yazoo River and also held license as a pilot on the Mississippi River. This was a most honored profession and pilots

were quite respected. Anyway, Dad’s illness kept us down to bare necessities. If I was fortunate enough to have a biscuit with a piece of bacon it for my lunch to take to school, I was indeed fortunate.  In those days, there were no school lunch rooms or free lunches for underprivileged children and many days I went without lunch.  Candy, toys, etc. were out of the question. If I had any spending money, I had to earn it. I remember one incident when I moved two tons of coal from the street into a basement and received .25 and thought I was rich.  I used to gather up scrap metal or bottles and sell them and on rare occasions, I would buy three bananas for 5 cents or 5C worth of candy which I would make last me a week. I could tell you of many other instances of denial, sacrifice, etc.

 

Maybe the strain of such rugged living conditions helped to bring on my Mother’s death which happened when L was ten years old. I went to live with my Grandmother but did not like the discipline and ran away and went to Yazoo City (I ran away from the plantation home which was two miles west of Y. C.)and went to live with my Father’s Cousin Mrs. Geo. P. Blundell, who was the wife of Dr. Blundell and I had to cut the grass, take care of the horses and go with him at night when he had calls to go to the country. I can remember one bright moon-light night when I had to get up with ice on the ground and freezing cold and hitch up the horse and accompany him ten miles into the country. When we got there some time after mid-night, we found a huge sprawling house with about twenty five neighbors and a huge log fire in a fire-place. It was after day-light when we got back home and I had to make fires in the house and get ready to go to School.

 

Mrs. Blundell had a daughter who was well educated and a mighty fine person. She undertook the task of teaching me good manners; proper conduct and many other cultural subjects. She had a great influence on my life and I will always be indebted to her for the love and help she gave me.

 

13. After living there about two years, my Grandmother had passed away and My Aunt Lizzie Johnston my Mother’s Sister) was appointed my guardian. She insisted that your Uncle Bob and I come to live with her in Jackson, Miss. Riding the train to Jackson was a thrill and then to ride the street-car up Capitol Street to our destination (which was a large colonial home on the corner of Capitol and N. Congress Street)was a greater thrill.

 

At this same time, the present “‘New Capitol’ was being constructed,-which was on the site of the old penitentiary. I watched this building rise from the foundation. However, while living with ray Aunt, I became restless and decided to quit school (I was twelve years old) and go to work.

 

My first job was errand boy for the Governor (Longino), the Secretary of State (Mr. Joe Power) the Attorney General (Mr. Bill Williams) the Department of Archives and History (Mr. Dunbar Rowland. I was making the huge salary of Thirty dollars a month. While in this job, one day, a party of tourists came to the Capitol and asked me if there was a guide who could show them thru the building. Not being busy at the time, I offered this service and when I had finished the tour, they gave me a dollar and from then on, I was in business as a guide whenever I had the opportunity.

 

After working at the Capitol for a time, I heard of a job with the Illinois Central Rail-road as a call-boy. A call-boy is a person who works all night and goes to the homes of the engineers and firemen and wakes them up in time to get to work or to relieve an engine crew whose time was up. This was necessary because, in those days, very few people had telephones (but I remember, I am getting ahead of my story because my first job was with the Western Union Tel. Co. as a messenger. I worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week and made the huge sum of $12.50 per month. Out of this amount, I purchased, on time,a second-hand bicycle for $8.00. Then, I went to work at the capitol later.)

 

Well, I got the job as call-boy for $30.00 per month but I was thrilled to be around the engines, etc. While all this was going on, My Aunt Lizzie decided to move to Clinton, a small village just ten miles West of Jackson, and the site

of Miss. College. She wanted to get me back in school and kept putting pressure on me to quit work and come back to live with her. Well, I finally gave in and quit my job in June and went to Clinton. It would be hard for you to imagine Clinton in the summer after school was out. It was really “dead”. The idleness, after the excitement of railroad work was too much of a contrast. I decided to leave and go back to work but not for the rail-road. I got a job as an elevator boy in a new hotel that was being built on the S.W. corner of Capitol and Congress.

 

I worked there before the building was finished; mopping floors, cleaning plaster off the grill work of the-elevator., etc. I will never forget how proud I was of my new uniform. However, I did not

work there long because the Manager was a Yankee. The first day the hotel was opened, I ate in the dining room with the guests; the second day, we had instructions to eat in a room next to the kitchen. This was O. K. but when the Manager issued orders that we had to eat in the kitchen with the XXXX employees that were too much. I tried to see him but was not able to do so until late one Friday

Afternoon about dark. I threw my uniform into his face and told him I did not have to eat with XXXX and he could have his job.

