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Email: mlcref@mlc.lib.ms.us

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jackson, MS: Former Den Of Iniquity!

Well, go on down to Jackson; go ahead and wreck your health.
Go play your hand you big-talkin' man, make a big fool of yourself,
You're goin' to Jackson; go comb your hair!
Honey, I'm gonna snowball Jackson.
See if I care.
Do you remember Jackson? (Cheerful, isn't it?) Johnny Cash and June Carter won a Grammy in 1968 for the song in the Best Country and Western Performance category (biography.com). My "other person" declared last weekend that the song was about Jackson, MS (which I wasn't going to deny) and that the references to gambling in the song were based in fact. I don't know about you, but I grew up in Mississippi. I even read The Help. As a  state, we can be a touch on the conservative side, so a hotbed of gambling activity in Jackson, MS? Especially pre-1991? Hmph, I doubt it. I set out this morning to prove him wrong.

It's funny how it can be disappointing to be wrong and yet fascinated by the information at the same time! The twenty-first amendment, ratified in 1933, put an end to federal prohibition (archives.gov) but the official ban on alcohol in Mississippi went on. And on. And on. Prohibition lasted longer in Mississippi than in any other state, not being officially over until 1966 (msbrew.com). Bootlegging and associated illegal activity thrived on Mississippi's Gulf Coast, in the Delta, and in Jackson. According to Living Blues, "Some bootleggers even advertised in the newspaper and ran radio ads." Subtle. A myriad of blues clubs, dives, juke joints, and gambling casinos sprouted on the east side of the Pearl River, right across from good old Jackson (msbluestrail.org). The area itself sounds like heaven and hell rolled into one delicious blues harmony. Musical greats like Elmore James, Little Richard, Etta James, Percy Mayfield and Roy Milton performed here. Milton, a groundbreaker in R&B, was shot in the face in 1948 while breaking up a fight at one of the clubs. That's one rough joint!

The activity filtered into the cities, too. I don't remember reading about this sort of thing in The Help!

The Jackson Country Club was playing host to a reception following the annual Carnival Ball that night. Around 7:00 P.M., sheriff's deputies raided the party. The Clarion-Ledger reported the next morning that "bottles by the hundreds, including champagne and the best of French wines were found. Deputies battered in the door while hundreds of men in evening dress and ladies wrapped in fur coats stood in a hallway nearby" (Nash 212-213.)
I'm seriously thinking about checking the microfilm to see if an enterprising reporter snapped a picture. That would be gold.

Barretta, Scott. "The Jackson Blues" Living Blues 35.2 & 3: 46+. Print.
Nash, Jere and Andy Taggart. Mississippi Politics: The Struggle For Power, 1976-2006. Jackson, MS: UP of Mississippi, 2006. Print.
archives.gov
azlyrics.com
biography.com
msbluestrail.org
msbrew.com

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays From The MLC Reference Staff (And Friends)!

This post originally appeared 12/19/07.

We get a lot of genealogy questions here at MLC, and we often use Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest (along with our print sources) to assist our patrons.

Confession: we use these sources to amuse ourselves as well.
From various U.S., England, and Australian Censuses, 1860-1930, here is the Reference department's list of holiday-related names. These are all actual names of actual people:

Santa Claus

Elf Nelson

Toy Popwell

Mary Nativity Tambourine

Tree McFatridge

Wreath Spicer

Feliz Navidad

Joe Apple Pie

Frosty Jones

Chestnut Brown

Myrrh Hamilton

Turkey Crisp

Candy Cane

Betsy Reindeer

Happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas FAQ

Have you ever wondered how some of our favorite Christmas traditions came to be? Christmas is only eight days (eight!) away, so what better time is there to explore some holiday customs? MLC has several fantastic sources for finding more information about holidays and their origins, and I decided to look at Holiday Symbols and Customs by Helene Henderson. She’s compiled information about Christmas and just about any other holiday you could think of. For now, we’ll just focus on Christmas.

What’s the deal with candy canes at Christmas, and why in the world would anyone want to hang them on a tree?
Similar in shape to a shepherd’s staff, the candy canes that are often hung on Christmas trees today were once a symbol of the shepherds who went to Bethlehem to see Jesus after his birth.

Did Hallmark invent Christmas cards?
The first printed Christmas card was produced in England in 1843. It sold for a shilling and looked like a post card. In the 1880s, cards became folders with four, eight, or more pages. It was also during this period that cards also began to get fancier, with elaborate decorations like lace. I’m don’t think they had the singing cards back then. Hmm, maybe Hallmark did invent those …

What do decorated trees have to do with Christmas?
There’s a legend that at the moment of Jesus’s birth, rivers flowed with wine, and trees blossomed in ice and snow. The Christmas tree, which “blossoms” with light and ornaments may have been a symbolic representation of this. Christmas trees didn’t really become a popular Christmas custom until the 19th century, though it came to America from Germany in the early 18th century.

