Oral history with Mr. Balfour William Ruff

F341.5 .M57 vol. 746, pt. 2

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The Mississippi Department of Archives and History,
and the
Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage at the University of Southern Mississippi.

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Mr. Balfour William Ruff Sr. was born March 31, 1923, in Jackson, Mississippi, to George William Ruff and Zillah Zent Ruff. He moved to Tupelo at a young age and attended Tupelo public schools. For many years he operated the Ruff Dairy Farm, the first in the Tupelo area to pasteurize and homogenize milk. After that, he farmed and ran a beef cattle operation. He was an active member of several area farm organizations and served on the board of directors of the Lee County Farm Bureau for fifty-five years. He was a member of the board of directors of the Federal Land Bank, and an original founder, longtime chair and commissioner of the Town Creek Master Watershed for more than thirty-five years. He was a founder and treasurer of the North Lee Rural Water Association. A land developer, he developed the neighborhood between Thomas Street and Lawndale Drive, and the Hillplace Development in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was a co-owner and founder of the Big Oaks Country Club golf course and residential development. He was a longtime member of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Tupelo and the Men's Breakfast Club.

Mr. Ruff passed away on February 9, 2000. He is survived by his wife, Frances Edge Ruff of Tupelo, a daughter, a son, grandchildren and their spouses, and a great-granddaughter.

Table of Contents

I. Childhood
II. Starting a dairy business, 1932
III. Tupelo tornado, 1936
IV. Father's demise
V. Milk deliveries
VI. President Franklin D. and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt
VII. Edwards Hotel, Jackson
VIII. Automated milking pipeline, 1950
IX. First several dairies in Tupelo
X. Developing residential areas
XI. Automated milkers, 1938
XII. Jersey cows
XIII. Heart trouble


This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Program at The University of Southern Mississippi. The interview is with Mr. Balfour William Ruff Sr. and is being conducted on November 12, 1999. The interviewer is Kathryn Stephens.

(A portion of the tape regarding testing the recording equipment has not been transcribed.)

Ruff: We had two or three good saddle horses, and Ed rode one. Amelia rode her Shetland pony. And George lost a-he had a big, old Dalmatian dog lived down there on Main Street, corner of Robin[?] and Main, and this dog was bad to leave home (laughter) when he got out. You know. And he got out, and he'd been gone about a week. And George and Dot were just having a fit wanting to know where, you know, [to] hunt him. So, he got Ed to get on one of our horses and go look for him. And next thing we knew, Amelia was just jumping up and down, wanting to ride with him. And we contemplated whether, you know, would it be safe for her to ride with Ed. And I said, "Well, she couldn't be with anybody any safer."

And they went all through town, over in Shake Rag; it's east of Jefferson Street over there, and it's over where the mall is-the first mall is. And they rode all in there; they stayed gone a good while every day. They rode for about a week or ten days, and they finally found the dog. And Amelia was telling this black man about it, you know, and how much she enjoyed it. And she never got enough riding. She rode day and night. (Laughter.) And she showed Tennessee walking horses for about two or three years. Oh, well, longer than that.

Stephens: This was your daughter?

Ruff: Yes, ma'am. Amelia Morris.

Stephens: Mm-hm. OK. I'm just going to tell them that we were talking before the tape and were just testing. So, now, we're going to get into it. Balfour, if you would, just tell me a little bit about where you were born and all that sort of thing.

Ruff: I was born in Jackson, Mississippi, March 31, 1923, on North State Street. And we lived in a big, two-story house there and Mother-Daddy traveled, selling harness and wagons and what have you in that line, just sort of like today in the automobile business. That was the life of the transportation of the world. I mean, the wagons, and the harness, and all that. You know. And he used to carry-so, while he was traveling, he bought this property up on north of town. And every time a piece of property would come up for sale, and he'd hear about it, he'd buy it. Mama told me one time, he called her and said, "Mama, I went $80,000 in debt today." Said, "I'm going to just buy all the land I can get my hands on." (Laughter.) And said it just scared her to death.

And she said, "Well, [I'll] leave that up to you. You're the one got to provide us and work and pay for it." So in 1926 we moved to Tupelo. He had a manager that was running the farm for him, and he was just in and out. He would come to the farm in the spring, and stay there till they got started and plowing and breaking land and getting ready to plant. Then he'd come back in the middle of the year and check the crop two or three times, I assume. Then in the fall he'd come back, and this man's name was Mr. Goode[?], and he did all the furnishing and all and kept a record of it, and then when fall came, and they got the crop out, Daddy'd come up and settle up with the hands. And so, he found out that a lot of stuff was leaving and should have been there that wasn't. You know. He lost heifer calves, and first thing and another, you know, when he'd pick up on it.

And so, he said, "Well," said, "Ain't no way I can pay for this place and this going on." He said, "I'm just going to move up there." And he sold harness for this Hart, Shakfer, Mark[?] out at Tennessee. And he'd been with them for years. And so, we moved to Tupelo on North Gloster Street right where Jim Bain's Pharmacy and Drug Store is, now, and we lived there till Daddy built the house out on the farm. And we moved up there in 1927. And by the way, all the hands came down with mules and wagons, and we moved up there in mules and wagons. I was coming four years old. And I was riding with a man, Mr. Dave Irving[?]; he came-he was a renter; he came down and helped, too. And I asked Daddy if I could ride back up to the new house with him and get to drive his mules. And he did. (Laughter.) So, then, we went out North Green Street which was Highway 45; went up through there. And after we got moved up here, why, over there, we just-everybody settled down and went to work. And that's about all.

Stephens: Where were you in the children? How many children were there?

Ruff: There was five of us.

Stephens: And you were the?

Ruff: Middle one.

Stephens: Middle.

Ruff: The one that catches all the devil. (Laughter.)

Stephens: Yeah. Yeah. I got that. Yeah.

Ruff: Both sides. (Laughter.)

Stephens: Yeah. Now, what were the others names? I've forgotten all-

Ruff: George Hinton Ruff and Edith Ruff and Balfour Ruff and Guy Ruff and Bea Ann Ruff.

Stephens: Yeah. Yeah. Bea Ann is younger than I am.

Ruff: Oh, yeah, she was born in '34, in June of '34.

Stephens: Mine, too. I was born in June, '32. Yeah. OK. Let's see. Now, where did you go to school, here in Tupelo?

Ruff: Yes, ma'am. We rode the school bus. Well, Daddy took us for a good while. Then, he got this man, a Mr. Brown, that worked at Davis Five and Ten on Spring Street; he was a clerk there, and he went in every morning. And Daddy got him to stop and pick Edith and myself and Guy up. Bea Ann wasn't born, then. And George was on the milk truck at that time. He was old enough. (Laughter.) Well, not right then, but he eventually did. And I reckon George didn't ride with us. I don't know how he got with us. And I think Daddy paid him fifty cents a head a week. Well, that paid for his gas, you know, then. You could get five gallons for a dollar. And he would haul us to school. And before that, Mother went to bottling milk in quart fruit jars. Daddy'd bought her a few Jersey cows, and had this old black man, Uncle Adam, that milked them. And she'd strain the milk up out there; they had a little room out there that they strained it up and everything. And he'd put it in a cooler. Then, she would bottle that milk in fruit jars. And what she had left, she made butter out of it. And we sold cream and butter. And she got ninety cents a pound for her butter. It was the best butter; pure cream butter. And we had a lot of folks that bought it just regular, standing order. And-

Stephens: I miss that. I used to get it when my grandmother gave it to us, and nothing ever did taste as good as good fresh butter.

