Second Street parallels Beach Boulevard a block inland, a Gulfport neighborhood unto itself. Like most of the older ones, it has undergone change but kept its liveability allure.
    A prime example of change is a Standard Oil sign that hangs on the corner of Second Street and Thornton Avenue. Don't look for a gas station.
    This is a throwback to the days of neighborhood filling stations and mom-and-pop grocery stores, when children from the nearby school would stop in for candy or soda after class, or a parent would feel safe sending a child there for a loaf of bread.
    About 1940, Frank and Rosemary Blackmarr purchased an existing Standard Oil station and added a little grocery. The Blackmarrs died in the 1990s and the land changed hands three times, but the sign remained. A house was built near the old grocery site about 21 years ago.
    In 1997, Thalia and Herman Johnston bought the property. They moved from mid-Mississippi, lured here because it was a great place for their 43-foot French sloop, Wilewind II.
    "I didn't even see the Standard sign until after we'd signed the contract," said Thalia Johnston.
    "It looks pretty rough around the edges, but all the people begged us to please keep it. They grew up seeing it here. Maybe it's a security, a comfort to see things from your childhood."
    Katrina did not take the sign but did destroy many of the quaint Second Street houses.
    "When we weren't sure if we could save our home I realized there wasn't anyplace else I wanted to live," said Johnston.     "It's a perfect size for two retired people who want to cruise.
    "The house had to be gutted and just today they're installing cabinets. You find out how little things can make you happy when you're in a bad situation. Small things are great victories."
    Cruising, however, won't be so easy because the Johnstons lost Wilewind II. It had engine trouble and couldn't be moved to safer waters.
    But they still have the Standard sign.
    "Friends would call us after the storm and after the first question 'Are you OK?' came 'Is the sign still there?'
- KAT BERGERON