Friday, March 30, 2012

gulfport, mississippi...

Gulfport is the second largest city in the state...and lies right on the shores of the Gulf of
Mexico.  It was also situated right in the path of two of the worst hurricanes ever to hit the USA.  In 1969 it bore the brunt of Hurricane Camille...which flattened most everything along the coast. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit Gulfport...and nearly all structures within half a mile of the coastline were destroyed and downtown streets were under water.   What is Gulfport like today? 

We arrived in Gulfport on a March afternoon some seven years post Katrina...and forty-three years after Camille. 

The white sand beaches stretch for miles in either direction.  All the buildings along the coastline are new. 

The birds frolicked and played...and had not a care in the world. 

As we drove along the beach highway...we noticed many vacant lots for sale.  Often the old foundation was still there.   Homes that had been rebuilt...were up on stilts!

One of the reasons we were quite eager to visit Gulfport was that hubby spent several months here helping with the re-building process after Hurricane Camille back in 1969.  He recalled exactly how it had all looked at that time...but as we drove through the town on our arrival he never recognized any landmarks.  Gulfport was a new city!  A much larger one now.

In the morning...we did a little more exploring.  He suddenly found a neighbourhood that looked familiar.  One more block...

...and there was the school that served as a dorm for all the 'relief workers' during his stay.  We parked and walked about...though the building was now behind a fence that warned against trespassing.  As we stood outside the fence and looked...a voice came over a loudspeaker asking if we needed help.  It seemed we were under surveillance! 

A nice lady came out to chat with us.  We learned that the building now belongs to the federal government.  It was originally known as the 33rd Avenue School and was apparently the last all-black school in America.  With the end of  segregation the school closed in 1969...just before Camille pulled through town.  It was renovated and used by Job Corps ( a federal government program) ever since...until Hurricane Katrina did irreparable damage.  The plan was to demolish the building and start over...until the 'historic preservation' committee got wind of that plan.  They would like to see it rebuilt and preserved as an historic African American high school.  While the fate of the old school is still in limbo...we stood outside it's gates and viewed the building that looked just as it did some four decades ago. 

Across the street were the homes that he that all had to be placed back on their foundations in 1969.  It was definitely a trip down memory lane for him!

We returned to the beach...a short distance away.

It's always fun to talk to the locals.  You learn a lot!  We learned that although the winds were stronger with Camille (category 5)...Katrina did more damage because of the storm surge.  Many locals left for higher ground after Katrina...and have not returned.

At the beach it doesn't look like much has changed after all!  The tide comes and goes just as it always has.  The children run and play in the white sand.  The birds take their roll call. 

This is the Gulfport I will remember.


  1. Thank you Judy. I bet you were proud of him just standing there beside him...knowing he cared about mankind just one country away but on our own continent. I'm glad he was able to see something familiar.
    I'd love to know what the lady thought that came out to talk to you. I bet she doesn't have that conversation too often.

    The beach photos are beautiful. OH that white sandy beach. It makes sense if that water shares the same shores as the carribean sea.

  2. Interesting post and beautiful pictures. I spent a week in Gulfport about 12 years ago. A friend's family had a condo right on the beach and she invited me, my daughter and three other friends to go with her and her daughter for a week at the beach.It was beautiful! Their condo was high enough in the bldg that it did not sustain much damage, but the floors below were ruined so the bldg had to be demolished. We had such a good time there, the news made me sad. Glad your hubby was able to see the school and was able to share it with you!

  3. Great post Judy! Love how you recap your travels.

  4. I too saw Gulfport not long after Camille did her worst. Odd that I recall the beaches as oily and dirty looking, due, no doubt to the storms and lax oil industry regulations at the time. The beaches look quite enticing now.

    Elmer has a great memory lane to visit and share about with the family. That same time period encouraged other young men to indulge in less admirable uses of their free time. Elmer...he's a good man. Both then and now!

  5. How great that you were able to revisit this area. You married a man with a good heart.

  6. I would like to thank Elmer for helping all those years ago. Such a gargantuan task to put things to rights after Mother Nature has blown through.

    It looks beautiful today and one would not be the wiser that anything had ever happened with some views. Wonder what will become of the school. It looks like such a monumental task to preserve such a damaged building.

  7. Amazing pictures and memories. 1969 doesn't seem that long ago - how things can change so quickly! The white sand is incredible. Thanks for sharing your travel adventures.

  8. You make it all so interesting. I thought it was interesting that many did not return to live at Katrina. Those dear people have been through so much. Thanks for sharing the Gulfport with us.

  9. What a trip down memory lane for your hubby!

  10. What a great trip down memory lane for Elmer and a chance for you to see a bit of what he experienced in 69.

    Those white sandy beaches are so beautiful. I'd love to be walking barefoot along them. And the birds - carefree, as you say, remind me of God's promise that not one of them falls without his knowledge, and that he cares for us even more.

  11. The only gulf beach I've seen is Corpus Christi in Texas, but I did see New Orleans a few years after Katrina and the devastation was horrible. Hurricanes are a fierce force of nature. I'm glad Elmer was able to see the area which made an impact on him so many years ago!

  12. An interesting piece of history and meaningful for both of you. The beaches remind me of Santa Monica...wide open spaces with seagulls making their appearances.

  13. Popping in to say hello and catching up on your postings.

    My goodness what a wonderful trip you two have been on. Your photos were amazing Judy. I couldn't get over how white the beaches were.

    Are you home now?

  14. Isn't it lovely that a trip to the deep south should have so many long-ago associations for you?
    I love the snow-white beaches, held back by snow fences!


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson