Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition Section 5

 Monday, August 29,1983, Paragould Daily Press                                                                                                                        Section 5, Centennial Edition  -9


Firefighters Collide



Firefighters colliding on their way to a fire


   I grew up at 117 W. Hunt St. Our home was designed by my mother, Ora McDonald Yantis.
   When I was in the third grade, the Westside School burned down. All kids living north of Court  Street  transferred  to  the  Eastside School, where about the only thing learned was how to chew tobacco.
   Most  of  us  kids learned to swim in Eight Mile Creek at Loggy-Peachie or Sandy. My uncle Bob McDonald built a swimming pool on North Pruett Street near Hunt Street and named it the Natatorium. My brother, Stuart,
was  the  manager.  He  put up signs saying, "Don't expectorate in the pool." This caused half of  Paragould  to run  for the dictionary.
My aunt, Mary D. Meiser, called Stu on the phone  and  asked  him if  the  pool  rented bathing  suits to girls that covered arms and legs. When the answer was "no," she said her
daughters, Elsie and Bessie, would just have to stay home.
   Pearl White, William S. Hart, Tom Mix and Fatty Arbuckle took up many of my Saturday afternoons at the old Palace Theatre on Pruett Street. I also  remember  the  Airdome in the
summertime and how proud everyone in town was when it  was  razed and replaced by the beautiful Capitol Theatre. I don't know how many tickets I bought from Winnie Baker of
how many times John Collins told us kids to quiet down or get out.
   It was a  big  day  for  Paragould when the street lights -- called the "Great White Way" -- were turned on during World War I.
  One night at about midnight, the fire whistle blew and Chief Otha Newsom took off from his home on North Fifth Street. My uncle Bill McDonald, assistant chief, took off from his home on North Second Street. They never
reached the station, since they crashed into each other at the corner of Second and High-land streets, totalling both cars and sending both men to Dickson Memorial Hospital. No serious  injuries and the fire  whistle was a
   false alarm.
   We  had a  two-man  police  force --Charles Schmicker was on all day, every day, and Snoopy Hays was the night cop. Relatively  little  violent crime, no rape or murder, few robberies, no drugs, only an occasional fist fight or drunk and disorderly charge -- all in spite of the fact that during
these prohibition days you could buy a
gallon of white mule for $5 a jug.
   The  early  days of  Paragould  High
School football were under coach Ben I. Mayo. The Bulldogs were the scourge of northeast  Arkansas  for  several  years. Paragould  always  beat  Blytheville and defeated Jonesboro for something like 10 years in a row.
   Soon after the Big War was over, the 'Dogs played Little Rock High School for the state championship. Only 13 players made the trip.  Due to injuries, at the end we had  only  eight  players  in the game. After trailing only 13-0 at the half, we lost, 90-0.
   Paragould was always a step ahead even when it came to depressions. The blackest day in its  history  was  during  the  cotton depression  of  the  late  '20s when Bertig Brothers went broke, taking with them 13 cotton  gins  and  about eight area banks.
   Paragould then had four banks. Two of them closed,one was reorganized overnight and  one,  the  old  National  Bank  of Commerce, stood like a rock.  The same day our banks closed, all five Jonesboro banks closed their doors.
   If you wanted a barber shop shoe shine, you  saw  Ed  at Aarob  Massengales' Vandervoort barber shop, or Blue at the O.K. Shop.  Price:  10 cents,  nickel tip optional and very rare. Everyone almost had a fit when hair cuts were raised from a quarter to 35 cents.
   While he was a little after my time, Mott Stuart, was unquestionably the best
  baseball player ever developed in our neck  of the  woods. Mott was in the big leagues for six years. He won a  total of 23 games and lost only 17, playing with St. Louis, New York and Detroit. He threw a knuckle ball that you could hardly catch, let alone hit
   We had  other  Paragould boys that played some professional ball: Orlin Collier, Detroit; Dewey McKnelly,Pittsburgh and Glenn Dacus, Cleveland. But none of them cut it in the big leagues like Marlin Stuart.
   Not  all  good  ball  players  made  a  living playing ball.  I  remember  playing  the  Hyde brothers. All nine of them batted left-handed, played in their sock feet and ran like "hants."
   I could write a nook on my Uncle Tony, but brevity limits me to one story. The northeast Arkansas league was a Class D organization. It was  not  uncommon to  have  two or three
knock-down, drag-out fights a night --umpires, players and spectators.
   At the time, Tony was umpire-in-chief of the league, as well as constable of Clark Township Under these circumstances, he decided to do something about it. One night in Jonesboro, he went out on the field carrying his Colt 45 in a shoulder-holster, visible to all since it was to hot for coats.  He announced that there would be no fighting -- even if he had to shoot some-
one to stop it.
   The managers of the teams protested, but to no avail. Tony said that as constable, he could carry a gun --and so he did, for several days with no fights.Finally the league took the matter of  Judge  Landis, the  baseball  commissioner, who ruled that Tony could no longer wear the gun. Tony complied.
   The really hard part of the story to swallow is that one of the umpires was Tom Ruff and the other one was George Tuff.

                                                                    W.A. Yantis
                                                North Kansas City, MO.


Lilbourn Meriwether's 1912 "Buttermilk Special"


Transcribed by: PR Massey

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