Gulfport pressmen did a fine job and they will be missed

Pressmen are going the way of the typewriter, never to be seen again.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

I saw the news on social media Wednesday that the pressmen I know will no longer be printing the newspaper in Gulfport beginning Jan. 15.

Their jobs will be outsourced. One of the pressmen is Gary, my next-door neighbor. His wife, Lisa, also works at the paper, from which I retired in March after a long newsroom life in which I was a sportswriter, weekend sports editor, interim copy desk chief, copy editor and slot editor.

I’ve always enjoyed my conversations with Gary and Lisa.

Of all the pressmen, I’ve known Todd the best and the longest.

Todd is a funny guy. He’s a character.  He can grow a beard that makes him look like Santa Claus.

Sometimes he would drive through my neighborhood with his friend Mark, who worked in the camera room, and Todd and Mark would throw empty beer bottles in my front yard.

As a member of the copy desk who checked the paper every night, I would call Todd to tell him whether a page would be re-sent to fix a head bust or factual error.

He would answer, “Johnny B!”

Sometimes I would say, “Uh, I’ve got a remake.”

Todd would say, “You have a comma out of place? Is that why you are re-sending the page?”

We would laugh, although I remember the days from long ago when you could re-send as many pages as you wanted and they would stop the press so that the remade pages would show up in print.

Eventually, it took an act of Congress to stop the press and the only way to expect the remake to get into print would be a web break, something that has nothing to do with the internet.

I re-sent so many pages in my career, I became known as “Captain Remake.”

When I saw the news about the outsourcing, I also thought of Dean and Matt and Rat and Brett and Charlie, friendly guys like Gary and Todd.

One pressman, who will go unnamed, enjoyed writing on the monthly employee birthday list posted in the break room and at the time clocks. What he would do was a merry prank and people got a kick out of it.

For example, he might scratch out the first name of  a reporter with the last name of “Lee” and write “Robert E.” in place of the first name. A guy named Charlie James would be “LeBron.”

I like to think I got along with pressmen because my Dad was one when he was young, or maybe he worked with pressmen. I’m not really sure what his printing job was.

I believe he worked at R.R. Donnelley in Chicago before he fought in World War II.  The company is the world’s largest commercial printer.

Other pressmen I’ve known are Bob, who passed away a few years ago; Stennis, who was a jogger; Brian, a hockey fan from Canada; and Mr. Melancon, whose son attended my high school.

I believe the grandfather of one of my longtime friends, David Lawrence, was a pressman at the paper many decades ago, long before I ever worked there. I think Mr. Bills was David’s grandfather. Bills was not his first name. It was his last name.

Ink is in my blood because of guys like Gary and Todd.

All of them have done a fine job for many years. They will be missed.

 

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Cruisin’ to Ocean Springs for Leo’s Pizza

Pepperoni with double cheese at Leo's Wood Fired Pizza in Ocean Springs. JOHN E. BIALAS

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

I accepted Bubba’s Cruisin’ The Coast invitation and rode with him and his wife, Nancy, to Leo’s Wood Fired Pizza in downtown Ocean Springs on Wednesday afternoon.

Yeah. Me. The Anti-Crusier. Never thought I would be a backseat rider in a classic car at this time of the year.

Bubba is a Cruisin’ veteran who for years has invited me and every time I have declined. Until this week.

My reasons for going: Pizza was involved. I don’t have to go to work at the paper anymore. I’m retired. This gave me a chance to catch up with Bubba, my former colleague.

So I used the Gary Gilmore line and said, “Let’s do it!”

Bubba and his 1957 Chevrolet Wagon arrived at my house in Gulfport at 2 p.m. and we took Highway 90 through Gulfport and Biloxi on our way to Ocean Springs.

Bubba's 1957 Chevrolet Wagon. JOHN E. BIALAS
Bubba’s 1957 Chevrolet Wagon. JOHN E. BIALAS

The traffic flow was slow. All lanes of the beach road were crowded and onlookers filled the north side of the highway.

Bubba handled it all with ease. He was patient. He didn’t slam his right fist into the steering wheel. He didn’t yell. He didn’t curse. To borrow the words of a former sportswriter colleague, he was cool, calm and collective.

Bubba behind  the wheel of his 1957 Chevrolet Wagon. JOHN E. BIALAS
Bubba behind the wheel of his 1957 Chevrolet Wagon. JOHN E. BIALAS

Bubba told me to be friendly and wave at the people as we Cruised past them. I told Bubba that “I ain’t wavin’ at nobody,” though I did wave at somebody as we passed the people on Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs.

Leo’s is on Government Street, and it was my first trip to the restaurant, though it’s been around for a while.

