A Farish Street Financial Timeline

 

 

DATE

AMOUNT ($)

SOURCE

PURPOSE

1 10/9/81

200,000

CDBG* Revitalization study
2

34,000

CDBG Extension of study
3 7/23/82

100,000

Grant, National Endowment for the Humanities via JSU Historical survey of Farish Street
4 12/10/89

1,600,000

CDBG Infrastructure, business loans, housing
5

85,000

CDBG Farish Street park
6 11/22/94

50,000

Jackson/Hinds Co. Mary Means (Means Consulting)
7 11/22/95

1,500,000

State of Ms. Alamo renovation
8 3/7/96

130,000

National Trust for Historic Preservation/State of Ms. Renovation of Scott Ford House
9

200,000

Acquisition of property in Farish St. district
10 3/26/98

2,500,000

National Equity Fund; $600,000 from local banks; $350,000, CDBG (city) “Rehab” of 37 historic houses
11 4/27/99

6,000,000

State of Ms. Farish St. revitalization
12 4/27/99

6,000,000

Fannie Mae Farish St. revitalization (matching of state funds
13 3/23/01

1,500,000

HUD? Infrastructure
14 5/22/01

900,000

City of Jackson water and sewer fund Infrastructure
15 1/12/02

74,000

($50,000 J. Paul Getty Trust; $12,500 Ms. Dept. Archives and History; $3,500 Gannett, Inc.; $8,000 ChemFirst, Inc.) Farish St./Scott-Ford Museum
16 3/8/11

210,000

Civil rights grant(?) Medgar Evers House Museum
  TOTAL

21,082,000

*(Community Development Block Grant – HUD)

Not included in this document are amounts for donations of real estate (e.g.: from state of Mississippi; donation of Alamo from Sunburst Bank), funding for the Smith-Robertson Museum and contract fees paid to Performa Entertainment and subsequent developers.

1) Hester, Lea Ann. “City expected to extend study of Farish Street.” The Clarion-Ledger 19 October 1981: 1B. Print.
2) Ibid.
3) Hester, Lea Ann. “Farish: Older than thought?” The Clarion-Ledger 23 July 1801: 1B. Print.
4) Scruggs, Afi-Odelia E. “Development plan fails to revitalize Farish Street.” The Clarion-Ledger 10 December 1989: 1A. Print.
5) Ibid.
6) Simmons, Grace. “Farish Street consultants to share info.” The Clarion-Ledger 9 October 1993: (no page cited)
7) Gates, Jimmie. “Renovation closer for Farish Street’s Alamo Theatre.” The Clarion-Ledger 22 November 1995: (no page cited)
8) Harris, Barbara. The Jackson Advocate. “Farish Street Historic District gets infusion of national, state funding.” 7 March 1996: 1A. Print.
9) Ibid.
10) Fleming, Eric. “Farish Street renovation under way.” The Mississippi Link. 26 March 1998. 1A: Print.
11) Henderson, Monique H. “Draft document targets Farish St. Historic District:12M allotted for development of district.” The Clarion-Ledger. 27 April 1999. 1B Print.
12) Ibid.
13) Mayer, Greg. “$1.5M grant going to Farish Street.” The Clarion-Ledger. 22 March 2001. 1B: Print.
14) Ibid.
15) _______. “Black museum receives grant.” The Picayune Item. 12 January 2000. (no page cited)
16) Mitchell, Jerry. “$2M-plus in grants awarded to state civil rights sites.” (“$210,000 will help stabilize the foundation and repair the Medgar Evers House Museum in Jackson.”) The Clarion-Ledger. 3 August 2011. (no page cited)

farish_street_north_blog

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cream 1 cup softened unsalted butter with 1 cup each white and brown sugar and 1 cup your choice of creamy/crunchy peanut butter. Mix 2 teaspoons baking soda with 2 ½ cups flour and a teaspoon salt, stir in 2 beaten eggs, and gradually blend into the peanut butter mixture. Add a cup or so of chocolate chips and refrigerate for a half hour. Drop by spoonfuls onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes.

Welty on Mississippi Food

This text is from a pamphlet that Eudora Welty wrote for and was distributed by the Mississippi Advertising Commission in 1936. Bearing that in mind, the simplicity of the recipes and the appeal to “Old South” sensibilities are better understood. This essay was selected by the Federal Writers’ Project only a short time before the publication of A Curtain of Green in 1941, a work that established Welty as a leading light in American letters, a position she still holds.

Stark Young, in his book Feliciana, tells how a proud and lovely Southern lady, famous for her dinner table and for her closely guarded recipes, temporarily forgot how a certain dish was prepared. She asked her Creole cook, whom she herself had taught, for the recipe. The cook wouldn’t give it back. Still highly revered, recipes in the South are no longer quite so literally guarded. Generosity has touched the art of cooking, and now and then, it is said, a Southern lady will give another Southern lady her favorite recipe and even include all the ingredients, down to that magical little touch that makes all the difference. In the following recipes, gleaned from ante-bellum homes in various parts of Mississippi, nothing is held back. That is guaranteed. Yankees are welcome to make these dishes. Follow the directions and success is assured.

