It’s hard today to imagine a Ridgeland without a Northpark, without a local restaurant, with very little traffic. And without Gene McGee as mayor.
But when Jerry and Mary Ann Garrity moved to the Gateway North subdivision in 1978 that’s exactly how it was. Not a wilderness, quite; but certainly a far cry from what the city has evolved into today.
Still living in the same house they purchased in ’78, the Garritys say that, surprisingly, Gateway North was nearly fully occupied at time they came to Ridgeland.
The couple, both now retired, were not Mississippi natives. Mrs. Garrity was from Chicago and Mr. Garrity was born in New York state outside of Albany. Both can boast of long and storied careers in business, public service, teaching and entrepreneurship. But neither have slowed down: Mr. Garrity is a meticulous landscaper and keeps his yard in tip top shape while Mrs. Garrity, an aspiring writing, still gets out the computer to work on a story or two. That and their many grandchildren keep this charming couple busy and occupied.
So why the move to Ridgeland?
“Initially, Gateway North was a Jackson address, interestingly enough,” Mr. Garrity tells us. Mrs. Garrity says that Jerry’s work brought them to Mississippi and that they instantly fell in love with the area and the house where they still reside.
Mr. Garrity was working for McRae’s Department store at the time and Mrs. Garrity was working with the state at the Employment Security Commission.
In 1978, then, where did the Garritys go for shopping or to purchase necessities?
“At that time, we would have to drive down Old Canton Road to the Kroger on Frontage Road in Jackson,” Mrs. Garrity laughs. “We had to go through stop signs and not lights at the time. County Line Road was mainly just woods. It’s amazing how things have changed.”
Hite Wolcott was Mayor when the Garritys moved to Ridgeland, they remember, and the majority of the area was woods. “It amazes us that we’ve lived here almost 40 years,” Mr. Garrity laughs, “and to look at how different everything is.”
“It was so quiet back then,” Mrs. Garrity recalls. “There was so little traffic and it was like living in the country. But, you know, as time went on, as more and more businesses opened up, it became more desirable for us to live here. We never felt isolated here, actually. When 1-220 opened up, we could hit the Natchez Trace and access it fairly easily, so it made everything more accessible.”
Mrs. Garrity chuckles when she recalls her first ever traffic ticket.
“It was on I-220,” she says. “I don’t even think I was speeding but the officer was stopping me to ask why I was driving on it to begin with! There were no cars on it at the time–hard to believe now.”
The biggest change to the area, both Garritys agree, has been the transformation from a rural-type feel to a commercial atmosphere. “There was not much at all around when we moved in,” she says. “But now it is so heavily-trafficked. I’m not complaining at all but that has been a significant change.”
Mr. Garrity, who has done business consulting with his wife over the years, had a long and illustrious business career including his stint with McRae’s along with working with many other companies and industries including Hertz. Mrs. Garrrity taught Industrial Psychology at, among other institutions, Jackson State University. She also obtained her doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi and also worked with Mississippi ETV for a number of years as a Personnel Officer and Deputy Director.
“I’d go back to school today–in a heartbeat!” Mrs. Garrity laughs. “I have assisted my daughter, Lynn, in her homeschooling efforts which has been very interesting and delightful for me,” she says.
The couple say that they still love Ridgeland after all these years. Mrs. Garrity adds though, as a caveat, that she wishes the City would have extended itself more towards the Reservoir to increase business and recreational opportunities.
“We appreciate the convenience now, though,” Mr. Garrity admits. “You can get anywhere you want and get anything you want in a matter of minutes. We enjoy the accessibility so much and that’s one, among many, of the improvements our area has seen.”
Ridgeland is lucky indeed to have such conscientious and fine people like Jerry and Mary Ann Garrity living here. And in the same location for almost 40 years.