 

Well, I learned that there was a job open under the Yard Master of the Rail-road. It was what was known as a “switch tenders Job.

. ‘ ‘

The duties were to be at either end of yard to throw the switch to let the passenger trains come in on the right track. This was

a man’s job and I was only fifteen. Well, on Nov. 5, 1905, I went

between two cars on what is known as the “‘House Track” and a switch engine with twenty one cars was bearing down Which I did not see. I was knocked down. Fortunately the brakes were set on the two cars and ‘the force of the impact pushed me along the track (the track was level with the round) and gradually chewed my left leg until it was badly mangled and I was dragged 105 feet before the engine could stop. This was about four thirty A.M. In those days, there were no ambulances. I was carried to a platform of the passenger depot and left to await a doctor who got there about six A. M.

, .

It was necessary that I be carried on a stretcher up Capitol Street to the Jackson Sanatorium Which was behind what is now the First National Bank building. Being strong and healthy, I recovered from the operation and was up and walking around the hospital in five days.

 

After I left the hospital, I went back to Clinton and entered the preparatory dept. of Miss. College which was in fact, a high-school course. I had to complete all of this work before I could go into the college studies.

 

During this time, I was very rebellious, frustrated and indifferent to things worthwhile. This was a terrible frame of mind because I could have ruined my whole life had I continued this course. I was up before the faculty on many occasions and was on the verge of being expelled from school but some how, I hung on and managed to “get by” by listening in class but doing very little studying. I thought I was smart to out-wit the teachers. What I did not know on tests, I copied the other boy’s work and what I could not answer on examinations, I cheated. Of course, this kind of conduct was bound to be brought to a head. This was the TURNING POINT OF IN MY LIFE.

 

It was on a bright sunshiny spring morning. I had to go to the chemical laboratory to get my final grade on Chemistry; which was my first year in this subject. I found the Dean of the Chemical Dept. standing on the porch of the building as I approached. He greeted me and told me my report was in his room on the desk. He said he had about concluded that I was not sufficiently interested in this subject

to CO18 to get my report card. I went 1n to the room and when I looked at the card, 1 saw that I had failed the course by a half point.

Seventy five was passing. I walked out and said to Dr. Provine:” I see you failed me by half a point, it seems to me that you could have given me the other half point and let me pass.”

He said:” Nat, do you think you know this subject well enough to pass?” I said:” Well, ‘I know it seventy-four and one half worth ” and he said: “Do you?” And I said:” What do you mean?” He said: “Nat, why don’t you GET

WISE TO YOURSELF?” Again, I said:” What do you mean Dr.?” He said “Come in here and sit down, I want to talk to you.” We went into

the room bare floor, a plain table and two cane-bottomed chairs. He said:” Nat:, I repeat ‘why don’t you get wise to yourself’? Have you ever given any thought to where you are heading? Do you realize that you are on the brink of disaster? In my opinion, you are a smart boy and deserve to go onto a better life than what you are carving out for yourself; you are not taking advantage of your opportunities. ‘I I said “Oh, I think I can take care of myself. I think I know the score. Is this all you want to say to me?” I got up and left but as I walked down the steps the words:”WHY DON’T YOU GET WISE TO YOUSELF? began going thru my mind. I walked home in a daze but every step I took those words kept ringing in my mind. When I got home, I went to my room and locked the door and stayed there until about five P. M. I went round and round with my conduct, my lack of ambition; lack of a goal; the aimless way in which I was living from day to day.

 

During this time at Miss. College, I had formed a fast friendship with a boy named Pat .Eager. He was the Son of the Dean of the English Dept. We had rigged up a telegraph line from his house to mine, a distance of about a mile and a half. I sent his call letters over the wire and he answered. I asked him (In Morse Code) what he was doing and told him I was coming out to his house to tell him something very important. When I got there, we went into his room and closed the door. I said:” Pat, I have decided to leave Miss. College and go to Miss. A & M (later Miss. State and later Miss State University.) and get away from the environment I am now living in.’

