Prior to desegregation in 1968, black students in Ocean Springs, Mississippi attended Keys High School. In this episode, Jeanne Meggs remembers the dedicated teachers there and how they pushed her to succeed. She also recalls how the schools were separate, but not equal when it came to resources. And she explains how issues still arose as to the treatment of black students, even after the schools in Ocean Springs integrated.
Even so, Meggs looks back favorably on her childhood in Ocean Springs. Despite the turbulent social upheaval of the 1960s, the one constant she recalls, was the caring and charitable nature of the people who lived there. Since retiring, Meggs has returned to Ocean Springs. She describes it as a community with a historically progressive outlook. Finally, she reflects on how growing up there gave her the confidence to achieve her goals.
PHOTO - msmohp.com
Sidney Land of Los Angeles joined the U.S. Navy in 1952 after graduating high school, so he was well into his military career by the time he came to Vietnam in the mid-60s. He eventually became a patrol officer on a PBR (patrol boat river) working to disrupt enemy supply lines along the upper Saigon river. Because of his experience and interest in Vietnamese culture, he became an advisor for several of the South Vietnamese boat crews that patrolled alongside the U.S. Navy crews.
In this episode, Land discusses how he earned the respect of the Vietnamese by learning their culture, recalls being the guest of honor at a funeral for a Vietnam boat captain, and recounts a moonlight river battle with the Viet Cong that landed him and two of his crew in a MASH unit.
This interview was conducted in 2002 at the U.S. Naval Home in Gulfport, MS that Hurricane Katrina destroyed in 2005.
Photo: Aad Born, Flickr.com
In 1938, two aspiring young writers, Greenville native Shelby Foote and his best friend Walker Percy, drove to Oxford in search of legendary author William Faulkner. Percy refused to get out of the car, but Foote walked up to the front door of Rowan Oak, knocked and introduced himself. Thus began a friendship that would last until Faulkner’s death in 1962.
In this episode, Foote describes Oxford’s native son as a gracious and interesting host and yet a deeply unhappy man who struggled with drinking and depression. Someone who was a deep thinker and yet preferred the company of the common man over the intellectual – a hunting story over a critical analysis of his work.
Foote concludes by sharing what, in his opinion, makes Faulkner such an exceptional writer and relates a humorous story about one of his famous binges.
Irene Smith was 17 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. As her older brother prepared to go off to fight for his country, Smith began to search for some way she too could serve during this time of national crisis. When the women’s branch of the U. S. Naval Reserve, known as the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) was established in July of 1942, she went to the recruiting office to enlist, but was turned away because the minimum age at that time was 20.
In this episode, Smith recalls biding her time until she met the age requirement by going to business school, working nights in a factory and picking up shifts at the local five and dime. When she was finally old enough to join, Smith trained as a mechanic. She explains that although women were allowed to perform many important jobs during WWII, old sexist attitudes remained. Smith details how gender bias affected her role as an aviation machinist’s mate. She also looks back fondly at the Chief Petty Officer they called Pappy Vaughn.
For many of us, family holiday traditions become cherished childhood memories. In this episode, Robert St. John recalls the Hattiesburg Christmas Parade, his family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal, the annual shopping trip to New Orleans and Maison Blanche’s perennial snowman, Mr. Bingle.
Family Christmas traditions cover everything from how the tree is decorated to when the presents are opened. St. John remembers his Christmas mornings growing up and reflects on how couples blend old traditions together to form new ones.
Season’s Greetings from Mississippi Moments!
PHOTO CREDIT: Mr. Bingle in the Krewe of Jingle parade. (Photo: Julie Dermansky) GoNOLA.com
The term “comfort food” is used to describe those dishes that remind us of home and family.
In this episode, Randy Yates co-owner of the Ajax Diner in Oxford discusses his idea of comfort food. He shares his memories of dishes his mother prepared for the family growing up as well as the wide variety of foods they enjoyed at the Neshoba County Fair every year.
When Yates and his business partner opened the Ajax Diner in Oxford, they decided to offer a quality plate lunch. He discusses what the average college student wants, the large variety of home-style dishes they offer and explains why the term “comfort food” is no misnomer.
After graduating pharmacy school, Louise Lynch and her husband purchased a drugstore in her hometown of Waveland. In this episode, she discusses a variety of topics including her time at Ole’ Miss during WWII, the challenge of being accepted as a pharmacist by those who knew her as a child, and issues related to civil rights.
