Joe Pope Morgan, my dad
Dad was born February 3, 1914 in Dentville, Mississippi, son of Troy Morgan and Corinne Kincannon. He died in Houston, Texas on Dec. 3, 1966 of lung cancer, at the age of 52.
My dad was the oldest child of 4 children. He had three sisters: Katrina, Myriam, whom we called "Tootsie", and Sue. Katrina, died at the early age of 18 months of whooping cough.
Dad graduated from the University of Mississippi, with a law degree in December 1941.
Mary Frances Lee, my mom
Mom was born on March 25, 1923, in Jackson, Mississippi, daughter of Francis Bullen Lee and Reba Iona Fuller. She died on Jan. 27, 1982 of after effects of a stroke and breast cancer, at the age of 59.
My mom was the oldest child of 7 children. Her siblings are Evelyn ("Ebbie"), Jack (recently deceased), Nancy ("Nannie"), Carolyn ("KK"), and Annette.
Her youngest brother, Francis Bullen Lee, Jr. ("Brother"), was killed by a car at the age of 5 on their way back from Sunday school. They shared the same birthday with 5 years difference. My mother, who was ten at the time, was deeply marked by this since the three children, including Ebbie, were walking home together.
Mom took some college courses at Belhaven College, but soon went to work as a secretary at the Deposit Guaranty Bank in Jackson. She never worked while Dad was alive, spending her free time playing tournament bridge and eventually became a Life Master.
Since my dad was nine years older than my mom, there must have been some contention with her dad about their getting married. My dad being a practical guy, they eloped and were married on February 21 1942, in Fayetteville,Arkansas when my mom was only 19.
They didn't have much time to enjoy their honeymoon period, since Dad joined the Marines soon after. He went through officer's training in Quantico, Virginia, and then they both moved to Camp Lejeune, CA. Mom, being pregnant with my brother then, went to the beach almost everyday with her girlfriends. She said that it was the only time in her life that she was tanned.
Mom returned to Jackson to live with her parents, and her brother and sisters still living at home, when it became obvious that Dad was going to be shipped out to the Pacific. My brother, Joe Pope Morgan, Jr. was born on September 20,1943. Family lore says that as Dad was walking up the gangplank he received a telegram saying "Jo born. Mother and baby fine.", which meant that he didn't know if "Jo" was a boy or girl until he received subsequent letters from Mom.
I think that life was pretty great for my brother when he was a baby, since he was simply adored by my mom, her parents and her brothers and sisters. They lived out in the country near Jackson on a piece of property that they called "The Ranch".
Meanwhile, it was pure hell for my dad who was fighting in the Pacific, and apparently Mother was very anxious, never knowing if he was all right or not.
My brother was almost two before he and my dad ever really met which was hard on both of them, I imagine. My dad had left for the war leaving his bride behind and returned to find a toddler who was ruling the roost. My aunts and uncles told me that Daddy was not the same person when he came back home -- he had lost, to some extent, his sharp sense of humor, and was plagued for the rest of his life with migraines and troubled sleep.
After the war Dad first worked for his father-in-law until he found a job with Continental Oil Company. From then on they were transferred around a lot.
First they lived in Ponca City, Oklahoma and apparently times were tough. Dad provided meat by rabbit hunting, and sold vacuum cleaners in the evenings to pay for my brother's eye surgery. They were then transferred to Casper, Wyoming where I was born. We moved to southern Louisiana when I was 18 months old, to my dad's delight since his favorite hobbies were hunting (despite all those rabbits) and fishing.
My brother was never called "Joe Jr." -- his nickname was "Butch". His best buddy was our first cousin, Charles Cook, who was never called "Charles Jr.", but "Chuck". They adored each other as much as their two younger siblings, my cousin, Eddo, and I couldn't stand each other. Chuck and Eddo's parents were Tootsie and Charles Cook ("Cookie"); he served in the Air Force at the same time that my dad was in the Marines.
So this is pretty much how I remember our little family, my grouchy big brother, and me, the little sister.
Butch hanging out with a buddy, practising to kill innocent creatures with their BB guns.
Me, greeting Daddy and Uncle Billy after their fishing trip
My grandfather was the superintendent of Mississippi schools and also taught algebra, trigonometry, ... Everyone called him "Prof", except my grandmother who called him "Mr. Morgan" to third parties.
Corinne Kincannon Morgan
Granny was born on November 17, 1887 in Tupelo, Mississippi, and died on Dec. 18, 1965. She was a school teacher who taught English and Latin. (I need to verify this with Aunt Sue.) (It's from Granny's side of the family from which the depression genes derive, a sort of borderline syndrome for genius/mental disorders.)
Prof and Granny were married on August 8,1912 at the First Presbyterian Church in Tupelo,Mississippi. They had four children my dad, Joe Pope, Katrina, Myriam, and Sue.
They moved about being transferred to different school districts in northern Mississippi. By the time that I came along, they were settled in Saltillo, which is not far from Tupelo (where Elvis was born).
Our family holidays, both Christmas and summer vacactions, were always going to visit the grandparents in Mississippi, first my mom's parents in Jackson, and then on to Saltillo, usually up the Natchez Trace.
My very best childhood memories were of the house in Saltillo, which was freezing cold in the winter and broiling hot in the summer. We were often joined by our cousins, Chuck and Eddo, to Butch's delight and my frustration. Eddo was obviously Prof's favorite since he would sit on the front porch and Eddo would comb his hair for what seemed like hours on end.
The house in Saltillo was wooden (built on wooden pilings)with a big hallway right down the middle, with the living room and dining room on the lefthand side and the bedrooms to the right. That hallway helped cool the house down in the summer, but it was like the Antartica in the winter.
