Bill Booth’s grandfather, Tom Booth, came to Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1912. There, he opened a hardware store on Main Street. “Pappy” Booth soon sold the business to his son, George H. Booth who changed the name to Tupelo Hardware. Owned and operated by the Booth family since 1926, it remains for many, the go-to place for hard-to-find tools. Famously, Gladys Presley bought her son Elvis, his first guitar there.
In this interview, conducted in 1991, Bill Booth shares with us some memories of his grandfather and of life growing up in Tupelo. During the early days of automobile travel, most Mississippi roads were primitive, unpaved wagon trails. Booth recalls how his grandfather once stopped to help a friend who was stuck in a stream.
As a lifelong citizen of Tupelo, Booth witnessed a lot of important changes over the years. He discusses the city’s first traffic light and one cantankerous driver’s reaction to it. For many Mississippians, their first time behind the wheel of a car was on a secluded country road. Booth recounts learning to drive his grandfather’s 1925 Buick on a trip to Shreveport.
PODCAST BONUS: President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to Tupelo in 1934 to deliver a speech on the Tennessee Valley Authority. Booth remembers how his boy scout troop lined the path to the President’s car, and being patted on the head by FDR, afterwards.
PHOTO: MDAH - FDR in Tupelo 1934.