Thursday, May 20, 2010


Red Bay, Alabama - where just about everyone claims to have known Tammy Wynette (who was actually from this area) and everything about her.

About 3 years ago our coach was born in Red Bay, Alabama, at Tiffin Motorhomes, so a couple of times a year we return to the plant to take care of "things". We do some "accessorizing", and meet lots of new people who own Tiffin coaches and have many of the same concerns that we do. Depending on what day of the week you arrive you usually have the pleasure (not) of dry camping for a couple of days before you are assigned a site that has full services; i.e., sewer, water and electricity.

We arrived on a Tuesday morning, without an appointment, and the campground was packed! We were asked to temporarily park our coach on the back road in a holding area in back of the service bays, and they would get to us as soon as a full service site became available. In other words, don't call us, we'll call you. When we finally got to bed that evening, since we had no electricity, we raised the windows in the bedroom, and awoke about 4:00 a.m. to the most incredible aroma of sausage cooking nearby. It was all we could do to stay in bed until morning. We knew when morning arrived we were going to find the origin of the scent, and buy a couple of those tasty sausage biscuits. When morning arrived we went to the campground office and told the hosts that the smell of the sausage cooking was awesome! They laughed and informed us it was the dog food factory, Sunshine Mills, one of the biggest industries in Red Bay. We continued to smell the factory aromas throughout the week; however, we changed our minds about pursuing our craving.

In another blog last year we detailed the Red Bay procedure...well, it hasn't changed much. However, we did have some off-site "accessorizing" as well as diesel/generator maintenance performed. We were assigned to an "Express" bay in the service facility, and were in and out of Red Bay in about a week. This gave us some time to enjoy all that Red Bay and the surrounding area had to offer! We went shopping at the discount grocery store, Silver Dollar, in Golden, MS, where you get bargains galore! Everyone "pigs out" at the Piggly Wiggly Deli in Red Bay at least once or twice during the week. Thursdays are pretty special in Red Bay... Swamp John's, a local restaurant and formerly a service station, offers fried catfish and shrimp for lunch. During the week we enjoyed several potluck dinners with new friends on the runway (to refresh your memory, the entire service facility is an old airport, and the campground is on the runway). - how con-veeeeeen-ient! Since there are about 4 rows (approximately 100 plus sites), filled with all makes and models of Tiffin coaches, you get to know your neighbors quickly and see their new custom items. We installed a reticulating arm for the outside tv entertainment center, installed 2 new Moen bath hooks, replaced some of the lights that had burned out in hard to reach places, and had the windshield and entry door re-sealed. Nothing major, thank goodness.

We spent a very worthwhile afternoon in Tupelo, MS, about 35 miles away, at the Tupelo Automobile Museum. There are over 100 cars from the 1800's - 1900's in a 120,000 square foot museum, valued at over $6 million. Two of the cars in the collection were personally owned by Liberace and Elvis Presley. The collection began in 1950, by connoisseur and NBC broadcast executive, the late Frank Spain of Tupelo. (also at one time a partner to Bill McGowan of MCI).

There was also a traveling exhibit called "SPARKLE & TWANG" owned by country music legend Marty Stuart, from Philadelphia, MS, with some of the most unique collectibles Hank Williams' glasses, stage costumes/custom boots worn by Roy Rogers, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline ....and much, MUCH more! It was so enjoyable we would go and see it all over again!

Our next destination is Florence, AL, about 50 miles away (don't laugh....we've driven shorter distances). So our next blog will be an update of a beautiful old city we enjoy visiting for many reasons.

Monday, May 10, 2010


We spent about a week exploring Meridian, MS. One of the most interesting places we discovered is about 10 miles south of Meridian, the Causeyville General Store and Mill which occupies two structures side by side. The current general store is located in the "new" building which was erected in 1895. The original store was built in 1869 as a trading post for Chocktaw Indians in the area. A grist mill, an International Harvester model made by Meadows, is located in the 1869 building.

