Once again Gulfport Little Theatre has done its part to make the summer memorable for a group of young people, under the direction of Mrs. Allen Evans, who directed “Wind in the Willows” last year nearly forty youngsters produced a play in the Chinese manner.
It is the custom of Little Theatre to use children from six through sixteen in their plays. Occasionally an exception is made to this rule and this was done this summer when Lanee Kent, capable and charming assistant to the director was given a part in the play. As the stage manager the most important person in any Chinese drama she ruled supreme over her two property boys Griffin Bland, Jr. and Duncan Crawford, who moved property pieces and changed sets with truly Oriental finesse.
Dressed all in black, which the stage manager explained made them invisible, the two boys were given a great deal of responsibility for the success of the play. Equally responsible was Little Moon herself, smart daughter of an impoverished farmer, who had never had a son and was very tired of trying to remember girls’ names.
Little Moon was Jeannie Shows, who had an important part in the 1966 play, “Wind in the Willows.” Jeannie showed a poise and flair far beyond her years and was the truly helpful child of an otherwise helpless pair of parents. Rusty Sumrall played the father, and played him with authority. Susan Elam was a timid, fearful mother given to fainting when faced with trouble, but ready to fight to defend her girls, Sheree Starr was a peppy old grandmother outspoken and amusing.
The other daughters Camilla, Lilly, Orchid, Rosebud and Daffodil were very well played by Lynn Roberts, Elizabeth Gates, Debbie Shows, Andi Acree and Lucy Rishel. Lucy’s elder brother, Larry, was the dancing tutor, a man who knew just how to handle ticklish situations. And he needed to know, for the rich man who employed him, Lee Wang, Scott Crawford’s assignment in this play, was short-tempered and demanding. Scott played the part to the hilt, and never stepped out of character. Lady Silver Song, his charming wife is Jean Dell Alfonso in real life, a very talented young lady who will be seen often on many stages, so genuine is her talent.
Jade, their daughter, was played by a newcomer to the Junior Division, Mary Christel Puissegur. Her clear voice and excellent projection made her a natural for the part, and like many another successful actress she was easy to look at, too.
The pantomime scene in which Little Moon’s plot to get jobs for her eligible sisters was outlined was cleverly played by Little Moon and Rosebud, Andi Acree, Lilly, Elizabeth Gates, Camilla, Lynn Roberts. The wicked servant, Fragrant Apple, who caused all the trouble for the four girls was Garnet Quarles, clear-spoken and sure of herself in all scenes.
The other servants, Plum, Emily Gauthe, Peach, Patricia Danne Miller, and Pear, Karen Ladner had all been in service long enough to earn the honor of having their names on their backs in colorful pictures. But First Servant, Donna Ladner and Second Servant, Don Barkly had only numbers on the backs of their identical jackets. Rebecca Glascock was an indignant cook, boss of her own kitchen and anxious to be the best cook in the land.
A charming seamstress and later a lady shopper, Virginia Simpkins looked exactly like an animated Chinese doll. Carol Lee Cunningham was pretty as one of her own flowers as she tried to sell baskets and flowers to passer by – only the best baskets “made in Japan”. Scott Roberts had a hug boa-constructor-type-snake in his yellow yellow basket, and piped him up whenever the action required. Douglas Bell, cute as a button, a jet button, in his black satin togs tried to sell silks to the rich men and found him hard to please.
Susan Boyette sold festival lanterns, and Scott Simmons set himself up in business downstage left as a sell of duck eggs. Young Cameron Crawford, grandson of famed author-actor-director- Elliott Nugent, made his first appearance on any stage as a rickshaw coolie, plaintively unsuccessful in his line of work. Two lovely little girls Margie and Judy Putnam did a butterfly dance which was dainty as its name, and three tumblers trained by Mr. and Mrs. McConnell were Coy Hosch, Marcia Dubuisson and Susie McConnell.
Jay Bailey was the boy who pretended to be naughty and hard-boiled, and who said girls were dumb, but went out of his was to take care of them. Jay was in last year’s play as a jailer, this year he made the most of his comedy part.
Backstage there were a number of young people without whom there would have been no play. Lucy Turner, Gail Bailey, Gil Bailey, Patty Woodsworth, Becky Woodworth, Chris Elam, Chris Evans, Joan Glascock, Kathy Singleton, and that youngest helper of them all, Mrs. James H. Baxley. Ruth Ann Pecoul was choreographer, and sets and costumes were designed by Frances Gordon, and made by many mothers and some friends.
The Dixie Guide, Page 6, August 1967
I recently lost my best friend of over sixty years. She apparently died in her sleep leaving all of us who loved her dearly in complete shock and grief. I include Dona in my family history because she was as much a part of my family and in some cases more like family to me all my life. Dona Elise Sanders Richmond became my friend when she was born a year after I was. Our mothers were best friends, having attended Perkinston Jr. College together in the year of 1955-56. The photo below shows my mother, Janie Morris seated on the left and Dona’s mother, Shirley Reeves, seated on the right. This is the only photo I have of the two friends together, although, I believe there were quite a few others in my mother’s photo collection.
