Mississippi Gulf Coast…for real

This spring is flying by…or more accurately, driving by.  I have been on the road more days than not since January 1.  The first week of March was the annual conference for the National Association of Social Workers.

Gulf Coast mural airport

My colleague from Maine flew in–his second time to attend our conference since he worked Disaster Recovery with me and many other social workers from across the nation following Hurricane Katrina.  One of the things I love about being a social worker–and there are many!–is the connection with like-minded people.  Not every social worker wants to be one because of the core values that form the essence of the profession.  Some who call themselves social workers do not believe in those core values, nor adhere to them, which is of course, a violation of the Code of Ethics.  Sometimes, it is subtle, and other times, blatant.  What I love about those who are my kindred spirit social workers is that we stand for something, and we will say so and take risks in order to serve–a core value of the profession.

Value: Service

Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.

Social workers elevate service to others above self-interest.  Social workers draw on their knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems.  Social workers are encouraged to volunteer some portion of their professional skills with no expectation of significant financial return (pro bono service). (Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers)

Gulf Coast mural

While I waited for my friend, I thought about the devastation that hit these coastal cities in 2005, and the days we spent working in Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Gulfport, Waveland, Bay St. Louis, and Poplarville.  We were assigned to the Department of Human Services Geriatric Outreach to assess the needs of older adults and link them to services and resources.  As the only social worker from Mississippi there that week, I also had the only transportation–my little white pickup with the jump seat.  I put 1,385 miles on that little truck that week–transporting social workers, delivering supplies, making home visits to those unable to get to the DRCs but reported in need by FEMA or MEMA staff in the field.


It pains me to see social workers not observing the ethical principals based on social work’s core values.  It is a reminder that we still have much work to do in the world, and in our own profession.  Who should be a social worker?  The person who is educated in a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, passed the Association of Social Work Boards license examination for competency, and is licensed by the state in which the social worker practices.  A social worker adheres to the core values of the profession:

  • Service
  • Social Justice
  • Dignity and Worth of the Person
  • Importance of Human Relationships
  • Integrity
  • Competence


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From high atop downtown Jackson

Jackson downtown

Last Thursday night found me on the 11th floor of the Jackson Downtown Marriott Hotel.  While I enjoyed my room service meal of chicken milanese, with baby broccoli in beurre blanc, and smashed potatoes, I could not help but wonder what the meal would have been like had I dined there years ago when Chef Nick Wallace was in the kitchen.  My room service waiter was graciously courteous, asking “May I come in? Where would you like me to place your tray?  Shall I pour your wine for you?”  I am not a snob (I pour my own wine all the time), and I have a golden rule of treating service staff with respect and courtesy (whether it is the cranky person at Subway or a tuxedoed staff at a really nice restaurant), but it made me feel very nurtured and appreciated after what has been a difficult time for the past several weeks.

Jackson downtown skyline

I opened the drapes–my usual action when I am in a room with a view out, but not in, and savored the evening sunset.  Later after working a while on the assessment report due the following day while I had to be in Jackson representing the MS chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, I decided one more nurturing experience was in order…and shortly thereafter, my impeccable and tuxedoed waiter from earlier was bearing a tray with a chocolate lava cake topped with vanilla bean ice cream and a single-serving carafe of white wine.  I confess; I wondered what dessert would have been from a tractor-driving Chef Wallace.  But hey, one of these days, I will eat at his table and be able to answer the question for myself.

Posted in Food and Wine, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Iron Bridge, Teoc Community


Teoc, Mississippi is a small community off Highway 7 north, between Greenwood and Avalon.  Research on New Deal Administration buildings in Mississippi introduced me to Teoc, and upon discovering it is just off the road I travel to and from Indianola every week, I finally took a detour on the way home when I had a few extra minutes to spare.  I noticed a sign that said “Iron Bridge Church” and just as I crossed the concrete bridge over Little Teoc Creek, glanced to my right.

Iron Bridge 6

According to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory (and I just cannot say too many times what an incredible resource that is), the Teoc Creek Bridge was constructed in 1917.  Thus far, I have not located anything in the newspaper archives, but A. K. Gilbert (2006. A Leader Born: The Life of Admiral John Sidney McCain, Pacific Carrier Commander. Philadelphia: Casemate.) reports:

When the dirt road extended to the south (as it did in olden days) it crossed an antique iron bridge, called the “iron bridge.”  That was the original entrance to Teoc.

