A new sign of the times declares "On The Road To Recovery" at 916 East Beach Blvd. The words bring double takes from Gulfport drivers who've watched the plywood sign change three times since Hurricane Katrina, beginning with the first one, "Blvd. Of Broken Dreams."|
Much-photographed and talked about, the messages to the world - the second was "Hiway Of Hope" - have graced the front lawn of the slabbed house of James and Donna Parks. They bought the 1920s house when he transferred from the Veterans Administration in 1962, and raised their three boys there.
The oldest, Cary, helped them return to their property three days after Katrina, and then began a neighborhood search for anything familiar. Two blocks away he found a sofa, and 10 feet from that was a familiar piece of plywood that had covered the window behind the sofa.
"I recognized it because it had one of the hands from our 'Ready for Freddy' sign that was first painted on the window plywood boards used in the 1979 hurricane, Frederic, and used for every storm after," said Cary, who lives in Hampton, Va.
"The original sign was a face and hands giving hurricanes a raspberry."
Amazed at the resilience of his parents, Cary used the other side of the plywood for the first 'Broken Dreams' message. Months later he painted over that for the 'Hope' sign.
Then a month ago, when visiting again, he painted over that and declared, "On The Road To Recovery."
"There will be one more sign, after my parents move into their new home," he said.
When will that be?
Perhaps as early as Christmas. The replacement home designed by the local Shaw Design Group will be smaller, raised higher, built of concrete and rebar with a steel roof and with what the Parkses call "armor-plated windows." The first major construction step: The concrete footings were poured Monday.
- KAT BERGERON