Ruff: No, no. That's right.

Stephens: I called it country butter.

Ruff: That's right. It was country. (Laughter.) So, she also made cottage cheese. She came from Buffalo, New York; she was a Yankee. And they didn't throw away nothing, I don't think, but the squeal on a hog. But anyway, (laughter) she'd make cottage cheese. She'd buy this net cloth and hang it up over the hydrant[?] there in the sink and let it drip, and then, you know, refrigerate it and everything. And then we killed hogs in the fall; Daddy'd kill, oh, fifteen or twenty hogs, and we had folks that would buy sausage. We had Old Man Judge Finley[?], he wanted-we got this black man Ed Dean[?] to-he did all the killing or helped and supervised it. And he'd make up the sausage, and we'd carry them down to Mr. Charlie Bitts'[?] Grocery Store and grind them into sausage, and then we'd bring them home, and Ed would season them with sage and pepper.

And Mama'd always tell him, said, "Now, we've got to fix Judge Finley some." Said, "You know how he likes them, don't you?"

He said, "Yes, ma'am. Put all the red pepper in there you can put." (Laughter.) So, that's (inaudible). But anyway, it wasn't long after that, it was in 1932 or whenever the government reduced the cotton acreage, and they came around and you could just plant so many acres of cotton. The rest of it you had to put in corn and beans and this and that. And then, they'd pay you a dollar an acre if you'd put soybeans in your corn to fertilize it. You know. And you could gather them if you wanted to, but you had to go in there with a Bowie knife or a hoe and cut them by hand and then stack them.

But Daddy told Mama, he said-I think I've forgot how many sharecroppers he had there, and he said, "I got to cut all of the acreage in cotton." You know, the allotment. And he said, "I got all the corn land I need." He was raising enough corn to feed his mules and then the hands, if they run out, they'd come up there and shell it and grind up their meal. We had a mill, and we ground meal every Saturday afternoon to make cornbread. And he said, "I don't know what I'm going to do." And he said, "I've got so much land."

And she said, "Well, we can work out something."

And he was talking around there a little bit, and he said, "I need about $200 to pay my taxes." And he said, "Have you got any money?"

And she said, "Yeah, I've got some money."

And he said, "How much you got?"

And she said, "I've got $800." Well, then, that was a lot of money. I mean, you know.

And he said, "Where did you accumulate $800?"

She said, "Milk, butter, and eggs." And said, "I've been telling you all the time that we need to be in the dairy business." And she said, "Why don't you take that extra land, and sow it down in pasture, and build you a milk barn, and fence that in, and go in the dairy business?"

And he did. That was in 1932 or [1933]. In 1934 when Bea Ann was born, he told Mama after he found out she was pregnant that he was going to put in a pasteurizing plant because there was a lot of people coming up with undulant fever from brucellosis, you know, that they'd catch from cows and this and that. And then we had to start a testing program, also. But anyway, he built this little plant out there and put a pasteurizer in it, and cream separator, and built a cold storage walk-in room and, of course, we had to put a boiler in there to heat our water to wash bottles with and all that. And he got the plant in. He got this German; his name was Mr. Mansel[?]. And how he came about him or ran up on him, I don't know. But he came in and took the plant over and starting running the dairy and the plant inside. And he could make the best Bulgarian buttermilk you ever put in your mouth. It had butter floating around, flakes of butter. (Laughter.) And folks just went crazy over it.

And so, we got the plant in and all that. And we had two men out there that milked. At that time, he'd grown-well, you can see where we added on to the barn. This was the first barn he built. And then Mr. Seal came out and put his name and all on it, and then, when he got to expanding, he just added on to it. We had a ninety-cow-stanchion barn. And he had two brothers that milked for us, and I forget how many years. They milked there four or five years by hand. And-

Stephens: How many cows did you have to start with?

Ruff: Oh, then they milked about ninety, but Mama and Daddy-he started her off with about twenty, not registered, but just good Jersey cows. That was the popular cow, then. And Lee County was noted for its Jersey cows. I mean, you know. And they milked there for I don't know how many years, and we furnished-Daddy furnished them a house and their milk and butter, and they made $25 a week, both of them. That was twelve dollars and a half, and they milked ninety cows a day, twice a day, by hand. And when they left there, they had money in the bank. And everything they bought, they ordered through the Sears and Roebuck catalog. (Laughter.) But, let's see.

Stephens: Wasn't that the first pasteurization in Tupelo?

Ruff: We had the first pasteurized milk in Tupelo. Yes, ma'am. And in 19-oh, after the war, World War II, we put the first homogenized milk in Tupelo.

Stephens: After World War II?

Ruff: Yeah. That's where it doesn't separate. You know.

Stephens: I always miss that. I liked that cream.

Ruff: Well, this bottle, right here. We bought that bottle; we had it when the tornado hit Tupelo, and when your cream would rise, it'd come up to about along there. And that'd be solid cream from there up to the top. Well, if you wanted cream-and it would whip.

Stephens: Mother used to whip it. Yeah.

Ruff: And if you needed cream to whip and just didn't need but that amount, it was all right, or you could buy a half pint or a pint of cream. But anyway, you could take that bottle-and folks wanted it for their cereal, also-you could turn that part up on top, and when it quit gurgling, you had all the cream. The rest of it was skim milk; it was time to back off. (Laughter.) And in 1936, the morning after the tornado hit Tupelo, we hit the streets. And we got down to Green Street there where this-what's the name of that cemetery there? Glennwood[?] Cemetery, that's where the CC boys[?] and the National Guard had it blocked off. And we had to go to walking and hunting our customers. And you'd get lost. The trees was across the streets, and houses down, and lumber everywhere. And we'd run up on somebody and want to know where Ms. So-and-so?

"Oh, she moved down the street there with her friend; they're going to let her stay with her-their house wasn't damaged that bad-until she can get hers repaired." And it took us all day to make the rounds. And of course, we were picking up empty bottles, what hadn't been broken. And a lot of those CC boys wanted to know how come that bottle was made that way. They didn't know we had them made and ordered that way. And we told them that's what the tornado did to them. (Laughter.)

Stephens: You didn't.

Ruff: And they believed it. I'm telling you. We had more fun, and we could tell that all over town. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: Those people were so glad to see milk, they didn't even think (inaudible).

Ruff: No, it wasn't no-it got all the little stores out in the community. It didn't get those right downtown, but of course they were scattered all over town, those little one-horse grocery stores. You know. And that's where most of them traded, and that's where they could charge and then pay by the week. I mean, you know, if the man had faith in them, he'd give them credit. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: Ken McLendon[?] said they had pineapple sandwiches for breakfast that morning. That was all they had that they could eat (inaudible).

Stephens: I'm telling you. Well, you know, I hadn't thought about that, but you said it took you all day to just find where people were.

Ruff: Yeah. You couldn't make no time you were so busy dodging nails from stepping on them and crawling over trees and-

Mrs. Ruff: Electric wires. Wires with electricity.

Ruff: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And the water. Everything was down.

Stephens: Good night!

Mrs. Ruff: Tell about your daddy, then, not long after the tornado.