The Teoc community, home to the family of Senator John McCain, the J. T. Long Store, and the Teoc Community House constructed by the New Deal Administration to name just a few, was listed in the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s “10 Most Endangered Places” in 2009, and as of the 2017 update, no progress has been made in saving this unique community in Mississippi history.

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Bank of Indianola

Bank of Indianola

The Bank of Indianola–when a bank still looked like a bank!  Built c. 1900, the two-story, two brick color commercial building features two crenellated towers, and the right is slightly taller than the left.  The first floor has two doors–my personal favorite corner entry with double doors, and a single door.  Brick pilasters flank the single door entry, topped by corbelled capitals supporting the brick arch.  Three narrow arched windows fill the bay between the doors.  The recessed corner entry showcases a surround matching the single entry.  The second floor central bay mimics the lower bay with three narrow fixed lights and the arched lights above.  Each tower features a window.

Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory described the style as Tudor, and comments:

…a castelated quasi-Romanesque commercial building, similar in character to the former Citizen’s Bank in Greenville.

The Indianola Bank was organized July 1902 with $50,000 stock, and officers A. F. Gardener, President, P. C. Chapman, V. P., and W. T. Pitts, Cashier.  J. F. Barnes of Greenville received a contract for building the bank (Indianola Bank Organizes. July 25, 1902, The Indianola Enterprise, p. 2).

The beautiful new building of the Bank of Indianola is nearing completion and was the subject of much praise by the hosts of our country friends.  No only did this building attract admiring glances of our watchful visitors, but the rapid growth of our town was astonishing to them. Many who had not been here for two or three years could become reconciled to the stern fact that this was indeed “Indianola” and not some magic city builded in a night. (The Indianola Enterprise, November 14, 1902, p. 2)

J. F. Barnes was described by the Jackson Daily News, June 3, 1904, p. 7 as a “self-made man” with a talent for mechanical work and mathematics.  He learned carpentry and studied architecture “until he acquired a sufficient knowledge of the building trades to enable him to become a contractor.”  He located in Jackson in 1882, and moved to Greenville in 1886, where he was attributed to having designed and built “many of the most substantial and beautiful buildings in that city.”  By 1895, Barnes was working in New Orleans, Biloxi, and Mobile.  Barnes was one of the “Men Who Built Capitol” while serving as superintendent of construction.

In 1940 the Indianola Bank became a branch of Planters Bank, which was founded in 1920 in Sunflower County.  The bank name changed the name to Planters Bank in 1981 when they moved their headquarters to Indianola.  In 1976, Planters opened a new bank building, and the downtown bank building continued to operate as a branch bank.

Posted in Bank buildings, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Cooking up some greens and social action…

As two of the students and I prepared dinner tonight, I shared my memories of learning to cook in the kitchen with my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, and my two cousins. (Cooking in the kitchen with mama, May 18, 2012, Suzassippi’s Lottabusha County Chronicles)

I love community work, and it generally involves preparing and consuming food.  Food is essential, no less than the air we breathe and the water we drink.  And, we can easily take all those things for granted–that is, if we have each of those necessities in abundance, and it is clean, healthy, and accessible.  One does not have to visit another country to meet people who live without those essentials.

Yesterday, I posted about smashing garlic…and the patriarchy.  Drawing the connection between how the ‘restrained flattening’ (Rosenfield, 2014) of garlic is a metaphor for disrupting the dominance and oppression of the patriarchal system might seem like a bit of a stretch, and truthfully, I did arrive there in a somewhat circuitous route.  When the gift of the dish towel arrived and I figured out it was from my friend Jane, it reminded me of a “present” I had been intending to do for her and her chef husband.  I jokingly told her that the dish towel was working–I was taking action already.

My friend and I were involved in many social action causes over the years, and most of them involved a pot luck meal, although the meal itself was never the focus.  I have been following the work of Chef Nick Wallace of Jackson in the past  year, and appreciate his mix of social action and food–the farm to table emphasis.  Chef Wallace also works with Jackson Public Schools in preparing healthy and nutritious foods for students, and supports community gardens through a project called Creativity Kitchen.

