Icy: How much do you know about her?


hall-bunchIcy’s family


Icy was born on a Sunday in Ittawamba, MS.  She weighed about 5 lbs., had blue eyes, golden blond hair and a ‘hot’ temperament.

She had 7 brothers and 3 sisters.  She said Harve was the nicest of the  brothers.  Doc was the youngest and was a bit spoiled.  They had to share everything.

hall-reunion-icyLeft to Right:  Doc, Sara, ___?, Icy, Cheryl (back), ___?  (Email me please on this!)

One of the fads she remembers from growing up was that they would look in the water on the first day of May to see who we were going to marry.  They told fortunes with a key in the Bible.  The key was supposed to turn to give them their answers.

She wanted to be a school teacher when she grew up.  They had an organ, and she said she always wanted to play it but never learned how.

Her favorite games were hide and seek and ball.  Her favorite toy was a china doll.  She didn’t like sports much, so she never sledded, went skiing or skating.

Her parents didn’t play with them much.  Her father died when she was 6 and her mother had no time to spare, due to taking care of the children and all.  She did teach Icy to cook though, when she was very young.  She learned first to cook corn bread and sugar cookies.  And she said she never had a cooking disaster!  Her favorite food was her grandma’s chocolate pies and also fried fish.

Her chores were pickin’ cotton, hoeing, drying apples and fruit, weaving cloth, and making homemade soap.

Candy was a penny a piece, so you could get 25 for a quarter.  When she earned a little money, she remembers buying a kelly green sweater, but it was hard to get ahold of any money in those days.

She had a pet sheep named Lee.  It was special to her because it minded her so well.

Her best friend was Earle Allred.  They always played well together.  The big bully was Stuart Benick.  He was mean to her.

She never had a room to herself growing up.  There were 13 people in their house.  They warmed the house with a fireplace in the Winter and they air conditioned the house by opening a window!

Santa would come to visit at Christmas and leave candy and fruit in their stockings.

Icy was 19 years old when she learned to drive.  Nathan taught her.  She never had her own car.

On weekends, her and her friend would go to ice cream suppers, candy breakings and singings.  She never had a pajama party!  She never teased her teachers or played jokes on them.  And she never played hooky!

She was on the school ball team.  Baseball.  She said they called it country and town.  In town when you batted and country when you were out in the field.

She said they had lots of homework.  She went to school from 8 to 4.

She said her wedding day was horrible!  They got their license at the wrong place.  They were married on the railroad tracks and she remembers they got stuck in the mud!  Her mother didn’t even get to see them because they had a lot of people waiting to see them.

For their honeymoon, they went to an Aunt’s house.  An Aunt she had never met!  And her Aunt had a lot of children.

Later, when Icy had her own kids:

She said Sara was a cute baby, but very stubborn (imagine that…)!  She said one time she took her shoes off and wouldn’t pick them up, so Icy had to take her hands and make her pick them up!

Uncle Winnie To the Rescue!

winnie_face_bwUncle Winnie went by Icy’s house one day for something, only to find one of the granddaughters in some major hot water with her grandmother!

Debbie, his little niece, had met her match with Mamaw Icy! They had been equally awarded a good dose of stubbornness. They were butting heads that day and Debbie was in big trouble!  It’s long forgotten what she did wrong…  and doesn’t matter, really.  We all know that Debbie got her share of spankings from Mamaw Icy (…what grandchild didn’t?) and that’s why they loved each other so much!  This was just another one of those spankings.

Uncle Winnie decided he was going to try to distract Icy and save Debbie from the  punishment her grandmother was about to dish out to her.  He asked Icy about whatever it was he had stopped by for.

Icy responded to his matter, but said he would have to wait… she had a spanking to give out.  Now, mind you, Mamaw Icy knew Debbie about as well as her mamma and daddy!  And if she was going to spank her, she probably needed it.

Uncle Winnie didn’t give up… he persisted in asking her more questions, trying his best to turn her attention from the child.  Didn’t work.  Icy had a one-track mind and was determined to whip that child.

Uncle Winnie said, “But I need…..,” and Icy pushed up her sleeves and said, “…ok, but right now I’ve got to give this child a whippin’!

