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Mr. & Mrs. Jasper Benoit Becker
Interviewed by Henry Ware Hobbs, Jr.
August 19 and September 11, 1986
Transcribed January 29-April 17, 1993 Henry J. Ledet
Lincoln Lawrence Franklin Regional Library
This is an edited version of a transcript of the sound-track of video tapes made by Henry Ware Hobbs, Jr. at the residences of Mr. and Mrs. Jasper Benoit Becker (Jap and Eloise Becker) during 1986.
Jap was then 87 and Eloise was 76. They had just sold their big house at 518 South Jackson Street situated between the residences of C. E. Bane and Max E. Thornhill, to Dr. and Mrs. Eddie Moak and had purchased the house at 401 Storm Avenue originally built around 1920 by Sidney Hartman, occupied for many years by the F. W. Walley family and in the early 1980's renovated by Charleigh Ford. The Beckers had occupied the South Jackson Street house since the early '30's and raised their children there. Feeling that they had reached the age at which a smaller home would be more appropriate for them, they bought the house at 401 Storm Avenue. The Beckers have three children, Mrs. John O'Shaughnessy of Macon, Georgia, Margie Becker; Mrs. Allain C. Andry of New Orleans, Judy Becker; and Dr. Jasper Benoit Becker, Jr. of Orlando, Florida. While Margie and Judy were helping their parents make the move to the Storm Avenue house, Jan Alford McNeil and Hobbs spent an afternoon with them making the first video tape at the South Jackson Street house. About three weeks later, after the move, they made the second tape while Jap, Jr. was visiting and helping them settle into the new home.
The footnotes were provided by Hobbs in 1993 after transcription, largely from information that came from Mr. Becker in conversations subsequent to the times the video tapes were made.
The First Tape (August 19, 1986)
Hobbs: Jasper Benoit Becker and his wife Eloise Tippins Becker are just about to move out of the house they've occupied for the last 52 years. We thought we would tape them in their native habitat, in conversation with their two daughters, Margie O'Shaughnessy, from Macon, Georgia, and Judy Andry from New Orleans. I wish their son Jappy, Jr. were here to participate in a family chat in the old homestead before it ceases to be the old homestead. Everything is packed and is ready to move. Who wants to start out asking questions?
Margie: I want to ask dad to tell about how our Becker grandparents, Mommee and Pawpee, found each other.
Jap: My mother and father were Mary McGrath and Ferdinand Francis Becker.(1) His father, Pierre Becker, and mother, Susan Huber, came here from Clinton, Louisiana, where my father was born in 1856. They were the first Catholic family to move to Brookhaven. My grandmother was German. My grandfather was French. They had five children. Only one of the five beside my father had any children, two young men who went to the Academy and on to careers in the military. I've lost track of them. By a prior marriage my grandfather Becker had two sons who lived in New Orleans when I was young.
Eloise: How did the McGraths happen to come to Brookhaven?
Jap: My grandfather, John McGrath, was a civil engineer when the railroad that ultimately became the Illinois Central main line was being built out of New Orleans going north and from Canton, Mississippi going south. I think it met somewhere around Hazlehurst to complete the construction. Mamma said she was born in Quinn's Gap, somewhere south of McComb. As the railroad progressed up here they came to Brookhaven. I don't know how many years that took, Mamma was born in 1859. She married Papa in 1877, does that make 18 years?
Judy: Tell the story of how your mother's family got here.
Jap: My maternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Mary Ellen Flood, was engaged to a man that was working with my grandfather, constructing the railroad. She was coming over from Ireland. Before she got to Savannah on the boat he died of yellow fever. So my grandfather went to Savannah, I don't know how they travelled to Savannah in those days, but he went to Savannah to meet her and told her the sad news. Then they fell in love and they were married and she came to Brookhaven. She was a grande dame, accustomed to wearing what they called wrappers, which the women wore in the daytime. Her's always had a train on it.
Judy: How many children did they have?
Jap: They had four sons and four daughters.
Eloise: Jayne Sutton's grandfather was one of them, Willie.
Jap: The Johnsons, the Storms, the McGraths, Josie McGrath, Josie McGrath Storm, she married a Storm. They all lived in "the neighborhood."(2)
Eloise: We were just talking about how they communicated when they started on the corner with Mr. Martin McGrath and his family. If they wanted to tell Aunt Katie something way up at the other end of the street they would holler, yell, over to Aunt Maggie's house and they would relay the message on to--who was next?--Josie Storm, Genevieve and all of them, and they would get it on down to Aunt Katie. Henry's grandparents were across the street.
Hobbs: With an ear cocked! I remember as a child at my grandmother's envying the weekend partying going on up at the McGrath houses and wondering why the Catholics could have all the fun while we Protestants were restricted to sitting on the gallery, singing and praying.
Margie: You said the McGraths came after the Beckers were here and the railroad progressed to this point?
Eloise: Then your mom and dad married. I remember you said your daddy went to her father to see if he could marry her. He said, "When you are able to build her a house," and he started the house the next day.
Jap: They built the house on the corner,(3) right across from the lot where the Jewish Synagogue was built. Years later the Nauls lived in it. Then about 1878 they moved to Wesson and he opened a store there, a specialty shop. Then he moved back to Brookhaven and started the Commercial Bank in 1887.
Margie: Where was it located?
Jap: It was located where the State Bank is now.(4)
Jap: Most of the houses on South Jackson street were built during Brookhaven's era of prosperity between 1900 and 1910.
Hobbs: All of the houses with columns, I call them Neo-Greco-Roman-o, columned houses. Every one that has the columns either got the columns as did the Seavey house and Mr. Moreton's house or they were built with columns as was the Brady house and the Butterfield house and your father's house(5), during that era of prosperity. Every single one of them.
Judy: Prosperity was linked to the lumber business?
Eloise: Lumber and cotton.
Hobbs: Tell us about McGrath's store(6), Jap. What was Becker, Lyle and McGrath.
Jap: That was the store that Papa started in Wesson. It became a stock company. Mr. Lyle was working there and he continued to operate it. The McGraths evidently had an interest in it.
Hobbs: In an article I read from 1903, it said they were all connected, with one in Canton, one in Wesson and the one here.
Jap: Uncle Jim ran the one in Canton. I think it was just called McGrath's. I know mamma had stock in that she gave me. He finally closed it.(7)
female: How did McGrath's here get started?
Jap: It started when the children were growing up. They had these four sons and grandma got worried about what they were going to do. So she decided they ought to open a business. The oldest was named Thomas. He had studied law and wrote out all the plans for it. Their motto was, "Your child can trade here as cheaply as you can." In those days they had what they called the furnishing business. You mortgaged your cotton crop, you just got paid once a year. The store would sell them things and charge them a carrying charge for the year, then they settled up. Of course that just doubled the price on everything. The McGrath store motto was "Thirty-six inches to the yard and your child can trade here as cheaply as you can." Uncle Jim lived over the store. He wasn't married at that time and he had boxing matches up there. He had all his pals up, you know, had a good time and worked too. Uncle Martin was really the merchandiser and gets the most credit for the success of the operation of the store. But he got involved in the gold mine.
Hobbs: What was the name of that gold mine?
Jap: King Bee gold mine. Uncle Martin. During the time these promoters would try to sell you everything. They'd come to stay at your house. One talked Uncle Martin into going out to Colorado. They went out there and he took him down in this mine and showed him the gold. It was just everywhere and bogus. He talked all his friends into buying stock in the King Bee gold mine. He guaranteed it and it was nothing. He spent the rest of his life trying to pay back what these people had put in it and it just wrecked his life.
Margie: Was this during the era of the gold rush in California?
Jap: This was in the early 1910's or 12's, he was getting people to invest.
