(c)2013 NPT PHOTO BY DAVID POPIEL Jeff Sutton holds last weeks Plain Talk that republished an old photo in which he appeared as a six-year-old getting to meet Sunset Carson at the Woodzo Drive-In Theater. You may be in the photo too and Id like to hear from you.
Friday, July 26, 2013
(Last modified: 2013-07-26 20:12:35)
Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

Late July morning temperatures seem more like early fall in our hometown but at least there is less rain so farmers can resume cutting and harvesting hay. The week begins with August on the horizon, the start of the school year. Can football be far behind?

Who were those children?

Last week you saw the 1970s photo made when western star Sunset Carson appeared at the Woodzo Drive-In. It was a large group scene in front of the five-story tall screen west of Newport as film exhibitor Harold Smith entertained before show time. I wandered who the other folks were in the photo, especially the children. I found out a couple of names last Sunday when Jeff Sutton dropped in on me. He is now 47 and works for Newport Utilities as a lineman. He is the small boy in grouping at left of horse in photo and is the boy at right closest to the horse. Next to him is his sister, Robin Sutton Brooks, who happened to see my article and photo and remembered the show.

Jeff was born in 1966 and so was about age 7 when the photo was made about summer 1973 and he can't recall meeting Sunset. Jeff's Dad is Alvin Ray Sutton who lived at one time in the Lower English Creek area as did another Sutton family I knew well, that of Leonard Sutton. Jeff's Mom is Shirley Locke, who now lives in Gulfport, Mississippi. I learned that Alvin was a step-brother to Harold Smith because at one time Harold's father, Ivan was married to Ada Sutton, Jeff's grandmother. You or a family member or friend might be in the photo, too, and I would like to hear from you.

The last outdoor theater

Harold Smith held on as long as he could operating one of the largest outdoor screens in the south. He often said he felt that citizens close enough to see a show in Newport did not appreciate how unique his screen and shows were. If you go back to the 1960s and 1970s you would find a highly energetic Smith thinking of ways to entertain. The photos I borrowed show a great example of how he did this when he invited film star Sunset Carson to do some gun slinging and rope tricks at the Woodzo. Both James Finchum, city interim administrator, and Tommy Williamson, former long-time friend and employee of Smith's shared classic black and white photos. I believe I may have made the large group scene that included Harold and daughter, Sherry. This must have been in the early 1970s. Tommy recalled that "Little" Jim Finchum often came to the shows and most likely had in tow, James, who said he was about age 14 at the time of meeting Sunset Carson. I also noticed a familiar face with Sunset and the Finchums. Tommy had to remind me it was Eugene Fox, who supplied the horse for Sunset's show that night. Tommy believes that Eugene is still alive and lives off Old Cave Church Road near Splashaway. I'm sure the horse has long passed on. We will be talking more about the theater days as Wayne Buckner brought in some interesting photos. You recall he lost his left leg in an accident at his home in 2007.

Good news for Tennie

Last Monday we had an urgent visit from Tennie Louise Yates, who lives off Yates Road in Del Rio. She explained to our classified manager Brenda Crum of the loss of her black handbag and wanted to get the word out through the Plain Talk. She did place a "Reward Offered" for lost purse ad. She explained how it all happened, and I could tell Tennie was most upset, as you would be to lose important identification, insurance documents and keys plus some money. The good news we learned later was a family member found the lost handbag off Midway Road. How did this all happen? Tennie distributes pies to sick and elderly in her community, and I forgot to ask her who made these pies and how long she has been doing this Good Samaritan work. After she left Yates Road July 21 onto John's Creek to Midway, the rutted roadway caused her truck to bounce and pies fell off a tray on the truck's seat. She swerved to the left during the pie fallout and quickly moved her handbag out of the way to keep pie filling from getting on everything. The truck went off the roadway onto the left embankment and stopped. She soon discovered her handbag and its contents were missing. Her second cousin Roger Seay, who works at Sonoco Products, came by and helped her search. 

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