Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Mississippi Delta 33: Crusin' Old 49 to Silver City, Midnight, Louise, and Holly Bluff

Old US 49 passes through rich agricultural terrain in the southern Mississippi Delta. One of my day trips in spring of 2020 was to check some of the small towns along Old US 49W south of Belzoni, see what was happening, and exercise my Tachihara 4×5" field camera. I have written before that I had not used large format film in a number of years, so why not visit towns and record interesting sights in the Delta? In Mississippi, the virus did not force us to remain at home, so visiting the Delta was a nice way to get out of the house.

Silver City

Trading Post, Mims Ave., Silver City (Tri-X, 90mm Angulon lens, 1/50 ƒ/16)
Fixer-upper house, Mims Ave., Silver City (90mm ƒ/6.8 Angulon lens, yellow-green filter)
Club Stir It Up, Silver City (TMax 100 film, Pentax Spotmatic, 55mm ƒ/1.8 Super Takumar lens, polarizer)
Cottage, West Street, Silver City (TMax 100 film, Pentax Spotmatic camera, 55mm ƒ/1.8 Super Takumar lens, polarizer)
Abandoned church, US 49W west of Silver City (Acros film, Leica IIIC, 5cm ƒ/2 Summitar lens, yellow filter)
Silver City is a small town in Humphreys County on US 49W about 7 miles south of Belzoni. I suspect most travelers zip on by heading to or from Belzoni or Yazoo City and barely notice that they drove through Silver City. There is not all that much to see, just homes, trailers, and a few gas stations. The electronics store looked like it had been shut for years, and I saw some empty houses and a church.

Highway 149 takes you southwest out of town through what seems like endless farm fields with an occasional patch of trees or a bayou.


Midnight Gin, Old US 49W (4×5" Tri-X, 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens, yellow filter) 
Midnight Gin, Old US 49W (GAF Versapan film, 135mm ƒ/4.5 Xenar lens, yellow filter)
Midnight is an unincorporated community at the junction of MS 149 and Old US 49W. The gin just north of town caught my eye because of the shapes and patterns. It provided some opportunities to test some 1960s-vintage GAF Versapan film (see the previous posts on this topic).
Worker cottage, Box Plantation, Silver Creek Road, Midnight (Tri-X film, 90mm ƒ/6.8 Angulon lens, 1/25 ƒ/16)
I saw a few nice homes on Silver Creek Road. A handsome 1800s house was being restored. A lady told me that it was once part of Box Plantation. In the back, I saw a workers' cottage with long porch. Most of Midnight is really rough. As quoted in Wikipedia, "Shashank Bengali of McClatchy Newspapers said that Midnight "feels like a place whose time has expired." Bengali explains that the clapboard houses, which were built almost one century before 2010, "rot on their cinder-block legs, tilting at crazy angles" and that Midnight's principal road is "dotted with abandoned or half-burned cabins that, older residents complain, young men disappear into to shoot dice or smoke pot as the days fade into dusk."[4]."


Main Street, Louise (Moto G5 digital file converted to B&W with DxO filmpack 5)
Main St., Louise (Tri-X, 135mm ƒ/4.5 Xenar lens, yellow filter, 1/60 ƒ/16.5) 
Louise is another little agricultural town on Old 49W in Humphreys County.

Main St., Louise (Tri-X, 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens, yellow filter) 
Where is everyone? Main St., Louise in 2016 (Panatomic-X film, Fuji GW690II camera, 90mm ƒ/3.5 lens) 
Lee Hong Grocery, Main St., Louise (135mm ƒ/4.5 Xenar lens, orange filter, 1/200 ƒ/16)
Louise is another small agricultural town with only about 300 citizens. Main Street once paralleled the railroad tracks and had the usual early-1900s square-front commercial buildings and shops. Most are closed now, and some are falling down. The silos dominate the center of town.
Mobile home, Old 49, Louise (Fuji X-E1 digital file)
Much of the housing stock here in the Delta is pretty rough. These unshaded mobile homes in mid-summer must be blazing hot.

Holly Bluff

On this trip, I did not stop in Holly Bluff because I have been there before (please see The Mississippi Delta 17). A couple of miles north of town, an old silo glittered in the setting sun.
Silo north of Holly Bluff (GAF Versapan film, 90mm ƒ/6.8 Angulon lens, yellow filter, 1/25 ƒ/22)
Heading out of Holly Bluff on MS 16 towards Rolling Fork, you pass some rather beat-up trailers and old cottages.
Empty mobile home, MS 16 (Fuji X-E1 digital file converted th B&W)
Asbestos shingle-clad house, MS 16 (Fuji X-E1 digital file converted to B&W)
On this trip, I was able to further test my 1960s Versapan film, formerly made by the GAF company. By the time I had photographed the silo just north of Holly Bluff, I had used all my film holders, sunset was close, and Satartia Road was finally above water and open. I headed home. I will explore more of the Delta in future articles.


Suzassippi said...

While I have heard of Holly Bluff, the other three were new to me. What an education. I definitely need to get over there and see it for myself. I wonder if any of the buildings are listed in the MDAH Historic Resource Inventory? That may be my project for the day--anything to avoid doing what I should be doing. Thank you as always for more great photographs.

Kodachromeguy said...

Thank you for the kind words. I have not checked the MDAH inventory in a long time. These little towns in this article are pretty small and may be unincorporated, but they will appear on Google Maps. Just head on out and cruise around.

W. White said...

I strongly suspect that the columns on that Box Plantation worker's cottage were salvaged from an earlier, more high-style building. Architectural salvage is nothing new, though in this and many other earlier cases, it had less to do with style and trendiness and more to do with not wanting to spend money.

Kodachromeguy said...

Thank you, W. White. That is a good point. The columns are pretty grand for a simple cottage.


Hello, I too, have a Tachihara 4×5 & decided to get it out and use it again. Digital is nice but to develop film in the darkroom & using the 4x5 is great. I am getting the darkroom ready for action again. Glad to see I am not alone.

Kodachromeguy said...

Paul, you are not alone. We film users are coming back in a serious way. Photograph your world, leave a film legacy, and have fun!