Steeped in tradition, the holidays are a source of vivid childhood memories for many. This week's episode is a compilation of some of our favorites: three Mississippians from very different backgrounds share their stories of that special time of year.
Lou Mallory of Natchez grew up in South Georgia, the daughter of a sharecropper. She remembers having little money at Christmas, but never feeling poor.
As a girl, Ellen McCarley would ride the train from Port Gibson to Vicksburg to go Christmas shopping with her mother. She recalls her mother’s Christmas parties as having something for everyone.
Charles Wright would travel with his grandmother each Christmas to their family gathering in Bude. He describes the large spread of food and the atmosphere of Love.
Happy Holidays from the Mississippi Moments family to you and yours!
PHOTO: Robert C. Waller collection, USM Archives
Marcelle Bienvenu grew up in Saint Martinville, Louisana. In this episode, she discusses her family’s passion for cooking and how Chef Paul Prudhomme introduced the world to Cajun cuisine. Bienvenu was working at Commanders Palace restaurant in New Orleans when they hired Prudhomme. She recalls his “Trinity” of spices.
Bienvenu is a columnist with the Times Picayune and has published several cookbooks. She also teaches cooking classes and courses on culinary traditions of the American South.
Podcast Extra: Bienvenu explains how which part of Louisiana you’re from determines the way you cook Creole food.
Kris Gianakos of Meridian comes from a large Greek family. In this episode, he discusses his favorite way to prepare leg of lamb. Lamb is a staple of Greek cooking. For his family, it was a dish usually served during the holidays. He also describes avgolemono soup, a traditional Greek chicken soup and explains why it always reminds him of home.
PODCAST EXTRA: According to Gianakos, wherever he travels, he runs into other Greeks eager to share their traditional foods. As examples he cites two Greek-owned restaurants in Memphis and Oxford.
Glenn Hughes is the Extension Forestry Professor at Mississippi State University. In this episode, he discusses the importance of the Longleaf Pine to our state’s history.
Up until 1890, harvested trees were transported by teams of oxen. Hughes explains how advances in technology led to the clear-cutting of our pine forests. He also reveals South Mississippi's connection to America’s most famous battleship – the USS Constitution –commissioned in 1797 and known as Old Ironsides.
PODCAST EXTRA: Early in our state’s history, pine tree sap was harvested for a variety of uses. Hughes defines the term “naval stores” and explains its importance.
Fewell Thompson was born in Hattiesburg in 1891. In this episode, he recalls how, as a child, he frequented the home of his neighbor, Captain Hardy and his wife, Hattie Hardy, the town’s founder and namesake.
Thompson’s father had a horse and mule business in downtown Hattiesburg in the early 1900s. He discusses how his father would have the livestock shipped by train from Saint Louis and how people would come to town for supplies and spend the night camping in the "wagon lot" on Main Street.
During WWI the US Cavalry still rode horses into battle. Thompson remembers serving in the Army’s Veterinary Corps and the first time he tried to give a horse ether.
Hattiesburg’s role as a transportation hub earned it the nickname “The Hub City.” In a podcast extra Thompson recalls the many railroads that crisscrossed the town.
In 1962, James Meredith attempted to become the first African-American to enroll at Ole’ Miss. In this episode, Ken Fairly, then, a Hinds County Deputy, discusses being selected to be part of Governor Ross Barnett's security detail when the Governor traveled to Oxford.
Fairly describes how Barnett and his advisors conspired to stop Meredith from attending Ole’ Miss by arresting him en route to Oxford on trumped up charges. During the standoff between the Governor and the Kennedys, Fairly recalls having a front row seat to history.
PODCAST EXTRA: As protesters continued to pour into Oxford, Fairly remembers being ordered to quietly return to Hinds County, just hours before the riots broke out.
On the evening of October 11, 1973, Charles Hickman and Calvin Parker were fishing the Pascagoula River when they had a close encounter with a UFO. In this episode, Hickman describes being taken aboard an alien spacecraft!
After filing a report about their abduction they returned to their jobs at Ingles Shipyard. Hickman recalls not being prepared for the media circus that followed.
Hickman and Parker were questioned repeatedly by authorities and examined by the medical staff at Keesler Air Force. In a podcast extra, Hickman recounts the chain of events.
