I called Greenville, Mississippi, home for six years, spending the formative years of my adult life in that historic city on the banks of the Mississippi River.
My path there was simple. I had just graduated college with degrees in Spanish and anthropology and had no job. With absolutely no teaching experience or training, I joined a program called the Mississippi Teacher Corps, and agreed to teach for two years in a high-needs school district somewhere in Mississippi. They placed me at T.L. Weston High School in Greenville. Thanks, Kim Harris, for sending me this pic from my teaching days at Weston. I think I still have this tie, though most of the hair is long gone.
For my work, I’d receive a teacher’s salary, a tuition and expenses for a masters degree from Ole Miss. (Hotty toddy!)
When I signed on, I’d planned to stay for only the required two years. My plan was to use that time to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. Well, I stayed in Greenville teaching for six years, and wound up spending 21 years in public education. Funny how life works.
Needless to say, when you spend six years somewhere, it has a huge impact on you. Throughout our marriage, Ann has been forced to listen to tales of my time in the Mississippi Delta. So when we decided to drive to Florida for a cruise, it only made sense to plan a route that would take us through Greenville.
Seeing old friends
One of the main things I hoped to do in Greenville was introduce Ann to some of the people I knew while there. I set up a time and place to meet some folks and was tickled that people actually came to visit! I saw two former students, Frederick Crowley (and his beautiful family) as well as Lucas Winters. It was so nice to connect with them again and see the good men they’ve become in life and I’m glad I can now call them friends.
In addition, two former co-workers and mentors of mine, Jerry Stephenson and Ken Kable also came to meet up with us. We had fun reminiscing about old days and just catching up. The years melted away as we sat chatting, enjoying the time together.
Because we were there on a Sunday morning, we also attended church at First Presbyterian, my church when I was in Greenville. It was so nice to be in my old church home and to chat with church friends, as well.
I loved that I got to take Ann to see my old stomping grounds. We made stops at the school building where I worked, and the athletic fields and courts where I coached soccer, tennis, track and football. (Again, no real prior experience.) Because we were there on a day over Christmas break, we couldn’t get inside the school.
With the building having been turned into a middle school, there hasn’t been need to maintain the tennis courts where I spent so many afternoons coaching.
It was a little surprising to see that my classroom was gone, although I’m not sure why. I taught in a portable classroom, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised that it had been ported away from the end of the sidewalk I’d traversed so many times. I mean, it has been 17 years.
The other shocking change I found was to the fields where I coached and refereed soccer. They’d fallen completely into disrepair and it looked as though no one had done anything to maintain them for years.
After we took these pictures, though, I learned that the city built a new soccer complex. I was glad to know there was a good reason this complex had been abandoned.
Tour of Greenville, Mississippi
Another highlight of our visit to Greenville was just taking Ann around town. We drove by the apartment complexes where I lived. Then, we drove north of town to find a house where I lived for two years with some other teachers. Not wanting to scare the current residents of my old house, I just snapped a couple photos from the car as we drove by.
There’s a neat archaeological site called Winterville Mounds near that house, so we made a quick visit there.
We drove past the schools, stores, theaters, and restaurants that I remembered from my time in Greenville. Sadly, so many places I remembered are now closed. The years have not been kind to Greenville; population is down and many buildings are vacant.
Down by the river
Being on the river, Greenville is home to some riverboat casinos. I have often told Ann how on Tuesday nights we’d go down and eat a $5 all-you-could-eat buffet and then get a coupon for buy $5, and get $5 in free tokens at the casino. We’d take the coupon, get the tokens, then cash them in, effectively paying only sales tax for our meal. I wanted to show Ann where we found this unbelievable deal, so we drove downtown to find the casinos. When we crested the levee, I was shocked to find that two of the floating casinos that been docked there had been floated away. It was a view I’d never seen in all my years living there.
Finally, we had dinner at a classic Greenville restaurant called Doe’s Eat Place. That was an experience in and of itself, and I know that Ann has a post just about that dinner planned. But I thought we’d toss in one gratuitous photo to get your tastebuds going. For what it’s worth, it tastes even better than it looks.
I’m glad we stopped in Greenville. Yes, it has changed over the years. Everything does. But Greenville was, for many years, my home. It’s an integral part of the person I am today; I count myself lucky that I got to teach at Weston. And I’m glad I got to share that with Ann.