Hometown historian Pat Murphy’s coming-of-age stories were a hit with readers who relished his recollections of what Bay St. Louis was like in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
- By Lisa Monti
The book, Growing Up Downtown Bay St. Louis, will bring back memories for those who grew up in the Bay and give those who didn’t a glimpse into the people, places, traditions, and celebrations that make the city so special.
Pat, also well known as a musician, recognized years ago that his experiences growing up in a hometown with a rich past and colorful cast of characters lent itself to stories worth saving and sharing. Starting in the late 1990s, he had the idea to capture those memories in writing. He researched and found many old photos to illustrate the stories.
Pat focused on downtown Bay St. Louis because that’s where he spent many of his early years. Anchoring his experiences was Stevenson’s Electric, his grandfather George’s prominent business on Main Street. “I started out writing about my grandpa Stevenson and his business and what things used to be in the downtown area, and it kind of morphed from there,” he says of his writings. “I wanted something to leave behind.”
“When we started doing the Shoofly column around 2010 there was so much interest in it, and people stopped me and told me about it. At that point, I started thinking it would be nice to do a book.”
The nostalgia for details about growing up in the Bay got a considerable boost when Georgie Necaise Morton started “You know you’re from ‘The Bay’ if…” on Facebook. “When Georgie started the Facebook page, that blew it wide open. People started submitting things.”
Pat says the book was written in collaboration with the Hancock County Historical Society. “I feel like I helped them, too, by swapping photos. It’s been a two-way street.” He also got some publishing pointers from local photographer Ken Murphy, who has published several books of his photos.
The long process of getting the books printed and available for sale is well underway. “We are shooting for ordering books by the end of June,” he said.
Pat admits he got a crash course in book publishing that is far different from his background in music. His first music job was a gig on New Year’s Eve in 1965 when he was a junior in high school, and he’s played keyboard almost continuously around the Bay ever since. “From 1980 on, I always had a band,” he said. His wife, Candy, joined the band as a singer and bass player soon after their marriage in 1975.
Besides leading a succession of bands over the years, Pat started the popular Beachfront Festival in 1980, which ran for several years and led him to create exhibits showcasing old photos as part of the music celebration. The popular festival went on from 1980 to 1985 and was succeeded by other festivals in the county.
Music is one of the many topics in Pat’s new book, which opens with his early years, his family background, and their connection with New Orleans, which he shares with many Bay natives. He writes about the drive to and from the city on old Highway 90 and spending summers in New Orleans. Readers may recognize familiar references to the White Kitchen and Martin Brothers restaurants as part of that drive. But, as big a role as New Orleans played in his early years, Pat said, “I would not trade anything for my experience of growing up downtown in Bay St. Louis.”
Closer to his Bay home, Pat recalls his experiences in and around Beach Boulevard, the downtown area, the depot, and “all the places that used to be there.”
Long-gone restaurants such as Manieri’s and the Frosty Inn and bakeries like the old Gold Medal and Bobby Anne’s will bring back memories, as will recollections about Anthony’s and Ramsey’s department stores, the Star, and the A&G picture shows and the drive-in on Highway 90.
More stories cover the iconic courthouse scene and local politics, hotels, grocery stores and bars, praline shops, piers, and the ice house. “They’re all a part of Bay St. Louis life,” Pat said.
The hardbound, 240-plus page book is something that can be passed down through generations, Pat said. One of the book’s special features is the full-color dust cover with a hand-drawn map by Janet Densmore showing landmarks from east of New Orleans through Pearlington and into the Bay.
The book’s list price is $60, but you can receive a substantial discount by pre-purchasing copies for $45. Books can be pre-purchased and donations can be made by clicking the button below. Please Note: The Indigogo Tips section does not benefit the author. To remove the additional charge, click the down arrow and select other amount. You can enter "0" here and there will be no additional charge.
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