May 2017

Mother’s Day

Mom and me at the beach

Mother’s Day 2017 was spent at home. The demons of dementia are respecters of none, nor do they honor a special day set aside to honor our dear mothers. And this weekend, those demons have been very active, dashing around in my dear mother’s mind, snatching bits and pieces of her memory, jumbling them up and throwing them back at her.

As you know, when things get bad, it’s into the family auto we go; sometimes a ride helps. We saw the sun go down Friday afternoon, came home for a while, and then early Saturday morning we were off again; this time we got to see the sun come up.

Mom slept off and on since then. But thankfully, she’s up now, as sweet as ever. It’s during her spells–as I call them–that I try to remember my mother as she was before in the snap. As a child, my dear parents were always there for me, answering my myriad questions about whatever crossed my mind at the time. We often drove to Pensacola Beach for the weekend in those gentle days gone by; Dad at the wheel of our Nash Rambler, mother riding “shotgun” and me bouncing around in the backseat in the days before seat belts. Oft times at the beach, I’d dash along the shoreline picking up shells and smooth stones that had washed ashore. In the snap, it’s some of those smooth stones that I’m showing my mother.

Seashells for Mother’s Day

A few months ago, while cleaning out our storage room, imagine my surprise when I discovered those same smooth stones in a box of seashells. The boxed seashells were purchased at one of those long-gone seashell shops that once lined Hwy 90 from Pensacola to Bay St. Louis. Mother had saved the box and its seashells, along with the stones, as she did with so many of my childhood trinkets, coloring book pictures, and the like. When another spell traps mother in its sticky web, where she does not know where she is and refers to me as “that boy who looks like my son, Andy,” I’ll think of those smooth stones and those seashells. For they will remind me of time, a happy time of childhood innocence. In a world gone mad, it’s those memories that make life happy once more. And once again, my dad, mom, and I are at the beach gathering seashells and smooth stones, not realizing that we were making memories that would–and have–lasted a lifetime.

Jan 2017

My Dad. A Remembrance.

Dad and Me 5 001Twenty years ago, January 11, 1997, was cold, bitterly cold. The sun was shining, though, its warming rays sprinkling the winter garden of the Brent House Hotel in New Orleans with sparkling rays of sunshine. As I sat quietly reading, “The Nazi Doctors,” I could not wait to tell my Dad about it. I’d inherited my love of history, especially World War II history, from my Dad. We often read the same books about the war, which led to lively discussions around the kitchen table. But on that freezing day, Dad was not capable of talking about books or anything else. Little did I know what that day would hold.

            The 1996 Christmas season had been busy. I’d taken off a few extra days from work to make sure my upcoming Christmas soiree would be as festive as ever. Invitations for December 21st were sent with this schmaltz opening: Never a Christmas morning, never the old year ends. That I don’t think of someone–old days, old times, old friends. The food had been ordered and would soon be delivered. My wonderful, old 2nd Street apartment was resplendent with glistening decorations. A good time would surely be had by all! But a phone call from Mom on December 19th quickly put a damper on everything. “Anthony, I need you. Your father’s sick. Come home now!” Without hesitation, I stopped putting the final Christmas touches on the dining room chandelier and rushed home. What I found was not good.

            “Dad, you okay?” I asked as I entered my parent’s bedroom. His answer was not one that I had expected. “Son, I don’t feel good.” Knowing that my Dad was a man of few words when it came to personal matters, I knew something was amiss. When he ask me to help him to the bathroom, my suspicions were confirmed. By the time he got there, he could hardly breathe. “Dad, I think you need to go to the hospital…what do you think?” He nodded yes. “Mom, I’m calling an ambulance.” And thus began a journey, one that would prove that I was stronger than I ever imagined.

Dad            After sitting for several hours in Gulfport’s Memorial Hospital Emergency Room, a preppie young doctor introduced himself and cut to the chase: “Mrs. Kalberg, we think it’s best for Mr. Kalberg to go to Ochsner. His tests indicate a severe blockage in two arteries, possibly some in the aorta. We can call Ochsner…get the ball rolling if wish.” Of course, we said yes. Dad had had heart surgery at Ochsner in the early 1960s, performed by its founder, Dr. Alton Ochsner. That surgery helped correct my Dad’s heart from the ravages of childhood rheumatic fever. Dr. Ochsner told my parents if they had waited six more weeks, Dad would have died. But for now, Dad would stay at Memorial until after the New Year.

            Mom took the night shift, and I took the day shift. Dad was weak, so weak he could hardly walk, talk, or eat. It was difficult to get him to do any of those things. But the first order of business was canceling my Christmas party. I enlisted the help of David Delk, who called my guests–all 100 of them–and let them know that the party had been canceled; family always trumps a party. While hospitalized, Dad would walk for me when he wouldn’t walk for Mom. I knew why. He was more than aware how delicate she was, both mentally and physically. She didn’t say much, but I knew deep inside she was fearful of what was coming–major heart surgery.

            My journal entry for January 9, 1997, started with these words: “I’m sitting here alone in a celery-green sitting room, which is part of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Ochsner…” Leave it to me to write about the room’s interior, which looked as if it hadn’t been redecorated since the 1960s. I also wrote about the families in the room. Some were in tears, some were laughing, but I sensed that everyone was somewhat fearful of the future. I too was one of those people. Mother was in our hotel room. For those that don’t know, the Brent House Hotel is attached to Ochsner Hospital, which is most convenient for families with loved ones there. Knowing my mother as I do, I knew that I’d be on my own for whatever the future might hold. And how true that would be!

