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.
Mardi Gras has been celebrated in Biloxi since 1883. In this episode, Jerry O’Keefe remembers the excitement of attending the parades as a boy in the 1930s. Later, as a young father in the 1940s, O’Keefe shared his love of Mardi Gras with his children.
After being elected Mayor of Biloxi in 1972, O’Keefe realized the city’s Mardi Gras fundraising system needed to be overhauled. He explains how that was accomplished and why Mardi Gras remains so important to the city's identity.
During WWII, most African-American Soldiers served in support units away from the front lines. All that changed during the War in the Pacific where because of the close proxmity of the conflict, black soldiers found themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder with their white counterparts. In this episode, Lee Spearman of Bay Springs remembers the only objective was to stay alive.
Journalist Ernie Pyle reported from the frontlines in Europe and the Pacific during WWII. Spearman was there when Pyle was hit by enemy fire.
Rowan Clark of Bude was 16 years old when he got his first job in 1924. In this episode, he recalls being a water boy and delivering ice for the local icehouse. Like so many others left unemployed by the Great Depression, Clark rode the rails looking for work. He describes his journey across the country chasing rumors of job opportunities.
Clark was finally offered a job washing cars in New Orleans…at service station that was actually a front for rum runners!
For Randy Yates, the Neshoba County Fair was a family tradition. In this episode, he explains why the fair was so important to his grandparents. One of the most vivid memories for Yates was the endless variety of food the fair had to offer.
According to Yates, no one worked harder to prepare for the Neshoba County Fair than his grandfather. He remembers it being a year-long labor of love.
Jackson has always enjoyed a wide selection of choices when it comes to dining out. In this episode, Randy Yates discusses the important role Greek restaurateurs played in Jackson’s culinary history. Yates began working for Primos Northgate restaurant as a college student. He remembers the large crowds and the places the staff would go between shifts.
After Primos, Yates took a job working at Scrooge’s. He credits owner Bill Latham and Don Primos for teaching him some important job skills.
Today, Randy Yates is co-owner of the Ajax Diner, on the Square, in Oxford.
The Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi was established in 1977. Its mission was to investigate, document, interpret and teach about the American South. In this episode, Ann Abadie recalls the Center’s first public event. Abadie also discusses the Center’s most ambitious project: The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. She explains how one section of that publication inspired them to form the Southern Foodways Alliance.
No study of Southern Culture would be complete without the Blues. Abadie remembers how Bill Ferris, the Center’s first director, brought Living Blues Magazine from Chicago to Oxford.
Jim Anderson became the director of the First Regional Library, a five-county-library system based in Hernando, back in 1972. In this episode, he discusses the history of Mississippi’s oldest regional library.
According to Anderson, the level of cooperation that exists between the state’s public, academic and special libraries is the result of programs sponsored by the Mississippi Library Commission. He looks back fondly on his thirty-six years with the First Regional Library. It’s a choice he recommends to young people searching for a fun and interesting career path.
One of the star attractions of the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1984 was the space shuttle Enterprise. In this episode, Christine Harvey, a photographer at the Stennis Space Center, recalls documenting the shuttle’s journey from Mobile Bay to the Port of New Orleans.
Harvey’s job was to ride a tugboat out to Algiers Point and photograph the arrival of the shuttle. It was an assignment that left her a little…queasy.
For Harvey, the arrival of the Enterprise was an emotional moment and one that she’ll never forget.
Growing up in Dixie Springs, Paul Ott Carruth had two great passions: the Great Outdoors and making music. So it came as a shock when in 1967, Carruth learned that hardwood trees around the Leaf River were being intentionally poisoned. At the time, Carruth was gaining recognition as a singer on a Hattiesburg TV show. He decided to combine his love of music and his love of nature to save those trees.
In this episode, Ott discusses how this decision led to a life devoted to protecting Mississippi's natural resources through songwriting. He also talks about his long association with the State Game and Fish Commission.
Paul Ott Carruth’s weekly radio and TV show Listen to the Eagle continues to celebrate and promote The Great Mississippi Outdoors.