It was morning on March 3, 1985 that I drove my car to a quaint antique shop on East Lampkin in Starkville to paint a special scene. My spot to remain all day standing outside on wooden front porch was located at the end of East Lampkin Street at the four way crossing where Lampkin and South Montgomery Streets meet, and nobody knows exactly when you are suppose to go at the stop signs. We all try to be courteous to each other, and let the car who gets there first make the first move forward.
Do you know this street which is heading towards the Fire Station Number One or turning and going towards the Starkville Public Library? At the other end and on the opposite side of East Lampkin Street stands the present Starkville Daily News office. Lampkin Street was named for some one of the oldest and most prominent families in Starkville.
This antique shop was right next door to Mrs. Wesson’s home which is now a beauty shop. Mrs Wesson’s home still stands. The Starkville Public Library bought the spot of land, tore down the former antique shop, Country Tyme, to make room for the library.
Use your imagination and place the exact spot that Country Tyme Antiques used to be. The fun part of my story is the history that lies behind the painting. I was riding around looking for some unique to paint in watercolor, and suddenly there stood a life-sized little boy doll dressed handsomely in a sailor suit standing beside an antique white wicker baby carriage with three darling bears tucked inside. Suddenly I was inspired to capture this still life on my watercolor paper. The whole scene breathed and became real life and not a still life painting.
It’s Christmas 2011, and I remembered in my own created art collection that I had painted this painting about 26 years go. I wanted to share “Getting Ready For Christmas” with each of you this Sunday. The special story makes this watercolor wonderful as well as the history of the people and their lives.
Louise Phillips Gray was the proud owner of Country Tyme Antiques. I had phoned Louise the night before to ask permission to spend the day on her wooden wide plank front porch of her delightful shop, and she graciously agreed. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I had mission to sketch and paint the next day ahead.
Mrs. Wesson was right next door to Louise’s shop, and Mrs. Wesson was “The Queen Of Starkville.” Every afternoon like clockwork, she would put on her best dress, usually a tailored black one or a colorful pretty printed one complete with matching stockings, hat, gloves and high-heeled shoes. It could be 100 degrees or freezing, but she would begin her long walk down the street turning from East Lampkin to Main Street going to visit with everyone and doing a little shopping, too. She was so elegantly dressed.
I can’t tell you how queenly Mrs. Wesson looked as she would walk slowly with such grace along the old sidewalks of downtown Starkville. She was dressed up as if she were marching along, leading The Easter Parade. She was beloved by many citizens of our town.
I was indeed one of her favorite admirers. I thought to myself, “I want to grow up and be just like Mrs. Wesson!” She was the mother of Maxine Wesson Eastland who lives today on Robinhood Road. Maxine is just like her mother. Both ladies are true Southern belles. Maxine was valedictorian of her Starkville High School Class, and Nov. 6, 2011 she celebrated her 90th birthday. I telephoned her to wish her a “Happy Birthday!” It was great talking with Maxine.
Mrs. Wesson loved antiques and had so many of her own. She would drop in and out of Country Tyme Antiques almost daily to chat and share the world of antiques. Mrs. Wesson loved her own beautiful cut glass collection, and she would display it up-side down so that one could drink in the sparkling crystal in a different manner as the sunlight would make it glisten upside down like real diamonds. Mrs. Wesson and Louise Gray as well as Louise’s daughter, and only child, Sheila Gray Flurry who lives in Starkville with her sweet husband, Glenn, had fun sharing their love of antiques together. I can almost hear them now talking as good friend and neighbors on East Lampkin Street
Years passed and Louise Gray’s husband John died. He was with the Highway Patrol and a beloved gentleman. Louise married Mr. Faust and they now live in Columbus. She turned 83 in June. Now, in the deep South, and especially in Starkville, we ask questions like, “Who are you? Who are your people? Where did you come from? Where do you live?” We desire to know more about your ancestors so we can maybe trace a kinship. This is exactly what I did when I phoned Louise a few weeks ago. I phoned Shelia to get her mother’s phone number, and we had a lovely time catching up on each other’s past life and present life today.
