Ancient Tradition or Marketing Ploy?
Romance and capitalization are both historic human motivators, but the origins of this February holiday seem to have stemmed from love.
- by Martha Whitney Butler
Valentine's Day absorbed the popular modus operandi of romantic poetry when the world swooned over Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Donne - all famous poets of their day who referred to the holiday in their work. By the 1800s, handwritten love letters and embellished printed cards were all the rage. Even though it cost a little more to send them through the relatively new postal system, it was reported that MILLIONS of Valentines were circulated through the mail during this time of year.
Flowers - We have Venus herself to thank for this gift! Being the goddess of love, she favored the rose as her flower - hence our tradition of giving roses on this day. Her worshippers left an abundance of flowers at her shrines hoping to win her good blessings in regards to their love lives.
In the 1700s, Charles the II of Sweden introduced the poetical Persian "language of flowers" to Europe, assigning official meanings to different flowers. Ladies of this era clung to their flower encyclopedias, assessing each bud of their bouquet. This way, the sender could have a wordless conversation with the recipient by sending them different flowers, each with its own meaning and symbol.
Chocolate - The ancient Aztecs used chocolate during wedding ceremonies as a nuptial aid, gifting it to couples to enhance their sexual prowess. Scientifically, we've found there actually is a link between chocolate and the endorphins in our brain that are associated with falling in love. This makes chocolate the perfect aphrodisiac!
So if you are an anti-Valentine's Day grump who thinks the holiday was created by greeting card companies and greedy florists, put a flower in your hair and eat some chocolate! This holiday has been around for a long time and is one of the loveliest days of the year. Use it as an opportunity to show some love to your local florists, chocolatiers, and artists!
Sweethearts' Second Saturday
What better Valentine date than to spend the day in Old Town on Second Saturday? It's lively all day, music and gallery openings from 4 - 8pm. Celebrate Hot Spots Smith & Lens Gallery (106 S. Second Street) and Trapani's Eatery (116 North Beach)
- story by Ana Balka, photos by Ellis Anderson, Ana Balka
This dynamic father-daughter team moves into a new era guided by a thirty-five year commitment to quality.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
Most people who saw it probably chuckled. After all, Jackye’s father, Jimmy Crane, owned Crane Builders. Construction isn’t the kind of profession often sought out by women. Sure, she grew up working in the office, but still.
When Jackye entered LSU’s Engineering School and began working toward her degree in Construction Management, even her parents thought it’d be a short-lived course of action. She was one of only three women in a program with 150 men.
Yet, she thrived in the program, eagerly learning new skill sets like commercial and industrial construction management. In 2010, she graduated with honors and went to work for her dad in earnest, earning the company’s vice-presidency. King cake wish fulfilled.
As of January 2016, Jackye had one-upped the king cake dream. Her father had new business cards made for a surprise. On the new versions, beneath her name is the word “president.”
The dynamic father-daughter team will continue working together, with Jackye now at the helm. While she’s keeping on top on new construction techniques and materials, the company’s core values will remain at the heart of the business: Customer service and quality.
“We built our reputation and our business by always going the extra mile,” says Jimmy. “We get attached to families when we’re building [their houses] for them, we all feel part of the process. Jackye and I will even be there on moving day, helping them get into their new home.”
Jackye points out that in 2015, 78% of the Crane’s business came from returning clients working on new projects.
“The people we’ve worked with before and the houses that we’ve built are our best advertisements,” says Jackye.
Their client list reads like a Gulf Coast Who’s-Who of people known for their discriminating taste. Currently, several Crane Builder signs can be spotted on lots while driving down Beach Boulevard. The company’s website includes powerful testimonials from clients as well as a sample gallery of projects. Also prominently displayed on the website is the company’s motto: “If you think hiring an expert is expensive, just wait ‘til you hire an amateur.”
“It’s all about value,” says Jimmy. “You don’t need to pay a premium, but you never want to cut corners. That approach will always come back to haunt you in the future.”
The Cranes get competitive bids from sub-contractors and pre-qualify them to make sure they’ll get top quality work. But the final decision is based on finding “the right fit.”
Jackye gives an example. “Sometimes we need just a basic electrician, and sometimes the better fit is one who is also skilled at installing audio and security systems. That way the job isn’t piecemealed and our client gets the best craftsmanship for their money.”
Jimmy Crane adopted that philosophy early on. A New Orleans native, he graduated in the first class of LSU’s new Construction Technology program (the same one Jackye graduated from 38 years later, although the name of the program has changed). He then worked in New Orleans for a small upscale residential renovation company for eight years before hanging up his own shingle in 1980. In the past 35 years, he’s specialized in renovations and new residential construction. Jackye, born in 1987, literally grew up in the business.