In talking with the owner we found that this was a community where everyone always knew everyone. When someone passes by you hear the car horn and if you're outside you exchange waves. As it is most everywhere else, new people have moved in and others have moved away. The owner said he probably doesn't know but about a third of the people now. We could have spent a good part of the afternoon on the front porch in the rockers sipping old-fashioned Coca-Colas and enjoying a Moon Pie, and talking with the chickens who were most happy we stopped. It was obvious you didn't want to get in their way - guess they "rule the roost". Definitely free rangers.

The main structure is an operating convenience store. A portion of the building houses a collection of player pianos and displays of old toys, books and other items from the 1930's and '40s. Original movie posters and photographs of the area decorated the walls, along with World War II memorabilia. If you enjoy Americana you would be fascinated by the store as well as all that is in it.

The 1895 store has served as the post office, voting precinct, doctor's office, barber shop, telephone exchange and a motion picture theater, among its many "lives".

The store property was purchased by E. W. Hagwood and his wife Nell in 1941. In the 1950s, their daughter Joan Irby bought the properties from her parents. In 1982, Joan sold the store property to her younger brother Leslie and his wife Dorothy. Leslie, a motion picture cameraman and Viet Nam veteran, restored the property and had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (By the way, Leslie was a cameraman in the movie Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis Presley). Leslie passed away about 10 years ago and the property is owned by his widow Dorothy Hagwood and their son Leslie Hagwood, Jr.

This is definitely a general store where "some things never change". We agree with the present owner who says, "You don't pass through Causeyville, you have to make an effort to get there."

Before we headed north we realized there were some interesting places to see around Meridian - like an old Carnegie Library built in 1912-1913, which is now the Art Museum. We saw the Jimmy Rodgers (the singing conductor and considered the father of country western music) Museum as well as the world's only 2 row stationary Dentzel menagerie carousel, manufactured around 1895.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

THE SIEGE OF VICKSBURG - May 18,1863-July 4,1863

Up to this point we haven't mentioned that our visit to Mississippi was specifically to visit Vicksburg, MS, and the Vicksburg National Battlefield, site of the Siege of Vicksburg on May 18 - July 4, 1863. We decided to commute to Vicksburg via the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, about an hour away from Natchez.

Our blog is being published on Mother's Day, May 9, 2010, to pay tribute to mothers and families who have lost fathers, sons, and loved ones in wars in our country as well as all over the world. In our visits to hallowed battlefields throughout our country you see so many innocent lives forever changed and to remind us of the tragedy and sadness associated with war.

My great-great-grandfather, Private Daniel D. Lockwood, Company I, Alabama 31st Infantry, was killed at the age of 49, in the Siege Of Vicksburg on June 18, 1863 (At his muster it was noted his hair was grey and his eyes were blue). Daniel D. Lockwood was born in Connecticut around 1814, and through whatever his fortune was to be, relocated his family to Montgomery, AL, according to the U.S. Census of 1860. His final burial place was unknown to our family, and we were hoping to locate his grave, should one exist. RV and I were somewhat prepared for the sadness you encounter at a National Battlefield site from having visited Gettysburg, Shiloh, Olustee, Manassas and Chicamauga; however, there was a slight possibility that we might find a grave with a marker, as well as a state designation regarding his service.