Hobbs: It was a con, he was conned. His residence, you realize, was where First Federal is now.(8) There was a garconiere behind it about where the Gulley's used to live, where Dr. Tindall's office is now. Tell about that, Jap. Across the street was where Karl Wolfe's, the Mississippi Artist's, parents lived.(9) She was a Heuck, of the Opera House Heucks.
Jap: They were German and they were real progressive. He had a variety store, china and imported all the nice things. At Christmas he had toys displayed. Josie Heuck was there saying, "Just don't touch the toys."
Margie: What did you say was right behind the house?
Hobbs: I always understood it was a garconiere for Mr. Martin's sons. They lived there.
Eloise: The boys.
Hobbs: Yes, a house for the boys. I understand that John Randolph Perkins, you remember where Miss Nettie Walker (who used to go with Dr. Butler) lived with Miss Minerva Mounger in the old Perkins house up there where Doerr Furniture Company was(10), and earlier the grocery store was, there was a garconiere there.
Eloise: What someone built for the sons.
Jap: Like the Banes have in their backyard.
Hobbs: Just put the boys back there and let them rip. Get them out of the house. Judy knows what a garconiere is.
Judy: I remember Uncle Martin's house on the corner of that street,(11) where Jimmy Moreton, where First Federal is. It had a glassed in room on the back and when I was a small child Uncle Martin was always sitting there at night with the lights on with his green visor, looking down at this table. I wondered for a long time but I finally asked what he was doing, they said he played chess by correspondence.
Hobbs: He was the champion of some area.
Judy: My interpretation of it was he would make one move a month. I thought he was most unusual. A real fruitcake.
Hobbs: A southern gentleman. A man of honor.
Jap: They had what, 11 children? Eleven or twelve.
Eloise: Nearly every one of them died young. If you go out to the cemetery now you'll see they died, 18 years old, 19 years old. They all had Bright's Disease and died just one after the other until there were just three of them left, Marie and Whitfield were just two children out of eleven.
Jap: Whitfield had two children after he left here. The Lovett girl; his daughter married one of the Lovett boys.
Hobbs: Amaryllis Hemphill was the name of the Lovett child.
Jan: She came by the monument company office one day, I don't remember who had died.
Hobbs: Ms. Monumental, we called Jan when she worked at the monument company.
Jan: She walked in and said, "You don't remember me." Her face was familiar.
Hobbs: Tell me now, McGraths store was really one of the leading department stores in this part of the country, wasn't it? There was nothing quite like it, I've always heard.
Jap: It was more advanced than Jackson at the turn of the century. They'd get a milliner every year from St. Louis; sometimes they'd be French. They made the hats and things. They had a dress making department. They always had a Modiste to design clothes and make them for ladies. They had about twenty people working just doing that. In the specialty piece goods department, when I started working there I was 14 years old. You had 90 count and 140 count batiste. It was a puzzle.
Eloise: They sold everything, didn't they?
Jap: Yes. Fertilizer, full grocery department, shoe department, men's department.
Eloise: Then, nobody had anything like McGrath's shows.
Jap: That was while I worked there.
Eloise: What were they?
Jap: They were openings, they had been having openings for years. The main attractions they had was an orchestra playing all day. They had, in the grocery department, the National Biscuit Company and the coffee company sent their salesmen and they would give you a sample of the different products, coffee, the meat companies. Then they started having a style show along with it. Then they progressed to having it on the roof at night after having the opening all day.
Hobbs: I can remember those. I remember Elsie and Roxie Moody tap dancing on the roof. They used the roof as a stage--the gallery roof over the sidewalk.
Jap: They had the first loud speakers, to magnify the orchestra and singers. They boomed out in all the departments, you know, singing, dancing. When I'd go to New York to buy, I'd go to the shows and get a copy of the music and Aunt Katie, a lot of the time, would change it to something local.
Eloise: That was when Ellen and Genevieve and a little later on, Roxie and Elsie would do the dancing and singing. And I guess everybody else in town that could do that did.
Jan: My mother can remember every dress she ever wore modeling in the style shows.
Jap: ". . .A pretty girl is like a melody." Junius sang that when they came out in evening clothes.
Hobbs: Phyllis and I were married at one of those, did you know that? I was in the second grade and Phyllis was in the first or hadn't started school. Miss Katie stage managed the whole thing. I never will forget the first time I had to stay after school I was late for a rehearsal. I was mad because I didn't want to be in it and mad because I'd had to stay after school. I was mad both ways. But I never will forget walking down there. They had a platform, they had that part of it in the High School Auditorium and they had a raised platform, like in Burlesque down the middle aisle and we marched. Tom Thumb Wedding. Can you imagine me being mistaken for Tom Thumb? Tubby Thumb, maybe, but not Tom.
Judy: Did they have a wagon load contest, to see how many people could come in on Saturday in a wagon?
Jap: They had all kinds of things like that through the years. They had clock cards. They had a clock in the window with the face covered up. They would half-wind it and it would stop. For every dollar purchased you got a card with a time on it advertising something. People had suitcases full of cards. They opened the clock every Saturday and gave away fifty dollars for the one that had the card nearest the time when the clock stopped. They had old fiddlers contests on Saturday. They'd just be back there fiddling playing on one string. They would drive me crazy.
Eloise: Your mamma remembers all that.
Jan: I'm not kidding, she remembers every dress she wore. She can describe in detail every dress she wore at those things. She was the bride.
Margie: How long was the store in that location?
Jap: It was across the railroad where First Bank is now. It was there from the beginning. We left when Jay's father died. John and I. Jay ran it but he just wasn't a merchandiser--
Hobbs: And the Depression hit, too.
Jap: That was bad, but around ten or twelve years before when the cotton was five cents a pound and all of that, the times down here were really worse then than during the depression.
Eloise: That was the depression of what?
Margie: When did the boll weevil hit?
Jap: That's what I'm talking about. That's when cotton was five cents a pound and the boll weevil ate it all up and you didn't even get to sell it. That was the worst period. That was around 1912, '13 and '14.
Jap: That's when the Commercial Bank Closed and was liquidated. It's the only institution that paid its depositors 100 percent and the interest on the deposits being liquidated.
Judy: Your daddy paid that with his own money, didn't he?
Jap: He gave everything he had and then the liquidation, the distressed time that it was, it was never any financial thing, it was just a vicious run on the bank. He closed the bank, just like Roosevelt did about 20 years later, he came out with that same idea.
Hobbs: I asked my Aunt Mary, Who'd been a reporter for the newspaper for years and years, what single individual, in her opinion, had meant the most to the general economy of this area during her recollection. She said, without a doubt Mr. F.F. Becker. I asked her, was that before the Commercial Bank closed? She said, no it was all after. When did the creamery come into being?(12)
Jap: The creamery started as a cooperative thing, trying to get the farmers--the other business people had worked together on promoting it--a person with one cow had two or three gallons of milk. They'd come pick it up. That's how it started, they were just not getting anywhere. He just took over from there. They agreed to give him what was there to work with. He started going out in the country, visiting people and telling them how to get along, to raise feed for the cattle. They paid off in cash every two weeks. That was the attraction--they had something to live on through the year, without just waiting for a once a year payment with cotton. That was how the farm loan plan started out, it was giving somebody fifty dollars to buy a mule to start farming, it wasn't giving them a hundred thousand dollars to buy an apartment building in Texas.
Hobbs: They weren't buying condominiums then. What about the brick yard? How did the brick yard get started? The brick company.(13) Did your father have a good deal to do with that?
