Donna Parks estimates thousands have stopped to take photographs of 916 East Beach Blvd., but not because they have a spectacular Katrina-house survival story. In fact, Donna and husband James lost the house they bought in 1962. Their signs, their messages to the world, are what inspire people to stop.|
This week, no painted plywood gives messages to the world.
"We took the last one down because we decided people were probably getting tired of it," Donna said. "But our oldest son, Cary, is coming down in 10 days and he'll probably put up another sign. He keeps us going."
For now, there is a pink flamingo wind sock, an American flag and their FEMA trailer.
The Parkses were in New York when Katrina leveled the house. Cary Parks, who lives in Virginia, knew his parents were anxious to get back so he drove them.
He was several blocks away, looking for their belongings, when Cary found a recognizable piece of plywood - his parents' "Ready for Freddy" board that dated to a 1979 hurricane and was used to board up windows whenever a storm approached.
They toted the plywood back to their beachfront property and painted "Blvd. of Broken Dreams" on it. In another visit, he decided the message should be more positive, so he turned it over and painted "Hiway of Hope."
The Parkses bought the 1920s house when James transferred here from a Veterans Administration job in Ohio because they had a boat and wanted to be near water. They sold that boat and two others, and one month before Katrina they sold their last boat, September Song.
"We're in our 70s and it was just getting to be too much to take the boat to Back Bay when a hurricane threatened," Donna said.
But anyone who thinks the couple is ready to throw in the towel after Katrina need only read today's letters to the editor, in which Donna explains why they chose to rebuild.
They're in the final design stage with the architects for a smaller, strong house, and hope to be applying for permits next week.
"There's so much planning that it's mind-boggling, what you have to do to rebuild," she said. "I hope we are setting an example about building back on the beach."
- KAT BERGERON