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Monday, December 21, 2015

Natchez Pilgrimage Royalty 1950

I've been scanning my father's old scrapbook.  There are a lot of things from the year he served as King of the Pageant. The Pageant is a program of short tableaux consisting of dances and tableaux vivant that the locals perform for the tourists every year.

William Howard Pritchartt, Jr. and Harriet Geisenber made some good-looking royalty. I found this little booklet in it and know my Natchez friends will find it interesting.  Enjoy! Just click on the Title to view.

Be sure to look below the title for more photos.

Over the Garden Wall

Also, for a humorous look at how Daddy felt about being King, go here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mystery Possibly Solved!

Front row, far left:  Joseph N. Carpenter, II
According to Mimi Miller at the Historic Natchez Foundation, the man on the far left of the front row Might be Joseph N. Carpenter, II.  Now, I wonder where he went to school and what A.A.A.H. means.

The people in this photo, to the best of my knowledge:  From left, standing:  Edwin Henderson, nephew of W.H. Pritchartt, widower of Camille Carpenter; Agnes Carpenter,  Ame Carpenter, (wife of Leslie #1); Leslie Carpenter #1, father of Joe; Esther Carpenter (mother of baby, Leslie Carpenter II); Joseph N. Carpenter, II.  Seated:  J.N. Carpenter; Zipporah Carpenter.  

Carpenter senior led a fascinating life, which you can read about here.  Joseph N. Carpenter, II inherited the house from his father.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

An Old Mystery

I'm going through old family photos and came across this one.  No info written on the back.  I don't recognize any faces, and have  no idea what A.A.A.H. stands for.  I can see the letters seem to be taped onto the box or whatever that is.  Also everyone is pointing at the row of hats lined up down front.

It's almost like these fellows knew someone would come across this photo someday, and they're playing with me, teasing me, daring me to figure this one out.

Any help would be greatly appreciated in identifying this photo.  Many thanks!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

To My Father on Veteran's Day

Daddy was in intelligence and reconnaissance in the European theater in World War II.  Although he didn't realize it at the time, he had a pretty dangerous job, going ahead of the troops to scout and report back what was happening towards the front.   And while he never experienced battle, firsthand, he was always within earshot.

"It sounded like thunder," he recalled.

I always enjoyed listening to his memories of the war -- the small, human experiences that stayed with him.

One of my favorite stories was about coming into a small, burned-out village somewhere in France. His company had come into town after a long march.

"Every building had been damaged or destroyed," he said.

He told me that there was this one little shop still untouched, the big picture window still intact.

"I was so tired.  And I sat down outside the shop and leaned against the window and it shattered.  The shop owner came running outside, crying and cursing in French.  Every time I think about it, I feel bad," he said.  "I felt so bad for him."

Another time, he remembered a German woman calling to him, shouting, "Schießen die katze!"

"Nazi?  Where?" he asked.

Then he noticed she was pointing at two cats mating.  She wanted him to shoot the cat that was violating her female katze.

"Nein," he said.  "I couldn't shoot a cat."

He loved animals.  His grandmother wrote to him while he was in bootcamp that his little dog, Tippy, had been hit by a car.

"She shouldn't have told me," he said.  "I went behind the barracks and cried and cried.  I couldn't eat for two weeks.  I lost weight."

When I looked up his army records not long ago, it said he weighed all of a hundred pounds when he shipped for Europe on the Queen Mary.

"The ship zigzagged all the way across the ocean," he said, "…so it would be harder for submarines to fire on us.  It took about 15 minutes for the ship to list to one side, then 15 minutes for it to list to the other.  I've never been so sick in my life.  I took my pack and climbed into a lifeboat to sleep."

My dad loved guns.  And all he wanted to do was collect as many German guns as he could while he was there.  He didn't smoke, so he often traded cigarettes for weapons.  Once when I was home visiting from California, he told me a story about bringing some guns home.  He was somewhere in Germany in a bombed-out castle.  He was trying to find something to wrap up some guns he'd found lying on the ground.

"I saw these two paintings," he said.  "So I took my bayonet and cut them out of the frames."

