The Time Traveler on Wednesday enjoyed the great hospitality of the Southaven Chamber of Commerce as its host and Executive Director Carmen Kyle touted the Chamber’s upcoming 50th Golden Gala on Oct. 17 at the Landers Center.
For Kyle, preserving precious memories and measuring the milestones of progress after a half century have kept her and her dedicated, hard-working staff plenty busy.
“We would love to have photos,” said Kyle to the large, overflow crowd gathered at the recent quarterly luncheon presented by the Chamber. Kyle was referring to that watershed year of 1969.
Woodstock. Man landing on the Moon. The Southaven Chamber of Commerce was born.
“I know that Baptist Hospital has an old photo of the barn that was built where it now stands,” added Kyle.
There wasn’t much else near the present-day site of the now sprawling hospital. The Hungry Fisherman perhaps, and miles and miles of gravel roads in either direction with the interstate beckoning to points north and south.
Kyle remarked on all “the brick and mortar that has gone up,” in the half century since the Southaven Chamber of Commerce came into being.
“Thank you for investing with us,” said Kyle of the many businesses that now comprise the retail and professional market in the State of Mississippi’s third-largest city. “We are here to impact the city.”
Among the many photos of Southaven now on display at the award-winning DeSoto County Museum is the ribbon cutting and opening ceremony that greeted visitors to the city’s earliest constructed homes on June 10, 1961.
Governor Ross Barnett cut the ribbon on the first of several model homes to be built just off U.S. Highway 51 in the vicinity of Forrest Drive, then called Southaven Garden. Present at that ceremony was Howlett Sneed, builder, Carey Whitehead, President of Allied Investment and Vice President of Southaven Land Company, Wallace Johnson, V.O. Sneed, builder and more than 100 people.
That weekend more than 50,000 people visited Southaven Garden. Jon Reeves, along with business partner Bob Williams, would be among builders and developers that would soon put Southaven on the map.
Today, the City of Southaven leads the state in growth and business opportunities.
As the DeSoto Times noted on Aug. 14, 1986, Southaven grew from mere pastureland to one of the state’s largest cities in 21 years. The Southaven Library also opened in 1969, along with the Southaven Chamber.
Albert Broadway was the first county official from Southaven to be elected county-wide, according to the DeSoto Times. The first church in Southaven was the First Baptist Church. That next year, the Southaven Jaycees opened their new swimming pool. George Guerieri from Southaven was elected State Senator. Southaven attained cityhood on March 25, 1980 and on June 1, 1981, the first city officials were elected to serve a full four-year term.
John Grisham, Sr., father of the famed novelist, was among those who served on the Southaven Incorporation Committee.
By 1986, the year of the county’s 150th anniversary, Southaven was sporting a new Walmart, a Kroger Superstore and a Burger King.
Harvey Ferguson, then the 38-year-old president of the Hernando Bank, reflected on the growth of the region.
“Where I used to bird hunt and walk for hours and hours without crossing a fence, now there are homes and subdivisions,” Ferguson said in a 1986 interview.
In that 1986 edition, the future was predicted with uncanny accuracy.
“You’ll find all the trappings of suburban growth here,” the newspaper wrote. “Go farther south to Goodman Road. This is where they want to put the regional shopping mall. Move onto Church Road. They need a new 1-55 exit here. It will help people on the backside of the new mall.”
Now this was written nearly four decades before the construction of the Tanger Outlets at Church and I-55.
That is what this writer truly calls some amazing time traveling.
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.