When Lynch’s husband passed away in 1963, leaving her to raise seven daughters alone, she found comfort, continuity and invaluable assistance within the tightknit community. Lynch passed away on July 12, 2016 at the age of 93.
No one has more of a passion for good food than Hattiesburg’s own Robert St. John. As a food writer and restaurateur, St. John has found the recipe for successfully translating his love of cooking into a successful career. Through the popularity of his eateries, cook books and food columns, one readily sees his complete understanding of the southern palate. An understanding he credits to his upbringing.
In this episode, St. John discusses his Hattiesburg roots and how his family’s Thanksgivings have changed through the years. He remembers his grandmother as a great cook and hostess. And he explains how the smell of a roux still reminds him of Thanksgivings at her house.
Many of the recipes St. John prepares on Thanksgivings today have been passed down from his mother and grandmother. Even so, he still manages to add his own touches.
Podcast extra: Even though he knows he could do a lot of business on holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, St. John feels it’s more important for his employees to be at home with their families on those days.
Happy Thanksgiving from Mississippi Moments.
Growing up in Cataula, Georgia, Helen Grant was always involved in sports. In this episode, she remembers her parent’s unwavering support through high school, college, and beyond. Helen Grant began her college career at Berry College in North Georgia. It was there she met Coach Kay James, who encouraged her to play volleyball and softball, in addition to basketball. When James took a job at Southern Miss after Grant’s freshman year, Grant decided to come along the ride.
Before Kay James came to Southern Miss, women’s basketball had been largely ignored. Grant describes how Coach James built up the team and generated excitement. After graduation, Grant remained active in sports, first as coach and later as an administrator. She credits Coach James for giving her a chance and looks back with pride on her role in building up women’s sports at USM.
Helen Grant was inducted into the Southern Miss Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
Keith Coursey of Hattiesburg was trained to be an industrial forester—learning how to grow trees like any other crop. Now a prescription forester for the De Soto National Forest, he explains how prescription forestry requires a much broader scope of knowledge.
The clear cutting of Mississippi’s longleaf pine forests during the period between 1870 – 1930, radically altered our state’s ecosystem. After the longleaf forests were clear cut, loblolly pines were planted in their place because they were easier to cultivate and reached maturity faster. In this episode Coursey details the new plan to restore our biodiversity, discusses how fire helps the longleaf flourish and how the two species battle for dominance.
As a machine gunner in the U.S. Army during WWII, Robert Leslie survived some of the bloodiest battles of the European Theater. In this episode, he shares some of those memories that still haunt his dreams. He recalls his company’s first battle to take Saint Dié, France in November of 1944 and how his soldiers were saved from a booby-trapped roadblock by a herd of pigs.
Later, as the Allied Forces pushed across the Siegfried Line, a defensive wall along Germany’s western border, Leslie endured bitter cold, deprivation, and the anguish of losing so many of his fellow soldiers to the horrors of modern warfare.
The podcast ends on a high note as he remembers the 761st Tank Battalion, the first armored combat group comprised of African-Americans. Even whites from the segregated South recognized the bravery and skills of these tankers and Leslie credits them with saving his life on more than one occasion.
Art Cissell became a professional drummer in St. Louis during the Big Band Era. In this episode, he remembers the St. Louis music scene of the 1930s & 40s. Cissell began drumming at the age of five when his father gave him a real snare drum to pass the time while quarantined with the measles. He joined his first Big Band in 1936 at the age of 16. Cissell describes working full time during the day and playing the drums, nights and weekends.
Even though the country was racially segregated during the Big Band Era, musicians often crossed color lines to play together. Cissell recalls sitting in with some of the most famous musicians of the day and playing the St. Louis Harlem Club until the sun came up.
After years of playing in Big Bands, Cissell took a job at Keesler Air Force Base as an electronics instructor. He recounts how he and other Gulf Coast musicians formed The Star Dusters in 1968.
Photo: Cab Calloway, FSU World Music Online.
Imogene Borganelli of Greenville graduated from Ole’ Miss with dreams of becoming a medical technician. “My father had been a superintendent and my mother had been a teacher and I said, I did not intend to teach school. I didn’t want to starve to death.” It was the chance to coach girls’ basketball at Shaw High School in 1950 that lead her to become a teacher, anyway. In this episode, she remembers when her team beat the team of her friend – coaching legend Margaret Wade.
The Mississippi Humanities Council was founded in 1972 with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Borganelli details the first Scholar-In-Residence Program. Borganelli served on the Mississippi Humanities Council for six years. She looks back with pride on her time with the Council and reflects on its importance to the state.
