280 Magnolia St Magnolia, MS 39652
Why I love Mississippi
I first learned of Mississippi when in the early grades I learned to spell it like many other young students, with the,” Mi crooked letter, crooked letter I, and the rest.” My next foray into Mississippi was in December 1954 when as an eighteen-year-old, fresh out of Air Force basic training in Sampson Air Force Base, Geneva, New York, I boarded a Greyhound Bus for this unknown place called Biloxi, Mississippi. My next few months were to be spent at Keesler AFB to learn all there was to know about airborne communications, so I was told.
There, in the summer strolling down the beach I spotted a young girl coming my way; we spoke, went sailing, had something to eat and parted ways. She went back to another unknown place named McComb, and I sailed twenty-two days from San Diego to Naha, Okinawa. Eighteen months later on my way from Connecticut to Eglin AFB in Florida I took a slight detour to that place named McComb. The girl that I had met on the beach and I, corresponded for the entire eighteen months. After a few weeks I rescued her from nursing school to the dismay of her father who had already paid for her first semester, and we were married. She to a d**n, Yankee, foreigner, Catholic, to quote her concerned father, “ain’t gonna last six months!” Oh! That was sixty-five and a half years ago. We had driven to the county seat to get a marriage license. We decided that Magnolia was a somewhat quaint but beautiful small town. We planned, as young couples do, that someday we might live there.
I was sent to France, she stayed in McComb to have our first daughter, for those finger counters, yes, she was full term; sorry to disappoint you. She joined me in France then in England and everywhere else thereafter. We would visit the booming metropolis named Progress for a number of years where my nay saying father-in-law came around after we presented him with a grandson that was given his name as a middle name. By then both my wife and I were working in New Orleans, she in hospitals and I in the space program and other endeavors, after the Apollo series gave way to the space shuttle.
When I reached the ripe age of 59½ we decided to buy a house in Magnolia, as we had considered those many years before. We settled on an 1856 antebellum, Greek revival named the Frith House. It needed nine months of renovation. I dubbed it, our dying house, much to the dismay of the family. We each took a job in Magnolia, she as clinic manager for Dr. Frye and Dr. Lampton plus three others and I as Administrator of Beacham Memorial Hospital. We became so involved in Magnolia, I as Chamber President, President of Trustees at the Magnolia Methodist Church plus seven additional advisory boards. We didn’t have to be concerned about twenty-below-zero winters either.
A couple of years in; a respected citizen came to my office with an offer of fifty other citizens to support and finance me if I would run for mayor. My wife and I discussed the possibility, but decided against the opportunity. I had been portrayed as a benevolent dictator in a couple of other senior management positions in New Orleans, then we decided my lifespan would shrink, if I was to win the position. We had both fallen in love with the people of Magnolia, where friendships flourished. Mississippians are such real people we decided, without all the phony glitz. Sure, there may be exceptions, but overall, I love this place, we both do! I preferred to work as an unpaid volunteer to contribute what I could to Magnolia. Eventually friends began to leave Magnolia for their displeasure in the direction of the politics; plus many of our contemporaries have exceeded their lifespan.
We had added substantially to the dwelling we called the shack on a beautiful forty-acre plot, in the Progress community. There we enjoyed weekends of relaxation often sharing with friends; after having made it very livable.
Last March we made it official. We applied for homestead exemption in the county and sold the Frith House in October. We are fortunate that all three of our children live in Mississippi within a few hours’ drive. We are now ensconced in the country to our new dying house.