Royal Land

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Picture yourself driving down I-20 in Meridian, MS. It’s your average American town, with Motel 6s and McDonalds. As you near the exit, you decide to turn off because there’s something interesting just off the front road, glinting in the sun. You turn onto Sowashee St. 

There’s a lot with a for sale sign plastered on a billboard over the top of abandoned entrance gates, perhaps last used thirty five years ago. Next to it, a white structure covered in rust stands out against the blue sky, behind an ever-growing forest of trees. Could this be a drive-in?

You continue down the road, and suddenly jerk your car to the right onto the shoulder in surprise. There, looming behind some trees, a specter on this otherwise cheerful summer day. The foliage is lush and green, but what lays behind it is eerie, something out of the twilight zone. 

Concrete block turrets, grey with age. Two. A rusting metal gate, solid and vintage, stands slightly askew. Arching overhead, a sign, or what used to be one. It’s not legible from inside your car, hidden behind a branch, but something compels you to hop out and get a closer look. 

As you step from the car, the chill of the air conditioner is quickly driven away by the hot air of a Southern summer, heavy on your skin like a wet wool blanket. You bat away a cloud of mosquitoes as you step from faded asphalt onto concrete that’s literally vanishing into the grass below your feet. 

And as your hand clears your face, the outline of long-faded letters on the sign becomes clear, tangled overgrowth obscuring the path that once ran beneath it. This was the entrance to Royal Land. 

Today, it’s all abandoned: the amusement park and the fairgrounds and the drive-in and the baseball stadium. But a generation or two ago, this small corner of Meridian, MS was a bustling place to be.

Behind Royal Land: Lloyd Royal

It began with A. Lloyd Royal, Sr. He was a man of the South, born in the 1910s.

Lloyd spent his early 20s, between 1936 and 1944, building at least 14 independent movie theatres across Mississippi. In Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Gulfport, Picayune, McComb, Carrollton, Lumberton, and Purvis, among other towns, Royal established different movie houses. It was January of 1941 when Royal opened his first theater in Meridian, the “Royal Theater”, becoming the fifth movie theater in the town. The Royal Theater, by the accounts I read, was said to have quickly establish itself as a landmark. Think of the time period – the movie theaters would’ve had air conditioning (of some sort) long before it was common in folks’ houses, and this of course is the South – on a hot muggy summer day, where to go but the pictures?

Theaters opened and closed in Meridian through the war years, but the Royal Theater stayed strong. By the 1950s, a big tidal change was sweeping through the States. If you recall my last episode on the Land of Kong, where I talked about the history of US roadways, you’ll remember the Federal Highway Act, which became law in 1956. The 1950s saw a huge boom in American car ownership. Pre-WWII, most people did not own a car. Post-war, a glut of small cheap houses were built outside towns to accomodate returning soldiers and their ever-growing families. Prosperity meant that owning a car was within reach for the average American, and not only that, but cars began to have AC installed as a standard feature. Cars were almost more comfortable than the American living room. 

So what entered the picture? The drive-in theater. 

The earliest forms of drive-in were set up in 1915, but the drive-in theater as a concept was patented officially in 1933 by Richard Hollingshead Jr. His first drive-in theater opened in New Jersey that year, but pre-WWII, there were still only a handful of theaters open in the US – about 15. Post-war, of course, drive-ins boomed like everything else, and hundreds of new drive-in theaters opened each year. 

Lloyd Royal capitalized on that bandwagon, and opened the Royal Drive-In in either 1950 or 1953, at 2601 Sowashee Street, there in Meridian, MS. It was located adjacent to a baseball stadium. 

He stayed connected, serving on the War Activities Committee of the MPAA; the March of Dimes Committee; former President of the Lumberton Rotary Club; and the Legislative Committee of the Meridian Exchange Club. (I was unfamiliar with the latter, as it wasn’t an activity where I grew up – turns out this is a national service organization. The Mississippi District has been a part of the national organization since the 1920s, and it’s still going strong today.)