Then he brought them out.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Here were two large paintings -- one of Himmler and one of Goering.
Liter-size bottle for perspective

Heinrich Himmler

Hermann Goering
Because it was close to the end of the war, he said he never saw any American bodies but plenty of German bodies.

"They'd leave the German bodies for the morale of our troops," he said, and to demoralize the German troops."

He remembered being encamped in a little house one freezing German night.  

"There was the body of a young soldier in a room in back," he recalled.  He couldn't have been more than 17 or 18."  My father was only 18 at the time.

"We came back through about three weeks later.  The body was still there.  It was cold, so it hadn't really started to decompose.  I just remember being struck that he'd just turned green, nothing else.  You know, it didn't bother me at the time.  I guess youth is rather callous.  But I still see him now, and it bothers me a lot.  He was someone's child.  How could I have not been bothered then but so bothered now?  I see him a lot now.  And it bothers me."

My father was a talented artist, though he never really used his talent for much.  But he had a great time making fun of his commander and other officers during training.  He'd draw cartoons of them and pin them on the bulletin board at night when everyone was asleep.  It infuriated the officers.  Everyone else thought they were hilarious.  

They never did find out who the rogue artist was, but he brought those drawings home, and I think he might've missed his calling.

He was just a child, himself, in World War II.  After everything was over, he was assigned to watch some German prisoners.  He got in trouble once for his trusting, naiveté when he asked a German prisoner to hold his gun for him while he tied his shoe.  :)  The prisoner held it for him and returned it.

He remembered the German officers who were prisoners, and always saluted them.  I think he felt bad for them.

"They all carried those little weiner dogs with them," he said.  Daddy liked anyone who liked animals.

I miss you, Daddy.  Thank you for your service on this Veteran's Day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Longwood to Host Rock Concert on Sunday, November 15

The weather has turned and fall is definitely in the air.  It’s my favorite season.  And on Sunday afternoon, I plan to spend it sitting on a blanket on the grounds of Longwood listening to live rock ‘n roll music and enjoying a picnic with family and friends among the falling leaves and the clean, crisp air.

Sponsored by Stokes Distributing, Longwood’s first ever “Longwood Afternoon” begins Sunday, November 15 at 1 p.m. when the gates open.  Admission is $25 per carload with the music starting at 2 p.m.  Admission is for the grounds and music only, but you can purchase tickets for house tours, too, if you like.

Sponsor for the concert, Stoke Distributing, will offer Coors Light and Miller Lite for purchase, along with soft drinks and water, and a delicious picnic by renowned Chef Bingo Starr.  There will also be snacks for the children, along with jumpy space jumps, face painting and other activities.

 No outside food or drink is permitted.  T-shirts by Cody Bass Design will also be on sale at the concert.

Natchez band Bishop Gunn will perform.  The band consists of local musicians Burne Sharpe (drums), Hudson Laird (lead guitar), Travis McCready (vocals), and Daniel Scott (bass guitar).

Formed in the summer of 2014 as a studio project, the band played their debut performance at The 2014 Great Mississippi River Balloon Race. They are currently on a tour of the “Americana Music Triangle,” which stretches from Nashville to New Orleans and the surrounding areas.  They plan to release their first album shortly. Their style is rooted in blues-based hard rock while incorporating elements of folk, and rhythm and blues.

Staying true to Natchez’s love of local history, the band got its name from John Edward Gunn, an Irish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church whose tombstone can be found at Natchez City Cemetery. He served as Bishop of Natchez from 1911 until his death in 1924.

To hear a sampling of their music, visit their website at
Load your car with friends and family—and those blankets and chairs — and join us this Sunday when we rock the house at Longwood!

No advance tickets are available for the music.  In the event of rain, the concert will be rescheduled for a future date.
For more information, visit Longwood Afternoon on Facebook or call Lou Ellen Stout at (601) 807-1595. 

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Matters Familia - Daddy

A reprint of an old post:

In 1980, I married and moved to Los Angeles where I stayed for 27 years. As the years crept by, I began to worry about my parents, who were getting old, and I began to think it might be time to finally make the decision to come home.

