Lake County: Full of history

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I was born here in Lake County, 12 December 911, and have lived here all my life.  My father was Walter Murray Allison, Sr., and my mother was Mary Montgomery Mooney.  Everyone called her “Mollie”. My grandfather was Robert Smith Allison, his nickname was “Bob”.  He was a Confederate veteran.  Mary Jane Payne was his wife. 

I had two brothers and two sisters.  One of my brothers was Alfred Smith Allison.  He died young.  My other brother was Walter Murray Allison, Jr.  He died recently.  He was 85 years old.  My sister, Norma Jewel, married Bill Hall.  She died a few years ago.  Melva Vivian married Knox Bargery.  She lives down below Ridgely.  We are the only two left.

My grandfather and my father were farmers, farmed North of Tiptonville all of their lives.  When I was growing up, I worked on the farm, but I didn’t like it.  When I was working, I’d say, ‘someday I’m going to be something else other than a farmer.’  We didn’t have mechanical equipment like they do now.  We used mules.  You never see a mule on a farm now unless someone just wants to raise one, but I’ve walked behind many a mule in my lifetime.

Our neighbors were the Parks family, Whitsons, Mooney family (we were related to them), the Scotts, Provows, Boshears, nearly all of them related. Nearly everyone in the Bend was.  Larry Everett used to live in the Bend, but he moved on up into Kentucky.

I went to school at Tiptonville.  I was always small, that’s why they called me “peanuts”, but I was a husky fellow.  I wasn’t scared too easily so I made a good football player in high school.  We always had a good team.

Before the schools were consolidated, we had two high schools in the county, Ridgely and Tiptonville.  Now you talk about competitive- Ridgely was the team to beat. We worked all the year getting ready for Ridgely.  The only time we played them was on Thanksgiving Day.  People from Obion County, Dyer County, and other places too, sometimes there would be 2,500 people, came to see us play that big football game.  One year we would play at Tiptonville, the next year at Ridgely. 

Ted Algee gave a big black billy goat to the schools and the team that lost had to take the goat home with them, feed it, and take care of it until the next year.  I believe, overall, we put it on them more than they did on us.

Finally feelings ran so high that there would be two or three fights, I mean physical fist fighting, when the game ended.  It got so bad we had to quit having the game on Thanksgiving Day.

It’s not like that now.  I’ve got some good friends down there.  Now we are all for the same team, all one big happy bunch.  When they put Tiptonville and Ridgely together and we just have the one county high school, we are hard to beat.  Our team is one of the best in the State.  Our football boys have won the State Championship twice in our division.  They are always District champions.

Our little Jr. High team took All Stars, went to State and almost won it.  They are a strong team.  I am a football fan, don’t miss a game, got grandsons on the team now.

During the late twenties times were pretty good and I was running around having a good time.  I guess we were a little wild- not like now tho- we didn’t fool with dope.  We might drink a little, but we never saw any dope in those days.

Samburg was considered a pretty rough place, but I’m afraid I’ll have to admit that I went to Samburg a few times.  The officers in Tiptonville would make us go home if they caught us out when we had a drink.

We all went dancing back in those days.  They had dance halls in Samburg, some at Reelfoot Lake too.  Edgewater Beach had a big dance hall.  Everyone went there.  I could really dance, danced all the time. 

Now, the big dances were when we got to go to the boat dance.  Boats like “The Island Queen” and the “President” would come to Hickman, Kentucky.  There would be a good orchestra and a great big, smooth dance flood just like glass.

They would always advertise when the boat was coming to Hickman.  We really looked forward to it.  I wouldn’t have missed one for anything.

The boat would tie up at the landing there in Hickman- you would take your date- usually a big carload of us, and get on the boat before 9 p.m.. That’s when it would leave the bank and go floating down the river and orchestras would be playing.  I’d dance all the time we were on there. 