In the winter, only the living room and dining room were heated with gas furnaces (open-faced heaters with refractive, decorative bricks in the back that would heat up and glow red). These were particularly efficient if you stood right in front of them, but since the ceilings in the house were so high, the house was pretty chilly. The kitchen, however, was always warm, so I think that actually the black cook was the best off in the whole household.
The heaters in the bedrooms were not turned on, although there was a heater in the bathroom. One particularity about the bathroom, which had one of these huge, cast iron tubs -- I think the tub was so heavy that the wooden pilings had settled more under them than the rest of the house, so when you went into the bathroom you sort of felt that you were rolling to the back of the house. I remember for a fact that the water was not level in the tub.
Anyway, I always slept with my Granny, and I just loved it. I would dash into the bed, which was freezing cold and piled high and heavy with quilts. Then I would watch her get ready for bed, putting on her nightgown and then taking down her hair, brushing it all out, and then braiding it for the night. Granny had this beautiful, naturally wavy hair which was all white.
Then she would climb in and cuddle and the bed would start to warm up. There was a chamber pot under the bed that she used to pee in the night, which would be emptied first thing in the morning. That always fascinated me, hearing her peeing in the night.
Getting up in the morning was a challenge. I think we were allowed to dash with our clothes to the living room and dress in front of the furnace. Hot biscuits and sirop for breakfast, mmmmmh.
It seems that it was as hot in the summer as it had been cold in the winter. We would arrive, pull up in the driveway, and it seemed that they first thing we did would be go with Prof to admire his tomatoes which had been picked and were ripening on a table against the garage under a big shade tree. These tomatoes were so big that one slice would be enough to make a sandwich with lots on mayonnaise and of course, white Wonder bread. I can still remember the smell of those ripening tomatoes, and to this day adore the odor of tomatoe leaves.
Summertime offered numerous activities. Usually I was with Eddo, while Butch and Chuck were rambling about doing such things as killing squirrels or setting fire to the neighbor's field. One thing that we loved to do was go up into the attic, which was probably in the 90's, and read the jokes in the stacks and stacks of Saturday Evening Posts. The attic was wonderful -- dusty and dim, with only one window on the front of the house, filled with trunks, that we would explore. It was also full of books.
We also played under the back of the house which was relatively cool. This is where we had a pretty good chance of running across Butter, an old slashed-ear tom cat, that lived out back. Since the house was on pilings, the back of the house was open underneath and had easy head clearance for us. Chuck and Butch used to set up army men and then shoot them with BB guns, and each other from time to time, but Eddo and I were not allowed such weaponry.
One summer, I took one of the books from the attic, climbed a tree on the far side of the house and read all day. I'm sure Eddo never found me there. It was heaven.
A major sport throughout the summer was swatting flies on the front porch. There was a big front porch with Prof's rocking chair, and maybe another one, and the inevitable porch swing. For some reasons, the flies were attracted to the chains of the porch swing, and they were our prey. Even the adults indulged in this, or at least kept score.
From time to time, we would go into to town to visit Aunt Lil, Prof's "old maid" sister. Aunt Lil had kept their father's hardware store which was one of the most fascinating places in the world. The store had probably never been changed since her dad had died. The window displays had the same old stuff, and the same old dust, from one year to the next. There were long glass and wooden counters, a big potbelly stove in the back, and huge rolls of linoleum upstairs. Lit essentially from the front windows, I remember that it was generally dim and dusty.
There was also the grocery store which had the particularity of having red saw dust on the floor. Everyone in the town knew who we were and would say hello when Eddo and I went in on errands.
Perhaps the best place of all in town was the pool hall, essentially because it was off-limits to children, especially little girls. This was where the men were safe from the womenfolk. On exceptional occasions, we might be sent in to "fetch" either Prof or one of our dads. It was fantastic -- dimly lit except for the light over the tables, smoke floating in tongue-like clouds above the lights. The sound of the clicking of the balls, or the scratching of the chalk on the cues. Benches lined up on the sides where you waited for your turn to play. All very impressionistic since we weren't allowed to linger.
Usually on the way home, we would stop at the field across the road from my grandparent's house to say hello to Marvin, the Methodist mule. I assume he was deemed Methodist because his owner was, and my grandparents, being Baptists, assumed that being Methodist was equivalent to being hard-headed. Anyway, I remember that Marvin did seem to enjoy having his long ears stroked.
Frances Bullen Lee
My grandfather (born around 1899 and died 1965 of a heart attack) was a self-made man, an entrepreneur who established a machine shop, Jackson Machine Works. He employed my dad and other relatives returning from WWII until they could find work elsewhere.
We called him "Daddy Lee" (pronounced "Daddelee"). He was a terrible tease, and loved to tease my grandmother until she cried. He would take out all the coins from his pocket and let the grandchildren chose whatever coins they wanted. As soon as we were old enough to start selecting 50 cent pieces instead of those intriguing pennies or delicate dimes, the game was over -- we were too old to play.
Reba Iona Fuller Lee
Reba was born on July 29, 1902; died in April 1976 (pancreatic cancer). She was also a school teacher before she got married.
We were not allowed to call her "Grandmother", so I always called her "Reba". Since they had SO many grandchildren, I didn't have a really close relationship with her. What I remember most is visiting her garden with her, especially her day lilies (which is why I have them in my garden also!), and feeding the birds in her garden. She saved bread crusts, and would send us out to fill the bird feeders.
I know that my grandmother came from Illinois, but I'm not sure how she met my grandfather and I don't have their marriage date. I need to interview Nannie about that.