Moorhead - Going To Town


June 11, 2015

by Rosalin Moss

The Mississippi Club





Moorhead – 2008


Moorhead, where the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog, the place that possibly inspired the first blues song, is where I was born and where some of my fondest memories were created.  Moorhead is a small town in Sunflower County in the Mississippi Delta.  The town has not changed much from the 50s and 60s, except there is a lot less activity today than it was back then.  When I was a girl during the mid-50s and early-60s, Moorhead was full of life, especially on Saturdays.  Going to town on Saturday was the highlight of the week for people living within the city limits as well as the surrounding rural areas.  Folks came to town on Saturday to stock up on things they needed and, if they were fortunate, some of the things they just plain wanted.  It was a big time for children too because they most likely would get a treat like an ice cream cone or a bag of Sugar Babies.  And you were bound to run into one of your relatives or schoolmates. 


Saturday in town was also a time for socializing and catching up on what had been going on since the last Saturday.  Then, when night came and the children and church-going folks had gone home, the juke joint crowd came alive. There were at least two places I remember where grownups did their drinking, dancing and gambling.  The only name I can remember is Isola’s Place where my daddy was a frequent patron.  Mrs. Isola’s daughter and I both attended East Moorhead Elementary School, and I had been inside the juke joint during the daytime while visiting with the daughter.  I had never been near the place at night but had heard bits and pieces of conversation about what went on there – gambling, drinking, dancing and listening to the devil’s music.  I recently asked my mother about the juke joints in Moorhead and she rattled off several names besides Mrs. Isola – Kenneth and Will Johnson had juke joints, and someone named Matt ran the Yellow Dog.   Mother said one of her brothers had a little place where he sold beer, cigarettes and liquor.  She said someone named Johnny Morris and Mrs. Sugar took over Isola’s place when she got out of the business. 


Yes, there was lots of excitement in town on Saturdays.  You could buy good clothes and shoes and accessories at Gray’s Store.  And there was Diamonds store, which was probably the fanciest store in town where you could get finer clothes, shoes and accessories.  There was a second-hand store where you could buy all kinds of stuff, and some of it was pretty good stuff.  As a matter of fact, my mother bought me a dress to wear to my first dance from that second-hand store.   I remember a drug store but I cannot remember much about it.  There were also two grocery stores at that time, both owned by Asian families.  I can only remember the name of one of the stores and that was Lam’s.  I always liked going to the grocery store with my parents because there was a chance you might get a banana, or a soda, or some cracker jacks, a Slo-Poke, or animal crackers or such.  And they had the best bologna and lunch meat - maybe things tasted better back then when I was a kid, but that bologna with a few saltine crackers and a big Barq’s orange drink was pure heaven. 


Moorhead in 2008


Those days of going to town are fond memories to me.  You didn’t go to town dressed any old kind of way, you put on some “good” clothes so you looked presentable.  You didn’t have to put on your Sunday best but you could “jump sharp” if you wanted to, especially if you were going to be juking later on that evening.  Yes, going to town was a jovial time in those days.  Have you ever heard somebody say something like “Boy, he went to town on that pie until it was all gone!”?  Going to town was not merely going to town, you went to town with excitement and anticipation, with passion, with the expectation of having a good time with your friends and neighbors.  Back then, there was something special about going to town.

--Rosalin Moss

June 11, 2015