Mollie Gray is 85 years young

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Rupert Peyton submitted an article to The Plain Dealing Progress April 11, 1947 issue about “Mamma” Gray, Grand Old Lady who was about to celebrate her 85th birthday.  His article is reprinted here in part.

“That was the year that Roosevelt the First shook his big stick, an earthquake shook San Francisco, the boll weevil crossed the Rio Grande and cotton rose to ten cents a pound.  That was the year that the cyclone tore Gilliam and Bolinger to splinters, blew down Uncle Hi Simpkins’ barn, tore up Papa’s back rail fence and, incidentally killed several people.  That was the year they put the mosque dome on the Plain Dealing bank, the Great Van Amburg Circus came to town.  Old Man Winn got drunk and make himself a spectacle of supine inebriation on the roadside, where he was viewed with varying degrees of horror by the  pious brethren and sisters of Walker’s Chapel and Old Salem.”

“That was the year I met Miss Mollie.”

“I am just one of a million persons who have met this Grand Old Lady of North Louisiana, South Arkansas and parts thereabouts, but my first meeting with Miss Mollie was a bit unusual.  For the sake of the newcomers to the land of Ark-La-Tex, ‘Miss Mollie’ is none other than Mrs. Mollie Banks Curry Gray.  But if you have lived in these parts for an appreciable time you already know that.  Although Mrs. Gray claims Plain Dealing as her habitat, all North Louisiana lays some sort of claim to her citizenship, for she is at home in any part of the area that she goes.”

“On that day fate brought me in contact with Miss Mollie for the first time.  I was a very small boy who had come to town to purchase a brand new suit of clothes which, if the cotton crop was good enough occurred once a year about ginning time.  As the boll weevil had not crossed the Smith and Wesson line from Texas, the crop that year was good enough to afford me a $3.50 hand-me-down at Mr. Frank Kirthley’s store.  After I became the proud possessor of said suit, with caop to match, I had to stroll in my finery down Palmetto Avenue.  (Yes, there’s a Palmetto Avenue in Plain Dealing, but nary a palmetto grows on it.)  I came to the site where they were building the bank.  I was fascinated by the dome which was quite incongruous to the scene—Mohammedan architecture in a citadel of Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians.”

“As I gazed upon this unusual piece of structure, two boys bent upon deviltry approached me, snatched my cop and fled.  I pursued them, yelling my indignation as loudly as possible.  My tormentors were having the time of their lives when suddenly a sharp command spoiled their malicious fun.”

“’Give back that boy’s cap!,’ a woman’s voice rang out with authority.  With a meek ‘Yes, Miss Mollie,’ the lads returned my cap.”

Next week’s article will tell more about Peyton’s memories of Miss Mollie, or you can visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center to read them for yourself.

Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or by e-mail at amiddlet@state.lib.la.us