The Siege of Vicksburg was a 47 day siege, which in the end gave control of the Mississippi River to the Union. The Confederate surrender following the Siege of Vicksburg is sometimes considered, combined with General Robert E. Lee's defeat at Gettysburg the previous day, the turning point in the war.
Private D. D. Lockwood found himself in a hopeless situation into about 2 weeks of the Confederate occupation of Vicksburg, MS. The Union troops, under the direction of General Ulysses Grant, had cut off all supply lines to Vicksburg. Nothing coming in.....nothing going out. Scurvy, malaria, dysentery, diarrhea and other diseases were destroying the army. His life would end 31 days after the Siege began. He would never know about the CSA surrender on July 4 - he never knew that most of his infantry perished in the Siege, and he never knew that at the surrender most of the Confederate soldiers were parolled as Grant had no provisions to feed 30,000 men. The parolled soldiers were exchanged and received back into the Confederate Army on August 4, 1863, and then went on to Chattanooga, TN to fight again. Most likely his wife and family sadly wondered what had happened to him, and whether he was dead or alive. Any Confederate soldier who was killed during the Siege was probably buried in a mass grave (which was usually the case). I read somewhere that wars "tell of the movement of armies and the acts of generals".

Dead Confederate soldiers were given space at the Soldier's Rest Public City Cemetery - at Cedar Hill - not the Vicksburg National Cemetery. We visited the very old City Cemetery - Cedar Hill, and the CSA area was divided into the states who were represented in the Siege and the majority of the graves were "unknown" soldiers. Of the 17,077 graves of Civil War soldiers, there were 12,909 "unknown". We went to the Alabama section - all known dead sign of Private D. D. Lockwood, 31st Alabama Infantry. His sacrifice and the sacrifice that thousands of "unknown" soldiers have made is such a sad but true commentary.

After driving through the Vicksburg National Battlefield, a 16 mile driving tour of the Battlefield, it was clear where the 31st Alabama Infantry was positioned during their occupation, and most likely where my great-great grandfather perished.

There are over 1,340 monuments throughout the Battlefield - not enough time to read them all - it would have required days!

We should pause and thank our forefathers, whichever side their allegiance was, and thank them for their ultimate sacrifice. We should also pray for our present day soldiers' families, and that the day may soon come when their loved ones will return safely. The cost of war can never be measured in just dollars and cents. There's so much more to consider. Some unknown author once said "Freedom is not free"! ......and it never will be.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Natchez, MS and Vidalia, LA, was to be our home for a little longer than we originally planned. Upon our arrival, bad weather surrounded us. We stayed 3 additional days and the bad weather and deadly tornadoes were north of us and forever affected the lives of thousands of others throughout the southeast.

Natchez, MS is located along the southwestern edge of MS, overlooking the Mississippi River. The city was built on high bluffs overlooking the river at an altitude of 195 feet above sea level.

Our campground, River View, located in Vidalia, LA, was immediately across the Mississippi River Bridge and on the shores of the river. The only thing we could find that set Vidalia, LA apart was the story about Jim Bowie, who became involved in a duel with 2 well-known area residents, Wells and Maddox. Jim Bowie, although seriously injured with a gunshot wound, killed his assailant with a knife that later became known as The Bowie Knife. This area, on the Mississippi River, is known as The Sandbar, and is now the site of a local and popular restaurant.

Since the entire city of Natchez is literally packed with historical markers and places of national historic interest, it is impossible to do everything. You pick and choose - maybe we'll be lucky enough to return one day for one of their well publicised spring and fall pilgrimages.

We chose to attend church at the Washington United Methodist Church on Highway 61 in Washington, MS - just a couple of miles north of Natchez. Washington United Methodist was opened in 1799, and is considered the birthplace of Methodism for the state of MS, it is the first Methodist Church organized in the MS territory. We were not aware of the significance of this area in the history of our country. Mississippi became a state in 1817. The territorial legislature met on the grounds of historic Jefferson College, named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, across the street from the Washington United Methodist Church. In 1830, Jefferson College purchased the Methodist Church building that was the site of the 1817 MS statehood convention.

The members of the church were very hospitable and friendly toward us and invited us to lunch after church. One of the elder members of the congregation told us that back in the days of cotton and sugar plantations there were 7 millionaires in the United States - and 5 of them were from the Natchez area.

Natchez survived the Civil War with little loss to property. The antebellum mansions are what you think of when you think about Natchez. Tours of these properties began in 1932 by the Women's Garden Club. We visited 2 of the plantations - Longwood and Melrose, and enjoyed them thoroughly.

