Bookworms Are Not So Icky...
A unique volunteer program kicks off its seventh year of reading books to children in classrooms. This year - to Daisy Mae's delight - the theme is animals.
- by Daisy Mae Delray, columnist and registered seizure alert dog
I asked Kathy Wilson, Chair of the committee and Hancock County School District Community Relations Director, why the animal theme this year.
“We picked animals because they are wonderful,” Wilson said, “and because we are an animal-friendly community. Pets even have their own Mardi Gras and share our lives in so many ways.”
Here is how the program works. Sponsors and readers sign up to read and to purchase three animal-themed books for each class that will be read to. That adds up to about 50 classrooms, 1,500 students, and 150 books. Wow!
Each book has two stickers, the first of which reads, “This book was donated as a part of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce Bookwork Program.” The second sticker is individualized. For example, in the books I donated it reads, “This book donated by Christina Richardson & Puppy Dog Tales in memory of Mikey MacDougal.” The class gets to keep all three books to add to the collection from the past six years of the program.
We were assigned to a third grade class at North Bay and given our books. We have emailed the teacher and she will work with us to find the right days and times to get all three books read before the end of the year. With the permission of the teachers, readers are encouraged to bring their pets to the classroom.
We are to have read the books before going to the class, and we have homework too. There are lesson plans available online for the books we are assigned. In addition to reading the book, we are to ask the students questions that get them interested in the subject. We also make sure they hear the name of the author and illustrator, and we are sure to be enthusiastic and patient.
Reading aloud is one of the best ways to create lifelong readers. The Read-Aloud handbook and Jim Trelease’s website give many reasons why reading to children is beneficial. Another wonderful source is Reading is Fundamental.
We are really excited to be a part of this wonderful Chamber program, especially with the addition of us animals in the mix. In an alliance between Friends of the Animal Shelter in Hancock County and the Boys and Girls Club, the Hancock County Library program “Reading with Friends” has students reading to the dogs. Now we get to read to them. Bonding over reading is wonderful.
Please read to your children with the pets present and then let them read to you and the pets too. These will be precious memories and will help lead to a lifelong love of reading and of us pets.
Keep your tail high and your feet dry!
Love, Daisy Mae
Chasing Tarzan at the St. Augustine Seminary
In this latest edition of Pat Murphy's book-in-progress, readers round up with Pat and the neighborhood boys to explore the wilds of the Seminary grounds, hunting for adventure and Tarzan.
Nereids' Parade in Waveland, January 31
Krewe of Knights Parade
2/8 – Monday - Lundi Gras Day
One of the parade highlights will be the Raw Oysters Marching Club, watch for choregraphed dance routines and new lighted disco costumes! 2016 Queen Evangeline II of the ROMC is Ellis Anderson, editor of the Fourth Ward Cleaver! The Oyster throne will be set up in front of The French Potager at 213 Main Street, so stop by and say "hi!"
Krewe of Seahorse Parade
2/9 – Tuesday, Mardi Gras Day
This year's Grand Marshall for Krewe of Diamonds is noted civic leader Maurice Singleton!
Krewe of Diamonds Parade
2/13 - Saturday
Second Saturday Artwalk
2/13 - Saturday
Valentine's Day at the Little Theatre
2/26 - Friday
ALSO: 2/26 Friday-2/28 Sunday
Show Opening at Smith&Lens Gallery
3/5 - Saturday
For $5 anyone can enjoy the afterparty, which will have music and awards presentations. Proceeds support Bay St. Louis, Waveland, and Pass Christian police departments, and Hancock and Harrison County Sheriff’s departments.
Bring It To the Bay
3/5 - Saturday
Proceeds go to Hope Haven Children’s Services, so this benefits a lot more than your stomach.
Hope Haven Oyster Throwdown
- story by Ana Balka
“An outdoor hockey game in Omaha,” I repeated. Our neighbors, a retired couple from the north shore whose shutters were wide open to the French Quarter sidewalk when they were around on weekends, stared at me, their expectant enthusiasm melting in stages until their expressions settled somewhere between incredulity and pity.
“A hockey game. In Omaha,” the man said.
“Outdoors,” the woman said.
“We’re really excited,” I said.
“Ah huh,” said the man. His flummoxed expression remained as he shook the ice in his glass, took a sip and turned his attention back to the game.
“It’s a shame you’ll miss Mardi Gras,” the woman said. “Won’t it be awfully cold there?” Her bewilderment followed us as we waved and went into our gate a couple of doors down.
