Betty McGehee grew up on Scotland Plantation in Vidalia, Louisiana, in the 1930s and 40s. Later, she married a Natchez native and crossed the river for good. In this episode, McGehee shares some memories from her childhood. She recounts raising chickens and selling the eggs to earn extra spending money. She also discusses how they would collect rainwater to drink in an above-ground storage tank and why her father later dug a well on their farm.
The Natchez-Vidalia bridge across the Mississippi river was completed in October of 1940. McGehee recalls crossing the river by ferry and how the bridge made traveling so much easier. When the bridge was first completed, drivers on the Mississippi side had to pay a 50-cent toll. McGehee explains how her Natchez boyfriend would wait for her on his side of the bridge to save money.
Jackie Hancock Schulze grew up in Natchez during the 1930s and 40s, in the house built by her great-grandfather, Natchez Mayor William G. Benbrook. In this episode, taken from her 2004 interview, she shares some precious childhood memories of family and friends and her hometown.
Schulze recounts going to the movies downtown, learning to swim in the Elks Club swimming pool and having “Coca-Cola parties” with her friends. She describes these gatherings as the product of a simpler, more innocent age.
When Schulze was a child, her grandmother would take her to New Orleans each summer to shop. She remembers staying on Canal Street and the amazing things to see and do in the Big Easy.
Years after Schulze left Natchez, she moved back to the family homestead, which by then was unoccupied. After celebrating so many holidays in the dining room, surrounded by her loving family, she found it hard to eat there alone.
Jackie Schulze passed away on September 13, 2005.
Billie Rossie Tonos’s family immigrated from Lebanon and opened a store in Clarksdale. In this episode, she recounts how her parents then moved to Shaw and opened their own business with help from the Lebanese community.
During the Great Depression, many small business owners struggled to keep their doors opened. Tonos recalls her parent’s resourcefulness during that difficult time.
As the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, Tonos’s mother was proud to be an American citizen. She describes her mother’s fierce patriotism when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Being part of the Delta Lebanese community gave Billie Tonos a sense of belonging and fellowship. She remembers how there was always room at the table for family and friends, especially during the holidays.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Hayley Hasik and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.