A selection of pics from our lunch at The Ranchero in Clarksdale, Mississippi
If you’ve ever been here, it’s still that same way.
Rotary phone in the dining room
It’s all ‘same’ — the atmosphere (though…okay…the banquet chairs have been replaced), the food (hamburgers and steaks and hamburger steaks and catfish and shrimp and don’t forget the very specific Italian spaghetti), the people, the everything. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Same feels comfy and familiar. It’s okay.
And I’m convinced this is the most gorgeous picture that’s ever been taken of Bac-os.
Coming back from Helena, Arkansas, we decided to take the boys to Ground Zero (it’s the blues club in Clarksdale owned by Bill Luckett and Morgan Freeman). I didn’t eat here, but the boys had a snack. The food here is…meh…forgettable. But that’s really not why people come here. In fact, we sat close to some people from Indiana and they were just happy to see such a place. //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
I didn’t eat anything because I knew I’d we’d be going to Hicks Tamales afterwards, but we got a small order at Larry’s Hot Tamales first (this pic, below), and wound up liking them better! //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
…and the current state of Bryant’s Grocery, where Emmett Till’s fate was sealed. Hopefully soon, Till Bill 2 for unsolved crimes will be passed, which “will eliminate the 10-year sunset provision for the existence of the original law and lift the 1969 time limit on cases under consideration and extend it indefinitely into the future.” //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
…and for m’lady, the crabmeat Gayle: //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js Go now, because a member of the younger generation told us they don’t plan to keep it going once it’s their turn to take over. That may be years and years and years from now, but still. Sad.
From a Sound Portrait David Isay did: ISAY: The last to show up is Joe Erber. He is not an ordained rabbi, but ever since 1968, when Ahavath Rayim could no longer support its full-time rabbi, a congregant has had to lead the services. Erber, as usual, arrives a little out of breath in his police uniform — a walkie-talkie and a billy club on one hip, a .357 Magnum on the other. But even the president of the congregation doesn’t seem to mind.
LESLIE KORNFELD: He keeps us all quiet. (Laughs.)
ERBER: I asked a rabbi about that, and he said, “If soldiers in Israel carry a gun and they daben and they pray, then it’s perfectly alright in America, too.”
ISAY: The congregants begin making their way into the sanctuary, which is stunning. Old, but immaculately kept up, with high arched ceilings, dark wood and stained glass all around. They pull prayer books off a shelf at the back of the synagogue. The men take tattered prayer shawls off a wooden rack, kiss them, and drape them over their shoulders. Joe Erber walks to the front of the synagogue. And steps up onto the pulpit. This room, he says, brings back a lifetime of memories.
ERBER: I can close my eyes. My father wore hearing-aid glasses — he had a hearing aid in both ears. And we used to have a Rabbi that reminded me of a Baptist preacher when he started the sermon. He would rant and rave and pound the pulpit to get his points across. And when he got up and it became time for the sermon, my father would reach up and you would hear “click click” as he hit both hearing aid switches. And he would sit there with the prettiest smile on his face and his eyes closed, and pretty soon he’d start snoring. And I can see that just like it was yesterday.
I miss Joe.
— Then we had a nightmare stay at the Indianola Best Western. There are very few places to stay there: this hotel (which a few weeks after we were there transformed into a Quality Inn) and other 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 star hotels (this was the highest rated, and it’s just a 2-1/2). See how there are three room numbers on our key sleeve? That’s because we had to visit three different rooms before we got one. In a thunderstorm (outside corridor).
The first room was under renovation, so we found it with a toilet between the two beds. WHAT!? Then the next one had a do not disturb tag on the doorknob, and I’m NOT trying a key on a very possibly-occupied room, and our last room…well…
It had clearly been smoked in, there was no stopper in the sink, the phone was unplugged, and some kind of alarm went off in the middle of the night for which the front desk said it was a regular meaningless occurrence and not to worry about it.
