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Celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas


Volume 1, Number 4 • December 2009

Robyn Jackson

Jonathon Alford
Barry Beard
Charlotte Blom
Louie Galiano
Jamie O’Quinn
Anthony Thaxton
James Welch
Valerie Wells

Reba J. McMellon
James Welch

For advertising information
Kristi W. Gatlin
Brookhaven and McComb

Charlotte Blom


Lisa W. Pittman


ACCENT South Mississippi is

published bimonthly by
SoMiss Publishing LLC
Post Office Box 19027
Hattiesburg, MS 39404-9027

SoMiss Publishing LLC.

All rights reserved. Contents of
this magazine may not be
reproduced in any manner without
written consent from Publisher.
ACCENT South Mississippi cannot
be held liable for errors
and omissions.

Printed in the U.S.A.

d ec e m b e r 2 0 0 9 | ACC E N T S O U T H M I S S I S S I P P I | V O L . 1, N O. 4

CONTENTS features


by Louis A. Galiano
Pearl River County Community Band is a
by Valerie Wells
dream come true for founder Student Daydriana Rankin stands up for
Hattiesburg High

by Jamie O’Quinn
World famous chainsaw artist leaves his
by Robyn Jackson
South Mississippi’s Carlow Choir gains
mark in Sandersville international exposure

Old-Fashioned Santa Lighting Mason Park, Laurel, MS
For 12 years, The Committee to Light Mason Park
has replaced bulbs and strung lights to create a
PHOTOEXPRESS special place for the residents of Laurel to
celebrate the Christmas season. The lights turn
on around 4:30 p.m. and go off around 10:30 each
Celebrate an Old Fashioned Christmas night until Jan. 1.


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d ec e m b e r 2 0 0 9 | ACC E N T S O U T H M I S S I S S I P P I



A Short Story by Anthony Thaxton

Brookhaven retail shops decorate
in style


by James Welch


Try these Christmas gift ideas


Dispatches from My South


Add these Mississippi-centric
books to your Christmas list

Artist Donna Woods’ hand-paint-
42 ed Christmas ornaments

Luminaries light up downtown
Hattiesburg historic neighbor-




in every issue
10 Editor’s Notes

50 56 Life in South Mississippi

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Purchase Your Copy Online
Visit our New Website

C for a

JONATHON ALFORD, a Brookhaven native, is photographer, columnist and professional

the former chief photographer of the Daily mental health consultant. She reviews books
Leader in Brookhaven and staff photographer written in or about the South. Her Wit and
for the Commercial Dispatch in Columbus. Wisdom column, book reviews and feature
Jonathon has won more than 30 individual articles have been published in newspapers
photography awards in the Mississippi Press and magazines both nationally and interna-
Association and the Mississippi-Louisiana tionally. She lives in Hurley.
Associated Press awards, including Photo of
the Year in 2001. Jonathon has contributed to JAMIE O’QUINN is a freelance writer, photog-
several publications including “America 24-7” rapher and mom of many. She produces a syn-
by DK Publishing, The Clarion Ledger, the dicated column which can be viewed at
Natchez Democrat, the Enterprise-Journal, A former public
Daily Leader, Commercial Dispatch, South relations editor and agency photographer for
Mississippi Scene and Accent South the state, she currently serves as Hattiesburg
Mississippi. chapter president of the Mississippi Writers
Guild. Whether dancing with the Choctaw
BARRY BEARD, a Laurel native, graduated Indians or flicking sawdust out of her hair
with a degree in photojournalism from the while witnessing chainsaw artists in action,
University of Southern Mississippi in 1992. He she remains intrigued with the beloved peo-
has worked as a photographer at newspapers ple of our Magnolia State.
in Laurel, Natchez, Vicksburg, Hattiesburg
and Jackson, Tenn. He left the newspaper ANTHONY THAXTON is a painter, musician,
business in 2002 to become co-owner of a television producer and columnist. His video
fast-food business in Laurel, and has been productions have won numerous national
doing freelance photography for the awards. He is a former resident of Petal who
Associated Press and various publications. now resides in Gulf Breeze, Fla.

CHARLOTTE BLOM has a bachelor of arts JAMES WELCH is a freelance writer who grew
degree from Vassar College. She has been up in the McComb area and has lived in the
freelance copy editing and writing for years, Hattiesburg area for the last six years, with
as well as sampling unrelated professional his high school sweetheart and wife, Wendy.
experiences. She enjoys exploring, hunting They have three children, Ariana, Lauren and
and gathering in and around her home in Braden. He likes to treat every day as an
Hattiesburg. adventure, and with three children under the
age of seven, it usually is.
LOUIS A. GALIANO owns an antiques store
with his wife Debbie in Picayune. A graduate VALERIE WELLS is a freelance writer who has
of Louisiana State University with twin covered all aspects of community journalism
degrees in English and business, his career for the past 20 years. A military brat with
has been mostly in management and in teach- deep roots in South Mississippi, she looks for
ing college economics. He is presently at stories about the shared history and culture
work on his second novel, a sequel to his of the region brought to life by everyday
first, “Snorkel - Immersions in Time.” Born in folk. She has written for national and region-
New Orleans, he moved to the Picayune area al magazines and has been editor of several
more than 20 years ago. publications and Web sites. She lives in
Hattiesburg with a patient husband and two
REBA J. MCMELLON is a freelance writer, well-adjusted sons.

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The worst thing to lose, though, is hope.
Even if you put your faith in God to work it all out for good and provide for your
needs, struggling to keep a roof over your head and food in your pantry because you no
longer have an income can test that faith. Facing Christmas without someone you love
can sap any joy it might normally bring. It’s easy to get depressed this time of year. The
holidays can also remind us of how lonely we are, or how afraid we feel.
So maybe now, more than ever, we need the hope that the holiday season brings. It’s
not by accident that the three major holidays celebrated each dark December - Christmas,
Hanukkah and Kwanzaa - all feature candles and lights, which are symbols for hope.
If you don’t have many traditions, 2009 is the year to start some. Set up a nativity
scene. Begin a collection of snowmen or Santas. Invite some friends over for a tree-trim-
ming party or a cookie swap. Sit down with your kids for a Christmas movie marathon.
Bake cookies. Attend a church service. Light a scented candle. Enjoy the decorated win-
dows at the retailers that line Brookway Boulevard in Brookhaven, or drive through the
Victorian Candlelit Christmas celebration in the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood.
If you can afford it, buy groceries for a friend or neighbor who has hit hard times.
Adopt a child on the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, or send a Christmas card to a nursing
home resident who no longer has anyone to remember them at this time of year.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Doing something to help others will lift your spirits.
This issue of Accent South Mississippi celebrates the season with features on every-
thing from chainsaw artists to holiday entertaining. There is reason to celebrate. We
mustn’t forget that.
As 2009 rushes to its end, let’s hope and pray that the recession also comes to a swift
end, that prosperity and peace of mind return soon, and that 2010 is better for all of us.
Merry Christmas, and happy new year!

Robyn Jackson

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FEATURES | community band plans holiday concert


Pearl River County Community Band is a
dream come true for founder


Sometimes happiness takes a circuitous
route. So it is with Johnny Baker and the Pearl
River County Community Band. If you’ve never
heard it, you should, and in the process you
will become a believer that success comes with
commitment, passion and a devout conviction
that to be the best involves a dedication
toward perfection.
The band has only been in existence since
October 2008, but within two months it was
giving its first concert to an amazed audience
But the road to the Community Band was not
a direct one.
Baker at first studied for the ministry.
Realizing that such was not his calling, he
turned to music and was the band director at
Picayune Memorial High School from 1971 until
1978. But at that time he was made an offer he
could not refuse. His family had always been in
the jewelry business and he was presented with
a job by a major New York jewelry firm, Kasper
and Esh, as a distributor at a salary far in
of steadily growing aficionados who await the excess of his income as teacher. Still, his heart
next performance with increasing eagerness was directed toward music and the thought of
and steady devotion. one day directing a band.
The director of the band is Johnny Baker, a Following the distributorship, he opened his
former instructor in music at Picayune Memorial own jewelry shop in Picayune which he man-
High School who is remembered by his students aged for 10 years until realizing that the retail
as the best there was and who not only insisted business was not for him. A short stint in mag-
on flawlessness but inspired his pupils in that azine sales put the finishing touches on vend-
direction, as many testimonial letters from that ing, and in 2005 he retired from the commer-
period and after indicate. cial world, his hopes for a band unrealized.