In 1986 Jimmy and his wife Sharon purchased one of the most architecturally significant homes on the coast. The historic gem facing the beach in Waveland became an ongoing restoration project — a labor of love that increased the amount of time they spent out of the city.
Jimmy began working on the coast in the mid-’90s, mostly at the behest of friends. The business on the coast mushroomed, as did their love for the area. By 2008, the family moved their household and their business to Waveland full time.
When their home fell victim to Katrina, Jimmy rebuilt higher and with new fortified techniques. Now a cottage in the back of the lot that was constructed as temporary living quarters after Katrina serves as the company office, nesting under the canopy of an ancient live oak tree.
Like her father, Jackye enjoys the fact that the construction business doesn’t entail spending all day in an office. Another aspect both enjoy is that it’s a people-oriented business.
“I love doing residential work, whether it’s renovation or new construction,” says Jackye. “I’m not working with boxes, I’m working with people. There’s a personal side. For instance, during a major renovation, when you start tearing a house up and making a mess, it’s not easy on the family. But we all work through that together and the end result is always positive.”
Since the Cranes are equally proficient in building using modular and conventional methods, they offer clients estimates for each method, as well as explaining the advantages of each. Again, it’s all about a good fit.
“The more bells and whistles a house has, the less cost-effective modular is,” says Jackye. “But it can cut construction time in half.”
The Cranes work with two different companies to construct modular homes; in fact, Jackye’s own house is modular. She’ll often invite clients over for a tour so they can “kick the tires.” She points out that modular doesn’t have to be small. A recent “hybrid” home (combining modular and conventional techniques) they constructed in Pass Christian is 8500 square feet.
Fortified building is also a Crane specialty. Not only is the building stronger, some homeowners owners will be able eventually lower insurance rates substantially. Being well versed in the building codes and the requirements of local building officials in Waveland, Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian also saves clients anxiety and time. While the Cranes offer some design services, they often work with architects as well.
Between the options the company offers and the reputation for quality they’ve built, it’s small wonder the Cranes keep a full roster of projects.
“But Jackye’s running the show now,” Jimmy says. It’s hard to tell which shines brighter: his pride in his daughter, or his smile.
The Last Straw
How a group of BSL residents are teaming up to just "say no" to drinking straws. Why does it matter? You might be surprised!
- story by Ellis Anderson
A Fascination With Food
Reading about food can be almost as fun as cooking it - or even eating! Columnist Carole McKellar shares some of her favorite recipe books, as well as the recipe for a classic Vinaigrette!
Holiday excesses cause me to crave simple, natural ingredients. As Michael Pollan wrote in In “Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan advises us to shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. Healthier food is found around the edges while processed foods are mostly confined to the center aisles. He also recommends that we get to know our food producers and shop as much as possible at farmers’ markets.
One of my favorite books about cooking and eating is “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters, a famous chef, organic food activist, and the author of numerous books. She owns Chez Panisse, a restaurant in Berkeley, California famous for its organic, locally grown ingredients. Waters writes:
Good cooking is no mystery. You don’t need years of culinary training,
or rare and costly foodstuffs, or an encyclopedic knowledge of world cuisines.
You need only your own five senses. You need good ingredients, too, of course,
but in order to choose and prepare them, you need to experience them fully.
It’s the many dimensions of sensual experience that make cooking so
satisfying. You never stop learning.
“An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace” by Tamar Adler is equal parts philosophy and technique. Ms. Adler begins each chapter with a quote from the likes of Rainer Maria Rilke and Shi Tao. She pays homage to M.F.K. Fisher as a mentor. Adler describes Fisher’s book, “How to Cook a Wolf,” published in 1942, as “a book about cooking defiantly, amid the mess of war and the pains of bare pantries. Because food was rationed, it is about living well in spite of lack.”
Tamar Adler learned well from Fisher about economy and ingenuity. She describes her weekly routine of visiting farmers’ markets to buy “the leafiest, stemmiest vegetables I can find. … I start cooking them as soon as possible after shopping, when the memory of the market’s sun and cheerful tents are still in mind.” Once prepared, the squashes, greens, and root vegetables form the basis of meals for a whole week.
She’s a big fan of using seasonal vegetables in salads, omelets, soups, or gratins. As their freshness wanes, she recommends making a curry. There are recipes in the book, but most of them simply say something like, “add 2 cups cooked vegetables.” Adler uses vinaigrette on salads, beans, and rice dishes. The recipe for basic vinaigrette is so simple that you will never buy bottled dressing again.
