Wednesday, February 28, 2024

God Knows When You're There

Because my father preferred going to the early morning service, and he preferred to sit in the choir loft of the chapel, we used to joke that only God and Clay Lee ever knew the Campbell family even went to church.  My Mother was more sociable and would have preferred the eleven o'clock service, but she was outnumbered and outvoted.  So, there we sat, the Campbell clan, Mary Taylor Sigmon playing the chapel electric organ, and sometimes a soloist, worshiping in anonymity,

My grandfather, my father's father, believed in sitting on the ground floor (a concession to my grandmother) but on the second to last row.  He believed you should save the last row for late-comers.  He believed in entering quietly and leaving expeditiously without any gossip or glad-handing.    My grandmother was equally averse to gossip, but oh, how she loved glad-handing.  When I was there with them, that often led to Grandaddy saying, "Stay with your grandmother; I'll pull the car around."  That way, they both got what they wanted.  He escaped quietly and quickly, and she got to visit almost as long as she wanted to.  

My oldest brother once asked a fairly obvious question: "Why even go if all we do is sit in the back?" My grandfather answered, "God knows when you're there."  

A lot of people probably thought I had given up on God, the church, and the community a long time ago.  Nobody knows when you watch church on television.  I don't know what I would have done if my church hadn't been on television.

I never felt like I had any business expressing my opinion on the progress of the United Methodist Church and no business getting involved.  Most of that, I think, is that I hadn't yet found my voice.  Even though I was constantly writing, it wasn't ever communication because I never let anyone see it.  I had to get pretty close to death before I became willing to let anyone see my words.  

I sometimes worried that people might think I had forsaken them, that my silence made them think I no longer cared.  My father taught me to worship in silence, away from the eyes of men, because it wasn't the eyes of men I was praying to.  In all those years of silence and my lack of involvement, there was never a time when I wasn't intently aware of what my church was doing and what became of the people in it.  God knew I was there.  

Now that I've found my voice, I'm still not entirely sure the best way to use it, but I feel much more confident in using it now than I ever have.  

Friday, February 23, 2024

Dramatics Through The Years At Millsaps by Lance Goss



by Lance Goss, Jr.

Plays were definitely not the things at Millsaps College for more than twenty years after its first session in 1892. There were those tagities which may be called substitutes, but for the histrionically inclined there is no real substitute for dramatics, no substitute for the smell and feel of grease paint, no substitution for the thrill which comes when the curtain goes up and you take a part in a play losing yourself totally in the character and personality of someone else.

 The inspiration for the first dramatic club organized at Millsaps was afforded by a play presented by the Cap and Gown Dramatic Club of A. and M. College at the Century Theatre in Jackson on Thanksgiving, 1910. A few days later in the library, as the Millsaps co-eds gossiped over their sandwiches and cold potatoes which they had brought from home for lunch, they decided to form a dramatic club of their own. Possibly the only reason for their action was to have something to do and to get their names in the paper. At any rate the club was formed and Miss Courtney Clinghan was elected president and Miss Annis Bessie Whitson, Secretary. No performances were given by this first group of Millsaps thespians, but they did succeed in getting some publicity including a page in the Bobashela of 1911.

 The first real attempt at dramatics was in 1913. In that year Professor S. G. Noble directed Millsaps students and local actors in Shakespeare's “As You Like It”. The play was presented with the same stage directions as it was played by the Ben Greet players; costumes similar to those worn by the Ben Greet players were ordered. Elaborate plans were made, and much time and effort expended. A few days before the presentation of the play, letters and telegrams began arriving at the president's office from various members of the Methodist clergy in Mississippi protesting the presentation of a play by that ungodly man, William Shakespeare, at this religious school. The president of the college, Dr. Alexander Farrar Watkins, told Professor Noble to ignore the protests and to proceed with his plans. He said that he, personally, would be responsible to the ministers for the presentation.

Plans had been made to present the play twice, once in a natural amphitheater which Professor Noble had discovered on the campus, and second in the chapel of the administration building; but on that Tuesday in May it rained making it necessary to present it both times in the chapel. The play was hailed as the greatest local talent presentation in the history of Millsaps College, and even of the city of Jackson.

Jack Gaddis, the Millsaps student who played Orlando, was the first star in the history of dramatics at the college. (He was killed the following year in a railroad accident.)

 Following this 1913 presentation of “As You Like It” there was again a long period in which no plays were given, and the students had to be content with debating, declamation, mock trials, and faculty burlesques. The faculty burlesques were especially popular, and many times the instructors at Millsaps found themselves the objects of teasing, and the students parodied their mannerisms. (In the 1923 burlesque the part of Professor Patch was played by a young student named Ross Moore, or, as he was sometimes called, Ross Hoss Moore.)

 In 1920 Dr. A. A. Kern resigned from the faculty of Millsaps College and in his place was elected the man who was to do more to establish dramatics at Millsaps than any other individual, Milton Christian White, professor of English. With the coming of President Key in 1923 (sic) the green light was given Professor White, and he hastened to prepare his first play.

 His first choice was “Fascinating Fanny”, a farce-comedy in two acts. With a less energetic and less ingenious group it would have been impossible to present a play on the stage of Murrah in those days. The reviewer in the “Purple and White” stated that the play got off to a slow start, but that it improved after about ten minutes to such an extent that it might be called "consistently funny." In his criticism he also discussed the handicaps under which the play was presented:

The little company labored under three handicaps; First a stage not easily adapted to the presentation of a play, and which necessitated one of the characters climbing out of one window and in by another in order to enter by the proper door. The impromptu curtain was doubtless the inspiration for the emitting of some words not to be found in any Sunday school text, and I hope that by the next occasion the company will have become sufficiently enriched to purchase some rings in place of safety-pins which now so incompetently act as substitutes therefore. The second handicap was the auditorium...And third, the audience was far below the standard of the players. ..Those in front of the footlights (and by the way, there were no footlights--a play without footlights!) were certainly appreciative, but not sufficiently sympathetic.'

“Fascinating Fanny” was the initial stroke; it paved the way; dramatics had come to Millsaps in spite of many handicaps. In February of 1926 the students under the direction of Professor White presented “A Noble Outcast”, a melodrama. As presented by Millsaps the play was "neither cumbersome, sloppy, nor unreal." It was so successful at Millsaps that the students decided to take it to Flora for presentation there. Professor Ross Moore tied the scenery on Coach Van Hook's car, and the performers went on the road, marking another first in the history of dramatics at Millsaps College.

The next few years saw real advances in the quality and the quantity of the plays produced. James Montgomery's hilarious comedy “Nothing But the Truth”, was given seventeen times by the Millsaps Players in Jackson and other Mississippi cities. “Broadway Jones” with four changes of scenery (another "first") was presented by the Players in 1929 in Jackson, Canton, Crystal Springs, and Forest.