Port Gibson, Mississippi, which General Grant on one occasion declared was “too beautiful to burn,” is the source of a group of noble old recipes. “Too beautiful to burn” by far are the jellied apples which Mrs. Herschel D. Brownlee makes and the recipe for which she parts with as follows:

JELLIED APPLES

Pare and core one dozen apples of a variety which will jell successfully. Winesap and Jonathan are both good. To each dozen apples moisten well two and one-half cups of sugar. Allow this to boil for about five minutes. Then immerse apples in this syrup, allowing plenty of room about each apple. Add the juice of one-half lemon, cover closely, and allow to cook slowly until apples appear somewhat clear. Close watching and frequent turning is necessary to prevent them from falling apart. Remove from stove and fill centers with a mixture of chopped raisins, pecans, and crystallized ginger, the latter adding very much to the flavor of the finished dish. Sprinkle each apple with granulated sugar and baste several times with the thickening syrup, then place in a 350-degree oven to glaze without cover on vessel. Baste several times during this last process.

Mrs. Brownlee stuffs eggs with spinach and serves with a special sauce, the effect of which is amazingly good. Here is the secret revealed:

STUFFED EGGS

12 eggs
1 lb. can of spinach or equal amount of fresh spinach
1 small onion, cut fine
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon or ½ cup vinegar
½ cup melted butter or oil
1 large can mushroom soup.

Boil eggs hard, peel, and cut lengthwise. Mash yolks fine. Add butter, seasoning, and spinach. Stuff each half egg, press together, and pour over them mushroom soup thickened with cornstarch, and chopped pimento for color.

Last of all, Mrs. Brownlee gives us this old recipe for lye hominy, which will awaken many a fond memory in the hearts of expatriate Southerners living far, far away.

LYE HOMINY

1 gallon shelled corn
12 quart oak ashes salt to taste
Boil corn about three hours, or until the husk comes off, with oak ashes which must be tied in a bag—a small sugar sack will answer. Then wash in three waters. Cook a second time about four hours, or until tender. -An all day job: adds Mrs. Brownlee.

One of the things Southerners do on plantations is give big barbecues. For miles around, “Alinda Gables,” a plantation in the Delta near Greenwood, is right well spoken of for its barbecued chicken and spare ribs. Mr. and Mrs. Allen Hobbs, of “Alinda Gables,” here tells you what to do with every three-pound chicken you mean to barbecue:

BARBECUE SAUCE

1 pint Wesson oil
2 pounds butter
5 bottles barbecue sauce (12 ounce bottles)
1/2 pint vinegar
1 cup lemon juice
2 bottles tomato catsup (14 ounce bottles)
1 bottle Worcestershire sauce (10 ounce bottles)
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
2 buttons garlic, chopped fine salt and pepper to taste
This will barbecue eight chickens weighing from 242 to 3 pounds. In barbecuing, says Mrs. Hobbs, keep a slow fire and have live coals to add during the process of cooking, which takes about two hours. The secret lies in the slow cooking and the constant mopping of the meat with the sauce. Keep the chickens wet at all times and turn often. If hotter sauce is desired, add red pepper and more Tabasco sauce.

Mrs. James Milton Acker, whose home, “The Magnolias,” in north Mississippi is equally famous for barbecue parties under the magnificent magnolia trees on the lawn, gives a recipe which is simpler and equally delightful: • Heat together: 4 ounces vinegar, 14 ounces catsup, 3 ounces Worcestershire sauce, the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons salt, red and black pepper to taste, and 4 ounces butter. Baste the meat constantly while cooking.

Pass Christian, Mississippi, an ancient resort where the most brilliant society of the eighteenth century used to gather during the season, is awakened each morning by the familiar cry, “Oyster ma-an from Pass Christi-a-an!” It would take everything the oyster man had to prepare this seafood gumbo as the chef at Inn-by-the-Sea, Pass Christian, orders it:

SEAFOOD GUMBO

2 quarts okra, sliced
large green peppers
1 large stalk celery
6 medium sized onions
1 bunch parsley
½ quart diced ham
2 cans #2 tomatoes
2 cans tomato paste
3 pounds cleaned shrimp
2 dozen hard crabs, cleaned and broken into bits
100 oysters and juice
½ cup bacon drippings
1 cup flour small bundle of bay leaf and thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Lea & Perrins Sauce
1 gallon chicken or ham stock
Put ham in pot and smother until done. Then add sliced okra, and also celery, peppers, onions, and parsley all ground together. Cover and cook until well done. Then add tomatoes and tomato paste. Next put in the shrimp, crabs, crab meat and oysters. Make brown roux of bacon dripping and flour and add to the above. Add the soup stock, and throw into pot bay leaves and thyme, salt and pepper, and Lea & Perrins Sauce. This makes three gallons of gumbo. Add one tablespoon of steamed rice to each serving.

The chef at Inn-by-the-Sea fries his chickens deliciously too. He uses pound or pound-and-a-half size fowls. Dressed and drawn, they are cut into halves and dipped into batter made of one egg slightly beaten to which one cup of sweet milk has been added, as well as salt and pepper. The halves of chicken are dipped and thoroughly wetted in the batter and then dredged well in dry, plain flour. The chef fries the chicken in deep hot fat until they are well done and a golden brown. He says be careful not to fry too fast.