By 1952, he was President of the Mississippi Theater Owners Association. That same 1952 blurb in the Clark County Tribune called him “one of the most progressive and important exhibitors in the state”. 

By 1959, he’d served as president of the Tri-States Theater Owners Association, as well as president of the Meridian Exchange Club.

Movies of Lloyd Royal

Not only was Lloyd Royal interested in being a business manager and owning his own line of theatres, he was also a part of the movie business itself.

Royal produced or wrote three movies, by most accounts: 1954’s Jesse James’ Women, 1956’s Frontier Woman, and 1960’s Natchez Trace. All were filmed in the South, not in Hollywood itself. Royal by this point was the president of Panorama Pictures, a Mississippi-based production company. 

Two of the movies are still extant and easily watchable today. Jesse James’ Women is available in full under public domain license on the Internet Archive. This one is a classic 50s Western that probably hasn’t aged particularly well, given the summary: “The fugitive outlaw (Don Barry) enjoys the company of several ladies while he and his gang hide out in a Mississippi town.” 

Natchez Trace appears to be the most popular of the three films, with a 6.9/10 rating on IMDB. “The daughter of a murdered plantation owner and her fiance try to disrupt an outlaw’s plans to build an empire of thieves along the popular Mississippi-Tennessee trail.” The movie is named after a 440-mile long trail between Nashville TN and NAtchez MS, which fell out of use when traffic shifted from trail to steamboats on the Mississippi. 

The third, Frontier Woman, was exceedingly confusing by all accounts. Rumor says that most or all of the copies of the film have been destroyed, save for one, said to be in the hands of the film’s tiniest, trivialist star. Today, this film is noted for a tiny triviality. Actor Harold Beckenholdt played an unscrupulous trader in the film. He included his son Ron, then 8 months old, in the film in a small cameo, just because. Of course, you don’t know Harold Beckenholdt, but Harold chanced his name to Rance Howard. And you definitely know Ron Howard, who made his feature film debut here in Frontier Woman. Yes, the very famous Ron Howard, with too many film credits to his name, things like Apollo 13 and The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days. 

All three movies were well-received at the time of their release, with special showings locally to honor the local filmmaker. 

Buckwalter Stadium, near Royal Land

Somewhere in the mid-1950s, between movie productions and theater openings, Lloyd Royal added “baseball stadium owner” to the list, purchasing Buckwalter Stadium, adjacent to the Royal Drive-In he’d purchased a few years prior, there on Sowashee Street.

The stadium wasn’t new even then. 

It’s falsely claimed in many articles and discussions on this topic that the stadium was constructed in the 1930s. The most popular video about this place (type “1930s abandoned baseball” into Google and this video is probably your top result. I’ll also link it in the playlist I’ve created on my YouTube channel for this episode.) even claims this was built in the 1930s. Unfortunately, these other sites are falsely conflating two different baseball parks: Fairgrounds Park and Buckwalter Stadium.

It is the conclusion of my research in this area that the stadium was actually built in 1947. The local team back then was a new club called the Meridian Peps, and their president was a guy named Charles Buckwalter, who at one time owned the Meridian Pepsi-Cola Bottling Plant, to give you an idea. In fact: “Meridian Peps”, “Pepsi-Cola”… 

Meridian Peps (1946-1950)

The club formed after the war, and the team played minor league baseball, in the Southeastern League. But it was a rocky road. Despite popularity with the locals, baseball was expensive. The Peps didn’t have their own park, so they played at Fairgrounds Park, the site of the now-defunct Valley Fair Mall in modern Meridian. Teams had played there since 1922: Meridian Mets, Meridian Scrappers, Meridian Bears, Meridian Eagles, and now the Meridian Peps. But the Peps weren’t happy with the stadium. 