 In April, 1928, "after a splendid production of ‘Nothing But the Truth’ and a successful season" the Millsaps Players were granted a chapter of Alpha Psi Omega, the national Honorary dramatic fraternity. The Millsaps chapter was the first in Mississippi and was called the Alpha Pi cast. The charter members were Lem Searight, Hohm Finch, S. F. Riley, Marguerite Crull, Peggy O'Neal, Eula McCleskey, and Professor Mitong White. The first understudies were E. B. Dribben, Margaret Bynum, Marie Flink, Octavia Sykes, J. W. Alford, P. P. Perrit, Cling Baker, Jeff e, and Clara Lee Hines.

 While Professor White was away studying at the University of Wisconsin, Professor Ross Moore became director of the Millsaps Players, and in April, 1930, he twice presented successfully the comedy-drama, “Straight Through the Door”. During the fall session of 1930 he produced three one-act plays, and in February, 1931, before one of the largest audiences ever to greet a Millsaps play, Professor Moore staged “Some Baby”, "a success from every point of view." The following April he directed “It Won't Be Long Now”.

 By 1930 there is evidence that the churchmen of Mississippi had lost some of their extreme dislike for William Shakespeare, because in that year Millsaps College sponsored the presentation of “Julius Caesar” as acted by the Shakespearean Players of Utica, New York.

 Having got by with one Shakespearean play, Millsaps College decided to try again in 1931, and Sir Philip Ben Greet came to Jackson, sponsored by Millsaps, in “Macbeth”. Three years later Millsaps dared Marc Connelly's “The Green Pastures”. Times had indeed changed!

 (There is one more event which occurred in 1930, which should be mentioned. In May the Mississippi College Dramatic Club invaded Jackson and presented “A Successful Calamity” successfully. What a calamity!)

 Professor White returned to Millsaps in the fall of 1931, and in January of 1932, he and Professor Moore revived “Nothing But the Truth”.

 In January 1933, Professor White produced “The Nut Farm”. The reviewer in the “Purple and White” was not enthusiastic:

The first act tended to drag due to dialogue scenes with little action and much explanation, some of which the players forgot. (The prompters who served so well in this act should have honorable mention.)...A Mild performance with a bellyful of laughs and no surprises or intensities.

The production of the following year made up for the comparative failure of “The Nut Farm”. Grace Grace Mason starred in “Hired Husband”. This time the “Purple and White” critic said, "Never has a presentation of the Millsaps dramatic club been better cast nor more enthusiastically received than has ‘Hired Husband’...A huge success!" The play was presented twice in Jackson and then carried to Brookhaven, Sanatorium, Prentiss, Crystal Springs, and Lake.

In April members of the players went to New Orleans to see Katherine Cornell and Basil Rathbone in “The Barretts of Wimpole Street”.

 In a fine new setting, encouraged by a near capacity house, the Millsaps Players inaugurated a new era in dramatics at Millsaps in 1935 with the production of A. A. Milne's  ‘Mr. Pim Passes By”. "Murmurs of appreciation for the handsome new curtain were drowned in a burst of applause as the golden drapery silently" parted "disclosing a beautiful new interior." Bill Carraway's "Arrow collar" profile and Grace Mason's "obvious attractions" added much to the play. The Millsaps Players carried “Mr. Pim Passes By” to Whitworth College in Brookhaven in exchange for the Whitworth production of Ferenc Molnar's “The Swan”.

 The Millsaps Players carried on their "new era" in dramatics in 1935 with the staging of Oscar Wilde's famous play “The Importance of Being Earnest”, in which Grace Mason, Bill Carraway, and Ras Masell, three of Millsaps' most outstanding actors, made their farewell appearances of the Millsaps stage. The Purple and White refused to write a criticism of the play:

"In case you are wondering why we have not reviewed the recent drama put on by play directors White and Moore, we might say we knew the censor would kill the article, anyway. To do the play justice the review would have to be sexy, too."

1935 was one of the most important years in the history of Millsaps dramatics. In addition to the plays produced, the Players spent more than seven hundred dollars on scenery, curtains, and stage equipment.

 In the spring semester of 1937, two three-act plays were presented by the Millsaps Players. In January Billy Kimmbrell and Mildred Clegg took the leading roles in “The Bishop Misbehaves”, and in March the Players produced for the third time “Nothing But the Truth”. The leading parts were played by Paul Whitsit and Lucile Strahan.

 In the fall of 1937 “Her Step Husband” was presented at Millsaps and taken on the road. The Players also staged "A Friend at Court" by Caude Merton Wise of Louisiana State University. In January of 1938 the students and faculty of Millsaps presented Ross Moore's life of Major Millsaps on the radio.

 Probably the most meaningful and significant play ever attempted in Jackson and certainly the most important yet put on by the Millsaps Players was given in February, 1938. “The Servant in the House”, the Players first attempt at serious drama, starred Paul Whitsit, Billy Kimbrell, Mildred Clegg, Glenn Phifer, Andrew Gainey, Planton Doggett, and Bob Ledbetter. The play was presented before a capacity audience at Bailey auditorium.

 The administration of Millsaps allotted the Players money for new equipment, including floodlights and scenery in January of 1940, and in February the Millsaps Players presented “Stop, Thief”.

Replacing the familiar and time-honored green living room- bedroom- kitchen- office- stable or what-have-you" was "a set designed especially for ‘Stop, Thief’ by Bob Nichols and Nelson Nail. Also making their debut were "two magnificent floodlights, the pride of Nichol's life."

Probably the Millsaps Players reached their all-time high in the fall session of 1940, when they produced Alberto Cassella's famous play, “Death Takes a Holiday”. This play brought forth an editorial in the Purple and White by an Old Timer:

In regard to acting, our talent has been much better than plays and circumstances deserved. Such actors as Lem Seawright, J. W. Alford, Louis Decell, John B. Howell, Ras Mansell, Gordon Grantham, Paul Whitsit, and others surely won for themselves a place in Millsaps' theatrical Hall of Fame. One hesitates to mention the great among actresses for fear of offending artistic temperament, but certainly it would include Janelle Wasson, Marguerite Crull, Grace Mason, Almeida Hollingsworth, Lucile Strahan, and Glenn Phifer.

Dr. White has been largely responsible for the continuation of a dramatic program at Millsaps. Through the years he has pled with would-be actors to learn their lines and come to practice. He has made the best of limited equipment and lack of finances.

 When the curtain went up on “Death Takes a Holiday”, the old timers realized that such a set had never before graced a Millsaps stage...Here was a set that needed no apology, thanks to Bob Nichols and Nelson Nail...

 Now, however, the players have put themselves on the spot. They must not in the future be content with “Stop, Thief” and “Nothing But the Truth”, or with people who will not learn their lines, or shoddy scenery and poor lighting. For all these have been overcome and there can be no return from Death.

As a result of the reorganization of the Millsaps Players in 1940-41 the membership in the club was composed of approximately one fifth of the entire student body.

 The precedent set by “Death Takes a Holiday” was respected the following year when two famous plays were presented by the Millsaps Players: “Charley's Aunt” and “The Passing of the Third Floor Back”. Seven one-act plays were given, and “Her Step Husband” was revived the same year.

