The survival of the old family home

Gulfport, Miss.

Portraits Of A Catastrophe

September 04, 2005|By Christopher T. Assaf

A few memories from my childhood are now just that.

But the house I remember is still there.

It was my grandparents' house, on Camp Avenue, where my mother lived from age 14.

Last week, it was flooded, but it still stood, withstanding the wind and waves just as it did when Hurricane Camille came through in 1969.

Camp Avenue, its residents say, is the best street in Gulfport. Just ask Eo Gatewood, 89. He remembers my grandfather, James Oliver Bilbo, and the incredible clutter in and around his house - the musical instruments, the numerous Volkswagen Beetles.

I remember my grandmother, Wilhelmina Bilbo, shucking shrimp on the dining room table, laughing and talking about selling Avon.

Like many others who once lived on Camp Avenue, they passed away decades ago.

"All those old people are dead," Eo said. "I haven't decided when I want to go. But no time soon."

Eo made it through Katrina. Despite damage, so did most of the neighborhood.

Last week, the younger, newer neighbors were gathered on porches with camping gear and tents, taking care of each other and the houses of those who evacuated.

One of those who left was Neil Ladner, who now owns the refurbished house where my mother and grandparents lived.

Inside, the floors were covered with mud.

But it was still much neater than when my grandparents lived there.

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