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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Bayou Lafourche – Our heritage, culture and history

Bayou Lafourche – Our heritage, culture and history

Riding along Bayou Lafourche, there are countless areas of interest which hold the secrets of years past. Many know the story behind a certain structure or place of 10, 20 or possibly 30 years ago but what of years before that?

Generation after generation of families has called this quaint area home for decades. A virtual melting pot of tradition, heritage and of course, the ever cherished Cajun Bayou Culture.

The census of 1769 reports a population of only 267 residents in Lafourche. By the time the 1900’s rolled around the bustling bayou had grown tremendously.

All those years ago it was said a baseball thrown from neighbor to neighbor starting in Thibodaux would take only an hours’ time to reach Golden Meadow! Known as “the longest main street in the world,” the waterway was the central source of transportation and communication. Large households of up to 20 family members lined the channel.

Property owners utilized the bayou for its large freshwater fishery. Each landowner had the bayou at their front door and took on the responsibility for their section of a bayou levee until its damming in Donaldson in 1905. Properties measured approximately 600 square feet in width and depths between a mile and a half and three miles. Because of this and the fact the land was fertile; commercial farmlands were born in the parish.

Between 1910 and the 1920’s, Larose, Lockport, and Cut Off each had high schools. You could find Larose High School on the east bank of the Bayou, north of Bayou Lafourche and the Intracoastal.

Lockport High School housed grades 1 through 11, but a fire destroyed the building in 1943. Additionally, Lockport had the Holy Savior School and Convent.

The school’s first graduation ceremony took place in 1918. However, the building was demolished in 1966 after Hurricane Betsy heavily damaged the school the previous year.

In the 1920’s Cut Off High was built on the east side of the bayou along 308. In the 1950’s Cut Off and Larose consolidated into Larose – Cut Off (LCO) High School. When Golden Meadow merged with LCO in 1966, South Lafourche High School formed.

As life on the bayou and the economy expanded the industry markets grew. In 1916 the first Ford automobiles were brought to Lockport by train. The vehicles came unassembled and had to be put together as they arrived.

Earnest Savoie, with Lockport's Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building, said their building once housed the cars showroom floor. The interior iron fireproof doors and pulley system initially installed are still there today and fully functional.

Golden Meadow became very prosperous in the late 1930’s with the discovery of oil. Numerous derricks lined the sky throughout the area. One of the first grocery stores in Golden Meadow opened in 1920. Five years later the same owners opened the Morgan City Processing & Canning Company. The company brought many jobs to the area. Entire families would work there, including children.

With all the hard work, people needed some leisure activities as well. Lockport had an open air dance pavilion on the bayou side of Main Street. Best known for Sunday jitney dances, you could cut a rug all evening for five cents a dance! If the theater was more your cup of tea, you could travel to Galliano’s Star Theater to catch a show. Another crowd pleasure located in Larose was their horse races held after Sunday church!

Farmlands of indigo, cotton, sugarcane (otherwise known as “white gold”), and gardening farms such as corn, potatoes and more, have propagated and flourished over the years.

Born and raised on the bayou and sugarcane fields, Kevin Allemand remembers his first time on the family tractor at the tender age of six. His dad had not placed him on the seat for fun. Instead, his father was teaching him all about the machine on wheels.

By the time he was eight years old, the youngster had worked the sugarcane fields (as did his brothers) during planting and harvesting season. Kevin knew the operations of the tractor like the back of his hand by the time he was eight! During this period it was not uncommon for families to keep their children home from school to work the fields. An unspoken rule of sorts.

There is nothing more captivating than a good story, especially one about your family ancestry. Family patriarchs hold a key that unlocks the stories of days gone by.

Can you imagine the tales grandmothers and grandfathers have and their parents and grandparents before them? There is no time like the present to pull the extended family together for a Sunday dinner or backyard barbecue.

Ask your family elders to bring out the old photographs they have. Watch them smile as the memories come flooding back. Take a mental time travel as you lend them your ear. The Knights of Columbus Council 8898 coined it best with “We are what we remember.”

For more information on the parish and its history, take the short trip to historical Lockport’s Bayou Lafourche Folklife and Heritage Museum located at 110 Main Street. They are open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays until 4 p.m. There is a nominal door fee of $5.00 for adults and $1.00 for children.

Bayou Lafourche Folklife and Heritage Museum is a nonprofit organization. They will be holding their 4th annual “Savor the Flavor” fundraiser on September 16, 2017. The event will be at the American Legion Post in Lockport located at 921 Veterans Street.

Local chefs will cook fabulous dishes for your tasting pleasure, along with a silent auction. Patrons will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite food! Doors open to the public at 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. Tickets are $20.00 and include a sampling of each dish, wine, soft drinks, or water.

For those interested in entering the cooking competition, please call 985-532-5909 or email for more information.