Two other seafood recipes from the Mississippi Coast come out of Biloxi, that cosmopolitan city that began back in 1669, and where even today the European custom of blessing the fleet at the opening of the shrimp season is ceremoniously observed. “Fish court bouillon” is a magical name on the Coast, it is spoken in soft voice by the diner, the waiter, and the chef alike; its recipe should be accorded the highest respect; it should be made up to the letter, and without delay:

FISH COURT BOUILLON

5 or 6 onions
1 bunch parsley
2 or 4 pieces celery
4 pieces garlic
6 small cans tomatoes
1 or 2 bay leaves hot peppers to taste
Cut up fine, fry brown, and let simmer for about an hour, slowly. Prepare the fish, and put into the gravy. Do not stir. Cook until fish is done. This will serve 8 to 10 people; for 10 or more double the ingredients. To prepare fish, fry without cornmeal, and put in a plate or pan. Pour a portion of the gravy over it, and let it set for a while. Just before serving, pour the rest of the hot gravy over the fish.

Another valuable Coast recipe which comes from Biloxi is that for Okra Gumbo.

OKRA GUMBO

2 or 3 onions
½ bunch parsley
5 or 6 pieces celery
1 small piece garlic
4 cans of okra, or a dozen fresh pieces
1 can tomatoes
1 pound veal stew, or 1 slice raw ham
Cut all ingredients in small pieces and fry brown. Let simmer for a while. If shrimp are desired, pick and par-boil them and add to the ingredients the shrimp and the water in which they were boiled. If oysters or crab meat is desired, add to gumbo about twenty minutes before done. Add as much water as desired.

Aberdeen, Mississippi, is a good Southern town to find recipes. Old plantations along the Tombigbee River centered their social life in Aberdeen as far back as the 1840’s, and some of the recipes that were used in those days are still being made up in this part of the country.

Mrs. C. L. Lubb, of Aberdeen, uses this recipe for beaten biscuit:

BEATEN BISCUIT

4 cups flour, measured before sifting 3/4 cup lard 1 teaspoon salt 4 teaspoons sugar enough ice water and milk to make a stiff dough (about Y2 cup). Break 150 times until the dough pops. Roll out and cut, and prick with a fork. Bake in a 400-degree oven. When biscuits are a light brown, turn off the heat and leave them in the oven with the door open until they sink well, to make them done in the middle.

Mrs. Bicknell T. Eubanks, also of Aberdeen, prepares Spanish rice this way.

SPANISH RICE

4 tablespoons oil
1 cup rice
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 quart canned tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt, a little less than ½ teaspoon pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large frying pan and add rice. Cook until brown, stirring constantly. Cook remaining 2 tablespoons oil with onion and green pepper until the onion is yellow and tender. Combine with rice. Add tomatoes and let it simmer until the rice is tender, stirring constantly. Add a little hot tomato juice if the rice seems dry. Add seasonings. Serves 6.

Vicksburg, in the old steamboat days Mississippi’s wicked, wide-open town, lived high with all the trimmings. Perched on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi, it is famous still for its excellent catfish. The disarmingly simple recipe for preparing it is here given: Take a catfish weighing 12 pound. Season well with salt and pepper, and roll in cornmeal. Use a pot of deep fat with temperature of 360 degrees. Place the fish in the pot and fry until done. Serve very hot.

To go along with the fish, the Hotel Vicksburg serves a wickedly hot potato salad, prepared as follows:

1 quart sliced potatoes (cooked)
6 pieces chopped crisp bacon
3 chopped hard boiled eggs
1 minced large green pepper
2 minced pimentos
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Mix and serve with quartered tomatoes, sliced dill pickles, mixed sweet pickles, and quartered onions.

A collection of recipes from the Old South is no more complete than the Old South itself without that magic ingredient, the mint julep. In the fine old city of Columbus, in the northeastern part of the state, hospitality for many years is said to have reached its height in “Whitehall,” the home of Mr. and Mrs. T. C. Billups. “The drink is refreshing,” says Mrs. Billups, needlessly enough, “and carries with it all the charm of the Old South when life was less strenuous than it is today; when brave men and beautiful women loved and laughed and danced the hours away, but in their serious moments, which were many, aspired to develop minds and souls that made them among the finest people this old world has known.” The “Whitehall” recipe is as follows:

MINT JULEP

Have silver goblet thoroughly chilled. Take half lump sugar and dissolve in tablespoon water. Take single leaf mint and bruise it between fingers, dropping it into dissolved sugar. Strain after stirring. Fill the goblet with crushed ice, to capacity. Pour in all the bourbon whiskey the goblet will hold. Put a sprig of mint in the top of the goblet, for bouquet. Let goblet stand until FROSTED. Serve rapidly.

Who could ask for anything more?

Easy Pickled Green Tomatoes

Core four pounds small, firm green tomatoes—or not; I don’t—and cut into fleshy wedges. Combine two cups vinegar with a cup of water, add a quarter cup canning salt, two cloves of garlic and a quarter cup of dill seeds. Bring to a boil. Pack tomato wedges into clean jars with 2-piece canning lids. (If you want to be artsy, you can throw some sliced onion, sweet red pepper strips, and a bay leaf, but people, don’t bother; it’s all about the tomatoes, okay?) Ladle hot liquid over tomatoes, shake the jars to burp the bubbles, wipe jar rims, and screw on lids. Cool and refrigerate. This makes two quarts that will keep in the fridge for several weeks.