Jap: The clay from here was good. The Seaveys already had a stiff mud plant. Then the idea of the pressed brick was proposed. That was Brother Jap Phillips, he was interested in it, he was the manager of it. It was a stock company, and he managed it. They put in the continuous kiln. It used to be the kiln, they put in wet brick and then they had to dry and fire them, they called it, with a wood fire. Then it would go several--a week or so it would take. But there, they put the brick in and sealed it all up and raised the heat until it got hot enough to burn the brick without cracking them. It took a long time to cool. When they put in these tunnels here, the brick went through slowly, they loaded them on moving cars. They were blowing the air off of the bricks at the end, that would heat the bricks at the front. Then they increased the fire. Later they used gas to do that. It took about a week or ten days for the brick to be finished. It took over two months before. They had these big kilns and when they finished firing they had to wait until they cooled and then they had to empty them. Then, they had to fill them up again, it took several months.
Eloise: Was Mr. Phillips running it?
Jap: He was the manager, the one who kept the books. And then Clevie went to Columbus (University of Ohio) after the war (World War I) to study ceramics and came back and helped Brother Jap run it. When Clevie retired, Teenie(14) and Jasper Phillips, (Aileen's oldest son) were running it.
Hobbs: Brother Jap was Mr. Phillips, Miss Aileen's husband and Miss Aileen was your sister.
Jap: He's the one I was named for. They had run out of uncles.
Hobbs: Where did the Benoit come from?
Jap: I think the girls thought that up.
Hobbs: It sounded good in French. It came in handy when you opened your store. Tell us about opening your own business.
Jap: When John and I were working at McGraths and Uncle Willie died, we sold our stock in it and started our own business. The other business had so many of the family to support through it, it had gotten out of control so we just went in business for ourselves. John felt it was too slow for him so he went to Jackson and opened a creamery up there.
Hobbs: How long were you in Benoits?(15) Everybody called it Benoits ["ben-oits"] but the proper pronunciation was Benoits ["ben-waa"].
Jap: It started in 1922 and I sold the business in 1966 to Victor Becker.
Hobbs: When did you and Eloise get married?
Jap: In '31.
Eloise: We bought this house(16) when Margie was about a year and a half old. We bought it in April 1934 and Jap Jr. was born in August. So, we've lived here all his life, Margie most of hers, Judy, three years after that, Judy was born.
Hobbs: You might give your ages just for the record.
Jap: I was 87 on August 10.
Eloise: I'm 76 and I'm proud of it.
Eloise: That's why we decided to sell the house, while we were well and while we also had a little bit of sense, a little bit of brain left. We decided it was time to get something smaller. I hope we're not making a mistake. It's kind of sad.
Jan: I know its sad, but kind of fun, too. Really stimulating.
Eloise: The new house(17) is open enough, we can still entertain, have company, but it's still not but about half as big as this house.(18)
Hobbs: How did you happen to buy this particular house?(19) Eloise, [tell us] where you came from and how you happened to come here.
Eloise: I lived at the time in Gulfport, MS, where my dad and mom lived. I came up here when I got a job teaching school. It was right in the middle of the depression, in 1930 I came. I couldn't get a teaching job. I taught Latin. I had just graduated from Newcombe. On the Friday before school started on Monday, Mr. Bowlus, who was the superintendent here, was a friend of a man named Mr. Brown, who was the superintendent in Gulfport. So Miss Mamie Harris, who lived down there--
Hobbs: She was one of the praying, hymn-singing Cherokee Street Protestants. Her family lived between my grandmother's and Mr. Willie McGrath's houses where Willard Godbold lives now (342 West Cherokee Street).
Eloise: She got sick and they needed a Latin teacher to start school. So they called Mr. Brown at home and he called mamma, I remember. I was out and mamma called me and said, "Oh, you've got a job." So I came home and got on the train Saturday and came over here.
Judy: You got started Friday and got all your clothes and got on the train Saturday!
Eloise: I didn't know one single soul over here. I remember Miss Fishburn. Miss Fishburn met the train and I spent the night with her and then I got a room. I couldn't get a room at Mrs. Brennan's because they were all full. I got one right next door at Mrs. Kees. So I stayed over there that year.
Hobbs: How did you and Jappy get together?
Eloise: I happened to be a friend of Ella Nevels from McComb. You remember her? She married John H. White. Did you ever know them down in McComb? Anyway, Ella and I went to school together so Ella came up here to see me one day and she knew Jappy. She took me over to Jappy's house and introduced me to him. That's how we met.
Judy: You were one of the most eligible ladies in town when you came.
Jap: Three young, new teachers came to town all at the same time. Annie Paine Loughton, Eloise and Margaret Jennings, who married Edmondson Jones.
Eloise: Margaret had been here one year. That was something for all these young teachers to come here at one time.
Jap: They got introduced to the possum hunts.
Hobbs: Margaret was the prettiest thing I ever saw in my life. She lived down there at Mrs. Laird's(20). And Isabelle Daniel. Daddy and Dr. Markette had a tennis court in my grandma's vacant lot next to our house.(21)They would come over in the afternoon and play tennis. My job was to chalk the lines. Tell us about, where did you live right after you got married?
Jap: We lived with my parents. I had built a house for them.(22) They lived there. We lived there for a while then we rented that house right back of Lula Mae's(23) and we were living there. This January morning, this cold and rainy day, the phone rang and it was Adaline. She said, "Dr. Butler was over there and he came to see Mr. Moreton and he was trying to sell his house and it looked like he was going to have to give it away. If he was going to give it away, they'd like for one of his friends to have it." Boozie and Adaline had been recently married and they were living there. He wondered if they would like it and Adeline said no, she didn't want that much house.
Eloise: They were going to build a house.
Jap: She said, "I think Eloise and Jappy might be interested in it, would you sell it to them?" And he said, "If you'd like for me to." So she called and told me about it. She told me the price of it and I said, "I'll buy it." Eloise had never been in it so we had to come to see it.
Judy: Why did you decide to buy it?
Jap: We came over here and looked at it. It looked big as all outdoors and the price of it was thirty two hundred and ninety five dollars.
Eloise: I hate for daddy to tell that because three thousand dollars--
Hobbs: That was a lot of money in those days.
Jap: He wouldn't let me pay him all at one time. He wanted me to just pay a thousand dollars a year so he'd get the interest. But I bought it anyhow.
Jan: How much interest did you have to pay?
Jap: Maybe five percent, four percent, a little more than the banks. I never had borrowed any money before in my life.
Eloise: We lived here about three years before you were born, three or four years. This(24) was two rooms, there was a fireplace in each room. Upstairs had that one bathroom in our room and it did have an apartment in the back, it had a bathroom. Dr. Butler's daughter lived there. Pauline McMullen (Mrs. Sidney McMullen).
Eloise: No closets. Just great big wardrobes. So we lived in it for about four years and as far as I know we were perfectly comfortable. But then we moved down here to the old Furlow house where Tommy Gartman lives now(25) while we had it renovated.
Eloise: So we lived there all one summer while all of you were little. Mr. Canizaro from Jackson, we got him, he was the architect who did the house over. We never changed anything on the outside and we didn't change the halls. But the dining room had two doors and the fireplace, where the chimney goes up. The living room was two rooms and then we made closets upstairs and put the window in the chimney. He said instead of having a chimney going up and getting narrow, he thought it would look better to go straight up wide and put a couple of bathrooms in that area.
Eloise: I don't think he thought it was going to make him famous, but it sure did. It made Ripley's Believe It or Not newspaper feature.
Eloise: There was a partition across there where the fireplace is now.
Hobbs: It was a double parlor?
Eloise: That's right, that's what it was. That was the only heat they had. It was a coal fire.
Jap: Ferd and Bettie and the McMullens and Mr. and Mrs. Moreton had some kind of night club, they played bridge and had supper and they always dreaded coming over here because it was always so cold here.
Hobbs: Do you know when the house was built?
Jap: About 1906, something like that as near as I can tell. There was a house here before. The original Dr. Martin lived here, Miss Mamie Martin's father. It, I understand, burned. That left the lot vacant.(26)Mrs. Hattie Sherman was Miss Hattie Martin, she was Miss Mamie's sister and built the house next door. He was one of the originators of the Brookhaven Bank, wasn't he?