I said, “Hello, Louise, I am so happy to visit with you by. How have you been?” She said, “Oh, Carole, it is so nice to talk to you. I’m doing fine.” I said, “Louise, I remember dropping by to chat with you at both your Country Tyme store on University Drive in a side area of Pyron’s Dairy Bar, and then you moved your shop over to East Lampkin Street. You taught me so much about antiques. Tell me about your growing up days here in Starkville.”
She began, “I was born here and my parents were William Porter Phillips and Ada Hollingsworth Phillips. My daddy had a grocery store near the First Baptist Church, and Daddy was the sheriff of Oktibbeha County. There were eight children in our family: Preston, “Skeeter”, J. P., Minnie Belle, Pauline Phillips Delivoris, me, Lee Roy and Betty Jane.”
Louise said, “I was really the only one in my entire family who truly loved and appreciated antiques. I would bring home an old piece which was torn, tattered, worn out and my siblings would say, ‘Why do you bring home this junk, Louise?’ I would just smile and go and repair it with love, and suddenly they would say, ‘It is beautiful, Louise. How in the world did you do this to a complete piece of junk?’”
Louise told me that she loved Victorian pieces. She especially loved beautiful Victorian beds with their feminine carvings and touches. She loved primitive antiques and collected them for sale but did not like having them in her home.
She had quite a flair and a wonderful artistic taste. I enjoyed dropping by to chat and sit a spell with her. She was happy and lots of fun to be around. I enjoyed her in 1985 and again talking to her in 2011.
On March 3, 1985, one day before my birthday, I was in my own Heaven on Earth in my bubble world. I was forgetting the noise of the traffic as it passed me on the corner of East Lampkin and South Montgomery Streets. I tuned out all the sounds around me and began seriously sketching and enjoying what I was seeing. I am a realistic artist, and I hope that when I finish the piece of work that day that it will look back at me, wink and smile. I want it to look just like what I saw.
The main character is the happy face of the doll. He is dressed in a pretty medium blue mixed with the darker blues of a sailor suit. Look at his curly blond hair, his rosy cheeks and his red lips which compliment his white sailor collar and his little red bow tie that is beginning to come untied at his neck. See the one knee sock that is showing with his sailor pants slightly turned up a inch , and the other pants leg is straight. His white cuffs at his sleeves match his sailor color. See his one finger slipping out from the bottom of his long sleeve, and see the shadow on the carriage of both his one sleeve and his one finger poking outside the sleeve cuff. He is darling and sweet. Don’t you want to take him home with you to cuddle and love forever? I do.
Take a look at the intricate white wicker woven into the old-fashioned carriage itself. See the curved carriage top with the bright sunlight catching each piece of the wicker turning it a bright yellow. It is as if I as the artist caught the sun rays within the wooden wicker for only a moment before the rays danced across the porch. The four antique black steel wheels are old, creaky, quaint and wonderful. Look at the handsome carriage’s curved black wooden handle. It looks so inviting for a hand to grab and push along the sidewalks on East Lampkin Street and to Main Street.
Look carefully at the shadows of the wheels against the porch floor. These very shadows hold down the carriage and give it stability to the floor so that it does not just float away to the top of the canvas itself.
Now peep inside the carriage and see the three bears. Papa Bear is in the back near the pillow area, and there is Mama Bear on one side and Baby Bear near her Mama Bear. They all have on Christmas green bow ties.
I left the entire background completely white letting the pretty watercolor color paper shine on the white paper. Could this be sparkling white snow that has fallen,and left the entire background of this imaginary world on the front porch of East Lampkin Street magical for the upcoming holidays?
Where is the little boy going to stroll his precious cargo of three bears? I bet he is going to catch up and stroll along with Mrs. Wesson, Starkville’s queen, down those steps of Louise Phillips Gray Faust’s Country Tyme Antiques to the sidewalk of Lampkin Street, turning up Main Street and making their way chatting and laughing as they shop and visit.
This is my special gift to each one of you, my readers and viewers, of a watercolor painting. It is just a few days before Christmas, and we are all getting ready.
Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at email@example.com .