Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Who Remembers Perry's Drive Inn in Butler Town in Amite, LA?

Perry Drive Inn
Photo Courtesy: Antoinette Harrell
Back in the late 60s my mother would stop at Perry's Drive-in and bring home some of the best tasting mouth-watering grilled hamburgers from Perry's. Perry's was owned by Lois and Esther Irving Perry, they were an icon in the community.  Glyniss Vernon Gordon, my grandson Connor,  and I stopped to take few pictures and I decided to ring the doorbell to find someone to talk with. A young man I met last year came out and, I was happy to see him. He told me that he was the great nephew of Floyd and Lois. Blair Williams is name and Blair has a great interest in his family history. He told me that I needed to talk with his father, Donald Williams. We sat under the carport the catching some of the cool breezes and talking about a little history and the importance of passing it on.

"My father is the one you should be talking with," said Blair. He and my uncle can tell you more then I can.  Blair called his father on the phone, and his father said that he would be right over. While waiting for his father to come, Blair told me about some pictures on the wall and I wanted to see the images. 
Donald Williams and his son Blair Williams
Photo Courtesy: Antoinette Harrell

As soon as Donald arrived and greeted us, he offered us something to cool to drink as most people in the Deep South would do. He sat down and started talking a little about the Lemuel Irving history and how Lem remained in the Town of Roseland. Donald lit a cigarette and start going back down memory lane. I started traveling down memory lane with him. I wanted to know more about Perry's Drive Inn. 

Everybody came to Perry's Drive Inn. It was the place to be. My Aunt Lois was a good cook, she enjoyed cooking and did it well he said. She would get up early in the morning and cook breakfast, dinner, and supper. "You see, back in those days lunch was called dinner and dinner was called supper," said Donald. Aunt Lois cooked every day three times a day and,  that was just the way it was. Donald said that the cost of lunch was fifteen cents back in his day. One day he went to school and gave a boy his fifteen cents for a sandwich. I wanted a sandwich because Aunt Lois never gave us sandwiches to eat not even on the weekend.

Glyniss recalled the many communities and political meetings that were held at Perry's. There were other African-American owned businesses in the communities. Donald mentioned Steptoes Lounge and some of the musicians that played there. I heard Blair say that Al Green played there and I was once told by someone that James Brown played there. 

I post a picture of Perry Drive Inn on my social media site to generate conversations around the images. I read the comments that were posted and want to share a few of them. 

Robert Daniels Best ' Fish' boxes. Delicious! A very Clean and comfortable place. Maybe someone will decide to reopen it. May need a little remodeling on the inside.

Priscilla Jackson Yes I remember going to Perry's Drive Inn the best burgers, fish plates, fries, and malt shakes you ever tasted. The atmosphere was like everyone was family. Boy, I missed them days.

Atlanta Marie Daniels Woods I remember going there with my mama and brother and sisters on Friday night's and we would eat and play music on the jukebox. A great childhood memory!!!! I miss those days.

Sharon Boykins Brown Teenagers could hang out and get some really good food!

Michael Woods Boy! how do I remember those days best burgers milkshakes in town?

Sharetta Richardson Best cheeseburger and fries ever $3.26.

Early Photograph of Amite No 1 Church of God in Christ

Amite No. I Church of God in Christ
Photo Courtesy:  Rev. Raymond Foster, Sr. 
Over the past couple of months, I've set in the homes of many people whose family ties are deeply connected in St. Helena and Tangipahoa Parishes, Louisiana.  Years ago Delores Zanders Levy passed away and her mother archival collection was passed down to Rev. Raymond Foster, Sr., and when I say that he was the right person to inherit the rich collection, I mean it with everything inside of me. Too often we hear that someone threw away all the pictures, documents, and other records that can help tell the story and history of African-American people of the two Louisiana Florida Parishes.

About two years before Delores passed away I visited her home to talk with her about the family history and photographs. My maternal great-grandmother Emma Mead Harrell was the aunt of her mother Colitidle Zanders." Mrs. Clotilde kept everything," said Rev. Foster. She did throw away anything.  In her own right, she was an archivist.

There are other women in the community that kept the history of churches, schools, civic and social organizations and well as their own family history and photographs. Rev. Foster is quite an oral history keeper himself. I learned more about the Foster Family history from him on this visit. Women such as; Grace Belvin Walker Perry,  Alma Harrison Vernon, Gertrude Love, Zemora "Hilda" Vining and I know there are others.

There was this one statement he made about the history of a small community in Tangipahoa Parish called Shiloh. He told Glyniss Vernon and me if we look at one of the old Plat Maps, we'll find that Shiloh was called "Congo Square" I can't wait to do more research on this subject.  It will be posted it right here on Nurturing Our Roots Blog Site.