1 shallot, minced (if you have one but it’s fine without it)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, smashed (I use a garlic press.)
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
Mix all but the olive oil and let sit for a minute. Mix in the oil.
I use an old jelly jar and shake it well. Adler recommends removing the garlic, but I usually leave it. Other flavored vinegars can be substituted. Making this vinaigrette takes less than 5 minutes. I recently put it on a basic lettuce salad and got praise from other diners.
“An Everlasting Meal” is filled with poetry and literature. I feel that I’m not reading a cookbook, but a fabulous lifestyle idea. Readers are encouraged to think of food preparation and consumption as a celebration. Ms. Adler playfully urges us not to take cooking too seriously when she names chapters “How to Boil Water” or “How to Snatch Victory from the Jaws of Defeat.” Whenever I reread her book, I feel confident that I can cook more intuitively and successfully.
For the past 25-plus years, I have lived a primarily vegetarian life. Some meat and fish are allowed into our diets, but we prefer vegetables. My favorite cookbooks are vegetarian. My earliest attempts at cooking were aided by Mollie Katzen and her charmingly illustrated books, “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” and “Moosewood Cookbook.”
These days I like to consult “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen. This book is a treasure-trove of hints and techniques. Each recipe starts with “Why This Recipe Works,” which explains the result of extensive research in the test kitchen. It’s easier to be inventive when you understand the basics of preparation.
The most beautiful book in my food library is “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi, chef and owner of London’s Ottolenghi restaurants. Last summer, I had the pleasure of eating at Ottolenghi in the Islington area of London. “Plenty” has delectable photographs and puts exotic dishes within the capability of average cooks.
A small book titled “Mezze” is another favorite of mine. Mezze dishes originate in North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Comparable to Spanish tapas or Italian antipasti, mezze are small dishes served as appetizers or grouped together to form a meal for sharing. The recipes for hummus and eggplant dip are easy and delicious. There’s a carrot salad that looks sweet, but is quite savory thanks to cumin and turmeric. I love the oven roasted chile shrimp with its spicy juices for sopping with bread.
Today food blogs are very popular and number in the thousands. It’s not easy to separate the best from the mediocre, but here are a few that I enjoy:
My Paris Kitchen (davidlebovitz.com)
Cookie + Kate (cookieandkate.com)
101 Cookbooks (101cookbooks.com)
Sprouted Kitchen (sproutedkitchen.com)
The First Mess (thefirstmess.com)
Blogs and recipe apps are convenient because you can access them while standing in the grocery wondering what to cook for supper. I find them useful, but there is nothing like a cookbook for inspiration.
I believe that preparing and consuming good, fresh food enhances our lives. Meals shared with friends and family offer great satisfaction and pleasure. All of our senses are engaged and our overall well-being is improved. I read cookbooks to become a more confident cook, not one ruled by recipes. I want to enjoy the preparation and sharing of meals with the people I love.
Our two local bookstores, Pass Christian Books (sponsor of this column!) and Bay Books, have a good selection of cookbooks for consideration. The Bay St. Louis Library and other branches of the Hancock County Library System have shelves filled with books about food.
Get out the knives, and shake those pots and pans.
Hancock High's New Performing Arts Center Debuts
A new $8 million dollar, 24,000 square foot facility sets the stage for entertainment and education in Hancock County.
- by Stacey Cato
The $8.2 million state-of-the-art stage is now set in Kiln, Mississippi. It’s a new, one-of-a-kind performing arts center that will bring new opportunities to area youth. Tibbs says the center will provide varied offerings, so there will be something for everyone.
The facility houses a 500-foot orchestra pit, over 2,000 square feet of lobby area complete with gallery-style hanging system, and a spacious backstage make-up and dressing room. The center also has a catering kitchen fully equipped to accommodate guests in final preparations for that big fun-filled family event or special day.
All are invited to the ceremonial ribbon cutting on February 20th, where there will be food, multiple performances, and other live entertainment. Crews have been working around the clock to make this opening an event you don’t want to miss!
Tibbs says the center’s goal is to benefit the entire community and its visitors. "We've never had anything like this in Hancock County! We want to bring in big Broadway plays and other programs that the community will enjoy. The center is not just for Hancock County. We welcome all performing artists to use the facility. It's a place where you can bring the whole family to enjoy concerts, dance recitals, and other aspects of the arts. We want it to be an all inclusive facility."
