In the days before automobiles were common in Vardaman, most folks who lived in town walked when they went to the downtown stores, to the churches, to school, and to visit. Even when the streets were still dirt and gravel, Vardaman had a simple but very useful network of concrete sidewalks paralleling several of the major streets as shown in yellow on this recent aerial view of Vardaman.
They were a major playground for generations of Vardaman children, whether skating, riding bicycles, or just running along. Most of the sidewalks still exist but seem to be rarely used. Some sections have been overgrown with grass and other sections have been removed, such as the section that once ran east and west in front of the school on the hill.
No written records have been found, but the sidewalks were probably constructed in the early to mid 1930s as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project.
The sidewalk sections were skillfully built and included two unusual bridges over the town creek, one on the west side by the Whitehorn pasture (see picture) and the other just west of downtown where the creek ran under the old highway 8 (now known as Hill Avenue).
The aerial photo below shows the route of the creek that runs through Vardaman. No official name has been found for the creek, although it was commonly referred to as S--- Creek. It originates north of town and the Everetts at one time had built an earthen dam across it and created Everett's "Lake". That dam was removed later and the land where the lake had been was developed as a subdivision east of Johnny VanHorn's property. After leaving the Everett property, the creek ran through what was once the large Hawkins pasture and then through town as shown on this photo and then on into the Yalobusha River.
In 1939-1940 another WPA project, the Ditch Project, cleaned and straightened the section of the creek that ran behind the downtown stores and lined it with concrete to help stop the flooding that often occurred during heavy rains. A small bridge was built across it behind the stores which was used as a short cut by folks who left the sidewalk and cut across Bob Young's yard and then south through his pasture. Robert G. "Bob" Young (my grandfather) was listed in the 1940 U.S. Census as being the foreman of this project. He apparently didn't mind folks using the short cut and was probably instrumental in having the bridge built.
When I was growing up in Vardaman in the 1940s and the very early 1950s, the streets didn't have names. I'm sure that they must have been named on an official town map somewhere, but there were no street signs posted. Early accounts of Vardaman, some of which are included on this web site, mention street names that were apparently changed later.
None of the streets were paved. The first paved street/road was Highway 8 from Houston to the western edge of Vardaman. The old Highway 8 which ran along what is now Hill Avenue wasn't paved then. Most of the time the streets were either very muddy or very dusty. After the railroad was built, bringing in large quantities of gravel became economically feasible and the county could afford some of it. Eventually it began to appear on the Vardaman streets. This helped some, but not all that much.
Slow traveling mule-drawn wagons and horseback riders didn't stir up much dust, but when automobiles came along the dust problem grew and grew. Considerate drivers tried to drive slowly to stir up as little dust as possible. Some people even sprinkled water on the street in front of their houses to cut down on the dust but this was only a very temporary relief. Dust filtered in the windows of houses and embedded iteself in upholstered furniture and in every crack and crevice. Electric vacuum cleaners were largely unknown. Rugs were taken outside periodically to be hung on fences or clothes lines and be beaten to try to get rid of the dust that had accumulated in them. Some folks, even in summer, kept their windows that faced the street tightly closed as much as possible.