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Postcard collector hopes local history is preserved

By Staff
Photo by Kyle Carter / The Meridian Star
THOUSANDS OF MEMORIES Edgar Manuel and his wife, Georgia, look at one of thousands of postcards they have acquired over the years. At one time the couple had accumulated more than 20,000 postcards.
February 28, 2004
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Last week, Edgar Manuel picked up The Meridian Star and saw a familiar sight.
He saw a picture on the front page of three young people sketching and photographing the Hotel E.F. Young Jr., on 25th Avenue in Meridian. They were documenting the building as part of the Main Street Youth Art and History Project.
It caused him to file through the massive collection of postcards he and his wife, Georgia, have collected much of their lives.
Among many old scenes of Meridian in their collection, Edgar found the Hotel E.F. Young Jr., and the Fielder and Brooks Pharmacy on Fifth Street that he remembered was situated diagonally from the hotel.
Edgar remembers when Meridian actually looked like the old postcards he has. He said he hopes efforts continue to try to save as much of the past as possible.
Edgar grew up in Vicksburg and Georgia grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn. She is a retired registered nurse; he is retired from the Mississippi Highway Department. Edgar first moved to the Chunky area in the late 1940s. He and Georgia met each other through the mail exchanging postcards and were married in 1973.
In 1984 the Manuels were invited to The White House, where they presented President Ronald Reagan with a stack of postcards depicting his hometown of Dixon, Ill.
The Manuels, of Meridian, still trade and sell postcards, although they do not travel the postcard show circuit across the United States like they did for many years. Their last show as postcard dealers was in Little Rock, Ark., in 1999.
It was Edgar's interest in history that led to his postcard collecting. Although he said old postcards from Mississippi are a rarity, he managed to find several scenes of Meridian that feature places nobody seems to remember much anymore, including the old courthouse and a college for men and women, which Edgar said at one time was the highest rated school for music in the South. He also said the old Village Fair Mall location used to be a horse track and fairgrounds.
Edgar remembers the days when the area around the Hotel E.F. Young Jr., and the Fielder and Brooks Pharmacy were full of activity. He hopes those buildings and others downtown will remain more than a memory in the future.
The Hotel E.F. Young Jr., is now where Eugene Young's offices are for Young Construction Company. His parents built the hotel in 1946, according to his brother, State Rep. Charles Young.
He remembers a long list of legends who stayed at the hotel, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Joe Louis, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne and B.B. King.
Michael Schwerner of New York stayed there for a while, too. Schwerner, who had an office in the Fielder and Brooks Pharmacy, came to Meridian in 1964 working for the Congress of Federated Organizations to help blacks register to vote.
The June 21, 1964 murders of Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, also from New York, and Meridian native James Chaney in Neshoba County, have gone down in history as among the most notorious crimes during the era.
Sharon Smith, manager of Main Street Meridian, said many historic locations in downtown Meridian have already been lost.
She said hopes for the Fielder building, as it is called today, include working with the building's owner to put in an art gallery, apartments upstairs, and also refurbish the old COFO office as a museum.