The City Park
War Memorial Park is its official name and is sometimes abbreviated to Memorial Park, or at times referred to as City Park. Much in the manner of any significant happening, the Park originated with just three men who got together and proposed a War Memorial in honor of their relatives and comrades who were serving in the Armed Forces during World War II.
The group prepared a finite plan which they imparted to the Pass Christian community in 1945. It was a well thought-out document which took into consideration the creation of a Public Park Commission, deed transfer to the City with a protection clause, and a procedure for acquisition. The formation of the War Memorial Park Association resulted in 200 charter members raising 90 percent of the purchase price during the first year. They acquired ten acres prominently fronting the Gulf and stretching back for two blocks. During the first year they landscaped the front section and in the second year they dedicated the softball playground in the back section of Second Street. During the first 10 years, the Association promoted an annual Park Fair co-sponsored by all local community clubs. Through the years since its beginnings, various individuals and organizations have donated funds, plaques, trees, flag poles, monuments, and even the famous Gazebo.
During one of the low periods of fund raising, when money ran short, Tom and John Parker, sons of the deceased Louisiana Governor, tapped a $32,000 escrow fund that had been derived from a group of Texans who along with the money sent a note, “Dear John, a bunch of us old sinners were playing a big poker game last night and we cut the kitty to send you this. Spend it as you see fit.” The Governor's sons donated for a good cause. Some of the money was donated to the Park Fund and the rear block between Second and the Railroad became named Parker Park.
The City took over full ownership of the Park in 1968 and soon afterwards initiated a one mill tax designated for Park maintenance and athletic programs. The VFW post was located just across the street and its members and auxiliary were very supportive throughout the years. The Park became the focal point for many Fairs, Festivals, celebrations and picnics, including the Sea Food Festival and Christmas in the Pass.
For several years, 1998-99, the Memorial Park displayed a beautiful Moon Light electric system with up-casting and downward spiraling spray lights. Walking along the pathways was such an enchanting experience during the evenings. Watching the splendor of the lights reflecting upon the branches of the massive Live Oaks was an awesome sight. However, the non-plussed squirrels ate through the wiring and ultimately disengaged the quite expensive lighting system.
More currently, the park hosts numerous annual events, including Jazz in the Pass, the St. Paddy Parade line-up, Art in the Pass, Paws in the Pass, and Christmas in the Pass.
War Memorial Park Time Line
1944 - Honor Roll - dedication, December 21, 1944
1945 - The Plan - War Memorial Association - for the acquisition for a Park.
Created Park Commission
1946 - 2nd Annual Report - Finance Statement for Assn.. and Comm. 11/1/46
1976 - BiCentennial dedication of Historic Markers, 7/4/76
1980 - War Memorial Asso - Memorial for Charter Members, 3/23/80
1947 - Jan. 4th dedication of Park Playground by Commission and Association
1950 - New Ballpark bleachers
1951 - 7th Annual Park Fair fundraiser by all civic groups for Park Comm.
1952 - 8th Annual Park Fair
1953 - August Evening dance at Tennis Courts with Papa Celestin entertainment
1953 - 9th Annual Park Fair -- Aug 22-23
1956 - 12th Annual Park Fair -- Aug 11-12
1956 - VFW Pier started -- Dec 27th
1956 - VFW Labor Day Picnic in Park -- Sept 3rd
1957 - VFW Pier dedicated -- June 15th
1957 - Repair Esther storm damage to Pier -- Oct 10
1957 - Annual Park Fair -- Aug 10-11
1958 - Annual Memorial Park Bazaar -- Aug 11-12
1958 - 12 hours of snow -- Feb 12th
1959 - Annual Park Fair -- Aug 8-9
1960 - Proposal for new plaque memorial for all Vets including Korea - 2/4
1960 - Annual Park Fair -- Aug 13-14
1961 - New Officers for Assn. -- Feb 2nd
1961 - Memorial Marker replica of a Grecian portico, 8' hi, 12' long -- Oct 26th
1961 - Park Benefit at PCYC -- Nov 11th
1962 - Festival of Arts with Gulf Coast Art Assn.with Trinity Martha Guild,
with band, dancing, and art auctions -- July
1963 - Park Asso Fund drive -- received Harbor Shop donation -- Feb 7th
1964 - Dinner for Park at VFW -- June 28
1966 - Harbor Shop donated $1,000 for caretaker house repairs -- June 16th
Annual Fairs were stopped, therefore fund raising was difficult.