Hobbs: Yes. Sherman and Davis, it was Sherman and Davis who had the furnishing business, you know, sort of like McGraths. Furnishing merchants.
Jap: Then Miss Wessie Martin, that was old Dr. Martin's brother's daughter, lived back here. He had a drug store. She married Mr. Swalm.
Hobbs: Who was a yankee.
Jap: He was from Michigan. He ran a drug store. We have a jar here from Mr. Swalm's drug store that held evaporated apples which were sold for a nickel a piece to cure--
Margie: We were talking about family. My children adore Daddy. ...But I was telling my son Michael (it seemed like a good time to lecture him about a lot of things). For example, Daddy's self educated, he had to quit because of the boll weevil, he had to quit school and go to work. All his brothers had gone to college. At sixteen he went to Chicago by himself. But he is the most educated person I know, that's because he continued to learn. I think I'm trying to say that just because you finish college you don't know everything. I can remember as a child watching him read The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and The Decline and Fall of Greece and those kinds of things and all that made a tremendous impression on me. I haven't read them yet.
Jap: You didn't start school until you were maybe seven years old then. Clevie was just sixteen months older than I was and he went to school. It was five boys in a row and I was the youngest so I never had a new suit or anything until I was old enough to buy it myself. It was always hand-me-downs. When Clevie was starting to school, he'd come from school, I was interested and he'd show me what he'd learned. He taught me about the A-B-Cs and everything, so when I was seven years old and started school I knew everything in first grade so they put me in the second grade. Somewhere along the line, Clevie and I both skipped a grade in school. They had two grades in each room in the parochial school, St. Francis. You could just listen and learn all that was going on in the other classes. On two occasions when they promoted us we skipped a grade. So when I was fourteen years old, I was in the tenth grade.
Hobbs: Jap, tell us what effect on your family life the closing of the bank had. I remember Jamie told me that all of a sudden those who were in college came home and it was just the end: everybody had to go to work.
Jap: We were just on top of the world.
Hobbs: You were living in that beautiful, big house.(27)
Jap: It seems like it was, but it wasn't that sad. Everybody just pitched in. You started scratching and doing, everybody pitched in. We enjoyed it when we had it and did what we could when we didn't. We all pitched in.
Judy: Did you and your two brothers close in age, did you go out and start tending cattle?
Jap: Clevie was just a little older than I was, of course. Papa had turned over everything he had for the bank to use as assets, if they needed them. Unfortunately they closed out a lot of his assets before they really needed them. But Clevie went out to run this farm where Jimmy Moreton's development is out there.(28) Where later Mr. Percy Buie had a peach orchard. You know Mr. Buie? I'd go out there at night with Clevie. We just had a tent with a wooden floor and a little bit of wood on the sides. We had to get up in the morning and milk the cows and everything. When a cow started getting sick-- the worst thing I can remember was a sick cow with her head on the ground and Dr. Love, the veterinarian, coming out and putting a funnel in its mouth and pouring about a gallon of oil in.
Jan: That wasn't your thing. Then you started working for McGraths?
Jap: I started working that summer.
Judy: When you were fourteen?
Jap: When I was fourteen. It was just the beginning of interest in ladies' ready-to-wear. I was always curious and tried to learn. In that store they had all different things and the ladies who worked there like Mrs. Turnipseed and Miss Fanny Maxwell and all of those. And my Lord, it was just a new world to me, they knew everything about everybody and talked about everybody coming to the little town. Then I started getting interested in that. The college was here. They wore those long black robes when they went out walking and had to walk two by two with a chaperone in front and with a chaperone in the back with a whip, I think, from the school. And then they finally decided they'd have a uniform instead of robes when they went out. So they bought them from McGraths, said they'd buy them from them. I went to New York, I got some samples of several for them to select from, they liked one, and that was the biggest sale in the ready to wear department. I bought other things, everything I bought sold so I was kind of confident from that.
Judy: At age 14 or 15 you went to New York on a buying trip?
Judy: You'd never been there before?
Jap: No. I got a map before I left, caught the train, the hotel was three blocks from the station so I just walked all the way and saved about fifty cents worth of cabfare.
Judy: When you were 14 and had just started working for the store, you went to Chicago all alone.
Jap: When I was 15 I went up there to Chicago to take a two month course in merchandising and window trimming.
Judy: Tell them about that man that met you.
Jap: My cousin...
The Second Tape
September 11, 1986
Hobbs: We're at the new residence(29) of Jappy and Eloise Becker. We left the old residence, they've moved into this new one which is a smaller place and all on one floor. This time they have their son Jap Becker, Dr. Jap Becker visiting from Florida. Where at, Jap?
Dr. Jap: Orlando, Winter Park.
Hobbs: Jap is a urologist. He's visiting here for the weekend and we thought we'd continue the tape we started with Judy and Margie when they were here. We left off just as Jap was about to tell about what his cousin Flood in Chicago took him to when he was fifteen years old and he landed on the doorstep. Tell us Jap. And you (Jap Jr.) ask the questions from here on.
Jap: He met me at the train and took me out to where I had reserved a room on South Boulevard, Grand Boulevard and then took me into town for lunch and to a burlesque show. I spent the night with them. When we got home his wife asked him where he'd been. He told her we'd been to a burlesque show and she was furious. "You wouldn't take your own son!"
Dr. Jap: Did you enjoy it?
Eloise: He thought it was just beautiful.
Hobbs: It was his education that was being promoted. that was the whole idea.
Dr. Jap: I had never heard of you going to Chicago for any training.
Jap: It was two Months. Courses in was merchandising and displaying merchandise.
Hobbs: What was the institution that offered the course? Was it on the job?
Jap: It was a business school down on Market Street, not very far from Marshall Fields wholesale place.
Dr. Jap: How did you find out about it? You were working for McGraths. And McGraths store sent you?
Jap: They didn't send me.
Eloise: They didn't pay his way.
Jap: But I got a promotion when I got back--three dollars a week to ten.
Dr. Jap: You had dropped out of school because of the depression?
Jap: The depression and the bank closing. We gave all we had for the bank to use if they needed it.
Eloise: That's when he started moving out of the house over there,(30) which, by the way, I see in the paper that house is for sale.
Dr. Jap: You were saying before we started to tape, about the economy at that time.
Jap: It was the lowest ebb of the economy. The lumber thing, the cream had been skimmed off of that. Everything had to travel by rail. Big tracts of timber had been exploited. Cotton was going, the only crop and never any cash transactions, only credit. That's when they started the dairy business. When the bank closed they had started a cooperative creamery development, which wasn't getting off the ground. Papa had been interested in helping them. He wasn't doing anything else, so they made him a proposition, they just gave it to him. He spent all his time developing it. What I was saying, anyone who could borrow fifty dollars to buy one cow could get into the dairy business at that time. The farmers would put a big can of milk out on the road. They'd pick it up, they made butter out of it mostly.
Eloise: That used to be in the Mississippi books of history that you studied, that Mr. Becker started the dairy business in Brookhaven. I remember that, the creamery business.
Hobbs: Then in the geography textbook they had a picture of Oak Hill Farms because that was really an experiment, wasn't it, to show what could be done with a big dairy operation? I've always heard that.
Jap: That was much later. They had a retail thing, they had the most modern equipment at that time. They were, by the time they started, using milking machines and there were regulations on the way it was handled and all that was just beginning to come in.
Eloise: Did they do that down at Oak Hill?(31) Did Mr. Vernon do that at Oak Hill?
Jap: They started a retail dairy.
Hobbs: It wasn't a creamery.
Jap: No. It involved producing the milk under sanitary conditions, it met all the requirements for milking machines and all that. It had facilities to sterilize the equipment, etc.
