Friday, December 2, 2022

Beach Getaway to the Mississippi Gulf Coast

My family and I have just returned from a few days visiting Gulf Shores, Alabama. My wife’s uncle from Meridian has a home in Gulf Shores and since I have known Cindy (27 years), we have been visiting Gulf Shores every couple of years. However, despite the many wonderful times we spend there, I’ll never get the Mississippi Gulf Coast sand off of me.
My great-uncle, J.W. Thomas from Shelby had a summer home in Pass Christian for more than 50 years. From the time I was born, each summer I would spend the month of June or July with them in their home located at 236 Poindexter Drive. In the backyard a bayou was located. We fished and caught crabs in it. A ten minute boat ride would take us to the bay, the Bay of St. Louis. From that point, another ten minutes of riding would put us in the Gulf of Mexico. I learned how to swim, water ski, drive a boat, play golf, tennis, and ride a bicycle on the coast. Our neighborhood was full of families from New Orleans who also had summer homes. The neighborhood was overrun with children and when it was time for me to come home at the end of my stay, my parents had to drag me.
Pass Christian had it all – real neighborhoods, homes that rivaled the most beautiful old mansions in Natchez, restaurants, more shopping than the men in the family wanted to see, the deer ranch, a 24/7 amusement park, picture shows (what we called them back then), the back bay, and beaches. Growing up down there I just don’t remember the Pass Christian beach looking as awful as it does today or the gulf water as murky as it is today. To me, a trip to Pass Christian was a four week visit to paradise. Great memories that will be with me for life.
But, as all good things often come to an end, so did that neighborhood and town with the arrival of Hurricane Betsy (Sept. of 1965) and Hurricane Camille (August 1969). After those two horrific storms hit the coast so close together, many families in our neighborhood sold their homes and moved on to safer summer spots. Some families did remain and up in the 1970s I continued to spend time with them, but it wasn’t like pre-Betsy and pre-Camille. Those two storms changed the look of Pass Christian. Thirty-six years later, Hurricane Katrina finished it off.
I received my first taste of the Alabama and Florida coastline when I was at Ole Miss. All of the nerdy Jackson boys kept talking about “Destin”. Before then, I’m not certain I had even heard of Destin. Then, Cindy came along and “Gulf Shores” was introduced to me.
While the Alabama and Florida coastlines seem to be the destination today to most of my friends from the Mississippi Delta, these places were irrelevant when I was growing up. It was the Mississippi Gulf Coast or nothing. Even Elvis loved and spent time on the coast.
Fast forward to now and my children’s summer getaway is Gulf Shores and I am thankful for that. The closer we approach Gulf Shores on our drive down, the more their hearts pound. I’m delighted they have this opportunity, happy they are having a similar summer experience.
However, I sure wish they could have experienced the Mississippi Gulf Coast in it’s prime. There was simply nothing like it.
ScottCoopwoodPhoto-843x1024Scott 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 . Scott’s company also publishes two weekly e-newsletters. Coopwood publishing concerns now reach 250,000 people.  Scott is also a 1984 graduate of the University of Mississippi. He can be reached at scott@coopwood.net

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