John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965)
Rosie Smith Morris, R. N. – July 15, 1973 Biloxi Daily Herald Full Page Article-“Life’s a challenge and mothering is greatest of all”
Biloxi Daily Herald
July 15, 1973
Life’s challenge and mothering is the greatest of all
By Pam O’Boyle -Daily Herald Women’s Editor
Tadpoles in the backyard sparked an appreciation for frogs that, through the years has produced a collection of 500 amphibians in the life of Mrs. Rosie Morris, Gulfport.
Yet Mrs. Morris’s whole life is quite a collection of anecdotes, courage and creativity. She is somewhere in her 70’s and going strong.
The frogs that line shelves in her dining room never were tadpoles but have been deliberate additions to a collection that began unintentionally.
However the tadpoles that started the whole thing were first brought home to 1711 Wisteria St., Gulfport, when Chancery Judge John S. Morris, Mrs. Morris’s oldest son and one of five children, was a little boy.
Mrs. Morris says, “John was the first of my children to start collecting tadpoles. After he grew out of it, others brought them home. I remember one afternoon he came home and put a whole bunch of the little things in a pool of water in our back yard.
“I objected and told him he wasn’t going to be able to keep them there, that the water would dry up. He insisted he would add water and they’d be okay. Well, the next morning, I woke up and there he was, out digging his little toes in the mud around that pool. The first thing he said to me was, ‘What’d you do with my frogs?’ They were all gone and he thought I’d done something because I had objected the day before. I told him I hadn’t done anything with his frogs, that probably some neighborhood cat had gotten them.
“As it turned out, “Mrs. Morris continues, “Two-three days later some neighbors said to me, ‘A funny thing happed the other morning. We saw whole droves of little frogs hopping toward the (drainage) canal!
“They were John’s tadpoles! He evidently had caught them at just the point where they were ready to become frogs and during the night they had just hopped out of the pond.
As other youngsters in her family brought home their tadpoles, Mrs. Morris got an old bathtub that she placed in the back yard in which to keep they. She became fascinated, herself, with the development of tadpoles into baby frogs.
One day in Woolworth’s she bought 10 glass frogs, each in a different position, just because she like frogs. “I remember they were 15 cents apiece because I paid $1.50 for all of them.
Years passed and all but one of those 10 was lost, either by breakage or disappearance. So when her youngest daughter, Jane Morris Estrada, discovered a duplicate of one of the lost frogs while Mrs. Estrada was on her honeymoon in New Orleans, she naturally brought it home to her mother.
That began the collection that grew haphazardly until it became such an established interest that friends, family and Mrs. Morris herself began seeking unusual frog shapes and pictures to add to it.
Although Mrs. Morris has no idea how many frogs have been lost from the collection, she now estimates the survivors at around 500.
Don’t for a moment think Rosie Morris sits around all day counting her frogs. She enjoys them and enjoys receiving of locating unusual ones, but…
She is the only remaining registered nurse in private duty service at Gulfport Memorial Hospital. She returned to her nursing career 35 years ago when her youngest child was three-years-old. Her husband was in ill health and she needed more money to support her family. Her husband, John Morris, died about six years ago, she says, after being ill for many years.
She describes herself as a good mother, a good nurse and a bad housekeeper. The most interesting of these, she says, is being a mother.
Often she has been asked how she reared five children, three of whom received a college education, took care of an ill husband and paid for all of it on a nurse’s salary.
Her answer: “It just takes all kinds of nerve when you raise a bunch of children like I did.”
Nerve never has been in short supply with Mrs. Morris, anyway. Back when she was a young girl, not far out of nurses training, she decided to have her shoulder length hair cut short. “Nobody in the South had short hair then,” she says with a laugh. A friend accompanied her to a barber shop in Gulfport to get the cut. The barber, the later Mr. McCarty, greeted them with a surprised, “Could I do something for you ladies?”, Mrs. Morris recalled, adding at that time ladies did not even enter barber shops. “Yes, I want to get my hair cut,” she replied. “Why?” the barber queried her. “To tell you the truth,” the young woman answered, “When I was little my daddy took my sister to get her hair cut and I always though [sic] it looked so cute. I begged him for mine to be cut but he told me I was a grown girl and too old.” (“I was all of 12, I think, she explained during the interview Thursday morning.) The barber told Mrs. Morris (who was not yet Mrs. Morris when this occurred), “I hate to cut this pretty, curly hair.”