 The war had its effects on dramatics at Millsaps. There was only one major production between April, 1942 and September, 1943, and it was a revival of “Mr. Pim Passes By”, with Joe Fields in the leading role.

 In September, 1943, the Millsaps Players produced Somerset Maugham's famous comedy, “The Circle”. The cast included Peggy Tyer, Elizabeth Buchanan Williams, Otis Singletary, C. P. Thomas, and G. P. Conditt, and J. R. McManus.

 The school year 1945-46 saw a revival of dramatics at Millsaps College. “Her Step Husband” and “Mr. Pim Passes” By were both and Millsaps produced the famous Broadway hit, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, which was presented twice with a different cast each night. It was greeted enthusiastically on both performances in Jackson and on the road.

 Today the dream of the Millsaps Players, of Dr. White, of Mr. Paul Hardin, the new assistant director, and of all their friends is a Little Theater on the college campus, where there will be storage space for scenery, a good stage, proper lighting, and the innumerable things that go to make up a successful production. Great strides have been taken; much has been done; but with a playhouse of their own, the Millsaps Players would make the best yet to come.

 Located in that theater of the Players' dream should be a Millsaps Theatrical Hall of Fame, with pictures of all the most outstanding followers of Thespis in the history of histrionics at the college, going all the way back to Gaddis, Orlando in “As You Like It”. New pictures should be added each year, keeping an accurate record of these people who contribute most to the continuation and betterment of plays at Millsaps, so that the phrase, "A Millsaps Players Production" will have a real value.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

What a glorious time to be free

 Scientists named July 1957 until December 1958 the International Geophysical Year, a worldwide symposium of some of the earth's greatest thinkers to discuss their universally positive predictions for the future.  They discussed things like flying cars, cures for all diseases, world peace, stellar and interstellar space travel, colonization of Mars, and emerging artificial intelligence.

I wasn't born a deconstructionist, but I became one, partially due to my education, partially due to my naturally sanguine nature, partially by what I saw on the news, but also, in very large part due to the art that bled through my senses into my inner mind.  

From the mid-fifties until the mid-seventies, there was a period of unbridled optimism in science and science fiction.  The post-war optimism made us believe we could do anything, and the scientific leaps forward born of the war tended to prove it.  The war gave us radar, computers, jet engines, rockets, and dependable helicopters; science fiction gave us ideas like Robby The Robot, the Wheel in Space, and sentient computers.  

As the 70s drew to a close, it was becoming clear that this bright vision of the future might have been a pipe dream.  There were no flying cars, no free energy, no permanent space stations, and no bases on the moon.  Science fiction started to turn toward ideas of a dystopian future.

In 1982, Donald Fagan of the album-oriented Steely Dan released a solo album titled "The Nightfly."  One of the songs on this album was IGY, International Geophysical Year, where he deconstructs mid-century optimism.

Standing tough under stars and stripes
We can tell
This dream's in sight
You've got to admit it
At this point in time that it's clear
The future looks bright
On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well by seventy-six we'll be A-OK

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Get your ticket to that wheel in space
While there's time
The fix is in
You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
You know we've got to win
Here at home we'll play in the city
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(more leisure for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when their work is done
We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Monday, February 19, 2024

The White Stag

In high school, my very favorite person was named Paige.  She had joined our tight-knit little class pretty late along the way but fit in really quickly.  We took biology from a man named Dan, and we sat at one of the lab tables in the back.  Paige would hold my hand and press her knee against mine under the table.   

Another girl was calling me every night at home and talking to me about how her family was coming apart, so I never pursued Paige, who would have been a fantastic girlfriend, but the other girl might have felt betrayed at a time when the world was turning against her, so Paige and I reminded just friends, no matter how much time we spent together or how much time I studied the way her eyes moved or tried to copy the shape of her lips in the margins of my notebook.

One day, Paige said, "Look at that!" and she pointed to a person in one of the classes under ours.  They were a little shorter than Paige, unnaturally thin, dressed in baggy khaki pants, a short-sleeve collar shirt with buttons, and a wide, striped tie, not our school tie, which we didn't have to wear to class anymore, but a regular men's tie, but not a new one.  It was almost as if they'd gotten the tie from Goodwill or snuck it out of their grandfather's closet.  Their hair was cut shorter than mine and parted to the side with some sort of pomade to help keep its shape and an Alfalfa cowlick sticking up in the back.

"That's a woman, but she wants to be a man!" Paige said with a girlish laugh.  "Isn't that funny?" She said.  There wasn't a thread of hate or fear in her voice.  She was delighted to be so near something as unique as a girl who wanted to be a boy, and she wanted me to share in that delight, almost as if we'd seen a shooting star or a white stag together.  

"Go introduce yourself." She said, nudging me almost hard enough to push me off the bench in the quad building at school.  I'm not big on introducing myself, even now.  I especially wasn't then.  With my stutter, an attempt to not only introduce myself to a new person but a new kind of person would have probably meant that no words came out at all, or if they did they wouldn't make much sense.

I'd heard of a tennis player who went somewhere in Europe to get a "sex-change" operation, but that was a few years before and quite a way away from St. Andrews Episcopal Day School.  The idea that such a person was at my school seemed impossible, but thanks to Paige, it also now seemed magical and something I could learn from.

Paige wanted me to introduce myself to this person so that she could talk to them as well, and then they wouldn't be as lonely as they appeared.  I wish I'd done it.  It's bothered me quite a bit through the years that I didn't.  There were a lot of times when Paige knew the right thing to do, and I didn't.

Once I knew who this person was, I watched them intently in their odyssey through school life.  Some of my teammates said very cruel things about them, but even though these boys had a reputation as bullies, they never bullied this person, my white stag; he was too alien, even for them.

People who struggle with verbalization learn to read emotions from people's faces.  What I learned from watching the White Stag was that they were never very happy, lived in constant fear of being judged, and were in a constant state of readiness to defend their existence.  From what I could tell, they had no friends and no one to talk to.  They ate lunch alone, which is the ultimate sign of isolation in high school.  

I'd read so many stories about creatures who were the only ones of their kind and how unhappy they were.  Often, they were described as monsters, even the ones with no destructive powers like Quasimodo, who was named a monster by the world, even though he was purer of heart than anyone else in the book.  Although we had some classmates who acted like monsters, the only people in the entire school who were treated like monsters were the White Stag and a girl named Laurie, who had pronounced autism.  

After high school, I didn't see the White Stag for many years until one day, I went to my wife's church, and as we were sitting on a bench talking, the White Stag came out of a car and walked into the sanctuary.  "That's a woman who wants to be a man," she whispered in my ear while holding my hand.  It haunted me how, twenty years later, these words came up again and again from my favorite and most trusted person.   In all those years, our White Stag still walked alone, without a smile, with a look on their face letting you know they were ready to defend their existence.

