Walt Grayson headshot
By Walt Grayson
November 2022

It isn’t a magic book. Not like a fairytale. But the minute I opened it, it transported me back through time to my childhood.

It isn’t a magic book. Not like a fairytale. But the minute I opened it, it transported me back through time to my childhood. To Grandmother Cummings’ house in Fulton.

It seems like I have written a lot about Fulton lately. If so, it’s because we have been there so many times this year because of funerals. And it was while attending the latest of these funerals that I got the book. I had not seen it since I was a kid.

My niece, Salem Macknee from North Carolina, brought it with her to this same funeral. It was in a cardboard box along with several of Granddaddy Cummings’ old ledgers. She is donating them to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and wanted me to take the box back to Jackson with me.

She got the ledgers because mama had them. And after mom passed away, my sister (Salem’s mother) got them. And now that my sister is gone, as is her husband (Salem’s dad — he was one of the recent funerals), it’s up to Salem to go through things and sort them. Granddaddy’s ledgers are part of that sorting.

Now, most of the books in the box were just old ledgers — lists of names and numbers. But at the bottom of the stack was the “magic” book. Actually, It was just another ledger. But Granddaddy had converted it into one of his scrap books. Over the pages of names and numbers he had pasted articles and pictures about things he thought were odd, interesting, or important. He had glued-up several books like this in which to archive his interests.

When we were kids, we’d pull the books out and flip through them. Grandmother didn’t have a television, so they were fascinating entertainment — pictures of the Taj Mahal, articles about World War II, and photos of people who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

According to the subjects collected, there was very little grandaddy didn’t find worthy of preserving. The book contained clippings, articles, photographs, and handwritten stories he had saved and pasted. The oldest article I found was from 1924 about the anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh.

A lot of the material is from the 1930s. The bulk is from the 1940s.

The subjects range from obituaries to photos from the Rotogravure section of the Memphis and Birmingham newspapers. Oddities of nature, strange acts of God, a handwritten poem worded like the Ralph Stanley’s song, “Oh Death” were included. Re-watch the George Clooney film, “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” if you don’t remember the song.

Now I realize my life-long curiosity about all sorts of things came to me naturally. Therefore, I couldn’t help collecting stuff.

I am somewhat reluctant to pass this particular book on to Archives and History where it may never be seen again. So, Miz Jo wants to know what I intend to do with it. I figure I’ll let that be the next generation’s problem. Passing “stuff” down to the kids seems like another family tradition just like collecting it to begin with.

magic book ledger with newspaper clippings
"Shiloh has a place in the sun as time heals wounds" article with photo
old newspaper clipping titled "Newest National Park Awaits Dedication by the President"
old newspaper clipping and photos of church
old newspaper clipping title "585 Tupeloans killed or injured by 1936 tornado"
magic book ledger
Category: Mississippi Seen

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