By RUTH MORGAN
For the Daily News
The Dreamland Café was located at 510 Russell Street in the heart of Needmore around the corner from the Blue Goose and across the road from the railroad.
It was a café owned by a lady with a lot of heart, Mrs. Rosie Mae Williams. Mrs. Williams had previously worked in the Midway Tea Room from high school in 1949 until 1960.
In 1961 she rented a building from J. D Austin next to Mrs. Emma Davis and the Mose Minor building on Russell Street. She established her own café which had a large Coca Cola sign atop the building which read, Dreamland Café. It had always been her dream to work for herself.
She said, “the café was an outing for Needmore.” She cooked seven days a week and customers came from everywhere. Roast beef and chicken were cooked on special order but codfish and pan trout, burgers and French fries were the items most wanted.
There was candy, chips, skins, gum and BC’s behind the counter. John Guyton had a cigarette machine in the café. Lay’s potato chips, R.C. Colas and Pepsi Colas were also available. Although the café had running water, there was no inside plumbing for bathrooms in those days. Some of the part-time workers included Lattie D. Young, Virginia Dumas, Tollie, Alene, Deb, Mary Reeves and Rickey.
On the weekend, quartet singers would come after singing at Third Baptist Church. Slim and Little Hat would dance by themselves which the children enjoyed.
Each afternoon the kids of Needmore would come in and dance the Madison and other dances. Some of the songs on the juke box were “A Rainy Night in Georgia” (Bobby Blue Band), “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (Gladys Knight and the Pips), “Get Ready: Here I Come and My Girl” (The Temptations) “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” (Aretha Franklin), “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding), and “I Want You Back” (The Jackson 5) to name a few.
Mrs. Williams was the den mother for cub scouts ages nine to eleven. The cub scouts met weekly at the café. Later they would go on Hancock Street on the George Evans land and play ball. Mrs. Williams said, “We knew where our children were then.”
Some of the inspectors and servicemen Mrs. Williams remembers included Mr. Russell, the tax man from Jackson; Mr. Jack Duggar, the Coca Cola salesman; Mr. Monroe from the Health Department; the Russell salesman, and the Wallace Amusement serviceman who serviced the juke box. The children would get some of the records when he came to change and put in more records.
I met Mrs. Williams at the museum when she came to visit with a handful of information she wanted to share, one of which was this photo of her café.
She told me about her church and how she loves teaching the children about their heritage. She is a lady who loves history and is always willing to share that knowledge. Mrs. Williams has ushered for First Church of Christ (Holiness) for over 40 years. She also serves as trustee and kitchen manager and also organized special church programs. Mrs. Williams also served on Citizen Advisory Meetings for the City. She taught her four children work ethics.
Her four children Derrick Williams, Deborah Williams Bishop, Lori Williams Evans, and Ross Williams worked in the café except, Ross who was too young when she owned it.
Lori W. Evans remembers...
As early as 5 years old, I remember the cafe. At that age, my job was to place silverware on the tables and clean the tables after patrons finished their meals.
During the summer, I was able to stay until closing, which was around 10 p.m. I remember my mom saying that she did not own the cafe, but rented it from Mr. J D Austin. Many folks around town will remember Mr. Austin as an employee of Mullins Department Store.
The cafe served dinners what are now called blue plate specials to her regular patrons who worked at MSU and surrounding businesses. It was a jamming spot after football games where young people and old alike danced on the wooden floors. The jukebox was filled with blues by B. B. King and Bobby Blue Bland mixed with some Motown sounds of the Temptations, The Supremes, The Dells and The Impressions. Soul sounds were played on the jukebox and included James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5, the Emotions, and Gladys Knight and the Pips to name a few. The dances we did during that time were the Monkey, the swing, the jerk, the twist, the step, the football, the slop, the boogaloo, and the stump. Teens from the west side of town visited and we often had dance contests just for fun. On Saturdays, the cafe was the meeting place for the cub scouts where my mom was den mother. The boys included John Young (county supervisor), Terrence and Victor Evans (branch manager of Cadence Bank). This troop later grew up to be a part Troop 100 that was lead by Charles “La La” Evans and Maurice Evans. There were a few gospel songs on the jukebox, “O Happy Day” was my favorite. If the cafe was opened on Sundays, we were only allowed to play gospel tunes on the jukebox. We received our allowances by how well we completed our chores at home and working the cafe. I was paid a whopping $3 a week that I saved $1 and spent the rest at the five and dime store or at the Rex Theatre. Before we were allowed to go to the movies, or visit other relatives, Mommae would make sure that we attended church. She would say that if we have time to go to the movies, the games and the sock-hops, we have time to go to church and had to go every Sunday, no excuses except illnesses. There were characters that passed through the cafe like “Kool,” “Lil Hat” and “Slim.” They were older men who took the dance floor and entertained the crowds. I do not remember any altercations. There seemed to have been more harmony than anything else. The menu consists of hamburgers, BBQ, and fish sandwiches. Behind the counter were gum, candy, chips, peanuts, cinnamon rolls and moon pies. The plate lunches were made up from a choice of meat loaf, baked chicken, and roast beef with green beans, corn and toss salads. My fondest memory was when Charlie Hunter, Leroy Mason and another Henderson High football player sang “My Girl.” We later lost Charlie to the Vietnam War.
Another memory was when my sister and I would sing to the music through the window fan. Just fun times spent at the cafe. My mom wanted to have a fun place for people to have recreation. We did not have parks and recreation centers in Needmore. The café was her substitution for that.
Deborah Williams Bishop remembers...
My memories go back as far as 1965. Dreamland Cafe was a place with character, and maybe some characters, as well. A place that wasn’t fancy, just small with a friendly atmosphere. There were an assortment of tables and booths along the walls and a counter in the front with a jukebox and cigarette machine. The people would sit wherever they felt like. My mother, Rosie Mae, would offer “blue plate specials” as well as daily lunch specials.
We sold a lot of fish sandwiches and hamburgers with fries. My mom extended credit to her regular customers. I remember after the football games at Starkville High for which I was a cheerleader, my group of friends would fill the cafe with dancing to the music from the jukebox and laughter, I only hated cleaning afterwards!
My favorite junk food was peach soda with peanuts in the soda.
It was a place to let your hair down, act silly, discuss things that were off topic and just have fun!
Ross Williams remembers...
My mother had four children and I was the youngest, so I was too young to help with the cooking and serving in the cafe as my older siblings did. Codfish and pan trout sandwiches as well as hamburgers and BBQ sandwiches were favorites. There was a large picture window on each side of the front entrance, and I remember playing the game of picking the color of the next car that would pass the cafe on Russell Street.
I also remember digging holes in the sandy soil in front of the cafe to play marbles. There was a window fan on the east side of the cafe where we would sing every song on the jukebox.
A birthday gathering celebrating mom’s 80th birthday will be December 4.
John Young remembers...
Mrs. Williams was my Cub Scout den mother. The café was in my neighborhood and I went there daily because I was about the age of her children. My favorite food was the fish. It was a favorite hangout in Needmore.