Bill Booth’s grandfather, Tom Booth, came to Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1912. There, he opened a hardware store on Main Street. “Pappy” Booth soon sold the business to his son, George H. Booth who changed the name to Tupelo Hardware. Owned and operated by the Booth family since 1926, it remains for many, the go-to place for hard-to-find tools. Famously, Gladys Presley bought her son Elvis, his first guitar there.
In this interview, conducted in 1991, Bill Booth shares with us some memories of his grandfather and of life growing up in Tupelo. During the early days of automobile travel, most Mississippi roads were primitive, unpaved wagon trails. Booth recalls how his grandfather once stopped to help a friend who was stuck in a stream.
As a lifelong citizen of Tupelo, Booth witnessed a lot of important changes over the years. He discusses the city’s first traffic light and one cantankerous driver’s reaction to it. For many Mississippians, their first time behind the wheel of a car was on a secluded country road. Booth recounts learning to drive his grandfather’s 1925 Buick on a trip to Shreveport.
PODCAST BONUS: President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to Tupelo in 1934 to deliver a speech on the Tennessee Valley Authority. Booth remembers how his boy scout troop lined the path to the President’s car, and being patted on the head by FDR, afterwards.
PHOTO: MDAH - FDR in Tupelo 1934.
Edmond Boudreaux’s family came to Biloxi in 1914 to work in the seafood factories. In this episode, he shares his family’s long history in the seafood industry and how his father would work in the factory as child before and after attending school each day.
Growing up on “The Point” in East Biloxi, Boudreaux never thought of his family as poor. He recalls how he and his brothers would play and fish in the nearby marshes and bayous. According to Boudreaux, all people living on the Mississippi Sound develop a connection to the water. He explains how those ties remain constant, even as changes in technology have resulted in fewer people actually working in the seafood industry.
Over the years, the Gulf Coast fishery has weathered challenges from hurricanes, floods, and pollution. Boudreaux discusses those challenges and how recent events have affected the livelihoods of Mississippi fishermen.
In 1973, Gayle Greene-Aguirre, a professor at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, was studying History at the University of Connecticut. In this episode, she recalls her decision to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps, College Junior Program. Green-Aguirre chose a career in the US Army based more on economic incentives than a sense of duty. She explains how that experience, and exposure to top secret information, made her a pragmatic patriot.
Green-Aguirre joined the US Army as the war in Vietnam was beginning to wind down. As a historian and officer, she gives her perspective on why that war was unwinnable.
When soldiers returned home from Vietnam, they faced a hostile American public, who viewed them as complicit in the atrocities committed against the Vietnamese people. Green-Aguirre discusses the burden shared by those returning veterans and how their legacy has evolved over time.