He tried every which way he could to distract Mamaw from spanking Debbie, to no avail.

Icy had set her mind on Debbie!  She just kept chasing her around, pushing up her sleeves and telling him that he had to wait until she spanked that child.

Debbie took her punishment like a true Wright.   But maybe that was because she was used to getting spanked.  She probably got swats more than anybody and that’s most likely why she turned out so good, thanks to Mamaw!

Mamaw Icy spanked them all when they needed it, but Debbie and all the rest of the grandchildren knew that she only did it because she loved them.  Like she would say, “I’m doing this for your own good!”


Photo above:  Front Row: Larry (front-left), Michael (front-right); Second Row:  Debbie (left), Mamaw Icy (left-center, holding baby, Ronny, Cheryl (right-center), Teresa (right);  Back Row:  Lee (left), Sharon (center), Sandra (right).

It appears that Debbie was behaving and Cheryl was the one who needed the spanking in this photo!  (They took turns!)

Mamaw would have walked through fire for any of them and they knew it and ‘love her still’ with a passion!

Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Paul

A boy by the name of Paul and his mother lived with Nathan and Icy for a time.

Paul loved to fix himself peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.


His moma feared that he was using way too much and would say to him, “Paul you’re using all the jelly!”

Paul would answer, “Maw, you mess with me, I’ll heap it up.”

Nathan and the Laugh Box

Remember the “Laugh Box” of the 1960s?

1960s Laugh Bag

1960s Laugh Bag

In the late 1960s or very early 1970s, Sara and Dave drove with their children to spend Christmas in Memphis.  They usually made the yearly trip to Tennessee during the holiday season.


Their youngest daughter, Cheryl had acquired a “Laughing Box.”   (The above Laugh Bag was a very similar novelty. )  It might have been a Christmas present.   It was just a simple square box with a big red button on the top.  When you pushed the button, a man started laughing.  A good belly laughing!  And he laughed, and laughed and laughed.

Laughing, as they say, is contagious.  Every one who heard it was reduced to tears, as they laughed along with the box and everyone else.  It would spark laughter wherever it went.

One person in particular who loved the Laugh Box was Nathan.  The box fascinated him!  It gave him the giggles.  He pushed the button over and over, laughing along with the box each time he played it.  He enjoyed laughing!

His granddaughter couldn’t bear to take it from him when the day came to return home.  She wanted her Papaw to keep the box because he enjoyed it so much and it “made him so happy!”

It’s easy to picture him now… pushing that button and belly laughing with the guy in the box!  And what a great laugh he had!


Nathan, with granddaughter, Cheryl (June, 1959)

A Typical Icy Comeback

icy_smiling Oh, Icy… how we miss you!

Icy was extremely quick witted and her mind was as sharp as a tack to the end.   She was so quick on her feet that she always had a clever comeback to send you reeling!

Icy was getting ‘on up there’ in age.  She went to the doctor and complained that her leg was hurting.  The doctor responded, “Oh Icy, it’s just old age.”

She said, “No it’s not, because the other leg is just as old and it doesn’t hurt! “

Now, who can argue with that?

Nathan Becomes a Barber

barber-poleAfter he retired, Nathan had Sara’s husband, Dave, take him to Nashville to take a test for obtaining a license to cut hair.  After working for the Southern Railroad for over 30 years as a Watchman, he was ready for a change.  And there was nobody else he wanted to take him other than Dave.  He liked the man his daughter had chosen, enjoyed his company and it was Dave he chose to share this particular experience with.

nathan_barber-shirtNathan had cutbarber hair for people in the neighborhood for years for .25 cents per cut (…wouldn’t you like to get that deal today?)  He wanted to work in a barber shop though, and needed a license to do that.

They drove to Nashville.  Nathan was so nervous that he had to steady his scissors against his comb to keep his hands from shaking so much, even though he had cut hair most all his life. He could cut hair blind-folded!

Nathan was an extremely smart man but it had been a while since he had taken any kind of a test.  He was only able to go to school through the 8th or 9th grade because he was needed on the farm.  But, not to worry!  He passed the test with flying colors and was awarded his license that day.