The center will be available for rent upon reservation. Stage productions of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Little Shop of Horrors” have already been booked for the coming months. For more information on upcoming performances and rental dates contact the center at 228-255-6247.
Grand Opening Ceremony Schedule:
Saturday February 20, 2016
7140 Stennis Airport Drive
10:00- 10:15- Ribbon cutting ceremony and greetings from Mr. Dedeaux
10:15-West Hancock Elementary School
10:20-10:40-Hancock North Central Elementary School
10:45-11:10-South Hancock Elementary School
11:15-11:35-Hancock Middle School
11:35- 12:30- Intermission
12:30-12:50-Hancock Middle School’s Performing Arts Club
12:55-1:05-Hancock High School’s Talon Dance Team
1:10-1:30-Hancock High School’ Drama
1:35-1:40-Hancock High School’s Talon Dance Team
2:00- 2:20-- Hancock High School Drama
2:25- 3:00- Hancock High School Symphonic Band
Bring it to the Bay!
The largest endurance racing event in South Mississippi draws participants from around the country on March 5th!
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
“It is the largest endurance racing event in south Mississippi,” said assistant race director Joel Lawhead of the number of runners, including triathlons. An added option for our pet-friendly community: “On the 5K, we’re allowing dogs on leashes only.”
The route crosses the Bay Bridge and into Pass Christian before looping back to the Bay. At the finish line there will be an after-party with food and beverages for the participants. Friends and family can join in the fun for $5 to enjoy DJ music and the awards presentations.
There are three running categories: the half-marathon, the two-person relay and the 5K category. Walkers can pick any of three options but will be limited to four hours. Starting time is 7 a.m.
Lawhead said the Bring It to the Bay route is especially appealing for its beautiful waterfront setting. “There are very few places in the world where you can run along the water,” he said. “A waterfront race is very rare.”
Besides memories of an awesome race, there will be medals for half-marathon finishers and awards for overall, age group, and relay winners plus a T-shirt, gift bag and water bottle. A race photographer will be available to record the event.
Last year’s competition drew compliments from runners who called the race fun and challenging, the course gorgeous, and the volunteers wonderful and friendly.
Joining the runners and walkers who come for the event are their friends and families who fill the local restaurants, shops and accommodations over the race weekend.
Again this year, the race will raise money that goes directly into the reserve funds of the Bay St. Louis, Waveland, and Pass Christian police departments and the Hancock and Harrison County sheriff’s departments.
For more information and to register, go to www.fitfirstbsl.com/half
Waylaid by an Imperfect Dog
A side-trip to a Wyeth exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art has author and award-winning columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson pondering the artistry of dogs - and their make-up.
Serious Bread Making Serious Sandwiches
The Bay's favorite bakery raises the art of sandwich making to a whole new level with scrumptious combos layered between slices of their own bread.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Lisa Monti and Ellis Anderson
On a recent dreary weekday, when a hot grilled sandwich seemed like the perfect comfort food, I doubled down on The Works: Black Forest ham, Fontina, the fresh pesto, salty olives and rich sun dried tomatoes on Al’s Roasted Sunflower Seed bread.
The sandwich was crisped in a panini press (using olive oil, not butter) and served with a pickle slice and a bag of Lay’s potato chips, a classic accompaniment. Depending on availability and your preferences, the sandwich ingredients vary, but you know the bread and everything in between will be good and tasty.
Turns out The Works is a runaway favorite with Old Town workers who order their panini to go.
Back to those carryout items. The deep green pesto is a swirl of fresh basil, walnuts, garlic, sea salt, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. The spicy hummus (garbanzo beans, extra-virgin olive oil, tahini, garlic, cumin, sea salt, fresh lemon juice and just a bit of red pepper flakes).
You’re probably familiar with Serious Bread’s chicken salad, made with freshly roasted chicken, apples, almonds and cranberries, but maybe not with tabouli, a Lebanese salad blending bulgur wheat, feta, tomatoes, black olives, green onions and cilantro.
Another big seller, and also new to the menu, are the delicious energy bars. “We can’t keep them in the store,” said Janet Densmore, a seller of breads and sweets behind the counter.
The bars are made of dried fruits, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, oats, coconut, almonds, pecans, flax seed, sesame seed and honey. Like everything made at Serious Bread, they’re all natural.
It’s been a dozen or so years since the Jensens started making Serious Bread and selling it at farmer’s markets. Lucky for locals (and visitors), for the past two years, they have an Old Town home at 131 Main Street.
Al, a retired oceanographer long known as "The Breadman," was a lifelong fan of sourdough and after he started baking his own bread, he and Vivian traveled to bread classes all over the country.
