The University of Southern Mississippi

Mexican Fudge

Mrs. Grady Easley

3 cups sugar, 1/2 cup milk, rind of 2 oranges grated coarsely, 1/2 cup butter or margarine, 1 cup nuts (pecans or English walnuts). Caramelize 1 cup of the sugar in a large saucepan, then add the other 2 cups sugar, milk and orange rind. Cook over slow heat for about 15 minutes or until the syrup tests for the soft ball stage. Add butter and allow to cool until lukewarm. Beat until creamy. Add nuts and turn into a buttered dish. When cool cut in squares.


Coca Cola Salad

Mrs. Rose Chandler

2 bottles coca cola, 1 large can Bing cherries, 1 large can crushed pineapple, 2 small packages Philadelphia cream cheese, 1 cup chopped nuts, 2 packages cherry jello. Drain juice from cherries and pineapple. Heat and pour over jello. Cool and add coca colas. When slightly thickened, add halved and seeded cherries, pineapple, nuts and chopped cream cheese (chill cheese and it will chop better). Filled oiled molds and let chill until set. Serves 14 or more.


Grape Juice Pie

Mrs. J.A. Hardin

3 eggs well beaten. Add 1 level T. flour to 1/2 c. sugar and mix. Add this to eggs and beat well. Add 1 cup grape juice. Place in a double boiler and cook until thickened. Cool and pour in pastry shells. Top with whipped cream.


Meat Ball Supreme

Mrs. Mable Kelso

2 eggs, 1 cup apple sauce, 1 cup dried bread crumbs, 2 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper, 2 lbs. ground beef, 2 T. chopped onions, 1/4 c. finely chopped clery, 2 T. green pepper, 2 T. carrots, 2 Tbs. flour, 2 cups tomato juice, 1/4 t. salt, 2 t. sugar. Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in apple sauce, bread crumbs and seasoning. Then add ground beef. Mix thoroughly. Shape in balls 1 1/2 inches thick. Brown in 1/2 inch deep fat in a heavy skillet. When brown remove meat balls to a 2 quart casserole. Leave 2 T. fat in the skillet and add vegetables. Cook until tender but not brown. Stir in flour and add tomato juice, salt and sugar. Cook until thickened. Pour this over the meat balls and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. This may be frozen. Serve with a crisp salad and baked potatoes for a complete meal.

Cook Book: A Few Tried and Trusted Recipes


Calhoun City Senior Class

Calhoun City, Mississippi, 1961


Read Cook Book: A Few Tried and Trusted Recipes

Historical Calhoun City

About the cookbook

Calhoun City revisited








Calhoun City, Mississippi

Calhoun City won and was soon the largest city in Calhoun County.  In 1905, Derma, a newly founded town just south of the county seat in Pittsboro, Mississippi, envisioned a rosy future; the long promised Mobile & Ohio Railroad was finally coming to Calhoun County and Derma was the most likely place to build a depot.  But Frank Burkett, a Civil War veteran and sometimes land speculator, had other plans.  He bought land, hired laborers to cut roads around a town green, convinced the postal service to set up an office, and wooed two county businesses to move to the new city.  The railroad built its first depot on the new line in Burkett, soon to be renamed Calhoun City.  Derma sued and also secured a depot, but it was too late and the town never grew to the size of Calhoun City.  Soon Calhoun City had a mercantile, a hardware store, a drug store, a livery stable, a few grocery stores, and a café as well as temperance and grange organizations.

Calhoun City’s audacious start shaped its future.  It was to be a New South town.  Although the city’s hinterlands produced cotton, corn, mules (in great demand during World War I), sweet potatoes, lespedeza (Japan clover), and lumber, the city was more than an agricultural hub.  From the start, it attracted small industry.  The first was a spoke factory, but that first factory was soon joined by furniture manufacturers, sawmills, an ice company, a newspaper, a regional telephone company, and other sundry businesses.  “The City Ready for Tomorrow"

