CNN sent correspondent Kathleen Koch to Mobile, Alabama to ride out Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, when she was finally allowed to travel to her hometown, Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, the level of devastation and suffering she witnessed was overwhelming.
In this episode, Koch describes feeling intensely conflicted between the detachment her job required and the desire to cast aside her role as a reporter and do anything possible to alleviate the suffering she encountered. She and crew decided to use their time off the air to search for the missing and help survivors.
After Hurricane Katrina, South Mississippi residents came together in a spirit of cooperation and self-reliance. Koch recalls a resourceful group of young people she met at their unauthorized shelter and a mad dash to Wal-Mart to bring them much needed supplies.
John Hairston was the Chief Operations Officer for Hancock Bank in Gulfport, when in Fall of 2005, Hurricane Katrina threatened the coast. In this episode, he remembers preparing for a hit, but predicting a miss.
When Hancock Bank's corporate headquarters was wiped out, all of the bank’s records and computers were destroyed. Hairston explains how they were able to transfer all of their operations to Chicago within four days. Hairston recalls handing out tens of millions of dollars to anyone with an IOU and giving a new meaning to the phrase "money laundering."
George Bass was the Long Beach Fire Chief when Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005. In this episode, he remembers meeting with his men in the final hours before the storm and how he assured them that they would be okay. Bass describes how he and his fellow firemen hunkered down as the winds from Katrina threatened to bring the station down around them. He also explains how they fanned out looking for survivors even before the storm had passed
Afterwards, it was time for the cleanup to begin. Bass recalls feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before them.
In August of 2005, Angelia Gray was the Food and Beverage Director of a Hattiesburg hotel. In this episode, she explains how she and the rest of the hotel staff prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina as the hotel began to fill up with evacuees. Gray recalls riding out the storm and caring for their guests.
After Katrina was over, Gray had to cook for the all the guests. She explains how she was able to feed so many people without electricity or water.
Of that experience, Gray remembers the spirit of cooperation among most of the guests and the bad behavior of a few.
Tommy Longo was Mayor of Waveland when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August of 2005. In the episode, he remembers the city before storm and the devastation after.
As Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the early morning hours of August 29th, 2005, Longo and his family took shelter in the Waveland command post. He recalls the group’s struggle to survive as the floodwaters rose.
Longo was born and raised in the city of Waveland. He discusses how Hurricane Katrina has changed the he thinks about his home town. He also recalls their efforts to convince everyone to evacuate the area and how he convinced one lady to leave her cats.
Photo Credit: photosfromkatrina.com
In 1983, a hazardous-waste disposal company attempted to build a toxic waste dump in the town of Shuqualak in Noxubee County, Mississippi. In this episode, Martha Blackwell describes how local citizens organized to fight back and were able to have a five year moratorium placed on chemical disposal sites in Mississippi.
In 1991, after the moratorium expired, plans were announced to construct three toxic waste facilities in Noxubee County. Blackwell recalls how she learned about a hazardous-waste dump to be constructed on her neighbor’s land. She details how their group fought to keep these facilities out of Noxubee county and why they felt that having three high capacity sites would lead to waste from across the country being brought to Mississippi for disposal.
In a podcast extra, Blackwell credits the Choctaw Indians with preventing the plans to construct a dump site on reservation land.
Charlie Barrett is the former Mayor of Shuqualak (Sugar Lock). It this episode, he recounts the story of how his great grandfather donated the land for the train station. He also recalls how the farmers would bring their cotton to be ginned on Saturday mornings and stay all day.
As a boy, Barrett knew all of the merchants in Shuqualak. He remembers one who would speak to him in Choctaw. Years later, Barrett, now a young business owner himself, struggled to make ends meet until one day, an old merchant made him the offer of a lifetime.
Photo credit: hickoryridgestudio49.blogspot.com
John Ellzie Carr joined the Tupelo Police Department in 1921 and served as the town's chief of police from 1925 until 1952. In this episode, Dudley Carr remembers his father’s natural talent for law enforcement. He recalls the city’s primitive jail and even more primitive alarm system.
In 1932, the infamous bank robber, Machine Gun Kelly held up the Citizen’s National Bank of Tupelo. Dudley Carr explains how the robbery inspired the city to buy its own Thompson submachine gun.
In a podcast extra, Carr looks back with pride at his father’s legacy and what it’s meant to his own career.
Emma Foret was the wife of a Navy hospital corpsman. In this episode she recalls their life together and how she and the children coped with her husband’s absence.
She also discusses the special bond between the Navy and Marine Corp and how the wives of these servicemen depended on each other.
PODCAST EXTRA: Even in times of peace, conflicts can arise at a moment’s notice. Foret remembers her husband’s role in two such events and how the Navy kept the families informed.
Mary Louise Tarver was born in 1918 on Elm’s Court Plantation in Natchez. In this episode, she recalls her Uncle Will’s garden and his prickly relationship with her mother.