I got a pepperoni pizza with double cheese and it was very, very good. A picture of the pizza is at the top of this post.

I would go back to Leo’s.

Highway 90 was also our route back home. We talked about the squatters. I was told they pay hundreds of dollars to rent lots made vacant because of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I’m glad the squatters are paying. I always assumed they were freeloaders without rights to take over the land.

Bubba had a keen observation about why the traffic heading west is backed up on 90 in Biloxi. He said it has to do with the traffic lights at 90 and Veterans Avenue. I got the feeling the red lights take forever to turn green. Has anyone thought of using traffic cops at the intersection to reduce congestion?

No matter the traffic, I enjoyed the afternoon with Bubba and Nancy because they are the Cool Cruisers.

I got home at 5 p.m. and thought, “Would I give the green light to a Cruisin’ invite in 2018?”

My answer: “Let’s do it!”

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Protest song drops just in time for Cruisin’

I refuse to stand for this flag. It's among the checkered flags in front of a beachside Gulfport home and they're on display to welcome Cruisers. JOHN E. BIALAS

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

I’ve come up with a song to protest Cruisin’ The Coast.

Actually, it’s not my song. It’s a parody of “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag,” a Country Joe and the Fish Vietnam song.

Call it “The Ballad of the Uneasy Cruiser.” It represents my displeasure for Cruisin’, which rolls Oct. 1-8 and disrupts life on Highway 90 in Biloxi, Gulfport and other cities as visitors stall traffic flow with rat rods, resto rods, four-bangers and flamethrowers.

Forget peace and quiet. You can hear the noise of carburetor dung all the way to Saucier.

“The Ballad of the Uneasy Cruiser” goes something like this:

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we driving for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop is a vet’s Trans Am,
And it’s five, six, seven,
Close up the VA gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! We’re all gonna drive

The vet reference in the lyrics does not besmirch war veterans. It besmirches veterinarians who assume poodle skirts are a new breed of dog at the Cruisin’ Sock Hop in Ocean Springs.

The mention of VA gates is a reference to Cruise Central, the old Gulfport Veterans Affairs property now known as Centennial Plaza.

In case you have never heard of Country Joe and the Fish, check out the video below.

To pad this out for SEO purposes, I’m adding a couple of lyrics from a Phil Ochs Vietnam song, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore.”

Here are the lines:

Now they want me back again
But I ain’t driving anymore
Tell me is it worth it all

If you have never heard of Phil Ochs, check out the video below.

I know many of you don’t have a sense of humor when it comes to Cruisin’.

I know many who have a sense of humor when it comes to Cruisin’.

If you appreciate the humor, let’s protest together.

Fight the horsepower.

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The best day of Cruisin’ The Coast

My sign would be, "You're not welcome, Cruisers." This sign is near the corner of Highway 90 and Hewes Avenue in Gulfport. JOHN E. BIALAS

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

Cruisin’ The Coast is the annual gathering in which thousands of owners of vintage cars lollygag their way on the beachfront road known as Highway 90, which includes Biloxi and Gulfport.

The neighboring cities are the epicenters of the event, and the participants are called Cruisers.

Who are the Cruisers? For the most part, they are out-of-towners, freeloaders, carpetbaggers, vagabonds, scalawags, ne’er-do-wells, squatters, codswallows and homesteaders who make it a pain in the ass for me to get where I need go on Highway 90. I’m forced to take back roads or I just stay at home, suffering in silence, until the traffic is unjammed.

A lot of the Cruisers look old: 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s. Head out on the highway lookin’ for adventure? More like lookin’ for dentures.

If it could be a movie, Cruisin’ The Coast would be titled “My American Graffiti Nightmare.” Early ’60s nostalgia meets 21st-century reality.

The young blonde from decades past driving a Thunderbird in Southern California in 1962 now looks like an octogenarian who can barely stay awake at 8 p.m. while cruising in a shiny super-stock Dodge from DeBuys Road to Courthouse Road. Go, Granny, go? I don’t think so.

The onlookers aggravate me, too. They park their campers on hallowed beachfront ground made vacant because of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They are robbing our land for their enjoyment, which is to sit in their folding chairs on the north side of 90 and drink an X amount of beers as they watch cars pass by.

The weather is great this time of year. It’s cool with bright blue skies and little humidity. The problem is we don’t get to take advantage of it. It is wasted on all the damn visitors.

Residents, excluding me, and businesses welcome the Cruisin’ influx. The city of Gulfport has sent out crews to clear sand from the sidewalks along 90 to accommodate the out-of-towners. The city seems to care more about its visitors than its own residents.

