Moonlit evenings, campfires on the beach, fishing and swimming and watching storms roll into the Gulf of Mexico: It's how Allain C. Andry III passed most of the summers of his life.
The New Orleans lawyer, now retired, spent childhood vacations at his grandparents’ home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. His parents bought a home in nearby Pass Christian in 1959. When he and wife, Judy, were married the same year, the couple started a tradition of spending summers there.
“We immediately had three children,” Judy said. “There was so much for everybody to do. There was the beach, the pier, rowboats … everybody just swam out in the bay. We didn’t have to go anywhere. We just stayed there.”
Nicknamed "Summertime," the rambling beachside home was an idyllic getaway that disappeared, with so much else, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005. From the safety of evacuation in North Carolina days later, the Andrys studied storm damage online, zooming in on their stretch of Sandy Hook Drive in Pass Christian. A blue patch was all they could see.
"They pulled it closer and closer, and I finally said, 'That's the blue tile kitchen floor,'" Judy said. "Trees were gone. Every single thing was gone."
Well, not everything. The Andrys still have a rich lifetime of memories of their summers at the Pass, and Allain has distilled those memories in two children's books: "Louie the Buoy: A Hurricane Story," and the newly published "You'll Know When You See One."
"Louie the Buoy" was published in 2005, printed in China and arrived in New Orleans on the Friday before the Monday when Katrina struck, Allain Andry said. But since that bumpy beginning, the story of a brave little buoy that weathers a hurricane has sold more than 9,000 copies and won the Writer's Digest International Award for self-published children's books.
With whimsical illustrations by Tazewell S. Martin III, the tale is meant to encourage and reassure children who might be concerned about the storms that sweep over the Gulf Coast.
It even inspired its own music. The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra commissioned Tucker Fuller, a local composer, to write a score for "Louie," which premiered in February 2016 in Loyola's Roussell Hall.
Andry's new book, "You'll Know When You See One," describes a girl's first try at flounder fishing. Watercolor illustrations by Kathleen Newman depict the excitement of young Katie as she and her dad leave brothers behind to wade in the moonlit bay, seeking flounder and spearing only debris — until the odd-looking flat fish unmistakably appears (Katie chooses to watch it swim away this time). Published just this year, it's a sweet entry in the sometimes neglected category of books about the relationship between girls and their fathers, inspired by the Andrys' own daughter.
A third book, "It's Not a Knot," is planned for publication next year.
"It has been my intention with this trilogy to acquaint future generations about all of the joys of the Gulf Coast that I experienced as a child and that Judy and I experienced with our children and grandchildren during our summers in Pass Christian," Allain Andry said.
"Katie is now 57 with her own three married children and grandchildren," he added. "Katie always was a very good sport, a real Gulf Coast outdoor girl."
The Andrys miss those long summer days and the ease with which generations of family could decamp from New Orleans to the beach.
But they sold the property and now spend summers outside Asheville, North Carolina.
"We knew it was time to get more altitude," Andry said philosophically. "The mountains have their own allure."