After another line-out-the-door lunchtime rush of Hurricane Katrina relief workers at Le Bakery Café, her little bakery and Vietnamese po-boy shop, Sue Nguyen turned to me and said, “I wish you could’ve seen Biloxi before.”

By “before,” of course, she meant before the storm. But the history and the stories of this place run far deeper than the piles of rubble left by a hurricane. Before Biloxi was known as a city fighting to recover from a natural disaster, before it was known as a casino playland, Biloxi proudly wore its crown of Seafood Capital of the World, a place of communities built on shrimp nets and oyster drudgers.

Like any place where hard work could yield fortune, Biloxi’s seafood industry attracted immigrant labor – first Polish by way of Baltimore, then Croatians and Cajuns, and more recently, Vietnamese. Each of these communities came for work on the water and in the factories. Wanting better for their children, they laid down roots and graduated into the middle and professional classes. Each made their cultural and culinary imprints on Biloxi. And each has struggled, in different ways, with the change brought on by newcomers, by a shifting seafood market, by Biloxi’s transition to a casino economy, and by Hurricane Katrina.

Collected here are some of the stories the SFA had the privilege of gathering: Corky Hire talking about what it was like shrimping half a century ago. Richard Gollott on how he brought the first Vietnamese family to town. Georgo Trojanovich joking about being “the only real Croatian in Biloxi.” Peter Nguyen sharing how, after getting out of shrimping, he’s trying to help people who are still in the game. Sammy Montiforte talking about how, with a sunken boat, he still dreams of getting back on the water. Listen to them. Or, for another way to get a sense of Biloxi, drive into town for the crawfish boil at Leroy Duvall’s French Club, say hello to FoFo Gilich while buying holiday pastries from the Slavonian Lodge, or go to Todd Rosetti’s Quality Poultry and Seafood and have a po-boy made from shrimp Frank Parker might have caught, stuffed into bread Sue Nguyen baked.

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