It can be difficult to find a place in the Delta where you can go sit, down by the riverside…

What is: Mississippi River at Friars Point

What was: Founded in 1836 along the Mississippi River, Friars Point was once the largest cotton shipping center south of Memphis.  The historic port town remains the only place in Coahoma County with public access to the banks of the Mississippi River and is one of a few public access points to the river in the entire Mississippi Delta region.

Blues legend Robert Johnson is said to have played in front of Hirsberg’s Drugstore, as did Muddy Waters.  Johnson referred to Friars Point in the song “Traveling Riverside Blues.” The town has been written about by famous Mississippi writers Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. It also is the birthplace of country music legend Conway Twitty.

Friars Point was the rendezvous point for General William T. Sherman and Admiral David Porter who under orders from U.S. Grant came to Friars Point in December of 1862 to plan the naval attack on Vicksburg during Grant’s first Vicksburg campaign. The town served as a major staging point for Union troops. It was a rendezvous point for 45 transport ships and gunboats of Gen. Sherman on his way to Vicksburg.

During the 1875 elections, white supremacists intensified efforts to undermine and harass the Reconstruction government in Mississippi.  Friars Point was among the places that riots were instigated to intimidate black voters.

It has a population of about 839 as of July 1, 2022.

Sometimes there is no story…a sign on Highway 278, Clarksdale towards Oxford. Alone and on the road

What is: the Drive In movie sound system

What was: The concept for the first drive-in movie business originated with one man in the late 1920s. Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr. came up with the concept of watching movies from one’s car. He was looking for an alternative for his mother who was very uncomfortable in movie theaters. Hollingshead thought sitting in a car might be better for her and for others.

The best place to experiment with this possible plan was in his own driveway.  Taking a white bed sheet, he tacked it up between two trees in his backyard. He parked his car facing the sheet.  Next, he placed a projector on the hood of the car. He was delighted to see that once it became dark, it was relatively easy to watch a movie against the bed sheet.

Sound was the next issue he needed to address. If everyone was sitting in separate cars, how could music and dialog reach them?  For an answer, Hollingshead contacted the RCA Victor Company and described his concept for an outdoor theater. The fellow assured him that three good-sized speakers placed around a lot where cars were parked could provide adequate sound.  (When drive-in theaters first opened, they all relied on big speakers well placed around the drive-in lot.)

To make money, Hollingshead’s needed his business to accommodate many cars. He envisioned rows of cars with an elevated screen so cars parked further back would still be able to see the screen. That meant for more comfortable viewing, the cars needed to tilt back ever so slightly. To accomplish that, he planned on short, low ramps to elevate the front of the car slightly.  That way passengers leaned back a bit to look up toward the raised screen.

Hollingshead received a patent for his plan on May 16, 1933. By this time, he had enlisted a couple of investors and found a 400-acre lot in Camden, New Jersey. He named the company Park-In Theatres.  The next step was ordering a custom-built 40 by 50-foot screen.

By 1941, RCA introduced a new speaker system for use in outdoor theaters. The ground needed to be wired so that posts with two speakers could be installed between cars. Drivers would pull up into the parking places between the poles. The speakers could be removed from the pole and hung over the windows of the car. That way each family had a speaker and could control their own volume for the film.  These initial speakers were a bit tinny in sound, but the sound quality improved over time.

Today speaker set and pole can be purchased online for about 350.00

What is: Teepee Curios, Route 66, Tucumcari, NM. A concrete wigwam fused into the front of a souvenir shop.

What was: Part of the magical tapestry of Route 66, the Teepee Curios building opened as a Gulf gas station in 1944. In 1948 it was Leland Haynes Grocery, Meats & Curious. In 1960 it was Jene’s Trading Post. The gas pumps were lost and the Tee Pee entry was added when Route 66 was widened in 1959 or 60

Reminiscent of days gone by, when youngsters would beg Dad to stop at the tee pee for a coonskin cap or colorful chief headdress.   Today, Teepee Curios is one of the last remaining original curio shops in New Mexico & Route 66.  This quirky roadside stop offers all of the oddities and gifts you could ever need. From Route 66 memorabilia to pottery, shirts, postcards, pocket knives, bumper stickers, colored fake rabbit tails, bean shakers, gem frogs, pens, jewelry and other unique items you won’t find elsewhere, this is a true hidden gem in the desert.

