August 1949: Missala bus station opens; concerns about Walker College's support grow


A crowd of between 10,000 and 11,000 people descended on Jasper for the opening of the new Missala bus station on Aug. 1, 1949.

The Mountain Eagle ran a front page photo on Aug. 4 that showed the people packed inside like sardines. 

In a sidebar to the main story, the Eagle reported that an out-of-towner asked local Jake Waller why so many were gathering. Waller, apparently in the mood to be a wiseacre, replied, "Why, mister, this is Monday, our off day. You ought to see it on Saturday when the people really come to town."

The stranger apparently turned around with a shake of his head.

The Missala station was located at the intersection of Commerce Avenue and 19th Street.

Almost everyone who came out for the grand opening registered for $600 in prizes that were being given away. The grand prize was a trip for two to Miami Beach. The trip went to local carpenter and New Prospect resident Nelson Sherer, who had registered around 10:30 a.m.

Other prizes included a radio, a 50-piece set of dishes, $10 worth of groceries, a chicken dinner, five gallons of gas, a hot plate and furniture.

Missala offered free bus service for the day, and buses transported many from the courthouse square to the city park so that they could enjoy free swimming at the new municipal pool.

Nearly 800 people entered the pool between 1 and 5 p.m. — so many that park officials had to admit swimmers in three relays.

At the end of the day's festivities, Charles Wiggins Sr. presented a cup on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce to J.H. Deason, owner of Missala. 

Lewis W. Capps, director of operations for Missala, said the crowds "were far beyond our expectations."

In other news, there was a growing concern in the summer of 1949 that local residents were not showing enough support for Walker College. A meeting was held on Aug. 2 to discuss the welfare of the college, which had opened in September 1938.

Founder Dr. Carl Jesse came to Jasper in 1937 in response to an ad placed in a music magazine by Mrs. R.L. Cheatham of the Cheatham Conservatory of Music. The college opened in the conservatory building slightly more than a year later.

There were problems from the start. Here is some background not discussed in the 1949 article but that was reported on by the Eagle in 1938.

Jesse served alongside a young attorney named Carl Elliott and Kelly Herring, commander of American Legion Woods Post No. 9, on an organization committee for the proposed junior college. Other supporters of the project included newspaper publishers E.H. Pierce and W.M. Massey and Jasper Mayor John Burton.

Initially, the American Legion was sponsoring the movement, and the county board of revenue was expected to make a new, unoccupied almshouse building located two miles north of Jasper available for the college.

Then, on Aug. 25, 1938, the Mountain Eagle reported that the American Legion had withdrawn its sponsorship after the county announced that the college would be asked to pay $40 a month for rent. 

“Failure of the county to permit the use of the building rent free or at least at a greatly reduced rate is said to be the cause of withdrawal by the legion,” the Eagle reported.

Walker College opened on Sept. 15, 1938, with 34 students and four faculty members, including Jesse. Six local men sat on the board of advisors.

In August 1949, Jesse said that the advisory board was later replaced by a board of trustees after the former group failed to coalesce. He said the current board was not meeting as it should and graduates were noticing that many of the trustees were not attending events at the college during which their presence would have been expected.

It was noted that they were helping the college financially, but Jesse said he wished they could take on more of his ever-increasing load of responsibilities.

"It was the consensus of opinion of those present, including Mr. (Hermon) Maddox, that Walker College has not received the support from the people of Jasper that it deserves," the Eagle reported.

Money problems and a lack of enthusiasm within the community plagued Walker College in its early years. Jesse's frustration as well as his unwavering commitment to affordable higher education was recorded in personal notes later published by his wife: 

"These young people should not be judged too harshly. In checking the attendance records, one finds many parents, close friends, and even officials of the school conspicuous for their absence at college functions. Discouraging as all this may sound, the institution is growing. The true, persistent, self-sacrificing, service of men and women who have broadened their thinking, who have a clear vision and are endowed with a spiritual virtue of loving their neighbors as themselves make this possible. There is no room for the self-approving spectator who would see the college grow for commercial reasons. There are still all too many who want the institution to flourish merely because there is a possibility of its bringing more money into town. The souls of the young people do not seem to mean much to them. It is beyond their grasp that a school with but one student who rises above such conditions through its institution is a success in the educational and spiritual field," he wrote.

Jesse died in December 1955 at age 67.

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.