For several days, I had been “fixing to” make a donation to Chef Wallace’s GoFundMe for the Creativity Kitchen project.  My friend and partner in many community support projects, and her husband, a former Executive Chef, decided a few years ago to have a Birthday Bash through Donors Choose and asked friends and family to support that rather than a material gift.  That dish towel inspired me to donate to Creativity Kitchen right then.

I have an affinity for people who work to improve the lives of those in the community in which they live and work.  I have an affinity for people who recognize that healthy communities contribute to healthy families.  And, I have an affinity for food shared with like-minded people who understand that nourishing the body is nourishing the soul and the heart.

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 12.21.40 PM

You can be part of Chef Wallace’s work in making a difference that matters.  Go to the Donate Now page, and when you are done, share, tweet, and ask someone else to donate, too.

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It all started with smashing garlic…

Smashing garlic

Last week a package came for me, from an address and a person whose name was unknown to me.  Inside was this handmade dishtowel, and no card.  Knowing my friend Jane has a penchant for handmade gifts, and shares the vision of an egalitarian world, I correctly surmised this was from her.

The metaphor of smashing garlic and patriarchy is not lost on me.  Both are methods to infuse a richness in taste, aroma, and proper seasoning–essential for a well-put-together dish, and a well-put-together society.  Until I decided to look it up, however, I did not realize just how apt this metaphor was for describing a necessary challenge to the current order.

From Tony Rosenfield at the Washington Post:

Lightly crushing the cloves accomplishes the tall task of smoothing out garlic’s temperamental nature…can impart a pungent flavor that is difficult to harness..add too early..burns and becomes acrid…latter stages..steams or boils, leaving it raw-tasting and unpleasant.

This is where thinking big helps find garlic’s softer, more subtle side.  Left whole and partially smashed (just enough to release its powerful oils), garlic adapts to a range of high-heat techniques, cooking steadily and lending a mellow richness to a dish.

Accurately stated, the technique is more of a restrained flattening than an all-out smashing. (October 13, 2004, p. F01)

So to put that in perspective, smashing the patriarchy should be “more of a restrained flattening than an all-out smashing.”  The point is not total destruction, but smoothing out the temperamental nature of the patriarchy–after all, the patriarchy is not an individual: it is a system of rich and powerful men who dominate every sector of public and private life.  You know, that part that is difficult to harness, burns and becomes acrid, steams or boils, leaving a raw-tasting and unpleasant side effect for the rest of us.

So, if it all started with smashing garlic, then what came next?  More cooking coming up!


Posted in Country Philosophy, Food and Wine | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Main Street Indianola

Main Street

Indianola’s Main Street led into downtown to dead-end on Front Avenue, where many businesses were clustered.  This charming stretch of Main in the 100 block prior to reaching Front Avenue was home to the Sunflower Bank (visible just to the left of the photograph, and featured in an earlier post), the Enterprise-Tocsin newspaper building (not shown), and the Masonic Lodge (visible beyond the one-story stucco building with the brick columns). From right to left, the buildings above:

  • 131 Main is a circa 1952 building (MDAH Historic Resources Inventory) with a new porch.  It currently houses the Indianola Wellness Clinic.
  • 129 Main is a circa 1905-1908 building of stone.  Permastone veneer was added to the front facade and the storefront changed in 1955.  It was the home of Chapman Printing Company between 1931-1938 at least, although there is no other information I have been able to locate.
  • 123 Main is a circa 1904 two-story stucco and brick building, currently home to Cities Insurance.  Cities was located across the street at 124 Main during the late 1950s.  The porch has a denticulated cornice with decorative cast iron balustrade atop the porch.
  • 117 Main is a circa 1970 building.

It is quite the eclectic collection of buildings of varying styles, ages, and appearance.  I suppose that makes it a typical example of rural southern Americana.

Posted in Historic Downtowns, Ironwork, Mississippi Delta Towns | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Durant’s N. W. Overstreet Art Moderne School

Durant School 2

I have been in love with the Art Moderne Durant School since the first time I saw it in the header of Preservation in Mississippi back in 2010.  After secretly pining for my own photograph of this school for the last 7 years, I finally managed.  I am nothing if not persistent–it is a blessing and a curse.

