When I was a child living at the hotel eleven miles from nowhere, the biggest treat was to go to Canton, where I stayed with my aunt and uncle, Mae and Sam Latimer. Recently I went back to read at Union Avenue Books, a newly-opened independent bookstore on the picturesque Canton Square ( Scenes from Mississippi Burning were filmed there).
Imagine my surprise when the bookstore turned out to be Perlinsky’s, once the best men’s clothing store in town. All the old fixtures are still there, including the wooden changing rooms.
Reading in Canton was fun because everyone who came knew Allison’s Wells and had visited there; they remembered my aunt Miss Hosford and had stories of their own. Someone warned me before I went what a bigoted town Canton still was and they hoped I wouldn’t be found hanging from a tree. Not an unpleasant word was spoken. People couldn’t have cared less about civil rights; it was the past they wanted to talk about and, since my cousin Julia Latimer was present, I read the piece from the book about her wedding. She said afterwards: “Something happened that night, but I’ll go to my grave without revealing it.” And in spite of my pleading (“You can trust a writer.”), she wouldn’t tell.