I have told you of the email that we receive about the columns my son, John, and I write. This week, I received a call from Napa, Calif., from a classmate, Martha Strange Russell. She had read in my column that another classmate had died and she wanted to know who. She told me that she reads my column and John’s and appreciates the memories. Last Saturday, we received an email from Sherry Gresham Gritzbaugh in Bel Air, Texas. She had gone to Doyline school with Charlie Walker and was so glad to read about him. She remembered that his nickname was “Hawk,” and his wife tells me that she still calls him “Hawk.” Of course, each week I receive many local calls and sometimes a letter about a memory my column has brought back.
There are so many memories of Minden in years past, memories of people, buildings and businesses. Many of the people are now dead. There are buildings and businesses that I have observed down through the years and many of them are gone, either torn down or drug away, or even graded down. Let’s go back in memory and remember a few of them.
One of the first that I remember is the beautiful old Sandlin home that was on the corner next to First Baptist Church. It was used as Sunday school classes for First Baptist Church for several years before it was torn down to make a black-topped parking lot. It was such a beautiful old building with the staircase and the beautiful millwork. This would have made such a wonderful museum. But it was torn down, and that is the gist of my article.
And then there was the house that had been Green- Kleinnegger Funeral Home on Murrell Street. This was the home of Drury Murrell and he figured prominently in the early history of Minden. (His name was not pronounced “Mur” “rell” but it was “Murr-ell,” with the accent on the second syllable. So that is the way Murrell Street should be pronounced, not like we say it. When the new funeral home was to be built, the old home was moved around on the Shepherd Street curve. Finally, it burned down, probably by hoboes seeking shelter. Another loss to Minden’s history.
The parking lot of Minden Medical Center was the site of the old Rex Theater, and before it was remodeled into a movie theater, it had been the second home of First Baptist Church. It was torn down, and now there is a black-topped parking lot.
Of course we cannot forget the old courthouse that was built in 1905, and was used as our City Hall from 1953 until it was torn down to extend Pearl Street. There are a good many pictures that different local artists have painted. I have one hanging in my home today. It was unique with its circular halls, and the dome that once had a clock in it. True enough, it had a distinctive odor or smell that attested to the bathrooms being old. The halls were cool even on the hottest days of summer, not because of air conditioning, but because the thick walls were insulation against the summer heat. Even though it has been gone for more than three decades, it lives on in our memory.
And the fire station that was across from the present post office is gone, and there is a parking area where it once stood. I remember that the Light and Water office was in the back on the ground floor. Earnest Almand was the one who operated that office and Mary Ellen Pugh worked there. Today, she is Mrs. Dalton Dean. We went there to pay our utility bills. The upstairs was our “city hall” back in the 30s and the 40s, where the Minden City Council met and there were offices there, too. I have a picture of the city council and the mayor sitting in front of the fire station. The picture today shows the fire station/city hall, and in front, are the council members and the mayor. The second from the left is Mayor David Thomas.
The Blacksmith Shop
Often we do not recognize how unusual and how unique an area is until it is gone. I remember looking at the old blacksmith shop behind what was at that time Al-N-Way cleaners on Pine Street just off what we called “Front street.” The blacksmith was Mr. Irby, and the shop was on the corner of Green Street and Pine Street. Today, it is just an overgrown vacant lot. Not many of today’s young people have ever seen a blacksmith shop. Now I wish I had taken the time to see just how Mr. Irby did his work and notice everything about that shop. But it is gone, gone, gone.
We had two railroad depots in two different locations. The first was the one that was at the foot of the hill by the railroad tracks on Shreveport Road. Since passenger trains no longer picked up passengers here, the depot was not needed, and so, it was torn down. Many towns have utilized their old depots as museums. Close by, Arcadia has used their old depot as a museum. We tore ours down. The other depot was down Sibley Road behind what was the Texaco Station. There was a little road that went down to the depot by the tracks. It, too, is gone. So many things that we could have treasured are gone, long gone.
Also gone are the little dairies that we had here within the City of Minden. We would go out to buy milk and we could watch the working of a small dairy, the cows being milked, strained and bottled or, in my case, poured into a gallon fruit jar. I doubt if many of today’s young people have ever seen a cow milked. But those days of seeing such a simple thing as cows being milked is not on their agenda.
So many things are new to today’s young people. I remember in 1989, my husband had planted a garden and my middle grandson, who was eight, had watched as green beans were picked. He knew his Granddaddy had potatoes planted and it was time to gather them. He came over and announced that he had come to watch Granddaddy “pick” the potatoes. He was astounded as he watched my husband dig deep and turn over the dirt and exposed the potatoes. He was happy to grabble in the dirt with Granddaddy as he searched for the potatoes. This was just a few days before my husband’s death.
From time to time I have called your attention to the little yellow flowers that bloom behind the service station on the corner of Sibley Road and Industrial Drive. These were the little bulbs that Mrs. E.H. Lumpkin planted in the spring of 1923. And now, no more will the little bulbs bloom. The lot has been graded down to street level and the dirt that contained the little bulbs hauled away. Stakes have been driven for a commercial building to be erected there.
Minden High School
And soon, probably in the next couple of years, the 1924 High School building will be razed as part of the expansion and the new construction of a Minden High School complex. That building is referred to as the “old” building, but to those of my generation it is “our” school and is a treasure to us. I realize that the building is old, and worn out, and it would be too costly to try to bring it up to a condition that would be safe and useful.
There is such a kaleidoscope of memories associated with that building. Many of other generations also remember with love and appreciation the years we spent there, not only the classes but especially the teachers who were dedicated educators. The salaries were pitiful, and those who taught really loved teaching and loved to impart knowledge to the young people. I remember the hot days of autumn and of late spring when we had all the windows open hoping for just a breath of cool air. Across the street in the old building (which was the elementary grades) the piano teacher had her classroom. We could hear the piano teacher, Miss Ponder as she had the children practice and play the piece that they probably would use at her piano recital. Each day the same notes would drift out their windows and into our classrooms. I think the tune was “Humoresque” that the children practiced each day. This was especially the class right after lunch during our “Thirty Minute” period, which was a quiet time when we thought about our afternoon classes and gathered the books we would need.
And so, when our old high school building is gone, all we will have will be memories, and we will keep those memories in a special place in our hearts, and we will remember. Oh yes, we will remember! Because nothing will tear them down, or drag them off, or grade them down!!!!
My daughter’s Valedictory speech in the spring of 1970 had the lines “Nothing is constant but change.” And it is a sign of old age when we think of what used to be there and is no more, and there is a lonesome spot in our hearts, but we do have our memories. (So far!!)
Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.