Between operating the Old Town storefront and working various farmer's markets, the Jensens and their crew stay busy making and selling all those great artisan sourdough breads, double chocolate brownies, cinnamon rolls, scones, and a variety of muffins and cookies. Their famous flatbreads are available in their cafe on weekends and on farmer's market days.
Governor to Board Amtrak VIP Train in Bay St. Louis
Governor Phil Bryant is coming to Bay St. Louis to board an Amtrak train, and if local leaders have their way, he’s just the first of thousands who will have that opportunity.
A special VIP Amtrak train will depart New Orleans on Thursday, February 18, making 13 stops over the course of two days before it reaches its final destination, Jacksonville, Florida. On board will be at least 60 VIPs, including the president of Amtrak, who are gathering information as Amtrak considers restoration of passenger service along the gulf coast. According to information from the Southern Rail Commission, the train's first stop is scheduled from 10:10am to 10:20am at the Bay's historic depot, when Mississippi’s governor will board.
The Big Buzz
“All the decision-makers will be on board that train,” says Moon. “It’s crucial they understand how much we support the restoration of the passenger line.”
She also encourages local citizens to be at the depot or at any of the crossings as the train passes through town.
“Wave, jump up and down and bring a sign of welcome,” she says. “Nothing else should take priority the morning that train comes through. Restoration of that service represents an enormous positive change for Bay St. Louis."
Moon points out that the train will allow easy access to the Bay for New Orleanians - and for visitors to the city who want to take a side trip. Also, coast residents will finally have transportation options to New Orleans and other destinations across the coast. Currently, there is no public transportation between New Orleans and the coast.
Historically, train service connecting the Bay and New Orleans made it possible for many city dwellers to have second homes on the coast. Business people commuted to work in the city by train. Often, entire families moved to the coast for the summer, with heads of households commuting as well. Moon believes the time has come to revive that successful model of the past.
Several local groups are collaborating on plans to greet the train, including the office of the Mayor, the Old Town Merchants’ Association, the Bay St. Louis Rotary, Hancock County Tourism and the Hancock Chamber.
“We all understand how passenger train service would be a real game-changer,” says Moon. “Showing our enthusiasm and support is one way we can help make this a reality.”
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The Amtrak Train's Schedule
Bay St. Louis Makes #19 on Southern Living's Best Places in the South List!
The February 50th Anniversary edition of Southern Living Magazine features the "50 Best Places in the South Now" - and Bay St. Louis was named #19! The same feature is included in the online edition of the magazine too! Here's why we were selected:
Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, has added new waterfront restaurants and bars, along with shops, galleries, and an inn for historic Old Town. Its new harbor opened in 2014 (mswestcoast.org).
Also included on the list were Biloxi (#21), Orlando (#10), and Raleigh (#26).
STEAMPunk Pottery Project
- story by Karen Fineran, photos by Robert Mosley
“You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?”
— Biblical verse (Isaiah 29:16) written across a large sign on Barney’s extreme pottery-making contraption, “Agile Argile”
Whether at the helm of his bizarre-looking pottery machine, dangling upside down over an inverted pottery wheel, or forming clay pieces using his bare (and very bald) head, Steve Barney has taken pottery to a whole other level.
The program is designed to integrate the STEAMPunk genre, the "Maker" culture and the experience of making pottery. The combination of elements will be applied to a unique new educational curriculum.
On January 30th, from 10am to 6pm on the grounds of the Ohr, Barney will perform a "sneak preview" of the project, informally demonstrating his radically innovative pottery-making machine and techniques.
Then on March 5th, Barney will be the host and the headliner at OOMA's kick-off event to introduce the new curriculum. It's scheduled to coincide with "Coast Com" (AKA Comic Com on the Gulf Coast) and the Mississippi Museums Association's annual meeting, being held this year at OOMA. The March event will feature George Ohr-like circus sideshow performances.
With an electrical engineering degree from Tufts and a lifelong interest in industrial design, Barney spent 15 years as an instructional design consultant in Boston and created interactive computer simulations for clients like museums and educators. But Barney had also been throwing clay pottery on the wheel since he was a child growing up in Buffalo, New York. Creating and teaching ceramic art were always an important part of his life, and he itched to bring his artistic interests and his passion for engineering together.
Barney initially visited New Orleans several times for Jazz Fests; when he made exploratory forays into the surrounding areas, he fell in love with the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Barney bought and renovated several cottages in Old Town Bay St. Louis, throwing himself into the creative process of restoring historic homes. Within a couple of years Old Town became home.
