‘The South’ is in a flux, or is it?|[11/24/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 25, 2005

Local, transplants see differences

Will the South lose its identity? It’s a question brewing across the nation, but for four Vicksburg residents – either transplanted from our northern neighboring states or simply well-versed in all things both North and South – the answer is no. To them, the South is, indeed, Southern.

Bill Marcuson was born in North Carolina, but his stints in the North while in the U.S. Army have left him with a different perspective of the South.

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For him, even though change is inevitable, the South will never lose its identity.

&#8220We live in a world of change. The South is changing; America is changing; and the world is changing,” he said. &#8220But Southerners are Southern-


Twenty-seven-year-old Vicksburg native Chesley Lambiotte does fear that the region – once known for its front-porch swing chats and tall tales over sweet tea – may lose that social dynamic that once set it apart from other regions.

&#8220It’s more modern and contemporary as far as technology goes – there’s not a lot of social interaction anymore,” she said. &#8220I can see where we could start losing our Southern hospitality. It’s so easy to talk over the phone or text message – you lose that social aspect.”

Lambiotte spent three years living in New York City auditioning for dancing and acting jobs and moved back South in 2002. While in the big city, she said even though she considered herself &#8220Southern,” she felt her identity slipping away as a result of her slipping into the hustle and bustle.

&#8220I think we tend to lose our identity when we’re away – I would find myself losing my accent,” she said. &#8220But, then it’s totally different once you get back down here. I really truly don’t believe the South is losing its identity.”

The main difference between living in the North and the South for Lambiotte was the warmth of the people.

&#8220In the South, you’re more apt to speak to someone, but in New York you know you’re not going to know anyone. Here, it’s that sense of somehow we know each other – it’s friendship,” she said.

Close relationships are what Ed Perkins, who moved to Vicksburg from Champaign, Ill., 10 years ago, believes set the South apart from the rest of the country.

&#8220People are a bit warmer and much more family-oriented,” he said. &#8220They tend to focus on relationships rather than what they’re getting out of it for themselves.”

The weather just may be what causes some of the cultural differences, Perkins added.

&#8220People in the North are more isolated because it’s cold – they tend to stay inside more,” he said.

Whatever the difference, Perkins doesn’t see the small-town South changing its ways.

&#8220It seems like people who grew up in the South seem to be very loyal,” he said. &#8220The major metropolitan areas will change somewhat, but the South as a whole isn’t going to change. Even the people who are more intellectual appreciate the fundamental stuff like home and family.”

Nita Huell, who moved from Wisconsin to Port Gibson in 1998 and now lives in Vicksburg, has yet to warm up to the South.

&#8220It’s not as hospitable as I always thought it would be,” she said. &#8220I thought people would be a lot nicer and receiving, but they really aren’t.”

While having four distinct seasons is what she misses the most about her Northern roots, the people are what make the difference.

&#8220In Wisconsin, there were so many different ethnic groups and they seem to get along better,” she said. &#8220I’m not finding that too much here.”

Huell doesn’t believe the South’s identity is changing and, while she often finds herself longing for Northern soil, she doesn’t think it should.

&#8220There’s a difference (between the North and the South) and I think there should be because that’s what makes it what it is,” she said. &#8220I don’t want everything to be the same.”