“The Choo-Choo Train House” (1911-2005)

“The Choo-Choo Train House” (1980’s)

Box fans, window fan, ceiling fan, tuna-fish sandwiches, train horns, sand, donuts in the morning, the beach, seining, hot summer days, cold-water showers, afternoon naps, no TV, no telephone, sand, stacks of Reader’s Digest books, dart board, cards, sand, late-evening thunderstorms, crabbing, fishing, and oh, I almost forgot to mention…sand.   These wonderful memories all seem to bunch up together in my mind when the long days of summer come. They make me long for “The Coast,” “the camp” — or more endearingly dubbed by the kids as the “Choo-Choo Train House.”

My Mom (L) with friends in the kitchen of the camp (1950’s)

Newly purchased camp

The Choo-Choo Train House was located in Clermont Harbor, Mississippi and was originally a school house that sat five blocks inland from the beach, and a few houses from the railroad.  It had been a school from 1911, when it was built, until the 40’s when the town built a new school.  At that time it was put up for sale and my grandmother and my step-grandfather (Pa-pa) bought it when my mother was about thirteen years old.  They spent the entire summer every year down at the coast, while Pa-pa went go back to Baton Rouge on the weekdays to work in his store.  He would head back to the coast on Friday evenings to be with his family again.  When I was a child, we’d go down at least a few times each summer.

The old camp had one big room that was divided into three parts, with half-walls surrounding the kitchen area which was located in the middle. Across the middle hall were two bathrooms — one half-bath and one with only a tub. There were large windows on every wall. These allowed a nice cross-breeze to flow through the building when the weather was hot.  The old ceiling fan in the front room was a large heavy-duty, two-blade, “they don’t make them like that anymore” type of ceiling fan.  It made a slow, loud, repetitive grinding noise as it started spinning, but when it got going, could blow a part in your hair.  There were beds  in the front room and beds in the back room.  But there was one special twin bed right by the front screen door where my Pa-pa took a nap every afternoon.  It was difficult to keep a bunch of kids quiet for two hours and to keep the screen door from slamming while he slept!

A typical day for me started at 4 AM when I would get up to go fishing with my dad.  It would still be dark as I tried to get dressed quietly.

My dad would turn on a small lamp at the kitchen table and make French bread toast in the old Munsey toaster.  After scraping the blackened toast into the sink with a knife (quietly) because we usually left it too long in the toaster while we got other things ready for our fishing trip, we would finish eating and head to Bordage’s (pronounced Bo-dash’s) fishing marina. It was located inland on Bayou (Bye) Caddy.

After getting there, still dark outside, I put on my orange life-preserver and got into our skiff.  Daddy would load our rods and reels, bait, and gas tank and then start the outboard motor. It always seemed so much louder in the early morning!  We slowly pulled away from the dock and then made our way down the bayou toward the Gulf. I can still smell the salt water, mud and marsh grass. I remember occasionally seeing, shining in the water as the boat glided through, the phosphorescent organisms that glowed briefly in the darkness. After what seemed to be half an hour of winding through the watery passages, we would finally reach the mouth of the bayou just as it was getting light.  We’d fish for an hour or more and then head back to Bordage’s.  We  always ended our trip with a Barq’s rootbeer and a pack of peanut butter crackers.  I still love that food combination.

Me (L), my sister Karen and my cousin Steve

My children at the beach

We’d get back to the house just in time to put our bathing suits on and go to the beach with my brothers and sister –and whichever cousins happened to visiting at the same time.  If the tide was in, we played in the shallow surf. If the tide was out we played on the sandbars running and splashing through the tide pools. Around lunch when we were on the verge of getting sunburned and when it got too hot to stay out there, we’d head back to the camp..  Each of us got a turn at the hose out back to rinse the sand off of ourselves and then we’d do the complete job in the cold shower inside. It seemed extra cold when you were extra hot. And no matter how much you rinsed off, you still found sand somewhere on your body when you got out!


Lunch usually consisted of tuna sandwiches or other cold lunch meat sandwich, then the sleepy people would find a bed and flop on top of it for a nap under the strong breeze of the ceiling fan.  Those of us who never napped, read comic books or played a quiet board game, or card game.  I must have played a thousand games of rummy! Sometimes Mom would give us each a dime to walk down to Garcia’s (Gar-sha’s), the local general store to get an ice cream.  I believe she did that mostly to get us out of the camp during her nap time.