“Well, if you don’t someone else will,” was her final retort. He did.
Not long after her haircut the young nurse moved to Greenville, S. C. to assume a new nursing position. “Everybody thought I’d had typhoid fever,” she says. Other young nurses like her short hair-cut so well (remember, short hair was unheard of on young women at this time) that three fellow-nurses went out and got theirs cut short.
“They were fired immediately,” Mrs. Morris reflects. Adding, “About that same time 11 nurses in New Orleans were also fired for having their hair cut short – it was all over the newspapers.”
“But they couldn’t touch me because I came with my hair short. My sister had told me before my haircut that if I did it, everyone was going to think I was a freak. I told her I didn’t care if they did, I wanted short hair.”
Mrs. Morris originally is from Collins, Miss. Where she was one of 12 children. She received her nurse’s training at Charity Hospital in Jackson, Miss. Which since has been torn down. Her early career took her to positions in Laurel, Miss., Rockefeller Hospital in New York, Greenville, S. C. and the Kings Daughters Hospital in Gulfport, all before her marriage at age 29.
She says, “No matter where I went, whether up north or in the south, I found that no nurses I worked with were better trained than those who had received their training at Kings’ Daughters Hospital.
She nursed at the Kings’ Daughters Hospital in Gulfport located in what is now the Gulf Breeze Apartments on 32nd ave. However that facility was under construction when she first came to the hospital, then located in a green frame building behind where the brick structure was built. The new hospital, now the apartment building, was completed in 1922. She says, “My nephew, Easton [sic] Robertson Jr., was the first baby born in the new hospital, July 4, 1922.”
Her varied nursing experience has taught her, Mrs. Morris says, that she prefers private duty nursing to general duty because, “with private duty you have strict contact with your patients and you can do everything for them. But on general duty, a nurse has too much of too many things to do to be able to give any one patient the personal attention the patients needs.”
However, Mrs. Morris will not do home nursing. She says, “If the patient is that sick, he needs to be in the hospital.”
She has lived in her present home for approximately 40 years and notes that when she and her husband decided what they wanted to build, it took only three weeks to construct the home. “But that can’t be done anymore.”
She describes herself: “I’m very optimistic and happy, not a worrier. If I can do something about a situation, I do it; if not I let it go!”
Quiet hours of night private duty nursing have given Mrs. Morris the time to crochet almost 1,000 afghans, most all of which have been given away as gifts. Now she is teaching some of her granddaughters to crochet them. Her grandchildren total up to 14, she says.
“I once thought, after I went back to nursing, that I should work only in the daytime so I could be home with my children at night. However, I found out it was in the daytime that I needed to be home with my children when they were up and needed me. So I began working only at night.
When she resumed her nursing career 35 years ago, she says she worked 12-hour shifts for $6 a shift. When work hours were cut back to 8-hour shifts and pay to $5 for that schedule, her finances were so close to the bone that she made special arrangements to continue working 12-hour shifts in order to make the additional $1.
Yet she reared her five children and encouraged each of them in his/her own special talents. How? “With the help of the Lord—and I just kept on going,” she reflects.
“Tommye Nell (a daughter, now Mrs. David Kelly of Columbia, S. C. who won national recognition in twirling competition) won a four year scholarship to college for her twirling and John had his G. I. Bill when he went through college.
Tommye wanted to twirl when she got into high school but regulations were that she had to play an instrument in the band before she could twirl. I didn’t have the money to buy another instrument so I was going to borrow one from a neighbor who had dropped out of band. But the band director told me he already had all of that instrument he needed, that I should get Tommy a trombone. Well, I just couldn’t buy it. Then John joined the Navy and that left his trombone for Tommye. Things just worked out.
Tommye who had taught herself to twirl, was selected drum major of the band after that. She did eventually take some professional training at St. Paul, Minn. where she was named to the Five American National Twirlers.
Mrs. Morris sums up her financial problems while her children were young with, “I borrowed from every loan company in Gulfport. But I had good credit because I always paid it back.
