Spring brings with it a great deal of pomp and ceremony with Easter celebrations, proms and graduation and the Time Traveler could land in any decade of the past century to enjoy spectacles and pageantry.
Pompadours and poodle skirts were the order of the day in 1960 as seniors in the graduating class at Olive Branch High School prepared to step out into the world following graduation.
Tommy Allen, Clarence Holley, Ruth Peyton and Carolyn Hunt were among members of the Class of ’60 who were ready to take on the world. The class would include a total of 61 graduating seniors. R.D. McLendon, president of Northwest Mississippi Junior College, was slated to give the keynote address, with pastor Vernon Boyd at the Olive Branch Church of Christ to deliver the baccalaureate sermon.
The Hernando High School Class of 1954 has been celebrating its graduates for more than 65 years and according to one of the class favorites, Jimmy Smith, the group will get together April 27 at Cedar Hill Farms in the Love community to reminisce and remember.
Seniors and other lucky students were able to strut around in style when none other than Rock N’ Roll superstar Elvis Presley donated one of his stylish jackets as a fundraiser at the 1960 DeSoto County Queen of the Forest at Horn Lake High School. The snazzy jacket was won by William Gartrell of Horn Lake.
Elvis, who had just completed a hitch with the U.S. Army in Germany, long maintained several DeSoto County ties. The Graceland resident would also purchase the Circle G Ranch down the road in Horn Lake in 1967. Elvis and wife Priscilla would honeymoon there in 1967. Priscilla was even said to have lost her wedding ring on the sprawling grounds where she and Elvis rode horses. The pair enjoyed the Circle G to get away from the adoring fans clamoring outside the gates of Graceland.
Another tie to DeSoto County and Hernando was and is longtime Hernando resident Janie Wilbanks McGowen, who was once Elvis’ sweetheart during his U.S. Army days.
Jane still has teddy bears that Elvis gave her. Elvis had spotted Jane, who was wearing a white coat, and invited her aboard his farewell train as it left Memphis. The Time Traveler feels privileged to have Jane as a good friend. Mr. and Mrs. Time Traveler were privileged to have Jane as an invited guest at their wedding. It’s not every day you can watch your wedding video and point out a girlfriend of Elvis Presley being escorted down the aisle.
The hottest selling item in the spring and summer of 1960 was a portable transistor radio along with a ’60 Impala Sport Sedan that could be custom ordered from Stewart Chevrolet in Hernando.
What a difference a century makes. In April of 1860 there was talk of secession from the Union and the prospect of Civil War.
U.S. Sen. Jefferson Davis, later the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, would visit the home of Col. and Mrs. Thomas W. White, who would go on to become a commissioned officer during the War Between the States.
In the DeSoto County Museum’s collection, the parlor furniture which once belonged to the White family and decorated the grand Italianate-style home of the Whites, includes a tasseled goal chair that Davis is said to have sat in during his frequent visits to Hernando.
That story and many others during the past 180 years are part of the DeSoto County Museum’s vast collection. In fact, bound volumes of the DeSoto Times-Tribune and its predecessor the DeSoto Times Today and Times-Promoter detailing news, obituaries, high school sports and pageants from the 1950s and 60s are housed in a newly designated archive at the museum.
This June, the DeSoto County Museum will unveil its latest exhibit, “Telling Our Story … For More Than 180 years,” which will chronicle the story of the state’s second oldest newspaper in text and images.
Be sure and visit the DeSoto County Museum, soon. It’s the place where history comes alive!
ROBERT LEE LONG is the Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.