Dr.Jap: I thought you told me one time that Pawpee was 65 years old when he took on that dairy.
Jap: He was in his sixties. He was 44 years old at the turn of the century.
Eloise: He was 43 when daddy was born.
Hobbs: Before we forget it, lets name all of his children. He married a McGrath.
Jap: Mary Ellen McGrath.
Hobbs: Mary Ellen McGrath and they had--
Jap: Twelve children.
Hobbs: Can you name them?
Jap: Aileen was the oldest, she married Jap Phillips. Ferd was the next one, he married Betty Drane. Susie was the next one, she married Dr. Seeman from New Orleans. Josie was next. She married Louis Drane.
Eloise: Tell us about them marrying brothers and sisters.
Jap: Louis and Betty were brother and sister and Ferd and Josie were brother and sister.
Eloise: That makes Teenie and Boozie and all of them double first cousins with the grandchildren.
Jap: Willie is next, he married Verna Lilly. Kathleen was next, she married Maurice Wuescher. John was next, he married Augusta Stephens. She died when they had been married less than a year and then he married Marnez Johnson. Pierre married May Crawford and then Jamie married Sara Williamson. Clevie married Ruth Hoyer. I married young Eloise Tippins. She decided nothing could be worse than teaching school. Evelyn was the twelfth. She married Stuart Brisco.
Eloise: Out of all the children and all the grandchildren, the one that looks like Mr. Becker, Pawpee, is young Stewart Brisco. He is the image of Mr. Becker, Pawpee, when I first knew him.
Jap: At their 50th wedding anniversary, all the children were living.
Hobbs: Let's see. Jappy now, so much history of this part of the country is bound up in your father and there is nobody of your generation living here now, is there? Of the descendants, the grandchildren of F.F. Becker, living here now are Boozie, Victor, Mary Hatcher,(32) Mike,(33)and Albert Lilly.(34)
Dr. Jap: There're not as many Beckers living here now as there once was.
Eloise: Oh goodness no.
Hobbs: There wouldn't be room for anybody else.
Eloise: Mike is the youngest one. For a long while it looked like Judy was going to be the youngest grandchild and along came Mike, a year younger. They're the same generation. But then Ferdie, Boozie's son Ferdie is another generation. He's about Mike's age, but he's another generation down.
Jap: I think I'm the only grandchild of Ellen and John McGrath that's still living in Brookhaven.
Eloise: I hate to say it, but you are the only one that's still living.
Jap: No, Margaret and Ellen Johnson are still living but they don't live here. Some of Uncle Jim's children, Katherine and Bonnie--
Dr. Jap: The Moretons were big people in the lumber business weren't they? At one time your father and Mr. S.E. Moreton, Mr. Sam Moreton were in Pearl River Lumber Company.
Hobbs: They were part of the team that organized it.
Jap: Mr. Moreton and daddy and let's see who is still living. Mr. Crosby was not in the picture at that time. Mr. Moreton built the mill and ran the thing. Mr. Alfred Elliot Moreton, and he was the manager. And then a law was passed that they couldn't have over a million dollar industry, capitalized over a million dollars so that's when they moved the paper mill to Bogalousa.
Hobbs: Eloise made a comment that Mr. Becker started a lot of these businesses to keep his sons in law around here, like the brick yard and the creamery. Expand from that.
Jap: He started the brick company when Brother Jap was a traveling salesman for Stetson Hats, which was one of the most lucrative salesman's jobs, but he was away a lot. I don't think he knew anything about bricks, anyhow they decided there was valuable clay around here and started the brick company and of course he ran it.
Eloise: He was 20 years older than Aileen, don't you think?
Jap: When they married he was the same age as mamma.
Eloise: Jappy will still talk about--they called him Brother Jap--and he still tells tales of Brother Jap, way back, what kind of country he came from in Virginia. The Dismal Swamp in Virginia, Brother Jap. That's Jap Phillips, Peter's father.
Hobbs: Where did he come from in Virginia?
Jap: Outside of Norfolk.
Dr. Jap: I'm still interested in the lumber business. Were there forests the lumber company was cutting back then virgin forest?
Jap: They were beautiful. They used ox wagons, sometimes there would be eight or ten oxen pulling one log. Where they didn't have dummy lines, they'd run these railroad lines out to the timber area. They didn't have roads except for oxen. A slow process.
Dr. Jap: Did they leave any forest standing?
Jap: I doubt that they kept anything. If it was where they could get it out they got it out. There wasn't any plan.
Dr. Jap: Was there any reforestation?
Jap: No. Nothing. They just cut it and left the cut over land covered with stumps.
Dr. Jap: Did people turn that into cotton land?
Jap: If they could get all the stumps out, but that was very expensive.
Dr. Jap: Who owned the land?
Jap: They would buy these tracts of timber from the state.
Dr. Jap: So the state owned most of the land.
Jap: They sold it for fifty cents or a dollar an acre.
Eloise: Why didn't you buy it?
Jap: I wasn't living then, but most people didn't have the fifty cents.
Hobbs: That was the idea: to clear it. They thought they were doing everybody a favor to clear it. Of course, the timber was a sort of by-product, but as demand grew it became a principle crop. Really a Dantzler Lumber Company employee was the first one who ever had any idea about reforestation. I've got a book I'll tell you about, Jappy, I don't mean to keep entering into the conversation.(35) Remind me to tell you about Gill Hoffman's book we're trying to get published. He's worked twelve years on it and done a beautiful job, but it's just local history and nobody's interested in it.
Dr. Jap: I'd like to see it. I think this was a beautiful country when it was full of virgin timber.
Jap: When he wrote the book, it wasn't still virgin.
Eloise: You are talking about this part of this street, on past David Lovell's(36)was just virgin timber.
Jap: That was at the end where Mrs. Byrd's farm was.(37)
Eloise: I know, but it hadn't been cut over. No houses had been built.
Jap: When I was real young, this area in here(38) was the athletic field of the school and they had the field meets here and when the little circus would come to town they had it right here near my house.(39)
Eloise: The school in town, on South Church Street,(40) when we came here that red brick school was the only school here.
Hobbs: I went to school there.
Eloise: Jappy went to school there for a few years.
Jap: They did the same thing. They tore it down and that's what they built the first country club out of. They built it out of the brick bats.
Hobbs: Jap, I remember you commenting on the fact that Mrs. Mamie Lewenthal built the Blackwell house, you know where Harry Stanley lives now.(41) It was a scaled down version of the Batchelder house, who was instrumental in the Pearl River Lumber Company. But, she built first the George Lewenthal house(42) over there next to the Scherk house, which is the P.Z. Jones house,(43) which was quite a piece of architecture for the gay 90's time. Then she built that to keep up with the latest thing, then she built two brick bungalows when bungalows became the style.
Jap: First she built the house down next to the Presbyterian Manse for Marie, one of her daughters.
Hobbs: Where Grace Noble lives?(44) That was the bungalow era.
Jap: That was one of them. And then she built one across the street for Marie, where Venable Clark lives now(45)--on South Jackson Street.
She built and sold her house down the street, the one like the Batchelder house, where Harry Stanley lives and built a smaller brick house.(46) I can't remember if her husband had died before she built it or right after she built it.
Hobbs: That was when she was running through everything he left.
Jap: Yes. In 1929, right in there, she had all this rental property up town. For some reason she was using First National Bank, the one that failed, to put her rent money in to pay her taxes with. It closed just before she paid her taxes so that year she didn't have any money to pay her taxes and she started nibbling on the principle.
Eloise: She just lost all her property downtown. They lived right next door(47)to our old house, on South Jackson Street.
Jap: Marie sold her house and moved in with her mother, Lanell, her other daughter, married and moved to Florida.
