James Gray, a Tishomingo County native now retired in Nashville, Tenn., still keeps up with his hometown area. He read the story where Peggy Drewry Smith of Corinth had found a sort of micro time capsule in an old eyeglass case.
Smith purchased the eyeglass case for 50 cents at a carport sale in 1989. Smith said she later tossed the case into a drawer and it lay there forgotten until 2017, when she decided to some cleaning. She rediscovered the case in the process of clearing out the drawer and opened it.
Inside was a pair of round, black-rimmed glasses.
The glasses shared the case with a small appointment card. It was tucked beneath the eyewear. The card was colored with age and dotted, possibly from the worn metal inside the case.
The patient’s name on the card was Mrs. W., (there was a second letter which looked almost like another “W”), Hooten of Tishomingo. Mrs. Hooten’s next appointment was scheduled for Sept. 2, 1939.
Her appointment appeared to be with a Dr. Klein’s Optical Department at Bry’s in Memphis, Tenn. There is a phone number, but with an old exchange.
Gray read the story and decided to do a bit of digging. He said the tools he used were the U.S. Census for 1940 and Find A Grave.
“Both are helpful from time to time and I've always enjoyed mysteries,” said Gray.
What Gray discovered was the Hootens were the only ones in Tishomingo County in 1940. He noticed in the census data, it seemed the couple came to Tishomingo County from Memphis, Tenn. They are now buried in Memphis, Tenn., which appeared to be their original home.
“Family history has been an on and off hobby for me since the mid-1980s, so over the years I've done a bit of research. It generally pays to look at the original census enumeration if possible as mistakes were sometimes made in its transcription to an index. Old arcane abbreviations and simple cursive writing throw lots of folks these days,” said Gray.
Thus, per the census data, the owner of the glasses was very likely Effie May Hooten, wife of W.W. Hooten. She was born May 14, 1885, and died June 28, 1973. She is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery Midtown in Memphis, Tenn.
Gray was also able to locate information on Bry’s, which was a Memphis department store. He said he believed it was possible the store had an optical department such as Walmart or Sears stores do today.
According to information gained from Vance Laurderdale’s Jan. 1, 2008, answer to a question about Bry’s (which is pronounced like “breeze”), he explained the store was a Memphis landmark for more than 50 years. It opened in 1908, relocated to a larger building in 1925 and eventually closed in 1964.
When asked about her reaction to having her little mystery solved, Smith said, “This is just great. Now, I know. I can’t wait to tell my friends about it.”
For a while it seemed the eyeglass case and its contents were just items lost in time, along with their owner.
Smith’s curiosity is settled with having found the name and the fate of the owner.