You never know what a local column and the power of the internet might do.
Back in July of 2020, I wrote a column for Our Mississippi Home entitled “Longfellow House Has Been More Than Legends and History.” This was a piece explaining that the historic Pascagoula structure had once been the centerpiece of a venue that for several decades was an all-purpose resort and activity center.
We did receive a lot of positive feedback from that column, including from many folks who remembered the Longfellow House Resort and Gardens in all its glory. Then, in the last couple of months – just about three years since the story was published—I have heard from two separate individuals who had found the column ( in the archives or by Google), and reached out to me about their personal connections to Pascagoula and the LH. As the “Law and Order” lead-in would say, these are their stories.
So, one early January day this year, I received an email from a nice gentleman from Michigan named Ed Halasz. He explained that he was the person with power of attorney for Barbara Broock Bini, a 94-year old woman now living in an assisted care facility in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Ms. Bini had lived with her parents in Pascagoula in the 1940s and early 50s, when her father, Harold Broock, was a naval architect/engineer at Ingalls. The family had lived, she told Ed, near the Longfellow House, and she had many fond memories of her time here.
Ed had found my column online as he researched the Longfellow House. Now, he wanted to share her story with me, and see if I could offer any information that might be enjoyable for her to hear about.
Man, I was on it—what a fascinating tale that connected to a venue that means a lot to my past as well. After some diligent research and several email exchanges with Ed, we were able to determine that Barbara had lived in a home on the east side of the Longfellow House property, up about where some of the condos are now located. In my day, it was the home of Tom Green, who was the facilities/grounds manager for the LH in the 50s and 60s. A point of reference for some of us old heads: it was between the #3 green and the #5 green on the old Seaview Links golf course.
The house, of course, is no longer there, but Barbara’s memories of her time here are quite intact. She speaks glowingly of the galas held at the Longfellow House, and how much she enjoyed going into the house for those events. She talks about the bayous behind her house, and seeing alligators when she played back there.
But, wait, there’s more. After graduating from Pascagoula High School, Barbara attended Ole Miss, receiving a fine arts degree in 1951. She was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, and remembers sunbathing on the roof of the Zeta house, sometimes in the buff. Gotta love it.
Barbara went on to become a decorated professor of fine arts at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Some of her own artwork is presently displayed in the prestigious Detroit Institute of Art.
Good gosh, what a storyline. I told Ed to tell Barbara that she is now officially one of our favorite former Pascagoulans. If Ed is able to make a planned trip to Perdido Key in March, we’re hoping to get together over here and let me show him the venues of Barbara’s youth, after which he can return to Michigan and reconnect Barbara with some pleasant memories.
Still buzzing from my Barbara Broock correspondence, I then received, about three weeks later, another out of the blue email. This was from Ingrid Byczkiewicz Fauteux, who now lives in San Diego, California.
“I was googling Longfellow House, because I used to go there as a kid when I lived in Pascagoula, Mississippi, back in 1968 to 1970,” said Ingrid. “I was 8-9 years old at the time. “Your article written three years ago came up and I found it very interesting. My dad was an aerospace engineer who worked as a subcontractor for Ingalls Shipyard doing quality assurance back then.”
Oh, boy, I thought, here we go again. I didn’t know if this scenario was getting creepy or wonderful, but I quickly decide on wonderful. Ingrid and I now have a healthy email thread going about the subject.
Turns out she lived in two different places in Pascagoula—one on Market Street just north of Beach Elementary, and one on Washington Avenue (can’t recall the address) which sounds like it would be real near to where I live now (here comes “The Twilight Zone” music).
Ingrid attended church and school at OLV, where two of her best friends were Mary Kuluz and Lark Hemenway. I quickly surmised that Mary would be the daughter of our beloved local pediatrician, Dr. Matt Kuluz. I spoke to the now retired icon, and he is going to mention this to Mary .
Now for a mutual connection for Ingrid and Barbara Broock: “I remember going to the Longfellow House all the time,” said Ingrid. “We were members, so we were there at the pool, the tennis courts, and restaurant quite often.” Ah, the thread that runs so true—in this case, the Longfellow House through the generations.
Understand, I have many more stories related from Barbara (through Ed) and Ingrid that I could share, but my trusted editor at Our Mississippi Home would tell me, “hey, Richard, this is a column, not a book”. What shows through from both of these ladies is the love they had for their time in Pascagoula. As Ingrid told me, “Thanks so much for helping me reminisce about this part of my life, which was so short, but obviously so memorable”. I look forward to continuing my correspondence with Barbara Broock Bini and Ingrid Byczkiewicz Fauteux, who, let me proclaim, will always be true Pascagoulans.
Some years ago, one of the first columns I wrote was about a guy named Skipper McClain. Skip had grown up down the street from me in Pascagoula and had gone to Beach Elementary with a bunch of us who still live here. His dad was with the Navy, and the family moved away when we were in the sixth grade. Forty or so years later, then living in California, Skipper showed up one day unannounced, contacted us, and we got the old gang together for a nice two day visit.
While he was here, I asked Skipper what had pushed him to make the cross-country trip after all those years. He told me, “ because Pascagoula is the only place in my entire life that I have truly been happy”.
Wow—pretty profound, and good to hear. This old town seems to have that sort of effect on people. Tell you what—I bet there are a lot more Skippers, Barbaras, and Ingrids out there, and we embrace them all.