Growing up on a farm taught Mary Louise Tarver to enjoy simple pleasures. She remembers riding horseback to the Homochitto Swamp to spend the day fishing.
For Mary Louise Tarver, farm life meant learning to be self-sufficient. She describes how her mother would use apple peels to make vinegar, and use the vinegar to make pickles.
PODCAST EXTRA: During the Great Depression, some schools began serving students a hot lunch using food items provided by government. Tarver recalls how the lunch lady did the best she could with what she had on hand.
At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Italian emigrants were encouraged to come to the Mississippi Delta to farm. In this episode, John Bassie of Bolivar County shares his family’s story of coming to America and how they taught him to love their adopted country.
For those Italian emigrants who made a home in the Mississippi Delta, the Fourth of July was always a big deal. Bassie recalls how his family celebrated with lots of eating and singing. He remembers those Independence Day celebrations as a cultural melting pot of food, music, and fun that involved the entire community.
Photo: Digital Public Library of America
Dr. Rodney Bennett was named President of The University of Southern Mississippi on February 7, 2013. In this episode, he discusses how he felt when an EF-4 tornado decimated the campus three days later.
Bennett was happily serving as Vice President of Student Affairs at the University of Georgia when he was selected as USM’s 10th President. He recalls accepting the position with a sense of purpose.
The morning after the tornado struck, Bennett addressed the 900 students, faculty and staff that had gathered to assist with the cleanup. He remembers searching for the right words to say on the ride over.
Podcast Extra: Bennett credits USM’s recovery since the storm to loyal alumni like Chuck Scianna. He stresses the importance of graduating eagles returning to the nest.
Stone Barefield of Hattiesburg ran for the State House of Representatives in 1959. In this episode, he remembers his campaign committee and the only speech he ever wrote. He also discusses the days before televised debates, when politicians relied on “stump speeches” to get their message to the voters.
Running for state representative of Forrest County meant doing a lot of walking. Barefield remembers meeting good folks and eating good food.
According to Barefield, South Mississippi was not being fairly represented in those days. In this podcast extra, he discusses House Speaker Walter Sellers and the fight for reapportionment.
In later years, Barefield pushed legislation for the establishment of the Longleaf Trace fittness trail, a rails-to-trails conversion of 41 miles of abandoned railroad track between Hattiesburg and Prentiss.
Prior to 1936, Highway 49 was a narrow, twisting, gravel road. In this episode, Chrysteen Flynt of D’lo, recalls learning to drive on Old 49 back in 1922.
For years, Flynt served as the unofficial historian for the town of D’lo. She notes that the rocky banks of the Strong River there were home to a water-driven sawmill as well as a meeting place for the Choctaws.
The origins of the name D’lo have always been a source of debate for residents and visitors alike. Flynt, attempts to set the record straight.
The D’lo’s largest employer was the Finkbine Lumber Company. In this podcast extra, Flynt remembers the YMCA the company built for the town and the silent movies that played there.
On September 29th, 1915, a category four hurricane made landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana, killing 275 people. In this episode, Jim Kelly of English Lookout recalls the town’s largest employer and the aftermath of the storm. He remember how the factory used to produce crushed oyster shells by the trainload and how the hurricane changed all that.
Kelly was 10 years old when the hurricane destroyed the school and most of the homes in English Lookout. He explains why he wasn’t able to return to school until two years later.
In this Podcast Extra, Kelly describes how they would unload oysters from the schooners and roll them in railcars into the factory steamers.
Bill Barnes of Jackson joined the Coast Guard the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In this episode, he recalls his time in the Pacific spent aboard a Patrol boat. Barnes also describes the process of arming and testing the new craft before heading out to sea.
After serving two years in the Pacific Theater, Barnes returned stateside for a new duty: helping develop rescue methods still used by the Coast Guard today.
At the beginning of the war, the Coast Guard didn’t have enough uniforms, weapons or even beds for the influx of new recruits.
Barnes recalls going to extremes to try and keep warm.
Gene Stork, of Moss Point, began working as a commercial fisherman in 1954. In this episode he recalls being part of a “mother boat” crew and how they worked together to catch fish.
He also discusses how Coastal fishermen would try to avoid catching redfish over a certain size because the larger fish are the egg layers. Stork feels the increased popularity of blackened redfish in Louisiana led to overfishing.
Stork learned how to fish for flounder through years of experience. He remembers wading for miles through the shallow waters of the Gulf trying to catch the elusive fish.
In a Podcast Extra, Stork talks about how during the winter months, his attention turned from fish to oysters. He describes how he gathered oysters and how he and his wife would clean and shuck them by the gallon.
The BP Oil Spill of 2010 generated stress and financial hardships throughout the Gulf Coast fishing industry. In this episode, Daniel Nguyen of the Mary, Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation discusses how that stress affected the Vietnamese Fishing Community.