Fifty years later, after the railroad closed during the Great Depression and the furniture industry faltered after World War II, the city remained pragmatic and determined.  Writing on the occasion of the town’s anniversary in 1956, the Calhoun City Monitor’s editor Stanley Murphree expressed the same audacity that the town embodied in its founding.  “Calhoun City is not the biggest or best town in the state, nor does it claim to be a model one. There is still plenty to do here, and the future holds a challenge for many needed improvements. However, the people will prove themselves equal to the tasks of future years, as they have in the years of the past—and all of us believe that a good town will grow to be a better town.”  But perhaps Beth Hawkins, winner of a city slogan contest a year earlier, said it more succinctly:  Calhoun City, she wrote, was “The City Ready for Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow” brought new technologies and new industry to Calhoun County and its namesake city.  By 1960, 92% of the houses in the county had radios, 63% had televisions, 11% had air conditioning, and 37% percent had telephones.  While less than half of the families in the county had freezers, the Natchez Trace Electric Power Association offered everyone a chance to win an electric appliance at the 1960 county fair.  Mrs. Troy Hudson won the prize and selected a Frigidaire freezer. For those not as lucky as Mrs. Hudson, Pryor’s Hardware sold Frigidaires for $3.50 a week after a down payment.  By the early 1960s, Calhoun City could claim all the trappings of prosperity.  The city boasted two drug stores, two hardware stores, eight grocery stores, three auto dealers, two farm equipment dealers, three barbershops, six beauty parlors, six dry good stores, ten service stations, one funeral home, two dry cleaners, two washaterias, and two jewelry shops.  There were three cafes in town, including Sue’s, which served a Sunday “smorgasbord” with county fried steak, fried shrimp, fried chicken, baked chicken and dressing, and baked ham as well as “all kinds of homemade cakes and pies.”  And there was also an air-conditioned movie theater, a drive-in, a public gym, a baseball field, and, according to a county report in 1962, “sufficient” billiard halls and domino parlors.  Still, many worried that young people did not have enough to do and the death of a local youth in 1961 after his car crashed while drag racing must have heightened concerns.  County leaders suggested a bowling alley and supervised public dances while local leaders solicited donations to fund a summer program offering “clean recreation” including baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball and “beat-the-ball.”

Concerns about delinquent teenagers were hardly unique to Calhoun City in 1961, but those fears may have been heightened by a fundamental shift in the local economy that disrupted traditional home life.  As mechanization replaced farm labor in the 1950s, agricultural employment decreased in the county by 50%.  The rising unemployment was offset, in part, by an increase in industrial work during the same decade and by 1962, more Calhounians worked in manufacturing than agriculture.  However, the new factories that opened in Calhoun City employed women rather than men.

Although the furniture trade still provided 41% of manufacturing jobs in 1962, the hardwood and soft pine forests that supplied much of the raw material for Calhoun City’s early industries were nearly depleted, to the dismay of county officials who complained that lumber companies had “completely disregarded the future of the land and timber stand.”  By the late fifties, three furniture manufactures in the county had closed and the Deminsion Mill in Calhoun City had scaled back operations.   By the early 1960s, the mill, now called the Schoolfield Chair Company, employed only 30 men.

In contrast, the garment industry grew.  In 1947, the Calhoun Garment Company opened, a massive factory which employed 350–500 people making boys’ slacks for Sears Roebuck.  However, garment factories hired fairly low-skill female labor and paid low wages.  An article in the Monitor on the company’s 14th anniversary acknowledged that this was a different kind of employment than the furniture factories that had sustained the city in its first fifty years.  “The payroll of the Calhoun Garment Company,” the article observed, “has provided hundreds of families with extra money.”  Likewise, a county report in 1968 seemed to acknowledge the effect that the rise in women’s employment was having on family life.  Citing Commerce Department and Bureau of Labor Statistics, the county development authority observed that 24.3% of Calhoun County’s female population over the age of 14 were now employed and, in a subtle reference to the shifts in the labor market, also noted that a recent study by actuaries had found men were significantly overweight.  “The homemakers of tomorrow will probably work outside their homes for 25 years of their adult lives . . . [and] will need time- and labor-saving devices as well as more knowledge and managerial skill if they are to do two jobs well,” the 1968 report concluded.  To address the double burden women faced, the report recommended that the county invest more resources into educating the housewife “about the better use of prepared foods.”