“Now, people are asking me when I’m going to retire from nursing. My answer is ‘whdn I can’t do just to my patients.’”
She has not neared that point yet.
Here are the photos that came with the article. The copies are in very poor conditions, but, I thought I’d include them for historical reference.
Finally setting the record straight!
As I sit here in my living room composing this blog post, I can look over into my dining room to the framed copy of this newspaper article I have cherished for may years… hanging on the wall. It goes wherever my home is. When the article was published, I made sure I had a copy of my own and I had placed my copy in my scrapbook. I was the family historian even back then. That is the way my grandmother raised me. She bought the mucilage and the scrapbooks for me to keep my treasures organized. I kept favorite greeting cards, unused restaurant napkins I’d squirreled away from special meals as souvenirs (I was big on souvenirs), notes from classmates, newspaper articles I’d collected of family members and my own activities from the Daily Herald, programs, invitations, you name it. My grandmother taught me how to place photos in albums and she had me organize all her photos and scrapbooks. I don’t know where those albums and scrapbooks are now, but, I do have one of the scrapbooks she had me put together of her favorite “Maidenform Bra” advertisements from magazines. I also have scanned in my scrapbook from high school. That’s where I kept my copy of this article about my beloved Mamaw. When my kids were little, I removed my article about Mamaw, and had it framed in a pink metal frame (pink for rose). Recently, I decided I needed to get it into my blog.
I was present when my grandmother was interviewed by the newspaper reporter who wrote this story. We were gathered in my grandmother’s living room at 1711 Wisteria Street in Gulfport, Mississippi. I was 17 years old. Having grown up very close to my grandmother, whom I called “Mamaw”, so I was very familiar with her stories. I realized as the interview continued, bits and pieces of the story were not quit as I had been told by Mamaw as I grew up. It was during that interview, I became aware my grandmother’s memory was fading a bit. So, through the years some things about this article bothered me. I’m now 60 years old, but, I have this opportunity to tweak this story-add or correct what I recall from family history.
First, the article title always bothered me… “Life’s challenge and mothering is the greatest of all”. I think it should read “Life’s a challenge and mothering is the greatest of all.”
My grandmother called her afghans “Granny Squares”, not “Granny Patches”. Mamaw actually misspoke. The reporter recorded this correctly, but, I remember at the time being a little bit embarrassed that Mamaw was calling them Granny Patches. That is just not what she normally called them.
She grew up in Seminary, Covington County, Mississippi, near Collins, and she spoke frequently of her affection for Collins, a town also located in Covington County.
When Mamaw told her story about the barber shop trip, she always referred to getting her hair “bobbed”. She never said “cut”. I remember this because it was an odd term for a hair cut in the 60’s when I grew up. She was very proud of that story. So was I!
I would correct the statement, “She says, ‘No matter where I went, whether up north or in the south, I found that no nurses I worked with were better trained than those who had received their training at Kings’ Daughters Hospital.'” I know she meant to say Rockefeller Hospital instead of Kings’ Daughters Hospital. I know this because I know all these stories. They are inscribed in my heart.
My grandmother’s nephew was Gaston Robertson, Jr., not Easton Robertson, Jr.
When I was growing up, the old bathtub in her back yard was an old-fashioned “claw-foot” bathtub that was the original tub installed when her home was built. I loved that bathtub! Many, many great times were had in that tub. It was deep, and for a little girl, it was like have a swimming pool in your house. When Hurricane Camille came along, the bathroom had to be redone due to storm damage and the bathtub went out in the back yard for tadpoles we continuously stocked every spring when I was growing up… many years after Uncle Johnny started the tradition. So, she must have had a different old bathtub before we installed the new one in the yard. I was 13 years old when Hurricane Camille came along, so I definitely remember losing my favorite bathtub to a new modern bathtub I did not appreciate nearly as much as the old one.
I was one of the grandkids to learn how to crochet at her knee. Lucky me! I may not make 1,000 afghans, but, I do crochet like a fiend. In fact, as soon as I finish here, I’m off to crochet.
Everything else in this newspaper article about Mamaw is spot on. As I said… I was there and I remember every second of the interview.
Rosa Anna Elizabeth (Smith) Morris, R. N. — my grandmother!
Daughter of John George and Mary Jane (Rice) Smith of Neshoba County, Mississippi.