This photo is the Amite NO.1 Church of God in Christ. From left to right; James Sheridan, Irma Della ?., Celestine Foster, Annie Edwards, Edna Buckley, Christine Alle, Algia Mae Spears, Irene Benton, Leola Buckhalter, Lolly Edwards, Mrs. Freddie Cage and husband Eld. Freddie Cage, Second Row: Left to Right; Celie Love, Mildred Warner, Tina Jackson. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Documenting the History of a Civil Rights Icon Mrs. Vernia McCoy

Antoinette Harrell interviewing Mrs. Vernia McCoy
I spent an hour sitting and talking with Mrs. Vernia, a citizen of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. We sat her dining room table looking at documents and photographs. Several years ago I interviewed her, and when I tell to you, it will take me a year to document her oral history and her rich photograph collection that tell the story and event of many African-American people in the Louisiana Florida Parishes.

Each time I learn so much about her life and the life of her deceased husband Mr. Fred McCoy and the many challenges they faced during integration in Tangipahoa Parish. She was born and reared in Franklinton, Louisiana with her parents and eleven brothers and sisters.  Mrs. McCoy is a retired A.M.E. Pastor of  St. James A.M. E. Church in Hammond,  Louisiana., and educator.

I feel honored to talk with people such as Mrs. McCoy, Dr. Kingley B. Garrison, Mrs. Ella Mae Badon, and Mrs. Grace Walker. They are the living history books that we must treasure and most importantly document according to their experiences as pioneers in the Louisiana Florida Parishes.  As of today,  Mrs. McCoy is involved in many community outreaches.

This is just the beginning of the many hours I will be sitting with her to assist her with organizing her collection for the repository at Southeastern Center for Louisiana Studies. She has accomplished and achieved so in her life and her career. She has so many awards for her accomplishments and achievements over her lifetime. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A History Road Trip with Family

Bernard mailing his African Ancestry DNA in
When my youngest son Bernard was a child, we visited many, archives, libraries, and museums.  By the time he turned twelve years old, he had traveled to twenty-two states. Tasting different food and meeting new people along the way. Sometimes we flew, and for the most part we would drive so that we could stop and visit some of the major attractions. 

With a big smile and his luggage packed he was all ready to travel on our summer adventure.  We made plans to take a road trip for two weeks driving up the East Coast and ending up in Washington, D.C, at the National Archives.  He was too young to go into the National Archives, so my ex-husband took him around College Park while I did some genealogy research.  I don't know how much of the history lessons he was retained at that time. I know I had to teach and expose him.

It was one of the best summer vacations we can remember. We purchased a map for him to follow along. We packed books and some of his favorite things he enjoyed playing with and hit the road headed  east.  During that time they didn't have a GPS to guide us on our trip. We made sure to purcahse postcards in each state to send back to the family at home. 

Reading records 
Years later we took another road trip with Moussa Albaka, a well known Tuareg silversmith to meet other Tuareg people from Niger, Africa who moved to Greensboro, North Carolina.  We're welcome with big smiles and hugs by the Tuareg people. We had dinner and wonderful conversation before head to the Atlantic ocean so that Bernard could take his African Ancestry DNA test.

He faced the ocean and imagined the ships coming to the Americas with his ancestors on it. We held each other in hopes that he will find out where in Africa his paternal ancestors come from. Six weeks later he finds out that his paternal lineage connected him to Nigeria, West Africa. 

Learning about our family history had taken us many beautiful places to meet some wonderful people and new family members along the way. As I write this blogpost, I can't help but think about the time Bernard and I drove to Chicago to visit our Harrell family member with my Uncle Raymond.  Bernard has just met his 3rd maternal cousins. He met cousins that his maternal grandmother hasn't met. I was happy that we took this trip that summer.

Uncle Raymond played one of his old-time gospel songs again and again. It seems like he played that song from the time we left Louisiana to we arrived in Chicago. Bernard asked him why did he keep playing the same song over and over again?  During our stay in Chicago, Uncle Raymond wanted us to meet the descendants of my great-uncle Warner Harrell.  So the three of us drove up to Wisconsin and met new family, and we really enjoyed our visit with cousin Dan Harrell and his family.

One week the white lines on the highway were calling me again. I asked Bernard if he wanted to go and visit the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee? He said yes and was eager to go. We packed our luggage on a sunny Friday afternoon and drove the five-hour trip. We went west to visit Alex Haley House Museum in Henning, Tennessee first.  We took the guided tour and took pictures before traveling back to Memphis to get dinner and checking in the hotel. 

The next morning after breakfast we headed to the National Civil Rights Museum and spent the day touring the Museum. What better way to teach a child about the history? He had a lot of questions to ask about the Civil Rights Movement.  I hope when he becomes a father, he'll take road trips with his children and teach them their history. One thing for sure the road trip we took by driving meant that we could stop all along the highway and get some good tasting food and site see. 