Longwood, the largest octagonal house in America, was started in 1860, by a wealthy cotton planter, Haller Nutt and his wife. Work progressed until 1861 when the Civil War began, and the craftsmen (all from Philadelphia), dropped their tools and fled North for fear of their lives. The owner completed the basement level enough for his family to use as living quarters. He died in 1864, depressed and penniless, but his wife and 8 children lived in the basement until 1897. Many of the family's original furnishings are displayed as well as tools, carriages, and other reminders of the past. This property belongs to the Pilgrimage Garden Club and was presented to them to care for in perpetuity.

We also took an opportunity to visit Melrose, one of the original pilgrimage homes in 1932, and a property of the National Park Service since 1990. The original owner, John McMurran, established a successful law practice, won election to the state legislature, married into a respected local family, and acquired the first of five plantations and slaves. Melrose represents one of the most completely preserved antebellum estates in Natchez with many original furnishings and outbuildings. The estate is under renovation, and while we attended the tour there were many areas throughout the home we were unable to enter.

We visited Stanton Hall which was built in 1857 for a local cotton magnate, Frederick Stanton. The property is magnificent, and it is obvious that no expense was spared in any of the 5 levels of the house which has 3 parlors and 6 bedrooms. The house is a preservation project of the Pilgrimage Garden Club since 1938, and is used for weddings and special events. A restaurant is located on the grounds, the Carriage House, and is known for its Southern cuisine.

The Natchez Trace Parkway, a 450 mile national park, originates in Natchez and winds through Mississippi and eventually ends in Nashville, TN. The parklands along the Trace parallels the old trace, which was recognized in 1995 in the National Scenic Byways Programs, designating it an All American Road, beginning at Natchez, milepost 0, the southern terminus, and continuing to milepost 444, the northern terminus in Nashville, TN.

The Trace was probably a hunters' path from the Mississippi River over the low hills into the valley of the Tennessee River. By 1733 the French knew the area well enough that it appeared on maps; by 1785 Ohio River valley farmers had begun to float their crops down the rivers to Natchez and New Orleans.

There are no trucks - a 45 mph enforced speed limit - hunting is prohibited - it is a designated bike path - there are no gas stations on the parkway and it is a part of the National Park System! We would never tire of this scenic road and all its beauty and hope to return to the Natchez Trace Parkway another day!

Monday, May 3, 2010


Several special places to write about while we're in the Miss Lou area. (that's what the locals call Mississippi/Louisiana areas) Loved them....right up our alley. Mammy's Cupboard is a restaurant built inside a 28 foot tall black woman's skirt. Mammy's been around dating back to the 1940's and has been many many things - gas station, store, a restaurant several times. At this time it appears she's been spruced up quite a bit, but Mammy's ethnicity is questionable at this time. She may be a Natchez Indian now. To look at her from Highway 61 south of Natchez she reminds you of Mrs. Butterworth.

At this time the menu is so appealing that people come from all over just to eat at Mammy's. Cooking is southern - meat and three; everyday is a different special; however, you can order salads, soups and they are all homemade. The BIG draw is always the desserts - homemade hummingbird cake being at the top of the favorites. There's even the caramel banana pie - you know the one where you boil the unopened can of sweetened evaporated milk for hours and fill the pie crust that has sliced bananas, and then you sprinkle a crushed Heath bar on top of the whipped cream?! You need to get there fast - they're only open from 11 - 2 Tuesday through Friday - and enter Mammy's skirt. Is it worth it? You betcha.

