Mais sometimes a Cajun just has to get away for a while. They need to kick back, relax, hang out with friends, and maybe throw back a beer or twenty. Growing up in Louisiana, there was no better place for this than Holly Beach, or the Cajun Riviera as we like to call it.
Located in southwest Louisiana, Holly Beach was the weekend getaway spot for Coonasses and their families. It was a loose community of around 500 camps organized around a strip of beach, and we’re not talking about million dollar beach houses. Most of the camps were just trailers, with a few nicer structures jacked up on stilts to protect against flooding. Holly Beach was a poor man’s beach, where just about anyone could go for a good time. It wasn’t one of those stuck up beaches with the blue water, clean sand, and public intoxication laws. No, it was the type of beach where you wore shoes in the water so you didn’t cut your foot on a broken beer bottle, a place where you’d occasionally see an alligator on the beach. It was the type of place that if you were too lazy to walk 100 ft, you could always drive your truck right up near the water.
My family would drive down to Holly Beach just about every summer when I was young. We’d head on down to Cameron Parish, cross on the ferry, and drive past the smelly pogie plant, until we reached our destination. My sister and I would play around in the sand and water (shoes on of course) during the day, and our parents would prepare a boiled seafood feast every evening. Afterwards, the adults would usually wind down by kicking back a few beers and playing a friendly game of cards. Many a good time was had there.
I’m talking about Holly Beach in the past tense, because it was completely wiped out by Hurricane Rita, the forgotten hurricane, in 2005. See that photo on the right? That’s a before and after picture. The only thing left standing after the storm was a water tower. Today, a trip to the closest market is a 100 mile round trip, and the water still isn’t safe to swim in, due to sewage contamination issues.
Despite the devastation, all is not lost as Holly Beach is starting to show signs of life. Camps are gradually being rebuilt, though some people are still fighting their insurance companies or FEMA for reimbursement. Cajuns are a resilient people, so I have no doubt that before we know it, Holly Beach will be restored to its former greatness, and its noble citizens will once again have the truest sign of civilization, a drive through daiquiri stand.