The Green Diamond

The Illinois Central’s Green Diamond
by Howard Bahr

In the decades following the Great War, American culture shook itself out of the Nineteenth Century and woke to fresh ideas and new possibilities. Youth, having liberated Europe and ended war forever, had a voice for the first time in our history. Cynicism and joi de vivre found ways to cohabit, and under their common roof, Youth created a new way of living. Jazz was the soundtrack. Flappers in short skirts, long beads swinging, danced the Charleston, the Fox Trot, the Shimmy: girls smoked cigarettes and drank gin in public and were picked up from Mama’s house by sheiks in fast cars. The Imagists’ admonition–“Make it new!”–resonated everywhere.

Downtown, the staid dignity of the Chicago School gave way to soaring silver skyscrapers that transformed city skylines. In the suburbs, new houses traded a classical vocabulary for the sleek lines, portholes, and minimalist décor of the Moderne. Aluminum and glass replaced busy fretwork; cluttered, over-stuffed parlors vanished, and porches disappeared; tall Lombardy poplars, nature’s answer to Arts Decoratif, graced the landscaping. Even everyday objects like radios, toasters, pencil sharpeners, vases, clocks, mirrors, and telephones took on new forms in the up-to-date household. The automobile industry, ever alert to the public’s whims, abandoned the boxy bodies and spoked wheels inherited from horse-drawn carriages and began to experiment with streamlining, a movement that culminated in the startling 1936 Chrysler Airflow.

When that car and others like it appeared on showroom floors, they represented not only a revolution in style, but in movement as well. Newly-paved highways beckoned, and the motorcar, liberated from Sunday drives and trips to the park, was recast as a ship of dreams. The world was opened up in an unprecedented way: as Dinah Shore would sing in 1953, “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet! America is asking you to call!” Travelers, once bound to the railroads, could now set their own schedules, carry as much baggage as they wanted (no charge!), and rest in the friendly motor hotels springing up in the wilderness.

American railroad companies looked on this newfound Freedom of the Road with misgivings. Railroads had bullied steamboats off the inland rivers, now, in their turn, they were threatened by the automobile. Passenger revenue was still high, but the Detroit competition was available, cheap, and attractive to the public. In 1882, when the railroads were at the height of their tyrannical power, Commodore Vanderbilt of the New York Central could proclaim, in an unguarded moment, “The public be damned!” Needless to say, by the mid-1930s, this sentiment was no longer viable.

To meet this challenge, railroad engineering and PR departments tapped into the Moderne craze and created the Streamliner: a first-class, air-conditioned train with sleek aluminum coaches, specially assigned engines, and a color scheme that ran from the locomotive pilot to the end of the observation car. Design luminaries like Henry Dreyfuss and Raymond Loewy brought steam locomotives into the realm of high art: when the New York Central’s Twentieth Century Limited (Dreyfuss) and the Pennsylvania’s Broadway Limited (Loewy) raced each other eastbound out of Chicago on parallel tracks, they represented a pinnacle of design unequaled for American industry.

Another innovation was the articulated “trainset,” the railroads’ first great experiment with diesel-electric power. Articulation meant that the power car” (that is, the locomotive) and all the coaches shared wheel trucks and were permanently coupled together, save when they went to the shops for maintenance. Trainsets were short–five or six cars in the consist–ran on tight schedules, and were well-appointed. The CB&Q fielded several silver, shovel-nosed Zephyrs. The UP and C&NW ran a joint City of Denver, the Santa Fe’s Chicagoan/Kansas moderne aesthetic.

 The schedule of the Green Diamond was ideally suited for businessmen traveling between the great cities of St. Louis and Chicago, with a stop at Springfield, Illinois’ capitol. Northbound, the train departed St. Louis at 8:55 A.M. and arrived in Chicago five hours later. Southbound departure from Chicago was at the close of the business day, 5:00 P.M., with a St. Louis arrival at 9:55 P.M. Along the way, passengers enjoyed such amenities as air-conditioning, a radio in every car, and excellent dining (see Jesse Yancy’s article below). In addition, the train carried a stewardess trained in dictation, and a registered nurse for the hangovers and heart attacks common among Capitalists in the Great Depression years.

The Green Diamond must have been quite a sight as she glided through the cornfields on a summer’s day, or flashed her green against the snow of winter. People accustomed to a steam engine’s mournful whistle no doubt looked up when #121 blatted her air horn at grade crossings: perhaps they heard in it the sound of the Future, but probably not. Locomotives would always and evermore be driven by steam, just as the Great War had ended all wars, and drugstores would always sell Paregoric.

In the end, the very success of the Green Diamond led to her demise. The St. LouisSpringfield-Chicago schedule proved so popular that passenger traffic began to exceed the limited capacity of the trainset, which could not accommodate the addition of extra cars during a surge of ridership. In 1947, eleven years after her glorious debut, IC #121 and her articulated companions were replaced by conventional, more practical diesel locomotives and coaches. The train’s name and schedule remained, but the moderne novelty was gone forever from the Land of Lincoln.

