Casinos, New Museum Replace Much Of East Biloxi's Seafood Heritage

When Tony Pitalo was a young boy, his family ran a Point Cadet grocery store just a block from the water. He remembers the days when east Biloxi streets were made of shells, and women worked at the seafood plants that lined the shoreline.

"And all along there during oyster season," he said, "there would be five, six, seven boats with 500-600 barrels of oysters waiting to be unloaded."

But the shrimp boats and canning plants that dotted the landscape in the 1940s got washed away, first by storms, then by a sluggish economy. By the 1990s, the vacant plants disappeared. High-priced casinos rebuilt the Point Cadet area.

To find a link to the past, people must visit places like the seafood industry museum. Seafood Museum Director Robin Krohn said the musem has a simple mission. "We feel like it's so important to keep that history alive."

The museum gives kids an idea of what east Biloxi looked like when their parents and grandparents worked at the factories.

"We're not the casino industry," Krohn said. "That's not what formed us. It was the seafood and the maritime heritage here along the coast."

Parts of East Biloxi really haven't changed that much. People can still catch fish in the Mississippi Sound near Deer Island.

"I don't think it's that much of a change," fisherman Bill Thomas said, just before he reeled in a catfish. "I still get to fish and enjoy myself and enjoy the company of the people."

East Biloxi will never completely lose touch with its seafood heritage. It just has to share that heritage with the present day casinos.