A Place With Spit and Shine
Award-winning writer Rheta Grimsley Johnson looks at tried and true tourist attractions across the country and puts forth an idea that involves a giant shrimp po-boy.
- by Rheta Grimsley Johnson
My house doesn’t have stained glass like the chapel, and, so far as I know, there have been no weddings performed here. I’d be willing to bet, however, a few divorces have gone down.
There are so many building styles in our little town that I consider the place an architectural museum, not a bad civic slogan if the Pass needed one, which it doesn’t. Pass Christian, An Architectural Museum and Gem of a Town. Or, Pass Christian, Don’t Pass By Without Buying a House.
The Pass already has one or two slogans – Nature’s Gift to the Gulf Coast and Birthplace of Yachting. I tend to like food-related slogans a little better and wish ours mentioned shrimp or oysters, at least the fish tacos at Hook. If you can get passersby thinking about etouffee or bread pudding, you don’t really need a chamber of commerce.
Build a po-boy, they will come.
Most all towns have mottos these days, a bid for tourism, which has become competitive sport. A lot of the civic slogans have to do with vegetables for some reason. But also common are watermelons, sweet potatoes and, not so much, poke sallet. Water Valley, Miss., used to have a Poke Sallet Festival, but I think they’ve changed that to watermelon. More people eat it.
I guess the best town motto I ever heard about but did not see was in Hooker, Oklahoma, where the welcome sign read “It’s a location, not a vocation.”
I don’t think it’s wise to change up your slogan to fit the times, which always are a changin’. You should stick with your main civic strengths. I think Wilson, Kansas has done a good job of this, advertising its art in the park, beckoning travelers to visit the “World’s Largest Czechoslovakian Egg.”
I saw the egg, not yet painted to perfection, just a big black orb awaiting tourists, to Wilson what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the Manneken Pis to Brussels.
It would fly in the face of our tasteful culture to construct The World’s Biggest Poboy in War Memorial Park, but it would bring in a lot of tourists. Children could climb up the lettuce leaves while their parents take photographs of giant shrimp with their telephones. I dare you to go back and parse that sentence.
It’s probably clear by now why I’ve never been hired to work in tourism. I don’t often agree with movers and shakers about what needs moving and what needs shaking. Memphis, for instance, built a pyramid to stress its Egyptian ties that nobody – nobody! – thinks about. What the city needed was a big Elvis, looming over the Mississippi River, one blue suede foot in Tennessee, the other in Arkansas.
Maybe it’s best I stay at home in my A-frame, modified, counting the squirrels in the hickories. Which reminds me to ask: Why isn’t Pascagoula known as the Home of the Berserk Squirrel?