Transgender high school students have become a political hot topic.  I have absolutely no education on the subject.  I'm not a doctor or a psychologist.  I'm also not a parent to a transgender child.  With that in mind, I don't really have an opinion on the best way to handle this situation, except I feel pretty strongly that it should be up to the doctors, psychologists, and families involved, not politicians.  If it were your child, that's what you would want.

What I do know is what I felt very strongly every time I encountered The White Stag.  No one should be forced to live in isolation like a monster.  Everyone deserves friends; everyone deserves a seat at the lunch table and someone to talk to.  Nothing led me to believe the White Stag chose to be the way they were.  Even though they didn't choose it, they still had to live with it, and it's up to people of faith to make that life as full and as loved as they can make it.  

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Who Was Jim Livesay

Millsaps has been giving out the Jim Livesay Award for over twenty-five years now.  It occurred to me that there probably are a lot of recipients who never knew Jim.  This is an article about him from the May 22, 1980 Clarion Ledger. 

 Leader of new South growth group is ardent believer in democracy

No one can accuse Jim Livesay of not practicing what he preaches. Following his philosophy, that "democracy either stands or falls on the participation of citizens in their community and governmental affairs," has led him into more community service positions than most of us knew existed. He has fathered, nurtured or presided over about 20 organizations in the Jackson area and is currently organizing an advocacy group for residents of the southwest part of the city to be known as Citizens Southwest. Born in Virginia, Livesay came to Jackson as a youngster in 1949.

He was raised in southwest Jackson near Barr Elementary School and blames the closeness of the school for his present chronic tardiness. "I could just fall over the fence when the bell rang," he says. His tardiness can be excused, however, when one realizes the amount of time he spends working for the community. In the past, he has served as president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Fondren Civitan Club, Millsaps College Alumni Association, Southwestern Industrial Editors Association, Jackson Council for Parent-Teacher Associations, Jacksonians for Public Education and two area school PTA groups. He also served on the board of directors for Haven Hall, a school for the handicapped; the Family Blood Assurance Program and the Capitol Street United Methodist Church.

In addition, he was vice commissioner of a Little League baseball program, vice president of the Jackson Parents League and served on the advisory board of the Hinds County Youth Court. But the advocacy groups are what interest him most. They provide a means for carrying out his philosophy of involvement which he says stems from his appreciation of and pride in Jackson. "We must accept the burdens and responibilities of citizenship if we are to enjoy the privilages of citizenship," he said. He sees the formation of Citizens Southwest as a means for dealing with those burdens in his attempt to insure attractive and orderly development of Southwest Jackson.

But he is not confining his efforts to that area. "I want to see the entire city develop as it should, in that same attractive, orderly manner. But we're concerned first and foremost with that area of the city in which we live," he said referring to South Jackson. Livesay and his wife, the former Mary Lee Busby of Meridian, have two sons, Jeff, a Colorado college instructor, and Gene, who is attending law school at night while working for a Jackson law firm. They have lived at 1038 Garden Park Drive for the past 19 years.

He presently serves as director of the office for institutional advancement at Millsaps College. "Millsaps has played an important part in my life," he said. He earned his undergraduate degree there and was chosen alumnus of the year in 1950. Although he admits he does not have much free time, he says he likes to spend it in walking in the woods. democracy  "I'm not much of a hunter or fisher-where the creek goes or what's over the next hill." He also enjoys researching his family history, having being chosen naional president of the Livesay Historical Society. But his community work is what he takes pride in, and he sees his job as just beginning. "We're going to continue to see tremendous growth in Jackson as a result of its sunbelt location," he said.

"With that growth is going to come blessings and problems. Uncontrolled growth can create less than desirable situations such as slums. Human inertia and apathy will cause these problems to grow unless someone gets them moving in the right direction." And Jim Livesay will continue to be one of those forces which prods man," he said. "I just like to see people into action. Jim Livesay will continue to be one of those forces that prods men into action.  

VooDoo Horticulture

I used to spend time with this lady from New Orleans, whom everyone called VooDoo.  I should have taken that as a warning, but I didn't.  Besides her brown eyes and her magical elven voice, my main purpose for keeping her around was that she was a professional horticulturalist and could identify any plant or tree I pointed to.  I tested her skills quite often.  She might have just been making up names for plants, but I believe she was pretty earnest and most likely very accurate.

She eventually discovered my ulterior motive (or she got a better offer) and invited me to no longer spend afternoons and evenings with her.  That left me with no way to identify plants and trees afield, but it left me with a desire to know what they were.  

For many years, I gave up on my quest and wistfully lamented losing my infinite font of knowledge about plants.  Then, the latest generation of smartphones came out, and a friend told me about an application called "Picture This" that could identify any plant and give you care guidelines for it.  For about six dollars, I could once again know the name of any plant I looked at without having to worry about the capricious nature of brown-eyed girls from New Orleans or anyone who even their dearest friends called VooDoo.


Saturday, February 10, 2024

Whale Discovered in Reservoir

Reprinted from Clarion Ledger
Jackson MS April 19, 1962

Ancient Bones Give View Of Past To Digging Crew 

Workers digging at the Pearl River Reservoir took a journey through time Wednesday when St-feet of fossil bones, described as everything from dinosaur to whale vertebrae were uncovered by earth-moving machinery. The bones were discovered between 8 and 9 a.m., when a piece of machinery lifted the top dirt off of the fossil. Shovels were then used to avoid damage, and the area was roped off. Digging continued in hopes of finding the head of the fossil but as yet it has not been discovered. Plans were being made to place loose dirt or boards over the bones to keep them in good condition until a geologist can examine them.

Dr. R. R. Piddy, geologist at Millsaps has been contacted and will study the bones Thursday morning, according to workmen. Workmen on the scene were mildly excited over the find, with much speculation as to what it was, but said in their type of work, they are constantly watching for remains of prehistoric animals. A guard at the Reservoir, Carey Alridge, viewing the fossil, neatly summed up the situation by saying, "Preached to me all my life that our ancestors had more back bone than we do looks like that might be right.


Geologists Identify Fossils As Back Of Ancient Whale (Earlier Story On Page 2A)
By VAN SAVELL Associated Press Staff Writer

Geologists identified a series of fossilized bones found on the Pearl River Reservoir construction site Wednesday as the back vertebrae of a 40-million-year-old "Basilosaurus" or whale. "The find is not uncommon," said William H. Moore, a member of the Mississippi Geological Survey team. "But, the condition is peculiar with its vertebrae almost completely intact." Moort described the ancient whale a member of the "Zeugledon" family as nearly Identical to the present-day giant ocean mammal, except for its sharp head. A bulldozer operator unearthed the unfamiliar charcoal object about 9 a.m.

Wednesday. Ross Grimes of Carthage, crew supervisor, stopped work completely when he realized what had been uncovered. , The geology team described the whale as about 35 feet long with weight between eight and 10 tons. Vertebrae sections near the real end of the fossil were 17 inches in length and about 40 inches in circumference. A white bone described as part of a rib was 22 inches long and broken on both ends.

