Nothing beats an old 1960s sitcom; one of my personal preferences is Green Acres.
My favorite character is the Hooterville farmhand Eb Dawson — not necessarily because he reminds me of any fellows I may have known. It’s primarily because he and I have scratched our backs in the same place: Bailey’s Scratching Post in downtown Lucedale.
Tom Lester (1938-2020), the actor who played Eb, traveled to Lucedale at least twice, and it’s possible he came more. I know he visited the town because I personally saw him on one trip, and I have a copy of a photo of one of his previous trips. I saw him in the 1990s at W.T. Bounds’ wake at George County Funeral Home. If memory serves me, he was wearing a light-colored suit and white shoes, but I’m not sure if the image in my mind reflects what he actually wore to Mr. Bounds’ wake or if the image reflects what he wore as Eb when Green Acres needed his character to dress “prim and proper.” It doesn’t really matter – it’s the image in my mind.
Lester came to the wake because he was related to Mr. Bounds. For those who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Bounds, he owned Western Auto and served as an alderman on the town board for a while. It’s my guess Mr. Bounds is the reason Lester visited Lucedale on that day during the 1960s when the photograph was made. The picture, black and white, shows Lester leaning against Bailey’s Scratching Post on Main Street. Standing next to him is Evelyn Dorsett Bailey, founder of the once-famous Coffee Pot restaurant.
Located in the heart of the city’s downtown business district, the wooden, notched, square post stands eight feet tall or so. It offers a great photo opportunity and has been the scene of many as it was for Lester and Bailey that day.
Positioned on the city sidewalk near the corner of Main and Mill Streets, the post stands outside the former Coffee Pot, now a Chinese restaurant. Yet from 1937-1993, that café site was known widely, and the Coffee Pot drew scores of diners for its All-American menu and five-inch-high meringue pies. Locals met there for morning coffee-drinking sessions or after sporting events. Travelers stopped en route to Alabama or Florida beaches because, in the café’s heyday, U.S. Highway 98 ran through Main Street. Upon entering or exiting the restaurant, infinite numbers of people scratched their backs on the post. Other travelers skipped the meal and made the pit stop just for the scratch and the photo.
The original post dates to 1939. Pearce P. Bailey installed it in front of his insurance company as an advertising gimmick asking customers to scratch their backs with his insurance. It first stood on the northern sidewalk across the street from its present location. When Bailey closed his insurance business, he gave the post to his son, Raymon, who moved it to its present spot on the southern sidewalk in about 1945. Raymon was married to Evelyn.
In addition to Lester, among those who have scratched their backs here are baseball legends Claude Passeau and Dizzy Dean and country music artists like Tennessee Ernie Ford and Ernest Tubbs. President Ronald Reagan did this during his days as a film star. So did Kirk Douglas, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and other movie stars who used to travel the circuit to promote their films.
If you’re looking for something fun to do, try watching an episode of Green Acres; or better yet, go scratch your back on this historic post.