Ernest Potter boarded a troop ship bound for Italy on September 5, 1944, the same day his daughter was born. In this episode, he shares his memories of receiving the news a month later and meeting boxing legend Joe Louis. He also describes the luxurious accommodations of his first post and the primitive conditions of his second.
Working an air traffic controller with the Allied Forces, Ernest Potter’s group supported the British 8th Army. He discusses how much tea the British drank during the course of a day, how the Germans would shell their positions at night and recounts a couple of opportunities he had to aid a young Italian girl and a German POW.
As the son of a Choctaw sharecropper in the early 1950s, Hubert Wesley had limited opportunities to further his education beyond the basics. In this episode, he recalls how a Missionary Baptist preacher, Willie Nix and his wife Ethel brought him from Mashulaville to Birmingham. The couple took him into their home and found him a job at a local service station. Her brother, Charles Wells, an accountant with Hayes Aircraft Company, began tutoring young Wesley and teaching him the skills required to land a good paying job.
It was Wells’ determination to instill confidence in Wesley that led him to suggest they apply to be contestants on Strike it Rich, a controversial TV gameshow that pitted people with hard-luck stories against each other for the chance to win $500. Wesley describes their trip to New York City to compete on the gameshow in March of 1954. His story touched the nation and donations and job offers poured in, afterwards.
Wesley accepted a job with Hayes Aircraft on Wells’ recommendation and details his career with the company until his retirement at the age of 55. His story is remarkable for the way people responded to his earnest efforts at self-improvement.
Hubert Wesley was only five when his family left the Choctaw reservation and became sharecroppers. In this episode, he shares his memories of how they came to live in Noxubee county and the hard times they endured. As the son of a Choctaw sharecropper, Wesley worked year-round, cutting timber and chopping cotton. He recalls the primitive lifestyle and the spirit of cooperation it fostered within the Choctaw community.
After Wesley’s family harvested their crops each fall, they were paid to help the white farmers. He explains how the Choctaws were treated differently from their white coworkers and recounts paying ten cents for a ride to Macon and sitting with black customers at the cinema.
Photo: Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History