Hobbs: What I was thinking about was, you made a reference to the fact that it was the gingerbreads in the '90s; the columns, either they built all the houses with columns on them, including your father's between 1900 and 1910, or along about that time, and then the bungalows came. Think how many: this is really a bungalow we're in right now,(48)the second house next door was a bungalow,(49) but Mrs. Aileen Phillips's was the prettiest bungalow(50) ever built. When was that built?
Jap: That was built in the '20s.
Eloise: This house was built in 1920.
Jap: Hers was built a little bit after.
Dr. Jap: These are brick in this house. Are they brick from Brookhaven Brick?
Jap: It wasn't the first, the brick company was started around 1906, but it was early.
Eloise: They said this one was 1920.
Jap: The house that Willie built around 1910(51) was called a bungalow then.
Hobbs: You mean the green house where the Boone's live? He built that before the crash came?
Hobbs: That was an example of the bungalow style, but frame instead of brick.
Jap: It was one of the first ones. They had this brick mason here, John Mullens, a black, husband of Fanny Mullens for whom Mullens School is named, did this pretty brick work. Used to when a brick mason got through smearing it all up another crew would have to come in and clean it all off. He was the first one that did a finished job. He did all the work at the Post Office.(52) A good example of brick work.
Eloise: What year was the depression? I don't mean the 1929-30 depression, I mean the one before that, when the bank closed and they had the run on it, what year was that?
Jap: That was 1914. They had the panic, they called it, around 1910. The bottom dropped out of everything.
Dr. Jap: Was that local or nation-wide?
Jap: It was more local than nation-wide, this area.
Hobbs: Did we cover the cotton situation on tape? I think we discussed it before.
Jap: That was when the boll weevil struck.
Hobbs: By the time the lumber company moved out they had cut out everything between here and Monticello and then the boll weevil struck. Is that the reason cotton faded?
Jap: The price went way down and then the boll weevil. They planted it and wouldn't get but fifteen pounds to the acre. Then they got no price for that, the prices went down.
Hobbs: That was the backbone of the economy, the cotton and the lumber and both backbones broke.
Eloise: You know, Mr. Emerich in McComb, he's dead now he used to publish that paper. He wrote a book(53) and we bought that book and I think I gave it to you, Jappy and never got it back. I think you got it because you operated on Mr. Emerich. But he said in that book that the trouble with Mississippi at that time was because the only crop was cotton--it depended completely on cotton. When cotton went out, the state didn't have anything else, like Texas and the oil business, Louisiana and the oil business. I remember that book. It said it was just a one crop-one industry state.
Hobbs: Jappy, do you remember anything about Texas fever tick when it hit over in this area?
Jap: That was when they started the dipping vats.
Hobbs: It affected the dairy industry, didn't it?
Jap: That was another thing the farmers, whom they were trying to help, were totally against. The dipping vats. Nobody was going to tell them they had to dip cattle and they would go around and blow up the dipping vats.
Hobbs: You try to help them and they fight you.
Jap: That's when they started the good roads thing. They fought that tooth and nail.
Dr. Jap: Why? They wanted to improve the roads and people didn't want them to do it?
Hobbs: It's human nature: what's good enough for papa is good enough for me.
Dr. Jap: My first memories are of you and mother and your friends, many of whom are dead now: Junius Johnson, Dave Moreton, Dr. Ralph Markette, so many people like that. I remember you had a wonderful time, parties, Dr. Markette's camp,(54) things like that. I'd like to know more about that.
Jap: We didn't have a care in the world.
Eloise: Yes we had a care: we had three children. Well, we sure did have a good time. It's hard to realize how many years have gone by. That's when you were a tiny baby when all that was happening.
Jap: What is unusual is it was all good clean fun.
Dr. Jap: Mommie and Pawpee's house, when I remember, was across from Uncle Jamie's on Court Street.(55) That used to be the place, on Sunday, where everybody would come, all the family would gather. Paul Turnbough told me that when he and Teenie and that age group were growing up they always had a crap game in the garage on Sunday afternoon. Was that true?
Jap: It was small, but it got out of hand. Strangers would come in and we had to break it up.
Dr. Jap: What are some of the things you used to tell me about old McGraths store? You'd tell me about bringing in people on wagons on the weekend, throwing money off the balcony and the boxing matches.
Hobbs: I remember the grand performances, what were they called?
Hobbs: Where they had the stage on top of the sidewalk shelter.
Jap: When they first built the store, grandma had these sons growing up, and grandpa was an engineer busy building the railroad and when they got here they just stayed. She decided they needed some kind of business. So that's when they decided to open a store. They said it would take ten thousand dollars or some amount just to start building. She saved it up until she had the money to start a store.
Eloise: Jayne McGrath Sutton's grandfather is the one that has the statue down at the railroad park. He was one of them. Martin was one of them and John.
Jap: Merchandising was needed for a successful store and Willie always was kind of in the background and getting credit for everything, but it was really Uncle Martin that made the business successful. When it started, Uncle Jim wasn't married. He lived upstairs in the store. That's where they had the boxing matches and things like that, at night. He was young.
Eloise: Henry's folks lived right down the street in "the neighborhood," you know, the dead end street. That's where Henry's grandparents lived.
Dr. Jap: On the dead end street.
Hobbs: Cherokee Street.
Eloise: In "the neighborhood," the McGraths were all on one side of the street and Henry's family was on the other side.
Hobbs: Singing hymns and praying.
Eloise: Thinking about all those Catholics over there across the street having all the fun. That's right. Miss Mary's house, you had a good time going through all that, didn't you?
Dr. Jap: There was one of your uncles you told was like the character in Music Man.
Eloise: That was Uncle Noah, he was married to Pawpee's sister.
Jap: His name was Noah Ramsey. He was a fine looking man and had all this enthusiasm and everything. He sold pianos, travelled around the country. And just like in the story, the play, the local people always invited him for supper. He would tell them how they could have culture in the family and he'd pick up one of the children and finally he'd get one on his lap and start feeling his head and, Oh! he found a "music bump" on his head. That showed the child had talent and they surely needed to buy a piano. We've heard that all our lives and when we went to this play Music Man there was this character.
Eloise: What happened to Uncle Noah?
Jap: Well, he finally died. They were always moving. We never did understand why they moved so much, papa was always having to bail them out. At Christmas time gatherings the elders would hand out money as Christmas gifts to the children. Mostly they would give you from a nickel to a dime, but Uncle Noah always would give you a quarter or a dollar. We'd come home bragging how wonderful Uncle Noah is. Papa had probably just had to pay all his bills.
Hobbs: Tell the story about Mr. Swann, Swann and Moreton built the Storm Building(56) in 1867, you said one of your aunts married Mr. Swann. Tell that story, how it happened.
Jap: That was Aunt Sue, Papa's sister.
Jap: Mr. Swann came to town and they got married. Then they moved to Jackson. One day papa went to Jackson and came back with Aunt Sue and nothing was ever said, and Aunt Sue was there until she died.
Hobbs: That was his "Swann song."
Eloise: Aunt Sue was kind of unpleasant to you, wasn't she?
Jap: We'd play cards with her, and get kind of bored and start talking across the table and start singing, "Come back to Eron" or something and she'd finally get mad and decide she wasn't going to play with us anymore.
Eloise: Who did Kathleen say was the meanest woman she ever knew?
Jap: That was Grandma. She'd say the Rosary every night in French and German. She spoke both languages. She was German. Her maiden name was Susan Huber.
Eloise: Grandma what did you call her?
Jap: Grandma Becker.
Eloise: Kathleen said she was the meanest woman she ever knew. She'd hit them on the knuckles.
Hobbs: That was the German technique for teaching. I remember when my grandmother tried to teach me music. She would hit me on the knuckles with a knitting needle and that ended my music lesson right there--I rebelled.