Ruff: Yeah. That Sunday morning he and three friends had gotten up and driven to Columbia, Tennessee. That was, the next day was the first Monday in April, and they went up for mule day. That was the day they had the showing of the mules, was the first Monday in April. And they'd heard it; heard about it and heard about it and Daddy was, I mean, he bought a lot of mules and traded. I mean, you know, that was-he'd go to Memphis and buy six or eight young mules and bring them home in the fall and work them and work them about two years and then trade them or sell them. Carry them back up there and sell them, good, broke mules. You know. And he made money off of it. It was just a-well, he might as well, he had to have them anyway. You know. And he'd buy that Missouri mule. He loved those Missouri mules. But anyway-hm, I done forgot what I was-I'm easy to forget. I'm sorry.

Mrs. Ruff: He got sick. He became ill right after the tornado.

Ruff: Yeah. Daddy got home and all-we had 156 acres down there in town, right below the fertilizer factory, and that's where Midsouth Packing House, they bought some property there. And bought it from him. Well, the government bought it from him. They were going to build a colored homestead there, but it fell through. And it came out in-Ms. Lena Price[?] printed it in her paper. We had two papers then, the Daily News, and the Daily Journal-and about Daddy selling the land and what it was going to go for or went for and how much he got for it, and all that good stuff. And he was down there trying to get some Red Cross tents for these tenants that the houses were blown away. And they found some of them in town, in that part of town that they could rent a room or something. You know. And finally these hands just decided that they'd buy them a home. And Daddy didn't have to rebuild them, but it was a span there that they didn't have anywhere to go. And it got all their furniture and everything else, just like it did everybody, you know, where it went through. And so, he was down there taking care of that. One or two of them called up there and said they just couldn't get anything done. And Daddy, his hands, if they needed anything, why he tried to take care of them. You know. And he went down there, and I never will forget it. We were still out of school, and stayed around down there. And he was coming down with a fever or a cold, and he came home that afternoon. And we were out in the backyard, and Mama and Bea Ann was out there. She had her out there, and she was just still, I mean, just a young baby.

And Daddy walked around there and talked to her and talked to Bea Ann, and he told Mama, he said, "I'm just burning up with a fever, and I'm sick." And he was. Daddy was sort of red-complected anyway, and so, he was. His face was just as red as a rose, and he went ahead and went to bed. And he never got up. He stayed in bed eleven days, and passed away with pneumonia. And that's when we had to-it all fell on our shoulders, us kids and Mama. So, Daddy, he had some loans at the bank, and this, that, and the other. So, the banker at the Bank of Tupelo was Mr. Mayor Nanney at that time. He was mayor of Tupelo and also the president of the Bank of Tupelo. And one of the agents from the Federal Land Bank, they came out there and talked with Mama and George or talked with Mother, and so, after they left, Mother came out there and told me and George, said, "Well, they're going to try us one year." Because, the reason they was going to try us one year, they'd already been scouting around because they was thinking they was going to have to repossess it, you know, but they couldn't find anybody that was financially able and had enough stock and equipment to work it. Plus the help; we already had the-Daddy had, I mean, he had that much help. I mean, he had twelve or fifteen families. And that was the funniest thing. We had to have the funeral out there at the old home place because all the churches and everything else were blown down or damaged, and we had his funeral out there.

And I remember a couple of men came in there and talked to Mother and said, "Well, Ms. Ruff," said (crying), "we know Mr. Ruff was a good man because the whole north side of your house line out there is black." So, you know, it just, that's the way it went. And so, we took out and went to work and after that storm, why it was just water everywhere. It ran over the streets and roads, and I don't know how many inches of rain we got. But we didn't have a stalk of cotton planted. We had the cotton land rowed up, but we didn't have any planted, and of course it took a while for it to dry up, and that's when George and Ed, this black man, really got on it and got with the help.

Stephens: How old were you then?

Ruff: Thirteen.

Stephens: Thirteen when he died. So, you had to get a lot of responsibility, early.

Ruff: Well, George was nineteen.

Stephens: George was?

Ruff: Yeah. Edith was three years older, now; she was sixteen or seventeen. Guy was nine, and Bea Ann was two years old; well, twenty-two months. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: They had to grow up fast.

Stephens: Yeah. Well, you know, I remember about then-thank you-I remember, of course, one of the memories when I was young was always getting milk delivered in a truck like that.

Ruff: Yeah. We delivered it.

Stephens: And I don't think it's ever tasted as good, (inaudible).

Ruff: Uh-uh. Not in that-

Stephens: You've got to have glass.

Ruff: Mr. L.P. McCarty, we bought our milk bottles from him over there at the wholesale house, and we were thinking about going to paper cartons, and we did eventually. And he said, "You know," said, "I don't care." Said, "All I want you to do is deliver my milk in glass." He said, "If you can't get them any bottles, just come down here and I'll give you some." (Laughter.) He said, "Don't go whole-hog paper." You know. And we didn't. And still a lot of people-well, the home deliveries, we delivered them glass anyway. We didn't deliver them paper.

Mrs. Ruff: They did it twice a day. You just cannot realize the service that people had then.

Stephens: Yeah.

Mrs. Ruff: Door to door.

Ruff: We made two deliveries a day; we went to the same house twice, a lot of times, with a pint. And we'd put it in the refrigerator, I mean ice boxes. They didn't have refrigerators. It was less refrigerators, then, I mean, than I, you know, could imagine, but eventually, as people got financially able where they could buy them, and all, but they was limited on how much groceries and stuff and perishable items that they could store long enough. I mean, they had to keep ice; they had to keep it cold, and they just, that's all they'd deliver, and that's what-and we-and a lot of them bought it because they was thinking (laughter) they was getting morning milk and getting the night's milk, and it was fresher. That pint of milk and that quart of milk in the afternoon came from just exactly where that morning quart or pint came from. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: On Saturday night, they'd deliver to grocery stores, and they'd run out of milk and call them for another delivery. (Inaudible) same store.

Ruff: Yeah. But they-

Mrs. Ruff: (Inaudible) President Roosevelt.

Ruff: Yeah. President Roosevelt came by there, just that spring before the tornado hit Tupelo. Daddy was still living, and Mrs. Roosevelt had to go up to, we called it the Homestead. She had built forty houses up there in a government project, and there was about seven or eight or ten acres went with every house, and nice homes. I mean Leake Goodlet[?] and Tupelo Lumber supplied the lumber. And they, a lot of them are still standing over there. Of course, when the Natchez Trace took it over, it was a government thing, and they took it over and made their home office up there just like they have at Kosciusko. And we lived up there four years during the war; we couldn't find a place to rent. And they had lost so many people to the service, and we delivered milk up there, and we knew Mr.-the superintendent real well. And he let Frances and myself have a two-bedroom house. The bedrooms were about twelve by twelve. (Laughter.) Oh, goodness. But anyway we lived up there four Christmases; we spent four Christmases up there before we built our house that we tore down here about a month, three weeks ago. We lived there fifty-one years. I've never lived anywhere except right over there, on this end of town, and right over there on that farm. I farmed it forty-eight years, and we eventually went out of the milk business in '87.

Stephens: Eighty-seven?

Ruff: Yes, ma'am. And we went over-well, wait, let me go, back up a minute. We sold out the bottling end of it, and the wraps and everything to Barber-Kemp[?] Milk Company in October, 1955.

(End of tape one, side one. The interview continues on tape one, side two.)

