Reflections on 100: Natchez native celebrates life, shares memories of Rhythm Club fire

Published 3:19 am Saturday, February 17, 2024

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Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Karen L. Cox.

Alice Kastor Campbell, a native Natchezian, celebrated her 100th birthday in San Antonio, Texas, surrounded by more than 90 members of her family and friends.

No less than five generations of her family were present, from her children to her great-great-grandchildren.

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Born in Natchez on Feb. 10, 1924, Alice lived on St. Catherine Street with her parents Annie and Louis Kastor in a home that stood just a stone’s throw from the Triangle.

She attended St. Francis School and grew up during a time when St. Catherine and Franklin streets were a bustling business district for African Americans.

Her grandfather, also Louis Kastor, was a successful businessman, a saddler by trade, he built the home that eventually became the Webb Funeral Home.

During the summer of 2022, Alice Campbell became an author at the age of 98. For years, she had been writing down her memories of her life in Natchez and other places she lived.

Through the help of family members, her book was published. Alice Kastor Campbell’s, “Memories: I Lived It My Way,” offers readers insight into the world of Black Natchez and her relationship with Jewish Natchez.

One of Alice’s most vivid memories is of the Rhythm Club fire that took the lives of many of her friends on the night of April 23, 1940.

Just 16 at the time, she had tickets to the dance that evening but arrived during intermission, so she went with a group of friends to a local diner.

While there, the club caught fire and she ran back to see it in flames, arriving even before firemen arrived. To this day, 84 years later, she says “I still have nightmares about it.”

Few people live to be 100 and Alice credits her faith for helping her get there. She also remains active by crafting and, if you ask, she’d probably show you she can still bend over and touch her toes.