Myra Morgan: landmark store owner
By Bob Arnold
Back in the 1990s when you wanted to find out what was going on in the Wesson area, you would start your day with a morning trip to the lake store across from the entrance to Lake Lincoln park on Sunset Road for coffee and maybe a small or big breakfast, but mostly for conversation and sharing news with other locals also seeking to keep up on happenings.
At 88 years old, just down the road from the eatery, convenience store and bait shop she established, Myra Morgan recalls those days at her mobile home, which she has fashioned as a cozy little cottage. Owners of the landmark have come and gone since Morgan managed it, but have not quite managed it as successfully, although she is around as a consultant for anyone who will listen to her, and she remains hopeful that the tradition she left will be resurrected.
Myra grew up on Morgan Road off Mission Hill Road, and attended the old Heucks Retreat School, where 250 students received their education in grades one to twelve. She married Bill Morgan in 1952 just before her high school graduation, but stayed on to earn her diploma after her father gave her $100 to finish her studies.
She and Bill promptly left the Wesson area to make a life in Texas when she graduated. Myra worked in a furniture store at Beaumont and operated music stores in Houston and Dallas that sold eight-track tapes. Bill worked for United Gas Company, while forging a career in Country music as a performer and song writer. He played with County legend George Jones throughout the Lone Star State and recorded in Nashville. They also had one daughter, Debbie.
Some 20 years later, Myra wanted to come home to be with her parents in Mississippi, and persuaded Bill to return to the Wesson area with her in 1970. Bill transplanted his Country music career to Mississippi, and for 20 years they operated Debbie’s Tape and Record shop, named for their daughter, in Lincoln Plaza at Brookhaven.
Meanwhile, their daughter Debbie and her husband purchased the lake store across from Lake Lincoln park. Myra, now seasoned with some 40 years of business experience, bought it from them in 1992, believing that she could effectively exploit the potential of tailoring it to Lincoln County residents, Co-Lin students, faculty and staff; and Lake Lincoln campers.
“We cleaned the place up, remodeled it, and focused on building its restaurant business,” she recalls. “We offered breakfasts, lunches and dinners.” Not only did it become a popular breakfast site, but worshippers after church services on Sundays enjoyed its country style meals. “We served 176 persons on one Mothers’ Day,” she says.
Between 1992 and 2004, she bought and sold the lake store three times, and it has changed ownership nine times. “People have seen its potential, but haven’t always had their hearts in the business,” she says. “I loved the people I met there, and serving customers.”
Today from her little cottage two doors down the road, Myra watches the lake store hopefully under an owner who, she says, seems dedicated and committed to making it work, and is a knowledgeable businessman.
Myra lives with Lil’ Man, her 12-year-old dog, and often sees her three grandchildren – Jeremy Blakeney, 49, and offshore oil worker; Brandy Myers, 41, a Brookhaven educator; and Dusty Gerald, 39, who lives in Hattiesburg; five great grandchildren and one great great grandchild. She also enjoys visits from neighbors and the owner and workers at the lake store, now called Uncle Ray’s. Her daughter perished in a 2003 automobile accident and her husband died in May 2010.
What are your hobbies? For many years, I did oil painting. After my husband died, I started using his woodworking tools to make home furnishings and décor, but my shoulder is a problem now. I also enjoy my family, and I am a member of Mission Hill Baptist Church.
Are you a reader? I read cookbooks, and like to browse pictures of country living in books and magazines.
Do you and favorite movies or plays? I am not really into movies or theater, but I am an avid football fan and enjoy watching the New Orleans Saints play on television.
Do you enjoy music? With husband in country music, how could I not be a country fan? I like Alan Jackson a lot. As a music store owner, I also got into rhythm and blues and B.B. King.
What would you do with lottery winnings if you were so lucky? I would give it to my large family. I never thought I would live as long as I have, and be able to consider the possibility.
How would you change the world? People need to get along better. Cultural and political differences shouldn’t divide us. We need to live with people with whom we disagree. But changing this today is a bigger job than I can imagine.