An October 1946 article in The Greenwood Commonwealth says the following: “Charles Buckwalter, president of the Meridian Peps, Southeastern League, said he would not Benter a team in the 1947 race unless a satisfactory park is provided in which to play. Buckwalter said the club went deeply in the hole last year, spending about $5,000 for the use of the fairgrounds, privately owned, while some other cities had only to pay a token fee of $1 for the entire year.” In November 1946, The Selma Times-Journal echoed similar sentiments, noting that the future of the Meridian club in the Southeastern Baseball League was dependent on “civic pride and spirit”, as the current owners of the Fairground Field baseball park they played at charged them a fee to use the park and would not allow the team to collect on fence ads, which could’ve brought in a proposed $2500. That opinion article closes by saying “That is definitely a losing proposition and Charles Buckwalter is certainly within his rights in refusing to pay through the nose for civic enterprise.

By January 1947, Buckwalter licensed the Peps to be a subsidiary for the Cleveland Indians, retaining 25% of the stocks for himself and continuing as president. This sale likely allowed him to pick up the additional funds he needed. It’s not entirely clear what happened with this deal, though, as two years later, by January 1949, the club was back up for sale again. In comments to the papers, Buckwalter claimed that he had suffered financial losses for each of the three previous seasons of the club’s operation, and declared that the club needed financial backing or else it would have to leave Meridian for nearby Laurel or Hattiesburg. By February of that year, a group of local businessmen stepped up to the plate, leasing the team and park from Buckwalter in a $10,000 deal (in today’s money, $105,500).  

A 1949 article notes that Buckwalter “personally built the Peps field out of his own pocket”.

Though the citizens had grand plans, the renamed Meridian Millers team and the B-class Southeastern League fell apart after only a year under new management. In 1951 and 1952, Charles Buckwalter began hosting the New Meridian Fair and Cattle Show at his Buckwalter Stadium and property instead of baseball.

Meridian Millers (1952-1955)

By 1952, Meridian was back in the baseball game, however, taking over the Clarksdale baseball franchise in the class C Cotton States League. The Meridian Millers had great success their first year in the league, winning the championship in 1952 and 1953. However, it was not to last. 

Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in Major League Baseball after the war in 1947. The hurdles were fierce for non-whites, and the Cotton States League and other Deep South teams did not follow popular sentiment, and refused to integrate, hiring white players only (with one exception, which I’ll get to). This unsurprisingly alienated fans of color. Minor league baseball also started to see fierce competition from a wide range of similarly accessible amusement options. Baseball fans could watch major league baseball on TV or listen to it on the radio. Attendance at minor league games began to drop. 

The Cotton States League team, the Hot Springs Bathers, hired two players in 1953: Jim and Leander Tugerson, both WWII veterans who’d been pitchers from the Negro League. This was done against the opposition of the league president, who is quoted as saying “I advised against signing (black players) and requested they do not attempt it at this time knowing the hornet’s nest it would stir up.” Five days after they were signed, the remaining teams in the Cotton States League voted unanimously to expel the Bathers from the League as a result. 

The Bathers were later reinstated that season, but the Tugersons were shipped to other leagues. When the Bathers had a pitching injury in their roster in April 1953, they called Jim Tugerson back up. He was set to pitch in front of 1500 strong, lights on, bats out. But as a result, the president of the CSL called the game a forfeit before the first pitch had even been thrown. 

Jim Tugerson went back to the D-class Knoxville Smokies, where he was celebrated with a Jim Tugerson Night. And then he filed a federal lawsuit against the Cotton States League, its teams, and its president. The lawsuit was dismissed later that year, but it was too late; it was a sign of a turning tide. Uvoyd Reynolds, another player of color, suited up for the Bathers in 1954.

Not only that, but also in 1954, even “our” team, the Meridian Millers, hired a person of color against the strictures of the Mississippi Constitution set in 1890. And this guy, we’ve got to talk about this guy next.

