For 25 years, Fun Time USA lived up to its name for thousands of families who enjoyed the arcade, merry-go-round, miniature golf, bumper boats and other kiddie rides on the beach in Gulfport. |
Hurricane Katrina demolished the popular amusement center, built and operated by Ray and Shirley O'Neal at U.S. 90 and Cowan Road.
"We basically lost everything, salvaging a few merry-go-round horses and go-carts that might be rebuilt," he said.
The O'Neals leased the Cowan Road property, which has now been sold and is scheduled to be used for condominiums, he said.
O'Neal, a Biloxi native, has been into amusement parks for a lifetime. He was with Biloxi Amusement Park, across from the then-Gus Stevens Restaurant in the 1960s when it was leveled by Hurricane Camille. That park also was claimed by Katrina.
O'Neal estimated that Fun Time USA attracted 100,000 visitors annually during its seven-month season.
The O'Neals worked 12-to 14-hour days, seven days a week, during the season, "but in the off months, I got in some hunting and fishing," he said. "To rebuild a new Fun Time, I'll have to give up hunting and fishing."
They are optimistic about the Coast's recovery and say they are coming back, but not on the beach and not any bigger. "It depends on a Small Business Administration loan," he said.
They also promise their signature landmark will return.
"Everybody asks about Humpty Dumpty," said O'Neal, who created the concrete egg character that survived the storm. "I put Humpty up at my hunting camp and that will be the first thing I'm going to put back up."
- GARY HOLLAND