You see, I was my own boss; I came and went as I pleased and had no regard for rules or laws. I cut classes when I felt like it, I went to Jackson against the rules of the school and did most everything but what I was supposed to do. I told Pat, I was fed up with loafing on the job, cheating on examinations, etc. and that I had concluded the best thing for me to do was to “wipe the slate clean” and start over. With out any more detail, I made arrangements to enter Miss. A~ & M (Mississippi Agricultural & Mechanical College~} in the fall of 1910. I shared a room with a boyhood friend: Boyce Bailey and “Spruce” (Jones Hamilton) Cole. I was not subject to Military duty (Miss. A & M. was strictly a military school) and while the students were out on the drill field, – I took advantage of this and did my. studying. I soon learned that with about a thousand

students and an average of about $5.00 per month each, I should do something to get a part of this “gold mine” I opened up a store in my room and sold such items as cigars, cigarettes, chewing gum candy,etc. I soon found out that soon after the boys received their money from home most of them were “broke” and wanted to borrow money. I began lending them money on the basis of 10% of the1oan as interest for a thirty day period. I was soon the possessor” of many items such as books. over coats. watches, rings, etc. Many of these items were not redeemed and I sold them at an additional profit. I also became interested in photography and made pictures of the students and sold them to them. I acquired an electric iron and began pressing uniforms for $2 each and many nights I worked until after mid-night; pressing clothe… With all of this activity, I began to acquire a surplus of money which I in turn loaned out. In this manner, I was able to pay all of my expenses and have plenty left at the end of the year.

 

As I went along, I was elected Sec. of the Sophomore Class: Treas. of the junior class. I was elected assistant Editor in Chief of the Reveille (the College Annual) and in my Senior year, I was elected Editor in Chief. Now, to back up for an experience that had quite a lot to do with my future: During my junior year, a special train was run to Birmingham for the Auburn- A & M. game. There were several “eager beavers’:’ on the train who were making notes of every infraction of the rules. They snooped on boys who went into saloons in Birmingham and when they got back to the Campus, they had quite a number of boys to report. The report caused quite a sensation and the Faculty brought each boy reported before them. After the investigation was all over, the Faculty decided that they would not take

any punishment action with the understanding that every boy  who was on the train, whether he had been reported or not, would sign a pledge to strictly obey all of the college rules for the rest of the year or they would have to face whatever punishment they deserved.’ I was not reported, because as I previously mentioned; I had “‘turned over a new leaf.” However, I signed the pledge.

 

At the beginning of my senior year, we had a new Commandant. This man was not a West Pointer but one who had come up thru the ranks to the rank of Colonel. The boys detested him. Seniors were required to report for roll call at Reveille each morning; They were not allowed to wear their new uniforms, unless they had all of their work up (some of the boys were two terms behind in some subjects such as practical or lab work and were planning to make up this work before school was out) These kind of orders made things worse. The entire student body was upset. Miss. A. & M. (being a State School) was “shot thru with politics” The President and many others, such as the Doctor, the Business Manager, the Food Dept. etc. were appointees of the Governor. The President whom the boys loved and respected, Jack Hardy, had resigned to take a similar but better paying job in Texas. The new President, Mr. Hightower, was not a College Man and knew nothing of school administration. The Vice. President of the School, Billy Magruder, was very old but the new President began to lean on him and this gave Billy a new power which he seemed to enjoy. We had five young ladies who were day-students and known as “co-eds”’.

 

A couple or maybe three of these girls were going “Steady” with a couple of seniors and in their off periods, they would go to a vacant class room to study and maybe hold hands. Billy Magruder heard about this and had issued an order that no boy would be permitted to be in the company of any of the young ladies except in the regular class room. The seniors resented this. Now before I continue with this  lets go back to another incident which was working to bring to a climax all of these incidents.

 

The Doctor, In charge of the hospital, was a brother of the then Governor E. F. Noel. He was a liquor-head and whenever a boy was feeling bad, he would write him a prescription for a “hot shot” which was a pretty strong purgative. It became common talk among the students that regardless of the ailment, all Dr. Noel knew was to series of “hot shots”. Well, one day the nurse came to Dr. Noel when he was about half drunk and told him that she had a

Very sick boy and she thought he had appendicitis; that the Dr.should examine him immediately and make arrangements to get him to Memphis for surgery. The Dr. told her to give him a couple of hot shots; said that he was like all of the others, playing sick to get out of his ‘Work”. The nurse protested but to no avail. However, she made the Dr. write out the prescription. The boy died and the student body was “up in arms”. This was quite a sad occasion. The boy

was given a full military funeral. His casket was draped in the U. S. Flag and he was placed on a caisson and a group of students pulled the caisson to the depot. After his body had been placed on the train and the train slowly moved out from the station. The Captain of the band stepped out into the middle of the track and blew “Taps” on his trumpet. Seeing that train moving slowly into the distance caused a lump to come into my throat so big that I thought I would choke to death. This, together with several other incidents caused quite a lot of unrest among the student body and when the Order of Dr.Magruder came out that no boy and girl were allowed in each other’s company on the campus there was quite a commotion. The student body went wild. I was sitting in my room studying when a messenger” came to my room and told me I was wanted in room (I forget the number) when I got there, there were about a dozen students all seniors

