This time of year never passes without my mind drifting back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast during its heyday of the 1960s.
For July is this month when my parents dropped me off at my grandfather’s summer home in Pass Christian for the entire month. That took place from the time I was seven years old until high school.
My grandfather’s summer home was located at 236 Poindexter Drive and today that property is owned by our longtime family friend, Rick Tomlin, whose family actually had a summer home there three doors down from ours when I was growing up there.
Every July the children and young teens in our neighborhood caught crab in the bayou behind our home, fished in Bay St. Louis, water skied on the bay and on the Jordan River, or hung out on the beach at Henderson Point just off Highway 90. Our neighborhood was full of families mostly from New Orleans who owned summer homes in Pass Christian as well. Every night, the parents grilled out while all of us children would run and play in the darkness of the yards. We ate more seafood, caught more sunburn than one could imagine as the wonderful pop tunes of the 1960s played from transistor radios. To this day, when I hear Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” or the Moma and Papa’s “California Dreaming”, I think of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Those carefree days came to an end when Hurricane Camille hit the coast in August of 1969. Many of the families from New Orleans did not rebuild their summer homes and some who had retired there on our street actually lost their lives.
We continued to spend the summers in Pass Christian after Camille, but it wasn’t the same. By the late 1980s, we stopped going to Pass Christian and in 2000 my mother sold that home (she inherited from my grandfather) – just five years short of Hurricane Katrina. A year after Katrina hit, I was passing through the coast with my family on the way to Gulf Shores and decided to take a detour to see the old home. We were shocked when we pulled up in the driveway because nothing remained but a concrete slab. That home had survived Hurricanes Betsy and Camille. However, Katrina was too much.
In recent years, I have been visiting the coast more frequently, mainly to attend business conferences. I’ll always find the time to slip away and drive around visiting many of the old sites of my childhood. The coast today is not the coast of my youth. The antebellum mansions that populated the beach highway are gone because of Katrina. They have been replaced with condos, but sadly there are even more empty lots where those old grand homes and buildings once stood. The coast continues to reshape itself ten years after Katrina ravaged it.
But, when July rolls around, I’m always reminded of the air, the sounds, the pine trees and the saltwater smell of the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast of the 1960s. And, there is still a remnant of a young boy who feels that perfect coast life took place just yesterday.
Scott Coopwood, a seventh generation Deltan, lives in Cleveland, Mississippi, with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications, the Delta Business Journal, the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta, and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current.