Samuel Olden had just graduated Ole’ Miss in the Spring of 1941 with a Masters in History when he saw a notice posted on a bulletin board that the State Department was seeking candidates for service in South America. When the Japan bombed Pearl Harbor seven months later, he was stationed at the legation in Quito, Ecuador.
After serving in the Navy during WWII, Olden returned home to Yazoo City. He recalls being invited to join a new government agency called the Central Intelligence Agency in 1948. In this episode, Olden discusses his first field assignment spying on the Russians in Vienna and why he finally decided the life of a spy wasn’t for him.
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.
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.
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.
For decades the Illinois Central Rail Road Maintenance Shop was one of the largest employers in McComb. In this episode, Ray Ward remembers signing on as a shop apprentice back in 1953. Ward recalls working in the car shop and the assembly line-like manner they used to rebuild the cars.
In order to save money and improve safety, Illionois Central offered cash rewards for employee suggestions at its McComb Maintenance Shop. Ward describes how the program worked and some suggestions he made for his job.
Podcast Bonus: When he wasn’t working, Ward loved riding horses. He relates how one late night ride turned into a practical joke on his co-workers.
Prior to the development of passenger jet planes, Americans travelled by train.
In this episode, Sam Page remembers when the Panama Limited came through Summit, Mississippi for the first time.
Years later, as ticket agent for the Illinois Central station in McComb, MS, Sam Page recalls being a very busy man selling tickets to destinations near and far. He discusses how many Mississippians rode The City of New Orleans to visit family members in Chicago, St. Louis and other northern cities.
The streamlined passenger train known as the Green Diamond ran from Chicago to St. Louis until 1947, when it was moved to Mississippi and renamed the Miss Lou.
Sam Page reminisces about riding the Miss Lou from McComb to New Orleans.
PODCAST EXTRA: Page discusses his time with the railroad and the people who depended on the trains for transportation like legendary baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean.
PHOTO: The Illinois Central Green Diamond later moved to Jackson, MS and renamed the Miss Lou.
Dan McDaniel grew up in Bude, Mississippi. In this episode, he discusses why the town’s barbershop was central to the lives of so many. He also recalls the sawmill work whistle and the men walking home for lunch.
Today, most of us take indoor plumbing for granted. McDaniel remembers when plumbing was a luxury.
Because lumber was transported by train, all sawmill towns were connected by rail. McDaniel explains that back then, passenger trains were the most common way to travel.
Photo Credit: Gil Hoffman Collection
Family history is our personal connection to the past. In this week's episode, Ethel Patton D’Anjou of Claiborne County tells the story of her great grandfather’s escape from slavery. She also shares the tale of how her great grandmother, a native American was spared from the Trail of Tears by her birth parents and ended up in Mound Bayou.
PODCAST EXTRA: Alcorn University was founded in 1871 to educate the descendants of former slaves. Ethel Patton D’Anjou recounts her grandparent’s decision to come to Alcorn and open their own business. She hopes that her family’s history continues to provide inspiration for generations to come.
Rowan Clark of Bude was 16 years old when he got his first job in 1924. In this episode, he recalls being a water boy and delivering ice for the local icehouse. Like so many others left unemployed by the Great Depression, Clark rode the rails looking for work. He describes his journey across the country chasing rumors of job opportunities.
Clark was finally offered a job washing cars in New Orleans…at service station that was actually a front for rum runners!
For Randy Yates, the Neshoba County Fair was a family tradition. In this episode, he explains why the fair was so important to his grandparents. One of the most vivid memories for Yates was the endless variety of food the fair had to offer.
According to Yates, no one worked harder to prepare for the Neshoba County Fair than his grandfather. He remembers it being a year-long labor of love.
Jim Anderson became the director of the First Regional Library, a five-county-library system based in Hernando, back in 1972. In this episode, he discusses the history of Mississippi’s oldest regional library.
According to Anderson, the level of cooperation that exists between the state’s public, academic and special libraries is the result of programs sponsored by the Mississippi Library Commission. He looks back fondly on his thirty-six years with the First Regional Library. It’s a choice he recommends to young people searching for a fun and interesting career path.
In 1970, the Mississippi State Legislature passed the State Antiquities Act to preserve Mississippi historic sites and buildings for future generations. In this episode Elbert Hilliard, Director Emeritus of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History discusses the significance of the Antiquities Act.