The Cookbook

“Almost all of [the black elementary schools] are mere shacks and will have no place in the reorganized program.”In 1959, Calhoun County reorganized its schools.  Concluding that larger schools were not only less expensive but provided a better education, school districts were consolidated and new facilities built.  Race was also addressed.  While the county continued to segregate black and white children despite the 1954 Brown decision overturning “separate but equal” schooling, the county recognized that there were severe discrepancies between the educational opportunities for white and black students.  Black students, a 1956 Mississippi State College report observed with uncommon candor, received 64% of the resources that white students received and their schools were in poor condition.  “Almost all of [the black elementary schools],” the report concluded, “are mere shacks and will have no place in the reorganized program.”  Busing black students to centralized schools did not solve all problems—black schools lacked the vocational and home economics classes that were offered at white schools, for example—but it improved the quality of education countywide.

For high school students in Calhoun City, the reorganization was less dramatic than in other areas of the county.  The city’s black high students already traveled ten miles to the high school in Bruce and after the reorganization white students still attended the city’s educational campus located “on a beautiful 15-acre site,” although the city schools absorbed some students from surrounding areas.  The campus housed grades 1-12 in six buildings that included a high school built in 1949 that had its own auditorium, library, homemaking department, and “science and commercial rooms.”  The campus also had a gymnasium, agricultural/vocational shop, and a lunchroom.

Befitting a town that viewed itself as part of the New South, Calhoun City was proud of its (white) schools.  As in many communities, the Wildcat high school football team drew crowds, but the city celebrated its academic as well as athletic accomplishments.  Every week the Monitor-Herald, featured front page notices reporting on the lives of students who were away at college and offered profiles of teachers who worked in the city schools.  High-school valedictorians and salutatorians were lauded in the newspaper, as were the yearbook and school newspaper editors.  School-sponsored events—plays, dances, and pep rallies—were also front-page stories.  The band boosters’ spaghetti dinner and a senior health class fundraiser for the Heart Fund were considered events worthy of the whole community’s attention and support.

Calhoun City’s enthusiasm for education did not flag even as the economics of education changed in the 1960s.  A 1962 county survey bragged that 45% of Calhoun County white high school graduates and 10% of its black graduates were college bound.  Unfortunately, these students would have little incentive to return to Calhoun County.  “Local schools furnish a fair source of the labor supply but a high percentage of the graduates go to college and do not return to the area for employment,” the county survey conceded.  “[T]he jobs that exist in the county are primarily semiskilled.”  Given that six out of the sixty-two students who graduated in 1961, the year the senior class cookbook was published, shared a surname with a founding father of Calhoun City (either a member of city government or one of the first merchants), the likelihood that some might not return to a city that had provided their families with a livelihood for more than fifty years would have made high-school graduation bittersweet.

It is not clear why the senior class of Calhoun City high school published a cookbook in 1961.  The cookbook, with its simple yellow cover and list of all sixty-two graduating seniors offers few clues to its inception or purpose.  It may have been sold to fund a class trip or graduation party, but in the year prior to graduation the Monitor-Herald, uncharacteristically, makes no mention of the cookbook.  More likely, this community cookbook was a school project sponsored by the home economics department or some other club, and given to students.  Regardless, the cookbook reflects the changes happening in the community.  There are no recipes for caviar appetizers or champagne toasts (although that is not surprising since Mississippi was a dry state until 1966 and Calhoun County, although somewhat famous for its moonshine, is still dry today).  These are the recipes of middle-income "Today the can opener is fast becoming a magic wand, especially in the hands of those brave, young women . . . who are engaged in frying as well as bringing home the bacon."families with housewives who work and children who are busy with after-school activities.  The main dishes include three recipes for chicken spaghetti, the vegetable section has four variations on asparagus casserole, and the salad section has two versions of coca cola salad (which helps explain the thirty-five percent increase in soft drink consumption in Calhoun County between 1960 and 1965).  Classic southern dishes like fried chicken are missing and instead there is a recipe for a lemon-oleo “oven-fried chicken.”  These are simple, pragmatic recipes, liberally using canned goods of the sort that Poppy Cannon celebrated in her bestselling 1951 book The Can-opener Cook Book.  "At one time a badge of shame, hallmark of the lazy lady and the careless wife,” Cannon wrote, “today the can opener is fast becoming a magic wand, especially in the hands of those brave, young women, nine million of them (give or take a few thousand here and there), who are engaged in frying as well as bringing home the bacon."  The fact that women in Calhoun County submitted and signed their names to these recipes suggests that Cannon was right: the can opener was no longer a sign of familial neglect.