Dad's 1992 Train Trip 001            Dad’s surgery was originally scheduled for January 8th. However, it was delayed until the next day due to a child’s emergency heart surgery–hospital rule, children always come first, which is understandable. January 9th did not go as planned either. Dad’s surgery was rescheduled for 5:00 A.M. The Front Desk was supposed to call us at 3:30 A.M. You know where I’m going with this story: they didn’t. I woke up from a sound sleep and knew something was amiss. I called Front Desk. The desk clerk told me it was 5:10 A.M. Yikes! Not a good start to what would be an incredibly long day. I told HER to call the Surgical Unit and inform them why we’d be a tad late! I quickly jumped into some pants, a sweatshirt, and slung a ball cap on my head. I then woke Mom and Dad, got him dressed, and dashed off to the Surgical Unit with Dad in a wheelchair; Mom said she’d  follow right behind once she got dressed. When I arrived at the Surgical Unit, I don’t know who was more apologetic: the nurses, due to the Front Desk snafu, or me for not having a travel clock, back in the day when folks still traveled with such.

            The nurse quickly put Dad in a room and started prepping him for surgery. Once she did, he was placed in a bed in another room with other patients who were waiting for surgery as well. After looking for Mom, I found her, and we went to the room where Dad was. Our pastor, Dr. Kiley Young, came in to greet us. What a surprise! He was there visiting another church member. We prayed for Dad’s surgery and its outcome until the nurse interrupted us. “Mr. Kalberg, it’s time,” she said. In the poignant silence that followed, my Dad’s eyes filled with tears. I’d only seen my father cry once before. It was at my sweet Granny from D’Lo’s funeral. He hugged my mother, who was crying too. He told her he loved her very much. Then he looked at me with his huge brown puppy eyes and said forcefully, “Son, you take care of your mother!” I said I would and with that, he was wheeled out of the room and down a long hallway. Just before turning a corner, Dad looked back at me with a strange, forlorn look on his face. I think he knew deep inside that the surgery would not go as planned. Alas, there had been no time for me to tell him that I loved him or him me.

            For the next five hours, Mom and I cooled our heels in the celery-green waiting room. A few dear family members came to keep us company. It was a delight to talk with them and play catch-up. Occasionally, a nurse would give us an update: All was going as planned. Late in the afternoon, Dad’s doctor came to the room with good news. The surgery had gone well, which surprised the doctor considering all that was done. He’d replaced Dad’s aorta and mitral valves; a bypass was also completed. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Mom and I hugged and kissed our relatives and said goodbye. Dad was resting peacefully in Intensive Care, so Mom and I ate supper. After that, we went to our room, got into our bed clothes, and went to bed. It had been a long, long day! Sleep came quickly. Unfortunately, so did a call from Intensive Care.  

flamingo motel            “Mr. Kalberg, please come to I.C. as soon as possible…your father’s taken a turn,” said a monotone nurse’s voice. “Yes, ma’am. We’re on our way.” Mom was awake when I got off the phone. I told her what the nurse had said. For the second time that day, we quickly dressed and dashed to the hospital. Dad’s doctor met us in a private waiting room and told us what was happening. “Mr. Kalberg has developed some internal bleeding, caused by all the new surgery. This is a serious development, one that I was not expecting. We’re doing all that’s humanly possible for him.” Mom started crying. I held her close to me. “Doc…what’s going to happen?” I asked with hesitation. The doctor looked directly into my eyes and said with great kindness, “Within twenty-four hours we’ll know. I’m very sorry” He smiled, shook my hand, and left.

            The nurse came in and ask us if we’d like to visit Dad. The Intensive Care Unit was huge. There must have been thirty or forty patients in it. As we passed room after room, we could see the patients with tubes and wires all over their bodies. Above each patient was a series of computer monitors recording heart rates and such. Just before we got to Dad’s room, the nurse stopped us. “Mrs. Kalberg, Anthony. I just want to warn you that Mr. Kalberg’s swollen due to the internal bleeding.” Then we entered the room. Mom gasp. I inhaled deeply. Dad looked bad, really bad. The nurse told us that he probably could hear us but could not speak. He could barely move.              

            As we approached the bed, I could not help but notice the tube in Dad’s mouth or the myriad of wires that spun around him like a huge spider web. He was covered in a thick blanket. And like the other patients, hanging above his bed were computer monitors; their green lines and numbers flashing. But it was his face that was the most distressing. He was so swollen, he was almost unrecognizable. His eyes were swollen shut, as were his lips. His face was bloated and jaundiced looking. Mother spoke to him, as did I. But I’m not sure he heard us, much less understood what we were saying. The nurse arrived and said it was best that we leave.

            On our way back to the hotel room, Mom was silent. I’d heard that silence before. It always meant that she was shutting down, withdrawing into herself. I also knew that from that point onward, I’d be on my own. I was accustomed to that too. Being an only child, I’d learned long ago to survive by myself. Or should I say, by myself with God’s help? For the second time that night, we got into our pajamas and went to bed. I fell asleep to the sound of Mom crying.

            The next morning, January 10th, dawned bright and cold. Mom wanted to stay in the room and have breakfast sent to her. I order her some and left. “Mom, I’ll keep you posted. I’m gonna have some breakfast and read in the winter garden after I see Pop. I love you.” She only smiled. It was a bittersweet smile, but a smile none the less. I could only imagine what was she was thinking. At 10:00, the first visit of the day was allowed. The celery-green waiting room emptied and was silent. I once again passed the many rooms with their very sick patients. I paused when I came to Dad’s room. I was not sure what I would see.