Barney’s fascination with industrial machinery had taken a steampunk turn in the late 1990s. Steampunk as a movement incorporates a Victorian industrial aesthetic: think H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, or Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” with a modern sensibility.
While Barney had long felt influenced by the post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” movie series and William Gibson’s cyberpunk novels, his “eyes and mind were blown” when in 1997 he started attending the annual Burning Man art festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. There he got carried away by the outrageously high tech/low tech contraptions, art cars, sculptures, and performance art on display and before long was exploring the diesel punk world of machine-design innovation and folk engineering, fashioning original contraptions out of old flywheels and belt pulleys.
Barney can use Agile Argile upside down, using reverse gravitational forces to throw an upside down pot by affixing a lump of clay upon its 19th-century cast-iron drill press, which then pulls itself down from its base by gravity.
Upside-down pottery throwing is not particularly novel, Barney explains. Many potters over the years have bolted wheels to the ceiling in their studios and “pulled down” surreally tall structures that are not possible to create on a standard potter’s wheel. Barney chose to further explore the process by inverting his body so his hand-and-body orientation to the wheel and spinning clay could be maintained while he was throwing.
Thus, Barney dons a climbing harness supported by an electric winch, working upside down with a remote control for as long as he can stand it before the dizzying rushing of blood to his brain impels him to re-right himself. When he first started climbing into the harness about 15 months ago, he could only hang for about 45 seconds before blackness oozed across his vision. Now he hangs for about 2 ½ minutes at a time.
Another striking visual feature of Agile Argile is a series of fixed and mounted mannequin hands attached to multi-axis pivoting arms to mimic the potter’s hands performing particular tasks. Functioning simultaneously, they conjure a demented Wizard of Oz or the multi-armed Hindu deity Shiva.
Barney's relationship with the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art began when he first visited OOMA a couple of years ago and learned about the fantastical works and vaudeville persona of the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi” George Ohr. Ohr was a master of carnivalesque self-promotion, and his pottery shop was an established coast tourist attraction where fascinated visitors could watch the Mad Potter give entertaining performances as they purchased mementos of their trip.
Ohr’s eccentric persona and flair resonated with Barney. “As I walked around the Ohr museum and grounds, I felt like I had come home," Barney said. Weeks after that visit, Barney dreamed of Ohr himself directing him to carry out Ohr's artistic vision using a steampunk premise. “This concept really belongs at the Ohr Museum,” Barney says. “It’s the right idea at the right place and the right time.”
Barney plans to take his machine to schools, museums, and festivals across the state and pique children’s interest in pottery, as well as inspire passion for learning about engineering, machinery, robotics, and other sciences.
“The steampunk concept really brought it all together for me. I thought, if I could teach pottery as a creative and cognitive process, and incorporate my passion for engineering, then I could gift to the children so many things that I’ve learned over the years. I feel like my ideas have the potential to touch thousands of kids nationwide.”
Barney sometimes appears in Bay St. Louis at Second Saturday and other local events, often in front of the Ugly Pirate bar. For more information about the SteamPunk Pottery Project, email Barney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Half and Half Nots
- story and photographs by Martha Whitney Butler
"Where is the rest of her body?" inquired a curious customer. No, they're not talking about a scene out of a horror movie. They're asking about one of the most interesting figurines you'll see in an antique store: half dolls.
Made for a plethora of purposes, this busy lady executed more household tasks than I ever will, and she's only half the woman! If you haven't seen one before, I guarantee that you'll start noticing them now.
They're comprised of everything from fine china to paper-mache and sit atop a variety of creations such as pincushions and lamp shades.
Obviously, if you can see cast lines and seams, she's not as high in quality. Arms that are cast close to the body suggest a more elementary casting process, while those whose arms are further away or not touching the body are more complicated and more valuable. A great example of one of these is the Chocolate Lady, a half doll who bears a tray of a chocolate pot and cup. Some of them are extending their arms, and some are carrying baskets or flowers. These are the ones to really look for, but I ALWAYS suggest buying what you like!
The value is largely based on the design and intricacy of the doll itself. If she has an elaborate hairdo or is fashionably dressed, she's more valuable than her nude counterparts. But for some of us the naughty nude girls that are running around the antique shops topless are way more fun. They're meant to eventually be clothed by their buyer's choice in fashion, but some of them never made it to that stage and are conducting themselves in a debatably unbecoming manner.