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admonitions and praise, the group was told
what pieces they would be playing that night.
Sheet music was brought forth and the band was
called to order.
Suddenly the movement of his hands brought
forth the powerful profound haunting beauty of
a Bach chorale that filled the room. I wondered
about the pleasure one would receive from tak-
ing such a disparate collection of sounds and
personalities and producing such stunning and
abiding harmonies. But Johnny Baker was not
completely satisfied and the chorale was played
once more - deeply, more radiant. With each
playing, the piece appeared to attain a more
striking depth, until it satisfied Johnny’s ear.
Baker’s stint as band director left its impres-
“That was pretty good,” he said. The band
sion and when in 2008 he attended a football
knew a compliment when it heard one.
game at Picayune High School, a former student
At one point he had the band sing a passage.
suggested to him that the town should have a
He told me later that singing would impress the
community band and that Baker should be its
movement within their minds in a precise way
director. As other students began arriving at
which could not be attained otherwise. It
Baker’s home with the same suggestion and
became obvious that playing music was more
after a bit of arm-twisting he finally agreed. A
than merely reading the scale and reproducing
friend told him that he was lucky if he could
what was written there. There were specific
find 30 musicians. Within three days he had 67.
tones, beats and sounds that Johnny required.
My first exposure to the Community Band was
“Don’t soften the note,” he said. “Make it
a patriotic concert given in honor of 9/11 which
included an incredibly strong memorial piece
The following day, I interviewed Johnny Baker
complete with chorus. Upon leaving, I was con-
and we spoke generally about the high price of
vinced that this was no ordinary band, but
musical instruments, the intellectual nature of
rather a dedicated assembly which in all seri-
music, the dedication of the band, the possibili-
ousness had accomplished something special and
ty of taking the group on tour and his
had offered the community a gift which it could
unabashed affection for the musicians. What
look upon with pride.
interested me most, however, was the feeling of
I have always been interested in a behind-
satisfaction of a man, now 68 years old, who
the-scenes look at things and Johnny Baker was
had finally fulfilled his dreams.
kind enough to let me attend a rehearsal held
When I asked that question, he did not hesi-
at Picayune’s First United Methodist Church in
tate in his answer.
advance of the band’s upcoming Christmas con-
“I’ve come home,” he smiled. “I’ve finally
cert. I arrived early and watched as the musi-
come home.”
cians entered, greeted each other, assembled
their instruments, and assumed their seats. The CHRISTMAS CONCERT
ages seemed to range from grandparent status Picayune Main Street will sponsor “Community
to the very young, while the scene was accom- Christmas in the Park” featuring the Pearl River
panied by the dissonant sounds of flutes, tubas, County Community Band and Chorus at 6 p.m.
and trumpets running through some notes. After Dec. 14 in Jack Read Park in Picayune. For more
information, call (601) 700-3070.
what seemed to be the customary reminders,

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 13
FEATURES | chainsaw art

A world champion chainsaw artist and his
friends leave their marks in Sandersville



What began as a party in Sandersville with

guests toting chainsaws and adaptive accessories
has eventually evolved into what has been infor-
mally dubbed as the chainsaw artists’ “Walk of
Hidden amongst 250-plus wooded acres, the
hospitality of award-winning master carver
Dayton Scoggins and saw helper/wife Michelle,
has attracted other world-renowned chainsaw
carvers from near and far with many leaving
“Angie had been traveling around to competi-
tions with us and she wanted to do one of her
trademark chicks for us,” Michelle said. “Being
here in the South, I thought it would be great to
have a Daisy Duke.”
Since freshly harvested wood works better for
their mark - quite literally - on their porch.
carving, three logs were located on the Scoggins
“Hurricane Katrina took the roofing off our
property and the trio of master chainsaw carvers
back deck and tossed it over into the pines,”
set to simultaneously working on the porch carv-
Michelle explained. “With so many downed trees
afterwards, Dayton cut them into boards and
“I did the bear on the far corner, Angie did the
built the deck roofing on three sides of the
girl at the opposite end and Captain Dave did the
fairy in between,” Dayton said. “When the carv-
Though the trunks of uprooted trees were uti-
ings were completed, the old, hard columns were
lized as columns and looked pretty good,
removed and the newly sculpted artwork was
Michelle had another vision. “Why not carve
these posts?” she asked.
Thus began the walk of fame.
With the tremendous demand for the Scoggins’
With a leisurely stroll around the porch, it is
“Artistry in Wood” business for stump and log
evident that the posts portray both unique per-
carvings in the wake of the hurricane’s aftermath,
sonalities as well as styles. Dayton’s bear is
and chainsaw carving competitions and demon-
reflective of his realistic style and attention to
strations, the porch column carvings were put on
intricate details. Next is a whimsical Chap
hold. It was during a break between chainsaw
Nelson “Hello” face that greets you as you climb
carving competitions that fellow chainsaw carver
the steps and bids you a sad “Goodbye” as you
Dave Lavoie - aka Captain Dave of Townsend,
leave. Dennis Beach’s imposing bear grabs your
Tenn. - and Australian Angie Polglaze spent
attention as you go down the line and the bear
some rest and relaxation time at the Scoggins
theme continues to the nearby two cubs carved

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by Joe Semler. “Lisa Fairy” rests building in preparation for him seven and a half years, Dayton
daintily on the next post pro- and Dayton competing and has won an impressive amount
duced by Captain Dave. The winning the World Cup of of awards and recognitions. In
mystical creature is so titled chainsaw sculpting in Germany. fact, after winning first place in
because she happens to look Nick Bero, son of Fred Bero, his first competition and turn-
like a chainsaw chick of the completed the next piece featur- ing pro, he has been featured
same name. Fred Bero’s “Slim ing raccoon and squirrel. The on local and international tele-
Lefty” depicts a hillbilly com- final piece on that side is the vision and in multiple publica-
plete with removable red only one actually sculpted from tions. His art is exhibited in
tongue, one tooth, and two left the original Katrina post. It is a every state in the U.S. and sev-
feet. Holding up her corner of depiction of a tornado caused eral countries abroad and has
the porch is Daisy Duke with by Katrina, and sculpted by Pat won a plethora of awards
red toenails, one of the original McVay. The two completed including first place for the
porch sculptures carved by posts on the back were carved World Cup at the Husky Cup in
Angie Polglaze. by two up and coming artists, Mulda, Germany, in May 2009,
Down the other side of the Ken Packie and Bert Davidson, and the Golden Chainsaw
house is another masterpiece by who the Scoggins met during Competition in Minnesota in
Dennis Beach titled “The Soul competitions. The pieces were 2009. In addition, he was one of
of the Forest,” which features a transported back home. only two Americans invited to
mother bear and eagle battling Though this former towboat the World Chainsaw Art
over a salmon. This piece was captain husband and barge Competition in Toei, Japan, in
the original practice piece Beach mate wife have only been in the 2006 and in September 2005
carved at the Scoggins’ work chainsaw carving business represented the United States as