If the recipes do not include many exotics ingredients, however, there is nonetheless a desire for culinary adventure in the senior class cookbook.  Forty-four percent of the “tried and trusted” main dishes in the cookbook were influenced by immigrant culture or were presented as foreign dishes.  Like the city itself, this is a cookbook of the New South.  Instead of traditional southern dishes, there are recipes that hint at international intrigue such as the Mrs. Dudley’s spaghetti, Mrs. Williams’ Russian Fluff, Mrs. Whittle’s chili, and (if not quite international nonetheless exotic) Mrs. Percival’s Hawaiian steaks.  These recipes possibly appealed to a generation of Calhoun City high school graduates who were not looking inward, but outward, anticipating college and careers far from their Mississippi childhood homes.

If the senior class cookbook is pragmatic, it is not without a bit of flair.  TheThe meatballs are “supreme” and so is the cherry pie. meatballs are “supreme” and so is the cherry pie.  Calhoun City was audacious and the bright yellow cover was in keeping with that spirit.  But the optimism the graduating class of 1961 inspired in the community would not survive the racial conflicts of the coming years.  In 1968, a federal district court ended Calhoun County’s dual education system and Calhoun City’s 15-acre school campus was desegregated.  Many white families, leery of the change, joined D. L. Harrison, the public school principal, and the Citizen Council in establishing an alternative “segregation school,” the Calhoun Academy.  The academy initially offered three grades, and eventually grew to offer all 12 grades.  Until Runyon v. McCrary, a 1976 Supreme Court decision that ended discrimination against African Americans in private schools, Calhoun Academy barred African Americans.


Calhoun City Revisited

Calhoun City was the largest town in the county in 1961.  Today, the city of Bruce is the larger town with over 2,000 residents.  But the region, although not wealthy, has continued to provide opportunities for its residents.  In 2010, textile, apparel, and furnishings factories were still among the largest employers in the city, although these workers made up only 8% of the local workforce.  The largest employers in the city in recent years have included a leading maker of wooden boat paddles and the regional healthcare industry.

Calhoun County is now known for its sweet potatoes more than its cities.  As Mississippians increasingly reconsider their diet, demand for locally produced food is on the rise and the county’s agriculture is, once again, one of its most valued products.  Vardaman, ten minutes east of Calhoun City, is the self-proclaimed (and widely recognized) sweet potato capital of the world and the farms that surround Calhoun City and Bruce, while still invested in cash crops, are also increasingly growing for the local market.  Every week, Calhoun City’s central square hosts a farmer’s market.  In 2012, 2% of Mississippi agricultural sales were for specialty crops sold at farmers markets and other local retailers.  “People want to buy from a local source, whether they buy straight from the farmer or get it through their grocer,” Jeremy Maness, an agriculture agent with Mississippi State University, told the Calhoun County Journal. “My growers have definitely seen an increase in individuals coming to their farms to buy produce. Restaurants and grocery stores, including Wal-Mart and Kroger, also buy from farmers in my area.”

Essay by Andrew P. Haley, USM



Calhoun County Historical and Genealogical Society, Calhoun County Mississippi: A Pictorial History. Humbolt, TN: Rose Publishing Company, 1997.

Calhoun County Resource Development Association. Calhoun County Over-all Economic Development Plan.  Pittsboro, MS: Calhoun County Resource Development Association, 1968.

Calhoun County Rural Area Development Organization, Comprehensive Overall Economic Development Program for Calhoun County, December 1962.

Cook v. Hudson. 365 F.Supp. 855 (1973).  Accessed September 2014.

Rose Diamond. “MSGenweb: Calhoun County, Mississippi.”  Last updated May 2014.

Division of Surveys in the Department of Adult Education through the School of Education, Mississippi State College. Survey of Public School Buildings in Calhoun County School District, Pittsboro, Mississippi.  State College: Misssissippi State College, 1956.

Ken Nail. “The Way I Heard It”: A History of Calhoun County. Pittsboro, MS: Calhoun County School District, 1975.

Image Credits:

“United States Post Office, Calhoun City, Miss.” (19--), Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH,  Courtesy of the Archives and Records Services Division, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

"Farm Bureau, The Farmer's Share" (19--), Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Collection, MDAH,  Courtesy of the Archives and Records Services Division, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Boxes of Mississippi Yams (197-), Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Collection, MDAH,  Courtesy of the Archives and Records Services Division, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.


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© 2014 The Mississippi Community Cookbook Project