Jap: Grandpa Becker was from Strasbourg in France. When we were in Strasbourg on our trip on the Rhine we asked about it, and the guide asked us what was his religion? We said Catholic. She said most of the French Beckers were Catholic and most German Beckers were Jewish.
Eloise: Right across the river it was Germany.
Jap: The boundary changed several times.
Eloise: With wars.
Jap: But the people didn't change.
Dr. Jap: That was your grandfather. He's the one who worked on the railroad?
Jap: No, that was grandpa McGrath.
Dr. Jap: How did the McGraths and the Beckers come together?
Jap: Papa. They had a store here. You know, that building that's painted bright red, right next to where the old opera house used to be? Kind of across from the library.(57) They had a store there. Then they moved to Wesson, which was a more prosperous place, and opened a high class place. They sold most everything in this town. Then they came back to Brookhaven and they opened the bank in 1887. That was ten years after.
Eloise: That's your dad.
Jap: He married mamma in 1877 before he went to Wesson.
Eloise: When Wesson had its 100th anniversary we went up there and took Ferd with us. Ferd was the oldest person that had been born in Wesson, the oldest living person.
Jap: People came from all around. It's surprising the number of people that moved to Brookhaven. The Days were one, and the Wises and several others that came here after the Wesson mill closed.
Eloise: Wesson was more prosperous than Brookhaven.
Hobbs: Somebody told me that place employed about two thousand people, not long after the Civil War because it was started right after the Civil War as an experiment in a manufacturing industry here instead of just raising cotton.
Jap: Lawrence and Franklin Counties touched each other, bordered each other. Then they added Copiah and Lincoln in between. Copiah was already there. When they went to put Lincoln in there, Wesson wouldn't come in because Lincoln had, at the time, the town of Brookhaven had saloons in it. You've noticed on the map, the little one mile piece cut out of it so they gave that mile to Copiah County.
Eloise: Wasn't it also because the county was named "Lincoln?"
Jap: No. I always heard it was on account of the liquor. People were really strict about it.
Eloise: And now Wesson has the liquor stores and Lincoln doesn't!
Hobbs: Tell about the saloons, was it you that was telling me one was in John Storm's building(58) and the other was in Peter Lucich's a block down,(59)and in both of them people were falling out all over the place.
Jap: And there were three or four candy stores in Brookhaven.
Eloise: I wish all that was still downtown. Since Jappy's grandfather's day it has gone down terribly with the stores moving out to shopping centers. They haven't gone out of business. They just moved out.
Hobbs: Young Jappy was talking about the crap games, I was thinking about Mr. Ferd's story about his boot-legger who would bring him the liquor and he made a trip to the pen and when he came back he demanded payment for a delivery he'd made several years before, just before he went to the pen? Do you remember that?
Jap: I don't remember any--
Hobbs: Mr. Ferd told Daddy that story. He said when--I've forgotten what the name of the boot legger was--got out of the pen, he had always supplied Mr. Ferd with his highest grade of home made hootch. He came right straight out of the pen, presented a bill and demanded payment. He said I can't understand why you haven't paid my family while I was there. And Mr. Ferd said you never delivered it. He said, yes I did, the day before I went to the pen I left it in a certain corner of your barn or garage and Mr. Ferd went out there and there it was! So he paid him.
Jap: The one we bought from was Lucius and Alonzo Reed.
Hobbs: I think it was one of the Reeds, probably.
Jap: They were out there around Topisaw and you'd go out and they would, it was like a club, they would entertain you and serve you all you wanted to drink and wouldn't take your money. You paid for what you took home. It was fun. They had a bar and an organ.
Eloise: They'd sing hymns.
Hobbs: They'd sing be still my heart.
Eloise: We've come pretty much up to date.
Hobbs: In the still of the night we'll cut off. Jappy, do you have anything else you want to add?
Dr. Jap: I remember you telling me when the automobiles were new and the roads were bad and going to Jackson would take all day and the dances and things you had--you'd get in the car and go to McComb.
Jap: Half the time if you wanted to get sleep you'd just stop on the side of the road and nap until it was time to go to work.
Eloise: You did say that Genevieve Storm and Ellen Johnson and Marie McGrath were always just alike, always liked to party but none of them ever drank a drop of anything. They always were such lively, lively people.
Hobbs: They didn't stop talking long enough to take a drink.
Jap: They went to the dances and they had a wonderful time but you had to spend half your time going out--you had to go out and hide your liquor somewhere. It would be awful if it was in your car. You didn't have to worry about them because everybody knew them and they weren't drinking.
Eloise: Alcohol goes on and on forever. I don't guess there'll ever be a way to get rid of it if people enjoy it.
Dr. Jap: Which makes me think it's time for a refill.
Hobbs: All right: we'll cut off and have a refill.
1. Mary McGrath and Ferdinand Francis Becker had twelve children:
1. Aileen, wife of Jasper Phillips.
2. Ferdinand Victor (Ferd), husband of Betty Drane.
3. Susie, wife of Dr. William Henry Seeman.
4. Josie, wife of Louis Drane.
5. William Henry (Willie), husband of Verna Lilly.
6. Kathleen, wife of Maurice Wuescher.
7. John, husband of Augusta Stephens and Marnez Johnson.
8. Pierre, husband of May Crawford.
9. James Angelo (Jamie), husband of Sara Williamson.
10. Martin Grover (Clevie), husband of Ruth Hoyer.
11. Jasper Benoit (Jappie), husband of Eloise Tippins.
12. Evelyn, wife of Stuart Brisco.
2. The children of Ellen Flood (born 1831 in County Wexford, Ireland; died 1909) and John McGrath (born 1822 in County Limerick, Ireland; died 1902) were:
1. Mary, wife of F.F. Becker whose first home after marriage was at the southeast corner of Block "L" at the northwest corner of the intersection of Church and Chickasaw Streets;
2. Martin D., who married Leontine Cantoni and whose home was at the northeast corner of Block "L" at the southwest corner of the junction of Church and Cherokee Streets;
3. James J., who built a home in which he never resided before he moved to Canton prior to 1902, which fronted on the west side of Church Street in the same block between Mary's first home and Martin's residence;
4. Thomas J.S., who died at age 33 in 1888 leaving a widow, nee Julia Doherty, who for a time occupied the house which had been Mary's first home;
5. Maggie, wife of F. Boyce Moody, who succeeded her parents in ownership of their original home fronting on the south side of Cherokee Street in Block "L" and adjoining Martin's property on the west;
6. Josie, wife of Sam N. Storm, whose home adjoined Maggie's and fronted on the same side of Cherokee Street;
7. Katie, wife of Dr. John Harvey Johnson, whose home on the same side of Cherokee Street adjoined Josie's;
8. J. William (Willie), who married Ann Thurber and whose home was on the north side of Cherokee Street facing the homes of his sisters, Josie and Katie, and a marble bust of whom stands in the railroad park.
Until the mid-1960's Cherokee Street dead-ended at the Hobbs property approximately 600 feet west of Church Street resulting in an enclave embracing nine residences of which five were owned and occupied by McGrath family members. This was known locally as "the neighborhood." The only McGrath house still standing (in 1993) is the large, white two story structure immediately west of the Round Table Restaurant, which was once the Willie McGrath home and thereafter for a number of years saw service as the home of the presidents of Whitworth College.