Believe me. I won’t see crews clearing sidewalks any other time.

My message to the local who embrace Cruisin’: Curb your enthusiasm. The event is not fun for the rest of us. For eight days, we will air our grievances. It’s our Fall Festivus.

This year’s Cruisin’ is Oct. 1-8.

You know what my favorite day will be?

It will be the day after.

Oct. 9. I’m circling it on my calendar.

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I’ll never forget what Roy Rolison taught me

Sports editor Roy Rolison in a print ad for the South Mississippi Sun in 1973, the newspaper's first year.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

For the past seven days, I’ve spent considerable time remembering Roy Rolison, my teacher and my friend who passed away on Aug. 26 at the age of 67.

Roy was the sports editor at The South Mississippi Sun in Gulfport from 1973 to 1982, and I was a rookie sportswriter at The Daily Herald in Gulfport in 1973.

The Sun was a new morning newspaper that year and The Herald, where Roy had been a sportswriter, was a traditional afternoon newspaper. Both were owned by the same company and both operated in the same building.

The Herald newsroom was near the front of the building and The Sun newsroom was in the back, and though we worked different hours, I became friends with Roy and in 1978 he hired me as a sportswriter at The Sun.

I was just 21 when I started at the Herald and Roy was only two years older than me, though he seemed to have 200 more years of knowledge, newspaper experience and talent than I had.

His knowledge included the Gulfport-Biloxi night life. Without him, I would have never known Spider’s, T.O.’s, The Sports Page and The Fiesta. Hanging out with him kept me from being a monk.

Ham sandwiches

 My late-night memories include a 2 a.m. phone call I answered about a year after Patty and I got married. Roy called. He was across the street with some guys at Mike Tonos’ house. Tonos was a city editor at The Sun.

Roy asked for ham sandwiches and said Patty and I could bring them to Tonos’ house. I didn’t think that was funny. The call woke me up and put me in a foul mood. I said something rude to Roy and slammed the phone.

I’m surprised I wasn’t fired the next day because Roy was my boss.

Roy taught me through observational learning, even when I was at The Herald. I watched how he worked.

I read his column, Sunny Side Up. I would try to emulate his inspired writing style. One or two times, I stole a phrase from his column because it was so good.

I was also influenced by his headline writing and the way The Sun sports pages were designed.

‘Rip ‘Em Rolison and Kick ‘Em Kirkland’

When I was at The Sun, I worked with Cliff Kirkland, my longest-running friend to this day. Roy hired Cliff as a sportswriter around 1975, and Cliff became sports editor after Roy left the paper.

Roy and Cliff were the writers I wanted to be. As columnists, they were provocateurs. They would tell it like it is, to borrow from Howard Cosell, and would get a rise out of readers who disagreed with their opinions.

They became known as “Rip ‘Em Rolison” and “Kick ‘Em Kirkland.”

Scoops

Roy loved to get scoops, and he helped me get my own.

My most memorable was when I found out the name of the new Gulfport High football coach well in advance of the athletic director’s announcement of the hiring. This was in 1978.

The AD would not confirm the name, but Roy told me to go with the story with the name of the new coach.

We were right and the AD did not like that we broke his news.

At a press conference to announce the hiring, the AD said to me, “John, would you like some coffee? It’s not poison.”

Picks

We lived for covering high school and college football and the New Orleans Saints.

Pigskin Picks was one of The Sun’s most creative football features. Each week during the season, the sports staff and a guest picker would make predictions accompanied by a story that was like a comedy piece. It poked fun at the guest picker.

Tonos, who looked like Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Davey Lopes, was the guest one week and two pictures ran with the story. One showed Lopes laughing and the other showed Tonos imitating Lopes laughing. I believe this was Roy’s idea and it worked to perfection.

When I started at The Herald, I gave up my pursuit of a journalism degree because I had the job I wanted and Roy Rolison was among people who would educate me.

He was the main one. I’m forever thankful.

Editor’s note: The picture with this post shows Roy in a print ad for The Sun in November 1973. Years later, The Sun and The Herald merged to become the Sun Herald, a morning daily. I retired from the Sun Herald in March. One of my retirement gifts was a picture showing me with Roy and Cliff covering a basketball game. Cliff presented me with the picture.

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This is not your father’s Hugo’s pizza

Hugo's Pizzeria in St. Louis posted this photo on its Facebook page in March. The restaurant will be opening soon, but it has no relation to the old Biloxi Hugo's except in name and the love for making pizza.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

This is not your father’s Hugo’s pizza.

That was the message Paul Hampton sent me  last week with a link to a story about a new St. Louis restaurant that is opening soon in Midtown.

