yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee
People of Action - 1969

From Lillye Younger, People of Action (Brewer Printing Company, Jackson, Tennessee, n.d.).  Special thanks to Constance Collett and the estate of the late Lillye Younger for permission to make this web page.

Checker Players While Away The Hours

By Lillye Younger, Sun Correspondent

Checker Players While Away The Hours

PARSONS, Tenn. — Playing checkers under the "Big Tree" in Parson's city park is a favorite pastime for a group of the area's senior citizens-as it is in many another town.

There is no age limit for contestants, of course, but it is designed mostly for retired gents. The game begins when the first two players arrive — usually about 10 am. — and continues until about 4 p.m.

The rules are not rigid, and anyone is welcome to play. It is kinda like a "come-as-you are" party and newcomers are always welcome.

Not only is the game of interest to the contestants, but there often is a group of spectators rooting for a favorite player. Park benches are often filled. However, Jim Rushing prefers to bring his own chair.

Competition is strong, especially when Obie Wilkins and Ray Miller play. It's nip and tuck to the finish, but no one gets angry. Some players stop for lunch and resume the game right afterward as if on schedule.

"Sometimes two games of checkers are in play at the same time," said city policeman Grady Jones. "I have known a pair to play half a day at a sitting." Officer Jones enjoys the sport during his hours off duty. "If I get beat four or five games in a row I quit for the time being," Jones said.

"Floyd Chumney is the champion checker player this side of the Tennessee River; however, a man from Pineview is the best player I ever saw play," the officer pointed out. "He plays by the book and one bad. move by his opponent and that's all she wrote," Sam .B. Baker said.

Other players include Joe Jordan, Lester Cooley, Jean Washburn, Ray Miller, who drives a school bus, Britt Mays, Chesley Taylor and Sam Booty. Each one takes turn bringing their checkers and board.

Not only is the checker game of importance, hut knife swapping is an interesting pastime. Bill Crosby is considered the champion knife swapper.

Conversation pieces range from swapping tall tales to "arguing the scripture."

Sam B. Baker, a retired school teacher, enjoys discussing the scriptures. Differences of opinions arise but seldom does anyone get upset.

The atmosphere is relaxing in the cool shady park. "One gentleman, Hurlot Thomas, lies down on a park bench and takes a nap right after lunch," Jones stated.

Some of the contestants have to close up shop and go home at 4 p.m. when the industrial plants close. The school bus drivers leave before 3 p.m. and the retired gentlemen have no special hour to call it a day.

This interesting hobby usually begins in May when the weather warms up and continues some years until December. It all depends on the temperature. When the chilling winds howl through the trees, it's time to stop checker playing for another year.

Many of the oldtimers have passed on, says officer Jones, naming Jay Baugus, Bob Spencer, Arthur Ivey and others. "When I moved from Trenton to Parsons in 1960 the park was made up of Senior Citizens mostly," said Jean Washburn. "Now there are not near as many present."

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