Tournalaid Town No. 1 (Almost named Tournalayer, Mississippi instead of Glass, Mississippi)

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The caption reads:

“Looking north, down on America’s first Toumalaid town. House under tree is occupied by family of John Ginter, then from left on first row: F. Breuleux, R. Jacobson, G. Whitehurst, G. Wallace, Tom Conn, D. Harper, C. Strahan. Next row below, D. Chamblee, W. Gray, C. Young, C. Stampley, W. Holder, H. Gilliand, P. Byrd, Fred Johnson. Houses in distance at right are not yet ready for occupancy.”

The main article in NOW dated September 13, 1946 reads (The grammar has not been corrected):

“Y ES, I know where it is. I’m going right there; climb in and I’ll carry you. It’s getting to be a big town. We’ve been talking about incorporating.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have said I knew where Glass is. I should’ve said I knew where Glass was. It isn’t any more. We changed its name. Why? Well, Mister, names are important. Not only in politics and perfumes, like Roosevelt and LaFollette and Witchcraft, but in most everything. Troy Laundry, Main Street, Yellow Cab, First National Bank. Used to be Star, Globe, World were about the best names to tack onto newspapers. Ben Franklin gives the thrift idea. So does Scotchman. Palace for movies-Butternut for bread- First This-or-That Church.

Towns need good names to grow on. Bet you asked a dozen folks how to get to Glass before I came along. Maybe a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but give a dog a bad name – Not that Glass was a bad name; clear, easy to say, but hardly a name to set alongside of Vicksburg, Birmingham, Chicago or New York.

We’re not even near Vicksburg for size yet, but you should’ve seen us five years ago. Two churches – white and colored – with services sometimes; a few scattered houses. A railroad waiting room just about big enough to carry the name “Glass”. Fact is, it is still the same size. No stores, no service station, no power plant, no bank, no restaurant-nothing.

No, we didn’t begin to grow as soon as we changed the name. To be honest, we started before that. Fellow came to town and put up a steel works out of odds and ends of steel and lumber. Tar paper sides, flat roof. Put in a few diesel engines to make his own power. Built a shack up on the hill for his family and threw up several more for the families of some of the other boys working with him. It wasn’t until several months after the dedication service that brought about 8,000 folks out from Vicksburg and all around that we changed the name. By then we had a power plant at the factory that supplied juice up on the hill, too, for lighting the homes. We had water. Something like a street, and a growing population.

AFTER a bit that fellow-he’s always fussing with strange contraptions that nobody ever saw before, like an outfit of several rigs to chop down trees, saw ’em to length and take their bark off out in the woods-that fellow began fooling around with a machine for laying houses like eggs. First ones really looked like eggs some, but not much like houses wimmen would want to live in. After time, though, he began laying some real good ones. Roofs were flat, but you could divide ’em up inside like regular homes.

Then his gang brought that egglaying machine up on the hill and began setting down homes. We’ve got about 50 of them already and they’re laying 25 more, they say, in the same lot. No telling how many houses he’s going to set down on the hill. That one machine can set one a day. And as soon as a house is finished one of the steel families moves in.

Know what our population is now on the hill alone, not to mention some of the older families scattered around town? It’s 132, or was a few weeks ago when they took count: 46 adult males, 41 adult females, 25 boys, 30 girls. Five years ago this heap of mine was the only car in the village. Now we got 29: Fords, Chevvy’s Plymouths, Oldsmobiles, a Buick, Packard and Hudson.

The boys put two of those eggs together and made a building for a general

store and service station. They’re talking, too, about a postoffice and a soda fountain. They turned one of those 24′ by 30′ eggs upsidedown and made it into a septic tank. They’re going to put some others two or more together to make bigger houses for large families; maybe set some on top of each other to make two-story homes.

We have a big Sunday School-80 to 100-down at the steel works cafeteria and up in the house on top of the hill that the big fellow’s wife built for their family-she’s moved away now to the newest works over in Texas-they have a Bible Class for the ladies on Thursdays. They call the preacher “chaplain”.

The power plant, with three big generator sets running full time on natural gas, puts out so much electricity that’ you can blaze all the lights in the houses, run all the electric gadgets, while they’re using them big presses and welders and drills and lathes and everything at the works, and the lights never even flicker. We’ve got bus service to town – I mean Vicksburg-seven days a week. Beside the concrete egg houses we have the first frame shacks they built on the hill, some Pullman-type steel houses that come from Georgia, and -till they can find a better place to live-a trailer camp for a few folks.

THEY say at the office-and, Mister, you ought to see that office; nothing in Vicksburg any prettier there’s a waiting list of about 125 families who want to move into egg houses -all working at the steel works. Going to have a playground for the kids. Got a little volunteer fire department on the hill. Children who skin their knees now don’t run home to mama – they chase down to First Aid at the works. Cafeteria is open for hill folks nearly 24 hours a day-whenever the works is running. Building a 55,000- gallon water tank to put alongside the first 16,000-gallon tank. The settling basin by the well holds another 22,000.

We’re almost there, Mister. Road off this highway to the left runs to the big new airport they’re carving out of the hills with them big rigs. They aren’t pretty, but they sure move dirt. They’re slicing several million cubic yards off the hill tops and putting it into the valleys to make two cross strips that’ll land almost any ship made.

This road to the right takes us through our little city direct to the steel works. See those houses on both sides of the road: everyone of ’em was laid like an egg. There’s the hen that did it ain’t she a whopper? She sits for about 18 hours after she gets filled building: ever see anything prettier? They served barbecued beef, ice cream, pop and speeches to all the countryside when it was near ready to move into. There’s the power plant; the works; the cafeteria.

No, sir, this isn’t Glass, Mississippi. This is LeTourneau. Some folks seem to have trouble with that name, but it doesn’t bother us. Probably Minneapolis, Worcester, Philadelphia and San Francisco were hard for outsiders to pronounce when they were getting started. Only thing is, if we had waited a while longer we could have honored the bird that is hatching the future metropolis by naming our town Tournalayer.”


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Filed under LeTourneau, Tournalayer, Vicksburg

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