1968 - Comm. queried City about $5,000 unused budget for Park,
Integration problems, -- Feb 7th
1968 - Integration prompted sale of Park to City for $25,000 -- Mar 28
Money would be used for scholarships
1968 - City claims ownership of Park without sale, -- April 11
based on original deed of transfer
1968 - George Watson appointed to Park Comm -- May 9
1968 - May 23, Mother of Mercy Church gave $325 to Carl Keel, Pres
Pass Atheletic Club for summer recreation program, other churches
would follow suit, but some resented funds going to City gen'l fund
1968 - Aug 8, Land swap with Avery Allen,Sr. 20x200 park for 60x327 Allen
1968 - Mar 8, 1mill of taxation would be create $10,000 was considered
1969 - Sept 10, Hired of full time recreation director for year round activities
1969 - Aug 7, Wiley Reid Recreation Director and member of Park Comm, discussion of over-spending, Mayor Wittman replied it was customary to let bills go unpaid when over-budget and deficient on funds
1969 - First Christmas tree lighting, Dec. 12 -- "Freindship tree" donated by the L.C. Williams Co. of Houston Tex, manufactures of outdoor Christmas decorations, given because of Camille
1970 - Lighting contract let for $8,800 for ballfield -- June 11
1970 - Seabees built restrooms at ball park -- Sept 30
1970 - Christmas tree lighting at the Park, 2nd annual -- Dec 22
1971 - Bids for basketball courts at Fleitas and Church -- Mar 18
1971 - Sept. 2nd, American Flag Plaque Stand made by Seabees to City at Park, made of shells and broken milk of magnesia bottles laid in cement
1971 - Nov 11th, $60,000 proposal but City had no matching funds
1971 - Dec 15th, Annual Christmas tree lighting, included church choirs from several schools and churches
1972 - Open forum on recreation problems brought up by coaches, umpires, players to Park Comm -- June 9
1972 - Dec 6th, Fouth Annual Christmas tree lighting, Xi Theta Chapter, Beta Sigma Phi sorority in charge. Midle School band, Trinity church choir, invocations and benedictions by church pastors,
1973 - Feb 15th, Plaque honoring all war dead WWI to Vietnam -- by Rotary
1973 - Mar 15th, Park Comm told PC Athletic Assn that it was taking control of recreation, but Assn would continue to provide coaches, assistants and umpires. Program would eliminate about 100 of 300 children who live outside of Pass. Assn refuted that most of coaches were from outside PC
1973 - Nov 22, VFW honored vets. PC Hi Band, Flag presentation, wreaths placed, taps blown, girl scouts were Jr hostesses
1974 - June 6th, Rotary Club replaced plaque lost by Camille with new one covering war dead from Civil War to 1974. 30 names listed
1974 - June 20, Recreation Director, Henry Logan hired for $1000
1974 - Dec 10th, Annual Christmas tree lighting, middle school band, Tom Bourdin at the Organ, scout troops, Xi Theta, Beta Siglma Phi
1974 - Dec 21, Rotary sponsored Santa annual visit. Arriving by boat at the Harbor, toured the town by fire truck and stopped at the Park.
1975 - April 10, John Gallagher, pres of PC Athletic Assn. presented 124 trophies to girls, boys, divisions and individuals.
