By EMILY JONES
The life and times of residents of the Needmore community will be the topic for discussion at 2 p.m. Wednesday when the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum conducts a special observance for Black History Month.
Panelists for the roundtable discussion will include Fenton Peters, retired superintendent of Starkville Public Schools; Walter Williams, retired principal of Henderson and Emerson Schools; Charles “La La” Evans, Starkville’s first black postman; Betty Evans, a retired banker; and Carolyn Evans, a retired educator who served East Mississippi Community College.
All of the panelists grew up in the so-called Needmore community which sprouted along Russell, Hancock, Spring, Gillespie, Muldrow and Fellowship streets, dating to the construction of the GM&O line.
The Needmore community was home to a thriving business community, which rivaled the Central Business District.
The Heritage Museum is housed in the depot which once served the railroad. Volunteers are currently pursuing the placement of an historical marker in the district to recognize the contributions of Needmore residents and businesses.
“This was really a community within a community,” said Ruth Morgan, who writes a weekly historical column and has done extensive research on Needmore. “It’s amazing how many teachers, professors and administrators grew up in this bustling community.”
Morgan has compiled a list of businesses which operated during the first half of the 20th century. In addition to three churches, businesses included the Hattie Price House of Beauty, Easter’s Beauty Shop, the Blue Goose Café, Dreamland Café, Dockins Grocery, Boyd’s Friendly Cleaners, Fleming Construction, Starkville Ready Mix, J. N. Henderson Market, Corhern’s Big Star, Joe W. Hunter Grocery, McCullouch’s Grocery, the Blue Bird Kindergarten, Standard Oil, Southern Bell, Jim’s Upholstery, Haggens Kindergarten, Nanny Outlaw and Lewis Upholstery. There was also at least one ice house in the district.
Demorest Street was referred to as Tin Can Alley because residents would secure discarded cans from the Bordon Plant to use for cooking and drinking, Evans said.
Peters said he remembers his favorite hamburger at The Blue Goose Café cost only a nickel.
“A Saturday night highlight for many families in the county was to drive to the café and pick up hamburgers or barbecue sandwiches to give mothers a night off,” said Betsy Longest, who is coordinating the program with Ruth Morgan.
Pictures from Needmore’s heyday will be on display, and citizens are invited to bring their photos and memorabilia from life during that period.
The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum has received awards from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. It is manned by volunteers who open the facility Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1-4 p.m. or by appointment.