Mississippi Gulf Coast
My Aunt Alice Visited Me After All These Years…
And I Think I Know Why
I woke up this morning with my Aunt Alice on my mind. At first, I had no idea why she came to me. But, it was fun thinking about her and her love for me was comforting. I thought of all the fun we had I had when I visited my Uncle Dad and Aunt Alice Morris in Pineville, Mississippi – an area of what was “country” to me in the Long Beach area of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. When I was a girl, they lived on the property established by Aunt Alice’s father as a dairy farm and business. Her folks were still living there in the house – the Franks – and I enjoyed visiting with them and getting to know them when I was younger. The Franks were good people! I thought their farm was paradise. There was a large pecan grove, a big barn, outbuildings and plenty of animals. Glorious!
At one time, my Uncle David started raising quail in the big barn. He would let us go out and look at the quail operation. He sold the quail for meat. When it was Easter time, we brought quail eggs back home and dyed them just for fun. Quail eggs are pretty small, but, they are beautiful! We boiled them and dyed them along with our regular chicken eggs. My grandmother, Mamaw, would even pickle quail eggs. I would bring home quail eggs and twice used them as elementary level school science projects that landed me in the city-wide science fair. Once, I made first place! I loved raising the baby quail I hatched in my little incubator. Uncle David and Aunt Alice were proud of me.
My Aunt Alice had a smile that radiated through her eyes – the joy shone through. She had a way of making me feel good about myself. She appreciated the way I would watch over her little girls as a big sister would. This would give her some freedom and rest for a little bit. She and Uncle David had four girls – my sweet cousins – built in best friends. But that is a handful! Did I mention Renee and Rhonda’s spunkiness? It was a thing. A FUN thing. I felt close to that family and they loved me ever bit as much as I loved them. It is something that is hard to put in words sometimes. I can hear the laughter still today and it has been many, many years that have passed since I saw last saw my Aunt Alice and her girls together.
On the occasion of my high school graduation, my Aunt Alice gave me a questionable and definitely unexpected gift that made me scratch my head. (I have to bust out laughing every time I think about it now.) She gave me a sea-foam green negligee. I was shocked! I hate sea-foam green, always have. Sea-foam green reminds me of hospital walls. The negligee, well, okay, then. I would not know what women wore those things for until a few years passed. I was still in my flannel phase when it came to pajamas. Momma, a Southern Baptist, was floored. I opened it and very appreciatively and respectfully gave my sweet Aunt Alice thanks. She was so proud! She fully expected to flabbergast my mother, I could see it in her eyes. She meant to rile my mother up. She laughed! She said that I would need that in the years to come. Aunt Alice was full of life and passion! Enough said. I loved her all the more for her gumption. I don’t remember ever wearing the negligee and I don’t know what happened to it. I suspect my mother intervened, don’t you?
Although I never got “preached to” by her, Aunt Alice had a way of conveying her spiritual beliefs and I went to church with the her and Morris girls a few times when I spent the weekends with them, which was several times a year. And. I. Loved. Going. To. Pineville. I loved going to their little church in Pineville, too.
I felt freedom at the Frank/Morris farm. I fell in love with everything to do with country life. Even mucking out the chicken house. But, I felt the true sense of what it was like to grow up with a momma and daddy at a time I was living in a fatherless home. I saw the love in Aunt Alice’s face when she was with Uncle David. I learned from her that you could love a man whole-heartedly even when you disagreed with him. And I saw my Uncle David’s love for Aunt Alice. I saw she loved her parents very, very much and they loved her. It did my soul such good to see a family living together. Two generations with much respect going both ways. Aunt Alice had a good soul and shared her joy with all of us.