and they were quite incensed. They appointed a committee and I was one of them. We were instructed to draft resolutions condemning the order and demanding an apology from Dr. Magruder and a rescinding of the order. It was decided that if this was denied, we would walk out of the Chapel and not go to classes until our demands were met. The Junior, sophomore and freshmen classes did likewise. There was pandemonium on the campus. Well, the Faculty went into session and they began calling in every boy who was on that special train that went to Birmingham and who had signed the pledge. This was about three fourths of the Student body. Those who had been reported on the train, ~-were suspended. Our Committee was expelled and a complete change of my plans was necessary. I was offered a job as an algebra teacher at a county consolidated school but when I got there the man who had resigned, had reconsidered and decided to finish out the term. I then went to Jackson and entered Draughn’s Business College and began the study of bookkeeping and shorthand and typing. I soon dropped the bookkeeping as I concluded that I was not suited for this kind of work; but I did become very proficient in stenography and typing.

Later. I was offered a job of salesman for a firm known as Hebron Croxton Groc. Co. in Jackson, Miss. I traveled south to Magnolia and North to Pickens every week. I had to make some of my “jumps” in a horse and buggy. Later, I became shipping clerk for this firm and later, I became bookkeeper, shipping clerk, office manager and everything else for a Ballard & Ballard Obelisk Flour Co. It was while working for this firm that I persuaded your “Mimi” to be my wife. We were married in Capitol Street Methodist Church by Dr, Alex Watkins, and then President of Millsaps College, who was also a Methodist Minister. We were married about one P. M. on Sept. 2, 1914. We had Pat eager and john Crisler and Bill McCarty and Boyd Campbell as your Mother’s Sister: Minnie Mai, was Maid of Honor. I forget who the other bride’s maids were. We had a cab (closed) with two white horses and big white ribbon on the buggy whip and white ribbon on the doors to take us to the Railroad Station where we boarded the Illinois Central Train for Memphis. We spent our Honey- Moon at the Gayoso Hotel and we had a wonderful time.

 

Shortly after our marriage, we had to go back to Memphis as

My company needed a relief man in the Memphis office to substitute for the regular man who was sick. Later, we were sent to Jacksonville Fla. Shortly after we had been there, a depression developed and thousands of people were out of work.

 

Ballard & Ballard published a weekly paper for the benefit of its all employees and late in November an issue of this paper came to us. In big headlines and heavy type across the top of the front page, was this startling, statement: “THE MAN WHO SPENDS MORE THAN HE MAKES IS A FOOL ‘AND THE MAN WHO CONTINUES TO SPEND MORE THAN HE EARNS, BECOMES A THIEF.” I later found out that this was directed to a salesman out of our office who was courting a very rich girl and he was spending the Company’s   money trying to make an impression on her.  However, the more I thought about the statement, the more concerned I became because I knew I was spending more than I was earning which was due to a poor salary and a lot of sickness on the part of Mimi. After thinking and worrying through the night, I made a resolution that again changed my course. I wrote to the Company that I had read their paper and had come to the conclusion that I was a fool and for fear that I would become a Thief, please accept my resignation.

 

It was next June before I could get released. On our way back to Jackson with only a month’s salary in our pocket and very little cash in reserve (doctor’s bills and about eaten up my savings) we stopped in Atlanta, Ga. I purchased a White wash suit, a pair of White canvas shoes and a straw hat and the entire bill came to $8.00. Your Mimi spent an equal amount and when we arrived in Jackson, we looked quite prosperous.

 

Had it not been for Mimi’s Mother and Father, we would have had a mighty hard time. They took care of us and it was eight months before we could repay them.

I purchased the cigar stand at the Royal Hotel; that is I purchased the stock and leased the space and fixtures. The stock was old and much of it had to be thrown out and for about six months I had a real hard time, however with hard work, new stock, business gradually improved. Until it did so, I became a public: Stenographer in the Hotel and gradually worked up a nice business with this work. Incidentally, I purchased the first “Slot machine” ever brought to Mississippi and it proved a “gold mine” until it was ruled a gambling device and I had to get rid of it. This incident made me conscious that operating a cigar stand was not such a “hot” vocation and I began to look around for something more substantial. About this time a man by the name of Harry P. Dye came to me with a proposition to go partners with him and lease the Hillman Hotel in Birmingham. This appealed to me and subsequently, we leased the property and had not DK>re than gotten going good when World War One hit the U.S. Our business increased until we were doing a capacity business.