My dad helping grandkids push the seine

My mom and grandkids

Finally when the nappers awoke, we’d get our damp swimsuits back on and head back to the beach and play until the sun went down.  If the tide was out, we’d seine between the sandbars in the tide pools and see what little fish, shrimp or crabs we could catch.  The youngest children always enjoyed the flipping minnows jumping on the net as we pulled the seine up onto a sandbar.

When the sun went down we’d head back to the camp for a meal of hot dogs or boiled crabs if we had been crabbing at the train trestle that day. Of course we didn’t eat until we went through the “de-sanding” ritual again of the hose and cold shower.  By the way, one of the best feelings in the world is to be clean, and cool, and in fresh pajamas after being hot all day and in a damp,d sandy bathing suit.

After supper it was time to get on — not in — our beds until the house cooled off.  At 9:00 PM we always had our radio tuned to the AM station, WWL out of New Orleans, to hear CBS Mystery Theater.  We listened intently as the opening trademark  “creaking door” opened and E. G. Marshall introduced that evening’s suspenseful tale.

Melinda – 1962

Before we went to sleep, we dusted any sand out of the bed — and there always was some — and Pa-pa would tell us to cover our heads with our sheet while he sprayed the inside of the camp with the flit gun to kill the mosquitoes.  Going to sleep hot, but waking up cool in the morning, with the birds chirping in the trees outside the open windows, is one of my fondest memories of being at the Coast.

The Coast is where my parents met and courted.  It is where all of us put our feet in the water of the Gulf for the first time. It’s where we went each summer to relax.  It’s where we had family reunions every year around my parents’ anniversary.

Our last family reunion at the Coast

Our last family reunion at the Coast in June of 2005

Yes, it was hot.  Yes, it was sandy.  But it was a nice place to go to relax, to be with family, to bring friends, to enjoy the beach, and to eat and sleep as much as you wanted.

The Coast is where we used to enjoy all of these things, — but those days are gone now. Only memories remain.  Along with many other people’s precious possessions, the Choo-Choo Train House and Clermont Harbor were destroyed in August of 2005 by the unprecedented power of Hurricane Katrina. This stretch of the Mississippi Coast was one of the hardest hit areas of the hurricane.  The sadness I felt from the loss of our camp and Clermont Harbor was the same as if I had lost a member of my family. I mourned for many years — and I still do.

Dad and Mom surveying the damage after Hurricane Katrina. The roof of our camp is on the ground in the distance. The picnic table is all that survived.

Nothing can replace the old camp, or Garcia’s, or Bordages, but one story demonstrates the resiliency of the place and its people.

One hot day a few weeks after the storm while we were cleaning up debris on our property, my mom proceeded to pull out a checkered table cloth, spread it on the surviving picnic table and began to set out cold lunch meat and sandwich fixings. We all sat and enjoyed our lunch under the sparse shade of one of the remaining, bedraggled trees.  It was at that moment that I knew not everything had been destroyed.  The heart of the Coast was still there.


Melinda’s Branches

If your family intersects with any branch of my family please let me know by leaving a message.  I would love to find present day cousins! (Lines are numbered as generations and families are listed progressively – patriarch to matriarch.)

Melinda Hinson (Holloway)     1

Marion Ray Hinson       —        Anna Claire Guice   2

Rufus R. Hinson — Veronica Strong          C. L. Guice, Jr. — Marcia Broome   3


Hinson Branch  

Rufus Roache Hinson  3

Hiram Pierce Hinson           —          Ella Bossena Stafford  4

F. M. Hinson — Louisiana Howze    Dr. Fieldon Stafford — Angeline Gartman    5

Strong Branch

Veronica Strong  3

William Dewey Strong           —           Cora Agnes Luc (de Guerre)    4

Charles M. Strong  —  Louise C. Frere        John Oscar Luc  —  Agnes Rhodes    5