Hugo’s Pizzeria is the name and the story from Feast Magazine said “the debut menu features a variety of specialty pies including a pizza with garlic oil, mushrooms, Fontina and rosemary. Twists on traditional toppings include a variety of housemade pepperoni options including French duck, Buffalo chicken, vegan, spicy beef and a house version made with grass-fed beef.”

Paul is correct. This is not your father’s Hugo’s. In fact, it’s not your mother’s Hugo’s and it’s not your Hugo’s.

The Hugo’s that Paul and I are referencing is the old Biloxi restaurant that served straightforward Italian food and the best pizza south of Chicago. It’s one of my all-time favorite restaurants.

This was the place that began the tradition of French dressing on pizza, and the wildest toppings, if you want to call them wild, would be shrimp and anchovies. I usually went for the large sausage or meatball along with a cheeseburger po-boy, a plate of onion rings and two Barq’s.

Grass-fed was never a concept when I was introduced to the Biloxi Hugo’s during my Catholic elementary school days in the 1960s. Had it been a concept, I probably would have spit out grass-fed food. What 12-year-old in their right mind would have wanted grass in their food?

At 65, I grasp grass-fed and I’m sure the grass-fed and not grass-fed food at the St. Louis Hugo’s will be very, very good. I hope to go there someday and erase the memories of my worst pizza experience, which was in St. Louis more than 20 years ago.

Patty, Kristin and I went to a restaurant on a Saturday evening in the classic Italian neighborhood of The Hill. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but the place was so packed we had to wait 90 minutes for a table.

I had no doubts the pizza would be great because this appeared to be a popular restaurant, but things started going downhill on The Hill when we had a very mediocre salad before our large pizza arrived.

I wish the pizza had never arrived. It was terrible. Cheap American cheese. Cheap white cheese. Wafer-thin crust. Cheap pepperoni. Pupperoni would have been preferable.

This was easily the worst pizza experience in my life. It was shockingly bad, and Patty and Kristin felt the same way.

All these years later, we’re still dealing with a form of PTSD  called Pizza Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maybe the St. Louis Hugo’s will be the cure. I know the Biloxi Hugo’s would be.

Editor’s note:  The image with this post is a photo that Hugo’s Pizzeria in St. Louis published on its Facebook page in March. The restaurant will be opening soon, but it has no relation to the old Biloxi Hugo’s except in name and the love for making pizza.

 

 

 

 

 

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Go nuts for Fantasy Donuts in Biloxi

Fantasy Donuts

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

Go nuts for Fantasy Donuts in Biloxi.

I am.

The new shop is on Pass Road just west of Rodenberg Avenue and it’s on the south side of Pass. I recognized a landmark nearby, a place that used to be called Kelly’s back in the day. It was a bar where high school students were allowed to hang out, and there was some form of gambling in the back of the establishment.

I’m sure very few people remember the Kelly’s location, but Fantasy Donuts is to spot because of its signage, and once you get inside, you will see treats better than anything at Dunkin’ Dounts and Krispy Kreme, which is Krispy Kreme is celebrating its 80th anniversary Friday, July 14, with this deal: A dozen glazed for 80 cents. I wouldn’t take a dozen Krispy Kremes if they were for free.

At Fantasy Donuts, I went for a fritter and a glazed twist to take home for breakfast, and the guy at the counter threw in a cinnamon roll for free.

The menu is straightforward. I have no idea where the name Fantasy comes from. There are no Katsuwatch kolaches,  Kingdom Rush croissants, Zodiac glazed and whatnot.

You can get the basics and there is a lot to choose from. So go nuts for the doughnuts.

Fantasy Donuts
You deserve your own bag of doughnuts. What would you get?/JOHN BIALAS

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Proof it’s too hot for playground hoops

The ruins of this basketball are proof it’s too hot for playground hoops.

Actually, it’s too hot for anything. Just stay inside, sit under the air conditioner and have a two big slices of your mama’s pecan pie or cobia cobbler with three tall glasses of high-fat chocolate milk.

The problem with the heat on Sunday, June 25, is that summer just started and it’s already feeling like August. It was 92 degrees at 7 p.m.

What will August feel like when it arrives?

Perhaps it will feel like that basketball looks.

Did the ball explode because of the heat?

Did it have too much air?

Did a truck run over it?

Did the truck run over it while scraping the Coast?

My suspicion is that a Scrapin the Coast truck hit the ball on Highway 90 in West Biloxi and dragged it all the way to the Walgreens parking lot at Highway 49 and Pass Road in Gulfport, where I found it at 7 p.m. Sunday.

 

 

 

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