Monday, August 31, 2020

The Mississippi Delta 32b: Satartia (revisited spring 2020)

Satartia is a handsome little town next to the Yazoo River, partway between Redwood and Yazoo City, Mississippi. I visited in 2019 during the great flood that year. This year, the water came up again, and residents of the lower Delta were semi-inundated for months once again. I revisited Satartia one day in April when I needed a change of scene and opportunity to do some photography.
Satartia, Mississippi, at the edge of the loess hills (map from ESRI ArcGIS Online)
Levees line the Yazoo River and prevent flooding in low areas, such as the town of Satartia. This broad, flat agricultural region is the famous Mississippi Delta. However streams flow down from the loess hills to the east. If the Yazoo River is low (non-flood conditions), the streams drain into the river via culverts that run through the levee. But when the Yazoo rises above a certain level, flood gates across the culverts must be closed to prevent backflow. Then the local water has nowhere to go other than spread out into the fields, making them soggy. It is difficult for the farmers.
The little Satartia Grocery on Plum Street formerly served lunches, but it has been closed for at least a year. I saw an electric light burning inside.
Shed behind Satartia Grocery (Fuji X-E1 digital file, in-camera jpeg)
This little shed was on the side street. Did someone live in it at one time? Maybe it was a tiny home long before their time.
Former grist mill, Satartia (4×5" Tri-X Prof film, 135mm ƒ/4.5 Xenar lens, yellow-green filter)
Plum Street goes up and over the Yazoo River levee. A group of houses are on the river side of the levee. Most are up on stilts or on elevated mounds. A local gent told me that this little building was a former grist mill. As you can see, water was almost up to the base of the steps. Last year (2019), the water was just a bit higher higher and under the porch.
Shed (4×5" Tri-X Prof film, 135mm ƒ/4.5 Xenar lens, yellow-green filter)
This is a shed at the Satartia Gin. Rain was beginning to fall, and I had to photograph in a hurry and pack up. Using a 4×5 inch camera in the rain is difficult, but I like the soft non-directional light.
Fina on MS Rte 3 (4×5" Tri-X Prof film, 90mm ƒ6.8 Angulon lens)
The Fina station on Rte 3 has been closed for years. Status: unknown.

I will show more 2020 flood photos in future articles. Most of these photographs are from 4×5"Tri-X Professional (ISO 320) film taken with a Tachihara wood field camera. I scanned the negatives on an Epson 3200 Photo flat bed scanner using the Epson scan software.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

No more shopping: the dead A&P Supermarket of Vicksburg

Former A&P supermarket, 1016 Mission 66, Vicksburg (Panasonic G3 digital camera)
When my wife and I first moved to Vicksburg, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, better known as A&P, still operated two supermarkets in town. One was at 1016 Mission 66. The other was at the location now occupied by Fred's Super Dollar at 3427 Halls Ferry Road. By the mid-1980s, A&P was already a tired old company with unattractive stores, uninteresting food merchandise, and, to be blunt, questionable maintenance and cleanliness.

The company started as a coffee and tea company in 1859. It grew rapidly in the late-1800s, and by the early 20th century, the A&P was one of the world's largest retailers. According to Wikipedia,
"In 1930, A&P, now the world's largest retailer, reached $2.9 billion in sales ($44.4 billion today) with 16,000 stores. In 1936, it adopted the self-serve supermarket concept and opened 4,000 larger stores (while phasing out many of its smaller units) by 1950. 
A&P's decline began in the early 1950s, when it failed to keep pace with competitors that opened larger supermarkets with more modern features demanded by customers. By the 1970s, A&P stores were outdated, and its efforts to combat high operating costs resulted in poor customer service."
A new CEO tried to save the company in 2010 by developing "Values,""Goals," "Strategies," and "Burning imperatives."
"The burning imperative is a sharply defined, intensely shared, and purposefully urgent understanding from each of the team members of what they are “supposed to do, now.” Get this created and bought into early on—even if it’s only 90 percent right. You, and the team, will adjust and improve along the way." (from Forbes, 2011)
OK, well, you know where that went. Whenever some CEO starts to blather about goals or values, run.

I recall shopping (rarely) at the A&P in Warwick, Rhode Island, in the late 1970s, and being unimpressed with the ambience or experience. I recall a very smelly bag of potatoes because one deep inside was rotted.
Oddly enough, A&P's Bokar coffee was pretty good, and in the 1980s, A&P may have been the only source for coffee beans in Vicksburg. Yes, Vicksburg was a coffee desert back then. I usually mail-ordered coffee beans from Houston, Texas, but occasionally I was caught beanless and hopped into the A&P. The Eight O'Clock variety was pretty weak, not worth grinding and brewing. A&P sold off the Eight O'Clock coffee manufacturing unit in 2003, and I am amazed that someone still owns the trademark and sells it at various merchants, such as Amazon and larger Kroger stores.
The Mission 66 A&P building is still sitting unused, decade after decade. The building is reasonably intact and I am surprised that it has not been vandalized.
Linoleum or vinyl floor, drop ceiling - so 1970s.
 Some little person left their toys on a window sill?
The rear of the cinderblock building is a disgusting mess. I wonder if the flooded loading ramp is a mosquito-breeding swamp? Any interesting snakes? Originally, a drain connected to the storm drains, but clearly the bottom of the ramp has become clogged with debris. A 2004 Vicksburg Post article addressed the standing water with respect to West Nile Virus.

