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Reflections: Tallahatchie Hijinks

Enjoy our “Reflections” post — one of many vignettes and stories featuring memories of days gone by. This installment is from Dave Hovey of Coffeeville, Mississippi as seen in “The Oxford So & So.”
If you would like to contribute your own Reflections story, send it, along with photos, to hottytoddynews@gmail.com.


Photo courtesy of mississippimarkers.com

July 1964:

Things sometimes got a little slow, entertainment wise, around Coffeeville after dark.  Once the sidewalks had all been rolled up around 8:00 P.M. we had to look elsewhere.
There was one special place called the “Blue Moon” on the west edge of town.  It was a combination restaurant, appliance store, gas station and also dispersed other items out the rear sliding window.
Everyone knew about this activity, the Baptist and Methodists, etc., generally sent their yard boys as they were too busy to go themselves.
We often stopped by, but presently our line of credit was stretched overly thin.  The proprietor was a fine fellow but was also known for his ability to collect, one way or the other.  This presented us with a choice of taking a chance on a visit or being able to fill up Toody’s ’41 Coupe with 21 cent regular at Mr. Brewer’s station tomorrow.  We could not go back to touch on Herbie’s crop duster at the Grenada Airport yet, having just used our Mississippi credit card there but knowing we would need to purchase some gas in the morning.
Good ole Charleston just over in Tallahatchie County was where we were headed.  The new Drive-In Theater was open on Friday and Saturday nights. It was against the law for it to be open on Sunday or church nights.
We had picked Thursday night for several reasons, mainly because “Billy” who ran the projectors and sound system, would not have time to “fix things” before Friday’s show. Billy was our friend, but this was an opportunity too good to pass up.
Toody pulled the black Ford in behind the cattle shed in the vacant fairground across from the theater.  We slipped over when no headlights shined on the highway.  The galvanized tin fence along the road, put there to keep folks from watching free, meaning the gate was our easiest entrance point.
It took quite awhile working fast to swap all the speaker connections. Each of us took a row and unscrewed and reconnected by the moonlight.
Back out and across the road before midnight, we headed home, mission accomplished!
The next night was weather perfect.  Having received our weekly pay let us stock up on refreshments.  Settling part of our account at the “Blue Moon” reinstated our good standing.
The theater ticket girl smiled prettily at Toody.  This was a special dollar-a-car load night, so they didn’t need the man with a flashlight to make you open your trunk.  Toody drove straight to the spot way back, to the one set of speakers left un-swopped.
Billy started music playing with screened advertisements for the snacks shortly before the picture began. Our plan seemed to be working okay. People were getting out of cars holding their ears.  Other cars hung up the speakers to drive over the hump, searching for another spot.
You see:  If your speaker was too loud, you would try to turn it down. This really shut off the sound in the car next door. He, in turn, would dial his speaker wide open since it wasn’t making any sound at all.  After awhile some folks figured it out and traded speakers.  Many others drove here and there to new spots.  Some angry folks went to complain to Billy in the projection booth. He was totally mystified and didn’t puzzle it out until the next day.
It was a one time shot though.  Billy had a pretty good notion of who was responsible.  A wire pen was soon built next to the concession stand to hold “Killer” and “Spike,” two large German Shepherds, on loan from Mitchell’s Auto Parts, or as we called it, “the junkyard” next door. No more speaker switching would be attempted as they ran loose during closed times.
After the movie, we quietly circled the Charleston Square. Toody had installed a three-quarter race cam, a set of Edelbrock aluminum high compression heads and three two-barreled carburetors with progressive linkage.  All this stuff along with the higher octane aviation fuel, which made the inside of the exhaust pipes snow white, brought the horsepower up from 90 to around 130.  Best of all he had put dual cutouts just ahead of the mufflers.
We waved and whistled at the pretty girls sitting on cars and pickups parked around the square.  This upset the boys who hollered back and gave us the universal sign language.     
The real reason for carefully circling the square was to see where the local law was. The jail had sort of a branch office across from the courthouse. Toody was familiar with it and knew just where it was located.
He pulled the handle on the dash to open the cutouts and floor-boarded the accelerator.  The tires smoked and squalled, the racket rattled the courthouse windows.  The girls screamed and covered their ears, the boys shouted and tossed cans.  
The getaway route lay out the south side.  Toody expertly guided the sliding coupe sideways while watching the audience out of the corner of his eyes. We shot out of town on Highway 35 toward the Paynes community.  The first narrow gravel road up the side of the bluff was in sight.  Hills on one side and the Delta on the other.
Toody turned off the headlamps and coasted in, not touching the brakes. That way no brake lights came on in case we were followed. He eased along making very little dust for a half mile, then took off again with the usual white knuckles on the dash for the passenger, style of driving.
After crossing the main highway at Scobey, we were safely back in good ole Yalobusha County, headed to the house.
The next week’s plans were already in the mill.  It was going to take a pretty long rope to reach the huge bell on the Coffeeville Presbyterian Church to the ground. Toody said, “How about several strands of borrowed sea grass baling twine twisted together?”
Toody was just a born genius at problem-solving.


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