N. W. Overstreet designed the monolithic concrete building, which took approximately 2 years to complete.  W. E. Rubush of Meridian was the superintendent of construction.  The building was 181 feet by 138 feet, with an auditorium seating 600, and two adjacent wings for the high school and the elementary school.

Auditorium and wings 2

In 1900, the Yazoo Herald (25 May, p. 3) reported that only one bid had been received for building the Durant school, from W. O. Glass of Yazoo City for a cost of $14,000.  The school board decided to wait.  By 1902, the Vicksburg American (16 Oct, p. 7) reported Durant’s growing prosperity and a public school in good shape would result in a school tax that would give an eight month school term.  Subsequently, they lost and then regained accreditation:


Clarion-Ledger, May 7, 1922, p. 10.

Like most states, cities and towns, and school districts, Durant sought to utilize New Deal Administration benefits carried out under the Roosevelt presidency.  The first mention I located related to Durant schools was when the state board approved projects that would create 3,199 jobs in Mississippi, one of which was the Durant school buildings, employing 40 men at a cost of $4,945 through the Civil Works Administration program (Homestead Plan Launched; CWA Program Rushed, December 3, 1933, Daily Clarion-Ledger, p. 1, 17).  The first applications for Public Works Administration were approved in 1935, with the school building at Inverness given approval to move forward.  Included in the applications was the Durant school in the amount of $100,000 (PWA Announces Change in Handling Projects, First Job is Approved, Clarion-Ledger, 12 Aug 1935, p. 10).

Auditorium columns

While Mississippi did indeed apply for PWA funds to construct the Durant school, the application was not submitted until after May 10, 1938 (applications X1330 and X1410).  The Durant school project was returned unfunded due to lack of funds ($5,000,000 PWA Projects Denied to Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger, 07 Sep 1939, p. 1) due to lack of funds.  Undaunted, an application was made for  Works Progress Administration funding in 1940.  Durant matched WPA’s $35,799 allotment with $40,616 according to an announcement by Senator Theo G. Bilbo for approval of project No. 41133 (Durant School Project Okehed, February 22, 1940, Daily Clarion-Ledger, p. 2).  Three days later, Senator Pat Harrison announced the federal allotment of $35,799 for the school, and another $10,348 (project no. 41124) for a gymnasium at Unity School in Saltillo (Durant to get school building, Clarion-Ledger, Feb 25, 1940, p. 17).

Construction finally began on the new school building in 1940 when preliminary clearing of the grounds began, employing 20 men initially, and eventually, 60 men (Construction to begin on school building soon, Sept 8, 1940, Clarion-Ledger, p.5).  Durant passed a $60,000 bond issue to supplement the $95,000 provided by WPA.  By March 2, 1941, “School work going fine” and on schedule and touted as “one of the prettiest and strongest” of the Mississippi schools (Clarion-Ledger, p.5).

I have come to love the Art Moderne look…along with industrial architecture and mid-century modern since moving to Mississippi.  Thank you, Durant, for continuing to use this beautiful N. W. Overstreet & Associates building completed in 1942.  Some things just do not need to be replaced, and this is one of them.

Posted in Art Moderne, Mississippi, New Deal Administration, school buildings | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Sunflower Bank Building

Sunflower Bank corner 2

The corner of Main Street and Court Avenue in Indianola, Mississippi is home to the former Sunflower Bank.  A fire–‘terrible conflagration’ in the terminology of the time, destroyed all but the 3 Faison’s brick stores, a dry goods emporium.  The Sunflower Bank was established in February, 1896:

The corporation shall exist for a period of 50 years, unless sooner dissolved by its stock-holders or by operation of law. (Enterprise-Tocsin, 28 Feb 1896, p. 3)

The new banking institution was temporarily located in A. B. Smith Company’s offices (Enterprise-Tocsin, 24 Apr 1896, p. 2).  Following the fire, it was reported:

The Sunflower Bank weathered the fire alright and has proven a most invaluable aid to our business men.  It is a splendid institution and will succeed, as it certainly deserves. (8 May, 1896, p. 2)

Indication of the location of A. B. Smith Company was not given, although his business of plantation supplies was indicated as sustaining losses of $9500 with insurance of $5500, and five store buildings with loss of $5000 and insurance of $1100.  In October, it was still temporarily located in Smith’s office; Smith was Vice President of the Sunflower Bank. By February 1897, the ad read “Located in the Sunflower Bank Building” (Enterprise-Tocsin, 18 Feb 1897, p. 2).

Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory, lists the bank as estimated c. 1901-1903.  The newspaper articles from early 1897 suggest the possibility of an earlier construction, although the original bank building could have been elsewhere.  I did not find any items suggesting a newer building was built in 1901-1903, although regular reports of capital and shares were reported in 1902 and 1903.

The former Sunflower Bank is part of the Indianola Historic District, and is described:

…flat parapet and corbelled cornice corner building with a tower on corner topped with a metal pyramidal roof…recessed entry through an arch with brick vouissoirs and stone keystone on each street. (Nancy Bell, June 2, 2008, nomination form National Register of Historic Places)

Windows on the Main Street elevation have been replaced.

The bank was closed for liquidation in February 1930, and initially regarded as solvent, though later it was determined liabilities were “far in excess of assets” (Biloxi Daily Herald, Feb. 19, 1930, p. 5). The bank was purchased and reorganized and reopened in April 1930, and depositors were reported to be paid.

Posted in Bank buildings, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Towns | Tagged | 3 Comments

First Baptist Church of Indianola

First Baptist Church

Churches often have a deeper historical significance than just a place of worship.  Sometimes, I run across those stories accidentally while searching for information about architectural history.  I think those stories are part of the fabric of our communities, and that they present alternative narratives about our identifies.  Indianola’s First Baptist is on the corner across the street from the Indianola 1935 New Deal Administration Post Office, which is the reason I was even standing on that corner one afternoon last week.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History Historical Resources Inventory lists the church as a 1911 Neoclassical design by architect H. J. Harker, and constructed by S. L. McGinnis.  Nancy Bell (June 2, 2008, National Register of Historic Places nomination form) described it physically as:

A one-story brick church building, facing south, with a central dome of wood topped with a metal bell roof capped with a small bell tower.  Extending from the dome are centered cross gables over the hip of the main block.  The cross gables on the front and west side extend past the front wall to form a narrow porch (made deeper by a recess into the main block) supported by four monumental concrete ionic columns.  There are seven bays: three art glass/art glass double-hung wood windows under the porch flanked by two art glass/art glass double-hung wood windows with transoms to each side of the recess (these windows have stone pediments and sills).  The entrances are into the sides of the porch recess and are double-leaf paneled doors.  The building is further enhanced with a molded cornice and a concrete water table.

There are estimated construction dates from 1911 to between 1915-1925.  The Sunflower Tocsin (27 May 1915, p. 4) described the community as “the proud possessors of a new Baptist church which was built at a cost of $30,000.00 and is the finest of its kind to be found in any town three times the size of Indianola,” which would seem to lend support to the 1911-1915 timeline.

What led me to those “alternative narratives” was an entry on Wikipedia that indicated “it’s rumored the First Baptist Church basement became home for white students in the wake of federal integration laws.”  A search for Indianola Academy led to another Wikipedia post and the statement “For the 1966-1967 and 1967-1968 school years, classes were held at the First Baptist Church.”  Steve Rosenthal, mayor in 2012, said he began to attend the Indianola Academy “in a Baptist Church” in January 1970, although he does not specify which one (Sarah Carr, Dec. 13, 2012, “In southern Towns, ‘Segregation Academies’ are Still Going Strong”, The Atlantic).  The enrollment of the academy doubled from 1969 to 1970 to 1200 students, and about 223 were grades 10-12 white students.  Classes were held in the Baptist and Methodist churches as ‘satellite campuses’ until a new facility was constructed for the private academy, and I think it likely that only the First Baptist and First Methodist would have been large enough and segregated enough to have accommodated that many students.

Indianola, like other segregated communities across the country, is defined not only by two school systems and two sides of town, but by two competing narratives that attempt to explain segregation’s stubborn persistence. (Carr, 2012)

Those competing narratives perpetuate division and prevent our coming together to solve problems that would result in a benefit to all of the community.  Dick Molpus, co-founder of Parents for Public Schools says Mississippi towns have “limited amounts of money, power, and influence.  When those three things are divided between black public schools and white academies, both offer substandard education.”

Posted in churches, Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Towns | Tagged , , | 4 Comments