I began visiting more often, and kept a journal of my visits. While looking through some old entries, I came across the following.

June 20, 2006

Now that I've been home a couple of weeks, my father and I have fallen into a routine of sorts. 
It's more of a contest of wills than routine. He leaves messes; I pick them up; he complains loudly that he can't find anything because I've hidden everything. I return his withering, long-suffering gaze and reply that it's right in front of him or right where I told him to look.

"No, it's not," he says irritably. "When you're gone I'm not going to be able to find anything around here! I'll have to call you all hours of the day and night." 

He's been a slob forever, and gets utterly irritated that I try to clean up behind him.

"Stop it," he protests. "If you keep cleaning, the housekeeper won't have anything to do and she'll quit! I have to leave enough of a mess to make it worth her while to come out here," he says as he tosses an old piece of ham onto the counter to wither and dry. 

"Don't touch that," he warns. "Where the hell did you put my toothpicks?"

"Toothpicks? I never saw any toothpicks,"
"Dammit, Dee! Now, I'll have to go all the way to WalMart. They're the only place in town that carries them." 

He hates WalMart.

"They're nice and flat and they're really cheap and come in a great big box. I can't stand the ones at Piggly Wiggly." 

"Well, where were they?"

"They were right there on the butcher block. Oh, why do you have to hide everything?"

"Oh, good grief! They're right here under the napkins."

"Why on earth would you put them there?" 

Suddenly his look of annoyance is replaced with one of sadness.

"Oh, it's going to be so grim when you're gone. What will I do?"

It was the sweetest, saddest moment I remember having in quite a long time.

We spent that afternoon working in the yard. I'd gone after the weeds full tilt when I first arrived, only to break out with a terrific case of poison ivy the next day.

Today the gardeners came -- a couple of women who share a house, a job and a life. The last time they worked for Daddy, they returned the day after they'd finished to clip his golden retriever, for whom they'd developed a special fondness.

(I'm horrible with names, and couldn't remember theirs not five minutes after meeting them, so I've invented names for them here.)

"He reminds me of our golden," said Jane. "And he just looked so darned hot." 

That was all my father needed to hear. They were good people.

I showed them how I'd pulled huge, horrid vines from the azaleas a few days before.

"Somehow I got into some poison ivy while I was doing it," I said, showing off my battle scars. "See those big vines in that tree there," I said. "It was that stuff. I couldn't reach this one." 

"Yup." the short one replied. "That's poison ivy, all right."

"Impossible," I said.

Each leaf was as big around as my hand. 

"Poison ivy has small leaves."

"Nope. That's a fully mature poison ivy vine," she assured me. "I'm surprised you only got it as bad as you did." 

I felt pretty foolish.

After discussing what would make nice plantings for the yard, Daddy handed me his wallet and an old pickup truck and sent us off down Kingston Road to the nursery. We picked out ten big, hardy crape myrtle trees -- seven Natchez whites and three crimson something or others -- and started back down the road. 

The humidity had finally had enough of itself and grumbling with thunder, squeezed out a few fat, overdeveloped raindrops, which only served to muddy the already filthy windshield.

"I have no idea where the wipers are on this thing," I said nervously as the road disappeared in a brown, watery haze. 

"I can't see a thing," said Jane.

"Uh, oh," said Joni. "Here comes a truck." 

I tried to appear calm as my eyes searched for signs of roadway through the watered curtain.

"Aha! Here's the switch," said Jane, and we all let out horrified giggles as the wipers switched on and had absolutely no effect on the glass. We were about to die. The tanker truck and I managed to avoid each other, but not before making us stare mortality in the face.

Afterwards, I picked a clear track on the glass between which I could see and peered cautiously at the road until we'd managed to make it back to Daddy's house safely.

I'd assured them that Daddy would hook up the auger to the tractor and make fast work of any holes we needed to dig. Ahem. We spent the next three hours digging holes in the hardest, rock-strewn, clay soil I've ever had the misfortune to dig into.

After squirting each hole with a high-pressure stream of water to loosen the soil, we attacked the ground with shovels, pickaxes, hoes and posthole diggers. Two hours later, we three youngish women were covered in mud and sweat and blisters and wanted to sit down, but my 80-year-old father was still happily chopping away at the earth
 with a posthole digger. 

