Headlines Cont. – 12/6/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 6, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – December 6, 2005


Spirit of independence drives 98-year-old Woodard
     James Woodard, 98, sits in his new pickup.
By Rita Howell

A gleaming white 2005 GMC pickup sits in the neatly kept yard of James Woodard, who celebrated his 98th birthday December 1. It’s his truck.

The lifelong Bynum community resident went with his granddaughter Mary Egerson to Heafner Motors a few months back. His old pickup, which he’d bought new in 1970, was beginning to have a few knocks and pings.

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Salesman Larry Hinton remembers well his oldest customer.

"We went out on the lot and he picked out what he wanted," Hinton said. "It was the first automatic he ever owned."

The tractors and trucks Woodard had driven previously in his life had all been stick shifts.

"I had to teach him how to drive an automatic," his granddaughter said, laughing at the irony.

A tall, trim, courtly man, Woodard looks at the world through clear eyes that don’t require eyeglasses, except when he’s reading the newspaper, he said.

He’s a man who has worked hard as a farmer all his life.

"I raised cotton, corn, soybeans, sorghum, peanuts, sweet potatoes, watermelon, okra, peas," he said, "but I ain’t doing all that now. I retired at 97."

Still, he rises at 6 each morning and cooks his own breakfast. He does everything for himself, except washing clothes. Granddaughter Mary, who lives just down the hill, takes care of that for him.

"He could do it, but he doesn’t have a washing machine."

Besides cooking his own meals, he keeps house and even sews on his buttons.

"I can see to thread a needle without glasses," he said.

Woodard has had to do a lot for himself since his wife Loise died 17 years ago.

But then he’s always been a self-reliant person, according to his neighbor Lamar Barnett, whose land joins Woodard’s.

"He’s an independent character," Barnett said. "He’s plain spoken. You can depend on his word. He’s a person of honesty and integrity."

"I’ve always tried to be a neighbor and a citizen," Woodard said.

His modest, well-kept house sits on a hill overlooking Highway 315 near its intersection with Pope-Water Valley Road.

At that intersection sits New Providence Church, built there 40 years ago on land donated by Woodard and his brother Jessie, 95.

Woodard serves as a deacon, usher and church treasurer. He has served in those positions since the church was built.

From his hilltop vantage in southeastern Panola County, Woodard has seen many changes. He’s seen progress transform dirt paths to paved roads, and remembers when those early roads were graded by a mule-drawn machine.

He recalls when the doctor would come from Orwood in a buggy to treat members of his family – his father Dennis and his mother Julie and seven siblings – when he was growing up.

"He’d charge $2.50 and that included the medicine," he said. "If you didn’t have the money to pay him, he’d take eggs or a chicken. Whatever you had."

"You didn’t have as much violence then," he continued. "People didn’t have to lock their doors."

Living off the land had other benefits, he believes.

"We grew what we ate and ate what we grew," he said. "I think people were healthier then."

He’s still a healthy man.

"I’m not on any medications," he said.

His daughters Alma and Fannie are both deceased, but he counted up 34 descendants, including nine grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and eight great-great-grandchildren.

The secret to his longevity?

"That’s God that done that, not me."

FOB KALSU, Iraq – Major General Harold A. Cross, second from right, the adjutant general of Mississippi, joined Iraq-based soldiers, including (from left) Brigadier General Augustus L. Collins, commander of the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 155th Brigade Combat Team, Spec. Brian E. Jacobs of Horn Lake and Sgt. Billy E. Twilley (right) of Courtland during recent Thanksgiving Day festivities.
     Jacobs, Twilley and the rest of the 155th Brigade Combat Team is expected to return to Mississippi sometime in December or January.
Playhouse presents classic play
     In this scene from "A Christmas Carol," Bob Cratchit (played by Dr. Forster Ruhl, right) is verbally assaulted by Tom Womble’s Ebenezer Scrooge for attempting to warm himself by the fire. The Panola Playhouse performances will take place Dec. 8-11.
A production of Charles Dickens’ beloved classic Christmas tale, "A Christmas Carol," will open at the Panola Playhouse, located at 212 South Main Street in Sardis, this week.

The four performances will run from Thursday evening, December 8 through Sunday afternoon, December 11. Show times for the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening shows are at 7:30, and curtain call for the Sunday afternoon matinee is at 2:30 p.m.

Vic Henson of Sardis is the director of this production, which is a traditional version of Dickens’ well-known story of the greedy old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge. His feelings about Christmas are best summed up in his famous phrase, "Bah, Humbug!"

Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, and the Ghost of Christmas Past are some of the story’s other familiar characters.

Off-stage workers on this production include Panola Playhouse production manager Carlton Dixon, Makesha Kinnard (stage manager for this show) and Robin Henson.

This two-act play’s setting is the Christmas season, in merry old nineteenth-century England, that, at times in the story, appears to be not so merry!

This Dickens masterpiece is a timeless allegory, very funny at times, but sometimes sad, and it appeals to children and teens, as well as to adults of all ages.

The Panola Playhouse cast of "A Christmas Carol" includes Tom Womble of Batesville as Scrooge and Phillip Frazier of Senatobia as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred Scrooge.

Two of the characters played by residents of Como are Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit, enacted by Dr. Forster Ruhl, and Mr. Fezziwig, played by Bill Wallace.

Actors from Sardis include Jimmy McClure, who portrays Scrooge’s dead business partner, Jacob Marley, and Deby Klyce, who is the story’s narrator.
Admission is free to all Panola Playhouse season-ticket holders. Ticket prices for others are $5 for students and for all children; $10 for senior citizens; and $12 for other adults.

Tickets can be purchased at the box office at the Playhouse (662 -487-3975) shortly before each performance. If they wish, patrons can call 662-487-2611 to make advance reservations.  



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