Rosa was also known as Mrs. Rosie S. Morris, R.N., married to John Harkness Morris. She was a popular icon at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Harrison County, Mississippi. She spent many years as a private duty nurse at Memorial Hospital. She also made little crocheted turtles and afghans sold in the hospital gift shop.
“Little Sissy” was my aunt, my mother’s sister. I visited her grave many, many times in the family plot located in Evergreen Cemetery in Gulfport, Mississippi, when I was growing up. I held my grandmother’s hand as we sat next to her grave and listened to her talk about her. She was the first child she gave birth to. I was told she “fell off the porch” and died. She stays in my heart even today. My mother told me that as a little girl, I reminded my grandmother of “Little Sissy”.
Biloxi Daily Herald November 14, 1923
PLEASANT SURPRISE PARTY
A pleasant surprise party and miscellaneous shower was held at the handsome new bungalow of Misses Stella and Mae Harkness, on West Howard avenue, Monday night in which a number of their relatives and members of the Biloxi post office force participated. The event was given in honor of the birthday of Miss Stella Harkness, who has charge of the general delivery window of the local postoffice. The guests gathered at a designated point and marched to the Harkness bungalow where they were delightfully entertained. The guests with a huge birthday cake all lighted with candles entered the home, and were received by Miss Harkness with considerable surprise. During the several pleasant hours delicious hot chocolate and cake were served. Pleasing recitations were given by the Misses Irene and Martha Morris of Gulfport, who also presided at the piano. Many handsome and useful gifts were showered upon the honoree. Among the guests present included Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Harkness, Giles Harkness Peresich, Mrs. Walter G. Wilkes and daughter. Miss Laurie, Mrs. J. W. Swetman, Dr. and Mrs. B. Z. Welch, Mr. and Mrs. O. E. Thompson, Mrs. D. E. Morris and daughters, Misses Irene and Martha Morris, and son John Harkness Morris, of Gulfport, Misses Sadie, Harriet, Stella and Mae Harkness, Mamie Hannon and Messrs. J. R. Munier, J. C. Brent and Addison Jackson.
William Turner “Willie” Harkness (1869 – 1941) – my 2nd great-uncle
Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS (1830 – 1903) father of William Turner “Willie” Harkness
Edna Irene HARKNESS (1880 – 1952) daughter of Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS
John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965) son of Edna Irene HARKNESS
Janie Lucille MORRIS (1935 – 2013) daughter of John Harkness MORRIS
Me, the daughter of Janie Lucille MORRIS
Relationship between Rev. James Louis Jordan & Me
father of Rev. James Louis Jordan
daughter of William Miller JORDAN, sister of Rev. J. L. Jordan
daughter of Irene JORDAN
son of Edna Irene HARKNESS
daughter of John Harkness MORRIS
Daily Herald – Gulfport, MS-Date approx. Aug. 1921
JAMES BRADLEY, POPULAR GULFPORT YOUTH DROWNS
The many friends of Mrs. James Bradley will regret to learn that she has received a telegram from the department in Washington stating that her son, James has been drowned in Porto Rico. James was one of Gulfport’s well known boys and went away on the Ranger, a government survey boat only a few weeks ago. Mrs. Bradley has the sympathy of the entire community in her bereavement. James was the only child. The telegram received reads as follows:
Washington, D. C. August 30, 1921.
Mrs. James Bradley, Gulfport, Miss.
Regret exceedingly to state that word has been received that your son James was drowned in Porto Rico. No details received. Request you to inform me if you desire to have body shipped there or buried in Porto Rico.
Signed. WILLIAM BOWIE, Acting Director Coast Survey.
Daily Herald – Gulfport, MS-Date approx. Sept. 1921
TO BURY BRADLEY THIS AFTERNOON
Body Brought Back to Gulfport Wrapped in Beautiful Folds of His Country’s Flag.
Five weeks ago the community was shocked and grieved when Mrs. J.W. Bradley received notice that her son, James had been accidentally drowned at Porto Rico. Yesterday the remains reached Gulfport on the 1 p.m. train from New Orleans, and another of the town’s own boys had come home, for his final rest, his casket wrapped in the beautiful folds of his country’s flag, in whose service he had died.
