The third annual Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival at Jones Park is beautiful and helps set the holiday mood.
I’m just not willing to pay the cash-only $10 admission fee to see the lovely display of multicolored lights. I ain’t goin’ to do it. Bah humbug!
I can do a drive-by for free. I can head west on Highway 90, look left and admire the lights or I can head east on 90, look right and admire the lights.
The show hours are 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., so I can drive by as many times as I want for four hours a night.
The festival should be free. Certainly the city and Island View Casino, two of the sponsors, can afford to pony up enough money to present a free show for all.
They should make this a Christmas gift to the Mississippi Coast.
Once you pay admission to get in Jones Park, you also have to pay if you want tickets for rides such as Santa’s Big Wheel and the Merry Go Round Carousel. It’ll cost you even more if you also want concession items.
When I’m not doing a free drive-by, I’ll stay home and be the hermit of my hood in Gulfport. If I feel like looking at Christmas lights, I’ll take a walk and enjoy my neighbors’ creative displays.
The hood has been known to have such events as Festivus and to have such attractions as Santa’s Outhouse.
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.
Paul Hampton of the Sun Herald reported Tuesday that “the Great Southern Golf Club, the oldest course in Mississippi, could become a housing development if the club that owns the course sells it. But the president of the club and the course superintendent said they want it to remain a golf club.
I have sentimental reasons for the Great Southern, a scenic spot that offers beach views, to remain a golf course instead of becoming a housing development.
My parents bought a house at 221 Venetian Gardens in 1964, and the house, which survived Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is right next to the course. The back yard is the seventh hole, a par 3.
When we were junior high and high school students, my brother Mike and I would sneak on the course before twilight to play three holes before the club pro, Charlie Webb, would try to chase us down in his European sports car.
Ol’ Charlie never caught us. We would hide on the back porch as he looked for us.
Other times, Mike and I would play football on Saturday afternoons with our friends on the fairway of the second hole and we would get irritated when golfers delayed our game as they hit chip shots to the green.
I’ve got other memories. The Mary Mills Classic was an LPGA Tour stop named for the Gulfport golf star, and we would watch some of the best players in the world try to birdie the seventh hole.
My most memorable moment living next to the course was the summer afternoon I heard a booming voice as I was watching a major-league baseball telecast in the living room.
I recognized the voice. It was distinctive.
I ran outside, and the man with the booming voice was in a foursome that included Gulfport attorney Boyce Holleman. Holleman’s group was putting on the seventh green and his partner was Dizzy Dean. Yes, that Dizzy Dean.
As he was walking off the green, I got Dizzy’s autograph and to this day I’m amazed I got to meet him in our back yard.
We lived near College Park, a neighborhood known for streets named after famous golfers because the area is close to the course. Palmer Drive. Demaret Drive. Middlecoff Drive. Ford Street. Sarazen Drive. Snead Street.
I stopped living at home in 1976, and years later, a fence was built to keep young rubes from sneaking on the course.
I take pride in believing that the fence was probably built because of what we did as teens.
The Sun Herald reported that “the almost 130-acre site and clubhouse is listed by broker Lenny Sawyer for $9,750,000. The sale brochure pitches it as prime beachfront land for residential redevelopment with the highest beachfront elevations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
A potential buyer is interested is making the course a residential area and the club’s stockholders are considering the buyer’s offer.
The stockholders will likely have a vote in January on the offer.
The headline for this fine piece of quality journalism is “Hurricane Nate before and after in Gulfport” because I took photos of landmarks in my neighborhood of Broadmoor and I also got pictures of scenes of Highway 90, the Mississippi Coast beach road less than a mile from my house.
I took pictures on Saturday at 5 p.m., about seven-and-a-half hours before Nate made landfall in East Gulfport, and I also got photos on Sunday at 4:30 p.m., about 16 hours after the storm passed through.
As far as I know, little or no harm came to Broadmoor and its surroundings. Our house never lost power. The strongest feeder band we got was around 3 p.m. Saturday. The other feeder bands in our neighborhood were relatively mild. No street flooding on East Avenue, where we live. No downed power lines on East Avenue.
Saturday: Highway sign took on a double meaning
Sunday: Why the beach was off-limits
Saturday: Broadmoor convenience store closes early
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.
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 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?”
Tilly, our beloved 4-year-old basset hound, has one on her harness after Patty and I took her to the Blessing of the Animals.
It was Sunday outside St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in downtown Gulfport, where Tilly was among 16 people and 20 pets in attendance.
Tilly made friends with everyone and got to meet Antonio Banderas. He’s a cat who stayed in his crate and is not to be confused with Benicio del Toro.