Carlos “Chico” Heron

Born in March 1936 in Bocas del Toro, Panama, Carlos “Chico” Heron was a right-handed second baseman. In 1954, he joined the Meridian Millers, becoming the first player of color to sign with a Mississippi team. 

He played with a number of different teams both in the US and in Panama over the next decade, before moving to a more managerial position, coaching teams in both Canada and Panama throughout the 70s. He held position of Panama’s National Team coach for more than 20 years. 

The big thing about Chico Heron is that he became a scout in the more modern era since the late 1970s, scouting for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Kansas City Royals, the Saint Louis Cardinals, and finally a little team called the New York Yankees.

It was here that Chico Heron is most known in the US, as he brought a young guy by the name of Mariano Rivera to the attention of the Yankees. Rivera caught the eye of Heron, and after some time pitching under observation in Panama, was signed by the Yankees. Even if you’re not into baseball, you’ve probably at least some passing familiarity with the name. Mariano Rivera was the Yankees closing pitcher for 17 years, between 1995 and 2013. His presence at the end of games was signalled by the song “Enter Sandman”, ominous tones marking how well he saved games. Rivera was a major contributor to the Yankees success during his time there, and it’s only because of Chico Heron that he obtained the position to begin with.

Heron was more than just a scout, though. It’s said that he had a huge influence on the people he worked with, instilling a sense of love and discipline in every player. He was a dedicated man, a giver, and an inspirational figure. 

After Heron’s death in 2007, Mariano Rivera described Chico Heron, saying “he was one of those men that if I call him any time, anytime that I need something from him, he would have done it on the spot.” Rivera went on to say “that’s how close he was to me. I respect that man until the day he died.”

Flashing back in time, back to Meridian and Buckwalter Stadium, we return to 1954.

At the end of the 1954 season, all players of color hired in the Cotton States League were released to other teams. Baseball at this unpretentious field came to an end the next year, as it’s said a team called the Pine Bluff Judges joined with the Meridian Millers mid-season and finished their 1955 season there at Buckwalter Stadium. 

Royal Land

Here in 1955, then, we are almost ready to talk about Royal Land.

Carnivals and Fairs in Meridian

With the collapse of the Cotton States League marking the end of baseball at Buckwalter Stadium, fairs and movies became the non-televised entertainment options of the day. It appears that the Royal family purchased Buckwalter Stadium around this time. As noted earlier, the New Meridian Fair operated at Buckwalter Stadium at least in 1951 and 1952, but from what I can tell, the general opinion at the time was that the fair elsewhere in town under other operation had gone downhill, getting smaller and run-down. By 1956 or 1957, with the purchase of Buckwalter Stadium and surrounding lands, Lloyd Royal began operating the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair in Meridian. 

(As a brief sidebar, for whatever reason, it seems unlikely that the fair operated in 1956 in Meridian, or if it did, it wasn’t noteworthy, and here’s why. If you just Google “Mississippi-Alabama Fair” you’ll get thousands of hits, about the 1956 fair held in Tupelo, MS. Of course the fair was held in multiple cities throughout the season, but 1956 in Tupelo was something different. A young singer named Elvis Presley had become incredibly famous in 1956, and he returned to Tupelo, his birthplace, in a “homecoming” event at the fair that year. It was unsurprisingly hugely popular, and you can find several videos of the event up on YouTube. Elvis’ charm with the crowd is undeniable, and he cuts a magnetic figure up on the slightly elevated stage above his screaming fans. )

The Mississippi-Alabama State Fair in Meridian was from then on held at the old Buckwalter Stadium, behind the Royal Drive-In. The grandstands (the former baseball stands) were used for the big shows and events, and the midway and other concessions stretched out on the land between the baseball stadium and the drive-in. 

