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Commemorative book to celebrate Hub City’s 125 years

This year marks the City of Hattiesburg’s 125th anniversary, and the city plans to kick off the celebration in a grand way next month. There will be a 125th-anniversary show at the historic Saenger Theater March 7, and HUBFEST, the city’s annual outdoor event held downtown, will be held March 28 and will focus on the city’s rich past.

Also in March, a special book titled “Hattiesburg, 1884-2009: Challenges and Growth, Historic Past and Brilliant Future” will be released by M&M Publishing.

Many may be familiar with the story of William Hardy, who back in the late 1800s sat down with a piece of paper and mapped out the “spokes” of railroads that would run through his proposed “hub” city, linking it with Jackson, Gulfport, New Orleans and Mobile, Ala. (Hardy’s wife, Hattie, is the city’s namesake.) However, the city’s history goes back to well before Hardy’s plan, and this is covered in M&M Publishing’s book.

“We have been working really hard on the book,” said Mark Olderr, who founded M&M Publishing with his wife, Marsha, in the mid-1990s. “It will go all the way back to the Choctaw Indians up to the present. In essence, it will give a pictorial display of all aspects of the city’s society.”

The hard-bound book will encompass 256 pages of mostly four-color art. The book will offer unique features such as a list of Hattiesburg’s mayors. (Former mayors Bobby Chain and Ed Morgan have contributed to the book, as well as current Mayor Johnny Dupree.)

Obviously, this is a monumental undertaking. Olderr said the city approached M&M Publishing about the publication in the spring of 2008. In the summer, the city gave its go-ahead, and M&M Publishing has been working on the book ever since then.

The commemorative book will be available in March through a number of outlets. In addition to local bookstores, the publication will be available online through the Area Development Partnership’s web site as well as through the city and the local historical society. Obviously, the book will also be offered online by M&M Publishing, too.

Olderr said working on the book opened his eyes to the creativity of the people of Hattiesburg, and their foresight that has made the city such an economic force. Hattiesburg’s “portfolio” is a diversified one.

The Olderrs have come to Hattiesburg and added to that diversity. Mark is originally from South Dakota, while Marsha hails from Virginia. The couple entered the publishing industry through Southwestern Bell Media, which went through many acquisitions, each one necessitating the Olderrs to relocate. Eventually, they landed in New York State.

When yet another buyout was announced and the couple was faced with moving again, they decided it was time to put down roots. They formed M&M Publishing in 1995 in New York, and were producing several publications when they, too, were acquired. With no prospects in New York, the couple looked to make one last move.

Marsha’s daughter was living in Bogalusa, La., so the couple searched for a community nearby. They struck on Hattiesburg because, it “also offered seemingly everything and was a growing community,” Olderr said. The couple relocated to the Hub City in 2000.

“It is fascinating how the people’s creativity and foresight created Hattiesburg’s broad-based economy,” said Olderr when asked what he has learned about the city since starting work on the book. “For instance, the tung tree industry eventually led to the polymer science work at the University of Southern Mississippi, which is huge. Even when other parts of South Mississippi were ailing, the city was finding ways to create businesses and jobs. It is an extremely impressive history.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.

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