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An Autobiography and Friends

An Autobiography and Friends

I love to read biographies and autobiographies of famous folks. Unauthorized bios more so because they show warts and all while autos are sometimes self-serving and biased, (although I don’t know anyone writing about their own past lives guilty of that. Really?)

I recently read Carole King’s 2013 autobiography. She’s thirteen years my junior, very political liberal but extremely talented. We’re fellow songwriters with one minor difference … she wrote hits. I wrote … well, never mind, just keep reading.

Her hits included “Chains”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “Locomotion”, “Natural Woman”, “Up on the Roof”, and “You’ve Got a Friend”. My hits: Forget about it!

An excerpt from her book: “When illness kept me home from school our kitchen shelf radio declared ‘and now, the Romance of Helen Trent’, followed by the swell of an organ, that was followed by Ma Perkins and Our Gal Sunday. Later Dad listened to Edward R. Morrow broadcasting from a London rooftop, bombs bursting in the background announcing ‘This Is London!’ Then we laughed with Jack Benny, Baby Snooks and went to sleep with Glen Miller.”

WAIT! HOLD IT! Or as Jimmie Durante would say, “STOP THE MUSIC”! Those are MY memories. I don’t remember lending or giving them away but I suddenly remembered that memories can’t be copyrighted. Like James Stewart’s invisible white rabbit in the movie “Harvey” they come and go, now and then, here and there and they are uncontrollable, unstoppable and sometimes very unhappy, like this one:

Curtis Leblanc

From the first to sixth grade, my best friend was Curtis Leblanc, son of Allen Leblanc, a route salesman for Holsum bread. When he was promoted to division supervisor they moved to Houma. I lost track of him until 1947 when my Dad was hired by Mr. Leblanc as a route salesman.

One day my Dad said, “Leroy, I saw your old friend Curtis Leblanc in Houma today and he wants you to visit him.”

One day he pulled up in his panel truck and said, “Get in. I’m going to Mr. Leblanc’s house on business.”

“But Dad, I have some guests,” I said.

Spending the afternoon with me were two lovely girls named Janette Griffin and Shirley Cheramie, both now deceased. Janette, I learned from her sister Eloise, died in Texas one year ago, was cremated and her ashes will be someday interred with her sister. This is a sad column to write because it’s about friends from my teenage years that I loved and are gone.

“Y’all hop in,” Dad said.

We sat behind the driver’s seat amid the smell of fresh bread. We met Curtis, now a handsome teenager with the same angelic smile and great personality I remembered from school. I uncomfortably watched my two friends sigh as they looked him over.

The first thing he did was take us to the Intracoastal Canal where he showed us his pride and joy, a beautiful speed boat. The rest of the afternoon we cruised the water, stopping at a local church fair for hot dogs and M.B.C. Pop Rouge. A good time was had by all, and as teenagers, having a good time was the prime directive.

Driving back at dusk, again with the fresh bread smell, we came to the end of a very pleasant afternoon.

Curtis and I kept in touch and we visited a few more times but one day my Dad, with a sad look said, “Son, your friend Curtis just drowned in the Houma canal.”

My bright and happy life suddenly got very dark. I had lost grandparents, and in World War II, which had only ended a few years before, had lost two close friends, Nolty St. Pierre and Aramise Cheramie. Who were both were killed in action. But I had never encountered a pain such as this. A few days later, coming back from his funeral, I thought of an old song “I’ll be all Smiles Tonight.” There were no smiles that night or for many other nights.

Epilogue: After 30 calls to Leblancs in Houma and Lockport, where he had an uncle, Stanley, I found none, therefore no pictures of Curtis, just a sad memory.

Bye now!

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