1975 - March 8, Leased lot from Knights of Columbus at Fleitas and 3rd for parking
1975 - Dec 27, Living Christmas tree donated by C. Randall Jones to replace "Friendship tree"
1975 - Dec 11, Annual Christmas tree lighting - Steve Saucier Mayor
1976 - July 6th, Bicentennial celebration
1976 - Annual Christmas tree lighting -- Dec 12
1977 - Annual Christmas tree lighting, essay contest winners announced 12/9
1978 - 9th Annual Christmas Tree
1980 - March 17th, Marker dedication for originators of War Memorial Park.
(Hist of Markers, WW I dead was at old City Hall was knocked down by auto accident, 2nd Marker placed at park was demolished by Camille, 3rd was placed one year after Camille by Seabees, 4th Marker listing all War deaths was put up by Rotary.) Dr. Wesley Lake only survivor of originators made dedication
Dayton Robinson noted that the reversion clause in the deed transfer of the park to the City required that the War Memorial Park Asso must continue to exist, -- if for any reason the park was not retained for its park purpose.
1983 - July 21st, Harbor Shop proposed Victorian Gazebo Bandstand for the Park for purposes of school band concerts, civic functions, Christmas caroling, etc. Proposed Cost $7000, $4000 was contributed by the Harbor Shop with balance raised by other sources.
1983 - Oct 3, Removal of Seabees Flag Plaque & marker to be replaced by Gazebo
1983 - Nov 3,Ground breaking for Gazebo
1984 - April 12, AnnualCoast Spring Pilgrimage -- PC Garden Club ladies served punch and donuts.
1984 - May 6th, Gazebo Dedication
1984 - Dec 13, Annual Christmas tree lighting, Keesler AFB orchestra and 40 member chorus provided entertainment, refreshments served.
1985 - Aug 8, Opening of PC Seafood Festival releasing balloons and "firing" of the two cannons
1986 - March 8, some Negro children damaged Gazebo
1990 - Dec 8, Annual Christmas Tree lighting, Children sing in Gazebo
1991 - Dec 6, Annual Christmas Tree lighting, in Gazebo
1993 - Nov 28, Dedication in name of Inez Bourdin by VFW, on Camille Marker of Camille victims.
1998 - Relocation of Collage Art Festival as a continued outdoor festivity
1999 - May 5th -- Inauguration of Jazz in the Pass annual event
2000 – National Registry "Keeper’s" House razed by order of City officials
August 29, 2005 -- Katrina Hurricane made Landfall at 8 a.m.
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Pass Christian's War Memorial Park site was originally sold in 1834 for $1,000 to the Widow Simon Cucullu, Sr. by Charles Asmar, freed Negro slave, who originally owned most of downtown Pass Christian.
It must have been a wondrous sight to pass by the former Cucullu home which was laid out in front of the large promenade of trees facing the Sound. Passers-by were treated to the prancing of exotic birds roaming the enclosed gardens as peacocks spread their fan-tails for all to see.
The marriage of Marie Modeste Dorothea Cucullu to Francisco Bartholemew Fleitas, Sr. was an unprecedented wedding ceremony. Both of their parents were of direct Spanish lineage and were prominent residents of the "Pass" and of New Orleans. Marie and Francisco only had one son, Francis, Jr. who bore no children, ending the line of Fleitas genealogy. The magnitude, the presence, and the glory is gone, excepting for the bordering street named Fleitas and the marvelous live oaks that were planted to the rear of the Cucullu beachfront estate.
A. Aschaffenburg and a group of investors, including Dr. George A. McDiarmid, acquired the site (that is currently War Memorial Park) as a subdivision named Beach Terrace.
Aschaffenburg's desire was to beautify the Gulf Coast to compete with developments taking place in California. The Coast to Coast highway, later to be called the "Old Spanish Trail," was in planning, as well as a new roadway from New Orleans. However, the Hurricane of 1915, disrupted those plans due to the heavy damages incurred throughout the whole Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The Park provides a wonderful venue for annual events
Under the Oaks facing the Mississippi Beaches