New book tells pictorial history of Tupelo

October 12, 2013 11:32:25 PM



TUPELO -- The past can be a fragile thing that's easily torn or lost. 


"People inherit photographs and they don't know anything about them," Bill Lyle said, "so they throw them away." 


"People were dying and these pictures were getting discarded," Dick Hill said. "That bothered us." 


Lyle and Hill are part of a six-person team dedicated to preserving old photographs. For years, people were invited to bring black-and-white shots of Tupelo's past to the Lee County Library, where the photos were scanned into computers. 


"It's close to 4,000 now," Hill said. 


When a publishing company called looking for help with a book, the team was ready. 


"They contacted us," Hill said. 


"They wanted somebody local," Lyle said. 


The pair, along with David Baker, Mem Leake, Julian Riley and Boyd Yarbrough, got busy trimming 4,000 photographs down to a little more than 200 to fit in "Tupelo," a 128-page book from Arcadia Publishing. 


"It's been about a year ago since we started on the book, so it was about this time of year," Yarbrough said. 


"We had to have it done by Christmas," Hill said. "We were pushing it." 


The book is divided into three parts: The Village, The Town and The City. It opens with a picture of a swamp from when wetlands dominated this area. 


The oldest picture, they believe, shows a view from Tupelo in 1862, when the town had two hotels, two saloons and two stores. 


Collecting photographs was only part of the work. The real job was writing captions for each shot. The authors range in age from 60 to 91, and their collective memory filled in the blanks.