It was January of 2013, and after an overseas move, my husband and I had been staying temporarily in the French Quarter while we looked for something more permanent in the area. And we’d found it on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
So we were moving out of the condo that weekend. The following week, on the Friday preceding Mardi Gras, we had tickets for the aforementioned hockey game in my home state of Nebraska. Our neighbors must have been visualizing the meme that shows a woman flashing her chest to a herd of cows over the caption “Mardi Gras in Nebraska.”
We knew what a cool opportunity it was to live in the French Quarter even for a short time. That said, we weren’t always in tune with the way things are done around here. Not that I’m a stranger to parties or parades, but as far as making a big deal of things, the closest we had to Mardi Gras where I grew up (besides, duh, Cornhusker games) was the world-famous Czech festival in Wilber, which (as I am certain you know) is the Czech Capital of the USA. King cake? No, man. Kolaches. Delicious, delicious kolaches.
Steven is from the Netherlands, and he has home movies of his mother and sisters whooping it up in bizarre (and kind of scary) masks for vastenavond — Carnival — sometime in the mid-’70s. Neither Steven nor his dad appears in these videos. They were likely at home doing something reasonable, like reading.
So in January 2013, while all of our friends were sketching, stitching, bedazzling, be-feathering, and fur-lining ingenious outfits for not just Mardi Gras but also Lundi Gras and the Saturday before and the eve prior to that, we may have mumbled a “bah humbug” or two at the idea of the noise, the crowds, the costumes, the marching bands and — don’t hate — the parades. We had Mardi Blah.
Still, the spirit of the season caught me during the run-up. There was the ethereal procession of knights and angels in the dim light of the Jeanne d’Arc parade. Our friends in the microkrewe ‘tit Rəx made detailed and hilarious Barbie-doll-sized social statements for their 28-shoebox-float parade. Our condo was on the parade route for the Mystic Krewe of Barkus. Who can remain a wet blanket when hundreds of dogs in sunglasses and tutus are grinning and wagging past your house? If you’re raising your hand, perhaps we need to station you on the route for Krewe du Vieux and see if what rolls past makes you swell with a bit more enthusiasm.
Our Mardi Gras celebrations since we moved to the Bay have been appealingly up-close and personal. We braved the 2014 cold snap for the Mystic Krewe of Seahorse’s parade, where we cheered Keith and Susan of the Ugly Pirate as they sailed by in their pirate-mobile, waved and yelled as friends passed in bead-festooned golf carts, and marveled at the cold-weather commitment that the ladies of the Raw Oyster Marching Club displayed in their frilly pirate damsel outfits.
“The first year I went to Mardi Gras,” says Butler, who grew up in a non-coastal Alabama town with no Mardi Gras tradition, “I felt like I was one of the only people who wasn’t in costume. After, I was like, [forget] this, because the only people not in costume were tourists. Every year, I would add a little more ‘umph’ to my costume.”
It’s quite possible that I’ll do the same and find myself adding a bit more umph to my Mardi Gras outlook each year. Don’t get me wrong; I’m quite fine with maintaining a less-than-rabid level of holiday spirit. But the idea of a collective letting-down of the hair before a period of spiritual self-discipline has merit regardless of one’s beliefs, and as I’ve said in this column before, the Gulf Coast has a way of drawing you in, sometimes despite yourself.
Weezie, A Feline Reminder
- story by Rebecca Orfila
The Bay St. Louis-Hancock County Library’s resident muse, Weezie, lounged comfortably on the back of her officemate’s wrap-around desk when I walked into the office.
She blinked demurely as we were introduced by Mary Perkins, Hancock County Library System’s Public Affairs and Development Officer. Perkins explained that she and the green-eyed, tabby and white feline have shared a work space since 2001, the same year that the Hancock County Library System received the National Award for Library Service.
With a swipe of her thick tail brushing across the brochures and press releases on library programs and events, Weezie rose and sauntered over to the front desk to listen in on our conversation. She stretched out on the tabletop as Mary told the story about Weezie, Hurricane Katrina, and the library.
In total, the cat has lived in the library for fifteen years. She does not wander off into the library proper, but provides a happy diversion from library business to anyone that visits Mary Perkins’ office. Perkins and the rest of the library staff have forged a warm relationship with Weezie.
Weezie is named in memory of Louise Crawford (1880-1965), the first librarian of the Hancock County Free Library. A native of Indiana, Miss Crawford resided in Bay St. Louis with her mother and brother at the same address on Citizen Street for several decades.