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 15
one of only 15 Americans No matter where they are from, of the traditional spray paint
accepted to the international friends and guests tend to make can,” Michelle said. “I got a
invitation-only Sandringham the same request. kick out of watching some of
Festival of Wood. He is also a “They all want to eat the other participants’ faces.”
member of The Cascade Southern food” Michelle said. Dayton said that airbrushing
Chainsaw Sculptors Guild, the “Now, I was born a Yankee and has been used by hand carvers
Craftsman’s Guild of never fried anything before I such as those specializing in
Mississippi, and a member of met Dayton. Fortunately, his ducks for years, but the concept
the Mississippi Arts mom taught me how to make of a chainsaw carver using it
Commission as a Roster Artist. greens and other Southern spe- was a little different.
Whether traveling abroad to cialties. When people ask why “Everybody is hunting to
competitions or competing here Southern food is so good, I tell make things easier and when
in the U.S., Dayton consistently them the secret – bacon.” somebody pulls out a new tool,
enjoys his interaction with oth- In addition to good food, well we are all going over there
ers. Michelle said their friends often to check it out. That’s how art
“There are so many different feel like experimenting with progresses.”
aspects of going to competi- new materials. In addition to In addition to his willingness
tion,” Dayton said. “My hand, chainsaw, bone and stone to experiment, Dayton‘s lifelong
favorite is meeting the people, carving, Dayton also possesses passion for hunting, fishing and
seeing different countries and additional skills in metal art. trapping has also added to his
getting to know other carvers. This equipment is made avail- understanding of the intricate
From making so many friends able to their guests to experi- details of animals and other
at the competitions, we could ment with as well. In fact, wildlife.
probably travel across the Dayton enjoys finding new “There’s no substitution for
United States and pretty much tools to utilize in his chainsaw knowledge,” Dayton said.
know somebody along the carving work. “People carve what they envi-
way.” “I am a full-powered carver,” sion, whether it’s right or
Though the Scoggins do their he said. “When I go off to a wrong. Some people are just a
fair share of traveling, their competition it is 99 percent little more right than others on
chainsaw carving friends make chainsaw carving and then we what their vision looks like.”
an effort to come visit them, pull out the power tools. I’m In addition to a passion for
often for a seven- to 10-day always looking for something to chainsaw art, many of the
stay. make my work easier or better. friends who visit the Scoggins
“We are like a safe haven” I’m for whatever will get the are also outdoor enthusiasts,
Michelle said. “People can come job done.“ including renowned sculpture
here for rest and relaxation, From specialty bars utilized Dennis Beach. Beach and
hunting, fishing, eating and if to add small details to burning Dayton partnered in the Husky
they want they can carve.” the wood for both color and Cup chainsaw carving competi-
Some of their friends travel smoothness, some items are tion in Germany this year and
from the north because spring more standard in the industry. won the World Cup.
comes earlier down here. Other items, however, might be “For me, carving is easy, it is
Others from Europe want to a crossover experiment from a matter of getting inspired,”
continue their travel and explo- another art medium. Beach said. “I have so much fun
ration of the U.S. after competi- “I remember a recent compe- hanging out with Dayton that
tion and experience the culture tition when Dayton pulled an it’s easy to get inspired.”
south of the Mason-Dixon Line. airbrush out of his bag instead Beach said that when he visits

16 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
the Scoggins, he feels like a high school kid again, only
they have a bigger selection of toys now, such as a bull-
dozer and other equipment.
“Dayton seems like somebody I’ve known all my life,”
Beach said. “I feel like we are cut from the same cloth. I
champion him as a true friend and I don’t say that too
Whether just hunting and fishing or whipping out
practice pieces together, it is friendships such as theirs
that seem to tie this artistic community together.
As for the Walk of Fame posts, well, that seems to be
just an added bonus. Dayton said that sometimes he
walks out on his porch, looks around and smiles. “I think
it’s pretty wild to have people come from all over to do
something like this for us and leave it. It is just really

For more information on Dayton and Michelle Scoggins at

Artistry in Wood, visit their Web site at or call (601) 649-6054.
FEATURES | carlow choir

Singing for the Lord



Vicki Priebe was just looking for a relaxing

evening when she decided to attend a 2007
concert in Hattiesburg by classical guitarist
John DeChiaro. She had no idea the concert
would change her life.
After his performance, DeChiaro brought
out members of the Carlow Choir, a nonde-
nominational ensemble he had founded in
2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, to
bring hope to residents of storm-ravaged
South Mississippi and Louisiana.
“He was recruiting,” Priebe said. Touched
cert for EWTN, the Catholic television chan-
“It was a very rigorous process we had to
go through to get this,” DeChiaro said. “I’ve
been trying for two years to get this. This
will give us international exposure because
EWTN airs around the world.”
DeChiaro, a retired professor at the
University of Southern Mississippi, named the
choir after the seminary in Ireland where
many of South Mississippi’s priests were edu-
cated, so members are especially excited
by their brief performance, she decided to about headlining a choir festival next October
join. at Carlow College. They will also perform at
“It gave me a new direction in my life,” St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The tour
Priebe said. “My husband had passed away a came about after two women wearing Carlow
few years earlier.” Choir T-shirts were stopped in Assisi, Italy, on
The choir has accomplished a great deal in their 2008 tour, by a man who was from
the four short years since its founding. Last Carlow, Ireland. One thing led to another, and
October, the choir traveled to Italy to per- they were eventually invited to perform at
form for Pope Benedict XIV at the Vatican. In the college.
September it recorded a concert for A CD, “Reflections for the Heart: Sacred
Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson, Anthems for Choir,” was released this autumn
and there will be a concert at Carnegie Hall by Centaur Records. It was recorded in August
in 2011. In November, the choir taped a con- 2008 at Southwest Mississippi Community

18 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
College in Summit. as McComb, the Mississippi them,” he said.
“The music on this disk is Gulf Coast and New Orleans DeChiaro, who had per-
sacred anthems,” DeChiaro each Monday night for rehears- formed on guitar for Pope John
said. “It’s what I call the best al at River of Life Church on Paul II twice at the Vatican,
of the Bible. There are verses U.S. 98 West. said he decided to submit a
of the Bible that people set to “We love it, we love John,” demo tape of the choir to the
music, such as the 23rd Psalm. said Mary Ellen Lestrade, who Vatican on a whim. After a
The song ‘Weep, Mother Mary,’ drives up from Escatawpa with lengthy acceptance process,
describes what she must have her husband, Oscar. “We first Carlow Choir was invited to
felt when she saw Jesus dying started singing with John perform for Benedict XIV.
on the cross. We sang these about 10 years ago (when he There’s a big difference
songs on our tour of Italy.” was choir director) at another between performing a solo gui-
The approximately 150- church on the Coast. It means tar concert for the pope and
member choir is divided into too much to us, we missed it. conducting a large choir,
two groups, one that is based Around Christmas time, we DeChiaro said.
in Hattiesburg and one that is came back.” “When you’re doing it by
based in Alexandria, La., Alan Butner joined the tenor yourself, you just have to
where DeChiaro is currently section a few months ago. “One worry about you, not 140 peo-
employed as director of the of the ladies recruited me,” he ple,” he said.
string music program for the said. “I thought I could sing for Priebe said God has His hand
Alexandria public school sys- the Lord.” on the Carlow Choir and is
tem. He makes the four-hour DeChiaro said part of the blessing it.
drive from Alexandria to reason for the choir’s success “It’s just wonderful to see
Hattiesburg each week to work is that it “becomes the voice how God has brought people
with the Hattiesburg choir. of God” during performances. together from all denomina-
The members are equally as “Whenever we give con- tions,” Priebe said. “When we
dedicated. Some drive to certs, people are always crying sing, we’re singing from our
Hattiesburg from as far away because the music touches hearts and our experience.”

Rehearsals are held at 7 p.m. Monday
at River of Life Church on U.S. 98
West. Anyone interested in joining
Carlow Choir can attend.

For more information, go to

The CD is $15 and is available at

Doherty’s Furniture, Lil Butcher
Shoppe, Lovie’s and Westgate
Cleaners, and from
and iTunes.