The blessing was held three days before the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, who was born in the 12th century and is the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment.
Father Jacob Matthew, a Franciscan priest, led the ceremony.
Tilly and the other pets received a St. Francis medal, a prayer card and a blessing. Kristin’s pets, Stella and Lionel, who live in Madisonville, Louisiana, and stayed home Sunday, will be given St. Francis medals from Patty through Father Jacob the next time we visit Kristin’s home.
Tilly was sprinkled with holy water twice and she got a drop or two on her tongue. It was refreshing because it was a hot afternoon.
I’ve always been a fan of St. Francis, so much so that Francis is my Confirmation name.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
GULPORT, Miss. —It all started on Oct. 18, 2016, with a Facebook message from Sun Herald sportswriter and longtime colleague James Jones.
“Sir Paul took a shot at my boy Phil,” James said.
James’ message included a link to a story in which Phil Collins, promoting his memoir, “Not Dead Yet,” revealed he still resents Paul McCartney after the Beatle allegedly mocked an autograph request at a Buckingham Palace party during the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth in 2002.
In an interview with the Sunday Times in 2016, Collins said that “McCartney came up with Heather Mills and I had a first edition of ‘The Beatles’ by Hunter Davies and I said, ‘Hey Paul, do you mind signing this for me?’ And he said, ‘Oh Heather, our little Phil’s a bit of a Beatles fan.’ And I thought, ‘You f**k, you f**k.’ Never forgot it.”
I got the feeling I was supposed to side with Phil and James.
This sarcastic thought raced through my mind: “Oh, I feel sorry for Phil Collins.”
James and I agree on a lot of things. We think actor William Devane is cool. We like old TV shows like “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley.” We like the classic Rat Pack movies like “Ocean’s 11” and “Robin and the 7 Hoods.”
I’m entertained when James talks about Frank DeFazio, Carmine “The Big Ragoo” Ragusa, Lenny, Squiggy, Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio. He says we have worked with Laverne-like women in the Sun Herald newsroom, ones without the nasal Bronx accent but with the attitude.
James always mentions Doug Barber, our longtime Hall of Fame sportswriter colleague, when he talks about the Newsroom Lavernes.
The Newsroom Lavernes pushed Doug around. Doug is usually fearless about women, but the Newsroom Lavernes always intimidated him. Maybe that’s why he retired a couple of years ago.
James and I imagine Doug would shiver just seeing this Laverne DeFazio line.
Touch my “L,” sweetie, and your teeth go to Peoria!
James and I don’t agree on Phil Collins. James is a fan. I’m not a fan. I’m a Paul McCartney fan.
I told James “Phil Collins is a hack. His songs are terrible and he’s not even a good drummer. Sir Paul is a better drummer than Phil Collins.”
Yeah, I’m quite aware drumming isn’t Sir Paul’s day job. Phil has played drums more often, and I have to admit, far better. I just wanted to antagonize James.
James seems to think “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” is a great song and I think it is sappy and syrupy stuff.
I couldn’t believe we got caught up in this. James is in his 40s and I’m in my 60s, but the more I got into it, the more I enjoyed it. It was good-natured.
I told James that Phil was a 13-year-old extra in the Beatles movie “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 and perhaps that would have been a good time for Little Phil to ask for Paul’s autograph.
“U cold-blooded,” James said.
Our Facebook exchanges, all from his home to mine, carried over to the newsroom, where James sought sympathy for Phil from anyone.
He found it from the Page One designer, who was told the autograph sob story and then called Sir Paul “a big old douchebag.”
When I heard that, I thought, “Oh, brother.”
James, with someone finally on his side, told me, “Take that, you hater.”
Roy Rolison, my sports editor from back in the day, chimed in on my Facebook page with an old photo of Paul playing the drums. Roy was on my side.
“Paul has created an online instructional site to tutor, show the ropes to Phil Collins,” Roy said.
I have no idea if James saw the snarky post. Maybe he was listening to “Take a Look at Me Now.” If not that, maybe “Higher Love,” the only Steve Winwood song he likes.
I retired from the Sun Herald on March 3, 2017, and I brought up our Phil-Paul exchanges during my little farewell speech to the newsroom on March 2.
Much of my prepared speech, which I worked on up to the last minute after a couple of weeks, was about parting shots and inside jokes. James said many nice things about me, but I had to poke him one more time.
“James, I’m ready to bury the drumsticks, though I still think Sir Paul is a better drummer than Phil,” I said.
The line got some laughs, but I doubt that’s the last word.