After the BP Oil Spill, Congressman Joseph Cao formed a rapid response team to assist the Vietnamese fishing community. Team member Tuan Nguyen recalls those hectic days of community service and the cities they visited.
While BP hired many out-of-work fishermen to assist with the clean-up following the oil spill of 2010, some Vietnamese fishermen were left out due to the language barrier. Peter Nguyen explains how he assisted those fishermen to find work during the recovery.
Tuan Nguyen recounts with pride, the ways the rapid response team assisted, not only the Vietnamese community during the months following the oil spill, but the entire Gulf Coast.
On April 20th, 2010, an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, in the Gulf of Mexico, led to the largest crude oil spill in history. In this episode, commercial fisherman Peter Floyd recalls being confident that the Gulf Coast would survive. Joe Jewell of the Mississippi Dept. of Marine resources discusses the “triple threat” faced by Coastal fishermen.
After Hurricane Katrina, Crab fisherman Louie Lipps opened his own seafood restaurant in Frenier, Louisiana. Five years later, the BP oil spill brought a whole new set of challenges to the Gulf Coast seafood industry. Lipps remembers how his business was affected.
According to Peter Floyd, optimism is trait inherent in all successful fishermen. He feels that dire predictions in the media did more harm to the seafood industry than the spill itself.
For decades the Illinois Central Rail Road Maintenance Shop was one of the largest employers in McComb. In this episode, Ray Ward remembers signing on as a shop apprentice back in 1953. Ward recalls working in the car shop and the assembly line-like manner they used to rebuild the cars.
In order to save money and improve safety, Illionois Central offered cash rewards for employee suggestions at its McComb Maintenance Shop. Ward describes how the program worked and some suggestions he made for his job.
Podcast Bonus: When he wasn’t working, Ward loved riding horses. He relates how one late night ride turned into a practical joke on his co-workers.
Prior to the development of passenger jet planes, Americans travelled by train.
In this episode, Sam Page remembers when the Panama Limited came through Summit, Mississippi for the first time.
Years later, as ticket agent for the Illinois Central station in McComb, MS, Sam Page recalls being a very busy man selling tickets to destinations near and far. He discusses how many Mississippians rode The City of New Orleans to visit family members in Chicago, St. Louis and other northern cities.
The streamlined passenger train known as the Green Diamond ran from Chicago to St. Louis until 1947, when it was moved to Mississippi and renamed the Miss Lou.
Sam Page reminisces about riding the Miss Lou from McComb to New Orleans.
PODCAST EXTRA: Page discusses his time with the railroad and the people who depended on the trains for transportation like legendary baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean.
PHOTO: The Illinois Central Green Diamond later moved to Jackson, MS and renamed the Miss Lou.
Before there was Whole Foods, there was wild foods. As a young man, Alonzo Brandon of Port Gibson, hunted in order to help feed his family. In this episode he describes how he would outsmart the squirrels that tried to hide from him.
After working all day, Alonzo Brandon would often go coon hunting. He recalls waiting until dawn some nights for a treed coon to finally come down. He also discusses his weapon of choice, the 22 caliber rifle.
Brandon’s family raised hogs as an additional source of protein. In this podcast extra, he remembers how the hogs would also hunt to supplement their diets.
Dan McDaniel grew up in Bude, Mississippi. In this episode, he discusses why the town’s barbershop was central to the lives of so many. He also recalls the sawmill work whistle and the men walking home for lunch.
Today, most of us take indoor plumbing for granted. McDaniel remembers when plumbing was a luxury.
Because lumber was transported by train, all sawmill towns were connected by rail. McDaniel explains that back then, passenger trains were the most common way to travel.
Photo Credit: Gil Hoffman Collection
Family history is our personal connection to the past. In this week's episode, Ethel Patton D’Anjou of Claiborne County tells the story of her great grandfather’s escape from slavery. She also shares the tale of how her great grandmother, a native American was spared from the Trail of Tears by her birth parents and ended up in Mound Bayou.
PODCAST EXTRA: Alcorn University was founded in 1871 to educate the descendants of former slaves. Ethel Patton D’Anjou recounts her grandparent’s decision to come to Alcorn and open their own business. She hopes that her family’s history continues to provide inspiration for generations to come.
In 1918, F.S. Wolcott began using Port Gibson as Winter Quarters for his Rabbit Foot Minstrel Show. In this episode, Jimmy Allen explains why Wolcott’s show was different from other Minstrels. He also describes how a typical minstrel show operated.
As a bookkeeper in his father's Port Gibson car dealership, Allen had first hand experience dealing with Wolcott. He learned that when it came to Wolcott, the squeaky wheel got the grease.Wolcott eventually formed a partnership with his competitor, F.C. Huntington. In this podcast extra, Allen recalls how that partnership led to a warrant for Wolcott’s arrest.