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 19
FEATURES | daydriana rankin


New Year’s
Student Daydriana Rankin
stands up for Hattiesburg High


Daydriana Rankin, 16, decided 2010 will be

the year she challenges stereotypes about
Hattiesburg High School. She’s a busy junior
with a bright future, but she will make time.
“Get to know my Hattiesburg High School.
We are not what everybody thinks we are,” she
Rankin is tired of going to her little brother’s
soccer matches and people asking her about
“It’s ridiculous.”
It’s more than just idle talk on the soccer field
that riles Daydriana Rankin. It’s the local media
that she believes creates negative impressions of
Hattiesburg High. Last year, when a gun was
found on campus, several news reports focused
on crime at HHS while promoting positive activ-
ities at surrounding schools. She said it was a
misunderstanding that took on sinister implica-
gangs at Hattiesburg High. tions.
“There are cliques at every school,” Rankin “The situation was taken too far and got
said. But she doesn’t see any gang activity at blown out of proportion, making the front page
Hattiesburg High. of newspapers and being the talk of the local
“Our discipline is very strict. People think we news media,” Rankin said.
are running around here, that doesn’t happen,” “I’m sure that negative things happen at all
she said as a class of quiet teenagers filed by on schools, but I have never seen those stories in
their way to lunch on the quiet HHS campus. the news. It was then when I began to realize

20 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
that we rarely get news cover- trig, Spanish II, AP English and pening at Hattiesburg High.
age about all of the positive orchestra. She has to practice He’s proud of her graphic art.
things that happen at HHS.” her violin for the upcoming Her daddy calls her “DayDay.”
Instead of digging up dirt on Christmas concert that includes She listens to all kinds of
Oak Grove High or Petal High, a five-act piece of music. She’s music from classical to country,
Rankin prefers to take the high in BETA Club, the National but her favorite is pop. She
road and accentuate positive Honor Society, Student Council, loves to eat strawberries. She
achievements at Hattiesburg Future Business Leaders of shops for clothes at Forever21
High that don’t get much press. America, Poetry in Motion Club, and Charlotte Russe. Her
“I wish that people could see Hattiesburg Del-Teen, Southern favorite books include “Things
all of the success produced at Mississippi Youth Orchestra, Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
our school. We have so many Spanish Club and Forrest and “Anthem” by Ayn Rand.
successful and talented students General Spirit Girls. She’s con- She writes poetry.
who are only striving to do bet- templating a run for student Before she attended HHS,
ter,” she said. “For example, did body president this spring. Rankin heard plenty of nega-
you know how great our foren- She’s also competing in the tive comments about the
sics team is? Or have you ever Forrest County Junior Miss pro- school.
heard our chamber and concert gram and trying to get her room “Later when I actually
orchestra? Or have you visited painted the right shade of pur- entered ninth grade and com-
some of our great vocational ple. pared the talk of outside
classes?” “After school I always have observers to the actual every-
She admits she has seen a some kind of meeting, practice, day actions of the school, I
small shift in the media cover- or something to do and after began to realize that a lot of the
age of HHS this year, but wants finally arriving home I have a outside talk was over-exagger-
to see more positive stories and long list of homework to do all ated or untrue,” Rankin said.
more consistency. She’s working before getting ready for bed to She is comparing colleges,
with HHS Principal Robert do it all over again,” Rankin looking for the best fit among
Sanders to create a group of said. the University of Southern
HHS students who will question “It’s tough, but I have to pri- Mississippi, University of
negative reports and promote oritize and maybe after I get it Mississippi, University of
positive news. One possibility is all done, I get to work a little Maryland, University of Texas
a Web site updated by students. fun into my schedule. I like to at Austin and University of
Rankin has more ideas. It adds go to parks, game rooms, Alabama at Birmingham She
to her commitments. movie theaters and play sports plans to major in journalism
“She’s a good student,” with close friends or family and communications or busi-
Sanders said. He pointed at her from time to time just to have ness and entrepreneurship.
sitting in one of her favorite fun and put the busy things “Or who knows? Maybe
spots on campus, the gazebo. aside for a while.” both.”
“We are very happy to have She has a close family. David Rankin intends to be a
her.” and Yolanda Rankin support reporter and a writer, then start
She gets up at 6 a.m. on their daughter’s pursuits her own magazine. She wants
weekdays. She goes to history wholeheartedly. David Rankin to tell untold stories.
class, then physics, then psy- said his daughter can enlighten “I would be one of the good
chology. After lunch, she has others about what is really hap- journalists,” she said.

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Holiday Glitz!
Each year the merchants along Brookway
Boulevard in Brookhaven dress their
windows lavishly in festive holiday attire.
Pink and lime green Christmas trees, feather
boas, baby dolls and toys, sparkly snowflakes
and shiny ornaments are just the beginnings
of “over-the-top” window dressings in this
small town. And did we mention lights?
Thousands of lights make every window
sparkle. This year is no exception -
Brookway Boulevard is ‘putting on the glitz!’
HOLIDAYS | christmas is love



What can we learn from uing of life through the winter and yet our lives
Christmas? Every year, it seems to arrive earlier through this season are unrecognizable. The
and earlier. By the time we make it through one lights were for celebrating and yet often times
Christmas, the next is just around the bend. they are for competing these days. Presents
Seemingly before the wrapping paper is cleaned were to be given to others, with no regards for
from the floor, we begin thinking about next ourselves. Now we teach our children to make
Christmas. lists of what they want.
Many of us will begin saving for next Christmas Prices of gifts are on the rise and with our
immediately following this one and it never economic condition, what better time is there
seems enough. What are we trying to accom- than now to take Christmas back?
plish? This holiday has become more and more Let’s be of good cheer. Let’s celebrate with
stressful as time has gone on, and yet it wasn’t lights, trees and carols and let’s remember what
meant to be this way. we are celebrating. Buy a few presents, but
Christmas began as a time of celebrating and buy them for someone else even if they haven’t
yet, it scarcely seems like we are celebrating at been good. This is the time to mend shaky
all. There is little time to celebrate, between friendships and heal broken families. This is the
fighting the crowds to buy that special gift and time to love one another and enjoy a glass of
planning a huge dinner. All hope of enjoyment eggnog by the fire. This is the season to be jolly,
seems to be lost amongst Christmas tree assem- and chase a loved one around the house with a
bly and the hanging of blinking lights. Instead strand of mistletoe.
of those circular wreaths representing a circle of Yes, this is the time to take Christmas back.
unending love, they seem to be representative Take it back to the basics. Take it back to the
of the circles we run in and hoops that we jump traditions. Take it back to love and compassion,
through to get past this holiday. to helping those in need, with no regard for our-
Christmas has morphed into a very different selves. Let’s have a Tiny Tim kind of Christmas
kind of holiday. Saint Nicholas gave children and stop being a Scrooge. With any luck, the
toys, but it wasn’t dependant on their behavior. ghost of Christmas past will take us into the past
Father Christmas is widely accepted as the spirit this year, we will remember the meaning of this
of good cheer, and yet our holiday is usually treasured holiday and we will reclaim it for what
rather grumpy. The tree represented the contin- it always has been. A symbol of unending love.

34 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
HOLIDAYS | gifts ideas

checking it twice...