Dave said he was as excited as a little kid… all the way home!

Nathan Goes To The Doctor


doctor Nathan had to go to the doctor.  Or at least was told by his wife, Icy, that it was time for him to go to the doctor.  “I guess it’s time,” he thought.   So reluctantly, but obediently,  he went.

The doctor must have been running behind.  Obviously, way behind!  He was probably delivering a baby…

It was extremely quiet in the doctor’s office, except of the ticking of the clock. It’s hands slowly ticked off the seconds… More and more time slipped by.

Nathan fidgeted and waited for what seemed like forever  for his name to be called.   He felt like he had waited for hours and finally decided that he had waited long enough!

He decided to just head on home.  As he was leaving through the hallway, he looked up and there was Dr. Holmes!  Dr Holmes said “Well, hello Mr. Wright!  How are you?” Nathan tipped his hat and said, How-dee-doo, Dr Holmes.  I’m fine, thank you for askin’.  And you…?” And then he left the doctor’s office and drove home.

He said nothing to Icy when he returned home.  He just proceeded to go about his business.

Later,  Icy ran into Dr Holmes and asked about her husband’s visit. The doctor, surprised at her assumption that he had recently seen Mr. Wright for a check-up, told her that Mr Wright had not been in lately (forgetting about the incidental meeting in the hallway).

“There must be a mistake,” Icy thought. Puzzled, she went home to ask her husband about the visit.   She said “Nathan, I thought you said you saw the doctor?”

Nathan truthfully stated, “I did see him!  I said hello to him in the hall.”


Dr. James E. Holmes, Dec. 1982

This is Dr. James E. Holmes, the Wright Family Doctor (photo taken Dec. 1982)

Riding the Train

Daddy was a hard worker.  For about a dollar a day, Nathan Wright, worked as a “Watchman” for the Southern Railroad to support his large family.  For 30 years he went to work for the railroad.

watchman_watch-stationPhoto of a Railroad Watchman and crossing watchman shack (Unidentified Man)

There was a benefit to daddy working for the railroad.  The entire family was able to ride the train for free, mostly traveling to visit relatives.  They were able to ride as often as they wanted.   It was a lot of fun.  But then, the Wrights always had fun no matter what they did.


Buntyn Station was a suburban Southern station located at Southern Avenue and Semmes Street. The view below shows Buntyn Station, Circa 1949, looking west, SRR Forrest Yard and coal chute in distance (coal chute demolished 1950), Crossing watchman shack on left, Memphis Country Club entrance on right.

southern_buntyn-station-21Buntyn Station, Memphis, TN  (Photo property of Bill Strong)

Southern Railroad (Presently Norfolk Southern), the Southern Railway, forever remembered by its famous slogan, “The Southern Serves the South – Look Ahead, Look South” (it was also known for the slogan “The Southern Gives a Green Light To Innovation”), was created from a number of smaller railroads, which merged over the years to form the Southern Railway. Perhaps the railroad’s famous green paint scheme was fitting for the railroad as it became the most respected and arguably the best managed railroad of its day before it disappeared into a merger with the Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W) in 1982 to form today’s Norfolk Southern Railway (NS).


The modern Southern Railway system was formed in 1894 when the Richmond & Danville and East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia railroads merged. After this initial merger the new Southern Railway began to grow through consolidations with other smaller railroads. During the Southern Railway’s final form the railroad stretched from Richmond to Florida and west to Memphis and New Orleans and would be made up of some 125 smaller railroads. The Southern Railway’s most important main line stretched from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. and was entirely double-tracked.

On July 1, 1894, the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad merged with the Richmond and Danville Railroad to form the new Southern Railway. Southern later acquired many more companies and within a decade was one of the most extensive railway systems in the nation. Of the three railway companies serving Johnson City, the Southern was the largest and offered more connections. At full build out the Southern, Clinchfield, and ET & WNC lines brought a combined 20 passenger trains daily into Johnson City. As the railroads brought prosperity to East Tennessee, the areas largest cities – Johnson City and Bristol – became rivals of sorts for new industry and business from the Southern Railway and other smaller railway lines.

