Retired Fire Chief Robert Gavagnie joined the Bay St. Louis Fire Department in 1972. In this episode, he looks back with pride on a career spent savings lives and training young people to become firefighters. Before the opening of the Mississippi State Fire Academy, local fire departments had limited training resources. Gavagnie discusses how things have changed over time.
As part of their jobs, many first responders witness horrific scenes of carnage and devastation they can never forget. Gavagnie remembers a tragic fire he responded to and how that memory haunts him even now.
When Robert Gavagnie retired as Bay St. Louis Fire Chief in 2007, he had over 25 years of experience. He explains what makes firefighting such a demanding and yet rewarding career.
CAUTION: Contains graphic descriptions of tragic scenes witnessed by the speaker as a firefighter.
Established in 1889, the Neshoba County Fair is known for the privately-owned cabins located on its fairgrounds. Dorothy Dixon’s great-grandparents built a cabin there during the early years and their family has maintained a house on the main square ever since. In this episode, Dixon discusses how the Neshoba County Fair has evolved during her lifetime. She compares the early cabins to the ones of today.
People come the Neshoba County Fair ready to eat their fill of good, southern cooking. Dixon discusses the tradition of inviting people to eat at their family’s fairground cabin.
Dixon recalls that on certain days, fairgoers would dress up in their most stylish attire and the girls would always have a “Thursday” dress. According to her, the Neshoba County Fair was originally intended as a place where county farmers could meet up with old friends before it was time to go home and pick the cotton. She describes those simpler times and what the fair has evolved into today.
James Bass of Laurel was fifteen years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. In this episode, he recalls convincing his father to sign his enlistment papers when he was only sixteen. After joining the Navy, Bass was assigned to a destroyer minesweeper. He remembers learning to be a gunner as they sailed from Boston to Pearl Harbor.
During the battle for Okinawa, Bass’s ship was struck by a kamikaze plane and heavily damaged. He describes the events leading up to the attack and how their captain managed to keep the ship afloat.
After Bass’s ship was damaged in the battle for Okinawa, the crew was given a 25-day leave. He reflects on how the dropping of the atomic bomb probably saved his life and millions more.
PHOTO: USS Harding DMS-28
In 1961, Ruby Magee was a student at Jackson State College, majoring in History and Political Science. In this episode, she explains how her participation in local Civil Rights demonstrations, almost led to her expulsion.
That summer, Magee returned to her home in Tylertown and attempted to register to vote. At that time, Mississippians were required to pass a literacy test before being allowed to register. Magee remembers how her application was rejected even though she passed the literacy test.
After being denied the right to vote in Walthall County, Magee filed a complaint with the Justice Department. She describes her parents as supportive, even as they feared for her safety.
In 1961, the U.S. Justice Department filed suite against the Walthall County registrar, and others, for denying blacks citizens the right vote. Magee recalls the outcome of that trial.
This episode was written by Ellie Forsyth, a senior at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hattiesburg.
Mississippi Moments is produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.