O Out of ideas for unique

Christmas gifts for family and
friends? Get out your list and
start checking them off, because
several South Mississippi retail-
ers have lots of ideas to help.
Seasonal decorative items are
always good, suggests Gail
Albert, owner of Plums and A
Gallery in downtown
“Before Gail Pittman stopped
and first homes.
Personalized items are great
choices, says Connie Hooper,
owner of Engravables in
Brookhaven. “We have a few.
Personalized necklaces with
children’s names on sterling sil-
ver disks, the Prayer Bracelet,
monogrammed refillable soft
soap dispensers, monogrammed
cake pans and cutting boards.”
For women, Hooper suggests
If gourmet food products are
what you have in mind, you
can find many “made in
Mississippi” products in South
Mississippi gift shops.
Hattiesburg chef and restau-
rateur Robert St. John also has
his own RSJ food products line
which includes a bloody mary
mix that got a shout-out in
Oprah Winfrey’s O at Home
magazine last year. New to the
making pottery in Jackson, we personalized bamboo cutting line this year is Thick Thick
had her make us a limited edi- boards and metal can pans with Thick Maple Praline Syrup and
tion ornament,” Albert said. lids, or engraved jewelry. For My Grandmother’s Pancake
There are only 100 of the star- men, she suggests a leather Mix.
shaped collector’s piece. money clip front pocket wallet “We introduced the Rich Rich
She also recommends the or anything in camouflage. Rich Hot Chocolate Mix last
pewter pieces by Maurice “Although we sell a great year,” says Stacey Andrews,
Milleur of Gulfport, whose deal of single initial gifts for marketing director for St. John’s
magnolia ornament hung on the last-minute gifts, our customers New South Restaurant Group.
White House Christmas tree, are planning ahead and doing “In less than two months, we
and the reed diffusers and other monograms and names on gifts sold over 3,000 pounds. It’s so
Frasier Fir scented items by to make them personal,” rich and thick, we say it’s like
Thymes. “It smells exactly like Hooper says. pudding in a cup, and you
a Christmas tree,” Albert says. Foodies will appreciate gadg- make it with water. The cinna-
Brushfire Design ornaments ets such as microplaners or Le mon shortbread cookies are
made in Hattiesburg are only Creuset cookware, says Julie delicious and pair nicely with
$16 and can be personalized, Hall at the Kitchen Table in the hot chocolate. The combo
Albert says. Shapes include Hattiesburg. makes great teacher gifts, client
crosses, angels and animals, “People are always coming in gifts, hostess gifts, just to name
and there are designs for sol- for gadgets,” she says. “Right a few.”
diers, a variety of professions, now people are looking for hol- RSJ books and products are
and even Harley-Davidson iday Bundt pans and seasonal available at
enthusiasts. There are also cookie cutters. They also like to and at
designs for baby’s first get our made in Mississippi speciality food stores through-
Christmas, brides and grooms food product gift bags.” out Mississippi.

36 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
HOLIDAYS | dispatches from my south

I Hattiesburg restaurateur and

chef Robert St. John has pub-
lished his eighth book, a compi-
lation of his syndicated news-
paper columns, just in time for
Christmas. “Dispatches From
My South” also features his Top
40 recipes and 20 new ones. He
will have signings on Dec. 3 at
Sisters By Design in
Brookhaven, and on Dec. 7 at
Main Street Books in downtown
admire his work. My favorite
chef is probably Thomas Keller
of the French Laundry, he’s in a
class all by himself.




I like “Top Chef.” Watching
“Iron Chef” makes me too nerv-
would flesh it out in my mind,
and then I would tell myself to
remember the idea. I never
remembered it. Two years later,
something would trigger a
Hattiesburg and Dec. 23 at ous. I would love to judge one memory and I would think of it
Books a Million in Hattiesburg. of those shows. I’d be a terrible again. It made me mad that I
St. John, who owns the contestant on that type of for- had forgotten it. That’s when I
Purple Parrot Cafe and mat. My cooking style and culi- started taking notes. They’re
Crescent City Diner, is also nary interests are very limited. everywhere. If I think of some-
launching a nonprofit organiza- thing that is worthy of fleshing
tion, Extra Table, that enables 3. W HAT ’ S THE ONE INGREDIENT YOU
out, I write it down. I have
restaurants to contribute to CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT AS A CHEF ?
Mead Five Star 9-inch note-
food charities. If that wasn’t Creole seasoning. books everywhere - in my car,
enough, he has his own gour- by my bed, on my desk.
met food product line and is 4. W HAT ’ S THE ONE GADGET YOU CAN -
shopping a pilot for a TV show, NOT LIVE WITHOUT ?
“Eating the South,” to the net- At home, I love my cast iron LEM , OR DO YOU EVER HAVE TROUBLE
works. skillet. Though, I probably use COMING UP WITH AN IDEA FOR A COL -
a six-inch omelet pan more UMN ?
1. W HO ’ S YOUR FAVORITE CELEBRITY often. I’m probably going to jinx
myself here, but no. So far, that
If it’s a chef on television, I 5. Y OU JOT DOWN COLUMN IDEAS ON
hasn’t been a problem, probably
like Anthony Bourdain. He’s EVERYTHING FROM NAPKINS TO
because I have so many notes
the real deal. I like Andrew RECEIPTS , AND EVEN USE THE NOTES
lying around. So far, so good,
Zimmern, too. I’ve done an FUNCTION ON YOUR I P HONE . A RE YOU
700 words a week, 52 weeks a
episode of “Bizarre Foods” with ORGANIZED ?
year, for 10 years. I’ve never
him, and he is a very nice, My notes are scattered every- missed a week.
charming, and humble man. where. Early on in my writing
John Besh is a good friend. I career, I would have an idea, I 7. D O YOU COOK FOR YOUR FAMILY OR

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 39
DO YOU LEAVE THAT TO YOUR WIFE , management will close a good and I thank God multiples times
J ILL ? W HAT ’ S YOUR FAVORITE RECIPE TO location. All of our restaurant’s every day.
COOK AT HOME ? daily successes are a result of
Jill cooks for the family, I management (not me, the man- Muz’s Fudge Cake
cook for friends. Cioppino or agers) following through on our (Brownies)
Baked Shrimp and Squash (Both policies and goals. Conversely,
of which are in the new book). when we drop the ball, it’s usu- 4 squares Baker’s chocolate
ally due to management not fol- 2 sticks butter
8. You travel a lot and dine in lowing through on our mission. 4 eggs
some of America’s best restaurants. I’m proud to say that our 2 cups sugar
W HAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THESE management team is the best in 1 cup flour
DINING EXPERIENCES THAT YOU HAVE the state. We are hitting on all 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
BROUGHT BACK TO YOUR OWN RESTAU - cylinders right now. Our suc- extract
RANTS ? cess is 100 percent due to their 1 cup nuts, chopped
Tons, too many to mention. I hard work. Pinch of salt
believe that it is vital to get out
there and see what’s happening 10. A RE YOU EVER SURPRISED AT HOW Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
in the culinary world across the SUCCESSFUL YOU ARE ? W HEN YOU Melt chocolate and butter
country. I have always been a STARTED OUT, DID YOU EVER IMAGINE together in a double boiler. Once
firm believer in that concept. I DOING ALL THE THINGS YOU ’ RE DOING incorporated, let cool slightly.
bring a lot of ideas back here NOW ? Cooled chocolate should still be
and we implement them in our I don’t really think of myself liquid in form.
restaurants. It’s the only way to as all that successful. I’m just a Mix together the four eggs and
stay fresh and on the cutting lucky guy who’s been in the gradually add the two cups of
edge. right place a few times. sugar until completely incorpo-
I also send our chefs and Seriously, that’s not false mod- rated. Slowly pour the slightly
managers out to restaurants all esty. There are hundreds of warm chocolate mixture into the
of the time, to dine and discov- people who are more talented egg/sugar mixture, making sure
er in cities all across the coun- and dedicated, I just worked not to scramble the eggs.
try, you just don’t hear from really hard early on, got a lot of Carefully incorporate the flour
them because they don’t write help from friends and associates into the chocolate/egg mixture.
about it. Though you do eat the through the years, and got a Add vanilla, nuts, salt and mix.
results of their research and few lucky breaks. Line a pan with waxed paper
development when you visit the No, I never imagined any of or parchment. Pour in the choco-
restaurants. this. I just wanted to own my late mix. Bake at 350 degrees
own restaurant, partly because I approximately 30 minutes or
9. W HAT ’ S THE KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL could wear whatever I wanted until an inserted toothpick
RESTAURANT ? to work. I didn’t want to wear a comes out clean.
Most of the textbooks will tell tie everyday and I wanted to be Remove from oven. Let cool
you: Location, location, loca- my own boss. Other than a deep for five minutes. Carefully flip
tion. That’s bunk. It’s: passion for restaurants and the fudge cake and finish cool-
Management, management, food, that’s about as far into it ing. Once cooled completely,
management. No question. as my thought process took me. remove waxed paper and cut into
Good management can over- I am a very lucky and blessed squares. Makes 12-14 brownies.
come a poor location, but poor guy, I try to never forget that,

40 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
Read any GOOD BOOKS lately?