Southern Railway suspended passenger service to Johnson City in 1970 and the brick depot originally constructed in 1912 was dismantled in 1973. The main line of the Northfolk Southern Railway presently operates along the original route of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad through downtown Johnson City and westward to Jonesborough and Knoxville.

Sid Davies Photo, Louis A. Marre Collection

Southern Railway Forrest Yard

Southern Railway Improvements at Memphis Railway Age Gazette, June 19, 1914, page 1554

Southern Railway has begun construction of a large classification yard and engine terminal at Buntyn, six miles east of Memphis, and the contract for grading the grounds has been let to C.W. Lane & Co., of Atlanta, GA. The new terminal will be named Forrest. Two groups of tracks will be laid, a receiving yard and a distributing yard, with an aggregate length of track of about 15 miles. The eastbound classification yard and the westbound receiving yard will have 12 tracks with a capacity of 60-65 cars each, while the eastbound receiving and the westbound classification yards will be of about the same extent. The roundhouse will have 18 stalls and a 90-foot turntable, to be worked by power. The coal plant will be of reinforced concrete and have a capacity of 1,000 tons. There will be a small machine shop and a shed for freight car repairs. A two-story office building and a track scale of large capacity will complete the plant.

southern_buntyn-mps-10-14-491(Property of Bill Busler, one of the kids in the photo)

southern_arrival_departure-board1Southern Railway Train Arrival and Departure Bulletin

unionstathroatUnion Station

southern_head-end_no461Southern Railroad Head End #46

Southern Railway is the product of nearly 150 predecessor lines that were combined, reorganized and recombined since the 1830s.

The nine-mile South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Co., Southern’s earliest predecessor line, was chartered in December 1827 and ran the nation’s first scheduled passenger service to be pulled regularly by a steam locomotive — the wood-burning “Best Friend of Charleston” — out of Charleston, S.C., on Christmas Day 1830. When its 136-mile line to Hamburg, S.C. was completed in October 1833, it was the longest continuous line of railroad in the world.

As railroad fever struck other Southern states, networks gradually spread across the South and even across the Allegheny Mountains. Charleston and Memphis, Tenn., were linked by 1857, although rail expansion halted with the start of the Civil War.

Known as the “first railroad war,” the Civil War left the South’s railroads and economy devastated. Most of the railroads, however, were repaired, reorganized and operated again. In the area along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, construction of new railroads continued throughout Reconstruction.

Southern Railway was created in 1894, largely from the financially-stressed Richmond & Danville system and the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad. The company owned two-thirds of the 4,400 miles of line it operated, and the rest was held through leases, operating agreements and stock ownership.

Southern also subsequently controlled the Queen & Crescent Route (Alabama Great Southern; New Orleans & Northeastern; Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific; and for a time the Alabama & Vicksburg), and the Georgia Southern & Florida, which were operated separately.

Samuel Spencer

Southern’s first president, Samuel Spencer, drew more lines into Southern’s core system. During his 12-year term, the railway built new shops at Knoxville, Tenn., and Atlanta, and purchased more equipment. He moved the company’s service away from an agricultural dependence on tobacco and cotton and centered its efforts on diversifying traffic and industrial development.

By the time the New Orleans & Northeastern (Meridian-New Orleans) was acquired in 1916 under Southern’s president Fairfax Harrison, the railroad had attained the 8,000-mile, 13-state system that marked its territorial limits for almost half a century.

The Central of Georgia became part of the system in 1963, and the former Norfolk Southern Railway Co. (Norfolk-Charlotte) was acquired in 1974.

Southern and its predecessors were responsible for many firsts in the industry. Its predecessor, the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Co., was the first to carry passengers, U.S. troops and mail on regularly-scheduled steam-powered trains, and it was the first to operate at night. In 1953, Southern Railway became the first major railroad in the United States to convert totally to diesel-powered locomotives, ending its rich history in the golden age of steam.

From dieselization and shop and yard modernization, to computers and the development of special cars and the unit coal train, Southern often was on the cutting edge of change, earning the company its catch phrase, “The Railway System that Gives a Green Light to Innovations.”