Stephens: The tape has to roll. OK. Go ahead and drink. I'm going to ask you something before I go back to the part about your-by the way, if I scream, it's because you're there and got the [microphone], and I have to holler so they can hear anything. (Inaudible.)

Ruff: Well, I ain't that hard of hearing.

Mrs. Ruff: (Inaudible) they couldn't hear me. (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

Stephens: But anyway, I was going to ask you something about your mother that interested me. She sounds like a strong woman.

Ruff: She was.

Stephens: But anyway, how did she and your father meet? I was kind of interested in how she got down here from up there.

Ruff: Well, she was born in Buffalo, New York, and she and her mother and two brothers and a sister moved to Jackson, Mississippi. Her husband's brother was in the clothing business. He was a-what did you used to call those folks? Haberdashers or something?

Stephens: Yeah.

Ruff: OK. And she had an Uncle Art; he did the same thing, but he worked over around Macon and down in that area. And so, we called my mother's mother, we called her Nana. And so she worked out something with her brothers and moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and all the young ones, all of them came at first. And Mother was a clerk in the Edwards[?] Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi, and Daddy traveled, and that's where Daddy stayed. You could rent rooms there and stay. That's where he met Mother. And so, they got married, and then they moved in this big, two-story house out on North State Street, and that's where I was born. Well, George and Edith both were born down there. We was all three of us born down there. But anyway, Daddy'd be gone a week or two at a time, traveling; you'd have to travel by train. Then, you'd get to your place. And he had to carry a sample of every item he sold except a wagon. He carried a sample of a bridle and a collar and the lines and all that stuff. You know. And he had it in trunks. Well, he'd get to a town he was going to work; they'd unload his trunks out on those little wagons that they have at the depot. Well, then after he got started, he had a man in every town that he used that had a dray wagon. And he'd load his trunks up and carry them from store to store till he worked that town. Then, he'd go back to the depot and load them on there and get on the train whenever the time came and leave and go somewhere else. So, Mother moved out on North State Street, and we had a big house. I remember living down there; I was three years old when we left down there.

Mrs. Ruff: Sears Roebuck was there after that house was torn down.

Ruff: Well, they're there, now; they wasn't then. But anyway we lived there, and Mother took in boarders. She didn't feed them. They just had a room, you know, and they sort of helped pay the way, you know. And Daddy was up here farming, I mean traveling. And I don't know how much of Mississippi-I don't remember his-how much territory he worked, but anyway then he had to go to Paducah, Kentucky when they'd come out with some new samples and stuff, take his old ones in and turn them in or whatever. And he quit them in 1934. It was right after Bea Ann was born, and in 1935, some of the executives of the manufacturer came by to see him. Daddy must have been a good salesman because, I mean, they took time off to come see him, you know, and all this. And he-they came in there and they talked and sat around awhile, and finally they said, "Mr. George, we came by to see if you would go back to work for us."

And he said, "No." He said, "They ain't got enough money." He said, "I want to stay here (crying) and raise my family." And Bea Ann was just, you know, real young. So, he never did go back on the road.

Stephens: That sounds like a hard life.

Ruff: Well, yeah. And he came from Plantersville. He was born and raised at Plantersville.

Stephens: Oh, really?

Ruff: Yeah. Yeah. They moved; his ancestors and all moved here from Richmond. They're all buried, most of them-the first ones are buried at Unity[?] Cemetery at the Presbyterian church out there. Isn't that right, Frances?

Mrs. Ruff: Mm-hm. Came from South Carolina, here.

Stephens: OK. Now, I found out about your mama. I was wondering how she got down here.

Mrs. Ruff: You know. Don't you imagine she was very well acquainted with dairying coming from up in New York State? (Inaudible.)

Ruff: Oh, yeah. She knew how to make milk and butter, and they fooled with horses. They had horses, and their transportation was a horse and buggy. I mean, you know, she had pictures; I don't know who has got those pictures, now, but I remember seeing them.

Stephens: I don't remember what she looked like. I can't remember for some [reason]. Was she tall or short?

Ruff: About medium.

Stephens: About medium.

Ruff: Yeah. Yeah. She was a little taller than you. But the reason we sold the dairy out in-the delivery end of it, and we still milked cows and sold bulk milk to Barber. We sold out to Barber-Pure[?] Milk Company in Birmingham, Alabama. And they bought the routes and the equipment; bought everything we had except the cows.

Stephens: That was in '55?

Ruff: October, '55. Yes, ma'am. And so then, we went to just producing milk in cans. Then, in 1950, '51, I built an eight-cow, walk-through stanchion-I mean walk-through dairy barn up-and that's where the cows walked up, and they were elevated up about three feet. And you didn't have to bend over to milk them. And we had a pipeline right down the center of the barn, and had a 600-gallon milk tank in the milk room, and that milk went right straight there from the cow in that line, right straight to the tank, and it was cooled just as fast as, I mean, you know, well, it started being refrigerated as soon as it hit the tank. You know. And then Barber picked it up every other day. We had to have enough room to store four milkings because a lot of times they'd be late, and something always happened. You know. (Laughter.)

Stephens: How many dairies were there in Tupelo?

Ruff: When we first went in, it was about twelve or fifteen. Sure was.

Stephens: And then Barber bought out the-did they buy out (inaudible)?

Ruff: No. Most of them had already quit.

Mrs. Ruff: Balfour, she said, "first." It was just y'all and the McCulloughs[?] were the first two dairies that I ever heard of.

Ruff: Yeah. That's who we bought milk from when we moved up on North Green Street was Lynn[?] McCullough and T.D. Long, Ms. Long. Ms. McCullough was a Long, and they lived out there right next door to her daddy, and they both were in the dairy business.

Mrs. Ruff: Sold milk.

Ruff: Yeah. Bottled milk. Oh, yeah.

Mrs. Ruff: Y'all were the only two that bottled milk.

Ruff: No. There was about twelve or fifteen. There was Old Man Godfrey[?], and Old Man Johnson[?] Brothers over here, and oh, goodness. Had a man in Brewer[?], he was in the dairy business, and his name was Godfrey[?]. And when they went out, we bought their milk. Me and Mama, we would go haul it in a car, the canned milk. That was before we went to bulk because we assumed their customers. I mean, they started-they were-the people that sold out, they asked them if they would buy our milk because they were going to sell their milk to us. And we needed the business. I mean, you know, that much more business. And, oh, we worked. We had routes that went to West Point, Baldwyn, and worked at IJC[?] school over there and furnished the college milk, and we also furnished the CC camp milk. It was right there where Shoney's is, now, and it was there during the tornado. And that was a good account. I'm telling you what. And that was the first, I reckon, bottled milk them boys ever saw or ever drank. (Laughter.)

Stephens: Who was Gale Carr[?] with?

Ruff: Barber Pure Milk

Stephens: Barber?

Ruff: Yeah. Yeah. He was a big Jersey man. Yeah. He was.

Stephens: And he just came in to manage Barber's? Was that it?

Ruff: Well, he bought in there. He was-

Mrs. Ruff: Butch[?] Wood?

Ruff: What was the name of it, Frances?

Mrs. Ruff: Richard[?] Wood, wasn't he a partner in it?

Ruff: Yeah.

Mrs. Ruff: It was Carl Meyer's[?] Dairy.

Ruff: Carl Meyer's Dairy. That's right. Carl Meyer's Dairy. Yeah. Yeah.