“THE STATE OF JONES,” of Mississippi to the other, and not “HISTORIC PHOTOS
JOHN STAUFFER, “In the Sanctuary of Outcasts” is a CAPTIONS BY ANNE B.
$27.50, DOUBLEDAY. memoir of White’s time in federal MCKEE, $39.95, TURNER
“The State of Jones” prison for check kiting. The author PUBLISHING.
is based in Jones County makes a stab at adding new meaning to Authentic, historic and
during the Civil War. You white color crime. captivating, this book of
can’t have grown up in or lived around The strength of the book is less photography and text is an enjoyable
Mississippi long without hearing some- about White and more about the last pictorial history of Mississippi in
one refer to Jones County as “The Free leper colony in mainland America, chronological order. It begins in the
State of Jones.” It’s a great subject located in Carville, La., on the same 1860s and ends in 1976 when Gerald
and a great idea for a book. grounds as the federal prison. That part Ford campaigned in Mississippi.
The story enfolds Newton Knight, an is incredible. “Historic Photos of Mississippi”
antislavery farmer from Jones County. This book describes people and cir- includes interesting and fascinating
Knight deserted the Confederate Army cumstances most of us blindly miss. The facts that will both entertain and
and led an insurrection against the reader will find grace and the extraor- inform.
Confederacy from 1863 to 1865. dinary where it’s least expected and Included are the great flood of the
We’ve often heard that the Civil War will come away with a reminder of lov- 1920s, Johnny Carson as a student at
was a plantation owner’s war fought by ing your neighbor but not always trust- Millsaps College and an underground
planters. Known as strong independent ing them. nuclear explosion in Lamar County in
Irishmen, the citizens of Jones County Neil White lives in Oxford. 1964. This coffee table book is a must
decided against it. for Mississippi libraries.
Though meticulously researched, the “HIGHWAY 51: Anne B. McKee lives in Meridian.
book is a little rigid in style and lacks MISSISSIPPI HILL
an easy Southern flow. The authors COUNTRY,” PHOTO- “GREEDY BONES,” BY
weave in a personalized story using GRAPHS BY GLORIA CAROLYN HAINES,
Southern slang that comes off a little NORRIS, INTRODUCTION $24.99, ST. MARTIN’S
condescending. Knight sounds more like BY RICK BASS, $40, UNIVERSITY PRESS PRESS.
a hillbilly than a man from Ellisville. OF MISSISSIPPI. Just when you think
The authors included a lot of extempo- What do Nesbit, Tillatoba, Duck Hill, your brain’s about to
raneous war information, erring on the Winona, Pickens, Batesville and Canton explode, here comes a
side of an academic history book with have in common? Highway 51. From new installment of Carolyn Haines’
unnecessary words such as conscripted Memphis to Jackson, Highway 51 runs Bone series. Always a breath of fresh
and detritus and pestilential. through small town Mississippi. The 90 air, protagonist Sarah Booth Delaney
Sally Jenkins lives in New York City. photographs that make up this large, brings mystery and mischief to the
John Stauffer is chair and professor at color book are simple yet profound. Mississippi Delta in “Greedy Bones.”
Harvard University and lives in No text is necessary; the photos Whether you’re already a fan or
Cambridge, Mass. speak for themselves. newcomer, you’re sure to enjoy this
Gloria Norris was born in Holcomb in work of fiction. It’s hard to tell who
“IN THE SANCTUARY OF 1937, and graduated magna cum laude would be more entertaining, Sarah
OUTCASTS,” BY NEIL from the University of Southern Booth Delaney, P.I./actress or
WHITE, $25.99, Mississippi. She moved to New York City Mississippi author Carolyn Haines.
WILLIAM MORROW. and entered the literary world and has You can’t go wrong with either.
As the former publish- never lost her love for Mississippi. Carolyn Haines is from Lucedale,
er of New Orleans maga- “Highway 51; Mississippi Hill County” and has slid just across the state
zine, Coast magazine deserves a prominent place on the cof- line to Semmes, Ala. She teaches
and Coast Business Journal, Neil White fee table of all who appreciate genuine writing at the University of South
has arguably left his mark from one end rural life. Alabama.

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 41


An old cedar chest holds remnants of Donna

Woods’ very first craft projects, most likely sal-
vaged from Vacation Bible School. When she was
13 years old, she painted her first mural on the
wall of her cousin’s bedroom, a depiction of
Holly Hobbie, the blue-bonneted little girl char-
acter popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s. At 50, Woods
is still using her artistic ability to manage her
own interior design business, Southern Art, as
sion. Each house ornament takes her about one
or two hours. She asks her clients to give her 3-4
photos of the houses to work from. Woods says
the idea just came to her before she fell asleep
one night about eight years ago.
“I just think the good Lord gave me that
idea,” she says.
Many of her patrons are from church. Woods
believes her best advertising being word of
well as to hand paint Christmas ornaments. mouth. One year, she said, someone placed an
In her small studio attached to the black and order for 20 of the same barn. Another customer
white checkered-floor kitchen of her Hattiesburg ordered 30 ornaments for her Sunday school
home, Woods meticulously paints houses, or class. But mostly, people place orders of their
other images, onto clear glass orbs on commis- own homes to give to family members or friends.

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 43
After graduating from I’ll paint on it. If you stand still did not have the teaching gift. I
Lamar University in Beaumont, long enough, I may just paint have the talent and skills, but
Texas with a bachelor’s degree on your face!” she jokes, a not for teaching. And that’s
in interior design and a minor pewter painter’s palette pinned OK.”
in art, Woods moved to to her red shirt. Shortly after, Woods
Natchez to be closer to the Woods loves the business of returned to Mississippi where
antebellum homes she loved to art. she landed a job at Hederman
study. Under her mentor and “There are always new Brothers, a printing company in
boss, now deceased designer things in design. New types of Jackson. She also joined
Hal Garner, Woods learned a products, every person you Broadmoor Baptist Church,
lot about historic eras and work with is new. Every person where she met her husband,
restoration of old homes and brings a new experience, and I Gary Woods. Another connec-
antiques. To this hands-on edu- love people. I love helping tion she made at church was
cation she attributes her ability them,” she says. with Don Baker, who commis-
to not only paint homes but the In the late ‘80’s, Woods’ sioned a painting that Woods
faux finishing and murals, cabi- vocational calling was tested, says “put her on the map.”
net glazes, hand-painted furni- and she returned to school to This job brought back to her
ture, accessories and antiques, get her teaching certificate. She love of old houses.
house portraits, pen & ink com- learned this was a mistake. She As an engagement gift,
missions for personal stationer- taught junior high for less than Baker wanted her to paint the
ies and such, and ornaments. one year in Texas. Windsor Mansion, a ruined
“Anything that stands still, “I realized the hard way I antebellum home in Claiborne

44 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
County, from a Union soldier’s “My eyes fell on that ad. with Mississippi on one side,
sketch. She was asked to put Again, I think that was God,” and on the other, the greeting
the painting on display at an she said. “Merry Christmas, Y’all.”
antique show and soon she was Slowly but surely, she start-
getting orders for it. She was ed cutting days off her work
able to use her employee dis- schedule. Eventually, Woods
count at Hederman Brothers to became self-employed full time,
make 2,000 prints. Soon, she shifting focus to her Southern
was shipping her rendition all Art interior design business,
over the country and the world, and painting Christmas orna-
including to Brazil, Germany ments.
Contact Donna Woods at
and Spain. For this Christmas, Woods
(601) 543-0340.
In ’95, Woods and her hus- began taking orders as early as
Donna Woods’ orna-
band moved to Hattiesburg, last February. In addition to
ments are available at
where she worked as a rug house ornaments, Woods has
Main Street Books in
sales manager for Anderson, painted renditions of historic
downtown Hattiesburg.
with one of her Windsor prints buildings in downtown
Merry Christmas Y’all is
hung above her desk. About Hattiesburg, and of the Area
$10, house ornaments are
two years later, she was looking Development Partnership’s dec-
$35, and others are
through the newspaper, and she orative swan. She is also cur-
saw the Secret Gallery was rently working on an order for
looking for a manager. the Hattiesburg visitor’s bureau