            I then heard a very cheery voice. It was one of Dad’s nurses. Her name was Rosie. Kevin and Lilly were his other nurses. I laughed and told them that I was terrible when it came to remembering names, so I’d best nickname them. Rosie was christened  Sweet Rosie O’Grady. Kevin became Kevin Costner. Lilly accepted her Tony as Lilly Langtry. We became fast friends. My journal entries for that day were posted about every two hours after visiting Dad. As the day lingered on, my entries were a mixed bag of fear, sadness, and a bit of anger. Why was this happening and why now? God are you up there? If so, where?

            Lilly told me that Dad’s body had so much excess fluid in it, the doctor had ordered a dialysis machine to help the body drain. Kevin came into the room and started that procedure, as Rosie emptied the urine bag. It was dark and murky. The room reeked of alcohol and disinfectant. Dad still had blood on him for the surgery, which Lilly started to clean. And the noise! Buzzers! People moaning in pain! Family members crying! And above it all the monotonous hum of the lights in Dad’s room!

            I knew that I needed a respite, a peaceful place to unwind and pray. Kevin told me where the chapel was. My last entry that day was at 10:06 P.M. It stated the following: “Have just spoken with the Doctor. He said at this point, Dad’s chances of surviving the following day were slim. And now new machines–one for Dad’s lungs to help him breathe; one to help his heart pump; a blood machine to keep his blood flowing. He’s so bloated and has a sickening, yellow-green color. Oh! Watchman, what of the night?

            My next journal entry stated this: January 11th, 5:45 P.M. Daddy’s gone!

            To this day, I’ve never forgotten those words. They are acid-etched in my memory! Late on the afternoon of January 11th, when the doctor told me that Dad had only a short time to live, I dashed to the hotel room to get Mom. She met me at the door. “Is Frank gone?” she asked, tears streaming down her face. “No Mom, but he’s going fast, very fast. Do you want to come with me?” She paused and looked at me with her big blue, tear-stained eyes. I knew she didn’t want to come. “Will you be okay?” she asked. “Yes, Mom. I’ll be just fine.”

            I then heard a voice on the intercom. “Will the Kalberg Family please report immediately to the Intensive Care Unit on Fourth Floor.” I hugged Mom. I knew this was it. I dashed back to Dad’s room and was greeted by his doctor, along with Lilly, Rosie, and Kevin. They told me that Dad had only minutes to live. The doctor once again said how sorry he was, just as he was paged to another floor with an emergency. He quickly departed. “What’s gonna happened now,” I ask.

            Rosie said that they would give Dad a massive injection of morphine to ensure that he would feel no pain in the end. Rosie said that once that happened, I should watch each of the five monitors. I had a huge lump in my throat. I wanted to cry but couldn’t. I then ask if any of my three new friends were Christians. And to my surprise, they all said that they were. “Okay, give him the shot. But before you do, please hold me, just hold me until it’s over.” And they did. I stood there and watch, as one by one the monitors flatlined. I knew Dad was in Heaven–no more pain, no more tears, no more fears. Only an eternity of peace, love, and happiness knowing that he was Home in the loving arms of Jesus!

            Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my Dad. Oh! How I miss him!

 

Dec 2016

A Day That Will Live In Infamy

uss-arizona

I have two remembrances of this day–one from a dear lady in our church, the other from my dear mother. Here goes: December 7, 1941, dawned cold and wet, here along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The temperature outside was cold and the temperature inside the homes of many Gulfport residences was cold as well. Why? The main gas line providing natural gas to those homes had ruptured. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Reese Bickerstaff, located where the Federal Courthouse now stands, was one of those homes. I rented rooms from Mrs. Bickerstaff in the late 70s and early 80s. Many a morning she would tell me stories of life in Gulfport, “back in the day.” The morning of December 7, 1941, was one of those stories. She told me their cook was preparing breakfast for the family on that morning. Because of the broken gas line their house was “freezing cold.” When the cook ask if the family would be taking the morning meal in the dining room, Mrs. Bickerstaff said, “Heavens no! We’ll freeze to death! We’ll eat in the kitchen!” Why the kitchen? Their stove was not gas but electric and produced just enough heat for that room. As the morning wore on, Mr. Bickerstaff ventured into his study to get the morning paper. He decided to turn on the “wireless,” and it was then, over the crackling airwaves, that he and his family first heard the devastating news about Pearl Harbor.
kaltenborn
It was those same crackling airwaves that brought the news to D’Lo Mississippi. Mother said that she, my grandmother and my uncle had just returned from church. My Uncle Ellis turned on the radio and the clipped voice of H. V. Kaltenborn issued forth. It was then my family first heard of the history-changing events that had taken place thousands of miles away in a sleepy lagoon called Pearl Harbor. Little did my dear family or the Bickerstaffs know, as they listened to the horrific news, that nine Mississippians had already been killed aboard the USS Arizona during the attack. An attack that “Will Live In Infamy.” Lest we forget their sacrifices and the many others who lost their lives 75 years ago today, so that we would remain “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”

To read excerpts from my current novel, “A Chasing of the Wind,” please go to my website www.AnthonyKalberg.com . Purchase it on eBay or directly from me via my website. Thank you.

Dec 2015

Santa. Ducks. And Baked Bread.
A Christmas Memory!

The Holiday rush is once again in full swing. Halloween ghosts and ghoulies scare us. Thanksgiving turkeys fill us.
And the twinkling lights of Christmas thrill us. These festive times are filled with family, friends and the joy of holiday memories.