The lives of Charles Hickman and Calvin Parker were forever changed after that night in October of 1973. Hickman gave numerous interviews and wrote a book about his experience. Parker attended UFO conventions and started his own television production company in 1993 called UFO Investigations. Charles Hickman passed away at the age of 80 on September 9, 2011.
In 1965, George Hall of Hattiesburg was an Air Force reconnaissance pilot stationed in Thailand. In this episode, he recalls the day in September his plane was shot down over North Vietnam. Hall spent the next seven and a half years as a prisoner of war. He describes life at the infamous Hanoi Hilton and the torture he endured at the hands of his captors.
When he was finally released in 1973, it took time for Hall to readjust to life in Hattiesburg after so long a POW. He remembers being shocked by the price of a hamburger.
Unlike many Vietnam veterans, Hall returned home to a hero’s welcome. He discusses playing mental golf to pass the time and his discomfort with being called a “War Hero.”
In 1997, USM professor Andrew Wiest began teaching a class on Vietnam. In this episode, he recalls looking for ways to make history come alive for his students and the unexpected results of those efforts.
After meeting Vietnam veteran John Young, Wiest was inspired to write The Boys of ’67. He details the writing process and the book’s impact on the men of Charlie Company and their families.
In 2014, the National Geographic Channel premiered The Boys of ’67, a documentary based on the book. Wiest explains how the project came about and the challenges it presented.
The documentary received Emmy Award nominations in four categories. In a podcast extra, Wiest discusses the prospect of winning an Emmy and what it means for the men of Charlie Company.
After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the Communists seized private property and issued new currency. In this episode Thao "Kim" Pham of Ocean Springs recalls how her mother traded all of their old money for gold so her husband and of nine of their twelve children could escape from Vietnam and start a new life.
Pham recounts how they used the occasion of her grandmother’s funeral to slip out of the country and escape by boat to Indonesia. She describes the standing-room-only conditions on the boat and how her father bribed their way into an Indonesian refugee camp where she spent the next year and a half missing her mother and wondering what would become of them.
It was almost two years before Pham was able to get word to her mother that their family was alive and well. Now the owner of several successful businesses in Ocean Springs, Pham discusses the mutual respect and admiration she and her mother share in a PODCAST EXTRA clip.
For thousands of years Native Americans used fire to manage the forests of South Mississippi. In this episode Ecologist, Tate Thriffiley explains why this practice was good for the longleaf pines and the entire ecosystem.
By 1930, virtually all of the longleaf pines in Mississippi had been harvested. Thriffiley describes the mistakes made in replanting the DeSoto National Forest and explains why a host of State and Federal agencies have teamed up with conservation groups to promote the planting of longleaf pines in Mississippi.
PODCAST EXTRA: Keith Coursey is the Prescription Forester on the DeSoto National Forest. He recounts the history of the Forest Service and its evolving attitude towards fire.
PHOTO: South Carolina Dept of Natural Resources
CNN sent correspondent Kathleen Koch to Mobile, Alabama to ride out Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, when she was finally allowed to travel to her hometown, Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, the level of devastation and suffering she witnessed was overwhelming.
In this episode, Koch describes feeling intensely conflicted between the detachment her job required and the desire to cast aside her role as a reporter and do anything possible to alleviate the suffering she encountered. She and crew decided to use their time off the air to search for the missing and help survivors.
After Hurricane Katrina, South Mississippi residents came together in a spirit of cooperation and self-reliance. Koch recalls a resourceful group of young people she met at their unauthorized shelter and a mad dash to Wal-Mart to bring them much needed supplies.
John Hairston was the Chief Operations Officer for Hancock Bank in Gulfport, when in Fall of 2005, Hurricane Katrina threatened the coast. In this episode, he remembers preparing for a hit, but predicting a miss.
When Hancock Bank's corporate headquarters was wiped out, all of the bank’s records and computers were destroyed. Hairston explains how they were able to transfer all of their operations to Chicago within four days. Hairston recalls handing out tens of millions of dollars to anyone with an IOU and giving a new meaning to the phrase "money laundering."