You mean I can get warm stockings AND treats?
A popular Christmas tradition is to hang stockings over the fireplace so that Santa can fill them with goodies. This custom can be traced back to a folk legend in which three daughters decided to help their father get out of poverty by selling themselves into prostitution. Legend has it that a wealthy guy named Nicholas visited them on three successive nights, and each time he tossed a ball of gold through an open window into their house, which landed in the stockings the girls had hung by the fire to dry. By supposedly doing this, Nicholas saved the girls from a life of sin.

The Truth about Santa Claus
The original Santa Claus was Nicholas, a legendary saint who was bishop of Turkey in the 4th Century. He was a gift-giver, but he definitely wasn’t a push-over. He brought switches and rods for children who misbehaved. In many countries, this legendary character arrived on December 6th each year to hand out presents and punishments.

The Christian story of St. Nicholas spread to Europe, where there were already a host of similar mythic figures. In the Germanic religion, the chief god, Woden (or Odin), rode an eight-legged white horse, and the Dutch Sinter Klaas wore bishop’s robes and rode a white horse. In some parts of Europe, it is the Christ Child rather than St. Nicholas who delivers gifts. This distinction was instituted by Martin Luther as part of an effort to remove the last traces of paganism from the Christian church. As a side note, this is also where the name Kriss Kringle originates. In other northern European countries, St. Nicholas evolved and was integrated with ancient gods to become a spirit of winter rather than a Christian saint.

In Russia, Babuska (the Grandmother) is a legendary figure known for bringing gifts at Christmas. According to legend, this old woman deliberately misdirected the Three Wise Men when they stopped to ask directions on their way to Bethlehem. She later repented and tried to make amends by going around the world on Christmas Eve distributing gifts to good children.

Have you ever heard of Father Christmas? He’s an English folk figure who for centuries personified the Christmas season. Father Christmas didn’t hand out gifts. Instead, he represented the mirth, generosity, and abundance associated with Christmas. He usually appeared as a large, robust fellow wearing a red or green robe with fur trim and a crown of holly, ivy, or mistletoe. Remember the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol? He’s a good example. During the 19th century, the American version of Santa Claus began to gain popularity in England, and his identity slowly merged with that of Father Christmas. Before long, Santa had all but erased the figure of Father Christmas, who retained his name, but whose image and activities more closely resembled those of Santa.

The American Santa Claus is actually a combination of three figures: 1)English Father Christmas; 2)German St. Nicholas; and 3) Dutch Sinter Klaus. Two events helped transform these three figures into the modern popular image of Santa Claus: the publication of Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in December 1823, and the appearance of Thomas Nasts illustrations of Santa Claus based on Moore’s poem.

Are there other holiday traditions that you’d like to know more about? If so, we have a wealth of resources here at your disposal for you to explore. Or if you can’t make to our building, call us up, shoot us an email, or send us a Meebo message, and we’ll be happy to explore them for you!

Source:  Henderson, Helene. Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. Detroit: Ominigraphics, 2009

Meebo Questions

Last night a Meebo patron asked two great questions. First, the patron needed to know how to properly clean a wooden cutting board. I discovered that although wooden cutting boards are very pretty, they’re a handful to maintain. If you don't properly treat the wood, bacteria can find its way into the cutting board and multiply. There are, thankfully, many ways to prevent this. One of the best articles I found is from Whatscookingamerica.net. Here’s the article.

The second question is about dog training and cleaning up the inevitable “accidents” that occur. First, I looked through Kathy Diamond Davis’s Responsible Dog Ownership to learn how to clean up after the dog. Ms. Davis stresses the importance of thoroughly cleaning the spot where the accident occurs. If one does not take this precaution, the dog will continue to relieve him/herself at that spot. Ms. Davis suggests you must use white vinegar to clean the spot. She claims the scent from white vinegar will discourage the dog from using that spot again. Also, Ms. Davis advises to NEVER use ammonia because it will encourage the dog to return to that spot. You should also use soap or disinfectant if the mess has been there for a while.

Lastly, Ms. Davis says to use encouragement rather than punishment while training your dog. Encourge the dog for going in the proper places. Never punish the dog for a mistake. The most important part is to keep the dog on a solid routine so the animal knows his/her “potty time.” If you need more information, here is an excellent article from Best Friend Animal Society.

MLC provides many excellent dog ownership books for check out. Also, please remember if you ever need help remembering your “potty time” or anything else, you can call, email, or Meebo your friends at MLC.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Books for Prisoners

Today, while we were enjoying our annual holiday meal, a Meebo patron asked if there is an organization that takes donated books for prisoners. I called the Mississippi Department of Corrections to see if they knew of any such organization. The representative said that each facility has their own set of guidelines when receiving books. The best thing our patron could do, I was told, is to contact the warden of the facility they want to receive the books. Click here for a list of all correctional facilities in Mississippi.

Also, if you would like for someone from the reference staff to contact a particular facility, let us know. We'll be happy to oblige!