Mrs. Ruff: And then Barber's bought them out.

Ruff: They bought them out first. We was the last one that sold.

Mrs. Ruff: And homogenized milk came in about that time.

Ruff: No, we already had homogenized. We was already bottling it in the paper carton. I'll tell you what was a job, when you'd come in every evening and you had to wash bottles, what you picked up, where you'd have enough to bottle the next morning's milk. I mean. You know.

Stephens: About how many, out of curiosity, would that be? Approximately?

Ruff: What you talking about?

Stephens: Bottles to wash.

Ruff: Oh, I never did-it was too many to count.

Mrs. Ruff: Hundreds.

Stephens: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) Well, tell me, now. Let me get the family straight before I go on. I had a question about cows I was going to ask you. But the boys, now. I know you stayed out here a long time, long time. But what happened to the other kids?

Ruff: Well, George took over right after Daddy died because he was nineteen, and they made him of age where he could transact business. And John Anderson was a cousin of my daddy and our lawyer and he took care of all that. And then-

Stephens: Edith got married? (Laughter.)

Ruff: Who?

Stephens: Did Edith get married?

Ruff: Yeah. She got married. She and I married the same year.

Stephens: Really?

Ruff: Yeah. (Laughter.) But anyway, and George married two years later. Married-

Mrs. Ruff: George was in the (inaudible) for American Airlines.

Ruff: They kept-I reckon everybody just kept-see, I was deferred to run the dairy and run the farm, and I had some pretty good friends on the draft board; we did. (Laughter.) And some of them didn't think they wasn't going to get no milk if I left. (Laughter.) But anyway, that's just, I just said that. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: But George was gone.

Ruff: Oh, George got in the Air Corps and was over at Fletcher[?] Field north of Columbus. He had bought an airplane about two years prior to that and C.D. Lehmans[?] taught him how to fly. And they'd go around on Sunday evenings to these little towns and take up pastures and this and that. So, he was interested in that, and he went over there and put in an application and passed, and they hired him as a pilot to train other men to fly. And then, Guy, he was going to school over at Ole Miss; he went over there about three or four months before they drafted him. And so he went into the CBs [Construction Battalion, Seabees], the Navy.

Mrs. Ruff: Left you.

Stephens: So, you were here.

Ruff: They wore me out going to Shelby. (Laughter.) When they'd come up any short, they'd put my name in there, and I'd have to go down there. (Laughter.) All-day trip.

Mrs. Ruff: (Inaudible) all that, all during the war, all by himself. And help was short; long hours. My goodness. He'd leave before daylight and get home long after Amelia was in bed.

Ruff: I never saw Amelia till she was about half-grown, I mean, in the daytime. I mean, except on weekends. But anyway, (dog barking), there's your mama, and there's your dog wanting something to eat. (Laughter.) But-

Stephens: Well, when did you meet Frances? Did you just know her forever?

Ruff: Well, her brother had a grocery store down on Broadway right in behind Spights Building there on the corner, Clyde Edge[?], and we worked them. I mean, you know, had them as one of our accounts, and I'd go in there and work and put the milk in. And a lot of times she'd be there, up there where the cash register was and eating a Snicker and drinking a Coke-Cola. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: We were young.

Ruff: But anyway, I don't know. I just said-

Mrs. Ruff: We always kind of knew each other from school. He wasn't in school long enough for me to see him much there. I'd see him more coming in the grocery store than (inaudible).

Ruff: I quit in the twelfth grade right after Christmas.

Mrs. Ruff: Well, he was late every morning; he (inaudible).

Ruff: I went to school one morning, and Mr. Langston, he was the superintendent, he was from Baldwyn. He was a big old man, weighed about three hundred and something. And he knew the routine that I had; I'd been doing it from the tenth grade or ninth. And I walked in there one morning; I was wet. It had been raining all morning, and I was walking down the hall to go up to the study hall where Ms. Burney[?] was and to get my books, and get ready for the next, for my first class, and he caught me there in the hall. And he said, "What are you doing late?"

I said, "I've been delivering milk." I said, "Don't you see how wet I am?" I said, "I started to go home and change clothes, but I didn't."

But anyway, he said, "I'm going to carry you down to the office and whip you."

I said, "You ain't going to whip this boy, today. I tell you." (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: Tired and wet.

Ruff: Oh, I was about ready to give it up, anyway. I wasn't no scholar. I tell you. I got by, but anyway. I did real well till the eighth grade. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: But anyway, that was about all Balfour could take.

Ruff: But I had. I'd got a bellyful of it. And so, he grabbed at me. And I said, "Uh-uh." I said, "Don't you put your hand on me." And I said, "I tell you what I'd better do right now is go upstairs and get the rest of my books and tell y'all goodbye." I said, "I'm going to go up there and tell Ms. Burney, 'bye.'" And I said, "Don't you follow me up there, either." I knew I couldn't whip him, but I could get in a lick or two and run. (Laughter.) But anyway.

(There is some trouble with the microphone.)

Stephens: Yeah. See if you-

Ruff: Hello.

Stephens: Yeah. It's going. Go ahead, now. You quit school.

Ruff: Yeah, but see, I had this black boy; he was real good help, and he and I worked the morning route and the afternoon route. Well, about a little before nine o'clock, I'd come up Robbins[?] Street; that was the end of my route. And I would put the money in the money bag, and give it to him, and he'd bring it home. Then, he would finish working Robbins Street and Highland Circle by himself because we just couldn't get it all done by the time I needed to be in school. And then in the afternoon, at three o'clock, he was sitting there with that truck loaded again, to make an afternoon delivery. And all the boys, they was going to the pool hall and shooting pool and the picture show; and there I was delivering milk. But I had a little money all the time. (Laughter.) So, that sort of eased the pain, and so, I don't know. I just, I went on up there and I told Ms. Burney. I delivered her milk; she was one of my customers. And I told her, I said, "You know what time I put milk on your doorstep, don't you?"

She said, "Yeah."

I said, "Every morning." Seven days a week. We didn't have a holiday. We worked Christmas, Thanksgiving, and all. New Year's Day. The only way you could get off was to get somebody to run your route. (Laughter.) But, well, it wasn't available. Yeah. Yeah. And so, that's the way it went.

And I told him; I told Old Man Langston, I said, "I'm real good in arithmetic." And I said, "I can make out my tickets for what I leave at these stores and get my money." And I said, "I don't have a bit of trouble." And I said, "I've got a lot of friends." I said, "I've got a lot of ladies that I answer to. I mean, they depend on me to deliver their milk."

I had one lady one morning ask me how come I wasn't in the service. And I said, "Well, if I was, you wouldn't be getting no milk." And she never asked me nothing else; she never said no more. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: Well, now, but while you were doing all that farming, after we married, then you started developing residential areas out of some of the land where (inaudible).

Ruff: Yeah, down on South Thomas Street and Lawndale. I developed forty-four lots down there and sold every one of them and tended to the contracting of the putting in the streets and the curb gutter and all that and then sold them. And, plus, we was milking about-that's when we had already gone to just selling bulk milk. We was doing about 150 cows a day, then. And we had electric milkers. I mean, they was on that pipeline, but I need to go back and-we put our first milkers in, in the summer of 1938. That's when these two men was just about wore out milking cows, and this salesman came by. And me and George bought four units from him. And we had them until we went to the pipeline in the milking parlor; that's what we called it.