"By the time I hook up that auger," he'd say between blows, "...we'll have these things all dug!"

When we were done for the day, I asked Jane and Joni how much we owed.

"Here. Take an extra $10 for combat pay," I said, referring to my father's refusal to let us do anything the easy way.

"No kidding," said Joni. "Especially after making us ride with you in that truck in the rain."

Everyone's a comedian.

Tonight, as I turned out the lights and walked through the house before coming upstairs, I made one last trip to the kitchen. There, waiting to greet me was my father's Bowie knife sticking up in a big chunk of hoop cheese next to a pile of shredded red wax coating, beaded with oil that was soaking into the butcher-block counter. 

I smiled, left it on the counter and went to bed.

*This just in from Casey Ann Hughes: "
 I believe the women are Andrea & Brenda from Weeds & Things."

Thank you, Casey. I think you're right.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

At the Copacabana! New York, NY 1956

If anyone can help me, I'm looking for IDs for the couple on the left.

From right:  Ruth Audley Beltzhoover, Balfour Miller, Katherine Grafton Miller (need ID) (need ID)

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Natchez Democrat is 150 Years Old

Major Thomas Grafton
Sunday's edition of The Natchez Democrat celebrates the paper's 150th anniversary.  To see the special edition, click here.My great grandfather, Major Thomas Grafton, was editor of the paper in the late 1800s.  

In 1880, the paper published The Queen City of the South:  Natchez, Mississippi -- a profusely illustrated guide to the important people, businesses, and resources in Natchez. Published by the NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT, and edited by Major Thomas Grafton, who provides an introduction titled, "Natchez: Its Past, Present and Future." 

To download a .pdf of it, click here.  I've just been told the .pdf address yields a 404 error message, so click here for the full text.

I got my first writing job at The Natchez Democrat way back in 1979.  It will always hold a fond place in my heart.

Congratulations on 150 years!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Our Guests Say the Nicest Things

Shantybellum is once again in the B-and-B bidness.  We've had such great responses from our guests that we're now a five-star listing on Airbnb.  But my favorite is when someone artistic decides to leave us a drawing!

The first one is from 2008, but the others are recent.  Gail Siptak, the first artist, is a talent extraordinaire in Houston, TX.  If you'd like to see more of her work, visit her site at

For rates and availability, Shantybellum Guesthouse is listed on Air B&B, Expedia and Travelocity and other related travel sites.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Letter from Agnes Carpenter at Miss. Military Institute to Elodie Rose, 1884

Great news!  Agnes Carpenter was not left at that dreadful school in Albany, New York.  She found happiness and a boatload of fun making trouble at the Mississippi Military Institute. Not sure where that was.  I'll do a bit of research and find out. The letter is transcribed below the photos.
Agnes Carpenter dressed for Mardis Gras

Elodie Rose 

November 26th

Miss. Military Institute

My dear Elodie,

Well, I think it is about time that some of the girls are writing to me.  If they wait on me to communicate with them first they will never hear from me, I am afraid, as my time is as fully employed as it was at St. Agnes.  I enjoy myself more here than I ever did at my first boarding school, which is owing to the fact that I am getting worse and worse every day of my life. 

There are 6 girls besides myself who are just as bad and pranky as girls are liable to be cultivated in this degenerate age. We form a club of which I am Captain and everyone in the house seems to be mortally afraid of night crimes.  We have (?) ghosts, sleep walkers and (?) The latter would get me into a world of trouble if discovered for we nightly demolish six packages of cigarettes.  Mark my word if you tell Mama on me you will get the worst of it.

Night before last we went and had a midnight serenade with a lot of boys at our back fence.  And among us who is a member of the club was the sweet but shy Beulah Gordon who has such a saintly air connected with herself.  Together with the cigarettes was a large bottle of champagne, which made me quite lively.

I ought to be ashamed to act so as I rank above the other girls in regard to my situation as a scholar.   Am head of school for this month, was the first pupil to whom was… (last part missing)

For more on Elodie and Agnes, go here.