Pictured are the crowds of people who attended a big celebration Feb. 22, 1933, to commemorate the beginning of the work on the long sought-after direct route between the Mississippi Coast and New Orleans.
Called the “new shortcut highway,” the new direct route along U.S. 90 between Pearlington and the Rigolets shaved 22 miles off a trip from Bay St. Louis to New Orleans.
Before the new shortcut, a driver had to travel on mostly unpaved roads from Bay St. Louis through Pearl River, Louisiana, and on to Slidell, then connect to the Chef Menteur Highway into New Orleans.
That route took travelers through “Devil’s Swamp,” a place many feared, particularly after dark, as rumor told of robberies, murders and of some who entered and were never seen again. The project required the black-topping of the Old Spanish Trail between Bay St. Louis and Pearlington and the building of several bridges.
The celebration took place on the campus of St. Stanislaus College. Dignitaries and others from across the Mississippi Coast received invitations.
The mayor of New Orleans headed a special delegation of about 1,500 from that city, who came by special train over the L&N railroad. A barbecue followed the forenoon formal presentation, and a brass band provided musical entertainment. The new highway opened in late 1936.
Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and phone number to Flashback, Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; call 896-2424; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.