Thankfully we were there just long enough to sleep. In the morning, we were *out*.
— Another night, we stayed in Greenwood. Options: a Holiday Inn, HI Express, a Hampton, and this Best Western. And the Alluvian, my favorite Delta hotel. But we were going to be checking in after 9p and checking out before 8a, so we figured we’d save a ton of money and stay elsewhere since we wouldn’t be there long enough to really ‘enjoy’ the hotel.
The boys and I were getting dressed the next morning while Av was taking his shower. All of a sudden ***the room’s fire alarm went off***! It was an old alarm and just crazy loud — we were standing right underneath it practically when it went off. Imagine having your eardrums tasered. Oh yeah.
The three of us ran out (not completely dressed even, I think poor Shugie was still in his underwear) not so much concerned about an in-room fire but just to get away from ten thousand decibels. Av grabbed a towel and hopped out of the shower. Once the door opened, the alarm quit.
Av put on some clothes, went down to the front desk if they had any idea what in the world was going on in our room, and the first thing they asked was if he had been taking a shower.
He said yes.
They asked if the shower produced steam.
He answered that when he takes showers, there’s steam.
They: “oh yeah. Steam sets off our fire alarms.”
WHAT. hahaha! I mean, all we could do was laugh because two nights in a row we had just the craziest hotel experiences! And what kind of hotels were we staying in?!? Seriously so crazy!
Well, everything else was terrific and we got to see a bunch of people we hadn’t in a while, and the boys got to go to the brand-new Grammy Museum which was a-maz-ing (upcoming post). They’re still talking about it!
So, friends, have a great time in the Delta but maybe learn from our mistakes and consider sticking with the Alluvian. xoxo!
We spent a few days in the Delta — Av had some work to do and we wanted to visit friends (plus we had a bat mitzvah to go to), so we stayed the first night at Gold Strike Casino Hotel in Robinsonville / Tunica. The rooms are fine.
This time, we sat really close to the stove in the first dining room (if you’ve never been there, Doe’s is in what looks like an old house that used to be a grocery, so the first room you walk in has the equipment to cook the steaks, then the first dining room has – right in the middle of it – a stove for fries and such, and a worktable for making salad)
Av had some work to do the next day in Helena, Arkansas, so we walked around downtown some. What a terrific place! There are some shops boarded up and others in poor condition (we went into one store in which a woman fosters animals that’s really more of an animal rescue than a store now) but so many fabulous things to look at and shops to go into
King Biscuit Time, the longest-running blues radio show (they’re on episode 17k+ now) in the US, is broadcast each weekday at 12:15p at the Delta Cultural Center downtown and they welcome guests. “Pass the biscuits, ’cause it’s King Biscuit Time on KFFA Radio!”
This one is Barbee Cemetery, in Coahoma County, on Highway 61:
This is the Leatherman Home in Commerce (when you take the road to the Hollywood Casino and Sam’s Town off Hwy 61, this is on the righthand side of the road. I bet people pass this all the time and have no idea!) which is situated on the side of a mound:
My WPA book says that this was a plantation with the big house built on the slope of an Indian mound. The land was bought from the Chickasaw, and the builder of the house was unwilling to desecrate a mound ‘full of the dead.’ The legend is that Hernando De Soto had his first look at the Mississippi River from atop this mound in 1541. You can’t see the river from here now because of the trees and the levee.
The historic marker at the turn for what was the Doro Plantation at Beulah says:
On land received as payment of legal fees in the 1840s. Doro Plantation was established in the early 1850s by Charles Clark, Confederate General and wartime Governor of Mississippi (1863-1865). Doro continued to thrive in the post-Civil War years. Gov. Clark and members of the Clark and Jacobs families are buried here.
Doro Plantation was in what’s now called Old Prentiss. It was the county seat of Bolivar County from 1852 to 1863, when it was burned by Federals. It fell into the river in 1865 and was uncovered in the drought of 1954 (the Clark’s house had to be moved before the war because the site was falling into the river. The house doesn’t exist today.).
