Living

Renewed life for an old lighthouse postcard

Giant black ants scaling the Biloxi Lighthouse with ropes?

Yep. And I have proof in a postcard reportedly sent from Biloxi to California from Ant Hilda, who writes on the back of the postcard:

“Biloxi is Humid! We cannot wait to get back to California for the summer and play in the sprinklers. Can’t wait to see your yard. And your pantry. See you soon, Ant Hilda.”

Bear with me. This is, hopefully, as funny as it seems..

I’m writing in San Diego, where I’m visiting for a month to help with a family project. A few days ago I am sitting at the dining table when my brother-in-law, Eric, walks in from checking the mail. He quizzically holds up a postcard

“Greetings from Biloxi, Mississippi,” the card declares in extra large print. The idyllic waterfront scene is overly familiar to me, with good reason. I’ve studied the same postcard in Gulf Coast history books, illustrated newspaper articles and in local postcard collections.

Minus ants

The same image, that is, minus the ants.

The back of the postcard reveals that this mail-out is actually an advertisement for a pest control company. I laugh. And laugh some more. What are the odds that I’d be visiting California at the same time this Biloxi postcard is delivered? Talk about six degrees of separation.

I scan the card electronically and email my dependable Mississippi Coast postcard guru, Paul Jermyn, to identify.

Not new

I know its not a new photograph because the lighthouse sits at the edge of the water instead of straddling a busy highway. Beach Boulevard is a mere two lanes.

There is no seawall, The sand has yet to be replenished to make a wider beach, and the two houses behind the historic1848 tower are goners. They are long gone, the lighthouse keeper’s house destroyed in Hurricane Camille and the Dantzler House next door in Katrina.

Paul soon emails me back with a date, 1901, and includes a copy of the original card now more than a century old. His research shows the card was first printed by a Detroit company as an advertisement to lure Northern train-traveling visitors to the warmer Gulf climate of the Gulf.

What are the odds?

Again, what are the odds that all these years later the Biloxi photograph would get a California makeover? Why did Lloyd Pest Control, which proudly calls itself “one of Southern California’s premier pest eliminating companies.” chose this Biloxi image to create a humorous and memorable advertisement?

Guess I’ll never know.

The folks at Lloyds’ are uncooperative. My requests to speak with the company’s third-generation president, James A. Ogle III, or the marketing manager, or frankly anyone, hit a brick wall with ignored or timely phone call requests and emails.

That’s OK. The postcard has bested us all.

Creature invasion

In the past week my California family has faced a creature invasion, not of ants but of cute baby Western Fence Lizards. Each time we find one in the house we capture it and carry it outside to the nasturtium flower patch, where it might have a chance to grow up.

We release six so far, but still counting. When it is No. 4’s turn we put a glass on top of it and search for a stiff piece of paper to slide under the glass for capture. Guess which is the handiest piece of paper?”

Lloyds’ certainly doesn’t have that kind of “pest elimination” in mind. Hurrah for the revamped Biloxi postcard!

Kat Bergeron, a veteran feature writer specializing in Gulf Coast history and sense of place, is retired from the Sun Herald. She writes the Mississippi Coast Chronicles column as a freelance correspondent. Reach her at BergeronKat@gmail.com or at Southern Possum Tales, P.O. Box 33, Barboursville VA 22923.

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