Many of those memories are wrapped in a pretty package of delightful smells. Candy corn. Pumpkin pies. And oyster dressing, thick with bell peppers, parsley, and smoked sausage. Come Christmas, the air’s filled with the sweet scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and evergreen. But there’s another smell that conjurers Holiday memories–fresh baked bread!

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Jul 2015

Coast Ghosts

Fall will soon come calling! Cool nights and crisp days. Monarch butterflies and jumping mullet. Popcorn trees draped with crimson leaves. Friday night football. Bonfires on the beach. But Fall is a prelude to something else–Halloween! Halloween, with its ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night!

We fear the unknown, but why do we gravitate to it–that shadowy darkness at the top of the stairs or that whispered voice in the billowing Gulf mist? Perhaps someone far wiser than me can explain the psychology of fear, but for me the explanation doesn’t matter. I’m one of those people who crave a good scare. And Fall nights are a good time to experience just that.

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May 2015

Ten Years Ago – A Remembrance

It was hot–very hot–on Saturday, August 27, 2005. While sitting in a wicker rocker sipping iced coffee and enjoying the cool of my balcony, I observed over two-thousand people moving steadily along Gulfport’s picturesque 2nd Street. Along the way, homeowners had set up cooling stations comprised of frozen bottles of water and garden hoses spraying a fine mist of cool water. People ran. People walked. They laughed. They perspired. Everyone was out to have a good time for a good cause–the American Heart Association.

As I sat admiring the runner’s determination, a dear friend from church dropped by and ask me to babysit his three-year-old son while he continued the run. I agreed. As little Weston and I built castles out of empty Cheerio boxes, the hot morning passed. Once his father had completed his run, he returned, out of breath and sporting a man-sized thirst. He guzzled down an icy glass of water and then asked a question— a question that would change my life forever. “What are you going to do for the storm. Leave? Or stay?” And then came my never-to-be-forgotten reply, “What storm?”

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Feb 2015

Before The Drive-in’s There Were The Air Domes!

They’re all gone now. The Do. The Don. The Beach. And the Moonlight. For those of us who grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, those names conjure up memories of our Drivein theaters. How can you forget going to the submarine races or the passion pit? Remember the little green citronella coil? You’d light one up to ward off those pesky summer mosquitos and then choke to death on the smoke! Remember the cutesy intermission music and the cartoonish hotdogs and popcorn boxes that danced across the screen, tempting you to visit the refreshment counter? What about those chunky gray speakers, with dubious sound quality? Remember Fivedollar-a-carload-night, the car’s trunk usually full to the brim with additional teenagers?

Most, if not all, of the Coastal Drive-ins were gone by the late ‘70s, victims of changing tastes and times and the elements. Pass Christian’s Moonlight Drive-in, located on Hwy 90 where Walmart is now located, was destroyed in 1969 by Hurricane Camille. In a bit of irony, Gone With The Wind was its upcoming attraction. But before Drive-in’s dotted the landscape, another form of entertainment tempted Coastal residents — the Air Dome. An April 3, 1909, Daily Herald article stated, “During all of last summer, a form of amusement enterprise known as the Air Dome became very popular in the cities, large and small, in the North and some parts of the South. Of course, an Air Dome means an outdoor theater, a theater the dome of which is the star-studded sky.”

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Dec 2014

A Scary Christmas Memory

It was a frigid-cold that night in December, 1967. The moonlight on the path through the woods was like a sparkling silver ribbon that lured us closer to our destination: Old Leather’s Place. The older neighbor-hood boys had promised us young-er boys that our Christmas Holiday wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a real haunted house. Earlier that night they first regaled us with stories of a headless ghost who played mel-ancholy tunes on an old piano—his music floating eerily through the late night air, and then they led us into the woods.

Suddenly, lumbering out of the woods that surrounded it, a ram-bling, derelict house materialized. It rested high on thick brick pillars, was enshrouded in peeling paint, and reeked with age. As we approached the house, the older boys did their best to frighten their young charges, but it didn’t work on me. I turned toward the wind, my ears wanting to hear tickling piano music. The words to a favorite Christmas song whistled in my mind: There’ll be scary ghost stories, And tales of the glories, Of Christmases long, long ago.

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Sep 2014

Granny’s Baby-Blue Buick Special

One of my favorite Coastal events is Cruisin’ The Coast. Each year I look Forward to the passing parade of jazzy, colorful cars sprinting along the highways and byways of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As I sit in my lawn chair on Hwy 90, I’m also entertained by the attire many of the drivers and their riders wear. I especially like seeing a vintage car sporting a lovely lady resplendent in a silk head scarf and and a pair of cat-eye sunglasses, their rhinestones catching the glistening sunlight. A driver complete with a splashy Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts, plus a Montecristo cigar, always rounds out the picture. But of all the classy cars zipping around with their spiffy riders, there’s one that I look for most of all: a 1949, baby-blue Buick Special.

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Apr 2014

The Socialist and the Southern Belle

Did you see the movie Midnight in Paris? It’s a romantic comedy splashed with fantasy. That fantasy begins one midnight when Gil Pender, played to the hilt by Owen Wilson, is whisked back in time to 1920s Paris. On a deserted, cobblestone street, a vintage Peugeot creeps to a stop, a door opens, and a gloved hand bids him enter. He does. Once inside, he discovers he’s in the presence of some of the 20th Century’s greatest writers and artists.