It earned a reputation as “of the cleanest and best operated fairs in the South.” Big name carnivals like Century 21 Shows and Heth Shows (famed for their 30-car railroad and “mile-long midway”) provided impressive midways and rides, with the excitement of all of our mid-century and even present day favorites: Caterpillars and Roll-o-planes and Mad Mouse Coasters, Ferris Wheels, and of course, the humble carousel. Refreshments stands and ticket booths were operated by local civic groups and religious organizations. 

Royal was an excellent manager, as evidenced by his long track record in the movie theater business, regularly coming up with new ways to thrill his guests. In 1959, he staged a helicopter landing in nearby Quitman to help promote the fair. This was a huge deal at the time, and I think it still would draw a small crowd even today. After a weather delay, one lucky passenger was picked up and flown in a Bell G47 Whirlybird to the Meridian fairgrounds. Apparently the helicopter was the centerpiece of the Atterbury-Hornbeck trapeze act which operated at fairs around the country in the late 1950s. This act featured two acrobats doing daredevil stunts, dangling outside of the helicopter while it flew and hovered over the grounds of the grandstands. Unsurprisingly, several acrobats got injured during the brief lifetime of the act.

The highlight of the 1960 fair was the unique high diving grandma, Ella Carver. In this pinnacle of spectacle, thousands crowded the grandstands of Buckwalter Stadium and watched as the 72-year-old Carver leapt off a flaming 90-foot-tall tower, diving into a 6-ft-deep bucket of water covered in flames. 

Operations continued on. 1960 saw Lloyd Royal opening his own newspaper in Meridian, the Meridian Leader, a weekly competitor to the established Meridian Star. One story I saw had it that he wanted more flexibility on opinion pieces and availability for print advertising, the lifeblood for a movie business back in the day.

And in 1964, Lloyd Royal expanded his fair operations, opening a new fair in Hattiesburg. All the while, his movie theater operations had continued, opening new theaters throughout the South.

Royal Land

And in 1967, Lloyd Royal and his sons began construction on something new, adjacent to the drive-in and the stadium fairgrounds. 

There are two versions of the story. In one, likely the more true version, the rides for Royal Land, for that was what they were building, were purchased secondhand and refurbished into working condition.

In the other, more colorful version of the story, rides had been abandoned by the carnies at the fairgrounds over the years. Broken, rusting, and otherwise unusable, the rides were then salvaged, cobbled together into something barely functional.

The second option is likely an embellished story, but this is the popular conception of Royal Land that remains on most abandoned theme park and basic urbex sites. It’s of course very unlikely that any ride destined for the scrap heap would be able to be pushed into service in a theme park, even in a small Mississippi town. 

The forests are taking back Royal Land. 2017 image by Backroads and Burgers, used with permission.

Miniature Train at Royal Land

The most renowned ride at Royal Land was the miniature train, remembered in nearly every recollection I saw about the amusement park. 

It appears that the train was a miniature GM aerotrain streamliner, similar to those made by Ottaway Amusement Company (if you remember back to the Joyland episodes I did last year, you’ll remember this amusement magnate). A video of a similar train can be found on YouTube, operating at the Ellis, KS railroad museum. Picture the 1950s space age aesthetic, sleek and shiny, with passengers perched on the backs of the open-air cars. 

The train was said to run on a track around the circumference of the park, roughly half a mile to a mile long, through the woods and over a trestle bridge, around a lake stocked with jumping goldfish. 

There was a real train car at Royal Land, too: an L&N Pullman car serving as a restaurant, as well as an old boxcar used as storage. The seminal source for information about the park is a decade-old story from the local paper, and it suggests that “the train” was leftover from a movie set, though the story is unclear whether this is the Pullman car or the miniature train ride. Most likely, this comment is in reference to the Pullman car – the train restaurant was used prior to its days as a restaurant in the 1966 film “This Property is Condemned”. Indeed, in the newspaper article, Monte Royal is quoted talking about the temperature of the train, saying that it “was a bakery in that thing in summertime.” As the train ride was completely outside and un-air-conditioned, this was then about the Pullman car.