After lengthy investigations, Moore told the Associated Press the whale "apparently sank to  the bottom of the sea and turned over on its back. "You see, the vertebrae is upside down and the rib cage points skyward." He described the peculiarities of the find, apparently rare elsewhere but common in the "Yazoo Clay" found in the area.

"The animal is almost completely intact, and with patient work, we might uncover it in the same condition," Moore said. "Apparently, the ground conditions caused the bones to turn to charcoal instead of the normal lime, causing the hardness of the object." Moore said a conference with Survey Commission officials would reveal whether attempts would be made by Mississippi to preserve the whale. "If we don't have the money," he said, "then we'll have to turn to some college geology department for the work." The fossils were found about eight feet underground and scattered over a 60-foot area, except for the 35-foot long connected vertebrae section..

Fossil On Display Ms Museum of Natural History

St Andrews Teacher Attends Symposium

South's enduring past intrigues teacher
Clarion Ledger June 15, 1983

Steve Anspach is a Northerner charmed by the South. 

Come June 25 Anspach, a resident of Florence and an English teacher at St Andrew's Episcopal School, will turn the pages of literature to learn more about the region he loves. "There's something about how the past endures in us that intrigues me," he said. "Books at least give partial answers." "For me, it's not a love of books but a love of place. It's the books that help me understand the place." Anspach will hopefully unravel some of the mystery during a Southern writers seminar at Louisiana State University that is being sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

He is among 15 high-school teachers selected from 300 applicants nationwide to attend the conference. Lewis Simpson, an authority on Southern literature and professor at LSU, is scheduled to teach the group. During the five-week course, the group will study novels by literary giants such as William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, and Walter Percy and visit several related literary sites. Because "The Moviegoer," a novel by Percy, is set in New Orleans, Anspach said the class would probably see the city's sights. Also, a trip to Oxford, to visit Rowan Oak, the home of Faulkner, is a second possibility for a literary field trip.

Anspach applied for the summer classes in January after his wife, a student at Mississippi College School of Law, received a brochure listing various topics of study offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was tempted to learn more about Chaucer, which he also teaches, but instead chose to apply for the Southern writers course. He outlined his reasons for wanting to attend the seminar in a short one-page essay tacked onto his application. "I said I was a Northerner, and that I'd had fascination with the South ever since I'd been in the army in Fort Jackson, S.C." His wife felt the essay was too short, but Anspach disagreed. "I felt right when I wrote my essay.

I felt like I said what I wanted in a convincing way." Two months later, Anspach's instincts proved correct and he received an acceptance letter and course outline. Of the novels to be studied, there are two he is reviewing "Absalom, Absalom!" by Faulkner and "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" by 'For me, it's not a love of books but a love of place. It's the books that help me understand the place.' Steve Anspach Ernest Gaines. Anspach hopes the conference will boost his self-confidence about teaching Southern literature. He also hopes to become more familiar with the works of Faulkner, a novelist whom he finds difficult to read.

The class will be a far cry from all play and no work. Each participant is required to complete a 3,000-word essay during the course. Anspach and his wife, Judy, came south in 1978 when they moved to Florence from Cleveland, Ohio. He was scheduled to work on a doctorate degree at a Mississippi school but instead accepted a job at SL Andrew's. Since 1979, he has taught tenth graders literature of the world, and seniors, American literature.

Anspach received a bachelor's degree in psychology and English from Kent State University and a master's degree from West Virginia University. He and his wife, Judy, are parents of one son, Erich, 19, a sophomore at Washington and Lee University.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Court Hears Case on Textbok 1979

 Authors' suit charges racial bias in history book

By CHAT BLAKEMAN Clarion-Ledger Staff Writer
Tue, August 29, 1979

Is a ninth-grade classroom the place where Mississippians should learn that there have been more lynchings in their state than in any other? Will a photograph of white policemen arresting black demonstrators stir racial hatred or lead students to a true understanding of their past? These types of questions are at the heart of a battle that began Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenville before Judge Orma Smith. Although the issue is alleged racism in Mississippi schools, the, topic is not unequal facilities, alleged physical abuse, private academies or busing. The topic is a pair of books. The suit is being brought by a group that includes Millsaps College history professor Charles Sal-las and former Tougaloo College professor James Loewen, joint editors of a textbook on Mississippi history rejected by the State Textbook Purchasing Board in 1974.

The text, "Mississippi: Conflict and Change," presents what the authors contend is a candid but accurate picture of state history. It details subjects such as the treatment of slaves, blacks' accomplishments during Reconstruction, their plight in the years that followed and the sharecropper system that kept many Mississippians in virtual economic bondage. The authors charge that the Textbook Purchasing Board's rejection of "Conflict and Change" and approval of "Your Mississippi," the text now used, constituted pro-white bias in favor of texts that "minimize and denigrate the roles of black people in American and Mississippi history." The suit alleges, moreover, that the system by which the state approves school texts "is and has been an instrument of state propaganda to exclude controversial viewpoints, operates as a state instrument of unconstitutional state censorship, and fails to provide due process of law." Joined by representatives of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson, the Jefferson County School Board and others, the authors ask that the court order "Conflict and Change" added to the list of approved texts and decide whether the book adoption system is valid. The board chooses books based on the recommendation of a rating committee and can approve as many as five books in each category. Acceptance of one text does not require rejection of others.

Although the rating committee rejected "Conflict and Change" on a 5-2 vote (five white members voted against the book and two blacks for it), the state maintains race was not a factor in the decision. The action, the state contends, was based on "racially neutral educational and academic standards." In statements made for the court, and in the ratings made in 1974, board members said that "Conflict and Change" did not include a teacher's manual when it was submitted for approval, employed a vocabulary too advanced for the average Mississippi ninth-grader and did not give "proper emphasis to the economic, social and spiritual development" of Mississippians. Others cited as offensive a photograph in "Conflict and Change" showing the remains of a black man who had been lynched and burned. Gathered around the bonfire is a crowd of whites. "I feel that this book contains too many controversial issues to fit properly into the curriculum of the schools of Mississippi," wrote committee member Harold E. Railes in his evaluation written in 1974. Another member called the book "too racially oriented." Frank Parker, the attorney representing the "Conflict and Change" group, maintains that race and controversy are the real reasons behind the committee's action. The other reasons are "rationalizations after the fact," Parker contends. ."There have been more lynchings in Mississippi than in any other state and you can't ignore that," Parker said. "Your Mississippi" was written by historian John K.Bettersworth, who retired last year as academic vice president of Mississippi State University. In its latest revisions, the book has been used in state schools since 1968 for required ninth-grade state history courses. In an attempt to show that "Conflict and Change" is the better book, the suit challenges the history presented in "Your Mississippi," citing among other examples: That it devotes only four paragraphs to the treatment of slaves and that those passages "minimize the brutality of the system and accentuate mitigating factors." For example, the suit cites Bettersworth's statement that "some slaves who were house servants received an education" and notes the book fails to mention the prohibitions against educating slaves and only 5 percent of the slaves were domestics. That In summing up the modern civil rights era, Bettersworth recounts that, "Gradually Mississippians, black and white, found they could get along together as they always had," without discussing adequately the reasons behind the civil rights movements. That in its use of photographs, the book discriminates against blacks.