E-mail: mlcref@mlc.lib.ms.us
Phone: 601-432-4492
Fax: 601-432-4478
Toll Free: 1-877-KWIK-REF (1-877-594-5733)

Thanks for the question!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Cheapskate's Christmas

For cheapskates, the Christmas season can be a very difficult time. We’re constantly attacked by commercials that show the euphoria of “giving.” We’re harassed outside of grocery stores by those guilt inducing Salvation Army bellringers. What makes Christmas so difficult is that you can forget birthdays and ignore baby showers, but Christmas is a national event; it’s everywhere. That’s why I’ve decided to start early this year and construct a strong argument that justifies my frugality.

Now, the hard part about constructing this argument was that I wanted to avoid sentimentality and find something original. I didn’t want to say, “I don’t buy gifts because that’s not the real ‘reason for the season.’” That’s a lazy argument. Also, I didn’t want to get all “Marxy” on people. I’d rather not be labeled a communist, but also, no one wants to hear about how Christmas represents the futile struggle of the proletariat to enjoy the material comfort of the bourgeois. That argument is so 1900. I wanted to find something new, something, I don’t know, modern. Luckily, I had time to search the stacks here at MLC to find my new argument.

The most useful book I found was Stanley Lebergott’s Pursuing Happiness: American Consumers in the Twentieth Century. Lebergott’s book explores how consumption has become a barometer by which people judge their happiness. There are chapters that look at how advertising influences consumer spending. There are essays on the unequal income gap in America. These are all good arguments but the last chapter is golden, “More Goods: The Twentieth Century.” This chapter centers on the idea that people’s appetite for new goods can never be satisfied. Lebergott quotes Samuel Johnson as saying, “We desire, we pursue, we obtain, we are satiated; we desire something else, and begin a new pursuit.” The basic argument is: regardless of how much you have you will always want more.

So, voila, here’s my argument this year: why buy gifts when the recipient will only come up with something new to want? And, yes, mom and dad, you can take this argument as your own. I’m sure your children will completely understand when, on Christmas morning, you explain that Santa didn’t visit because he wanted to save them the trouble of coming up with something else to want. You’ll save money and your children will be grateful for the lesson.

Lebergott, Stanley. Pursuing Happiness: American Consumers in the Twentieth Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chicken-Thief Bride, Meet the Egg Penguin.

This morning I was doing some hunting in the 1930s New York Times on microfilm.(If this doesn’t sound like fun to you, there’s a good chance you’re not a librarian.) While microfilm often makes me dizzy, the discomfort is tempered by all the articles I find amusing. Like these!

From March 2, 1937:
Pastor Sues for Divorce; Says Bride ‘Made Faces’

“Evansville, Ind., Mar. 1.—The Rev. James P. Sandefur, 22, filed suit today for a divorce against his wife, June, 19, charging that she made faces while he preached at the Primitive Baptist Church, and that she went to sleep during services.

The minister’s complaint also charged his wife with taking a quantity of his property, including three pairs of pants and nine chickens.”

Do you believe in reincarnation? If so, please start calling me June Sandefur. I feel strongly that she and I are kindred spirits. She had me at “made faces,” but the chickens sent me over the edge.

I had read an article in the November 22 New Yorker about the legendarily horrendous food served in the White House during FDR’s administration -- heavy on the brains and kidneys, friends -- and was interested to read more about a dish they referenced from the NYT called Turkey Supreme. I found it in the December 1, 1935 paper in an article called Variety for the Buffet:

“Turkey, it has been observed, goes well at buffet suppers. Hot, in a steaming pile, as a salad or cold, the romantic and festive import of turkey attracts all Americans. There may be, for the larger parties, both hot and cold servings. Turkey Supreme is considered ‘the ultimate in flavor.’ It is made of one-and-a-half cups of cold diced turkey, half a cup of chopped pecans, half a pint of whipping cream, a three-quarter cup of crushed pineapple and a cup of mayonnaise. Placed in a tray, the whole is then frozen for about three hours.”

There is so much to remark upon here that my head is spinning! Steaming pile! Romantic, attractive turkey! And then, of course, the actual recipe. I am thinking about having a buffet dinner party next spring. I will hide the pizzas from the Pizza Shack in my oven and wait until I see every face in the house recoil with disgust when they scoop up some frozen, mayonnaise- and pineapple-laden turkey onto their plates before I shout APRIL FOOL'S! and serve the pizzas instead.

The article goes on to describe several fanciful ways to serve deviled eggs, such as making them into white whales, or my favorite, the popular Egg Penguin:

“Penguins made of eggs perhaps eclipse the white whales. The upright egg penguins are supplied with ripe olive heads, matching black wings, bits of carrot for yellow bills and feet. They are grouped on a white slope in an unmistakable copy of a scene from Little America. Here is something new and festive for the buffet table at home.”

Now perhaps if June Sandeful had tried some Turkey Supreme and Egg Penguins, her husband would’ve forgiven her for falling asleep!