The earliest memories I have of Dona and me together were probably preserved by the many times our mothers discussed our early history with us as we grew up. We were told about the times we were just little toddlers when we would accompany our mommas to the beach and we played in the sand while they caught each other up on their lives after college. I seem to remember those trips to the beach – the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast – with our mothers. But, do I really, or are they from my imagination? Time has taken its toll on my memory after so many years, but, suffice it to say when Dona joked with me about being friends since she was “in utero” I readily agreed, and we would smile really big.
Dona grew up in the Orange Grove area of Gulfport – what I called “the country”. We didn’t get to see each other as much as we wanted because it required our mothers to navigate Highway 49 to get to our respective homes. There were some miles between us and we didn’t attend the same schools. So, if we got to spend the night with each other it was a big deal. We mainly saw each other when our mothers got together for various functions and life events.
Our mothers raised us in the Southern tradition of calling our elders by somewhat formal names. Dona’s mother was “Miss Shirley” or “Miss Sanders” to me as deemed appropriate by my mother and Dona called my mother “Miss Janie”. Her home was kept neat and clean, unlike my mother’s home (complete disarray). A trip to Dona’s home was like a breath of fresh country air to me. A trip to my house provided Dona with a bit of the city life, although Gulfport was not a big city, it still lent a sophistication Dona seemed to crave. I went to church with Dona every time I spent the night at her house. It was the law. It was always fun for me to hang out with Dona, thought, because she and I knew each other better than anyone else in our lives. We held secrets, dreams and heartaches deep in our souls that were shared forever.
When our dog, Hustler, a pedigreed boxer sired an “unofficial” batch of puppies with the neighbor’s mixed breed dog, Dona’s family adopted one of the puppies. Her daddy named him Cassius. Dona and I recently had a conversation about Cassius and how sweet he was. Loyal and fun to play with, just like his dad, Hustler. We loved that we had dogs that came from the same family. We loved out dogs. Cassius was the first dog I remember Dona’s family having.
The day I learned Donald Sanders, Dona’s daddy, died momma picked me up from West Ward Elementary school and we cried so hard I thought our eyeballs would fall out. He built our playhouse in Mamaw’s yard, as well as the house Dona grew up in. I knew him as a loving father to his kids, devoted husband to “Miss Shirley” and dedicated friend of our family. I remember being so shocked that Dona’s daddy had died, just as mine had a few years earlier. It just could not be. I don’t really think Dona was the same after that. She was so sad most of the time during our childhood. But, we laughed a lot, too, in spite of the sorrow. I enjoyed going to Dona’s to spend the night and play Barbies. Dona had her own room with a canape bed – white French Provincial and she had a great collection of Barbies that did not have their leg chewed off by her dog, like mine so often did.
Perkinston Homecomings through the years meant Dona and I accompanied our mothers to the gatherings and football games. We met all her mother’s friends and my mother’s friends, the administration of the college and the families associated with the college. It was homecoming for me and Dona, too. I don’t remember any of our siblings attending the festivities – just me and Dona and Janie and Shirley (Reeves). We loved the bulldog mascot out on the field at the football games and would laugh so hard at him. He just sat there, not moving, like he just was concentrating so hard on the games. We vowed to have bulldogs in our future lives.
There were photos take of us when we were growing up that I remember seeing in our mothers’ photo collections. I have none of those photos now, and Dona did not have any of them in our possession, either when we discussed this earlier this year. She told me she was going to go threw her mother’s stuff and see if she could find any. My mother’s stuff went through numerous hurricanes, so, I don’t know what she ended up with when she passed, but, they are as good as gone to me now. I do have this one photo of me, seated on the right side of the photo looking on as Dona blew out the candles on her 18th birthday cake.
Our friendship was anchored on the Gulfport shores to be sure, but, our friendship stretched thousands of miles as I left Mississippi in 1976, when I was 19 years old, to live in Wisconsin.
In 1977, I was preparing for my wedding to begin in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, when the florist entered the area of the church where the bride and bridesmaids had gathered to help each other get dressed. She was carrying one long-stemmed red rose. She told me her instructions were to present the rose to me just before I went down the aisle. I opened the card that was attached to the rose. It read, “I gave you the first rose when you were born, now, I am giving you a rose when you get married.” It was one of the more amazing moments of my life. Miss Shirley had sent a message from thousands of miles away that she loved me all my life and always would. She was there with me even though she was unable to be.
