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Pass Christian Historical Society

April 2019 Newsletter

Dear Members and Friends,

The old saying “March came in like a lion” certainly applied to this year’s March - with the 3rd being the Pass Christian Mardi Gras Parade!  We had a nice group of members who celebrated at the Historical Society and loved catching those beads!  Then, on the St. Paddy’s Parade route on Saturday, the 16th, with an even larger group toasting the Grand Marshall and Colleen - catching throws, beads, Shamrocks, flowers and more from green-decorated marchers, golf carts and autos.  It was the best one in the “Pass” (ending at Bacchus on the Beach’s Block Party)!

We then received great news - The Billy Bourdin Collection has been donated to the Historical Society, thanks to his family, Tom Pritchard, Ed Macdiarmid and Jessie Heitzmann!  After much discussion, we, the Board of Trustees, decided to have a special celebration and dedication honoring Billy Bourdin with a plaque naming our library “The Billy Bourdin Library.”  We’ve set the evening of Monday, May 13, at 7 p.m., for this memorable event, inviting the Bourdin Family and our Members to cut a cake and celebrate the life of this special Citizen!  Please plan to join us.

Many Thanks to our “well-oiled machine”: Jena Shepherd setting up events, Wendy Allard providing us with awesome programs, our Chefs - Clayton Hardy, Alice Perrier, Cynthia Hammond and Florice Bradley - giving us delicious lunches. Together they’re keeping our Society “humming”!

We’re looking forward to Sally Ann Roberts interviewing her sister, Dorothy Roberts, on Monday, April 8, at 7 p.m.  Join us for this special evening.

Cynthia Hammond and her Committee are planning for our upcoming Garden Party and House Tour on May 5, 2 - 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door.  This beautiful event will be at the home and gardens of Janet and Michael McElroy, 533 East Scenic Drive. More information about the event is below, and we will keep you updated in next month’s Newsletter.  Remember, it will be online.

Your Board of Trustees

Pass Christian Historical Society


533 East Scenic Drive, Pass Christian
Sunday, May 5, 2019
2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Tickets available now online;
or purchase in person starting Monday at
Cat Island Coffeehouse/Pass Christian Books;
or at our meeting on Monday evening.

$25 in advance / $30 at the door

Become a sponsor or patron of this year's party!

If you can donate finger foods or desserts to the Tea, please email An email with more details about food donations will be sent out shortly.

Upcoming Events

Monday, April 8, 7 p.m.
Membership Meeting
“Pass Profiles: Dorothy Roberts”

This will be the inaugural event for a program we call “Pass Profiles.”  For our first event, we are featuring Dorothy Roberts, a prominent citizen and business owner, who will be interviewed by her sister, Sally-Ann Roberts.  Find out all the information on a member of our Pass Christian community!
Monday, April 22, 12 p.m.
April Luncheon
“The Birth of Jazz”

Peggy Wilson will join us to screen The Birth and Rise of Jazz as we prepare for Jazz Fest and Jazz in the Pass!  This film from the New Orleans Jazz Restoration Society is full of music and history - both of jazz and New Orleans itself. The cost to attend is $10/members, $12/non-members (lunch is included). Seating is limited. Reserve by April 19 by calling 228-452-7254 or emailing

Sunday, May 5, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
2019 Garden Party

Join us at 533 East Scenic Drive for this year's event!  See all the details and buy your tickets in advance here:

Monday, May 13, 7 p.m.
Dedication of The Billy Bourdin Library

Please join us at the Historical Society as we host a special celebration and dedication honoring Billy Bourdin.

Monday, May 20, 12 p.m.
May Luncheon
“New Orleans Voodoo”

Playwright, director and writer Rosary O’Neill, co-author of New Orleans Voodoo: A Cultural History, will be our speaker on this fascinating topic! The cost to attend is $10/members, $12/non-members (lunch is included). Seating is limited. Reserve by April 19 by calling 228-452-7254 or emailing


St. Patrick's Day Parade!

Welcome, New Members!

Deborah & James Drennan
Julie Lamey
Jim Miller
Marie Peralta
Edith Sullivan

Join or renew online at

Pass Christian Historical Article by Dan Ellis

John Handy, the Man on Sax

It wasn’t until late in his life, during the 1960s, that John Handy of Pass Christian became an internationally famous Jazz Musician.  He traveled mostly outside the U.S. to gain the much-deserved stature and accolades which he received in Canada, Japan, and European countries.

Handy’s style was different. His playing was considered to be robust in nature with his own unmistakable sound.  In contrast to other old New Orleans veterans, he was completely sure of his music and his ability.  He had a flair for “rhythm and blues,” a style that was later picked up by other talented musicians.

A German jazz enthusiast, enamored by his talent, wrote about Handy’s life and his European tours.

Kat Bergeron of the Sun Herald wrote in 1989, “The Captain showed the world that the alto sax could be phrased like a trumpet and squealed like a clarinet." She added: “His foot-movin' performances at Preservation Hall in New Orleans became legend.”

Cap’n Handy was born into a musically talented family.  His mother was a pianist and his father led the first walking band in Pass Christian for fourteen years.  His younger brother, Sylvester, played bass guitar, and his sister, Elizabeth, played the bass violin.  Handy started as a drummer and later became a top-notch clarinetist before taking up his alto-sax.

Handy formed his own band called the Louisiana Shakers in the early 1920s.  He and Sylvester and other local artists played the round of hotels that existed in Pass Christian and along the Gulf Coast and at New Orleans.  He was also a command attraction aboard the ferry that crossed the Bay of St. Louis during the evening cruises that attracted many of the young crowds.  His nickname, pronounced "Cap'n," was bestowed in the 1930s by fellow musicians who respected his leadership and playing ability.

It was John Handy who put the saxophone into its proper light as a mainstream Jazz sound.  Because of him, many veteran musicians switched to the alto sax in emulation of Handy’s style.

Although aged 70 at his death, the Handy Man’s fame climaxed during his last ten years of life.  The influence of his New Orleans Revival Jazz style became world-famous. 

Handy was honored by two Jazz Funerals, the first in New Orleans and the second in Pass Christian where more than 4,500 fans showed to give their respect.

The jazz great was even greater than he could imagine as he was eulogized in Life Magazine and a special television documentary was produced by TV Channel 13 called the "Last Journey of a Jazz Man."
Copyright © 2019 Pass Christian Historical Society, All rights reserved.

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