I arrived in Bay St. Louis expecting mild weather, Gulf breezes and fresh seafood. To be sure, those things were present even in frigid January. In reality, “mild” turned out to be a little cooler than I wanted and the breezes came from the Bay rather than from the Gulf, but oh, that seafood! It was wonderful everywhere we ate. Fish, oysters, scallops and shrimp with bread pudding for dessert? I doubt there’s a better meal anywhere. So, I found what I expected to find, but there were some delightful surprises.
As I mentioned in last Friday’s post, angels are very important to folks in and around Bay St. Louis. A chainsaw-tree-carver named Dayle K. Lewis brought his skills to Bay St. Louis as a way to encourage those who were trying to rebuild their lives after Katrina. Two of his works can be seen along the waterfront, while two others are in a city cemetery. All are remarkable.
ALICE MOSELEY AND HER LITTLE BLUE HOUSE
The best way I know to describe Alice Moseley’s artwork is “a Southern version of Grandma Moses in style and subject matter.” She painted the world as she wanted it to be, rather than as it actually was.
Mrs. Moseley was actually born in Birmingham, AL, and her first career was as a schoolteacher. She didn’t start painting until the age of 65 and didn’t discover Bay St. Louis until she was 79. As soon as she saw it, she was determined to move there. Her little blue house sits across the street from the Bay St. Louis train depot, which now houses the Visitors Center, a Mardi Gras museum, and a museum of her work. She died in 2004 at the age of 94.
I wish I’d known about her when I was teaching elementary art.
ST. ROSE DE LIMA CHURCH
This church began as a school for African American children in 1868, and in 1925, it became a church. Nowadays, the 9:00 a.m. mass on Sunday mornings brings in a packed house of both blacks and whites. The church’s Gospel Choir and Men’s Choir are considered to be among the best in the South.
Both the pulpit and the large mural in the front of the sanctuary are striking. In most Catholic churches, Jesus is portrayed as the Suffering Savior on the cross. In St. Rose de Lima Church, the mural shows an African Christ being resurrected through a large oak tree. The pulpit was fashioned from a felled oak tree with its roots supporting the top piece.
INFINITY SPACE CENTER
Living only about 35 minutes from the Alabama Space and Rocket Center, I had failed to consider the other space-related facilities in our part of the country. As I learned from our tour guide, when the Huntsville engineers started testing rocket engines in the late 50’s and early 60’s, pictures were being jarred off the walls and dishes were breaking. There wasn’t a large enough buffer zone between the testing and area residences.
Werner Von Braun and his associates bought up five small communities in South Mississippi, relocated the people and built the John C. Stennis Space Center, NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility. INFINITY Space Center is its affiliated visitor center and science museum. Hundreds of area school children plus thousands of other visitors pass through each year to enjoy the exhibits and the new 3D movie theater.
I will be sharing more about the current status of Bay St. Louis and Waveland, Mississippi — 13 1/2 years after Katrina — but, for now, let me encourage you to plan a day or more in this beautiful area and support the amazing work that area leaders and residents have carried out. You’ll be impressed, and they will appreciate the affirmation.