But what if you were whisked back in time? Imagine a balmy summer’s eve on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Gentle waves lap the shore. Ribbons of silvery moonlight dance across the water. Suddenly, out of the dark, you hear the clip-clop of horse hoofs. An elegant carriage approaches. You hear laughter as it glides to a stop. Riding in it are a distinguished gentleman and a beautiful lady dressed in the latest haute couture fashions. They smile, introduce themselves, and you discover you’re in the presence of Upton Sinclair and his Southern belle wife, Mary Kimbrough Sinclair. It’s August, 1915. Europe has descended into the madness of WWI, but your night of fantasy with the Sinclairs has begun.

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Jan 2014

Dogs! And Cops! And Bats! Oh! My!

“And Lord, please protect us tonight from dogs and cops…” The prayer was suddenly interrupted by a whispered voice. “Pssst, don’t forget the bats,” I said.

“And the bats, Lord, protect us from them as well. Amen!” Jimmy Curtrell added. He was the much adored music director of Gulfport’s First Baptist Church during the 70’s. “Now, let’s shake a leg and get a move on.” And with that, a caravan of cars filled with teenagers and kids home from college roared down Interstate 10 toward its destination.

Turning south on the Delisle exit, the cars came to a slow crawl as they entered a towering, pillared entrance. Beyond it a dark winding path snaked its way through the woods. The drivers turned off their car lights but kept driving down the path. The evening silence was softened by a springtime symphony of chirping crickets and bellowing frogs. But in the distance barking dogs could be heard.

The cars slowed to a stop. The riders got out. Their trail through the woods was hampered by tangled weeds and vicious vines. They stumbled into a clearing, and there, glistening in the silvery moonlight, was their destination.

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Nov 2013

The Biloxi Point – A Christmas Memory

“Son, we’re going to the Point after church, so keep your suit coat on,” my Dad said.

“The Point? Why there?” I asked. “Your mother has some Christmas goodies to deliver.” Dad rolled his eyes and smiled. “You know your mother. Mr. And Mrs. Clause all rolled into one.”

Then, I rolled my eyes in dismay. I was fourteen. All I could think about was going home, eating pot roast, and putting the finishing touches on our new aluminum Christmas tree with its rotating color wheel. The tree was a silvery creation covered in shiny, multicolored ornaments from the local TG&Y store. I was happy my family was up with the times. It was, after all, 1966.

As we rode along Highway 90 in the family Rambler, I peered out the window at the bleak, windswept sand flats. It was a typical winter day: rainy, coupled with bone-chilling cold. My thoughts then turned to our destination. “The Point? Wasn’t a girl at Gulfport East High School dating a boy from there? And wasn’t there a big stink about him being from the wrong side of town?” Just then, Dad swerved to avoid a huge pothole. The Rambler skidded on the slick pavement. Dad quickly regained control, and we plowed onward through the rain. Onward toward the Point.

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Jul 2013

Holy Mosquito Bite Batman! It’s Summer Time!

Do you remember the ‘60s TV show, Batman? Twice weekly, Batman and Robin treated audiences to their own brand of campy slapstick comedy, awash in the fiendish antics of the Daring Duo’s roster of villains: the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler, as well as others. These cunning scoundrels taxed the Daring Duo’s patience, as well as the Duo’s ability to eradicate them. Each show ended with a cliffhanger, leaving the audience to ponder if Batman and Robin would survive. But the Daring Duo may have met their match had they traveled south via the Batmobile and experienced a Mississippi Gulf Coast summer with its heat and those flying, biting Harpies of the South – the pesky mosquito.

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Bat House

Apr 2013

Public Enemy #1 on Mississippi Gulf Coast

“Mother of Mercy…is this the end of Rico?” This famous line ended the classic gangster movie, Little Caesar, starring Edward G. Robinson. That line may have ended the movie, but it was the beginning of America’s fascination with gangsters. Hollywood peppered the public’s appetite with movies like Scarface, White Heat and The Public Enemy. Movies like these were based in gritty reality, using real events like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. They were also based on real people like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and John Dillinger.

By the mid-30s, the violence surrounding gangsters and their illegal shenanigans was front page news. As the murderous violence increased, so did the public’s demand to stop it. To save the day, in blazed J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI with their “War on Crime.” That war led to the demise of the likes of “Baby Face” Nelson, “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. Of all the famous gangsters from the 20s and 30s, Karpis was the last Public Enemy #1 to be arrested, and also spent the longest time as a federal prisoner in Alcatraz, serving twenty-six years.

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Nov 2012

A Christmas Memory

The Christmas shopping season is at the starting gate, chomping at the bit, awaiting the starting bell. And once rung, Coastal shoppers can race to a myriad of exciting shops. From the Blue Crab Gal- lery in Bay St. Louis to Gulfport’s Martin Miazza Gifts, and from Bi- loxi’s Paper Moon to Salmagundi in Ocean Springs, Coastal shoppers are truly blessed. But back in the day the Coast was not so blessed. If Christmas shoppers longed for something unique, New Orleans or Mobile was their only option. But in the mid Fifties all that changed. The Purple Lantern opened and became THE place to shop on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The Purple Lantern was the creation of Mary Jo Sternberg. Not long after graduating from New Orleans’ Sophie Newcomb College, she opened her first shop in Gulfport on 27th Avenue across the street from the present day Amtrak station. The building, like others on the block, had not been properly maintained. When Mary Jo painted it purple, the city fathers hardly raised an eyebrow. She filled her first shop with the exquisite finery for which the PurpleLantern would always be known. But problems lurked just outside.

