Entertainment of the past
People in the 1800s and early 1900s did not have television, computers and video games to entertain them, but they had no need of these things. They found numerous ways to have a good time and sometimes to have a good time and raise money for a worthy cause.
There are several articles in the newspaper about the Ladies Cemetery Association raising money to benefit the city cemetery, Rose Hill. They were often called upon to raise money because, as one man said, “the ladies will get it done.” And they did. The Rose Hill Minstrels was formed partly for raising money and partly so that local residents could show their talent.
At one such performance Howard Penn sang “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going, But I’m On My Way” and Jona Hoskins did his act of a telephone conversation with a friend from “below” who said he was sitting on a red-hot stove reading The Leader. A tidy sum was raised for the Cemetery Association.
If the church needed money for something, it was the ladies who organized the event. The Ladies Aid Society of the First Methodist Church gave a Hard Times Poverty Social and those invited had to come dressed in certain clothes and if they didn’t, they were fined so much for each offense. For instance, guests were supposed to wear an apron. If they didn’t they were fined five cents. If someone had a hat on that had flowers or feathers, five cents. The largest fine was for wearing diamond earrings, ten cents. Men had to wear their old clothes and colored shirts. If they wore a white shirt the fine was five cents. The person wearing “the worst looking rig” won a prize.
On New Year’s Eve, 1895, a live chess game was played in the armory of the Stonewall Guards. The pieces were represented by 18 of Brookhaven’s “charming bells” and 14 “gallant beaux” all dressed in beautiful costumes. David Cohn played the white pieces and F. J. Lee, the English Master Player moved the black pieces on a regular size board while the moves were duplicated on a big board painted on the floor by the living pieces. Admission was twenty-five cents and a “tidy sum” was raised for the Stonewall Guards and the Chess Club. Cohn was complimented for the game he played against his distinguished adversary. After the game a dance was held, and the young folks danced the old year out and the New Year in.
Then there was baseball. It was a big thing in Brookhaven. The stores often closed so that everyone could attend the games. Games were usually between local teams, but sometimes they played other towns like Jackson, Canton and Hazlehurst. There was a Semi-Pro team formed and Brookhaven played in the Cotton States League. It was said that we were the smallest city in the world to have a professional baseball team.
There was always a meeting of one of the local social clubs. The Cadmus Club, organized in the 1897 met each month at a member’s home. They discussed books and authors and performed their original works. Members played special selections on the piano or sang their songs written just for the occasion. Of course there was good food served, and everyone had a great time.
I almost forgot about Quilting Parties. Having fun and producing something useful and beautiful had to be satisfying. When they finished they sometimes threw a cat onto the quilt and the person whose shoulder he jumped over was said to be the next person to marry.
So life was not dull without the things that we “must have” to entertain us today. People used their imagination and came up with things that were fun, educational and were also beneficial to the community. Why do we depend so much on “things” to entertain us today? Anyone interested in a quilting party?
Sue Dorman is a local historian who lives in Brookhaven. You can contact her through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 601-833-7665.