So what were their jobs? I could name off more uses for these than Bubba from Forrest Gump could name off shrimp dishes, but I'll give you a few: They were employed as pincushions, clothing brush handles, lampshades, powder box lids, and anything useful in the home. Imagine them as the predecessor to the crocheted toilet paper cover. It's basically going to be that with a doll on it.
If you're lucky enough to own one of the Viennese Chocolate Ladies that were produced by the Goebel porcelain factory as an advertising piece for Walter Baker chocolate, stop in and show her off. I'd love to see one in person. If you have one of these fabulous treasures sitting around the house, make use of her! All you have to do is find something to sew her to, or you could just duct tape her to your gear shifter. . . . Kidding. Kind of.
- story by Ellis Anderson
Sometimes the path of a life can be traced back to a few words spoken in jest. Certainly when Coach Spence teased one of the kids on his 6th grade Pearlington basketball team, he had no idea he was launching a lifelong career path.
“Brehm Bell,” said the coach. “You argue about everything. I’m thinking you’d make an excellent lawyer.”
Nearly four decades later, the respected attorney — and former judge — laughs about the life-changing moment.
“Being a lawyer sounded cool to me,” says Brehm. “From then on, I always just knew.”
Brehm Bell’s current office address is 544 Main Street, Bay St. Louis. And last year, his family moved into a historic house a few blocks away — also on Main Street.
Setting a course and staying true to it may be an inherited trait: four generations of Bells have captained or served as engineers of tugboats. Brehm’s great-grandfather was also a Pearlington bridge-tender and donated land for a park to Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long (the park is still there, on Hwy. 90, at the turn-off to Fremeaux in Slidell). Brehm carried on the tugboat tradition by working as a deckhand during summers and holidays while he was in high school and college.
He attended his sophomore through his senior year of high school at Bay High, graduated in 1980, then went on to attend the University of Southern Mississippi. After graduating with a double major in English and Political Science, he was accepted to law school at Ole Miss.
By then, he’d already set his cap for Jenny Lindsay, an upbeat designer from Slidell whom he’d met at Southern. The couple’s first date convinced them they’d be a disastrous match and would be better off as friends. Yet, the friendship eventually blossomed into romance — a lasting one. They married 28 years ago, just a year before Brehm graduated law school. He says that marrying Jenny was the best move he ever made in life, and that anyone who knows Jenny would agree with him.
Brehm’s first job as a lawyer took the newlyweds to Meridian, where they lived for four years, starting their family. But the bay kept calling, so in 1994 the Bells moved back to the coast and Brehm opened his own practice.
While he’s worked in family law and served as a local youth court judge, Brehm’s primary focus has always been personal injury law — in fact, it’s been his sole practice for the past decade.
“When someone’s been in an accident, the system is incredibly frustrating and unduly complicated,” says Brehm, “and a lot of people are treated like they don’t have any common sense. Our job is to clarify, and then handle the immense amount of paperwork, while keeping our clients updated.
“I get paid for helping people, and we only get paid if we help them recover anything. It feels good to be following the ethics of my parents, who were well known in the community for helping others.”
“I just keep striving to do what’s right, and clients continue to come my way. We treat people with respect, return phone calls and give a lot of personal service. The way we conduct business has been the most valuable advertising of all.”
Yet his legal practice is only one of Brehm’s jobs. As a volunteer, he’s worked for years through various community channels to better public education. The investment in time is motivated by both civic and personal reasons: All four of the Bells children attend local public schools.
Brehm’s worn many hats through the years in his quest for bettering the area’s educational opportunities. He worked with the local chapter of the Kiwanis for more than a dozen years focusing on education. Serving as chair of the Hancock Chamber’s Education Committee, he helped found the annual Teachers’ Appreciation Dinner, an event where local educators are honored and even gifted with various types of community support.
He served on the board of the Bay Tigers Athletic Foundation, which works to support athletics, dance team and band activities for his alma mater. Brehm and Sherry Ponder campaigned tirelessly to persuade Pearl River Community College to open a branch in Hancock County – an effort that was happily successful. But the Bookworms program, which enlists adults to read for classrooms on occasion, remains one of his favorites.
“As a Mormon, I don’t even drink tea,” says Brehm. “But I feel an enormous natural high after I go to the elementary school and read for those classes.”
Brehm is a bedrock member of his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since Jenny’s a Methodist, the practical-minded pair agreed before marriage that they’d attend each other’s church once a month. Brehm says that the family focuses on the similar beliefs they share, rather than the differences. The system has worked well for the Bells, whose social circles overlap, as well as their beliefs.