 

About this time) our chief clerk, Jim DeJarnett informed us that he was resigning to take a managerial job in Atlanta;

That he was going to open the new Cecil Hotel. This necessitated me taking over his duties. The first day I was behind the desk and I noticed a huge room full of packages) addressed to guests and stacks of mail that needed to be forwarded. When the night Clerk came on at eleven P. M.) I told him he was not looking after the forwarding of mail properly and that something should be done about it. He proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that he had been an hotel clerk for twenty five years and that he did not need a young squirt like me to tell him how to run his job. This surprised me so much that I couldn’t have been more

Surprised had he thrown a bucket of water in my face. However) after I got my breath, I informed him maybe he had been clerking for’ twenty five years but he was still a night clerk and I was his boss.  Of course, the reason he was so arrogant was because he knew that help was hard to get. I left the office and the, next morning when I came down to breakfast, he was sitting in the lobby waiting for me. He asked to speak to me and said:” Mr. Washburn) I have .thought all night about what you said to me and I am thoroughly ashamed but I want to tell you that your statement

waked me up and I am going to try to cash in on my experience and get a better job. Later, he informed me that he had gotten a job in South Georgia as Manager of a hotel. I have never seen or heard from him from that day to this. I learned a good lesson from this experience. I learned that when a person becomes so conceited that they think they know it all, they are riding for a fall. I also learned that “a little knowledge is dangerous”.

I also learned that the person who does not continually strive to improve themselves will not amount to much. There is an old saying: ” as long as an apple is green, it continues to grow; when it gets ripe it begins to rot”. My advice is to continue all thru life to increase your knowledge.

 

The partnership with Harry Dye was not satisfactory. I learned that he was a crook, a charlatan and many other bad traits. I had to se1l my stock to him at his price to get away from him. After selling out, we went back to Jackson for the month of December and it was then that I learned that the Great Southern Hotel lease, furniture and fixtures were for sale. A lease and purchase price was negotiated and I took over the operation in Jan. 1919. From that time until I closed the hotel on Apr. 30th, 1955 ,  many things happened too numerous to relate here. Suffice to say, the Good Lord was mighty good, and had I been

as good, things would have been much smoother. I learned that you can’t hold onto God’s hand with one hand the the Devil with the other.

 

Later, in 1919, I was invited to become a member o£ the Rotary Club of Meridian; subsequently, I served on committees, and on the Board of Directors and about 1924 was elected President. I was also honored in a similar way by the Chamber of Commerce. I helped organize the Boy Scouts in Meridian; served on committees, one of which was the committee to select the present site of the Boy Scout Camp; served on the Board and was elected President-; I also became Chairman of the Red Cross and President of the United Fund; I helped reorganize the Miss. Hotel’ Association. I was Secretary for about eight years and President for about eight years. In 1948, I was elected Secretary of the American Hotel Association and was the first Person in the South to hold an office in the National organization. I have been a member o£ the Board of Stewards of Central Methodist Church about thirty five years; was Vice President of the Board for about five years.

Was Chairman of the Commission on Stewardship and Finance for over ten years and am still a member of that important committee I was elected a member of the City Council when the City changed from the old Commission form of government to the New City Manager Plan and had a part in the many reforms and improvements that took place during my period of service. I could have been reelected had I remained in the City but we decided to move out of the hotel and purchased a home outside the City which made me ineligible. After closing the hotel, I was honored by being- asked to assume the duties of Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Mississippi Hotel Assn. and have been very active in this work

Up to this time. I was also elected Secretary Treasurer of the Newly formed Miss. Travel Council but found the work too strenuous and have tendered my resignation.  After many years of service to the Boy Scouts, I was awarded the “Silver Beaver” which is the highest award that can come to a Boy Scout Council Member. I could have gone on to District Boy Scout Work but time did not permit. I was honored by being asked to let my Rotary Club place my name in nomination for District Governor of Rotary but had to decline. I was also elected President of the Miss. Hotel Greeters of America. and there were other honors too numerous to mention. I do recall a very distinct honor in which I was chosen as “The Hotel Man of Distinction” representing Miss. at the All Southern Hotel Show in Atlanta. I was later presented with a beautiful silver tray, properly inscribed, by my own association at the Mid-South Conference in New Orleans and was presented with a silver card of “Honorary Member” of the Miss. Hotel Assn.

 

Why do relate all of these incidents? Certainly, it is not bragging- It is to let you know that even though I did not have a Mother or Father to guide and council me, I managed some way to have  an ”awakening” and when I did, I decided to do something About it.

 

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