According to Peebles and Howell, authors of a history of Mississippi libraries (1975), Miss Crawford (also known as “Miss Weezy”) was inexperienced when she took on the task of managing and growing the library in 1934. The authors credit Crawford and the library board for turning the fledgling project into a winning proposition for the county’s readers.
As part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, the library was originally located in a rent-free room (courtesy of Leo Seal) above the Hancock Bank in Bay St. Louis. With donated books and furniture and contributions from local government and other generous providers, the library finally had a sturdy foundation for success.
The City of Bay St. Louis stepped up to provide fuel and a stove — plus some funding towards the cost of an Encyclopedia Britannica — while the county supplied building materials and a monthly budget of $12 ($212 in today’s money value). Ray Thompson (1958) reported that Miss Crawford’s salary was paid by the WPA.
With dedication and fortitude, fifteen libraries were established in Hancock and Pearl River counties by Miss Crawford. The Sea Coast Echo Centennial issue in 1958 reported that Crawford visited many communities each month in a bookmobile. By the time she retired in 1959, the early collection of 200 books had grown into an assortment of 16,000 volumes.
Weezie purred and flapped her tail leisurely as Mary Perkins told the story of the founding and growth of the library system in Hancock County. She accepted gentle pats on her paws and words of affection during the interview. Weezie must know that she has a good deal at the library. Given the cat’s endurance in the face of potential disaster, early librarian Louise Crawford could have seen her own enthusiasm and dedication in Weezie. She might have approved of her namesake’s presence in the library.
Currently, the library has a varied list of programs and activities at many of its locations, including AARP Tax Aides on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, computer program classes, children’s programs, movies, and more. A calendar of activities can be accessed on the Library website and on the Cleaver's Community Calendar.
Key to the continuing success of the Hancock County Library system is the Library Foundation of Hancock County, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization that was organized in 1995. The primary goal of the foundation is to “strengthen the Hancock County Library System’s value to the community,” to find and secure funding for special needs, projects, and endowments, and to encourage community involvement.
Gifts and memorials from the community help to provide modern facilities and services in addition to a wide range of programs that strive to fulfill the interests of county residents. To contact the Library Foundation of Hancock County, Inc., call 228-467-6836.
Take a Motor Coach Tour!
These visitors start from their home towns and travel to Hancock County, sometimes from as far away as Connecticut. The groups generally spend four nights in the area. They tour Bay St. Louis one day, spend a day in the Biloxi area, and then go to New Orleans.
A typical Bay St. Louis day begins at the Historic Depot Visitor Center. Visitors Center concierge Susan Duffy welcomes the guests with information on the Hancock County area and a typical Mardi Gras greeting with beads, and they meet their tour guide for the day. Our lead tour guide is Jane Byrne.
The tour begins with the Bay St. Louis Mardi Gras Museum on the first floor of the depot. The museum features elaborate costumes from the Krewe of Nereids, a video of Mardi Gras balls, and a collection of regional Mardi Gras memorabilia.
The Blues in Mississippi display is also on the first floor, along with video and a display about our brush with Hollywood, the 1966 film “This Property is Condemned." Also available, are self-guided tour in the Depot District, complete with maps.
The tour continues upstairs with the Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antique Museum, which honors our nationally acclaimed folk artist, humorist, and storyteller. The museum features video of Miss Alice telling her jokes and stories, as well as a large collection of majolica, art pottery, art glass, and a wide range of collectible Americana donated by Alice's son, Tim.
After the group boards the bus, they are off on a 1½-hour tour of the Bay St. Louis area. First stop is a guided tour of St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church, where visitors may light candles for loved ones, admire the craftsmanship in the church, and enjoy the serenity of their surroundings.
The tour then heads back to the depot district, where guides will point out the Bay St. Louis Community Center, the historic Little Theatre, St. Stanislaus College, and examples of regional architecture.
The next stop is at Dale Lewis’s sculpture, “Angel Tree.” Here visitors can enjoy the view from the seawall and hopefully watch a train cross the train bridge. “Angel Tree” is one of the most photographed things on the tour.
After leaving the sculpture, the tour cruises through Old Town, where the guide will point out local restaurants and shops. The group gets off the motor coach and enjoys two hours of free time for shopping and lunch. At the end of the day, the visitors regroup on the bus for a trip to one of our local casinos for dinner and gaming.
As lead guide Jane Byrne points out, “Besides showcasing our community, these motor coach tours have a huge economic impact on our area, whether it be shopping, gaming, or dining.”
So next time someone asks you what those buses are doing around town you can say, “Economic growth!”
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