"Your Mississippi" has only three photographs or 5 percent showing blacks only, while "Conflict and Change" has 20 or 25.6 percent. Bettersworth, a historian best known for his research into Mississippi society during the Civil War, dismisses the criticism, saying his book does not distort the role of blacks. Mississippi's system of adopting textbooks is shared in some form by roughly half the 50 states and most southern states. The system, provides textbooks free to public and parochial school students. Individual school boards may use whatever texts they want, but only those on the state's list can be purchased with state funds.

In practice, choices are limited to books on the list, which is revised every six years. The suit involving "Your Mississippi" and "Conflict and Change" is expected to last several weeks and it may be several months before the court renders a decision, lawyers for both sides said. Here are examples of disparities between the textbooks "Your Mississippi" and "Mississippi: Conflict and Change": ON SLAVERY Your Mississippi "While there were a number of cases of cruelty to slaves, public opinion and state law tried to see that the slaves were not mistreated. Plantation owners cautioned their overseers against using brutal practices, but overseers were noted for cruelty The code (of 1832) required the master to keep all of his slaves in good health and physical well-being from the cradle to the grave. In general, slaves were treated well or badly on the basis of how good or bad their owners were." Conflict and Change: "When the slaveowner or overseer felt that a slave had done wrong, he sometimes punished the offender severely . . .

One slave recalled a whipping that he had witnessed: 'I saw Old Master get mad at Truman, and he buckled him down across a barrel and whipped him till he cut the blood out of him, and then he rubbed salt and pepper in the raw places.' . . .This harsh treatment had other aims... it made them fear white men, and it attempted to make them feel that whites were 'naturally' superior to blacks." ON RECONSTRUCTION Your Mississippi: By 1874, taxpayers were ready to revolt. ..

Vicksburg and Warren County were scenes of the first incidents. Most of the city and county offices were held by blacks. Since whites paid ninety-nine percent of the taxes, they were very unhappy. The city and county debt, which had been only thirteen thousand dollars in 1869, had climbed to $1.4 million for Vicksburg alone by 1874 .

After 1875 the old hatreds began to fade. Mississippi was back under the control of native whites." Conflict and Change: "Many Mississippians still believe the 'myth of Reconstruction,' that the period directly after the Civil War was a time of bad government, 'Negro domination,' and racial tension. We now know that most of this myth is not true Many of the black leaders in Mississippi were educated; several were college graduates. Those who were honest and able were usually supported by both black and white voters.

All they asked was equal rights before the law. On the whole, Mississippi was especially fortunate in having capable black leaders during these years." ..,...:'.; 

ON THE '60s , " Your Mississippi- "The 1960s were years of crisis. A showdown over desegregation and civil rights occurred. As a result, Mississippi's relationships with the national government were strained. After the Supreme Court's desegregation decision of 1954, Mississippians took vigorous measures to resist. One of those was the organization of a group known as the White Citizens' Council." Conflict and Change: "In 1954, the Supreme Court finally ruled school desegregation illegal. A few white people agreed with the decision but did not speak out effectively. Others organized the Citizens' Councils and passed new laws to resist integration. At the same time, a few black people began to express their dissatisfaction with segregation.". 

ON THE MISSISSIPPI SOVEREIGNTY COMMISSION Your Mississippi "In 1956 a State Sovereignty Commission was set up to take the Mississippi case to the rest of the country." . Conflict and Change: "One of the most important acts passed in 1956 established a State Sovereignty Commission to preserve segregation. The commission promptly hired secret investigators to inquire into 'subversive activities' ... The commission also operated a public relations department to publicize to the nation the benefits of Mississippi's segregated way of life." 

Early Adoption of Mississippi Conflict and Change

Private schools take little interest in controversial text

Clarion Ledger Thursday, January 22, 1981


Jackson's private high schools have taken little interest in the controversial text "Mississippi: Conflict and Change" since the book first appeared in 1974. "Conflict and Change" was added to the state's list of approved textbooks last month after a five-year court battle. Out of 13 private high schools in the city, only one - St. Andrew's Episcopal School uses the ninth-grade history book written by Charles Sallis and James E. Loewen.

St. Andrew's has used the book ever since it came out, said Headmaster David Hicks. The book was chosen by history teachers at St. Andrew's after it was approved by an academic affairs committee made up of department chairmen, Hicks said. "We selected 'Conflict and Change' because it gives a more comprehensive and a more thematic study than 'Your Mississippi' by John K. Bettersworth," Hicks said. "It is clear from reading that book ('Your Mississippi') that it is your Mississippi so long as you're white. It just doesn't deal with the conflict between the races." " 

Hicks said "Conflict and Change" uses the theme of the conflict between races rather than simply presenting Mississippi's chronological history. "It ('Conflict and Change') is thought provoking," Hicks said. "We've had some great discussions by using the book." "Conflict and Change" is not perfect, Hicks admitted.

"If whatever you want to talk about doesn't fit into the theme, it gets minimized or left out," Hicks said. " 'Your Mississippi" leaves out a lot, but it has no excuse for doing that.' " No parents or students at St. Andrew's have complained about using the controversial textbook since Hicks' term as headmaster. "The students seem to like the book," Hicks said. "It's not very difficult." Steven Bass, a Mississippi history teacher at Mississippi Baptist High School, said he uses "Conflict and Change" as a reference guide for his classes.

Students use Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today" as their textbook, he said. "Students are very interested in looking at the book ('Conflict and Change')," Bass said. "It gives a side of Mississippi we aren't used to seeing. It covers civil rights and modern writers very well." Bass said "Conflict and Change" was written at a fifth-grade reading level. "Ninth-graders could take the book and we'd be finished in a month," he said.

Students at Jackson Preparatory School won't find "Conflict and Change" used as a textbook, said Jesse L. Howell Jr., headmaster. The controversial book, however, is in the school's library for use as a reference guide. "We've had no mention by teachers or parents about the book," Howell said. Jackson Prep is free to use books from any source as textbooks, Howell said.

Unlike public schools, the school does not have to choose books on the state's approved list, Howell said. Robert Luckett, principal at St. Joseph High School, expects ninth-graders at the Catholic school to begin using "Conflict and Change" as soon as possible. The students currently use Betters-worth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." Luckett said textbooks for the school are chosen strictly from the state approved list because the school receives federal funding. "If we're thinking about changing texts, we'll get the teachers in the subject area together to look at the books available and then consult our school board members." Luckett said a few parents were concerned about "Conflict and Change" when it was banned by the Mississippi Textbook Purchasing Board's Rating Commmittee in 1974.

The seven-member rating committee said the book was too advanced for ninth-graders and over-emphasized race. The textbook was ordered to be added to the list of approved school books by U.S. District Judge Orma R. Smith last April. At Woodland Hills Baptist Academy ninth-graders use "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." "We haven't found a textbook better than Betterworth's," Woodland Hills Headmaster David Derrick said, adding that he believed Bettersworth's book lacked continuity between where the author stopped writing and the events of modern history.