Hilliard recalls their first preservation project and how in 1983, the Antiquities Act was amended to reflect the lessons learned in thirteen years of administering the law.
Hilliard points with pride to the many preservation successes made possible by the State Antiquities Act.
Evelyn Gandy of Hattiesburg came from a politically active family. In this episode, she discusses her decision to consider a career in politics at an early age.
From 1947, when she was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives, to 1959 when she became the first woman elected to statewide office as treasurer, Gandy always tried to make whatever office she held more responsive to the people.It was a philosophy she carried from her position as Insurance Commissioner to when she was elected the first woman Lt. Governor in 1975.
Gandy credits her success in office to a desire to work with others and a respect for her predecessors.
Evelyn Gandy passed away on December 27, 2007.
In 1964, Dr. John P. Quon was a student at Ole’ Miss when he proposed to his college sweetheart, Freida Seu. Both were from Chinese-American families living in the Delta. In this episode, Quon recalls the traditional engagement negotiations that followed.
Quon describes the logistics involved in planning a wedding with an expected attendance of 1,200 family and friends. He walks us through the day’s events including the wedding ceremony and reception, as well as the banquet and traditional tea ceremony.
King Evans was a teenager, living with his family on the Vickland Plantation in Nitta Yuma, Mississippi, during the Great Flood of 1927. In this episode, he recalls how the water continued to rise after the levee north of Greenville broke on the morning of April 21st. Evans also remembers the thousands of people displaced by the floodwaters and the desperate lengths they went to for shelter.
Racial tensions flared as mistreatment of blacks was reported in other places, but according to Evans, whites and blacks worked together in Sharkey County to insure fair distribution of food.
In 1966 the faculty at the Mercy Hospital College of Nursing in Vicksburg recognized the need for a second nursing baccalaureate program in Mississippi.
This group of Catholic nuns, led by Dr. Elizabeth Harkins, was determined to establish a College of Nursing at USM. In this episode, retired instructor Jean Haspeslagh remembers Harkins as a force to be reckoned with.
Haspeslagh explains how Harkins designed the College of Nursing’s Graduate program to be unique and cutting edge.
After her retirement in 1980, Harkins continued to serve as Dean Emeritus until her death in 1997. Haspeslagh recalls that Harkins signed her last grant for the Sister’s of Mercy the day before she passes away.
Construction began on the new USM College of Nursing building in July, 2014.
Like many Jewish children in the South, John Levingston of Cleveland, Mississippi attended kindergarten at a Christian church. In the episode, Levingston remembers how that led to some confusion for him.
Growing up in a Reform Congregation, Levingston did not participate in some traditional Jewish practices. He recalls his decision to learn Hebrew and have a bar mitzvah in his late thirties.
The once thriving Jewish population of the Delta has dwindled as younger generations have moved away. Levingston explains why he chose that as the topic of his bar mitzvah talk.
George W. Owens of Pontotoc was a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1936 when he met Icey Day, the state’s first blind legislator. Six years later, Owens helped Day pass legislation to establish the Mississippi Industries for the Blind.
In 1946, Owens began working as a vocational counselor for the M.I.B. In this episode, he recalls their humble beginnings and looks back with pride at how their efforts helped remove the stigma associated with blindness.
During his 20 years as a Rehabilitation Consultant and 30 years as a member of the Lions Club, George Owens worked to better the lives of the blind and visually impaired. He passed away on March 3rd, 1975.
In the 1930s, Nathan Jones of Russum provided for his family by raising cotton part of the year and cutting timber the rest of the time. During hunting season, Jones and his brothers would also supplement their incomes by selling animal pelts. For them, it wasn’t hunting for sport, it was hunting for survival.
In this episode Jones explains how they would ship the pelts to St. Louis for export to Germany. He discusses the effect that war and changing weather patterns affected the fur trade.
Libby Hollingsworth grew up in Leland, Mississippi, but spent summers with her grandparents in Port Gibson. In this episode, she remembers the quiet routine of reading, crafting, afternoon visits and long evening walks they kept during those summers. According to Hollingsworth, the lifestyle of Port Gibson residents in those days was peaceful and orderly.
Years later, Hollingsworth moved to Port Gibson with her husband. She explains that while life there isn’t so orderly anymore, much of the peacefulness remains.