Southern Railway HospitalitySouthern Railway Hospitality

memphis-railroaders Memphis Railroaders

friscobridge2Frisco Bridge

memphis-train-centsta-overhead-sOverhead View of Memphis Central Train Station

memphis_train_kcmbt1w_ticketRailway Ticket

A major reason why the Southern Railway became so successful was because its innovative nature and sound business practices (and the company very much lived up to another slogan it used, “The Southern Gives A Green Light To Innovation”), especially in the railroad’s later years. The Southern was quick to adopt new technologies that improved efficiencies such as Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) and began double-tracking lines to improve operations (it would eventually finish double-tracking its entire main line between Atlanta and Washington, D.C.). Because of its innovative nature it probably comes as no surprise that the Southern was quick to make the switch from steam to diesel locomotives as well, completely dieselizing its locomotive fleet by 1953.

Regarding the railroad’s steam fleet it rostered a wide range of wheel arrangements, from large to small. While the Southern rostered impressive power such as 2-8-8-2s to haul coal out of the mountains in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee (known as the Appalachia Division), the railroad is perhaps best known for its fleet of Ps4-class Pacifics, which were built by the American Locomotive Company (Alco) in 1926 and used to carry the very best passenger trains the company had to offer. The Ps4s are best remembered for their days hauling the Southern’s finest passenger train, the Crescent. They were adorned to match their trains in the company’s beautiful green, white, and gold-trimmed livery and are argued to be the most beautiful (from an aesthetic standpoint) steam locomotives ever built. Fortunately one has been saved, #1401, which today resides at the Smithsonian and is proudly on display in her original green, white, and gold-trim.

The Southern Railway employed an efficient use of passenger locomotives on their trains into Memphis. The longer trains were Numbers 45-46 “The Tennessean” and normally operated with two locomotives.

The secondary train on the line were numbers 35-36, oddly named “The Birmingham Special”, since you could not go to that city on this train. At Chattanooga a Memphis section used to split off the New York to Birmingham train, however, by this juncture the only through cars were one or two express cars. Passengers had to make an across the platform change at Chattanooga. This train carried a smaller number of cars into Memphis, therefore only one locomotive was required into Memphis.

After train 45 “The Tennessean” backed into MUS, in the morning, the two locomotives were quickly uncoupled and sent to the Engine House. The lead unit was uncoupled, fueled and serviced and then became the lone unit on outbound train 36, the eastbound “Birmingham Special”. Likewise, in the afternoon, the procedure was reversed. The lone unit from inbound 35 was fueled and quickly serviced and then added to the “lay over” engine which was sitting all day at the Engine House. Together, they now formed the outbound power for train 46 that evening.

 A view of the head end of the last No. 46 to depart Memphis Union Station (Lyle Key Photo)

View of “the head end of the last No. 46” to depart Memphis Union Station.  This unit had arrived earlier that afternoon on train 35, “The Birmingham Special.” “The last Tennessean” left Memphis with the 4139 and 2914 on the head end on that day.  (Lyle Key Photo)


Above  is a view of the train crew of the last Missouri Pacific train 37 to Little Rock, Ark. on March 31, 1964. By this date, no through passenger or mail cars operated beyond Little Rock. The passengers had to make a change of platforms and the mail and express had to be trans loaded onto the other connecting trains in the Arkansas capital city.  (Lyle Key Photo)

southern_conductor_waving1The Conductor gives one last wave before he and his brakeman board train 108 for the last time at Union Station. This train still carried a heavy volume of mail and express on its leisurely overnight trip to Nashville. The train operated over the old “Nashville, Chattanooga & St.Louis” line out of Memphis via Jackson and Bruceton, TN.  (Lyle Key Photo)

The conductor is pulling the cord" to give the engineer the Highball to leave Union Station for the last time. He is residing on the Pullman car named "Wauhatchie Valley", a 14 Roomette 4 Double Bedroom car. Also note the red kerosene lantern near his foot and the elaborate train sign listing the major cities along this route. Memphis Union Station No. 10, and SW-1, is parked on Track 8.