These images are from 2014, but from the road, I see no change. These are digital files from a Panasonic G3 digital camera. This was an excellent little camera which served me well around town and even on Mt. Kilimanjaro. The wide-angle views were from the Olympus M ED 9-18mm ƒ/4.0-5.6 micro Four Thirds Lens.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Heading Downtown on Foot: Drummond Street, Vicksburg (B&W film)

In early 2018 in the 35MMC photo blog, I wrote about how I was trying to be a bit more spontaneous with my photography. I wrote a short review of my little Olympus Trip 35 camera, which was was light and handy.
The Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera is a lot bigger then the Trip 35, but it also can be hand-held and is very convenient. I thought, why not load it with some Kodak Tri-X 400, walk downtown, and photograph whatever caught my fancy? What follows below is a walk along Drummond Street heading north, towards downtown Vicksburg. This was early 2020, before the Trump Virus semi-confined us to home. I added a few frames from other dates. In the future, I will write an article about some of the architecture along Drummond Street.
At one time, Drummond Street was lined with these magnificent oak trees. I think they were planted in the 1910s or 1920s to line the street. Over time, many have been felled as they rotted or huge limbs broke off. I do not see any present horticultural program to redecorate our streets. Maybe it is considered unnecessary, but we have a hodge-podge of trees now.
This one of the many crepe myrtle trees. These grow quickly and make pretty blossoms that last for weeks during the mid-summer. They add a nice splash of color to the scene.
Welcome Mississippi style. This 1920s cottage at 2904 Drummond was empty for several years but has been nicely restored. A gent name Mr. Moses lived here many years ago. He told me he was a refugee from a famine in Palestine.
Top Five, corner of Drummond and Bowmar Streets (Leica IIIC, 50mm ƒ/1.4 Canon lens, BW400CN film)
The Top Five gets a lot of business. It may be the only grocery store for several miles (excluding the Quick Stop a few blocks north). There is an occasional shooting here, but I now see some video cameras on the power poles pointing towards the store.
Bowmar Ave. near Drummond Street (Tri-X film, 4×5" Tachihara camera, 180 mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens)
This is a 1988 photograph of Bowmar Ave near the intersection with Drummond. The Top Five is at the middle right. A friend lived in the apartments on the left in the 1970s. They look pretty rough now.
Continue north and at least two of the Victorian-era houses still have their original fences. The architect must have specified the length of the fence units and then assembled them when he completed the brick retaining wall. Nice workmanship.
This is a view west along Speed Street, which intersects Drummond. The concrete pattern indicates that this is original concrete street from the 1920s. Oddly, while taking this picture, I experienced one of the very rare times that someone objected to photography. A short, pugnacious, Type A white guy confronted me and ranted away for awhile. Then he left. I am sure he felt very macho, penile, and powerful for the rest of the day.
The bees liked this post box. I hope the postman saw the danger before he tried to use it. This looks like an old-fashioned box but is recent.
Letitia Street in 1997 (Agfa Scala film, Leica M3, 50mm ƒ/2 Summicron lens, yellow filter)
Cottage off Letitia Street (Tri-X, 4×5" Tachihara camera, 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens) 
Letitia Street drops downhill from Drummond approximately across the street from the Vicksburg Gas & Water office. 1920s cottages and some newer warehouses line the street. The dark rectangle hulk at the left center is the long-unused Magnolia School on Bowmar Street. It has been empty for decades, status unknown.
Heading north, we reach the Quick Stop at the corner of Drummond and Belmont Streets. This gas station is usually busy.
Kansas City Southern rail line after ice storm, photograph from Monroe St. bridge (Tri-X film, 4×5" Tachihara camera, 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens)
Half a block north, a bridge crosses a valley and the Kansas City Southern railroad tracks. This is an odd alignment, and I assume the railroad used a natural gully when the track was laid out well before the Civil War. Trains need to negotiate this curve slowly. Once you cross the tracks, Drummond becomes Monroe Street.
Kansas City Southern rail line, photograph from Belmont Street (Tri-X film, 4×5" Tachihara camera, 135mm ƒ/4.5 Schneider Xenar lens, green filter)
This is a view of the railroad cut from a parking lot off Belmont Street. In the 1980s, I remember there being more little cottages on the opposite slope. Kudzu has enveloped the slope, covering some gardens/farms that were once below the houses.
Cottages below West Pine Street (Tri-X 400 film, Leica M3 camera, 90mm ƒ/2.8 Tele-Elmarit lens, green filter)
This is a 1996 tele view of some of the cottages on the slope. Compare with the 2002 photograph above, where the lowest cottage has been totally enveloped with kudzu.
This is the American Legion building where some precincts vote in state and national elections.

