Billy Bourdin’s Historical Collection
Billy Bourdin’s Historical Collection has been a tribute to heritage preservation in the 300-year-old community of Pass Christian.
Upon walking into the Bourdin Plumbing Shop in the middle of town, one is confronted by a maze of photographs that tells a story about the beautiful Gulf coast resort town where Billy Bourdin was born and spent all of his life. His collection started after the devastation by Hurricane Camille in 1969. Not only was most of the city destroyed, but most of its heritage documents and city records, as well. Billy Bourdin, now retired, has accumulated more than 3000 graphic representations of Pass Christian and the neighboring areas. Most of his days are spent in clipping and copying from old newspapers, some more than 100 years old. He has cataloged these snippets of history into nearly 500 categories – by events, persons, or homes and buildings.
As past memories fade for some, Bourdin clearly recalls the many landmarks that no longer exist. Bourdin keeps alive – all of the happenings that have passed through the eras of time.
There has been a genuine increased interest by residents to stop by the Museé Bourdin (Bourdin Brothers Plumbing) to drop off a photo or some archival relic. This community support re-energizes Billy Bourdin's efforts to continue building the archives with his dedicated research and continued categorizing of gathered information. The back room of the Plumbing office is stocked full with historical folios on more than a hundred and fifty special interest categories. And the photo files exhibited by Bourdin are unequaled.
Going Computer ---
Believe it or not, Billy Bourdin is now hooked on computers. He has long realized that he ran out of wall space to hang his lofty collection of heritage photos and also that he has run out of space in his "study" where file cabinets hold up other file cabinets and shelves have been re-shelved over and over again.
Besides maintaining a storage for all of the original source material, including nearly a century of past local newspapers, magazines, periodicals and anything else printed about the Pass, he has studiously made selective xerox copies in order to clip, sort, and compile almost 400 categories of events and personalities that have been significant to Pass Christian's history. Each of these nearly 400 categories is stored in its own binder or folder depending on the amount of data.
He was gleeful upon getting Jessie Heitzmann's devoted interest in making computerized copies of his photos. However, she didn't really know what was in store for her. She at first thought the task would be limited to the few hundred photos on his walls, but as it turned out, she continues to computer scan the other volumes of photos that he has compiled in photo albums. These photos include every house that exists in the Historic District and every photo that he has collected on houses and buildings that existed not only before Hurricane Camille, but before the 1947 hurricane and some before the 1915 hurricane. He has photos of building sites that are today a jungle.
Nevertheless, his love for collecting, sorting and collating this heritage is a boon to the community with which he is eager to share and now realizes that computer technology is within his grasp in order to protect his outstanding and abundant heritage collection.
Not a person, local resident, or out of town visitor, has ever left Billy's Plumbing Shop without being well impressed and more informed than prior to their visit to his place on Davis Avenue. Billy says he has gone through three copying machines --- and now in his70s, with a meager typing proficiency, he relies heavily on Jessie Heitzmann to continue making computer updates, of technolgy he still remains shy of.
Three cheers for Billy!
Billy passed away after Hurricane Katrina. His files continue to LIVE at the Historical Society in a Special Collection compiled and created by Jessie Heitzmann