I was down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1982 visiting my mother when I got a chance to talk to Dona. She told me she wanted me to come to her baby shower. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time. I was so honored to be at her baby shower and we pledged to betroth our two unborn children to each other and laughed! We kind of meant it, though. The photo below is from Dona’s shower.
When my grandmother, Rosie Smith Morris, died Dona was there when I came home to Hungry Hill for the funeral. I made sure I took photos of Dona and her sisters were in the ones I took of my family because they were my family in my heart, too. While momma and Miss Shirley were in the house, we young adults gathered outside to socialize a bit. The Sanders family were as much a part of our family as anyone born to our family. They were there to help us through the tough times of life as well as the good. Dona is seated in front of the hutch in my mother’s dining room at Hungry Hill in the following photo.
Memories have flooded into my mind and heart the past few weeks. Dona was my chosen sister and I’ll miss her like crazy for the rest of my life. She was one of the better angels of our world. Someone who supported and loved me all my life. I feel lost without her. My soul mate.
I’ll probably have to add stuff and update this post many times as I think of things to share. I know I’ve probably been repetitious in some respects, but, my mind feels foggy from the mental and heartfelt pain. I can’t imagine what her husband, kids, grandkids and friends are going through at this time. I am selfish and quite alone in my emotions right now. I just feel this huge void and little else. If I wanted to share my feelings with, it would be Dona. And now, she’s gone. I’m all alone with this grief because I live far, far away from the Gulf Coast and her loved ones.
This blog post has been sort of rambling and I know it is long, but I find the writing difficult because I find it hard to focus. How do you write about such an icon in your life and narrow it down to one blog post? So, I wrote about Dona here on my blog. She loved the written word ever bit as much as I did. Our favorite book was To Kill A Mockingbird and our favorite movie was “Gone With the Wind” — she called me “Mellie” for the character Melanie, and she called herself “Scarlet”. We shared so much about literary works and wrote our feelings out in journals all our lives. Writing is therapy for some folks and that is just another way of coping Dona and I shared.
Peace be with us all…
I’ll end this by providing a link to Dona’s Blog so you can read for yourself what a special gift she was to our world:
And just a few old photos I have to share…
“If there ever comes a day
when we can’t be together,
keep me in your heart,
I’ll stay there forever.”
(from Winnie the Pooh)
And that’s what Dona and I did…
Submitted by Tenderly Rose-Robin Melissa Bosworth-Estrada Reininger
Installation Of Officers By West Ward PTA
Mrs. James P. Estrada was installed as president of the Gulfport West Ward Elementary Parent Teachers’ Association Thursday evening at the annual meeting for the year in the school auditorium.
Walter Ewing, who will be the new principal at the school for the 1967-68 session, was installing officer.
Mrs. Estrada, who succeeds Mrs. Ben Weeks, is a member of the faculty of Bayou View Junior High School.
Installed also were Mrs. Donald Suber, vice president; Mrs. J. L. Pullen, secretary; and Mrs. Curtis Parker treasurer.
This newspaper account is one of the articles my mother sent me through the years that she’d clipped and saved for me.
No date or name of publication is given. It is presumed the newspaper was The Daily Herald (Mississippi Gulf Coast) because that is the newspaper my family subscribed to all of my life. The year was probably 1967 – dates of school year).
The Sea Coast Times Echo
Thursday, April 10, 1986
“Coast Episcopal Schools Teacher Honored”
The Mississippi Private School Education Association each year sponsors a Teacher of the Year Award for elementary and secondary schools.
Each of the 90-member schools nominates a teacher as a candidate for this award. The school must submit letters of recommendation from parents, peer teachers, the principal, and a prominent local leader in the community.
The teacher nominated must submit a biographical sketch and a 300-word essay on a given topic. This year the topic was “Communication: the Key to Education.”
A panel of judges composed of the officers of the MPSEA makes the final selection.
Coast Episcopal Schools’ Jane Morris Estrada, second grade teacher at the elementary school in Bay St. Louis, has been chosen as Teacher of the Year for the MPSEA for 1985-86 school year.
Mrs. Estrada has taught for 22 years in both public and private schools. She has served as past president of the Harrison County Association of Educators, is a former board member for the Mississippi Association for Educators, elected as delegate to the NEA.
Mrs. Estrada is a member of the American Business Women’s Association and was selected Woman of the Year for the Gulfport Chapter. She is presently the Education and Scholarship chairperson.
She is a past Junior and Cadette Girl Scout Leader. She has been a member of the Harrison County Democratic Executive Committee, poll worker and manager.
The Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Mrs. Estrada at a recent MPSEA Convention held in Jackson by Association President Ernestine Cail from Strider Academy in Charleston, Miss.
My mother, Jane (Morris) Estrada. She was the daughter of John Harkness Morris and Rosa Ann Elizabeth (Smith) Morris of Gulfport, Ms.
My mother, Jane Morris Estrada.