Class of 1961
News from F. J. "Duck" and Kathy Eicke
August 31, 2005
Gentlemen and Ladies of the Class of 1961
I write to you presently from very comfortable accommodations at my younger Daughter's home in Brandon, MS (suburb of Jackson)MS. My last days have been far different and I thought some of my classmates might find my personal experience of interest as an adjunct to what you are hearing and seeing on the mass media.
At the urging of my wife (Kathy), we prepared for the arrival of Katrina to some extent and then headed north to the Jackson area. This is something we have done in the past years since moving to the Mississippi Coast from the Jackson area in May of 2000. We have "dodged the storm" more often then we admit on this occasion. Neighbors have ridden out previous storms and my initial intention was to do so this time. Katrina was headed to Louisiana and the delta of the Mississippi would definitely block the impact of the storm. For those of you not familiar with the Mississippi Coast, three counties cover the coast with Hancock to the west (Bay St. Louis, Waveland), Harrison in the middle (Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, Biloxi) and our Jackson County to the east (Ocean Springs, Gautier, Moss Point, Pascagoula) - and then over the Alabama line to Mobile. Louisiana did not block Katrina and we would experience a near-direct hit with the northeast quadrant of the storm hitting the Mississippi Coast with major impact. My itinerary on Sunday took me to Jackson where Kathy and our Mini-Schnauzer Sam remained with our Daughter. I then left driving to Mobile (I-20 to Meridian and south on U.S. 45) with the thought that I would be able to get back into Ocean Springs from the east and would not be able to from Jackson that would take me through the projected path of the storm. As it turned out, that was a good decision.
I rode out Katrina in Mobile with my niece, her husband and three
children. Mobile lost power and may still be without power. After
the storm passed Monday, Joe and I found a Home Depot open at 8 pm
Monday and were able to buy a generator. Fortunately, the generator
to this point is still in the box but now in the garage of our Ocean
Springs home since I had no gas (looked in Mobile but could not find).
Tuesday morning I traveled from Mobile to Ocean Springs via I-10 and
had no problem. We live about 1½ mile off
I have been in private practice since 1996 after retiring from teaching with Family Medicine at the Medical Center in Jackson. I moved my practice to Ocean Springs in 2000. My new office (I am "retiring" and cut back my practice by moving to a small office I occupy alone - my new "office manager" is my wife) was intact but without electricity. I expect to be on a forced vacation for an undetermined period. My schedule for this week (now under my direction and a meeting of a new CCA chapter in West Point, MS, on my schedule for Tuesday night) means I miss less work and some of what I am scheduled to do is in Jackson and Hattiesburg.
My boat was parked under a boat shed (metal roof, chain link fencing) at a storage area near our home and is unharmed although the boat sheds across the lot were destroyed. Down (meaning elevation) the road about ¼ mile takes you to Fort Bayou where the homes and businesses near the water were gutted. My storage unit contains my 1988 Mercedes 560SL and is intact, although I was not able to raise the door that I assume is sprung and not a concern at this point.
In all likelihood, this season for the SeaWolves will be cancelled. For one, the team plays at the Mississippi Coliseum that was in the process of renovation. That work will definitely be secondary and cancel the season. The offices of the team are in the Coliseum and likely were flooded. The casino barge of President Casino - about ½ mile east of the Coliseum - is now in the parking lot of the Coliseum - probably about where the picture was taken when Tom and Rici visited and we attended a game. Then again, Pensacola may have two teams this year or we may become the Mississippi/Baton Rouge SeaWolves/Kingfish. These are obviously not questions we address at this point. The SeaWolves had just signed an affiliation with the New York Islanders (NHL) and Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) that had raised expectations for this season.
On a more personal level, total lack of communication on the coast has left me without knowledge of friends. My fishing buddy lives two blocks off the coast in Biloxi and I know has remained for other storms. I hope he did not this time since damage to his home is almost certain. Other friends have homes in the area and hopefully are safe. Old landmarks are reported as gone - Mary Mahoney's Old French Restaurant, the Biloxi Schooner, my marina from which I pulled my boat Friday, the Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge that was endeared for the bumps from previous storms, the Scott Marine Education Center of Gulf Coast Research Lab where my grandson attended a SeaCamp in late July, and many others. CCA's year is over. I was scheduled to show a boat we are raffling over Labor Day weekend at Academy Sport (if you want to buy a ticket, go to our website www.ccamississippi.org) and attend our banquets in September at Pass Christian and Ocean Springs. Our Executive Director lives in Hattiesburg but has a home on the Jourdan River in Bay St. Louis. My contact with him gave me no information about his river home but his expectations are dismal. He has fared reasonably well in Hattiesburg that was hit at what is classed as a Category 2 hurricane 90-100 miles inland.
With this disruption in our life, we look forward to a reprieve in attending the Reunion in June and probably increasing our travel since what we do on the coast will be severely restricted. One of the things we loved to do was to ride west on Highway 90 at sunset. West from the Biloxi Bay bridge to the Bay St. Louis bridge is about 40 miles. That road, the bridges and the sights around no longer exist. I had considered coordinating a mini-reunion for the class on the coast - with facilities fine by any standard - the Beau Rivage, fine restaurants, golf and tennis, inshore and offshore fishing, sightseeing. You will never visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast Kathy and I came to love and call home. We are exceedingly lucky and count our blessings. Unfortunately, the community we enjoyed with such a carefree attitude - an area that made us feel like we had returned to the New Orleans of our youth without some of the current distractions of that city - is permanently changed. Kathy and I look forward to seeing you in June.
F. J. "Duck" and Kathy Eicke