Most of the first thirteen years of my life was spent in a shotgun house. A shotgun house has one room leading into the next without a hall way. Opening the doors at each end of the house allows for breezes to circulate throughout the house in hot climates. The style can be traced from Africa to Haitian influences on house designs and is recognized as an African American contribution to American architectural styles.
I don't remember my first shotgun home. Here I am as a baby with the first shotgun in the background. This was in Copiah County, MS, in 1956.
My parents left Copiah County when I was about 2-3 years of age to live in Jackson, MS. Working with pulp wood was hard labor and the pay was too low, my father decided to move to Jackson where he could find factory work.
The first shotgun I remember was similar to the ones below. We lived in a single unit of a row. I think there were about six in a row and ours was in the middle of the row. My memories of this home include a Christmas tree and a baby doll, going to the store to get an orange soda to mix with castor oil to heal a bad cold, learning the alphabet, leaving home to cross railroad tracks to go to school, and eating spaghetti.
My father began to have financial problems and could not pay the rent. We left the single unit to move in with my dad's sister, Aunt Alice, in her single unit shotgun. I think we all slept in the front room, my parents and then three children ranging from six to 2 years.
I don't know if Aunt Alice got tired of having five additional people in her space but we moved again to live with my paternal grandmother and uncle in her side of a double barrel unit. I can remember us all sleeping in the one bedroom. Grandma had a bed in the front room and Uncle Junior slept in the kitchen. When the family on the other side moved out, we, meaning my mother and us children moved to the other side. My father gradually moved out to be with the other family he had created. Grandma's shotgun was similar to the one below, except there was one long porch connecting both sides instead of two porches.
The shotguns below are apart of the historic Farish Street District. The city of Jackson hopes to create an entertainment district similar to New Orleans' Bourbon Street or Memphis' Beale Street, filled with restaurants, night clubs and various other entertainment venues. These shotguns will be refurbished, rented to visitors who will happily pay fees too high for the working poor for which the units were originally made to house.
We moved for more space and home ownership from the last shotgun house when I was a few months shy of my fourteenth birthday. The houses of my youth were destroyed by fire or bulldozed for new housing.