The final chapter of the trainset’s story began at the Illinois Central’s Paducah shops, where she was given an overhaul. When she emerged, she was freshly-painted in the same two-tone green, but the Green Diamond banner had been erased from her sides. Train crews, doubtless Bemused by the assignment, took her across the various divisions to Cairo, Memphis, and at last to her new home of Jackson, Mississippi. Why she was sent there instead of somewhere else is lost to history, but for the next three years–until she was sold for scrap–she traveled the Louisiana Division between Jackson and New Orleans. Now called the Miss-Lou, her timecard schedule was almost identical to that of the Green Diamond, and she once again provided the reliable, courteous service for which the Main Line of Mid-America was famous. The Miss-Lou moniker derived, of course, from the states through which she traveled, but, as Yancy explains below, it was by another name that she entered the folklore of the Deep South.

We are given some things in life–the Iris, for example, or a young girl’s face–that seem the more beautiful because we know their flowering will not last. We treasure less, perhaps, those things we foolishly believe will last forever. So it was with the great passenger trains that once flowed majestically across the Republic: colorful carriers of Dream and Promise in a time when pride was still part of the national character and anything was possible. They are vanished now, every one scattered across the trash-heaps of memory, and few remain who remember them at all. They will not come again; that they once passed among us is testimony to what we had, and to what we can never have again.

Dining on the Green Diamond
by Jesse Yancy

In 1867, George Pullman introduced his first railroad “hotel car,” the President, a converted sleeper equipped with limited dining facilities. In 1868, Pullman built his next all-dining car, which he named the Delmonico after the famous New York restaurant. The Delmonico was placed in service on the Chicago & Alton Railroad between Chicago and Springfield, Ill. Meals were the lofty price of one dollar.

The 1940s and 1950s were the golden age of train travel and the pinnacle of railroad dining car operations. For many passengers, the ambiance of the dining car was the reason they rode the train. The Panama Limited maintained a high level of service until the Amtrak era. It was noted for its first-rate culinary staff and Creole fare in the Vieux Carre-themed dining cars, a service which the Illinois Central marketed heavily. A well-known multi-course meal on the Panama Limited was the Kings Dinner, for about $10; other deluxe, complete meals such as steak or lobster, including wine or cocktail, were priced around $4 to $5. The menu the Super Chief, called the “Train for the Stars” because it was the choice transportation from the East Coast and Chicago to Hollywood, rivaled that served in many five-star restaurants. A “Wake-Up Cup” of coffee was brought to one’s private bedroom each morning, on request, a service exclusive to the Super Chief. The elaborate dinner offerings generally included caviar and other delicacies, cold salads, grilled and sauteéd fish, sirloin steaks and filet mignon, lamb chops, and the like. For discerning palates, elegant champagne dinners were an option.

In that golden age of the itinerant epicure, the Illinois Central touted their schedules with its most famous advertisement stating, “Enjoy the fastest service ever offered and the supreme luxury of America’s smoothest riding train. Air-conditioned…radio in every car… Stewardess… Delicious inexpensive meals as low as: breakfast 25 cents, lunch 35 cents, and dinner 40 cents.”  The ICRR original Green Diamond dining service carried on the railroad’s tradition of fine dining, with every element of complete passenger train service contained in four cars with 200 square feet. With dining seating for only 24, it would take 5 seatings to serve all 120 passengers in the dining space, and that had to be done in the five hour and 10-minute trip. Six serving tray stands were provided in each chair car for use in serving meals at the seats of the patrons, and this helped case the process.

The 22-square feet kitchen was provided with an oil burning range, broiler, warming ovens, urn and steam table. Polished stainless steel was used for the table tops, sinks, chipped ice wells, facings of refrigerators, range, work tables and lower lockers. The interior linings of cold boxes, refrigerator compartments, racks, etc. were also of stainless steel. Dry ice refrigeration, automatically controlled, was used in the large refrigerator, cold boxes, and ice cream cabinet. The kitchen was provided with a serving bay open on three sided to facilitate serving meals. Ornamental panels of inlaid Formica closed off these openings when the kitchen is not in use. An annunciator for waiter service was provided with push buttons conveniently located in the diner-observation car and at the dining section in the chair car.

The Green Diamond’s menu offered an impressive variety for what amounted to a glorified commuter train. Both the a la carte menu and the table d’hote included broiled codfish with anchovy sauce, lamb chops with spiced crabapple, pork tenderloin with yams, chicken a la king, and New Orleans-style pan-fried oysters served with succotash, French-fried potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Lettuce and fruit salads, cold and hot soups, and freshly baked pie rounded out the menu. The bar offered cocktails, beers, and wines, mixed drinks, sodas (Seven Up and Coca Cola), and a selection of assorted cigars (5, 10, and 15 cents).

When the Green Diamond began her final runs as the Miss-Lou (MISSissippi-LOUisiana) between Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana, she left Jackson at 6:20 AM, arriving in New Orleans at 10:20 AM; the return journey left at 6:20 PM and arrived in Jackson at 10:20 PM. This articulated version of the original trainset probably offered little more to eat than cold sandwiches and sodas. Along rails running among the small farms and homesteads of south Mississippi, the farmers along its route noted the green train’s resemblance to an unwelcome denizen of their vegetable gardens, and before long became affectionately known the Tomato Worm. The train was finally retired on August 8, 1950, and sold for scrap.