"We don't feel like another book is better written or covers the material better." Derrick said neither parents nor teachers had suggested "Conflict and Change" be used. When the school changes textbooks, a committee of teachers examine the books available in regard to the reading levels and "what's best for the student," Derrick said. At Manhattan Academy, which uses Bettersworth's "Your Mississippi," there has been no inquiry by parents or students about changing Mississippi history textbooks, Headmaster Ray Wooten said. A committee of Manhattan teachers choose the school's textbooks, using the state approved list as a guide. Because the school is private, textbooks chosen do not have to come from the approved list, Wooten said.

Jackson Academy ninth-graders use Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." Glenn A. Cam, headmaster at Jackson Academy, said the school was not ready to consider changing books because it purchased new Mississippi history books about three years ago. Because Mississippi history is taught only for half a year, the textbooks are used a little longer than those for courses taught the entire year, Cain said. Cain has received no mention of using "Conflict and Change" from parents or salesmen, he said. "Conflict and Change" will be evaluated when the school is in the market for new books, he said.

Cain said he had not read "Conflict and Change." Students at Madison-Ridgeland Academy use Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." Dominic A. Bevalaque, headmaster at MRA, said the school buys new books every five years, depending on inflation and the condition of the books. MRA uses the state adoption list as a guide but is free to obtain books not on the list, Bevalaque said. Bevalaque said the school's teachers consider all books on the market when choosing a textbook. ' At Natchez Trace Academy, the use of Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today" is an economic matter, Administrator Margaret Beal said.

The school, now in its first year of operation, uses texts formally used by Jackson Christian Academy. Natchez Trace Academy has received no comments about using its Mississippi history book, Mrs. Beal said. "No one has said, 'If you use that book ('Conflict and Change') I'll take my child out,' " Mrs. Beal said.

Mrs. Beal said "Conflict and Change" would probably be introduced in the ninth-grade classes as a reference book available in the library. At Capital City Baptist School, Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today" is the only book on the state approved list that is used, James Johnson, principal, said. All other textbooks come from the Accelerated Christian Education Curriculum in Texas, Johnson said. Johnson, in his fourth year as principal, said he had received no mention of using "Conflict and Change." Johnson remembered some of the controversy "Conflict and Change" caused when it was first published but was not familiar with the book's contents.

McCluer Academy uses Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." "Right now, the reason we're using it is that we've had it a long time and we have plenty of copies," said McCluer Headmaster Bobby Jones. "We just haven't updated the Mississippi history books and looked at any other books." Jones said. Jones said he was familiar with the book. Jones, in his second week as headmaster at the South Jackson school, knew of no one asking to use "Conflict and Change" as a textbook or requesting the book for a relerence guide in the school's library. Ninth-graders at Central Hinds Academy use Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today," Headmaster Wade Hammack said.

"I do not know anything about the book ('Conflict and Change') other than what I have read in the paper," Hammack said. No teachers or parents have requested "Conflict and Change" be used, he said. William S. Purvis, headmaster at Magnolia Academy, said the school was using Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today" before this one ( Conflict and Change') was in print and saw no reason to change." Purvis said Magnolia Academy had just purchased new editions of Betters-worth's book and he had had no parents or students suggest using "Conflict and Change." Purvis said he was not familiar with the contents of "Conflict and Change" but had heard about the controversy it sparked. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Margaret Key Volunteer Award

I've been thinking of writing a Christmas story.  When I was little, this really remarkable woman gathered artistically leaning people at church to craft Christian-themed ornaments for a giant tree that would sit in the sanctuary at Galloway Memorial.  Her name was Margaret Kea, and she was always especially kind to me.  She was the one who encouraged me to make a painting to enter the Jackson Arts Festival.  I painted a tiger using the grid method to copy a photograph.  It won first place in my age group, but in all the putting together and taking part in the Arts Festival, the painting was lost, but I was given the ribbon.  

Part of my research for the story led me to find this article from 1988, where Mrs. Kea was given an award recognizing her volunteer work at Mississippi Methodist Rehab Center.  Many articles mentioned her being involved in arts oriented things, but I found this story, by Rebecca Hood-Adams, particularly revealing of her character.

I'm always learning things I don't know.  In this article, she mentions that there was a skating rink at the Livingston Park by the Zoo.  In all my studies about the Zoo, this is the first I've heard of a skating rink.


REBECCA HOOD-ADAMS Columnist The Clarion-Ledger Aug 28, 1988 

One Mississippian gets paid for time in blessings shared A walk in the park led Margaret Kea to the halls of Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center, where she helps others stand tall. ; Eight years ago, Mrs. Kea encountered Peggy Bowland. Both women were walking for exercise, and as they fell in step, they found common ground. 

"We became each other's psychiatrist," Mrs.Kea says of her friend who died this past spring. "We'd talk about whatever was on our hearts as; we walked together." ; 

They exchanged histories with Mrs. Kea, 67, '. Reminiscing about her girlhood in Jackson. "It was like a small town then," she says. "We never locked our doors, and we spoke to everybody on the street. We knew everyone by name." 

Mrs. Kea recalls her Claiborne Street home in a town "so quiet at night that you could hear the lion roar from the zoo all the way to our, house." 

Sweet childhood memories 

There were jaunts to the Jitney to buy Banana Kisses, two for a penny. Afternoons at the skating rink in Livingston Park, where the big pipe organ filled the air with music. Evenings when the gang gathered at her home to make fudge and dance on hardwood floors.

Life in Jackson between the Depression and World War II was filled with simple pleasures. "On Saturday night we'd park the car on Capitol Street and watch the people come and go," Mrs. Kea says.

 Graduation from Central High School. A year at Belhaven College. A job as a telephone operator and then as a secretary with Mississippi Power & Light Co. 

The post-war boom brought change. A girlfriend arranged a blind date between Margaret Bridgers and Luther Kea, an agent for the Internal Revenue Service. "I was kind of leery at first," she remembers. But a six-month courtship grew into a 40-year marriage.

Life was not always easy for the young matron. She lost an infant son and then remained childless for five years. "I'd been praying so hard for a baby," Mrs. Kea says. "Finally, I got down on my knees one night and told the Lord that I'd never ask for a child again, that I'd accept his will." That's the month she became pregnant with Chip, 31, now a Port Gibson accountant.

The years flew by. Cub Scout den mother. President of the PTA. Sunday school teacher at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church. Along the way, Margaret Kea broke her leg and vowed that if she ever got off crutches, she'd help somebody else.

"But I got busy and didn't do it," she says, remembering how she shared this need to aid others with her walking buddy. Peggy Bowland encouraged her and together they volunteered at Methodist Rehab. "A friend had told me that there were boys out there that couldn't even wipe a tear from their eyes," Mrs. Kea says. "That jerked something in me." 

But Margaret Kea has not found her Thursdays at Methodist depressing. "It's a place of courage and determination and hope," she says. "Patients establish deep friendships with everyone. Then when they finally are able to take that first step or lift a fork, there's a whole cheering section rooting for them."