Podcast Extra - Dr. Cora Norman was the founding Executive Director of the Humanities Council and served on it for 24 years. Borganelli describes her friend as the epitome of the what is good about the Humanities.
To celebrate Rosh Hashanah, this week’s MSMO features Carolyn Katz discussing her Jewish grandmothers. She begins by sharing her memories of how the small Jewish community in Kosciusko would always gather to celebrate traditional holidays like Rosh Hashanah.
Katz then recalls her great grandmother, Helene Mayer, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, who ran a boarding house in New Orleans to support her children after the untimely death of her husband. Katz remembers her as a matriarch who was loved by many.
During the summers growing up, Katz would often travel by train from Durrant to New Orleans to visit her grandmother. She remembers Grandmother Carrie as fun-loving and untraditional except when it came to her Jewish faith.
Katz’s mother, Edna, quit school at the age of 16 to open her own stenography business in New Orleans. She describes how Edna adjusted to small town life in Kosciusko.
Yoset Altamirano grew up in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. After graduation, she spent five years teaching music at a private school, but felt frustrated that music education was not emphasized more in her native country. In this episode, she recalls trying to instill an appreciation of music in her students and in their parents as well.
Altamirano soon received a scholarship to attend university but because music was not offered as a major, studied marketing instead. She still made time to perform in plays and opera and while working on a production of an opera by Verdi she met her husband who was a classical musician studying at the University of Southern Mississippi. After they married in 1998, she travelled with him to Hattiesburg where she auditioned for the choir and was awarded a scholarship.
According to Altamirano, studying music in the United States was a great opportunity. At the time the interview was conducted in 2002, she related feeling torn between staying here and returning to Honduras.
As a third generation fisherman, Clyde Brown grew up hunting and fishing on the Gulf Coast. Even as he pursued a career with International Paper, he worked to preserve the natural resources of the Gulf and protect the interests of fishermen. In 1982, Brown worked to dredge out an access canal into Bayou Heron after it became filled-in through disuse. He recalls how they raised the funds for a landing to make Bayou Heron accessible for everyone.
Due to his interest in preserving our marine resources, Brown was appointed to the Gulf of Mexico Program for Fisheries. He describes his work with the program and how his desire to establish a reserve in Jackson County led the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve or NERR. Brown credits his wife’s pecan pie for sealing the deal.
Clyde Brown was awarded NOAA’s Environmental Hero Award in recognition of his thirty-year commitment to coastal conservation. He looks back on the occasion with humor and humility.
Sank Powe of Mound Bayou became the head baseball coach of Cleveland High School in 1971, one year after school desegregation. In this episode, he recalls the resistance he encountered both from white parents and the black community. As a coach of high school boys and girls for twenty-five years, Powe developed a coaching style that he describes as a mixture of enthusiasm, motivation and fear.
Looking back on his career, Powe points with pride to the impact he has had on his students and the importance of chemistry between a coach and his players. He also explains his philosophy of walking the walk in all aspects of life.
As Hurricane Katrina churned across the Gulf of Mexico in late summer of 2005, Steve Grimm of Picayune was busy attending to the daily challenges of running Highlands Community Hospital (then Crosby Memorial Hospital). While the storm ravaged the Gulf Coast on the morning of August 29, he and his staff tried to save medical records and equipment as the roof blew off the building.
In the episode, Grimm describes the situation they faced the morning after including, no security, only backup generators for power and shortages of food, fuel and other basic necessities of life. He explains how they began to pick up the pieces and prepare for the next time even as they struggled to return to something close to normalcy.
According to Grimm, lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina will not be wasted. He is proud of how his hospital staff stood up to adversity and confident that they will be better prepared moving forward.
Prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, African-Americans across the South were denied the right to vote through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other tactics of suppression. In 1964, David Kendall was a 20-year-old Indiana college student. In this episode, he recalls coming to Mississippi to participate in the voter registration drive known as Freedom Summer.
Over the course of that summer, Kendall would be jailed multiple times. He shares his memories of that first arrest and being introduced to the best cheeseburger in Holly Springs. In preparing for Freedom Summer, Civil Rights workers received extensive training in a variety of tactics, but he explains how growing up on a farm proved surprisingly useful in helping to gain the confidence of black farmers in the Delta.
Image: Voter Registration Holly Springs, McCain Library & Archives, USM
Thad “Pie” Vann was head football coach at Southern Miss from 1948 until 1968, racking up an impressive 19 winning seasons and two national championships. But in this episode, we learn that coaching was not his first choice.