Stephens: How long did you do that? How many years did you keep selling milk in bulk?

Ruff: Well, from '55 to '87. Yeah. And we sold out. The man and lady that milked for me, milked twenty-eight years. And never was sick a day. If they was sick, they wouldn't tell you because they wanted to milk them cows.

Mrs. Ruff: Tell who it was; I think their names need to be in there.

Ruff: Mr. and Mrs. Lansdale[?].

Mrs. Ruff: Monk[?] Lansdale.

Ruff: And they had five or six kids, and I tell you what, every one of them has just done well. I mean, real well. One owns his own electrical business; and the other one, he works for McGee's[?] Funeral Home.

Mrs. Ruff: A mortician and preacher, there.

Ruff: Yeah, and a lay preacher, nicest young man you ever saw, and just-

Stephens: Was that Sammy?

Ruff: Sammy.

Stephens: I like him.

Ruff: Yeah. You see him on TV or something about-yeah. Yeah. I remember him when he wasn't that tall. (Gesturing.)

Stephens: My heavens.

Ruff: Yeah, a lot of history. I tell you.

Mrs. Ruff: They deserve a lot of credit. (Inaudible.)

Stephens: Yeah. Well, how old were you, then, when you got married?

Ruff: Nineteen.

Mrs. Ruff: (Inaudible) you were older.

Ruff: Well. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: You was twenty-one.

Ruff: We got married in '43. I was twenty; I was twenty. Excuse me. Yeah.

Stephens: So, you got married when you were twenty. How many children did you have?

Ruff: One, then we adopted one. Yeah.

Stephens: So, you had two kids.

Ruff: Yeah. One's-

Stephens: A boy and a girl?

Ruff: Yeah. One's fifty-five and one's forty. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: That makes us sound old.

Ruff: Yeah. We've been married fifty-six years. Fifty-seven. No, fifty-six.

Stephens: Yeah. Tell me something about cows. Seem like I heard some story; I don't know. It may be a story, too. It was something about they were trying to get more Jersey cows over in Jersey, you know, that island. And I had read or heard some story about them getting them from Tupelo to carry over there to breed. Is there any truth in that?

Ruff: Yeah. But we got-that's where our original seed came from.

Stephens: From Jersey.

Ruff: Yeah. We bought two heifers; paid a thousand dollars apiece for them, and the bank financed it, that they imported in here. They went all through the quarantined area and everywhere wherever they landed, I mean in the United States.

Stephens: What year did you buy them?

Ruff: That was in '45. Yeah.

Mrs. Ruff: Mr. Gale Carr had a lot to do with getting those Jerseys in here.

Ruff: Yeah, he's the one who put the first artificial-he and Mr. Traywick[?] in the CDF, when the first one-when they put the artificial insemination one in. They'd go around breeding. (Laughter.) I could tell you a joke, but I'd better not tell you. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: You might have to delete it.

Ruff: Turn it off a minute. Oh, he was a preacher from down here below Jackson, Mississippi. Oh, you know.

Stephens: No, I don't know (inaudible).

Ruff: Yes, you do.

Stephens: No, I lived away a long time.

Ruff: He was a nice speaker, I'm telling you what. Oh, my goodness. But he came up here running. We had formed a little, old farmer's club, and it was about-oh, I bet there was seventy-five or eighty in it. We'd meet about every two or three months, eat a steak, and-oh, I liked to called his name. But anyway, he came up and talked to us, and we told him just to send us some material and literature up here, we'd work for him, and I got up down there and I told them, I said, "I tell you what." I said, "I don't know how many of us are here, now, but," I said, "there's something like four or five hundred of us can vote." And I said, "We can put this man in office from up here." You know. And we did. I took my kids and put them in that pickup truck and worked Highland Circle and just went all over town putting his cards on the front [door], you know. And he made a good one. I tell you what. He was an asset to the agricultural; he's the one that built that coliseum down there, that showplace. It's out from Jackson. So, they came up, and some of them interviewed us. And we sent them some pictures, and they got my history, sort of like what you did, and had a pretty nice little write-up. I got that book somewhere; I ran across it before we moved. And I said, "I sure don't want to lose it." Hancock, he's in there, also. And a lot of them that ran over Lee County.

Mrs. Ruff: And, Balfour, this place here you bought; this was just a dairy.

Ruff: I bought this place over here in '63. It came up for sale. It was 325 acres, and I bought it. Or we did; I bought it for the company because it was still five of us that owned it and shared it, and we're still that way. And so we-back in '92 or '93, they decided they'd put a housing development over here and build an eighteen-hole golf course, and they built it down in the bottom. And so, then, I got sick; I've been sick since '95. Well, I had heart surgery October 18 of 1993. We'd just gotten back home from Branson, Missouri, and I'm so glad it didn't happen up there; I don't know what I'd do. (Laughter.) I'd have died if I'd been up there, (laughter) wanting to be home. And then I got over that and had four bypasses. And I got over that, and then in 1995, I had two congestive heart failures, and they lost me twice, but I made it. That St. Peter wasn't ready, I don't reckon, and I wasn't, either. (Laughter.) But anyway, then September 7 of 1995, I had poor circulation; I had to have half of my left foot removed, and so, I've just been more or less on a back burner since '93, really. Yeah. Yeah. And then George passed away the 17th of April in 1997, but some of our nephews and all, the younger ones, they're sort of filling in. They've taken over the golf course, and running it. I rent all my row-crop land to Carl Scruggs[?] over here. That's the reason it didn't bother me so bad moving over here. I can look over there and see all their equipment. (Laughter.)

Stephens: You like your home.

Ruff: Oh, Lord, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Stephens: Well, now which one was it, he was always real [nice], had the Buick place?

Ruff: George.

Stephens: That's George?

Ruff: Yeah. He sold out; he lived about two years after he-

Stephens: Yeah. Well, what is Guy doing?

Ruff: He's retired; he worked for Barber's Pure Milk. He went to work for them when we sold out to them in '55.

Stephens: I can't keep all them straight.

Ruff: And he worked for them till about, oh, I've done forgot. It was three or four years ago, five or six, whatever. But we both worked too long.

Stephens: Yeah. Which one married? Now, George married Dot.

Ruff: Dot Dodie[?].

Stephens: Yeah. OK. Yeah. I can't ever keep, like I said-

Ruff: Guy married Cliff Easton's[?] daughter, Pretty[?].

Stephens: Pretty. Yeah.

Ruff: Yeah. And then Edith married P.K. Thomas. I married Frances Edge, and Bea Ann married Hugh Lucket[?].

Stephens: OK. I was going to ask you. This thing is about to give out. So, I was going to ask you something else.

(End of tape one, side two. The interview continues on tape two, side one.)

Ruff: -to put two or three tables together.

Stephens: Balfour, go back if you would, I asked you about the Jersey cows. And you told me y'all bought them from Jersey.

Ruff: No, we bought them through the bank. The People's Bank. Josh Whitesides and Mr. Gale[?] Carr made arrangements for these; they brought in twenty.

Stephens: But they came from Jersey.

Ruff: Yeah. They landed in New York; went through all the quarantine and everything up there before they ever came to Mississippi.

Stephens: Well, now, was that right, though, that story I heard about them nearly dying out over there, and so they bought, they took these, some, back.

Ruff: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Took some of their offspring. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Stephens: Well, I wanted to be sure I (inaudible).

