Oct 30, 2008

If You Don't Hear About It At The Piggly Wiggly...

My Advertising students and I went to Canton today. Now, for those who read my blog and are not familiar with Canton, Mississippi, it is a small, southern town that is FULL of character. They are known for their Canton Flea Market, which is held the second Thursday of May and October. And they have a lovely Christmas Festival with thousands of lights. One of the things they are proudest of, is that they are the Movie Capital of Mississippi. THEY ARE!!! There are billboards and signs to prove it.

My students create "mock" ad campaigns as a final project each semester. This semester their assignment is to create a new advertising campaign for the city of Canton. There has been talk of brochures, television commercial storyboards, web designs, etc. for the past few weeks. Somehow they talked me into a field trip to Canton as "research." So, today was the day that we traveled to Canton, The Movie Capital of Mississippi.

We first met with Jana at Canton's Welcome Center, the old Trolio Hotel. Jana is a former student of mine, and now close personal friend. ;-) She's also the manager of the Welcome Center. We had cinnamon rolls from Harkin's Bakery while Jana gave us an overview of the town's history. She talked about the activities that the town hosts. She also gave us the list of movies that have been filmed in Canton.  Of course, my students listened INTENTLY and took DETAILED notes.

Then, we left the Welcome Center and walked a half block over to the movie museum. The bottom floor of the museum is an old soda shop that HOLLYWOOD created for John Grishom's "A Time to Kill." Jana pointed out some of the spots that were used in various scenes of the movie. She also told us how the set designers and producers had come in and created everything, and then distressed it to make it look older and more used.

We weren't really supposed to take pictures in the museum, but she let me photo this. It's a chair that Matthew McConaughey sat in during one of the scenes filmed in the soda shop. I know!!! Aren't you jealous? I also got to see a shirt and a pair of shoes that he wore. But she wouldn't let me take pics of those.

This is the courthouse and square as seen from Matthew's law office in the movie. You can't tell much about it. But I thought I'd throw it in anyway.

I kept making my students pose for pictures, as if they were my children or something. They kind of got tired of it after a while. (As if they were my children.) Here we are in the courtyard behind the Trolio Hotel. At first they were playing on the merry-go-round and the see-saw. But Jana got onto them so we had to stop.

We rode out to the old jail a few blocks from downtown. She showed us where they would hang the prisoners. She also said there are tales that the jailhouse is haunted. 

Last picture of my students before I let them go. This is an old log cabin that has been relocated behind the jail. As you can see they were "researched" out. They are a fun group. We laughed and hopefully learned a few things that will help them as they prepare their final projects for my class.

Now, I think I said that Canton is a town full of character. I meant to say, "characters." Last Christmas I had a little time on my hands, so I worked in Canton at the Welcome Center during the day. I'm in my mid-30's. Everyone else who worked with me was WELL past retirement age. They, of course, were all from Canton. They had all grown up in Canton. Their mamas and daddies had all grown up in Canton. And they had raised their families in Canton.

Well, my first day working, I met one of the most unique little ladies I've ever seen. We'll call her Betty. Mrs. Betty is about 4 1/2 feet tall with wild blonde hair and she's quite eccentric in her dress. One day she might wear a floor length fur coat - over a sweat suit. The next day, an orange hat with a denim skirt and yellow sweater. And if you've ever watched a movie where they have a non-southern actor playing a southern character, and they try to talk with a southern drawl, well, that's how Mrs. Betty talks. Only, she's not acting. She REALLY talks like that. 

So, I started working in Canton and the first day I'm there, Mrs. Betty walks in - about 45 minutes late. I quickly found out that she RARELY arrives on time. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Betty doesn't rush anything. Talking, getting anywhere on time, telling a story, knitting... after all, we're in Canton. Time slows down when you enter the city limits.

I am digressing.

Mrs. Betty came in and I know she saw me. After all, I'm not from Canton. My mama and my daddy are not from Canton. I was a "stranger." But Mrs. Betty simply said hello, clocked in and went to her designated area to work. Well, about an hour later, things were pretty slow, and Mrs. Betty comes to the Welcome Center where I was working. She had her knitting in her hand and she walked around to where I was sitting. She kind of leaned up next to my desk and started knitting. She looked over at me and said hello and asked my name. I told her. And then she said a line that I have repeated a hundred times since then. She said, "Now honey, what's your story?" So I told her about myself, amid all the questions that followed. She asked where I had grown up. I told her Braxton. You would have thought I had told her I was Elvis's long, lost daughter. She stopped her knitting and she exclaimed, "You are nev-ah gonna buh-lieve thee-us. My great-great grandfath-uh was from Braxton. When he finished school he left they-uh and came to Can-tuhn to read thuh law. That's what they called it back thee-un. And we have been hee-uh ev-uh since." We talked for a while. Mrs. Betty shared about herself and her family. She is a woman who has lived. And she can tell a story like nobody's business. It takes her a while and you go through MANY twists and turns to get there, but it's worth it. Eventually that day, Mrs. Betty got the scoop she came for and went back to her work area. But I have had many-a (that's a Cantonism) conversations with her since then. 

I came home that afternoon and I told Reagan, "I know what I want to be when I grow up." I want to be just like Mrs. Betty. I want to live every day to the fullest. I want to be someone who can tell a story and make you want to listen. I want to be someone that, when you meet me, you don't forget me. Trust me, you meet Mrs. Betty once and you will NEVER forget her. I want to make others feel welcomed. Mrs. Betty kind of gave me the official Canton welcome, 'cause after her interrogation, um, er, conversation, I was in. And I've not felt like an outsider there since then.

Mrs. Betty also gives some sound advice. Let me tell ya. One piece of advice I will NEVER forget from Mrs. Betty is, "This is a small town. But let me tell ya, if you didn't hear it at the Piggly Wiggly, it didn't happen. They know just about ev-uh-thang they-uh."

So, here's to you, Mrs. Betty.  Canton wouldn't be the same without you. Or the Piggly Wiggly.

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1 comment:

Jami Ainsworth said...

I guess you could say I am lurker...I found your blog from Nicki. I don't keep up with many blogs of people I don't know, but this one I do. I love that you have your little miracle. My brother and his wife will be married 20 years soon and are chidless. They were married 6 months after my child was born who will be 20 next week...so hard to believe. Back to what I was saying...my heart goes out to your suffering w/o a baby for so long and my heart rejoices with yours as you enjoy life's experience through the eyes of a little one. I found myself experiencing it all over again...even sweeter than the first time through the eyes of my grandchild.

I just wanted to comment and tell I just now read your story abou Mrs. Betty. Thanks for sharing such a sweet story. I really enjoyed.

jami (aka Natalie's Mimi)