James Bradley came to Gulfport at the age of one year with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James W. Bradley. He received the greater part of his education in the city schools, but graduated from the county high school at Perkinston with the class of 1918. Young Bradley joined the navy and saw over a year’s service in the Pacific fleet aboard the battleship Texas. At the time of his death he was in service on the U. S. survey boat Ranger, his last visit home was in May when he had a short furlough.
James Bradley was a bright ambitious boy, generous and kindly of disposition, and was popular with young and old alike. His father, the late James W. Bradley was one of the beloved pioneers of Gulfport and at his death three years ago, was serving a second term as city commissioner. His mother is beloved by the whole community whom she serves so efficiently as librarian at the Carnegie Library.
The funeral services will be conducted by the pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rev. Mr. Linfield, of whose church the young man was a member, assisted by Drs. Grace and Mahoney of the Baptist Church. The funeral will be held from the residence of Mrs. J.W. Rankin a sister of Mrs. Bradley whose house was almost a second home to James, as these devoted sisters have lived side by side for many years. The pallbearers are Messrs. B. Havard, John Morris, Roger Williams, Vassar Anderson, J.L. Heiss, Drs. A.F. Carraway and Dr. OC. Harper and Dr, Arvah Hopkins.Interment will be made in Evergreen Cemetary, where some 13 years ago the first grave to be opened in this beautiful cemetery received the body of a younger brother of the deceased.
Among the many letters of sympathy which have reached Mrs. Bradley none have been a greater solace to her than the following sent her by the crew of the Ranger.
S. S. Ranger, San Juan, P. R., Sept. 22, 1921
My dear Mrs. Bradley:
It is indeed hard for us to express our sympathy in your bereavement. We only know your son as a comrade and can only miss his alert, generous and his good qualities and infectious good nature. To a mother, he must ever seem as a boy and his good qualities which gained him popularity among his fellow men are ever subordinate to mother love.
The circumstances surrounding the drowning only serve to make us feel how close we all are to the dividing line. The ship was at anchor in the harbor, a short distance off shore. James and another man were engaged in running a launch between the landing and the ship. On the midnight trip, the launch remained at the landing for a few minutes; James in company with another went up the street a short distance to a restaurant. They failed to return in time before the launch returned to the ship, but nothing was thought of the matter as there were a couple of small boats at the landing used by sailors returning to their ships. In about three quarters of an hour after the launch left James and his companion returned to the landing, but the boats which were present before were gone. The two men separated to look for boats at other landings. When James’ companion returned to the original landing, James was not there. However as a shower of rain had just passed it was assumed that he had been able to find a boat and returned to the ship.
When it was found that James was not aboard a search in town was made. About ten o’clock in the morning that body was observed by some boys in swimming. As he was wearing only his underclothing when recovered, his only other garment having been a pair of trousers, it is believed he endeavored to swim to the ship.
The entire crew unite in expressing their sympathy. Many of them have been his boyhood friends and all of us have been attracted by his personality while he was among us. As it is impossible to acknowledge our feelings in person we hope that this letter may convey in some measure our sincerest sympathy.
Executive Officer, Chief Engineer, Boatswain, Carpenter, Assistant Engineer, Fireman, Seaman, Seaman.
I found these news articles while researching my great grandfather’s life in print. My great grandfather, David Edmund “D.E.” Morris, was in service on the U. S. S. Ranger as the Chief Engineer when this tragic accident occurred. His son, my grandfather John Harkness Morris is listed as a pallbearer in the news article. I knew a small amount about this story as told by my grandmother, John Morris’ wife, Rosie, when I was just a child. She would tell me the tale as we visited the graves in our family plot in Evergreen Cemetery. We walked over to James Bradley’s grave a time or two and she described the drowning and how the men had recovered the body of James. She was close to my great grandfather, D.E. So, now upon reading this article, I assume she was told the story by him. She was always sad when she spoke of the story. I wondered if she was friends with Mrs. Bradley. I knew when I found this article exactly who James Bradley was in relation to my family. The Bradley boys’ graves are not far from my family’s plot at Evergreen cemetery where my grandmother, grandfather and great grandfather, D.E. Morris are buried. Below is a photo of D.E. Morris in Puerto Rico – he’s the one in the middle.