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Dear Readers, Here’s some additonal information concering the Purple Lantern, as written by Nels Anderson:

When was the shop started:  I really don’t know, because it was in operation at the highway 49 location when I arrived at Gulf Park College to teach.  I heard quite a bit about the old shop, but that’s all.

How I met Mary Jo:  I suspect I met her through the Gulfport Little Theatre.  I’m sure I was introduced there and started borrowing items for the sets.  The theatre at the foot of Hwy 49 was in the process of being built, or was at least in the planning stage.  I do remember borrowing items from the store.  The first summer I was there, I ran the shows at SIX GUN JUNCTION, and I believe it was the second summer that I needed a job and was a good enough friend of Mary Jo’s to ask for a job at The Purple Lantern as a salesperson and general worker.  I remember spending many nights pricing merchandize before it went on the floor.  I can remember that the lady employees and I would look at some of the merchandise that Mary Jo had ordered, and say to each other, “This will never sell….it’s so ugly, or whatever.”  Those items usually turned out to be the one’s that sold first.  We’d just shake our heads.  And the amount of merchandise was unbelievable.  It would take us hours to price everything.  She had a pretty high mark-up, and we’d also always think things were priced too high to sell……but they did.  Again, we’d shake our heads.

My work as a salesperson was terrible.  Mr. Sternberg (Mary Jo’s father) would get upset with me because I wouldn’t follow the customers around and try to sell them certain things.  I was terrible at that, and I think the customerrs thought I was following them around to make sure they didn’t steal anything…….and that would make me nervous.

I started helping Mary Jo with the display work, and that became my main job.  This leads me to the big fire….in 1965, I believe, or thereabouts. I’m sure you have that date.  Immediately before the fire, we put a Christmas display in the windows existing of a huge Christmas Train, with a car in each window with built in shelves for merchandise.  I worked long and hard on that, only to have it burn up just a very few days after we installed it.  The fire was a big blow to Mary Jo.  I was on my way to New Orleans to see a play with Helen Picking ( a fellow professor at Gulf Park College) when we heard the news on the radio.  When we got home that evening, we drove by the store and could see that it was a major disaster….and I knew I’d hear from Mary Jo first thing in the morning.  Almost immediately, she found an empty building on the other side of the train tracks,  It was just a few days before Christmas.  We worked day and night getting that building ready, and had a new store painted (purple), stocked, and open in 7 or 8 days.  The next morning after we opened, I got on a bus for Albuquerque to spend Christmas with my sister.  I slept all the way across Texas, In was so tired,.

Some people may remember the fire sale that Mary Jo held in the garage room next to the main store.  We carried salvageable items there for days after Christmas I assume.  When the sale opened we were flooded with customers, and the sale went on for weeks and weeks.  If I remember right, she didn’t shut it down until she stopped making at least a couple hundred dollars a day from it.

We immediately started designing the new store.  The layout generally followed the layout of the old shop, with a few new innovations.  There were around 20 shops, and it was my job to design and build each.  I’m sure I had help at some point, but have a very sketchy memory of that time because we were working so hard.  I’d get the shops done, one at a time, until the building downtown was repaired and ready to move in to.  It was during this time that I finally earned the good graces of Papa Sternberg.  He just loved the carousel horses I designed and painted for the Toy Carousel.  He thought they were just great, and maybe I was worth my tiny salary after all!  We spent  hours and days getting ready.  Remember, I was teaching at Gulf Park College at the same time, so there were many late nights.  I think a lot of the heavy work was done during the summer, so that helped.  Opening day was a big occasion.

Just a couple of other things I can remember:  I  enjoyed shopping with Mary Jo at the new trade mart in New Orleans and at the big trade center in Dallas; eventually we drove all the way to Chicago to shop at the famous Merchandise Mart there.  Mary Jo had a very interesting way of shopping.  She would flirt with the salesmen unmerceably.  In New Orleans, I can remember her shopping for make-up and over-night cases.  She’d butter up the salesman, and the pull things off his display, and pile them up in the center of the room. Then she’d say, “Send me two of each,” and walk away, leaving the poor salesman to repair his plundered salesroom. I’d look back as we walked away, and he’d be standing there, smiling as hard as he could, and waving, and I am certain swearing under his breath!

Once in Chicago, she was buying coffee mugs, and there was a wall of mug sized niches, with a mug in each.  She’d pull out the mugs she wanted just to the edge of the shelf, leaving the salesman to run along and grab the mugs before they crashed to the floor.  She loved doing things like that, and the salesmen would stand there with big smiles on their twisted faces. Good times!  Occasionally, the salesmen would close their doors at 5:00 and bring out the champagne for everyone left in the shop.  We hit a lot of shops just before 5:00!

Jul 2012

Tree + Swing = Kindergarten Memories

The author, in the stripped shirt, enjoying his 5th birday party (c. 1957) at Mrs. Moore’s kindergarten.

It’s that time again! Schools across the nation will open their doors to streams of children, hopefully eager to learn. Remember your first day of elementary school? Or kindergarten? What conjures up those long, lost days? Is it the scratchy sound of chalk on a blackboard? A nun’s sweet face as she raps your knuckles with a ruler? Or is it the smell of fresh baked sweet rolls from the school cafeteria?

Or children’s high-pitched, gleeful laughter on a playground? Could a tree be a time machine back to those days of “reading and ‘riting and ‘rith- metic”? Me thinks – Yes! The front yard of the Cable One building on Debuys Road is anchored by such a tree. But fifty-five years ago that front yard belonged to someone else, Mrs. Moore. And Mrs. Moore ran a kindergarten. My first day of kindergarten is one of my earliest memories. I was five. My parents, with me riding shot-gun in my mother’s lap, were the first to arrive that morning.

