City of Picayune viewed through eyes of the past

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 7, 2014


LOCAL HISTORIAN: Joe Landrum has lots of memories on Picayune past. Jodi Marze | Picayune Item

LOCAL HISTORIAN: Joe Landrum has lots of memories on Picayune past.
Jodi Marze | Picayune Item



The view of downtown Picayune can differ depending on the era that the viewer grew up in.

Some, like Joe Landrum of Landrum’s Florist, who grew up in the 30s and 40s, sees the Picayune of past.

He said it was a place where wooden sidewalks lined East Canal, service stations were overly abundant when ironically many people in the area were too poor to afford a vehicle and his grandfather owned a movie theater.

Landrum is the grandson and namesake of Joe Fornea, the owner of the first theater in Picayune called Fornea Theater. Landrum said his grandfather began the business by showing movies to men from the logging camps using a hand cranked movie projector.

Landrum said Fornea expanded his theaters to locations in Lumberton and Columbia.

But life wasn’t all movies and theaters for the young Landrum.

There was also time to enjoy the swimming hole and picnic area located off of the old Highway 11, at the end of what is now called Circle Drive.

Landrum said approximately 300 feet from the end of Circle Drive there was a horseshoe shaped swimming hole that drained into Boley Creek.  He said workers with the Works Progress Administration developed the area for the community. It enabled them to earn wages in a time when jobs were very hard to find, due to the great depression.

At the time, the old Boley Creek Bridge was wooden and employed cables to lock it down when the creek was high. It featured wide walkways for pedestrians and narrow lanes for cars.

“That old saying if ‘God is willing and the creek don’t rise’ had truth in it,” he said. “If the bridge was not functioning or flooded over, you had severe limitations on your travels.”

Landrum recalls that Picayune’s first airport was located where the Millbrook Country Club is today. The runway was a grass strip and it is where he took his first flight. He described the plane as a “barn stormer” that took people up for rides. He said after his first flight, the next flight in the plane ended with a crash.

Landrum recalled another time when one plane flipped and landed. He and his friends had to get shovels in order to dig the pilot out.

“That pilot was really grateful,” he said. “We had lots of adventures back then and things were simpler.”

At the intersection of U.S. 11 and Miss. 43 N. was the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant during his younger years.

“By the way,” he said, “that is also the part of Picayune that used be known as Sycamore Community, Miss. because Picayune ended at the creek.”

Today, the city of Picayune is making great strides as it defines its identity as a prime location, but as the city pushes for progress, there are concerns people in the area will forget its origins.

Picayune City Manager Jim Luke said, “People like Mr. Landrum knew a Picayune that I’ll never know. I know a Picayune that perhaps the next generation will never know.

“We need to learn as much about our history and heritage as we can. People with firsthand knowledge of the past won’t always be here to share their knowledge. If their knowledge is not recorded in some way, how will future generations know where things began?”