I remember one time I’d had a little drink or two before we got on the boat.  My girl had on a red dress and that night I danced with about forty different girls that had on a red dress, didn’t know the difference, just having a good time dancing. 

I don’t live that way anymore, but I must admit it was sure fun back then.

I’ve heard older men talk about going to Cairo, Illinois when they were young.  Cairo was a wide open river town.  Saloons on every corner.  The men have told about getting on a boat here and riding the boat up to Cairo to party.

I graduated from high school in 1930, after the stock market crashed in 1929.  It didn’t take long to feel the depression.  Farmers didn’t get much for their crops.

I got a job at the oil mill.  I was called a floor boy.  I made one dollar and a quarter for twelve hours of work- about 10 cents an hour.  I was proud to have that job, too.  I was lucky.  We couldn’t have made it without it.  In New York and other big cities people were jumping out of windows.  We couldn’t do that- we didn’t have one high enough to jump out of so we just had to keep on working. 

In 1937 I got married.  You know how it is when you meet that special girl- it doesn’t make any difference if you can afford to or not.  Well anyway, I met Mertie May Axton.  She was from Greenville, Mississippi, and we got married in Memphis 8 August 1937.

 I was doing better.  I ran a cotton gin and tried several things.  I always worked hard.  I went into the dry-cleaning business, operated the machine at the picture show two nights a week, sold venetian blinds and awnings- I also spent a lot of years working at the Wynn Smith gin.  I didn’t get rich, but I made a good living.

First thing I knew, here I was- married and had two children to support.  I didn’t know how I was going to make it.  I soon found out that by working hard and being determined to do it, we raised them o.k..  Then I couldn’t see how we were going to send them to college, but we managed that too.  They both graduated and did fine.  I’m proud of them.  Our son, Ray, is principal of the high school here.  He married Donna Parks, she is one of the Parks girls from above Tiptonville.  She teaches here in Tiptonville.

Our daughter, Mary Ann, is the librarian at Scenic Hills School in Memphis.  She married Harry Blackford and he is the counselor at Raleigh-Egypt High School.

When World War II came along, I was the right age to go but they turned me down.

Everything began to change after the war.  Mechanical farming equipment replaced the mules.  One man could do the work that it used to take 10 or more men to do, so people began leaving the farms. 

I started substituting for the mail carriers.  When James Neville LeDuke retired, I took over his job.  At that time I had Route #2 and I had 158 stops.  The mail carrier Route 1 had about 300 boxes.  I still carry the mail, and I have a longer route, and only 100 boxes.  We have empty houses all over the country and there is no telling how many houses have been torn down or burned and not replaced.

I drive from Tiptonville up to Kentucky Bend and go to all the houses in the Bend, then come back over the same road and go all the way out to Mooring out toward the river.  I have a 50 mile route and there are only 100 houses on it.

There are still lots of Whitsons up in the Bend and Mr. Alfred Stepp, he came from Missouri and cleared a lot of land in the Bend.  He is 93 years old and in bad health.

I’ve been on the mail route 34 years, but I have no retirement.  Every time I got ready for retirement, the government would change things.  Now they call my route an auxiliary route.  I don’t work but 3 hours a day, six days a week, so according to the government I don’t work enough for retirement.  I do have annual leave and sick leave.  I am the oldest one in the post office and have more service time than anyone else.

That’s the only thing I do now in the way of work.  I went into the oil business in 1955 when farmers began using all mechanical equipment.  We had a good business but sold it in 1977.

All in all I’d say I have had a good life.  We go to the Baptist Church here in Tiptonville.  My son took music and he can play the organ or the piano either.  He and his wife are active in the church.

I enjoy watching my grandchildren grow up.  Of course my daughter lives in Memphis and I don’t get to see her son and daughter as much as I do Ray’s two boys.  I enjoy going to their ball games.  I guess if I could change any of the past, I’d study harder in school, try to get a better education.  I made fair grades when I was going, but at that I never studied-  books that is.

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