3. Northwest corner of Church and West Chickasaw Streets (Southeast corner of Block L).
4. Northeast corner of Railroad Avenue and East Cherokee Streets (Southwest corner of Block 27).
5. At the turn of the century, the F.F. Becker home was at 514 West Chippewa Street, but consisted of a structure different from that now located there. Then the residence, which had been previously the home of Major R.W. Millsaps for whom Millsaps College is named, consisted of a front part--the main house--and a back part--which embraced a breakfast room, a large pantry, a china closet, a store room, the kitchen and an L shaped porch at the end
of which was a room with a big, tin covered table in it used for cooling milk and for the servants' dining room when there was extra household help to handle large family gatherings. Mr. Becker decided to rebuild on the same site and had the front part moved down the hill to 332 Becker Street where it now stands and is occupied (in 1993) by Rea Godbold and family. The new construction consisted of the entire two storied structure now visible from Chippewa Street at 514 West Chippewa. In the rear it was attached to the back part of the original residence. While construction was under way the Becker sons and an aunt who resided with the family lived in parts of the original residence and Mr. and Mrs. Becker and daughters lived nearby with "Granny" Aylward, a friend and grandmother of Mary Ellen (Poolie) Aylward Case (Mrs. Harrison Case). The Beckers moved into the new house for Christmas of 1904 and it was completed in 1905, soon after which the large live oak which dominates the front lawn was planted. The grounds for the house embraced Block 56 in its entirety (bounded by Becker, Chippewa, Chickasaw and Cassedy Streets). The first incursion was the building of the Fellows house at the northwest corner of the block (541 West Chickasaw Street). Next, when Ferd, the oldest son, married a small home, later enlarged substantially, was built for him fronting on the east side of Becker Street about midway between Chickasaw and Chippewa Streets and around 1910 the first of the then new bungalow type structures was built for Willie at the southwest corner of Becker and Chippewa Streets (536 West Chippewa, occupied in 1993 by Mrs. Marguerite Boone Cohen). Presently (in 1993) the house is occupied as the home of Dr. Kim Sessums and family. The one storied part in the rear is a part of the back part of the original house, although part of that has been cut off through the years and use of the interior is different from the original use.
6. Until the 1930's the McGrath store in Brookhaven was at the southeast corner of the intersection of Railroad Avenue and East Cherokee Street (Northwest corner of Block 34).
An article in the 1903 magazine edition of The Leader indicates that the McGrath store in Brookhaven opened in 1878 and became John McGrath and Sons, a corporation. Later another store was opened and operated under the management of James J. McGrath in Canton, Mississippi, under the name of John McGrath and Sons Company. The article states:
Interests are also owned in the business of Becker-Lyell, McGrath Co. at Wesson and Hubbard-McGrath Co., at Hazlehurst, connections which for purchasing purposes give a chain of four immense stores. . .one or more members of the firm are, as stockholders and officials, interested in the Commercial Bank, the compress, the oil mill, the Merchants' Grocery Company and the Underwriters Agency.
During the 1930's and thereafter for a number of years Jay McGrath, son of J. William McGrath, and after Jay's death his son, operated McGrath's Department Store on premises on the west side of and fronting on the railroad about halfway between West Cherokee and West Chickasaw Streets (the premises occupied in 1993 by The Progressive Men's Store).
7. See footnote 6 above.
8. the southwest corner of Church and West Cherokee Streets (the northeast corner of Block L)
9. The site of the Wolfe house is occupied in 1993 by Dr. Russell Burns' offices at 225 South Church Street. Mrs Wolfe was a sister of Charlie Heuck, Mayor of Brookhaven in the early 1900's, and Miss Josie Heuck. Their parents resided on Jackson Street in Block AB between Monticello Street and West Cherokee Street. Heucks Opera House was on the Monticello Street corner. Heuck's Mercantile Store was on the Cherokee Street corner.
10. The John Randolph Perkins house was in Block H on the west side of Jackson Street between Monticello and Court Streets.
11. Southwest corner of junction of Church and Cherokee Streets.
12. The Creamery plant occupied Block 10 of Pearlhaven Subdivision on Enterprise Street between the railroad and North Second Street. The office was located at the southwest corner of Block 5, Pearlhaven Subdivision, fronting on Main Street. While locally owned and later as an auxiliary of Cloverland Dairies in New Orleans it was a major local employer for over forty years.
13. The Brookhaven Pressed Brick and Manufacturing Company was incorporated around 1906. It's plant and offices were for many years located in the area east of the site of the Wal-Mart Distribution Center and McLane Southern facilities in the industrial park in 1993 and west of the Airport Road. It was a major local employer for over 60 years.
14. Walter D. Becker, husband of Elizabeth (Liz) Cossar and a son of Ferdinand Victor and Betty Drane Becker.
15. "Benoits," located on the south side of West Cherokee Street between Railroad (Whitworth) Avenue and Jackson Street, was the leading ladies ready to wear business in Brookhaven for over fifty years.
16. 518 South Jackson Street, occupied by Dr. Eddie Moak and family in 1993.
17. 401 Storm Avenue.
18. 518 South Jackson Street.
19. 518 South Jackson Street.
20. 331 West Chickasaw Street.
21. 406 West Chickasaw.
22. 314 East Court Street (occupied in 1993 by Jewell Jordan).
23. Opposite Brookhaven Elementary School--second house north of Chippewa Street fronting on the east side of South Church Street.
24. The main living room.
25. 424 South Jackson Street.
26. The house was built by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Newton according to plans given to Mrs. Newton by Mrs. Emil Cohn when the latter abandoned the idea of using them for building her home at 536 South Jackson Street and, instead, built a virtual duplicate of the home built by her brother, Dr. Solon Wilson, at 544 South Jackson Street, later occupied by her sister, Mrs. David Cohn, and her family. Both Cohn homes are owned by Mrs. Charlotte Graves in 1993.
27. See Footnote 5.
28. Tanglewood Subdivision, south of the Zetus Road.
29. 401 Storm Avenue.
30. 514 West Chippewa Street. See footnote 5.
31. Oak Hill Farms was located about five miles east of Brookhaven on U.S. Highway 84.
32. F.F. Becker II, Henry Victor Becker and Mary Hatcher are children of Ferdinand Victor (Ferd) and Betty Drane Becker.
33. Son of Martin Grover (Clevie) and Ruth Hoyer Becker.
34. Son of William Henry (Willie) and Verna Lilly Becker.
35. Dummy Lines Through the Longleaf by Gilbert H. Hoffman.
36. 412 Storm Avenue.
37. Wildwood Subdivision embraced Mrs. Byrd's farm. Its eastern boundary is where Byrd Street is.
38. Between Church, Storm, Byrd and Minnesota Streets.
39. 401 Storm Avenue.
40. West side of Church Street between Chickasaw and Chippewa Streets--the site of the present Brookhaven Elementary School.
41. 412 South Jackson Street.
42. At the northeast corner of the intersection of South Whitworth (Railroad) Avenue and Minnesota Street.
43. 417 South Whitworth (Railroad) Avenue.
44. West Chickasaw Street between the Synagogue and the First Presbyterian minister's home.
45. 519 South Jackson Street.
46. 528 South Jackson Street. The C.E. Bane house in 1993.
47. 528 South Jackson Street. C.E. Bane house in 1993.
48. 401 Storm Avenue.
49. 413 Storm Avenue.
50. 505 Storm Avenue, the residence of George H. Gulley, Jr. in 1993.
51. 536 West Chippewa Street, occupied in 1993 by Mrs. Marguerite Boone Cohen.
52. Southwest corner of Cherokee and Jackson Streets.
53. Emerich, Oliver. Two Faces of Janus. University Press of Mississippi, 1973.
54. At Dixie Springs Lake.
55. 314 East Court Street, the residence of Jewell Jordan in 1993.
56. Southwest corner of Railroad (Whitworth) Avenue and Cherokee Street.
57. East side of Jackson Street between Monticello and Cherokee Streets.
58. At the southwest corner of the intersection of Whitworth (Railroad) Avenue and Cherokee Street.
59. At the southwest corner of the intersection of Whitworth (Railroad) Avenue and Monticello Street.
c2003 Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library
Brookhaven, MS 39601