Other Rides at Royal Land

Royal Land also had a handful of other rides. It’s reported that there was a merry go round, as well as other circular or umbrella-style flat rides that you could find at any fair. Given the name of the podcast, you know I wish I had more information on the carousel, but alas, with this one, so much has been lost to time. 

There were pony rides, including one named Trigger with a bad temper, who is said to have kicked and bucked something fierce. 

There was a Ferris wheel, which Monte Royal (Lloyd’s son) recollected having nightmares of it falling over on him. One comment I read suggested there might have been a kiddie Ferris wheel as well as an adult-sized wheel, but this is again not clear. 

And of course there was a little roller coaster, likely a classic Allen Herschell Little Dipper coaster, that simple circuit with its classic ups and downs. (If you recall, I talked about one back in the Little Amerricka episode. A fun first coaster.) It seems as though it wasn’t always assembled correctly; our newspaper article describes the coaster as having difficulty getting over the hills sometimes and needing to be pushed by hand.

There was a go-kart track adjacent to Royal Land, as well, very visible from the satellite view of Google Maps. It’s not clear whether it was part of Royal Land or a separate thing. Apparently there used to be races on Sundays for several years until the nearby hotel complained about the noise. Reportedly, the track sat abandoned for decades before becoming a radio-controlled car track for a few years recently. 

Most of the park was said to be operated on an old “half-broken” generator that was constantly breaking down or operating with too many draws on the power. The stories described in the newspaper article about Royal Land are like something out of a Stephen King book. It’s said that when too much was running at once, everything would slow to a crawl, even the music of the rides. Can you imagine, half-speed or slower plinkety-plink carousel carnival music, weirdly spinning up and slowing down? Terrifying. 

Royal Land, Abandoned

Royal Land opened in 1968, and operated in 1969 as well, before shuttering for good. While it was open, the place was a wonderful spot for local families, birthday parties, etc. (You could get your name on the marquee out in front of the park!) There was nothing nefarious about the closure, no murders or deaths or illicit activities. As you can probably guess, the real reasons were economic: Royal Land simply didn’t make enough money to stay in business. It wasn’t financially viable to keep operating Royal Land. 

Now of course, the Internet will Internet, and I’ve seen lots of plausible suggestions that might also have contributed to the downfall of Royal Land: insurance costs, land located on a flood plain, bad wells, tax costs, not enough guests. Whether any of these reasons contributed is unclear. Ultimately, the visitors for the site simply weren’t there.

There are no extant pictures of Royal Land in operation that I’ve been able to find. Everything is lost in people’s basements and attics, on old film reels and fading away in photo albums. If you’ve got photos of Royal Land in any state, please send them in! 

The closest thing I could find was on a Remember Meridian Facebook page, and it showed an interesting modular-type building located inside the old Royal Land parks gates. It turns out, based on comments from that page, that this was simply a house for the Royal family, built after the park’s closure and demolished in the mid-90s, situated inside the old theme park gates. I can’t even imagine living on such a site but it truly sounds like a hoot. I’d be delighted to live in such a place.

After Royal Land closed, the rides were slowly auctioned off one by one. I saw a comment online saying that the roller coaster was the last to go, and that the kids in the family assembled and disassembled the little coaster for school projects. 

Abandoned Royal Land Today

Though Royal Land had closed, the adjacent businesses stayed operational for several decades longer. The Royal Drive-In closed in 1985, and the last fair operated in Buckwalter Stadium in the late 90s, around 1998. So yes, that incredibly well-filmed, beautiful viral video about the 1930s baseball stadium? Well, it’s more like an “abandoned for 20 years stadium”. Still impressive on its own merits, but it certainly hasn’t been abandoned since the 1950s like the video suggests.