This ends our short walk on Drummond Street. The former Vicksburg Hospital was on Monroe Street just a short distance north. I will scan some of those photographs some day (when I make time).

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Time Capsule: the Morris Ice Company, Jackson, Mississippi

Morris Ice Company, Jackson, Mississippi (BW400CN film, Leica IIIC, 5 cm ƒ/2 Summitar lens)


Last December (2019), quite by chance, I found a treasure in Jackson. On the way to Jackson Ice to buy ethanol-free gasoline, I saw a car at the old Morris Ice Company warehouse at 652 S. Commerce Street. Next to the building, an old electric pump partly smothered with vines called out to be photographed. A young fellow, Mr. Jack Pickering, looked at my Hasselblad camera with interest and said he had recently bought the building along with 4 acres of land from the heirs of the Morris family.

Pump formerly used to supply water for ice-making operation, Morris Ice. Co. (Kodak Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 501CM, 80mm ƒ/2.8 Planar-CB lens)

A story in the Jackson Business Journal describes Mr. Pickering's ambitious plans:
He plans to convert the shop into a party/band/restaurant/function place. As of 2019, Pearl River Canoe rents one section of the building. I saw gorgeous wood lath canoes drying on racks, and some guys were trimming wood slats. They make these magnificent canoes totally by hand from willow and other indigenous woods.

I asked Mr. Pickering if I could take some pictures inside, and he generously said I was free to take pictures for about a half hour. A movie group was already inside and had set up lights with colored gels. Someone was going to pose with grandma Morris's 1962 Cadillac, which looked pretty good except for flat tyres. My favorite Panatomic-X film was in the film back. Being a slow film, most of my exposures inside were 1 sec at ƒ/5.6, but one exposure was 20 seconds. One of the cinematographers also admired my Hasselblad film camera.

Ice Industry

During the mid-late 1800s, the ice trade was a major industry for the northern states of the USA. In winter, workmen sawed blocks of ice from frozen lakes and rivers. They stored the ice in specially constructed ice houses using sawdust for insulation. Led by the New England states, ice companies shipped ice around the world - as far as South America and even India. 

In the Civil War, the union armies used ice to reduce fever of wounded souldiers. After the war, cattle companies depended on ice to ship beef to stock-houses in Chicago and to ship finished meat products to eastern cities and even across the Atlantic Ocean to Great Britain. 

The problem with block ice cut from frozen lakes was loss from melting, despite the best attempts at storage and insulation. By the 1880s, improved refrigeration equipment became reliable and capable of mass ice manufacture. In the early years of the 20th century, commercial ice plants finally supplanted ice cut from lakes. 

Mississippi History Now features a very interesting article titled "Making Ice in Mississippi" by Elli Morris (the great-granddaughter of the founder of Morris Ice Company). A Civil War veteran originally founded the Morris Ice Company in 1880.* The original company sold ice that had been shipped down the Mississippi River from northern states. The ice factory at S. Commerce Street was in operation from the 1920s to 1988. It was one of the largest ice distributors in Mississippi. According to Morris,
"With the advent of inexpensive manufactured block ice, new businesses could operate year round in Mississippi, while others moved to the state for the first time. Dairy farming, concrete production, chicken processing plants, bakeries, and florists are a few types of industries that prospered using manufactured block ice. Two industries in particular, farm produce and seafood, grew hand-in-hand with the rise of manufactured block ice."
In 1988, Mr. Morris sold his business to a Carthage ice company. I do not know how long the factory on S. Commerce Street remained in production after that.

Former loading dock (Fuji GW690II camera, 90mm ƒ/3.5 Fujinon lens)

Interior Photographs

The inside of the Morris Ice Company is a amazing time capsule of early 20th century machinery. It is a spectacular setting of tubes, big machines, tools, belts, old shelves, and low-angle lighting.

The belt-driven compressors were for an ammonia cycle, where chilled ammonia circulated through pipes in salt water tanks. The molds made 300-lb ice blocks. Trolleys ran on rails along the rafters to carry the ice blocks to waiting rail cars or trucks.

1920s electrical control panel based on slate panels (50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens)

The company had its own electricity plant and sold excess electricity the City of Jackson. The electric pump outside (see photograph no. 2) was for the former well, which tapped an aquifer 600 ft below. All the levers and fuses on the electric control panel were mounted on slate panels. This had been a totally manual, old-fashioned operation. I thought it was amazing that the electrical panel had survived the decades.

