HAROLD MARTIN TURNER
Harold Martin Turner (June 14, 1911 - September 12, 1988), nicknamed "Happy" when he was a baby, was a Minden businessman who operated a boarding house on East and West Street and the former Southern Kitchen restaurant on the Homer Road. Both businesses were known for the quality of their menus and were popular gathering places in the community at a time when most people dined out only occasionally. Happy and his wife, the former Hazelle Christine Adkins (1911-1981), were particularly known for their hospitality.
Turner was born in Shreveport but was primarily reared in Minden. He dropped out of Minden High School in his senior year in 1928 because of illness. He then completed business college in Shreveport. He was descended from among the earliest families of Minden and Webster Parish. His father, Ben F. Turner, Sr., was born in 1883 and graduated from Louisiana Tech University in 1903, perhaps with a two-year diploma in bookkeeping. Ben Turner was the Louisiana and Arkansas Railroad express agent in Minden as well as the volunteer fire chief. In 1933, he sustained a heart attack during the great Minden fire and hence died the next year of cardiac failure. After the fire came a bank moratorium, a tornado that caused the death of nearly twenty persons and injured even more, and a summer flood which destroyed a third of the crops in the area. Because of these quadruple tragedies, 1933 has been called the "Year of Disaster" in Minden. Oddly, Ben Turner's grandfather had died in 1835 while he was fighting a fire at a brush arbor meeting in Georgia. A Turner great uncle was a sheriff of Webster Parish. Other relatives were mayor or served on the Webster Parish School Board. Harold Turner's mother was the former Ollie Avice Martin of Claiborne Parish. (Webster Parish was extracted from Claiborne Parish in 1871.) On her mother's side, Ollie Turner was an Alexander, another prominent early family.
Happy Turner was a volunteer firefighter in Haynesville and then for a half century in Minden. When the Turners resided in Haynesville, Happy was a butcher for Melton's Grocery. He was later for several years on the fire department at the defunct Louisiana Ordnance Plant east of Minden, along with "Wimpy" Lunsford, subsequently the owner of The Downtowner restaurant in Minden, and presumably named for a cartoon character in the strip "Gasoline Alley." Turner was later the personnel manager at the LOP. He had sideline endeavors too, such as smoking turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas and installing aluminum awnings, some of which are still in existence in Minden and Shreveport.
There was a Turner School at the location of what is now the quilt shop of Nona Watts Sales (Minden High School Class of 1964), located some four miles east of Minden. Turner's Pond across from Lakeview United Methodist Church in Minden is named for ANOTHER TURNER FAMILY involved with a sawmill that was originally located there. Harold and Hazelle, a native of Homer, had two daughters five years apart, Harol and Harla.
Turner and former Minden Mayor and Fire Chief John T. David (1897-1974) opened the Southern Kitchen in 1958 in either a new or rebuilt structure before the Homer Road became the principal economic artery in Minden. The two were friends of State Senator Herman Jones (1905-1967), who operated restaurants in Minden and later Bossier City. Jones, the other Minden businessman to be nicknamed "Wimpy", represented Bossier and Webster parishes in the Louisiana Senate from 1956 to 1960. He defeated Harold Montgomery (1911-1995) of Doyline, who owned a hardware store in Ruston, in a close election in 1956 and then was unseated by Montgomery in 1960. Jones helped to obtain a scholarship to Louisiana Tech for the Turners' older daughter, Harol Turner Thompson (MHS Class of 1954), later an MHS science teacher and then director of the gifted and talented division. She and her husband, Delmar R. Thompson, formerly a manager of the AT&T plant in Shreveport, are retired in Heflin. The younger daughter, Harla T. Nalls (MHS Class of 1959), resides in McKinney, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, with her husband, James.
Turner originally attended First Baptist Church but switched to Emmanuel Baptist Church across from the Southern Kitchen so that he could merely cross the street to his restaurant and still help to prepare lunch. He was an Emmanuel deacon and singer. Emmanuel was constructed at the site of the former John David residence. Turner was the Minden "Candy Man" because of the peppermints that he carried in his pockets for both children and adults.
Happy Turner had six grandchildren. Harol and Del Thompson have three children, Cindy Thompson Jones (born 1961), senior vice president of Bancorp South in Shreveport; Dr. David Thompson (born 1964), of Brandon near Jackson, Miississippi, and Billy Thompson (born 1966), manager of Loggy Bayou Farm. David and his wife, Melissa, are veterinarians. Harla and James Nalls have three daughters, Melanie, Robin, and Kristie.
Happy Turner may be compared to another Minden civic booster, Will Life (1887-1972), long-time owner of the former downtown Webb Hardware Store, men who took a special interest in their community and worked to see it grow and prosper. He was part of a bygone era that MindenMemories.org seeks to recapture.
Billy Hathorn, Class of 1966