During the holiday season of 1960, some DeSoto Countians got into the “spirit of the season” in more ways than one, it seems.
The “Picture of the Year,” in the Times-Promoter, the predecessor to the DeSoto Times-Tribune, was that of a whiskey still uncovered in the woods, north of Lewisburg, by Constable Denver Sowell and Deputy Sheriff C.J. Peck, both of Olive Branch. Times-Promoter Editor and Publisher Bill “Scoop” Keathley took his trusty Polaroid camera along to record the big catch. Two local men were arrested for making the illegal hooch.
What is just as curious is that Mr. Keathley all but described how to make the stuff, including the entire process from start to finish, in great detail, but vowed no one on the newspaper staff had even so much as taken a sip.
It seems ol’ Scoop Keathley wanted to pass along some of that Christmas spirit to others.
Front page news a few weeks later involved the robbery of the Coldwater Bank by an ex-minister from Memphis.
“The polite gunman, not masked, walked into the bank and asked for the credit manager. When he was told that credit manager wasn’t in, the gunman pulled out a pistol and told her, ‘Lady, I hope you don’t have heart trouble. This is a holdup.'"
After politely saying “thank you,” the gunman fled north on U.S. Highway 51 in a blue 1956 Ford.
The robber was later determined to be a preacher in a nondenominational church in Memphis. He had dropped a piece of paper with his name on it at the scene of the crime.
That Christmas season, the family of legendary DeSoto County Constable Burmah Hobbs entertained friends, including the “Rev. and Mrs. Horton, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Baker, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Earl Smallwood and Mrs. Hobbs’ father, “Mr. Smallwood” among others.
The Yuletide atmosphere was kept festive with a series of annual Christmas parades, including Hernando’s Christmas parade, which had been postponed three times due to the weather. Attended by hundreds of parade spectators, one of the more popular floats of the parade was a float featuring “Eskimos and Their Igloo.”
Among the Eskimos on the float was Cliff Sublett, Barry Bouchillon and Charlie Lauderdale, along with “two little Eskimos,” Vince Long and Susie Tabor.
In keeping with the joyful aspect of the season, a holiday wedding was planned for Bette Lucille Baird and Mr. Charles Melchior Tilly of Jackson, a civil engineer who worked for the Jackson firm of Michael Baker.
The year 1960 would prove to be a pivotal year in our nation’s history. The United States entered the Vietnam War. John F. Kennedy won the presidency. Chubby Checker started a new dance craze called “the Twist,” and Soviet missiles shot down a U2 spy plane carrying pilot Gary Francis Powers.
If you were thinking about buying a new car at Christmas, it would cost you, on average, $2,600. A 23-inch television would set you back $219.95.
“The Flintstones” premiered on TV. Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, was knocking folks out.
The laser and a heart pacemaker were invented.
The new year loomed ahead. In fact, an entire decade loomed ahead. It was called “The New Frontier.” Man would land on the moon. A President would be assassinated along with a civil rights giant. Promise, tragedy and hope. The stuff of life. Dreams shattered and dreams realized.
In that same spirit, we have faith again this season, nearly six decades later — faith in a small child who grew to be a miraculous man, the living Son of God, who would change the world forever.
Let’s keep that spirit, the spirit of Christmas, alive in our hearts all year long..
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.