Uncle David and Aunt Alice did love their beer on the weekends. Uncle David turned us girls lose in the pecan grove with big burlap sacks and told us to pick up pecans that had fallen on the ground. He gave us fifty cents for a full bag. The bags were waist high on me and I was the tallest one of us kids in my family and theirs because I was the oldest. That was a lot of work, but, it was fun. I have never forgotten the smell of the pecan grove. I don’t know how to describe it, but, I have dearly missed it. Every fall, is still pecan time for me. I noticed Uncle David and Aunt Alice would leave us in the grove (right next to the house) and they would go drink beer with Momma and Mamaw on their front porch. Momma and Mamaw did not drink beer. At. All. They had coffee, thank you very much! That must have been a respite for all four of them to let us run wild while they rested from work.
The days I am thinking’ of were before the youngest daughter was born. She was born when I was around 17 and I loved to hold her. But, even after the youngest was born and was a toddler, I went camping with them on the Wolf River on our Uncle Johnny Morris’ private property – it even had a beach! They loved to fish, I loved to swim. Heaven. Some of the best days of my childhood were spent loving the Morris cousins and my beloved uncle and aunt. They were so good to me. I associate the word “freedom” with that family.
My Aunt Alice and Uncle David married when she was just 16 according to Mamaw. He was a tall and very handsome man. She was a stunning beauty. They both had the most beautiful eyes and smile. I did some of Aunt Alice’s family tree in connection with my family tree on Ancestry.com. Her ancestry was fascinating and her family history surprised me because I knew so little, really, about her background. I remember associating the Franks with German background when I was growing up. And I seem to remember some sort of foreign accent with Poppa Frank, but, that memory is now too far away in my mind and I may not be remembering correctly. I just know that marriages were strong in that family. And family was everything…
Except… the bowling alley (and church). I was luck enough to be the one in my family that got to hang out with the Morris cousins the most. They would pick me up and we’d all go to the bowling alley in Gulfport. My aunt and uncle were dang near professional when it came to bowling. They were in leagues. That was professional in my mind. They had their own bowling shoes and bowling ball. I was so going to have my own bowling equipment one day. I wanted to follow in their footsteps. But, actually, when they were bowling, they were all business. They won prizes for bowling while I ran with their daughters as what I now would call being “bowling alley rats”. We played in the background and I kept an eye on my cousins as my aunt and uncle seriously bowled. They were in tournaments. I was so amazed at them.
Aunt Alice went to tech school to get her diploma in medical records transcription. She went to work at Gulfport Memorial Hospital. She was “smart-as-a-whip”, as my mother liked to say about her. All four of my Morris cousins were smart-as-a-whip, too. I saw my Aunt Alice as a “women’s libber” and I saw she raised her daughters that way, too. She did not take any sh*t from nobody. That was something I admired in her. She could have a hot-temper, but, only if it was deserved. She had a strong will and a strong mind. I hope I have incorporated Aunt Alice into my life. I think I have, but, I could use more of her personality in my life. She knew how to have fun. I miss her laughter. And the expressions she made with her face. She could be so funny.
My Uncle David was in the Air Force and was a staff sergeant at Keesler Air Force Base. I remember visiting him at his office at Keesler. I was raised an Air Force Brat, so, anytime we had to go to the doctor, it was to Keesler A.F.B. hospital and clinic. Uncle David’s office (in an old barracks building) nearby. He was very handsome in a uniform I must say! Aunt Alice was proud of him, I could tell even if she did not say it out loud.
So, this was all in my head as I lie in bed this morning thinking about her. Sometimes I feel the angels in our lives come to us in the nighttime. Are they truly guardian angels? That is what I believed as a child. I think it is true now as well. I feel them the most in the morning and sometimes during the night. I will experience the need to get up and write about the special one I have on my mind. I think they are there for a reason. They seem so fresh in my memory. No years have passed, we have not aged. Sometimes I cry because I miss them so much, but, comforted that they have come back to visit.