Date Oatmeal Cookies

Coarsely chop about  eight ounces of pitted dates or another dried fleshy fruit, and add ¾ cup brown sugar mixed with one stick soft butter. Sift in a cup all-purpose flour, a teaspoon baking soda and about a teaspoon salt. Add a lightly beaten egg, a teaspoon vanilla, whatever spices fit your groove, and a cup and a half of quick-cooking oats. Mix well. Spoon golf ball-size globs onto lightly oiled baking sheets and place on the middle rack of a preheated 350 oven for about 20 minutes. This mixture–divine, sensuous, the very essence of destiny itself–can be baked in a pan and sliced into bars after cooling.

An All-Day Singing

This surprisingly poetic account of an all-day singing was submitted sometime in 1941 to the Works Project Administration by a Mississippi writer working on the “America Eats!” project .

There is an old axiom that fighting and feuding are easily plowed under with food and song. Certainly, a man can stand up by his neighbor and sing “Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound!” and then turn around and feud with him about a hog, a dog, or a fence line. Not a Mississippi man, anyway. For, although a Mississippian gets tempered up in a hurry, he is also believed to be form with a prayer in his heart, a sing on his lips, and an unwavering appetite for picnic food. All day singing with dinner on the ground has come to serve him as “hatchet-burying” time as well as a singing and easing session.

In one section of the state there is a tri-county singing association that meets twice a year, and when that group of voices bears down the mules hitched below the hill start in to bray. From the first notes that are sung until the last leader calls for “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” singing sometimes throughout the day.

In the church the women sit on one side of the house, the men on the other. Those who read shaped notes take their seats on the front rows. The first leader calls out a number from his Sacred Harp song books and sets the pitch. He asks for the tune and the church house rings with the “fa, sold, la” of the Mississippian scale. The words come next and each leader tries to extract from the willing class its best. As the morning wears on the women present who say they don’t “sing a stitch” prepare the table for dinner. Near noontime, the smell of food begins to compete with the swell of rhythm. And when a tune as familiar as “On Jordan’s Story Banks” falls off, even the leader knows that it’s time for the Sacred Harp to be laid aside. He solemnly closes the book and announces that dinner will be served outside.

On the improvised tables the women have spread food for the hungry and weary vocalists. Chicken seems to be the songbirds’ meat for it is evident in great quantity and variety. There is chicken pie, crisp fried chicken, country fried chicken with gravy, broiled chicken, baked chicken, chicken giblets, and hard-boiled eggs. There are baked hams and country sausage, and no all-day singing dinner is just right without potato salad. Homemade summer pickle, peach pickle, and pickle relish eat mighty well with all this, and there’s plenty of cold biscuit and homemade light bread.

The best cooks of the community bring their cakes and pies and a man was hard put to choose between apple pie and devil’s food cake with coconut icing. It may be that he will pass them both up for jelly cake, especially if it is a ten-stacker.

Singing is resumed after dinner, but it takes a potent leader to get much spirit into the mind right after such a meal. But song finally takes hold again, and the singing of “Sweet Morning” takes on added meaning. The final number is heard at sundown, and the courting couples wander up from the spring to join their folks for the trek home. It is a quiet leave-taking, without many spoken good-byes. Those had already been said when the last leader asked for the words” “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.”

Water Valley’s First Watermelon Carnival

The Watermelon Carnival is Water Valley’s most prized annual celebration. An estimated 20,000 people attend the various events, always set the first weekend in August. The first carnival was held on Thursday, August 27, 1931. At that time, the entire nation was in the grip of the depression. In Water Valley, a bank had failed, the railroad had pulled out, and unemployment was high. Local businessmen were concerned about the spirit of the townspeople, so they decided to host a carnival to boost morale. The Watermelon Carnival consisted of a parade, a pageant to name the carnival queen, and a formal ball. Festivities were repeated for nine consecutive years, and then halted with the outbreak of World War II. The Watermelon Carnival lay in dormancy until 1980, when it was successfully revived. This account of the first carnival appeared in vol. 20, no. 4 of the Illinois Central Magazine.

The weather man predicted rain; yet early Thursday morning, August 27th, cars began arriving in Water Valley, Mississippi, for the Watermelon Carnival, the crowd continuing to grow until 12,000 to 20,000 persons could be counted. All wore holiday clothes and entered into the spirit of the day. C.R. Pitts, manager of the Yalobusha Democrat, presented the Watermelon Carnival idea to the people; then the Water Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce voted to sponsor the Carnival, and, receiving the cooperation of other civic organizations and private citizens, has made the Watermelon Carnival the outstanding attraction in North Mississippi, embodying a program which is unexcelled in beauty and originality.

Ever since Yalobusha County has been settled watermelons have been raised on the farms. Each farm had a small ‘patch’ of watermelons for private use. Occasionally a few choice melons were brought to town in the farm wagon and offered for sale on the streets. Only in recent years have melons been produced for outside markets.