Buckwalter Stadium. Baseball was last played here in 1955; the stadium was last used for carnivals and fairs in the late 1990s. Photograph by Wendy Pastore ©

Interestingly, it seems that a documentary is being made, or perhaps has been made already. Panamanian filmmaker Alberto Serra is working on a documentary about the life and legacy of Chico Heron and his influence on modern baseball legends like Mariano Rivera. Part of the documentary filmed at Buckwalter Stadium. The film is to be called Chico Heron y el Ultimo 42; a trailer for it was released in January. It appears the documentary was released last July in Panama; I’m not clear if the new trailer indicates a new release, perhaps on the film festival circuit, is coming.

The old L&N Pullman car was removed, moved to the Meridian Railway Museum. It was L&N 6157, known as Miss Alva’s Diner. The train car was featured in the 1966 film “This Property is Condemned”. I saw a comment online that this was actually not the correct number, that this had been painted for the movie and that the actual info was “The car is Louisiana & Arkansas (KCS) 353, ex-PULL 4127, nee-Monteith, a former Plan 2411 16 Section sleeper that KCS rebuilt as a coach.” but I wasn’t able to find more information to this end. Here’s a FB group thread discussing how the train cars were moved from Royal Land to their current location. It’s actually quite sad to see recent pictures of the Pullman car – it’s rusted and faded, numbers and letters nearly illegible. The scene is a far cry from the crisp green paint with white lettering and fancy trim that once beckoned visitors to Miss Alva’s Bar-B-Q. Like so many other pieces of rolling stock, this Pullman car is almost certainly destined to sit and rot until it’s nothing more than a piece of rust.

As for Royal Land itself, nothing remains except the iconic castle gates, which are visible from the roads. If you’re tempted to visit, please don’t. The land is private property, reportedly crawling with ticks, and nothing of any note beyond the gates is left on site to see. The land is for sale, should you be interested, but the Royal family still own the property and will prosecute any and all trespassers. 

Instead, take a virtual walk. There are a couple of unauthorized trespassing videos available on YouTube, or you can take a look at a motion picture, filmed with permission instead. Royal Land has been featured in a indie flick called Ozland in the modern era. This movie is available on Amazon Prime. Fast forward to timestamp 41:02, and take in a beautiful HD view of the old castle gates, the destroyed fairgrounds, the old baseball stadium. The movie was filmed in 2014, and very nicely encapsulates the entire Royal Land / Buckwalter Stadium / fairgrounds area as it stands today.


Lloyd Royal, the master of Royal Land, brought liveliness and entertainment to Meridian and the South for decades. Fairs in Petal/Hattiesburg and Meridian, the Royal Drive-In as well as other theaters, Royal Land, WQIC (a radio station)…this was a man with his hands in many businesses, a successful businessman. He and his family had a long impact on the area. 

Today, some of those enterprises are defunct, but others still live on under new operation. And for what’s gone, there are still memories of the days and places gone by. 

This park, Royal Land, has been inside my brain for quite some time. There’s nothing quite like that sudden haunting image in front of you, of seeing the dark castle gates, slowly being enveloped back inside a forest of greenery. Once the land was clear and neatly manicured, full of laughter and music and rides; today it’s been reclaimed by the fast-growing flora of the South, silent but for passing cars on the frontage road and the highway nearby. 

But if you stop and listen, maybe, just maybe, you can still hear the carousel music, like a whisper on the wind of a legacy of childhood joy. Can you hear it?

Remember that what you’ve read is a podcast! A link is included at the top of the page. Listen to more episodes of The Abandoned Carousel on your favorite platform: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | RadioPublic | TuneIn | Overcast | Pocket Casts | Castro. Support the podcast on Patreon for extra content! Comment below to share your thoughts – as Lucy Maud Montgomery once said, nothing is ever really lost to us, as long as we remember it.


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3 comments on “Royal Land

  1. Stacey Pollock

    Royal land is my grandfather’s park. My mother is Allison Royal, My uncles are Monte Royal, Randy Royal, Kelley Royal, deceased, and half uncle Zane Royal.


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