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 45
HOLIDAYS | luminaries




December would be much darker if not for

the more than 15,000 luminaries that brighten
the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood for one
weekend each year.
The 33rd annual Victorian Candlelit Christmas
will be held the evenings of Dec. 12 and 13.
Events include horse-drawn carriage rides,
tours of two historic homes and strolling carol-
ers. Entertainment and refreshments will be at
the Walthall Center.
1930 and include a variety of architectural
styles, from Victorian, Italianate and Greek
Revival to cottage. Residents of more than 400
restored homes line their sidewalks and porch
rails with luminaries - candles inside paper
bags - as well as strings of lights. Some also
include yard displays of lighted figures.
Home tours will be from 5-9 p.m. Saturday
and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. Featured houses will be
the Dunn House Bed and Breakfast, 102 Short
Victorian Candlelit Christmas is a featured Bay St., and Lucius Cottage, 109 Short Bay St.
event of Hattiesburg’s Holidays in the Hub, Tickets are $10, which includes both houses,
which includes a Holiday Art Walk at the gal- and will be available at the doors and in
leries in downtown Hattiesburg. Two trolleys advance at Main Street Books. Entertainment at
will circulate on Saturday, offering free rides the open houses will be provided by members
with stops throughout the downtown and of the Suzuki Strings.
Historic Neighborhood districts. Court Street United Methodist Church, 609
Horse-drawn carriages will offer tours of the Southern Ave., will also host an open house
115-acre neighborhood, located just south of Saturday evening. There will also be activities
downtown, during the event. Tickets are $5 and at Bay Street Presbyterian Church, 202 Short
will be sold only at Walthall Center from dark Bay St. and Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 317
to 9 p.m. both nights. Walnut St., where the church carillon will be
Homes in the neighborhood date from 1884 to played.

46 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
The event began in 1976 as a bicentennial cel-
ebration and a way to showcase the neighbor-
hood and encourage new people to move to the
area, which was undergoing a transition. Many of
the residents then were aging, direct descen-
dants of Hattiesburg’s original settlers who were
still living in their old family homes, which were
falling into disrepair.
Barbara and Harry Ward were instrumental in
starting the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood
Association, which sponsors the annual Victorian
Candlelit Christmas events. They bought a house
on Walnut Street in 1975 so that Harry, who was
an art instructor at the University of Southern
Mississippi, could have a studio. The Wards went
door to door, meeting their new neighbors and
drumming up support for the association.
Only a few thousand luminaries were set out
the first year. The votive candles were pur-
chased from Sacred Heart Catholic Church,
which is located in the neighborhood.
“It was probably mainly on Bay Street and
Walnut Street,” said Linda McMurtrey, who sets
out six dozen luminaries around her home on

Williams Street. “People saw the candles being

put out that day and they wanted to join in.
People were amazed at the impact that kind of
display can make.”
Now, candles are ordered four or five months
before the event. Early on Saturday, residents
collect sand from the neighborhood’s central
depository, fill white paper bags with sand and
candles, and set them out on their sidewalks.
They stay lit until the event ends each night.
Victorian Candlelit Christmas has become a
tradition for many Pine Belt families.
“I have people come by now and tell me they
went to it as kids and now they’re bringing
their kids to it,” Ward said. “That’s so heart-
Even the residents, who put so much time
and effort into setting out the luminaries and
lighting them each night, still fall under its

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 47
HOLIDAYS | in the kitchen



Holiday entertainment is
nothing without food to spice
up the festivities, so we asked
several local restaurateurs to
contribute their favorite crowd-
pleasing recipes.
In this increasingly connected
world, we tried to include food
from around the globe. The fol-
lowing are appetizers, hors
“A lot of (people) like it and this is
an easy recipe; it doesn’t take a long
time to make like sushi. It’s good for
parties.” – Holly Nguyen, Sakura
Restaurant, Hattiesburg


3 dozen oysters chopped

(reserve liquid)
2 sticks butter
3 bunches green onions and a
d’oeuvres or desserts ranging
little fresh parsley
from local Southern cuisine to
3/4 cup flour to make a small
European and Asian. Here’s roux to brown
what the food pros serve to 5 cloves large garlic, chopped
Jennifer McKay at The Kitchen
family and friends. Bon appétit! fine
Table enjoys preparing holiday
1 regular white onion, chopped
delicacies for her family and
5 stalks celery, chopped fine
BEEF NEGIMA 6 dozen puff pastry patty shells
or phylo cups
3 pounds beef shoulder Parmesan cheese, grated
1 block mozzarella cheese PINEAPPLE HABANERO
3 bunches green onions Brown flour and a little oyster CHICKEN SALAD
Salt & pepper liquid until brown. Add onions,
Teriyaki sauce garlic and celery to wilt. Add 1/2 cup onion, chopped
chopped oysters and reserved 3 1/2 cups cooked chicken,
Lay thinly sliced beef (6- by 8- liquid and thicken if need be. diced
inches) on bamboo mat. Slice Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill 1 cup celery, chopped
mozzarella very thin and lay on patty shells or phylo cups and 1/2 cup pineapple
top. Top with green onions. Roll bake for 20 minutes at 350 1 jar Robert Rothchild Farm
and sprinkle beef with salt and degrees. Sprinkle with parmesan Roasted Pineapple & Habanero
pepper. Wrap in plastic wrap cheese. Dip
and put in freezer. When frozen, 1/4 teaspoon salt
remove and microwave for 1 “Made at Thanksgiving and Feta cheese (optional)
minute, peel off wrap. Cook rolls Christmas for generations and Combine all ingredients in a
on grill until beef is brown. Cut passed down from Grandmother bowl.
in 8 pieces and microwave again Angeline Diliberto Corcoran (from Options: Garnish with an orange
for 1 minute under wrap to melt Palermo, Italy).” - Chris McDonald slice or chopped walnuts. Serve
cheese. Serve with teriyaki Family, The Bottling Company, on croissant or warm pita bread.
sauce. Makes 12-15 rolls. Hattiesburg Put in pastry cups for a cocktail

48 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
pick up. it’s so addictive and people just go treat that I can never go without
“My favorite thing to make year nuts. We know someone’s served it are my famous Peanut Butter
round is Pineapple Habanero at Bunko, a Christmas party, a tail- Balls. They are fast and easy to
Chicken Salad. It’s great as an gate party or something when we make and I have been making them
appetizer on crackers, wonderful have numerous requests of where to for years.” - Tara Graham, Tara’s
on a buttery croissant for a lunch- find the bottle and recipe …” Cakes, Hattiesburg
eon, and since it doesn’t have may- –Jennifer Mckay, The Kitchen
onnaise, it’s tailgate friendly. I Table, Hattiesburg
like to add feta cheese, it cuts down
the heat of the habanero if that is a TRADITIONAL CORN SALAD
concern. You can pick up a rotis-
serie chicken. The jar of Robert 2 cans whole kernel corn
Rothchild Farm Roasted Pineapple 1 tomato, diced
& Habanero Dip is also good just 1 bunch green onions, chopped
over cream cheese with crackers.” 1 teaspoon sugar
–Jennifer Mckay, The Kitchen 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
Table, Hattiesburg 1 small jar pimiento
1/2 cup mayonnaise
CAPTAIN’S CHEESE BAKE Black pepper and salt, to taste

1/2 cup mayonnaise “It is a family favorite. We make it

8-ounce package cream cheese every year at Thanksgiving and
2 cups grated sharp cheddar Christmas.” – Bonnie Jackson,
cheese Leatha’s Bar-B-Que, Hattiesburg
2 green onions, chopped
6 Ritz crackers, crushed PEANUT BUTTER BALLS
8 slices bacon, cooked and
crumbled 1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup Captain Rodney’s 1 3/4 cup brown sugar
Pepper Glaze 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
Mix mayonnaise, cream cheese, Combine and form into balls.
cheddar and onions in greased Chill.
quiche pan. Top with crackers Then melt:
and bake at 350 degrees for 15 1 cup chocolate chips
minutes. Top with bacon and 1/4 cup butter
Captain Rodney’s Sweet &
Spicy Pepper Glaze. Serve with Dip balls in melted chocolate
crackers. using toothpicks and let harden.