I hope he holds these memories dear to his heart like I hold them in my heart. This was our time spent together. Now that he is an adult we haven't taken a road trip and just because he is all grown-up, doesn't mean we shouldn't.  My grandchildren are taking road trips with me now.   They'll soon  become teenagers and they will have other plans. But the beautiful and sweet memories I hope will never be forgotten. 
I enjoyed taking him places with me and having him to be a part of the many events we went to. The only thing I regret is I wish that we could have had more time in his formative years. The time went by quickly that once little boy is now twenty-five years old. 

I want to make it a family tradition that we all take a road trip to visit museums, antique shops, fun attractions, and enjoy family time spent together. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ethel Williams Temple

Ethel Williams Temple
Ethel was born to Jim and Emma Vining Williams in 1919 in St, Helena Parish, Louisiana. Ethel died in 1958 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Jim and Emma had four children; Ethel, Jimmy, Arthur, and Dorothy.

Ethel married Walter Temple and they had two sons together; Cleveland and Johnell Temple. Oliver was by her first marriage to Oliver Jackson, Sr.,  Walter and Ethel lived in New Orleans at 2408 St. Andrew Street.

During several conversations with cousin Johnell, he told me that his mama taught her boys how to cook, clean, and how to take care of themselves. She didn't have any girls so the boys had to learn how to help out with the chores. I guess that explains why cousin Oliver and Johnell enjoy cooking so much, 

Her sons Oliver and Johnell were both in law enforcement. Oliver worked for the Amite Police Department and Johnell was a Louisiana State Trooper. They both served until they retired from their departments. Oliver serves on the Board of Directors for the St. Helena Multipurpose Center in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. He and the board spent years developing the center.  A country boy at heart, he loves his horses and cows. 

Ethel's mother Emma was married twice. Emma first marriage was to Thomas Richardson. Thomas and Emma had four children also. Emma's children by her second marriage died before all their siblings from Emma's first marriage. 

She is buried in Mount Zion and Greater Refuge Temple Cemetery in Montpelier, St, Helena Parish, Louisiana.

Ethel Williams Temple
Courtesy of Ruth Landrew Jackson

Because Every Picture Tell A Story

Ruth Landrew Jackson
A couple of days ago cousin Oliver Jackson, Jr., called me and asked me to contact cousin Ruth to get pictures of him as a baby and a picture of his mother, Ethel Williams Temple.  Oliver mother and my maternal grandmother were sisters. After Aunt Ethel passed away and my maternal grandparents legally adopted Oliver as their son. 

After making arrangments to visit cousin Ruth to scan the images. I learned that cousin Ruth is a family archivist. She had envelopes of photographs of her family and some of my family.

Her oldest daughter Sheron arranged the meeting. She told me that her mother kept a lot of pictures and other family memorabilia. I was so excited to hear that she did because a lot of people throw old pictures and family memorabilia away. Some family members will not share family photographs at all.  With today technology a person can share photographs with their camera phone. Sharing the images with others is very simple these days.  This past weekend nine states had tornadoes to take place. Most people can have their homes restored or rebuilt if they had insurance to cover the loss. No amount of insurance can replace the priceless family pictures when it's loss.

Ruth Landrew Jackson
Photo Courtesy of Ruth L. Jackson
She pulled out pictures of her mother, grandmother, and children.  Every envelope had each one of her children names on it. I went back down memory lane with her as we looked at the pictures. Beginning with her childhood pictures to most recent. I didn't know that she was from McComb, Mississippi and migrated to Louisiana with her family.  One of the pictures had cousin Ruth, her mother, and her grandmother on it.  Now her children have grandchildren of their own. I know that one day the grandchildren will look at a picture that has three generation of their grandmothers.

Every picture tells a story and I love picture reading. When we were children and couldn't read we would picture read. We looked at the backgrounds, the clothes, the locations, and the main subject in the pictures. 

I could have sat there all day and look through the basket filled with envelopes of pictures.  Like cousin Ruth, I have so many pictures that I took over the years of family members and different events. Blogging about the images is one way to share with the family.  At our next family reunion, we will have a brief workshop on the importance of preserving our family photo collection.  I would like to sit down with cousin Ruth and help her scan them so they can be shared electronically. 

One of the things I notice about her in the photos was her beautiful smile and radiant beauty. She inherent her natural beauty from her mother and grandmother. Generation of women with poise and certainly having the epitome of grace and elegance. She spends a lot of time with her great-grandchildren these days. Teaching her great-grandchildren the lessons her ancestors taught her. I feel honored that she opened up just a bit of her collection to share with me. I can see the joy on her face when she looked at pictures that brought back so many fond memories.

Sheron and I were looking at cousin Ruth's beautiful hairstyles,  the glasses, and clothes she wore. Sheron laughed at one of her hairstyles that I found very cute. Look like she made her fashion statements as a young woman. I look forward to visiting with her again to finish looking at her collection of pictures that tells a story.