Growing up in the small town of Magnolia, Vann wanted to play professional baseball more than anything. It was his high school football coach that encouraged him to go to college before trying out for a minor league team. During his four years at Ole’ Miss, Vann excelled at football and baseball, hoping to play in the big leagues after graduation. He credits Coach Pete Shields for helping him prepare for a different career path.
Vann was still considering major league baseball after graduating college in 1929, but jumped at the chance to coach football at Meridian High School because of a desire to help his younger sister to attend college. It was while he was at Meridian, USM Coach Reed Green asked him to come to Southern Miss as an assistant. Eventually, he became head coach and achieved national recognition over the next twenty years.
Pie Vann was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1971 and National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1987.
After graduating college in California, Dolphus Weary returned to Mendenhall while job hunting.
In this episode, his wife Rosie Weary recalls their decision to join the Mendenhall Ministries. She describes how the Mendenhall Ministries established a 150 acre farm to teach their young people a good work ethic and explains how the food they grow benefits the entire community.
The programs developed by the Mendenhall Ministries have been designed to address specific needs within the community:
Weary concludes by pointing with pride to their many success stories. To learn more about the Mendenhall Ministries, go to http://www.mendenhallministries.org .
The Illinois Central railroad and eight affiliated Harriman lines had traditionally dealt separately with each craft union (boilermakers, blacksmiths, etc.) giving the companies an unfair advantage during contract negotiations in the minds of the unions. When the unions formed a "System Federation" in June of that year, the companies refused to recognize the group and began preparing for a system-wide strike.
Harry Marsalis was a seventeen year old machinist apprentice working at the Illinois Central railroad maintenance shop in McComb when the strike began on September 30th. In this episode, he describes how the company prepared in advance of the strike by building walled compounds and hiring northern strikebreakers. According to Marsalis, when the strikebreaker train arrived in McComb three days later, 100 strikers responded to the rock-throwing strikebreakers by shooting the train cars to pieces before the train would escape to New Orleans. Reports of 30 dead and 100 wounded strikebreakers were denied by the company
Marsalis describes how the town became an armed camp as martial law was declared by the governor, complete with hundreds of state militiamen, machine gun towers and searchlights around the company offices.
After two long years the strike was considered a failure and many of the strikers including Marsalis were forced to leave town looking for work.
Julius Lopez of Biloxi graduated high school in 1926 without any career plans beyond a goal of attending Tulane. In this episode, he explains his decision to attend Loyola University instead.
When legendary coach Clark Shaughnessy came to Loyola in 1927, Julius Lopez was the third string quarterback. He describes how he went from third to first in just one game and was thereafter “under Shaughnessy’s wing.”
As quarterback for Loyola, Lopez had many fellow Mississippians as teammates. He remembers the spirited games they played against Ole’ Miss in 1927 and ’28 and Loyola’s 1928 season opener against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Joseph Wroten of Greenville was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1951. During his three terms in office, his progressive views on issues like civil rights often put him in opposition to the rest of the legislature, so much so that he was dubbed “The Great Dissenter” by the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
In this episode, Wroten reflects on Washington County’s history of Progressivism. He discusses the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission—created by the legislature in 1956 to promote continued racial segregation—and why he first supported and then opposed the agency’s formation.
Wroten details how his liberal views often made him the target of threats and hate speech and how his support for the admission of James Meredith to Ole’ Miss cost him a fourth term in office.
PODCAST EXTRA: As a minister’s son, Wroten grew up Methodist in segregated Mississippi. He remembers how the United Methodist Church sought to lead by example during the Civil Rights Movement.
In preparation for the Invasion of Sicily, a key first step for the liberation of Europe during WWII, the 82nd Airborne Division traveled by boat to the North African city of Casablanca in the spring of 1943 to prepare and train. In this episode, General Elmo Bell of Wiggins recalls the hot, arid countryside and being greeted by the Red Cross.
On the night of July 9th, 1943, U. S. Army paratroopers parachuted behind enemy lines on the tiny island of Sicily. Separated and alone, Bell recounts the harrowing events that followed as he attempted to find and regroup his scattered unit. His memories of that night and the following day are graphic and disturbing.
After 15 years under fascist rule, the reactions of the Sicilians to Allied forces were mixed. Bell describes the generational divide of the local population and the large number of political prisoners they liberated.
Warning: this episode includes graphic descriptions of combat!