In the 1990’s my mother sent me a precious ceramic figurine one year for Christmas from Mississippi when I lived in Palm Harbor, Florida. She said my Aunt Alice had made it in her sister’s ceramic shop. I had no idea Aunt Alice was crafty! Such painting talent! Is Aunt Alice’s spirit attached to that ceramic cow? All these years I have kept that Holstein cow on my kitchen window sill, until sometime a year or go I had moved it to my dining room hutch fearing I might accidentally break it. But, yesterday, I moved the cow back to my kitchen window sill, to make room for a little memorial shelf dedicated to my little Westie, Polie, who went to Rainbow Bridge last week. Was she sending me a sign that she was happy to be back on her window sill? I often thought of her as I washed dishes. Did she help me fix the memorial for Polie knowing she loved critters as much as I do?
Did Aunt Alice come to me to comfort me after the death of my sweet little doggie this past week? She passed years ago. I had not thought of her for some time, since the cow was no longer on my kitchen window sill, and now she shows up at a time I am feeling very spiritual about my dog. She was one of the great animal lovers in my life. She always had a dog or two hanging around on the farm. She re-homed our mean Shetland Pony and told me the pony drank coffee with her on her front porch. She loved him when he bit most of us kids. This is why I woke up and went straight to my laptop to record my memories and thoughts of her, so I would not lose them. I smile because I am comforted by thinking of the love Aunt Alice and Uncle David gave me. Without a doubt, I am grateful and I am blessed.
And now, the cardinal couple just appeared at my bird feeder. Angels watchin’ over me…
Alice Claire “Frank” Morris (11 AUG 1938 – 13 OCT 1999)
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.
When Martha M. (Park) was born on June 17, 1826, in Athens, Georgia, her father was Baptist Park and her mother was Frances. She married James P. Wright in 1845 in Jackson, Butts, Georgia when she was 19 years old. They had one child, Frances M. “Fanny” during their marriage.
In 1840, when Martha was 14 years old, her mother, Frances “Fanny” (Chandler) Park, died.
In 1845, Martha married James P. Wright. She was 19 years old. January 8, 1845 brought Martha a daughter in Georgia whom she named Frances “Fanny”.
According to an 1850 Census: Martha lived in Jackson, Butts County, Georgia – Subdivision 45. The census lists Baptist Park 50 as a farmer, Martha M. Wright 22, Frances V. Parks 20, Nancy C. Parks 18, Frances M. Wright 5.
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I have no idea what year this handbook was distributed. My grandmother, Rosie (Smith) Morris, told me she was given this to study if she wanted to get her driver’s license. Her husband was owned and operated a car dealership and he gave her a car. After she took the car on a test drive, and she ran off the road, she refused to drive it from then on. She never got her license, by the way. She preferred to ride the bus or take a cab. — T.Rose
The Daily Herald, Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi Coast
December 23, 1920
CENTRAL P.T.A. MEETING
The Central Parent Teachers Association met Tuesday, the 24th, at the Central School with a most encouraging attendance of both parents and teachers. The usual routine of business was followed by a discussion of playground equipment. The final decision was that quite a good sum of money would be expended for the equipment, which will be good news to the pupils as it means fun and exercise. Some of the money is on hand but, much of it will have to be raised before the order is placed.
Another move made by the association of benefit to the teachers will be divulged at another time.
The pleasing program rendered was a piano solo by Claudia Baylor, song by Irene Morris. The serving of delicious refreshments brought this interesting meeting to a close.
Edna Irene HARKNESS (1880 – 1952) also known as “Irene Morris” —
My great-grandmother – went by “Irene”, married David Edmund Morris, is mentioned in this article. Her son (my grandfather) attended Central Elementary School in Gulfport, as did I. When I attended Central Elementary in downtown Gulfport, there was no playground equipment. My mother, Irene’s grandaughter, was a member and an officer in the Central P. T. A. when I was a student there.
John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965)
son of Edna Irene HARKNESS (Irene Morris)
Janie Lucille MORRIS (1935 – 2013)
daughter of John Harkness MORRIS
Me, the daughter of Janie Lucille MORRIS
Biloxi Daily Herald
1 Jun 1917
Miss Stella Harkness leaves tonight for Washington, where she will attend the annual reunion of the United Confederate Veterans and Sons of Veterans.