Riding down memory lane on the ice truck

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Mt. Olivet News

After The Panolian ran the article about Jim Jones, the self-styled veterinarian in the 1940-60s, I received a call from Billy Downs who remembers the area of Jones Mountain very well.

Billy’s father, the late Arthur Downs, had an ice route over almost all of Panola County. Mr. Arthur would load up about five tons of ice, or more, from the same place that the Ice House venue right off the Square is today.

He had high planks on the truck and they covered the ice with tarpaulins. Fifteen year old Billy accompanied his father on many of these trips on his weekly rounds.

Their schedule might be as follows: He would load up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and start on Panola Avenue, then go to Red Hill and Hays Farm, and Bob Carrier’s and leave at least 500 pounds at each house.

The big plantation owners celebrated a lot, and there was always an extra 500 pounds of ice to be sold. He also delivered ice to the Ballentine area and Miss Sara Davidson’s store at Terza.

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the route might take the father and young son near Orwood (close to Lafayette County line), to the Preston Tidwell farm, and back to the highway about where the Cedar Bucket is today.

All all of this traveling was on dusty gravel roads without the benefit of air conditioning.

Billy remembers delivering to the Jim Jones household. Even as a teen he sensed an unusual nature about the man. He also state that is was the cleanest house he had ever been in on any of these routes.

The ice business flourished until TVEPA became available in rural Panola County, and refrigerators began to become plentiful. Mr. Downs, at that time, turned to his other many business endeavors.

Bill was born in the Shuford community off Eureka Road, one of six children. His sister Ruby was a classmate of mine. His family’s farm was next door to the Crowell farm.

While attending Batesville school I knew both Larry and Baxter Crowell, and Marilyn Crowell was also a classmate of mine.

Billy attended Shuford School until they consolidated, then moved to Batesville School. Some of the classmates he remembers were Brucie Howell, E.J. Robison, Wanda Hall, Ellen Dale Crowell (who won Lady of the Lake numerous times), and Christine Hide.

His class had at least six sets of siblings. They were: Marvel and Charlie Anderson, Charles and Mary Ann Tyler, Sammy and Mable Everette, Leon and Pearl Ridgeway, James and Virginia Dale Finch, and Janice Roberson also had a sibling in the class.

Donald Davis and Danny Davis were also classmates of Billy’s John Ed Dunlap was the big football star, playing the position of quarterback. Cecil Dickerson was the coach and Malcolme Shackerford was the superintendent.

The grammar school principal at Shuford School was Mr. Charlie Byers. Some of his most admired teachers were Francis Seales and Elizabeth Leslie, who was working to send her husband John through pharmacy school.

Mr. John Leslie established a drugstore in Oxford and then became the mayor.

After graduating high school in 1951, Billy attended Miss. State, then went in the military. After the military he was encouraged to further his education, and he attended Ole Miss.  All along we worked in clothing stores.

He worked at Shackeroff’s Store, which was an upscale clothing store on the Square for 22 years. At the retirement of the Shackeroffs he was offered an opportunity to buy, but preferred to start with a new store on his own.

Hence, we had Sims Clothing Store.

I always wondered where the Sims name came from. Why was he working for a Mr. Sims when he knew clothing, especially menswear, so well I thought? The mystery was solved when I interviewed Billy for this article.

Sims is Billy’s middle name!

Many a nervous young man, on becoming a groom, best man, or just wanting to dress coordinately, came through those doors to be expertly filled for 46 years.

After 68 years of service he is enjoying his family: wife Sherry, and children Jessica, Cindy, and Billy.

Those grandchildren keep both he and Sherry young. They celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary on Aug. 10.

I enjoyed that telephone trip along the ice delivery route as much as if I had gone along. Look at the press and technology that Billy has experienced in his lifetime, and can so vividly recall.

What a brilliant person Billy Downs is.

My neighbor Veedy Franklin had a nasty fall Saturday, breaking both wrists. I hope today’s visit at the doctor’s office does not reveal a need for surgery.

The many thunderstorms that we have had lately are doing damage to the crepe myrtle trees, but the contest for the prettiest one in Panola County is still on. Send your photo in now before the weather harms them further. I just received a beautiful one from Heavenly Trees in Como. Text me yours today.

Your story is interesting to our readers. Everyone has some type of adversity they have overcome and you may want to tell others about it to help them. It could be inspiration waiting to happen.

Text me photos and messages at 901-828-8824.