Dick and Nola Dickens' new home at 230 E. Fifth St. in Long Beach stands out among the waist-high weeds and vacant lots of their beachfront neighborhood. The towering white A-frame house is a landmark in its own right and a visible sign of progress for residents south of the tracks. |
The Dickenses are familiar with rebuilding after a major hurricane. A home they owned on Kerr Street was washed away in Hurricane Camille. The couple relocated to Alaska for many years, and returned to South Mississippi in 1985 to build their house on Fifth Street. It was obliterated in Hurricane Katrina. Through it all, Dick Dickens is unfazed after losing almost everything he owned. Twice.
"I don't think there's an answer as to why I stay," he said. "The only thing I can think of is, we're in our 70s, and this has been home for many years. When you get in your 70s, a change is hard to come by. I guess our age and the love of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is why we stay. If I was 30 again, I'd probably have headed right on out and took a chance somewhere else. But I'm here. It's just home."
The last year has been a busy one. Volunteers from more than five states helped clear debris and build the Dickenses' new home. Among the debris, high in the trees, were Dick's stuffed bear, caribou and walrus heads.
The Dickenses have gone from 1,800 square feet to 1,200, but have kept their sense of humor. The faux stop sign on the lawn proudly pronounces the Dickenses are back, "Smaller and Poorer." The wiring, duct work and plumbing work have been completed, and the rest is awaiting only the elusive homeowner's grant.
"This whole thing has brought us a lot closer now," Dick joked from the camper set up near the house. "I can reach out and touch (Nola) anytime I want to. We'd like to get back in the house though, and we're luckier than most... I think we're going to be OK."