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“Cadet, that’s a pelican, not an aircraft!”

“Cadet, that’s a pelican, not an aircraft!”

My “Cajuns in Nashville” story will continue next week but I just had a flash back memory that I must nail down. Memories do not recur in chronological order and sometimes they never come back.

Important memories like marriages, births, deaths and graduations are never forgotten, but it’s the insignificant ones that fall through the cracks. Years later you realize they were significant after all, and could interest your readers if, by chance, you just happen to write a newspaper column.

Sure, I could have make notes, but in my house, deliberately hiding from me, are hundreds of such notes, daring me to find them. I rather capture and share them when they occur.

Leroy, the Airplane Spotter

I was 14 years old in 1944, a naïve Cajun boy trying to adjust to life in the big city of New Orleans in the middle of World War II.

Visiting schools civil defense authorities were recruiting young boys and girls to become airplane spotters and, in a patriotic mood I volunteered, was accepted, trained, certified and stationed in the Hibernia Bank building tower from 12 noon to 8 p.m. every Saturday.

My job was to identify any aircraft spotted with my trusted binoculars, log and report. I could identify hundreds of planes, ours and theirs, and I’m proud to say that during my command, no enemy plane ever crossed my sight.

They wouldn’t have dared!

They knew my duty hours from their spies and they avoided my sector knowing I would spot them.

Well, that was the scenario in the mind of a 14-year old kid trying to do his part in the greatest war of all times.
Actually I did miss a Piper Cub flying between buildings for which I was reprimanded and the pilot, a rich local playboy, was arrested. We won the war anyway.

Oh! Something else! Every shift had two spotters, and my partner was Jerrie Campbell, (not her real name), but the recruiter had misspelled it “Jerry” so they assumed we were the same sex as required.

She was a pretty girl about one year older and we became good friends and never reported the error.

We discussed movies, school, favorite singers and other teenage activities. She was fascinated by my Cajun stories and accent and since I was just beginning to notice the difference between boys and girls, I was fascinated by her.

My Cajun upbringing kept me a perfect gentleman and she was a nice, decent girl. We shared mutual respect and kept our relationship purely platonic. Honest! Really!

I decided to keep that part of my life secret, although I did brag many times about how my airplane spotting helped us win World War II, (another secret divulged in my aging life). (Aging? Come on pal, you’ve been there awhile.)

Now back to the story about five Cajuns in Nashville.

The city was a southern cultured, elite society then known as the “Athens of the south” with its own replica of the Parthenon and hostility for the country (hillbilly then) music crowd that the “Grand Ole Opry” brought to their civilization.

City Hall and the powers that be rejected any effort to publicize, advertise or acknowledge the fact that thousands of country folks were packing hotels, restaurants, stores and gift shops every Friday and Saturday biting the hands that added millions to the city’s economy.

In not too many years millions became billions and the music industry made them see the light. The city would eventually be named “Music City, U.S.A.”

As I said, everything has a price.

Troy Martin had my week fully scheduled and it included recording demo sessions, a B.M.I. formal affair, a fried chicken picnic in a beautiful park with his family, interviews for me with a young Ralph Emery, and my appearance on the “Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree” radio program, which to the country music fan was second only to the “Grand Ole Opry”.

Besides that, the presence of five Cajuns did not cause a ripple or commotion and that was all to their misfortune.

Nashville never knew what they had missed.

Bye now!
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