1920s ferry was a floating nightspot

It's been about 80 years since a ferry last plied the waters of the Bay of St. Louis, the dearth of service not coincidentally matching the last time there was no bridge across it.

Capt. Ernest Drakett began running the ferry Cecil N. Bean in 1921, providing a way to avoid a similar lengthy drive north around the bay that Coast residents have faced since Katrina wiped out the U.S. 90 bridge.

Hancock County Historical Society Director Charles Grey said at one point a large barge was used, but a more modern-looking ferry eventually took its place.

"I'm told that on Saturday nights on the return trip from Henderson Point at midnight, they'd put down anchor and had a band on board and partied until daylight and then came ashore," he said. "It was a Saturday night floating club from midnight until 6 in the morning."

Other accounts said the dancing was a nightly occurrence.

Traffic continued to grow, though, and the Cecil N. Bean eventually couldn't handle it all. A federally funded wooden bridge was dedicated in 1928.

A concrete bridge, dedicated Aug. 1, 1953, was wiped out by Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. Contractors have a May 16 deadline to have two lanes of traffic open on the new bridge.

When that happens, the ferry service that started Wednesday will be stopped.