In 1979, a young woman sits down in a comfy rocking chair next to her grandfather for their usual conversation time. After hearing his same stories more than a hundred times before, she knows they will then walk together in the woods on the land where her family has lived since 1913.
This time is different, though, for in her hands she carries a small cassette tape recorder to tape the old, but still refreshing, memories of her beloved grandfather.
She does not know that 35 years later, she will create a cookbook called “Momma Dean’s Southern Cooking at Meador Homestead.” In it will be family recipes and pictures, but more importantly, it will provide a looking glass into a simple Southern family’s way of life during the 1900s.
Dean Meador Smith loves history and when given the opportunity to teach a class for OLLI at the University of Southern Mississippi called “The First 100 years of Hattiesburg,” she jumped right in. While researching the city where she was born and raised, she discovered a deep connection between the historical events of 1884-1984 and the stories on that recording her grandfather had told her years before.
“My family’s cabin was built in 1884, the year our city was officially named Hattiesburg,” said Smith. “My grandfather died in 1986, 102 years after the birth of our city. What better way to make the events of these 100 years interesting by telling it from our family who lived in this cabin.”
Thus, “Riding the Wind” (a play about the first 100 years of Hattiesburg) was created. Those attending the performances set for 5:30pm Oct. 6 and 7 and 3pm Oct. 8 and 9, at the Arnold-Meador Homestead, will be able to observe some of the special events that happened in the early life of Hattiesburg.
You’ll find Capt. Hardy (the founder of Hattiesburg) and young C.G. Meador fishing at Gordon’s Creek, dinner on the grounds for the mission church, Broad Street Methodist Church established by Main Street Metho-dist, references to the 1912 glee club and graduating class of Hattiesburg High School, the first football team of MS Normal College (now USM), World War I, World War II, and the ’60s with the Civil Rights movement.
Interspersed, however, is a typical Southern family “riding the wind” or living the first 100 years in their family home. There is laughter, sadness and of course, love shared between C.G. and Annie Dean Meador.
The play will take place on the porch of the Arnold-Meador Homestead cabin, 6775 Hwy 49 in Hattiesburg. The audience will be a part of the open-air theatre production as they watch from the yard the events of the 100 years.
There is limited seating, so reservations must be made by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 601.268.3236. Tickets are $15 per person.
There are 21 people in the cast and some will be representing their Hattiesburg families of the first 100 years. Erin Lambert Dornan will play her great-grandmother Annie Dean, and Laney and Teddi Harden are seventh generations representing the Meador family from the cabin. Perry Arnold represents the Arnold family (the original family of the cabin from 1887). Frank Montague Sr. is played by his great grandson, Brett Montague, and Tom Hardy, who plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War I, will represent the Hardy family of Capt. Hardy.
Scotty Whitehurst plays young C.G. Meador while Chris Wooten the old C.G. Trista Boudreaux plays granddaughter, Dean Meador. Other cast members are Mike Garner, Sona Roberts, Heather Wilson, Bre Roberts, Carrie Johnikin, Scott Johnikin, Sophie McLemore, Larry Bullion, River Mathias, Jamie O’Quinn and Rev. Andy Cotton. The play is directed by Mike Garner with Shellie Nielsen as assistant director.
A Facebook page has been created for those interested in historical events of Hattiesburg. Go to Riding the Wind Hattiesburg and share any photos of these first 100 years.
Cast member Brett Montague sums it up best. “Just as I’ve learned and gotten so much from being in this production, I know the rest of you who love Hattiesburg will get equal value out of attending this event,” he said. “We can’t wait to see you at the production of ‘Riding the Wind’ (the first 100 years of Hattiesburg). Life is like riding the wind. So, jump on, and enjoy the ride!”