Sign found in creek clean up lost 30 years ago in Camille

Published 1:23 am Sunday, October 24, 2010

More than 30 years ago a gas station sign blew away during Hurricane Camille, only to be found by a group of youngsters during the most recent Hobolochitto Creek clean-up.

Last weekend a group of volunteers gathered at Long Bridge for a major effort involving more than 100 people to remove trash and debris from the creek to make it navigable once again. A number of items were removed in the effort, including more than 40 tires, a plastic Harley Davidson kid’s motorcycle, refrigerators, televisions and a gas station sign advertising fuel for just 0.28.9 cents a gallon.

WRJW employee Delores Wood said she remembers that sign vividly when she used to work at the Frostop at the age of 17. She said that sign was in front of a gas station owned by Jewel Penton that was located next door to the restaurant on U.S. Highway 11.

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Wood said she was working the day Hurricane Camille came through Pearl River County and remembers seeing that sign rocking violently in the stormy winds as she drove home.

“That was the last time I remember seeing that sign, when I left work,” Wood said.

She remembers the sign because it also had lettering on the back that stated the gas station was a place to get a WRJW bumper sticker, used by radio station personnel to give out prizes while touring the town.

“Bumper stickers were real popular back then,” Wood said.

Friends of Boley member Keith Kingrey took the sign home after the clean-up and spruced it up bit, finding lettering on it that reads, “Free Car Wash. Get your WRJW car sticker here.” Though faint, the letters are relatively easy to see and resembles the popular advertising lettering of that decade.

Jewel was a well respected business man of his day and would put a sticker on each and every car that came through his gas station, Wood said. Most people didn’t mind since that meant if the WRJW prize patrol saw a vehicle with the sticker, the occupant of the car usually was awarded a free dinner at Frostop, Zestos or Hank’s Chicken. At times prizes included T-shirts, Wood said.

Wood said the morning after the Camille, the sign, along with the iconic mug on top of the Frostop, were missing after violent winds displaced them. She said the mug was found about 30 miles away in a county resident’s field. However, the sign didn’t show up again until Oct. 16, when the creek clean-up took place.

After Camille, some gas station owners took advantage of the situation and doubled their gas prices, but not Jewel and several others. As a result, all of the gas stations that took advantage were boycotted by the public, forcing them to close up shop, Wood said.

“People would walk before they would buy gasoline from them,” Wood said.

While power was restored faster after Katrina than after Camille, Wood said she did notice some similarities in the way everyone came together and went straight to work cutting up trees and clearing the roads after both storms.

The sign was only a small part of the debris pulled from the creek during the recent creek clean-up. Kingrey said about a ton of trash and debris was removed from the creek in the effort.