What is: view from the edge of the parking lot for viewing the Marfa Lights.

What was: An unexplained phenomena that dates back to the 19th century. James Bunnell states, “you might just see mysterious orbs of light suddenly appear above desert foliage. These balls of light may remain stationary as they pulse on and off with intensity varying from dim to almost blinding brilliance. Then again, these ghostly lights may dart across the desert…or perform splits and mergers. Light colors are usually yellow-orange but other hues, including green, blue and red are also seen. Marfa Mystery Lights (MLs) usually fly above desert vegetation but below background mesas.”(Source: Wikipedia).

Reports of the lights have come from Cowboys, Ranchers, Native Americans, high school sweethearts and famous meteorologists. Even James Dean was apparently obsessed by them when he was in Marfa shooting the movie “Giant” The source of the mystery lights is still a point of contention. Cynics will tell you that this so-called paranormal phenomenon is just the atmospheric reflections of cars and campfires at night. The mystics will tell you that’s hooey — “What roads?” there were none in the 1800s. As for a cowboys campfire, there were not a large number to reflect and even fewer today. The truth is we just don’t know even though they have been documented and studying by scientists.

What is: a short hike to the Hot Springs Historic District where you can hike, soak in the springs crystal clear 105°F water, and explore the span of human history along the Rio Grande. It includes the former post office, general store and spa as well as nearby petroglyphs.

What was: In 1909 J.O. Langford , a native Mississippian who contracted malaria and had recurring bouts with this disease, was in the lobby of a hotel in Alpine, Texas. There he heard tales of a spring that would cure anything and everything. Within 2 weeks he obtained the land in West Texas (now Big Bend National Park) under the Homesteaders Act. “Upon his family’s arrival, the Langfords discovered Cleofas Natividad, his wife, and their ten children living and farming on their land.  At first the Langfords pondered what to do about these “squatters.” Then, they realized that this land had probably been home to this family for generations. Cleofas turned out to be the best neighbor anyone could have asked for,” said Mr Langsford.

Once J.O. regained his health by taking a 21 day treatment of bathing and drinking the spring water, he opened the springs to other bathers. The cost was 10 cents per day or $2.00 for the whole 21 day treatment. In addition to running the bathhouse, he became a schoolteacher, a self taught doctor, and a postman. The Hot Springs was more than just a place to restore health; it was also a meeting place for people from all walks of life, from both sides of the river. Sources:

In 1912, the area was vacated because of border unrest with Mexican bandits. They returned 15 years later to rebuild the bathhouse, and to build a store, and motor court. The Hot Springs flourished through the 1930s and early 1940s.The site was the first major tourist attraction in the area, long before the national park was established.

A beauty…a classic old main street theatre.
What is: The front entrance and the parking lot entrance stairs to the balcony entrance of the Paramount Movie Theatre, Clarksdale, Mississippi
What was: White people entered the theatre on the main level and at the front entrance on Yazoo Street, under neon lights. The covered stairway in a parking lot behind the Paramount Movie Theatre in downtown Clarksdale is the entrance for blacks to the segregated balcony in the movie theatre.
Opened as the Marion Theatre in 1918, it became the Paramount in 1931 and closed in 1976. Civil right activists picketed the theater in the 1960’s, and it was desegregated in 1965.

Gas Stations. From today’s monthly newsletter, which was about 200 years of photography and social change, and then I mixed it up with gas stations. Im not quite sure why….but I did.
Perhaps because Memorial Day weekend kicks off summer and that often means road trips.
Gas stations have certainly changed with time…from full service to self service, from gas and repairs to full fledged mini-marts, of course from analogue to digital. You can always find abandoned ones. Perhaps that’s why I photograph them so often.
Or maybe Im drawn to them by the nostalgia of road trips as a child. Or perhaps they attract me because in the 1970s they offered the Esso NHL PowerPlayers hockey cards.
You can read the complete newsletter and sign up for it (upper left corner) here.
Click the images to enjoy larger.

I don’t have a big story for you about this place.  It is an abandoned and destroyed gas station on Route 66, Conway, Texas. That’s all I got.