The production of watermelons in this section has been a gradual growth until in 1930 more than 100 carloads of watermelons were shipped by rail from Water Valley and many more were transported by trucks. Water Valley melons are known for their superior flavor. The sandy loam, found in the hills of Yalobusha County, is especially adapted to the production of watermelons. The land is thoroughly broken and laid off in “hills” eight feet apart. Each hill 18 fertilized. If barnyard fertilizer is used, the fertilizer is placed under the hill during the winter or long enough in advance of planting so that the fertilizer is thoroughly decomposed and will not heat. When this method is used, the hills are marked by pegs so that the seed may be planted on top of the fertilizer in the hill. Planting takes place as soon as the danger from frost has passed. Cultivation consists of ordinary plowing and hoeing, to keep the ground loose and to destroy weeds and grass, care being taken not to injure the roots or vines. When the vines have attained a sufficient growth, the crop is “laid by”, and at maturity the vines cover the field solidly from hill to hill.

Some of the varieties of melons planted in Yalobusha County are Renter’s Wonder, Texas Jumbo, Klecky Sweet, Stone Mountain, Irish Gray, Honey Dew, Halbert’s Honey, Lem Green and Schockler; and some of the principal growers are W.E. Walker, Joe Holt, Jim Hayles, Will Hayles, Fred McCracken, W.0. Champion, Charlie Goodwin, Ernest and Joe Stone, Clarence Hervey, Dixie Davis, Robert and Ben King. Ten acres is considered a big field for one man. The average yield per acre is about 30,000 pounds. Prices range from 33 1/3 cents to $1.00 per hundred pounds, varying according to the season and the grade of melons.

When the melon is ripe, the ‘curl’ which grows out of the stem dies. One may judge of the melon’s condition by the sound brought forth by thumping it with the finger. A melon pulled green never ripens. A prime melon pulled when ripe will usually be in good condition for ten days or two weeks, without extra care, and will keep indefinitely in cold storage.

The Carnival Program “The carnival program on August 27th was ushered in by the noise of many instruments as the crowd began gathering. The Holly Springs’ band concert was the social program’s first number. Kermit Cofer was master of ceremonies and introduced the principal speaker of the morning, Congressman W.M. Whittington of Greenwood, Mississippi, who addressed the farmers in keeping with the spirit and intent of the occasion. During the day thousands visited the melon display where the largest melons produced in this section as well as other farm products were to be seen. There were ten melon and garden display booths that aroused the admiration of the throngs.

At 1:30 o’clock in the afternoon talks were made by Congressman Jeff Busby, H.J. Schweitert (general agricultural agent of the Illinois Central system) and L.A. Olsen, extension director of the A. and M. College at Starkville. At 3 o’clock a baseball game between the Jolly Cabs of Memphis and a home team, with Water Valley winning 5 to 2.

At 4 o’clock an important part of the carnival was the cutting of 1500 ice-cold melons. The melons were passed out over the long tables to the thousands. The melons were purchased by the Junior Chamber of Commerce from the many growers in the County. A number of special varieties were donated.

At 7 o’clock one of the most elaborate parades ever seen in Mississippi proceeded from Blount Street north to Court Street around the City Park and returned to Blount Street in the following order: mayor’s car of welcome; official decorator’s car; Sardis Drum and Bugle Corps; 155th Mississippi Infantry, Company G, Aberdeen, Mississippi; Captain E. L. Sykes in command; Curtis E. Pass Post, American Legion, and visiting ex-service men; American Legion float; W.S. Turnage Drug Company’s decorated car; Memphis Band and Orchestra, Oakland Mississippi; merchants’ float; Kraft Cheese Company’s decorated car; McCullar-Suratt float; Indian Tribe on move; T.P.A. float; R.L. Mann’s Floral Garden float; Chapman Service Station float; decorated car of Mrs. John Dalton; Memphis Illinois Central System Band; ‘Queen’s float’, queen and princesses; decorated car of Lee’s Hardware and Furniture; Water Valley Rotary Club float; Oak Grove Dairy float; U.S. Post Office float; O’tuckolofa Consolidated School float; Will Henry’s thirty piece band; United Daughters of the Confederacy’s float; Henry Ford’s special car; Martha and George Washington; W.B. Moorhead and Company’s float; Peoples’ Wholesale float; decorated car Water Valley Hospital; float of three banks; float of Grand Theatre; two floats of Hendricks Machine Shop; Babe Ross’ famous clown band of fifteen pieces; Ford caravan headed by their special built radio and victrola on truck followed by sixteen latest models of Ford cars and trucks.

One of the most impressive floats in the parade and one which was as typically southern as the watermelon festival, was the float which was entered by the Daughters of the Confederacy. This float represented ‘The Old South’, a picturesque old carriage, of the antebellum period, which was covered with 1500 home-grown, old-fashioned red and white (the Confederate colors) hollyhocks! B. Leland, a veteran of the War Between the States, who is the father of Mrs. A.D. Caulfield (the Illinois Central’s superintendent’s wife), represented a plantation owner of the sixties; his posing, in character, made the U.D.C. float seem a reality. Mary Lynne Brown was a true picture of early Confederate womanhood; while Charlotte Blackston, daughter of Engineer and Mrs. H. R. Blackston, was a dainty reproduction of a young lady of our revered ‘old South’. The red-and-white hollyhock covered antebellum carriage, entered as a float by the members of the local U.D.C., was drawn by two bay horses, and was preceded by four ‘outriders’, one of whom–‘ Uncle’ Frank McFarland, a negro veteran of the War Between the States–had enlisted with his master and had remained in active military service under the Confederate flag with his master during those memorable days.

