Remember when: born, raised, and educated in MS

Remember When

By Guest Columnist Mary Jane Boutwell


Time for me to get on my soapbox. If you know my reference, thank your teachers. They taught you and teach you basic knowledge and other bits and pieces that made and make learning fun, interesting, and challenging.

Back when I was traveling all over the U.S. with the rock club, I kept running into disbelief when I said I was from Mississippi. 

One of the more memorable moments was when a grandson and I were in the Northeast at an awards banquet. We sat eight to ten around the table, and everyone introduced themselves with their name and homeplace. When I said I was from Mississippi, everyone said there was no way that was correct. 

I answered with, “My grammar is pretty good. When I take a drink, I know where to replace my glass. I eat with a knife and fork – not my fingers. I am wearing shoes, and I am not pregnant.  I am from Mississippi and proud of it.”

Just recently, I have added to my list another noteworthy person who graduated from the Mississippi public school system. Four out of five graduated from the engineering school at Mississippi State (starting in 1960). 

One led the team that designed the ground-hugging air force plan brought into service in Vietnam.  One helped design tools the astronauts used in space. One worked her way up in Amazon to the point one supervisor tried to keep her from advancing. The fourth went to Mississippi State in spite of family objections, graduated, got a job, and became a project leader in less than a year and has continued to assume more challenges as he moved up and up. 

The fifth person never got a college degree but designed and built electronic parts that are in space today. 

And these are only five I know that graduated from the “terrible” Mississippi public school system. 

Now, I do know the schools are reinforced by parents, homelife, and the individuals. I say “and the individual,” as I do know something about each, and the parents did not do the school work for the child. 

One last thing, nothing to do with our schools, but much to do with people. I know a no-longer-young man that worked part time in a small town Chinese-owned grocery through high school and later. By exposure, he learned to speak Chinese. Occasionally, he would drive the owner to Texas to visit family. On one of the trips, the storeowner got on to his family for not learning to speak Chinese. His comment was “he can speak better Chinese than any or all of you.” 

I am proud to be from Mississippi. Yes, we do have problems, but you should try living elsewhere to put things into perspective. 
“Yes, we can read. A few can write.” 

Mississippi…believe it. 


EDITOR’S NOTE: Mary Jane Boutwell is a passionate historian and is thrilled to share stories about way back when.


Canton News [email protected]



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Kelly 06/06/2022, 11:29 AM
I would like to know who the Chinese grocer was in the last part of the article, being that I was raised in Mississippi and a Chinese American.