The desk contained time booklets for all employees back to the 1960s. There was no computer technology here.

Diesel engine (Hasselblad 50mm Distagon lens, 20 sec ƒ/5.6)

This large old diesel engine would turn a pulley. Some of the compressors were turned by electric motors, but possibly this was a backup in case the electrical power failed (see the newspaper article quoted below).

This is a collection of oil cans from the old days. I am sure there was a significant oil consumption keeping the many bearings lubricated.

When the movie crew started, we walked outside and Mr. Pickering took me around back to meet a photographer. This gent lives in a garage apartment. He also commented on the Hasselblad. He said he had just given Pickering one of his Nikkormat cameras and was going to teach him how to do film photography. I told them my first serious camera was a Nikkormat that I bought at Lechmere Sales in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The photographer said he knew the place because he graduated from Boston University in the late 1960s. Come to find out, we both used to visit the same camera stores in Harvard Square back in the day. He also used Panatomic-X years ago. Small world.

Most photographs are from medium format Kodak Panatomic-X film from a Hasselblad 501CM camera. As I noted above, most were 1 or ½ sec. exposures, and I used a tripod to stabilize the camera for all photographs. I specifically scanned at low contrast to show all the texture and detail of the machines. Click any photograph to expand it. When the virus restrictions are finally over, I will ask Mr. Pickering if I can return with my 4×5" camera and record some more of the textures and patterns.


Jackson, Mississippi
01 Oct 1988, Sat  •  Page 20

108-year-old Morris Ice sold to Carthage business
The company, one of the city's oldest, will be called Jackson Ice Co 
By Carol B. McPhail Clarion-Ledger Business Writer  
One of Jackson's oldest businesses Morris Ice Co. is being transferred to the owner of Carthage Ice Co. in Carthage. The company, created by a Civil War veteran in 1880, will start to make ice under the name of Jackson Ice Co. in about three weeks.  
Wendell Harrell of Carthage will take over the business, starting today.
Hebron Morris, president of Morris Ice, will retain the property and lease it to the new owner.  
Harrell is expected to keep most of the approximately 20 veteran workers at the Jackson plant, the second ice plant built in the state.  
Morris, the founder's grandson, said the 65-year-old plant simply was not able to keep up with its more automated competitors. The building on S. Commerce Street re placed an earlier one destroyed by fire in 1923. "With the repairs and replacements required to build a modern plant, we just didn't feel like we could make that investment," Morris, 57, said Friday. He added that the company had been seeking a buyer for the past 45 days.
The plant makes 300-pound blocks of ice a foot thick and 4 feet tall that freeze in IV2 days. Yearly sales average $300,000.  
Workers pour water into cans that are submerged in tanks cooled by ammonia coils and a water-salt solution. Today, most companies use electric-powered compressors to freeze ice in chips, a 30-minute process.  
Morris said one of the rare features of the plant is that it uses gas engines to power the compressors. Those engines have been chugging loudly in the area since most Jack-sonians can remember. "It's going to seem pretty unusual for it to be quiet," Morris said.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Major Loss: Beautiful 1903 Steel Arch Bridge over Jackson Road, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Old-timers remember when Confederate Avenue in the Vicksburg National Military Park crossed Jackson Road on a steel arch bridge. It was a beautiful example of early-20th century engineering - light, airy, and strong. I posted low-resolution contact sheet scans before, but as part of my National Park project, I scanned these 2002 negatives individually at 2400 dpi. In the 1980s, pedestrians could still cross the old bridge, but traffic was routed on a modern concrete bridge.

Photographers from the Library of Congress photographed the bridge as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey. According to the Library of Congress:
-  Significance: The steel arch bridge on Confederate Avenue in Vicksburg National Military Park is significant for its design. It is the only extant steel arch bridge in the State of Mississippi. The structure was included among a number of the state's historic bridges nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
-  Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N479
-  Survey number: HAER MS-12
-  Building/structure dates: 1903 Initial Construction
Look at the last photograph; you can see how a footing has been displaced and has tipped over. But the bridge is still standing, held up by three footings. The structure was not weak. Workmen from Riverside Construction of Vicksburg pulled down the span using a bulldozer and dump trucks on June 20, 2002. They cut up the steel and took it away for recycling.

This is how we lose our architectural and engineering heritage: no one cares, and boneheaded authorities take the cheap and easy way out. For shame.
This is a footing on the north side of the road.

These frames are from Kodak Tri-X Professional film exposed with a Tachihara 4×5 inch wood camera with 75mm ƒ/8 Schneider Super-Angulon or 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lenses. I scanned the negatives with an Epson 3200 Photo scanner and touched up dust or chemical blobs with Photoshop CS5.