Guice Branch

Cicero Louis Guice, Jr.    3

 Dr. C.L. Guice, Sr.                —                 Clara Bryan    4

Elbert H. Guice  —  Angeline Jones            William Bryan — Lucy Ann Duke    5

Broome Branch

Marcia Broome   3

Luther Dudley Broome           —          Anna Daisy Jacob  4

John T. Broome  —  Aletris E. Morgan      Rene D. Jacob — Julia R. Ringwood  5



Francis Marion Hinson  5

Isham Bracken Hinson — Nancy Brock   6



Lavina Louisiana Howze  5

William Howze  —  Jane Morgan  6



Dr. Feildon Stafford  5

John Wright Stafford  —  Elizabeth Charlotte Adams  6

                                                                Joseph Adams —   ?       7



Angeline Gartman  5

        John Milledge Gartman   —         ?        6



Charles Matthew Strong   5

Jasper Strong   —   Eliza Julia Nixon   6

William Strong — Abigail Hutchinson    Gen. Geo. H. Nixon — Rebecca Bracey  7



Marie Louise Christine Frere  5

Frederic Adrien Frere — Aspasie Fuselier de la Claire  6

Alexandre Frere — Marie L. Pecot     Agricole Fuselier — Anne Felicite Armant  7


Luc de Guerre

John Oscar Luc  5

Jean Gentil Luc de Guerre — Odile Ladner  6

Michel Luc de Guerre – Arsenette Nicaise    Louis  Ladner – Caroline Fayard  7



Agnes Rhodes   5

Charles Rhodes —  ?   6



Elbert H. Guice  5

Jacob Guice   —   Susannah Grantham (Sheffield)   6

Jonathan Guice   —   Anne Stump     John Grantham  — Mary Ann ?   7



John Thomas Broome  5

William Broom         —        Jane Cuney Hudson  6

?   —   Rachel Broom   7



Aletris Ellen Morgan  5

Thomas Sanders Morgan —  Mary (Mariah) Louisa Currie  6

“Jackie” the Riveter

Jackie (l) and Sug (r) Hinson in Fort Worth

As the train approached the station and came to a stop, Jackie and Sug stepped out onto the depot ramp in the legendary “Cow Town” — Fort Worth, Texas!  They were excited about the adventure of being on their own in the big city, which was quite a change from the rural life they were used to back in the piney woods of southeast Louisiana.

It was the summer of 1942 and sisters Jackie and Sug (as in “Sugar”) had recently finished training in Rayne, LA to work in the newly built Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant outside Fort Worth.  They would be helping to build “bombers,” — the new B-24 “Liberator” bomber, as well as the C-87 Liberator Express Transport.

The B-24 was to become the most produced military aircraft in American History with over 18,000 being produced in several plants around the country during the course of the war.  This aircraft was a more modern design of the B-17. The Liberator’s design would give it a farther range than its predecessor.

Always an independent spirit 17-year-old, Jackie never had any qualms about moving that far away from home, even though she had not traveled much while growing up. She had recently lived in Abilene, TX for a while with her seminary student brother while she went to Parson’s Beauty School.  She went out there at age 15 after she graduated high school in 1940.

Jackie Hinson

Although she liked Texas, Jackie’s plan was to return home and become a beautician like one of her older sisters.  But after being home for only a few weeks, she heard that an aircraft company was building a plant back in Fort Worth. Within three months she and Sug were in training at Rayne, LA with other women from across the state to work in that plant. With America having been in the war for over six months and many men now overseas, the company would be training young women in the various jobs needed to build aircraft for the war effort.  This opportunity was more than Jackie could resist — a chance to be off on her own and at the same time help the boys in the war!

After being sent to Waco, TX, the two sisters were then sent to Fort Worth.  She and Sug began work at the plant along with hundreds of newly-trained women. There were three women to every man working at the plant. They were excited and nervous at the same time.  Women would be doing nearly every job that had recently been done only by men – hence the popularized nickname given to these women of “Rosie the Riveter.”  Women across the country built planes, tanks, produced ammunition, and other war supplies.

The plant was huge! The main hanger area was able to house almost 40 aircraft  in various stages of assembly. Jackie’s job was to check out tools at the Tool Shed where workers came to check out tools that were needed for particular tasks. She was responsible for keeping track of which tools went with whom and making sure she noted their return. A worker was charged for any missing tool.  She was also responsible for keeping up with the amount of money charged each worker.

Sug worked in the Tool and Dye section where templates for the parts of the aircraft were made. After 6 months of working at her new job, Sug decided that this kind of work was not for her.  She eventually made her way back home to Louisiana. But her time in Fort Worth had not been a loss.  She met an Army sergeant there who proposed to her not long after they met.  They married later and moved to Virginia near Washington, D.C. after the war.

But Jackie enjoyed her independence.  She continued working at her job at the plant until the war was over.  She also attended business school toward the end of the war while still working at the bomber plant.  When her job there was completed, she used her business education to work in a wholesale jeweler,  in a drug store doing bookkeeping and payroll, and in a beauty shop on the weekends.  She never moved back home to Louisiana. In fact, as of this writing, 87-year-old Jackie is still living in Fort Worth, TX in the same house she purchased back in 1962.

Jackie Hinson and Nina (Sug) Hinson are my great-aunts.

© 2011 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved