During the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps gave young men jobs to help support their families. In this episode, Bidwell Barnes of Gulfport recalls joining the CCC and working to battle forest fires in South Mississippi. Shortly after his twenty-first birthday,
Bidwell Barnes was drafted into the army to fight in Europe. He describes the basic training required to become a medic for the 92nd Infantry Division. As an army medic during WWII, Bidwell Barnes was expected to give medical aid to friend and foe alike. He remembers how both sides would spread falsehoods about him and his fellow black soldiers.
After helping to defeat fascism in Europe, Bidwell Barnes returned to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He recounts feeling surprised at having to sit in the back of bus after serving his country.
Jewel Rushing grew up in Magnolia, Mississippi, during the Great Depression. In this episode, he remembers befriending the hobos who used to camp outside of town and discusses how growing up in that time of hardship inspired him to help others later in life.
In 1968, the Mayor of McComb asked Jewel Rushing to serve on the city’s public housing board. He recalls organizing a Boys and Girls Club chapter after watching poor kids playing in the streets. Rushing also served on the Board of Directors of the McComb Salvation Army for many years. He recounts how a generous donation by a retired railroad worker allowed them to keep their doors open.
During his lifetime, Rushing worked tirelessly as a community activist. He served on numerous boards including the Southwest Community College Board of Trustees, the McComb Housing Authority, the Salvation Army, and the United Way of Southwest Mississippi. He explains how growing up poor inspired him to try and help young people overcome their circumstances.
Jewel Rushing passed away on September 13, 2011, at the age of ninety.
As the daughter of famed restauranteur Mary Mahoney, Eileen Mahoney Ezell grew up immersed in Biloxi history and tradition. In this episode, she recalls being asked to serve as Mardi Gras Queen Ixolib for 1976. For Ezell, serving as the Gulf Coast Carnival Queen was a whirlwind of festivities. She describes the Coronation Ball, parades, and other events that make Mardi Gras so special.
Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant opened for business in Biloxi on May 7, 1964. Ezell remembers her mother as real people person who loved the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Since 1908, Biloxi’s Mardi Gras has continue to grow and evolve into a world class celebration. In this interview recorded in 2004, Ezell discusses how the Gulf Coast Carnival Association works to ensure the future of the event while respecting traditions of the past.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Punter, Ray Guy, redefined the position for all who would follow. A tremendous athlete, Guy was as good a pitcher as he was a punter. After finishing high school in his hometown of Thomson, Georgia, he decided to come to Southern Miss to play football and baseball. Guy recalls why choosing a smaller school like USM was a “no-brainer.”
Although Guy could kick footballs great distances, he often chose height over yardage. He discusses the strategy behind his high, hanging kicks. During his years playing football with the Oakland Raiders, Guy shattered many NFL records. He explains why records are meaningless if the team doesn’t win.
Even though Ray Guy was first nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994, he was not inducted until the Class of 2014. In this interview, recorded shortly before the induction ceremony, he describes how his former coach John Madden would present him for enshrinement and the festivities to follow.
PHOTO: Famed Raiders Coach John Madden (L) and Ray Guy (R) the night of the enshrinement ceremony in 2014.
Claudette Romious grew up the Delta town of Alligator, Mississippi. In this episode, she discusses her father’s various business ventures including a garage, gas station, café, grocery store and juke joint. She also shares her memories of growing up as the daughter of a hardworking African-American entrepreneur.
The Rabbit Foot Minstrels tent show travelled the South entertaining both white and black audiences. Claudette Romious recalls sneaking into the adult-oriented burlesque show as a child.
As a teenager, Romious and her sisters worked in their father’s juke joint on the weekends. She describes learning how to handle drunk customers and not be afraid of confrontations.
When Romious’s father passed away in 1979, people called and came from all over the country to express their condolences. She remembers the diverse array of mourners and their stories of how her father had helped each of them to achieve their dreams.