Download PDF – Late Summer 2012

Apr 2012

The Sunken Gardens – Tranquility for the Shell-Shocked

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” And the Garden of Eden! Remember that story? The garden was beautiful. Adam was weak. Eve was curious. And the Serpent was beguiling. God created a perfect garden for Adam and Eve. But they didn’t maintain it too well and got kicked to the curb. Ever since then, kings and queens, and the rich and humble alike have attempted to recreate that perfect lost paradise.

King Nebuchadnezzar II built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – for his wife, homesick for the green mountains of her distant homeland. There’s debate over their actual existence, but archaeological digs near Babylon have unearthed massive mud brick arches, which many scholars believe are the foundations of the famous gardens. The jury’s out on this.

Download PDF – Summer 2012

Jan 2012

Miss Effie, Rembrandt, and Me

Miss Effie

It begins each morning. By the time I’ve fi nished sipping my first cup of steaming, jet-black coffee, it’s in full swing – the vacation I take each morning. Without leaving the comforts of home, I can feel the heat from Arizona’s dry-hot deserts, dangle my feet in the placid, cool waters of Florida’s Suwannee River, and rub the gritty sand of Georgia’s Jekyll Island between my fingers. I can also gaze upon the majesty of Colorado’s Cross Mountain, and taste the salt-sea spray of the crashing, plungingwaves along California’s Pacific Coast Highway. And keeping me company during my travels is the mournful howl of an old hound.

Download PDF – Spring 2012

Oct 2011

Spanish Moss – The South’s Mystical Elixir!

Spanish moss! The very words epitomize the Deep South more than any other native plant. When Hollywood portrays the South, it festoons the set’s fake trees with the wispy gray plant. Southern artists splash it liberally onto their canvases. Writers like Faulkner and Tennessee Williams evoke it in their writing. Gordon Lightfoot even wrote a song about it! But the name, Spanish moss, is a misnomer.

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Jun 2011

Beauvoir Memories

Beauvoir was the last home in which Jefferson Davis lived. Mr. Davis, the only President of the Confederate States of America, occupied the house from 1877 until his death in 1889. After the War between the States, Mr. Davis was charged with treason, and imprisoned for two years, but was eventually absolved of any guilt. During that time he lost his fortune and his health.

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Apr 2011

The Inn by the Sea – Paradise Lost

“Once I built a tower up to the sun, brick and rivet and lime. Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?”

These lyrics are an anthem to the dark spirit and the equally dark days of The Great Depression. They express the deep regret of an America that had lost its ability to dream. This anthem was sung by millions, as they witnessed their dreams of grandeur dissolve into bankruptcy and breadlines.

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Gallery

Mar 2011

Pass Christian, MS – A link to a famous murder, a famous ship, and a famous book!

Before Katrina came calling, Pass Christian was a charming little town consisting of tree-lined streets, quaint shops, and grand old mansions that hugged the shoreline along Scenic Drive. Since that time, Pass Christian has struggled to reinvent itself, but hope springs eternal, and progress is being made.

Download PDF – KAL111

Dec 2010

There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays!

I’ll also take my old Magnavox record player out of the closet, along with several old Christmas albums. Putting a record on the turntable, the scratchy sound of needle to vinyl will bubble out of the two detached speakers, along with the rich baritone voice of Robert Goulet singing “There’s no Place like Home for the Holidays.”

Downloadf PDF – KALBERG CHRISTMAS 2010

Oct 2010

Moonlight and Moonshine

In the summer of my 13th year, I was introduced to an amazing concoction the country folk called moonshine. Moonshine! The very word conjures up images of bootleggers, Dolly Parton singing “Daddy’s Moonshine Still,” or perhaps Faulkner’s steamy novel, Sanctuary, with its equally steamy character Popeye, and his unsavory past in the bootlegging business.

Download PDF – KAL310

Jul 2010

Miss. Jessie’s Tower House

Upon hearing those words as a child, did you cringe, knowing that you had failed in keeping one of childhood’s Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not be a chicken! And did your “chickenhood” follow you as you matured? Alas, mine did! I’m a chicken, and because I am, I missed a golden opportunity to meet one the Coast’s most eccentrically delightful grand dames – Mrs. Jessie Sherman Gundlach – and to visit her equally eccentric house, Castle Sherman.

Download PDF – KAL210 2

Mar 2010

Spring is for Weirdos!

Daffodils are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring. Their flowering brings a promise of warm weather and sunny days, along with a burst of color to a landscape still dressed in its winter greys and drab browns. A member of the Narcissus family, daffodils originated in the woods of Europe and are easy to grow. In the fall, put a few bulbs to bed under a cool blanket of soil and come spring, Voila!

Download PDF – KAL110

Dec 2009

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Ever wonder what the Christmas tree in the proverbial Grand Hotel looked like? Can you see it now, touching the lobby ceiling, draped with garland and twinkling lights, each evergreen bough laden with sparkling ornaments? And what about that smell, the fresh cool scent of pine or cedar!

Download PDF – KAL409

Oct 2009

The Merry Mansion

You may be asking yourself what the first two statements have in common with the last? Our local real estate agents could answer that question with three words – Location! Location! Location! And that prime location would be the west corner of Hwy 90 and Lorraine-Cowan Road, where Fun Time USA once stood. Remember Fun Time USA?