Ruff: I don't know how many. I mean, I was out of it, then. But-

Stephens: But they did take some Jersey cows.

Ruff: They lost a good many of them with something. I don't know. I remember it, but vaguely.

Stephens: Uh-huh. This was probably in the '60s, somewhere in there.

Ruff: Well, we got these heifers in '46. Yeah. That could be in the '60s; I mean '50s. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. They brought them in here and quarantined them. I mean, they quarantined them here a while before we ever went down, and they had them all tied up in a barn down there at the Fairgrounds. And they put all of them a number; every one of them was numbered; put a number in the hat, and when you drew your number, if you drew number one, you was the first one to go in there and pick. And it went that way. I mean, that was the way it was. And we was number seven. And we went in there and picked out. Couldn't pick but one; we picked her out, and then we had drawn another number, and it was on down up higher, but that's the way they divided them up. I mean distributed them.

Stephens: Mm-hm. So, people here just started raising them, then, from that.

Ruff: Oh, yeah. Oh, they already had them. Mullen Johnson[?] and Rex Reed, they already had purebred Jerseys. I mean, 100 percent; they wouldn't have nothing else. You couldn't give them a Holstein or a Gurnsey, or anything; I don't care how much milk she gave. (Laughter.)

Stephens: Mm-hm. You mentioned Rex Reed. What did he do with them?

Ruff: He had a barn out there, built out at-all that's where Bill is. Those brick barns and all; he built every one of them out of secondhand brick, culled. He built that fence and all of that out of those culled brick. Well, he had to have somewhere to go, and he already had them. And you can't recoup them, and I reckon he said, "Well, they won't cost nothing but a little labor and mortar. So, I don't know who designed the walls and all, but he built a nice brick barn. It's still there. He had a nice barn. It's a stanchion type barn. Yeah. Then, he built brick silos. We had a brick silo that was built, it was in 1930, and Mullen Johnson and them built one. That was before you could buy these stave silos, they call them. But we had one black fellow here in Tupelo, Jimmy Sims[?], and he built both of Mr. Johnson's and ours. He built ours, and I don't know who built Rex Reed's.

Stephens: Yeah. And that's out there where the museum is.

Ruff: Yeah.

Stephens: We used to go to parties out there. She was an aunt of Geneva and Bud, you know, so, they were in my class.

Ruff: Yeah. I want-I haven't been out there, yet, but I-

Mrs. Ruff: (Inaudible) she was (inaudible) Marjorie (inaudible) who was in my class. (Laughter.)

Ruff: I told your brother I was going to come out there and visit, but we haven't-I don't reckon we've been there. We went one time; that's been years ago, but they've really gotten behind it, and-

Stephens: It's a nice place.

Ruff: Yes, ma'am. It sure-

Stephens: Interesting.

Ruff: Yes, ma'am. Yeah, you'd better believe it.

Stephens: Well, when I was out there last, they had something, you know, like they had a little cabin like they lived in, and a school built around. You know, and that sort of thing. Really built up.

Ruff: Yeah. They sure did.

Stephens: And that museum, the space museum is something else. It's real interesting.

Ruff: Well, they turned that old stanchion milk barn, they converted it into something. I forgot what it was.

Stephens: I'll ask him what that is.

Ruff: They had a lot of their displays in there. Yeah.

Stephens: Well, those displays are real nice. They have, you know, some (inaudible).

Ruff: Yeah. When I had my dispersal sale May 7, 1988, I had a brand-new John Deere corn sheller, and I got to talking to somebody and the auctioneer, before I knew it, he was a good ways from it, but some way or another he got closer quicker than I thought he was and sold it, and I was going to buy it and donate it to them. It was brand-new. I had gone in the pig business there; I had a spur to do that, and we had a lot of corn. And this old darky, Ed, we'd get out there to shell corn. And then we fed them; we had the hog feeders, and we'd feed them shelled corn and hog supplement and did real well with them. That was before they just went to nothing.

Stephens: Well, Balfour, if there's anything you just want, like I said-I wanted to ask you about the dairy business. I hadn't had anybody talk about that, yet. And let's see, and just your life in general. So, if you want, anything you want to tell me, feel free to do so, and if you don't want to, just tell me (inaudible).

Ruff: I don't know what I hadn't told you. (Laughter.)

Stephens: It's just up to you.

Ruff: Yeah. I say, I don't know what I've left out. We was talking this morning out there, Amelia and myself was, and she said, "Daddy, you'd better go make some notes."

I said, "Once I get started."

She said, "I know. And you can't stop." (Laughter.) We got started out there talking, this black man Wes Brook[?], and he's a nice fellow. Now, I like black people like that. I'd just as soon live with them as live with you or anybody else. You don't ever see them. We've got some down here in the subdivision. They've got kids; they don't get out in the yard and ramble and play. Keep a nice yard and appearance and everything. You know. Yeah.

Mrs. Ruff: He still has black people that worked with him, like the one that delivered milk with him, he was talking about earlier. They live in Michigan and different places, and they come back by to see him every time they come to Tupelo.

Ruff: Oh, yeah. We had two vans come by one day.

Mrs. Ruff: Be ringing our doorbell.

Ruff: Rung the doorbell, and I went out there, and you know, I called nearly every one of them's name. Sure did. We had one boy; I forget his first name. It was Williams, Daniella Williams; she used to wash for Mama, and that was their mama. And their daddy's name was General Williams; where they got the "General" from, I don't know. (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: Well, Balfour really grew up with blacks. You know, when we married, I think there were twenty-two or twenty-three tenant houses on the farm. Where we built our house had been a (inaudible).

Ruff: Oh, there was a big shotgun house there, had a [walk-through]. Not a shotgun, but had a walk-through, you know? That's where they slept in the summertime.

Mrs. Ruff: There were houses all around us.

Ruff: To be cool. You know.

Stephens: Now, did your mama-she lived next door to you when you built out here?

Ruff: Yeah. I lived next door to her. (Laughter.)

Stephens: Yeah. She had the house y'all were originally in.

Ruff: Yeah. They tore it down. It's where O'Charley's is, now.

Stephens: Oh, really?

Ruff: Yeah.

Stephens: You know, I couldn't get exactly where it was.

Ruff: Yeah. That's where it was. Yeah.

Mrs. Ruff: It was a red brick house.

Stephens: Yeah. I remember that.

Ruff: Well-built house.

Mrs. Ruff: But it's gone, and our house is gone.

Stephens: When did they buy the property from y'all for the mall? About what year was that? I can't even remember when that thing was done.

Ruff: Nineteen eighty-seven. And they moved in in 1990, I think, in spring. Wasn't it '90, Frances? Somebody was asking me that the other day. I said, "Time do fly."

Stephens: About the time I came back here.

Ruff: I said, "Time do fly."

Stephens: Yeah.

Ruff: Yeah. I can't imagine it's been down there that long. They quoted how much-I read it in the paper. They said it'd be over ten million people go through there this year.

Stephens: Really?