His faith in the city of Bay St. Louis hasn’t wavered either since his childhood. It’s only grown stronger as he’s watched the city recover from one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s history. He sees the tolerance of the community as one of its greatest assets.
“In other places, your status or class can mean a lot,” he says. “In Bay St. Louis, not so much. People here don’t care if you’re the mayor or a ditch-digger, they’ll enjoy your company fishing or sharing a burger with you.”
“I love the vibe downtown right now — the art, the music and the food. We invite our friends here from around the country to see what a great little city we are.”
Brehm believes that the city’s strong historical and cultural ties to New Orleans lend Bay St. Louis a special ambiance. Since New Orleans is consistently listed as a top city destination worldwide, the Bay basks in the edge of that spotlight, but makes the most of the low-stress, family-oriented lifestyle.
According to Brehm, another advantage to small town life is the ability of a single individual to bring about positive change. One can work behind the scenes without holding office or being in a position of power and still make good things happen. It’s a principle he apparently applies on a daily basis.
Brehm shared one idea he’s been quietly working toward for over a decade: the eventual creation of a foundation for the Bay-Waveland School District. One of its missions would be to fund stipends to help recruit and reward top-quality teachers.
Brehm’s enthusiasm fires up as he discusses the concept at length. This is one more dream that will eventually be manifested. One can almost see his tugboat ancestry at the wheel of this particular ship, plotting the course and slowly, but steadily, making way.
Menge to Main: The New Old Cuevas Bistro
Hours: Lunch starts Jan. 4
11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday;
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday;
Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting Jan. 10.
Have you been to the handsome new Old Cuevas Bistro yet? It’s only been open a few weeks but some diners on a recent Tuesday night were back for their second and third visits.
And the crowd filling the bar stools looked so comfortably settled in, you could assume they were already regulars. Or it could be they had to wait for a table. The place was full.
Long story short: The original Old Cuevas Bistro on Menge Avenue owned by Cassandra Timmons burned down in July 2014. The reopening/move to 111 Main Street by Timmons and Toni Strickland got rolling earlier this year, and after a long slog, the doors finally opened December 15.
But the kitchen already is humming along in high gear, turning out shareable appetizers and generous entrees, plus a string of sides. Specials change daily, starting with red beans and rice on Mondays.
The Oysters St. Louis heads the list of appetizers, and rightfully so. The local oysters are wrapped in smoky bacon, skewered, fried to a crispy state and sauced with citrus beurre blanc.
Fried oysters. Bacon. Buttery sauce. Yes, please. Easily could pass as an entree.
The house-made pork and veggie spring rolls were crunchy and delicious on their own with the Thai chili sauce and came with Asian slaw that was a surprise standout, rich with soy sauce.
The appetizer list includes familiar favorites — crab cakes, fried green tomatoes — plus some unique ones like duck quesadillas and baked cheese gratin.
Each of the three chicken entree dishes sounded better than the next: Montrachet, Milanese, and Blue Corn. The Montrachet chicken breast was pan fried to perfection, stuffed with spinach and various cheeses and topped with pesto cream sauce alongside angel hair pasta. And the leftovers held up well - until lunch the next day.
Bottom line: The long-awaited Old Cuevas Bistro is worth the wait and a welcome addition to Old Town.
1/22-24, 29-31 – Friday and Saturday nights,
Ransom of Red Chief
1/28 – Thursday
BSL Rotary Club Chili Cook-Off
1/29 – Friday
A short video from last year's "Surrender" show
Surrender Art Show &
1/30 – Saturday
Krewe of Kids parade
1/31 – Sunday
Krewe of Nereids Parade
2/8 – Monday
2/9 – Tuesday
Krewe of Diamonds Parade
A Keeper Kind of Resolution
- by Ellis Anderson
Like most folks, I march into the beginning of each new-numbered year with a list of resolutions. Each year, it gets shorter — or at least modified.
For instance, I know I’m not going to lose enough weight to fit into that fabulous size six dress I’ve been hanging onto for the past decade.
Instead, most of my resolutions have been whittled down to ambiguous assignments “eat healthier,” “exercise more” and “sing often.” That way, there’s less guilt involved when I inevitably don’t live up to my self-imposed expectations.
of the Shoofly
Across The Bridge
At Home In The Bay
Beach To Bayou
BSL Council Updates
Casting My Net
Coast Lines Column
Friends Of The Animal Shelter
Growing Up Downtown
House And Garden
Legends And Legacies
Mother Of Pearl
Murphy's Musical Notes
Old Town Merchants
On The Shoofly
Shore Thing Fishing Report
Talk Of The Town
The Eyes Have It