The conductor is “pulling the cord” to give the engineer the Highball to leave Union Station for the last time. He is residing on the Pullman car named “Wauhatchie Valley”, a 14 Roomette 4 Double Bedroom car. Also note the red kerosene lantern near his foot and the elaborate train sign listing the major cities along this route. Memphis Union Station No. 10, and SW-1, is parked on Track 8.(Lyle Key Photo)


While the company is no longer with us it will forever be remembered its famous slogans, “The Southern Serves The South” and “The Southern Gives A Green Light To Innovation,” both of which the railroad very much lived up to.  For an excellent pictorial history of the Southern and a general history of the railroad consider the book, Southern Railway, from Tom Murray.


The L & N train 108 has left Union Station on its overnight trek to Nashville.  Not one, but a pair of kerosene marker lamps are lit on the rear of the lone coach. How railroading has changed over the years.

Wouldn’t you love to turn the clock back…  to ride aboard this local train into the night… to hear that whistle blow “just one more time!”

railroad-stationPeople waiting at a train station to board.




Memphis Station Evolution



Last Day of Memphis Union Station



Other Memphis Passenger Stations




Our Dear Uncle Abe

Nathan had a brother named Abe. No, his name wasn’t Abraham, and he had a hard time in the service convincing them of that.  They just couldn’t accept that it was just “Abe.”  Actually, he was born in a place called Paint Rock, Alabama and given the name of “Raybon Talmage Wright.”  He legally changed his name to just “Abe” and that is how we all knew him.


He was a bread man after service. He wore a uniform much like the one Jackie Gleason wore as a bus driver. He would bring us fresh bread from the bakery: “yum yum.” 



“Abe, sporting the uniform we remember so well.”

Uncle Abe and his brother, Nathan, could never finish their sentences before the other would answer. It was like Birmingham Brown in the movies (loved that routine). We went to a dime store one day to get a toy sword for our youngest son, Brian.  As we came out with the plastic sword we ran into Uncle Abe.  Using a favorite nickname he had for his brother, he said, “Nate, what are you…” and before he could finish his line, daddy said, “Abe, you spoiled my surprise for your Christmas.”  Then they both just broke into a big laugh.  Not to be outdone, Uncle Abe said  “Well, I got you the same thing.”


The Wrights enjoyed each other every time they were together. There was never a time that they met that there wasn’t lots of laughter and happiness from just being together. What a family!


Abe (center left) and Nathan (center right) were both “sharp dressed men.”


Abe’s paternal grandfather, Ardill, fought in the famous Battle of Chickamauga during the Civil War.



Moma’s Example on How to Treat Others

Sara_MomaIcy, with daughter Sara, at the old homestead.

“Our moma was so special.” She was good to everyone, no matter what their social status or race.  During an era when racial equality had not yet come to be, she was especially nice to the grocery deliveryman from our local neighborhood store. He was a black man and because of his ethnicity a lot of people were not very kind to him.

Our moma had a heart of gold and was kind to everyone.  When she looked at someone, she just saw another person.  She found out this man’s wife was pregnant and extremely sick, so she went to see what she could do for her.  She watched out for this man’s wife and collected baby clothes for their baby. That man never forgot her kindness.  She was always the first to get her groceries; and if the old panel truck passed us walking to school on a rainy day, he would pick us up for a very welcomed, dry ride to school!

Another time, I recall Moma’s anger at hearing that an ambulance would not pick up a black lady who had fallen and hurt herself on a street close to where we lived.  She was in such a rage over that.  Outraged!

There was a fruit peddler, a black woman, who came around in a cart each week.  When Moma noticed that she loved to wear pretty scarves on her head, she gathered some of our scarves together and gave them to her.  I never saw a bigger smile than the one on that lady’s face that day.

Moma could go out and feed birds in our yard and they would not fly away. They weren’t afraid of her.  They knew a good woman when they saw one. Amazing, strong and wise:  words just cannot “do her justice.” No one had a better mother than we did.

mamaw_wright1“Yes…. no stronger, better woman than Icy.”

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