Download PDF – Fall09KALBERG

The Merry Mansion during the summer of 1969, just before the house was destroyed in Camille. Photos courtesy of Diane Skelton. 

The Merry Mansion 1

The Merry Mansion 2

The Merry Mansion 3

Jul 2009

Hollywood – The Dream Factory

For almost one hundred years, the Dream Factory has created everything from sets and costumes, to movie stars and movie moguls. Many of the its glittering creations are iconic . Who could forget the creepy house at the top of the hill in “Psycho” or Scarlett’s green velvet dress made from her Mama’s portieres?

Download PDF – KAL209

Mar 2009

A Springtime Haint

As a child, I spent many spring afternoons playing on my Granny’s front porch. It was a typical Southern porch. Comfortable wicker rocking chairs invited conversation. A porch swing constantly whispered, “It’s nap time.” And framing it all in Kelly-green perfection were lacy ferns gently swaying in the dancing afternoon sunlight. In keeping with all things Southern, Granny’s front porch also sported a blue ceiling.

Download PDF – KalsKaleideoscope109

Dec 2008

Al Bowlly – England’s Answer to Bing Crosby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the image to read the article in the Mississippi Newcomers & Visitors Guide, Holiday 2008

Oct 2008

Belle Grove – Majesty in Ruins

The misty memory of a beautiful lady haunts me – a beautiful lady that I never knew. My first introduction to her was in 1969 when I saw her picture in a book,“Ghosts along the Mississippi.” Her beauty was not created from flesh and bone, but brick, mortar, and lime.

Download PDF – KALlatesummer08

Jul 2008

Sea Serpents Spotted In Gulfport

Did you know there are sea serpents living under the bridge that space Fritz Creek? Surely you’ve seen them. They have long snouts filled with needle-sharp teeth. They are covered with diamond-shaped, interlocking scales that are hard like armor.

Download PDF – kalbergsummer08

Mar 2008

The Titanic – History or Warning?

When Spring brushes the countryside with brilliant color, and bathes it with sweet smells, most Southerners think of azaleas, wisteria, and Easter. But this Southern boy also thinks of the Titanic.

Download PDF – Spring08Anthony

Dec 2007

The Markham Hotel – A Phoenix From The Ashes?

As a child, can you remember stepping into the spacious lobby of an old, grand hotel, and upon entering the lobby, there in all its sparkling, twinkling glory was a Christmas tree? Usually the tree was “tree-top-tall,” as the old-timers say, and would almost touch the lob- by’s ceiling.

Download PDF – Holiday 2007

Oct 2007

Three Gracious Ladies – Going, going, gone?

During the Roaring 20s, the country was awash in giggling flappers, bootleg whisky, and red-hot jazz. Folks shed their Victorian yokes, and embraced the new freedoms and conveniences that were sweeping the countryside.
Download PDF – Kals Fall07


The music’s not my favorite, but the home movies and pictures are great!

Jul 2007

Remember the Drive-In Picture Show

The first drive-in picture show opened on June 6, 1933, in Camden, New Jersey. It was the brainchild of Richard Hollingshead, who mounted a movie projector on the hood of his car. The clicking projector beamed its flickering celluloid offering onto one of Mrs. Hollingshead’s best white sheets that had been strung-up between two friendly trees.

Download PDF – kalbergsummer07

Mar 2007

The Middlegate Oriental Gardens

The entrance to the gardens

To an impressionable, 17 year old boy, it was a magical place! Winding pathways tiptoed through masses of exotic greenery. Unfettered wisteria vines, lush with purple blooms, draped the trees like fine lace. Trickling water from an ornamental river could be heard, flowing gently under humpbacked bridges painted bright red.

Download PDF – Spring07

 

Gallery

 

Oct 2006

The Theater Bug

Eons ago – the mid-70s – amateur theater was the far- thest thing from my mind. Sooo, imagine my surprise when a dear friend called and said, “Anthony, I’m helping direct A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum at Gulfport Little Theater. I need someone to play a eunuch.

Download PDF – KalsKaleidoscopeFall06

Jul 2006

Katrina’s Prince in Shinning Armor

I NEVER KNEW THE MAN’S NAME. But as Katherine Hepburn said in that wonderfully rich, warbling voice of her’s in the movie, On Golden Pond, he was “my Prince in shinning armor.” And he was a Prince that I discovered, but by chance. By 2:00, on the afternoon of August 31, 2005, the blistering heat had wrapped itself around me like a dense, woolen, blanket, drippy-wet with humidity.

Download PDF – Kals_summer06

Mar 2006

Natural Gas in Church

When’s the last time you had a good laugh? Not a nervous titter, mind you, but a real rip-snorter? Now granted, here along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Katrina’s lacerating visit, finding something to laugh about can be as rare as hen’s teeth. And rarer still is the laughter brought on by a Southern winter.

Download PDF – KALSspring 2006pdf

Dec 2005

Katrina Angel

It was an angel. A child’s angel. A child’s homemade angel. A gift perhaps. For a parent or a grandparent. And there it was, seemingly hiding itself in the craggy crevice of a mountainous pile of rank smelling debris. Its hand-painted face smeared with mud. Its Styrofoam body crushed.

Download PDF – KALSHoliday 2005pdf

Jul 2005

A Remembrance of Camille

Those of us who call the Mississippi Gulf Coast home know why the “livin’ is easy!” Because it’s HOT! What else is there to do but take it easy and “hunt a cool place,” as the old timers say? For our tourist friends who might not know, a coastal summer can be a HOT, humid affair.

Download PDF – Kals_July2005