The Illinois Central platform was decorated to represent a large watermelon patch (sand, vines and watermelons being used for the natural effect); where, after the parade, Mrs. E.L. McVey directed a beautiful pantomime composed of more than fifty little children who represented flowers, butterflies, birds (large ones, of course) and happy children disporting themselves in the watermelon patch. The fairy pantomime was followed by the crowning of the Watermelon Carnival’s Queen, who was Eleanor Houston, daughter of Chief Dispatcher and Mrs. L.S. Houston of the Illinois Central System.

After presenting a silver loving cup to the Watermelon Carnival Queen, Miss Houston, and as the conclusion of the coronation, Edwin Blackmur (president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce), with the queen, led the grand march for the street dance, followed by ten princesses of the. Watermelon Carnival. Each princess was accompanied in the grand march by a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce. The big Watermelon Camival program closed with a magnificent display of fireworks including six beautiful bet pieces, one of which portrayed a watermelon, twelve special arena pieces, and fifty-two aerial bombs, the display being handled by G.L. Gafford, chief clerk to the Illinois Central Superintendent.

Tomato Aspic

Women in any given society will assemble to sip, nibble and talk about anything they want and anyone who isn’t there. Speaking as an ardent fan of my opposite sex, I’ll be the first to say that the world is a much better place due to distaff parliaments. Civilization itself depends on feminine attentions if not to say machinations, and it’s usually in these gaggles that the most uninhibited deliberations between our sisters take place. Men should understand and appreciate this phenomenon, since when it comes to gossip, the trickle-down theory actually works; you may not know that your boss is sleeping with your secretary, but it’s a fair bet that you have a better chance of finding out if your wife does. And God help you if you’ve been shtupping her as well.

The food served at more formal klatches of this type is delicate, often to the point of fussy. This is no place for pork chops: small servings of carefully prepared, light offerings are the rule. You’ll find salads with cold seafood or chicken, pasta or seasonal vegetables alongside the obligatory crustless geometric sandwiches. Sweets, with the exception of a killer cake, are dainty and plentiful as are the drinks. I’ll not go so far as to swear that food is primarily intended to buffer the effects of a Bloody Mary luncheon—that would put my life in danger—but the theory has been broached. In the South, pimento and cheese, chicken salad, deviled eggs and pound cake (lemon or poppy seed particularly) at a ladies’ luncheon seem mandatory now, but it wasn’t so long ago that holding one without serving tomato aspic would imperil your membership in the 20th Century Club.

Because of recoil from the foods of the Sixties, congealed salads (like fondue) have become not only passé but proscribed. This reaction is somewhat justified; on any given month between say 1960 and 1975 in any magazine devoted to food, you’ll find tons of recipes for gelatin involving practically every ingredient in the kitchen, more often than not canned fruit, citrus Jell-O and mini marshmallows. But we shouldn’t abandon a good recipe because it’s showing its age, and this is a great dish: light, savory, easily prepared and attractive. Let’s hope tomato aspic is going through a trial period in popular tastes before it becomes not so much a novel legacy but a standard for our tables.

Tomato Aspic

3 cups tomato juice
2 packets unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons finely minced white onion
2 tablespoons finely minced celery
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce to taste

Warm tomato juice, add gelatin and dissolve. Stir in lemon juice, black pepper, Worcestershire and hot sauce (I like Crystal), add vegetables and chill until partially set, spoon or pour into individual (5 oz.) lightly oiled molds and chill until set. Unmold and serve with cold sides such as boiled eggs, green beans, or asparagus.

 

 

Salisbury Steak

When I was growing up in small-town Mississippi in the 1960s, TV dinners were a treat, something different from home-cooked, not better, really, just exotic, some indication that outside the stagnant backwater of Bruce, Mississippi, the world was actually making some degree of progress, if only in convenience foods. For a little over a dollar we could buy fried chicken, meatloaf, or turkey and dressing with whipped potatoes and neon peas in a compartmentalized space-age metal containers and eat them on the fold-away TV tables. I remember doing exactly that the first time I saw “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” I was eight years old.

My favorite was the fried chicken, but brother Tom’s was Salisbury steak. That’s about as close as he could get to a hamburger. It’s named for James Salisbury, one of those impressive food faddists of the late 19th century whose ranks include Kellogg, Post, and Mary Grove Nichols (by far the coolest of this three.) Salisbury advocated the same low-carb diet as Tarnower and Atkins, one known now as paleo, his being very much meat-centered. Salisbury’s version of a “lean beef cake,” calls for meat “from the centre of the round” procured from “well-fatted animals that are from four to six years old,” but any lean is good.

For a pound of beef, add a quarter cup bread crumbs, work in a squirt or two of ketchup. Don’t over-work the meat. Form into no more than four cakes about an inch thick. Cook slowly, in a low oven to medium well, season with pepper and salt. While this recommendation doesn’t fit the doctor’s diet, my optimal serving of Salisbury steak requires mushroom gravy (a light one) and creamed potatoes with a little tun of butter.