The cemetery where General Clark is buried with his family is on top of an Indian mound.
This is a pic of the old J.C. Burrus House, called Hollywood Plantation. It’s the only antebellum structure in Bolivar County and is constructed of heart cypress. Today it’s better known as the Baby Doll House because it was the setting for the 1956 movie Baby Doll, which is based on Tennessee Williams’ 1946 play, Twenty-seven Loads of Cotton.
I’ve read that the reason it survived the war is because Judge Burrus knew the invading Federal officer while he attended UVA. It was also used as a Confederate hospital and headquarters for Confederate officers including General Jubal Early.
John Wilkes Booth is also said to have lived here for about ten days after shooting President Lincoln.
When the filmmakers for Baby Doll came out to Benoit, they promised the home’s then-owners that in lieu of a fee for shooting, they would make some renovations to the home. Years later, people would come out to the house and actually take pieces of the house as souvenirs from the movie. Not nice.
Now the home looks really terrible. There are people that live in the side yard of the house, but I didn’t get out to chat with them or anything. I read that the home was given to the Bolivar County Historical Society in 1974 by the Burrus family but it doesn’t look as though much is being done.
The home was placed on the 2001 list of endangered places by the Mississippi Heritage Trust. Hopefully someone will take more of an interest in it and preserve the house as it has so much history attached to it.
Delta and Pine Land Company (D and PL for short) is in Scott, MS. D and PL is a breeder, producer, and marketer of cotton seed and soybean seed for use here in the US and overseas. They produce the “Roundup Ready” cotton seeds that Av and I have used in the tiny area we grow cotton in.
My WPA book (the Works Progress Administration’s division, the Federal Writers’ Project, wrote guides in the ’30s on each of the states – I have the WPA book for Alabama and one for Mississippi (I’d like to have all of them) and they are fascinating looks at how things were then) says this about Scott and the D and PL:
At Scott, 67.4 m. (140 alt., 300 pop.) are the headquarters of the Delta and Pine Land Co. Plantation, the country’s largest plantation, containing 38,000 acres, 11700 are in cotton; the whole is under the supervision of 12 unit managers, and is worked by 1000 black sharecroppers. The value of the property is about $5,000,000.
The company maintains a school, church, and hospital for tenants, the croppers paying a $.75-per-acre hospital fee annually – thus a man who worked 12 acres would be assessed $9 a year for hospitalization. Women are encouraged to go to the hospital for confinement rather than to depend upon midwives. Vaccination for small-pox and typhoid, inoculations against malaria, and anti-syphilitic injections are offered as part of the medical service. Tenant cabins, unscreened but stoutly built, are above the Delta average in quality. The tenants eat the usual pork, molasses, and cornbread, but an attempt is made to make up vitamin deficiencies by supplying them with free yeast. It is estimated that the average tenant here clears about $300 a year above subsistence.
Oscar Johnston, a native Mississippian, took over the management of the company in 1928; since then the plantation has shown a notable profit for the first time since its establishment in 1910. Johnston was in 1933 Finance Director of the AAA, and later manager of the Federal cotton pool.
The road leading from State 1 to the Scott railway station is an experiment made to find new uses for cotton. A heavy coat of tar was applied to the old graveled roadbed, over this was laid cotton fabric, and this in turn was overlaid with an asphalt coating. Theoretically, the cotton mesh absorbs moisture, thus lessening the amount of expansion and contractions of the roadbed caused by changes in temperature. These changes are in some part responsible for cracks in paving. The half-mile cotton textile road was built in 1935.
Below are pics leading up to the Delta and Pine Land Company in Scott. This is the season when the cotton modules are going in and everything is ginned.
Just a few miles north of Greenville, Mississippi are the Winterville Mounds. Mostly, the civilization that built and utilized the original twenty-three mounds used them as ceremonial mounds from about 1000 CE to 1450 CE. A little bit more about them can be found here.