George Bass was the Long Beach Fire Chief when Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005. In this episode, he remembers meeting with his men in the final hours before the storm and how he assured them that they would be okay. Bass describes how he and his fellow firemen hunkered down as the winds from Katrina threatened to bring the station down around them. He also explains how they fanned out looking for survivors even before the storm had passed
Afterwards, it was time for the cleanup to begin. Bass recalls feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before them.
In August of 2005, Angelia Gray was the Food and Beverage Director of a Hattiesburg hotel. In this episode, she explains how she and the rest of the hotel staff prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina as the hotel began to fill up with evacuees. Gray recalls riding out the storm and caring for their guests.
After Katrina was over, Gray had to cook for the all the guests. She explains how she was able to feed so many people without electricity or water.
Of that experience, Gray remembers the spirit of cooperation among most of the guests and the bad behavior of a few.
Tommy Longo was Mayor of Waveland when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August of 2005. In the episode, he remembers the city before storm and the devastation after.
As Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the early morning hours of August 29th, 2005, Longo and his family took shelter in the Waveland command post. He recalls the group’s struggle to survive as the floodwaters rose.
Longo was born and raised in the city of Waveland. He discusses how Hurricane Katrina has changed the he thinks about his home town. He also recalls their efforts to convince everyone to evacuate the area and how he convinced one lady to leave her cats.
Photo Credit: photosfromkatrina.com
In 1983, a hazardous-waste disposal company attempted to build a toxic waste dump in the town of Shuqualak in Noxubee County, Mississippi. In this episode, Martha Blackwell describes how local citizens organized to fight back and were able to have a five year moratorium placed on chemical disposal sites in Mississippi.
In 1991, after the moratorium expired, plans were announced to construct three toxic waste facilities in Noxubee County. Blackwell recalls how she learned about a hazardous-waste dump to be constructed on her neighbor’s land. She details how their group fought to keep these facilities out of Noxubee county and why they felt that having three high capacity sites would lead to waste from across the country being brought to Mississippi for disposal.
In a podcast extra, Blackwell credits the Choctaw Indians with preventing the plans to construct a dump site on reservation land.
Charlie Barrett is the former Mayor of Shuqualak (Sugar Lock). It this episode, he recounts the story of how his great grandfather donated the land for the train station. He also recalls how the farmers would bring their cotton to be ginned on Saturday mornings and stay all day.
As a boy, Barrett knew all of the merchants in Shuqualak. He remembers one who would speak to him in Choctaw. Years later, Barrett, now a young business owner himself, struggled to make ends meet until one day, an old merchant made him the offer of a lifetime.
Photo credit: hickoryridgestudio49.blogspot.com
John Ellzie Carr joined the Tupelo Police Department in 1921 and served as the town's chief of police from 1925 until 1952. In this episode, Dudley Carr remembers his father’s natural talent for law enforcement. He recalls the city’s primitive jail and even more primitive alarm system.
In 1932, the infamous bank robber, Machine Gun Kelly held up the Citizen’s National Bank of Tupelo. Dudley Carr explains how the robbery inspired the city to buy its own Thompson submachine gun.
In a podcast extra, Carr looks back with pride at his father’s legacy and what it’s meant to his own career.
Emma Foret was the wife of a Navy hospital corpsman. In this episode she recalls their life together and how she and the children coped with her husband’s absence.
She also discusses the special bond between the Navy and Marine Corp and how the wives of these servicemen depended on each other.
PODCAST EXTRA: Even in times of peace, conflicts can arise at a moment’s notice. Foret remembers her husband’s role in two such events and how the Navy kept the families informed.
Mary Louise Tarver was born in 1918 on Elm’s Court Plantation in Natchez. In this episode, she recalls her Uncle Will’s garden and his prickly relationship with her mother.
Growing up on a farm taught Mary Louise Tarver to enjoy simple pleasures. She remembers riding horseback to the Homochitto Swamp to spend the day fishing.
For Mary Louise Tarver, farm life meant learning to be self-sufficient. She describes how her mother would use apple peels to make vinegar, and use the vinegar to make pickles.
PODCAST EXTRA: During the Great Depression, some schools began serving students a hot lunch using food items provided by government. Tarver recalls how the lunch lady did the best she could with what she had on hand.
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.