The next "you gotta see this" is in Ferriday, LA, in Concordia Parish, minutes away from Natchez. The Delta Music Museum, previously known as the Ferriday Museum, is housed in the old post office. Ferriday has the distinction of being the birthplace of Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, (all first cousins), as well as blues trombonist Leon "PeeWee" Whittaker. Other notables, also Ferriday natives are Howard K. Smith, newscaster, and Ann Boyar Warner (2nd wife of Warner Bros. mogul Jack Warner). We enjoyed the Star Hall of Fame outside the entrance that recognizes a new musician every year since 2002. Just a few of the list of inductees (all from the Mississippi Delta region) are: Former Louisiana Governor James Houston "Jimmie Davis", Conway Twitty, Aaron Neville, Allen "Puddler" Harris, Percy Sledge, Johnny Horton, Irma Thomas (from Ponchatoula, LA), Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Fats Domino, and a few others I can't remember.

RV and I spent the morning looking at old film clips, listening to performances we had long since forgotten, and thoroughly enjoyed all the items that had been donated by the musicians' friends and families. The museum exists off sales of souvenirs and contributions (I found a guitar- shaped fly swatter!). It was a nice slice of Americana, and we're thankful museums such as this one are tucked all over our country.

Off the subject a little, but also in Ferriday, Jerry Lee Lewis' sister, Frankie Jean, gives personal tours of their still-inhabited childhood home to total strangers...donations expected, of course. Personal photos, bills, momentos, clothes, guns, scrapbooks, posters, all over the house and she gives little snippets of their life. As if that wasn't enough, the house also incorporates a drive-through liquor store at the side (no walk ups). This one is out of the Twilight Zone. In a way it kind of reminded us of Buford Pusser's home tour in McNairy County, TN. sans liquor drive thru.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Our stay in Louisiana was cut short by the weather, but that's ok. We had decided we would come back later. The southern part of Louisiana has a lot of places we'd like to visit - probably on our way out west in the future. So, we'll save that for another time.

Our campground was conveniently located near the intersection of I-55 and I-10, in Hammond, LA, in the Tangiaphoa Parish; however, we spent a good part of our time in Ponchatoula, LA. Ponchatula is down the road from Hammond, but is definitely one of those very old towns filled with cajun flavor and New Orleans character. We were referred to several places of interest as well as invited to their Strawberry Festival. We stopped at the Ponchatoula Country Market in the downtown area and enjoyed a delicious lunch at Paul's restaurant, locally owned since 1976. We met and talked with Paul, who knew most of his customers by their first name. Interestingly, Paul and his wife have 8 daughters, several work in the restaurant. After leaving the restaurant we walked across the street and visited with "Old Hardhide", a live alligator with a really bad attitude, not particularly interested in being the local tourist attraction.

We learned crawfish are so plentiful this year the price is down around $1.50/lb. Before Easter they were about $3.50/lb. No telling what seafood prices will be as a result of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While we didn't try to go to the French Quarter in New Orleans for the Jazz Festival, we did take a lengthy ride through many of the little bayous and towns, including Kenner and Metairie, (in Jefferson Parish) around Lake Pontchartrain - the Pontchartrain Causeway is known as the world's longest bridge (24 miles) - it is quite evident that many parts of Louisiana are still being rebuilt and dealing with the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

As we prepared to get ready for our trip to Natchez, MS, weather reports were predicting tornado activity throughout the day. Leaving the area seemed like a good idea at the time. Weather advisories on television, radio, and our laptop indicated the weather conditions were ideal for inclement weather in northern Louisiana and Mississippi. Driving the coach really wasn't that bad (RV compares it to driving a billboard on wheels down the road), but we were approximately 100 miles south of the worst weather. We did experience some gusty crosswinds and sporadic rain; however, this was nothing compared to what the people of Yazoo City (about 100 miles north of Natchez) experienced. An unusually destructive tornado touched down and 11 people, including 3 children, lost their lives, not to mention the damage caused to homes and businesses.

We're so thankful to have arrived safely in Natchez, MS, est.1716, and will be staying in a lovely campground in Vidalia, Louisiana, on the shores of the muddy and mighty Mississippi River, across from Natchez. Hey, we're still in the WHO DAT NATION!