Ruff: Yeah. Now, this was in the paper, and I may be quoting it wrong, but I know Mr. Hocker[?] personally; he's the one that's the head of all this down there where Penney's and McRaes and them are. And I think he said last year that thing netted $265 a square foot. That's the way they figured. And he said it's going way over $350 a square foot this year. It ain't nothing but growing. And you know, they first came here; they picked the place out, out there on McCullough; that's where Dr. Campbell[?] lives. Some of his bird dogs come here; he don't ever make appearance himself. He had feelers[?]; I mean, I call them bird dogs, and they come and, you know, talk to you, and you agree on what you want for it. And they give you some up-front money, option money. And so, they had an option on his place out there, and two or three places just north of here, but they never did acquire them. They bought ten acres out there, outright. And I think, and I don't know this for sure. I mean, I hate to put it on tape, Dr. Campbell just kept going up on his options when they'd be renewed, and they just finally, I reckon, figured out that wasn't going to be the place for it. It never would have handled it; I'll tell you. They can't get-they can't hardly-ain't going to be able to handle this up here, what they got.

Mrs. Ruff: The traffic flow.

Stephens: Well, it's funny. I don't even know where Dr. Campbell lived, you know, his property. I have-I lived away so long, I can't remember.

Ruff: Well, just, you go under (inaudible) bridge, that red brick house on the right, on McCullough.

Mrs. Ruff: Going west on McCullough.

Ruff: Going west, yeah. Yeah.

Stephens: No. No, this is better. I thought they would either go this way or the opposite, towards McComb.

Ruff: Frances was in town, and she worked for (inaudible) Hancock[?] four or five years. And she never (inaudible). You know. And they were at the bank or somewhere talking, and he said something about, he said, "I don't"-and you know he owns everything west of Tupelo to the Pontotoc County line. And he said, "I can't understand why they put that mall up there."

Frances said, "I don't know of a better place." (Laughter.)

Mrs. Ruff: Look at all the highways. Natchez Trace Parkway, (inaudible).

Ruff: Oh. Well, that man started looking at that, I know, right after those highways got completed. Yeah.

Stephens: And on the way to a lot of towns, like (inaudible).

Ruff: And he ran a feasibility study. Ain't no telling what he spent, picking up the population outside of Tupelo, within fifty miles.

Mrs. Ruff: [Highways] 45 and 78 cross right up here.

Ruff: Yeah.

Mrs. Ruff: Right up here. They're national highways. (Inaudible.)

Ruff: Right down there. They bought the land from me, us.

Mrs. Ruff: -they did a bypass around Tupelo, and the Natchez Trace Parkway was already there. Everything was going through this area of town that went (inaudible).

Stephens: Well, y'all were lucky you were in a good place. I wish I had had that.

Ruff: A lot of them-you know what a lot of them told me?

Stephens: What?

Ruff: Said, "Your daddy bought it in 1917." We owned it; the first sale we had over there, we owned that land seventy-two years, eleven months, or ten months, and so many days. I got the original deed; went down and got it and figured it up. And a lot of them be talking, said, "Your daddy sure did know what he was doing." (Laughter.)

I said, "There wasn't no mall in the-the word mall wasn't even-mall, back then, the dictionary described it as a mallet that you hit a wedge to bust stove wood with." (Laughter.) And I said, "I know I'm right because I've seen too many of them do it. Those blacks."

Stephens: Yeah. You were just-I can tell you, I wish I had owned a little of it. That's what I said, though, about certain stocks. You know. I say, "Why couldn't I have bought a few of those?"

Ruff: Yeah. Well, we bought some, and we got a deal the other day, I'm telling you what. I wish we'd have bought that many more. They've done well. They paid 17.5 percent interest over their last dividend. And they said it would get up to 33 percent.

Stephens: Oh, which one's that? (Laughter.) I need to buy some.

Ruff: Yeah.

Stephens: Balfour, I really appreciate your talking to me.

Ruff: I've enjoyed it.

Stephens: And telling me about all this stuff.

Ruff: I said, I've enjoyed it. I really have.

Stephens: Good. It's been fun hearing about it.

Ruff: Yeah. Makes my day.

Stephens: I said, you know, it's funny. I told-like we were talking before we started, 100 years from now, somebody'll be talking about dairies, and they won't believe they operated this way, like a family dairy.

Ruff: That's right. No. Uh-uh.

Stephens: A family business.

Mrs. Ruff: In glass bottles, of all things.

Ruff: Every one of our competitors was a family operation. Johnson Brothers, that was two brothers. And Glenn McCullough. Now, his boys never did participate in it. He-Ms. Margaret ran the books, and I don't know who they had in the plant, and Glenn[?] did the delivery, the granddaddy. The mayor's granddaddy. Yeah. Now, I knew them plumb back to their great-granddaddy. Old Uncle Bud lived right behind where we lived there, where Mama's house was over there. That was their great-granddaddy. That was Glenn McCullough's daddy. And he's the great-granddaddy, and Cotton McCullough's the granddaddy. I'll get it right in a minute. I ain't as sharp as y'all are on that genealogy.

Stephens: Yeah.

Mrs. Ruff: But he can remember things, though.

Ruff: But he (laughter), now, he owned his pastureland before McCullough Boulevard went in, down in that little flat, plumb across where Bob Reed built over there. That was part of his land, and he had it in pasture. Then, he owned on up; that's on Clayton Street, right in there. That was Highway 78.

Mrs. Ruff: Could I fix y'all a cup of fresh coffee?

Stephens: I'll always drink coffee. Well, Balfour, thank you, again. I'll cut you off and let you rest.

Ruff: OK. You're welcome. I enjoyed it.

(End of the interview.)

File Description

Alt ID: cohruffb
Title: Oral history with Mr. Balfour William Ruff
Author: Ruff, Balfour William
Subject and Keywords: Physicians--Mississippi
Subject and Keywords: Ruff, Balfour William--Interviews
Subject and Keywords: Television broadcasting--Mississippi
Subject and Keywords: Tupelo (Miss.)--History
Description: Mr. Balfour William Ruff Sr. was born March 31, 1923, in Jackson, Mississippi. He moved to Tupelo at a young age and attended its public schools. For many years he operated the Ruff Dairy Farm, the first in the Tupelo area to pasteurize and homogenize milk. After that, he farmed and ran a beef cattle operation. He was an active member of several area farm organizations. He was a member of the board of directors of the Federal Land Bank, and an original founder of the Town Creek Master Watershed. He was a founder and treasurer of the North Lee Rural Water Association. A land developer, he developed the neighborhood between Thomas Street and Lawndale Drive, and the Hillplace Development in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was a co-owner and founder of the Big Oaks Country Club golf course and residential development. He was a longtime member of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Tupelo and the Men's Breakfast Club. Mr. Ruff passed away on February 9, 2000.
Publisher: University of Southern Mississippi. Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.
Publisher: University of Southern Mississippi Libraries. (electronic version).
Other Contributors: Stephens, Kathryn (interviewer)
Other Contributors: Funding for this project provided by the Mississippi State Legislature, the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Date: (YYYY-MM-DD) 1999-11-12 (interview)
Date: (YYYY-MM-DD) 2002-09-25 (digital reproduction)
Resource Type: Text
Format: (Extent) Digital reproduction of 35-page document.
Source: F341.5 .M57 vol. 746, pt. 2
Relation: IsVersionOf the Mississippi Oral History Program of the University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 746, pt. 2
Relation: IsPartOf Oral history of Tupelo and Lee County, Mississippi, 1999, 2000
Rights: This transcription may not be reproduced or published in any form except that quotation of short excerpts of unrestricted transcripts and the associated tape recording is permissible providing written consent is obtained from the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. When literary rights have been retained by the interviewee, written permission to use the material must be obtained from both the interviewee and the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.