Is it time to remove the Duncan Park train?

Published 8:11 pm Friday, June 11, 2021

My mother, the late Irene Kelly Wall, remarked more than once that she raised her children during the best of times in Natchez.

She had five children and we all graduated from Natchez-Adams public schools, which provided us with solid educations. International Paper Co., Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co., Johns Manville, Holsum Bakery and others provided good jobs.

Downtown was bustling. Tracetown Shopping Center was the hub of activity for school pep rallies and many community events. My stepfather, the late Bill Wall, did a “remote” broadcast for WMIS radio from outside the Sears store at Tracetown almost every Saturday morning for years. I rode along with him for fun and roamed the shopping center while he worked those broadcasts. I spent countless hours in The Diamond Shop talking with Mrs. Dossett — I got my ears pierced there, not with a contraption, but she used ice to deaden my earlobe and used a long needle and a bar of soap to catch that needle when she punched it through — and staring longingly at the diamond stud earrings.

That was during the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s.

The energy felt by Natchez residents today, including myself, harken back to those times and make us look forward to the rebirth we feel will rival those times. I am hopeful and confident, as are many others.

It was great news recently when Mayor Dan Gibson and the Board of Aldermen moved to borrow almost $2 million for improvements in all six city parks.

That expenditure is much needed and certainly has our support. It’s a shame Natchez and Adams County did not follow through on a comprehensive sports complex plan while the city still owned the beanfield next to Natchez High School, but my guess is that was an issue of leadership or lack thereof.

I think we have the leadership in place now to at least marshal through these much-needed park improvements.

I can’t tell you the hours growing up that my siblings and I spent in Duncan Park. It was an easy walk from our house and, particularly during the summers, we were there daily. And I mean daily. I watched my brothers play Dixie Youth baseball and worked in the concession stands for some spending money. So many others and I took tennis lessons from Mrs. Peabody. I carried my brother, Bubba’s, golf clubs while he golfed what was then a nine-hole course.

We went to hundreds of birthday parties in the pavilion building next to Auburn and played on the playground equipment beside it. Remember going to the Friday night dances that Mr. Floyd would oversee at the canteen? Those were the days!

The playground equipment we played on back then would lead to certain lawsuits from parents today.

The tall, metal slide  — the searing Mississippi sun beating down on it — scorched your thighs as you tried to slide down.

We pumped our legs so hard while swinging on the swing set that we were almost parallel to the top bar and would “bail out” of the swing at its highest point. Everyone remembers the piece of equipment that went round and round and round and made you so dizzy you were nauseated and couldn’t walk when you went flying off of it. Good times.

Somehow, we survived.

But that brings me to the Duncan Park train. It was in a different location during my days of playing in Duncan Park. And back in my day, it was not contained within a fence. Kids climbed all over that thing, me included. Even as a child, I realized what we were doing on that train was dangerous. I got a gash on my leg once when I jumped off it and a piece of metal sliced through.

Today, the train is located near where the old golf shop clubhouse once was. An unattractive, chain-link fence surrounds it.

I have a thought: While we are making these park improvements, can we get rid of the train?

Recently, a tree fell on the fence surrounding the train and it’s toppled on one side. It’s really an eyesore.

I’m not sure if that train has any particular historic significance, but I think maybe the display of that train has run its course. Do you know the history of that train, when it was put in the park and why?

If you feel differently, please make your case. Send me a letter to the editor and tell me where I’m wrong.

As an adult, I think that thing is dangerous and needs to go. I hope city officials remove it as part of park improvements.

Jan Griffey is editor and general manager of The Natchez Democrat. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication. You may reach her at jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com or by calling 601-445-3627.