“This dish is so addictive, nick- “One of my family’s and friends’

named ‘Christmas Crack’ because all time favorite party and holiday

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 49
“500 Fast & Fabulous Five-Star
5-Ingredient Recipes,” by
Gwen McKee and Barbara
Moseley, and “Best of the
Best” state cookbook series
cost $16.95 each. To order,
call Quail Ridge Press at 800-
343-1583, go to www.quail- or, or purchase
at local bookstores or Cracker
Barrel stores. The publisher
also offers a coupon book with
discounts on the state cook-
books. Call 800-343-1583 to
request a free coupon book.



Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley are known

as the “Cookbook Ladies” on QVC, where they
make frequent appearances to sell their numer-
ous “Best of the Best” cookbooks. They’ve sold
more than 2.5 million copies since they were dis-
covered during a nationwide search for unique
products from each state 12 years ago.
“They chose ‘Best of the Best From
Mississippi’,” McKee said, referring to one of the
first books in what is now a 50-book roundup of
recipes from the best cookbooks published in
each state. “They had a show in Jackson (that
McKee founded Quail Ridge Press in 1978 with
her husband, Barney. The first book they pub-
lished was “The Twelve Days of Christmas
Cookbook,” and a 30th anniversary edition was
published in 2008. McKee and Moseley have also
written the Recipe Hall of Fame cookbook collec-
McKee said her goal is to preserve America’s
food heritage, one recipe and cookbook at a time.
She and Moseley traveled to each state to find
the cookbooks that they included in each state
volume. The softcover books are comb-bound to
was broadcast nationally). We sold out in 20 min- lay flat and include photos and trivia about each
utes.” state, as well as 300-500 recipes.
McKee is editor-in-chief of Brandon’s Quail One of their most recent - and popular - books
Ridge Press, and she has been appearing on QVC is “500 Fast & Fabulous Five-Star 5-Ingredient
for 12 years. Moseley, who sometimes appears on Recipes,” which is targeted at people who want
the television shopping channel with McKee, has to cook but are intimidated by long lists of ingre-
been her writing partner for 30 years. dients or complicated steps.
Their “Best of the Best” series is carried in “This book in particular addresses the young
Cracker Barrel stores nationwide. Their other mother who is so busy,” Moseley said.
cookbooks include “Fast & Fabulous Party Foods If you want to entertain this holiday season but
and Appetizers,” “Best of the Best From Bell’s don’t have time for complicated recipes, try these
Best Cookbook,” “Beyond Grits and Gravy,” and crowd-pleasers from “500 Fast & Fabulous Five-
the Recipe Hall of Fame cookbook series. Star 5-Ingredient Recipes.”

50 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1/4-cup chopped bell pepper
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 cups chopped pecans, divided
In medium bowl, blend all ingredients, except 1/2 cup nuts. Chill 1-
2 hours. Form into a ball and roll in remaining nuts. Serve with
crackers on a decorative plate.
Optional: Substitute fresh pineapple for canned and shape cheese
ball into a pineapple shape (flatten the top, score appropriately,
then put the cut-off green top of the fresh pineapple on top.
Surround with crackers on a decorative platter.)


8-10 small potatoes, peeled

3 tablespoons bacon drippings
1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush potatoes with bacon drippings.
Roll in mixture of cornflake crumbs, paprika and salt. Place in
greased baking pan and bake 40 minutes until fork-tender.


1 8-count can flaky jumbo biscuits

1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1/2 tablespoon onion flakes
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
Cut biscuits into four wedges. Place melted butter, parsley and
onion flakes in bottom of 9-inch pie pan. Wedge biscuits in pan and
sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.


1/2 store-bought chocolate cake

1/2 cup Kahlua or strong coffee
2-3 4-pack packages snack-size chocolate pudding
1 12-ounce carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 8-ounce package Heath toffee bits
Break cake into chunks and layer 1/2 into a trifle dish. Pour 1/2 the
Kahlua or coffee over this, then 1/2 of the pudding cups, 1/2 the
whipped topping, then 1/2 the toffee bits. Repeat layers.
Optional: If you can’t purchase a chocolate cake at the supermarket,
this trifle can be made with pound cake, brownies, Twinkies or even
frozen cake. You can make your own cake and pudding, but making
the trifle will take longer.


1 18 1/4-ounce box lemon cake mix

2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cake mix with eggs, oil and lemon
extract until well blended. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls into a bowl
of confectioners’ sugar. Roll them around until they’re lightly cov-
ered. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 6-9 minutes, until
hattiesburg’s downtown entertainment destination

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 55

3 G reat R esolutions


Every year, millions of people around the globe

somehow pull through the stresses that come with
holiday preparation and make it to the fun and
laughter that follows. We plan a huge feast and
buy a lot of gifts. We eat too much for
Thanksgiving and receive too many presents for
Christmas. With our stomachs full and our closets
a little harder to close, we press forward to New
The new year is the time of year when we get the
chance to press the reset button. On New Year’s
Eve we traditionally set our resolutions and on
evening, the last thing that we want to do is
head to the gym.
Now things have changed. Twenty-four hour
gyms have sprung up all across the country and
healthy food is easier to get than ever; most fast
food chains even carry healthy food now. I know
lots of people who work out in the wee hours of
the morning to beat the crowd and have the
whole gym to themselves. So this year can be
different. This year, we can do it.
This may be the most important resolution to
New Year’s Day we begin to follow them. Some are stick to in these rough economic times. The opin-
gold medalists when it comes to crossing these ions vary greatly on the best way to handle all
hurdles and others never get off the bench, but this the different aspects of our finances, but I don’t
year could be different. think you’ll find any experts that can honestly
SLOW DOWN AND MAKE TIME FOR tell you that shedding some of the debt is a bad
FRIENDS AND FAMILY thing. It won’t be easy, but it doesn’t mean that
We have all thought of this one before, even if it it’s impossible.
wasn’t as a New Year’s resolution. Technology has We need to find creative ways to eliminate the
always been intent on simplifying our lives and yet debt that we already have. Clean the house and
never delivered. For some reason the plan seemed have a yard sale. Most of us have lots of things
to backfire, and all those conveniences just hin- all around the house just waiting to be sold, and
dered us further or were replaced by something bargain-hunters are hitting yard sales more than
else equally stressful. ever. Or you could always try the online market
There’s good news, though. Amazing things are and sell your stuff for a small fee.
happening in technology and more people than Find new and creative ways to spend less on
ever are beginning to stay connected through the entertainment. Have a family movie night and
various methods available. By most estimates, eat microwave popcorn rather than go to the
millions of people are using some form of social movies. Take turns cooking for each other at
networking Web site. The most popular are home rather than eating out. This would also be
Facebook, My Space and Twitter. These sites a great time to break out the old dusty board
allow us to reconnect with friends that we games and show the kids a thing or two.
haven’t talked to in years. This resolution should This is also the time to get organized. Keeping
be easier to keep this year than ever before. track of your spending and income can help you
GET IN SHAPE to identify which areas need improvement. Make
The problem with getting in shape has proba- a budget. This recession won’t last forever, but
bly always been convenience. We go to work now is the time to find the motivation to get out
every day and when we finally head home in the of debt, and organization is the way to do it.

56 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i