Little deeds, big results 

Mrs. Kea's volunteer hours are spent in quiet service. She reads to patients, writes letters for them. Mostly she loves.

"My favorite thing is to just sit down beside somebody, put my arms around them and let them know they're cared for. I don't get paid, but I sure get blessed in return."

"Margaret offers spiritual strength and guidance to help patients through the long rehabilitation process," says Nellie Paul Farr, director of volunteer services at Methodist Rehabilitation Center. "She's not always recognized because her deeds of kindness are quietly given."

That will change Sept. 14 when Margaret Kea is one of 10 honorees at Goodwill Industries' 1988 Volunteer Activists Awards Luncheon.  She was tapped for her service at Methodist, although she could just as readily have been honored for her work with the Community Stewpot or Lakeland Nursing Home. And four Jackson women who've met for 12 years in Margaret Kea's home for weekly prayer already have had an opportunity to repay some of the spiritual strength she has lent them.

Two years ago Mrs. Kea developed cancer, the same disease that claimed her friend Peggy Bowland's life. 

"My prayer circle nursed me through like they were my own daughters," Mrs. Kea says. "You know, we're made strong by adversity. And you have to continually keep a problem in order to keep humble."

Courageous advice from One Mississippian whose heart is as brave as the lion roaring through Margaret Kea's memories. Are you One Mississippian who volunteers at least one hour per month to make Mississippi a better place? Send your name, address and telephone number in a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Rebecca Howl-Adams, The Clarion-Ledger, P.O. Box 40, Jackson, Miss., 39205.

You will be sent a One Mississippian button. Rebecca Hood-Adams' columns appear Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

The Tattooed Lady

 You've probably heard the song, but did you know Lydia the Tattooed Lady was based on a real-life woman named Betty Broadbent who traveled America as the Tattooed Lady with Barnum and Bailey circus in the 30s and 40s.  

Oh Lydia, oh, Lydia, say have you met Lydia
Oh, Lydia, the tattooed lady
She has eyes that folks adore so
And a torso even more so
Lydia, oh, Lydia, that encyclopedia
Oh, Lydia, the queen of them all
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo
Beside it the Wreck of the Hesperus too
And proudly above the waves
The Red, White and Blue
You can learn a lot from Lydia
La la la la la la
La la la la la la
She can give you a view of the world
In tattoo if you step up and tell her where
For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paree
Or Washington crossing the Delaware
La la la la la la
La la la la la la
Oh, Lydia, oh, Lydia, say have you met Lydia
Oh, Lydia, the tattooed lady
When her muscles start relaxin'
Up the hill comes Andrew Jackson
Lydia, oh, Lydia, that encyclopedia
Oh, Lydia, the champ of them all
For two bits she will do a Mazurka in Jazz
With a view of Niagara that no artist has
And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz
You can learn a lot from Lydia
La la la la la la
La la la la la la
Come along and see Buffalo Bill with his lasso
Just a little classic by Mendel Picasso
Here is Captain Spaulding exploring the Amazon
And Godiva, but with her pajamas on
La la la la la la
La la la la la la
Oh Lydia, oh, Lydia, say have you met Lydia
Oh, Lydia, the tattooed lady
When she stands, her laps go littler
When she sits, she sits on Hitler
Lydia, oh, Lydia, that encyclopedia
Oh, Lydia, the queen of them all
She once swept an Admiral clear off his feet
The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat
And now the old boy's in command of the fleet
For he went and married Lydia
I said Lydia (he said Lydia)
I say Lydia (we said Lydia)
La la

Friday, February 2, 2024

Jackie Gleason UFO Shocker!

Because of my varied (almost haphazard) range of interests, I often run into autodidactic people.  That's a fancy phrase we use to describe someone self-taught.  Academics like to make simple things seem more complex, using Latin or Greek words to describe things when English words work just fine.  Once you figure out the rules, it's a fun game, and it filters out the uninitiated.

Autodidacts are cool because they're so interested in a subject that they taught themselves rather than seeking a master.  Sometimes, they don't function well in an academic setting.  It's said that was true of William Faulkner, who couldn't manage to stay in college, so he taught himself.  That's often given as an explanation of why he uses so many five-dollar words in his prose.  Some people say it's so nobody will accuse him of not being educated, which he wasn't; at least he wasn't educated by the traditional route.

Sometimes, people become autodidact because the things they're interested in aren't taught anywhere.  These can be my favorite people.  People who are fascinated by UFOs, cryptozoology, ghosts, time travelers, and more have to be autodidactics because these things aren't taught at any college.  Jackie Gleason was one of the world's first UFO enthusiasts.  His passion led him to collect a remarkably complete literature library on the subject.  He even built a house shaped like a flying saucer.  In his will, he left his massive collection of UFO materials to the University of Miami, where it exists today, even though they still don't teach any courses on UFOs.  

Covid brought out a lot of hidden autodidacts who taught themselves immunobiology to justify not getting vaccinated.  That illustrated the downside of autodidactism; sometimes, they came to the wrong conclusion.  The same thing happens with climate-change deniers, experts on who really killed JFK, and 9/11 hoaxers.  They're all autodidacts, although sometimes I wish they'd listen to reason.

The internet was the greatest possible gift for autodidacts.  Research that took hours and days in the public library can be done on your phone before you get out of bed in the morning.  The more serious internet sleuths make accounts on Wikipedia where they use their hard-earned special knowledge to refine the topics that relate to their expertise.  

I am an autodidact.  There are no college courses on movie robots or stop-motion dinosaurs, so I strike out on my own. It's important that you keep learning your whole life and never quit.  There's no excuse now that so much human knowledge is available on your telephone or tablet.  With the internet, there's an infinite variety of ways you can publish your findings.  Start with Reddit, then maybe start a blog.  You don't have to be published in an academic journal to get your ideas out in the world.  

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Behind the scenes with Kukla, Fran and Ollie

Burr Tillstrom began making puppets and having puppet shows in the 1930's.  In 1947, he joined forces with radio singer Fran Allison and began broadcasting Kukla, Fran, and Ollie in Chicago.  Kukla was a bald clown, and Ollie was a dragon.  Tillstrom operated the puppets behind a scrim that reflected projected light, but you could see through it on the other side,  and looked at a television monitor behind the puppet stage with him to monitor the performance. 

In 1953, the dynamic of a girl talking to puppets was combined with a short story, "The Man Who Hated People," and his novella "Love of Seven Dolls," by Paul Gallico, to produce the film LiLi with Leslie Caron and Mel Ferer (Audrey Hepburn's Husband).  The same story was used to write the musical play "Carnival."

Okra in the Pants

 I've seen this painting making the rounds today and really wanted to know more about it.  It looks like a medieval painting, but it's not.  Its title is "Okra Smugglers" by Henryk Fantazos, who painted it in 2007.  Born in Eastern Europe in 1947, he now lives and works in North Carolina.

Official Ted Lasso