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Colonels and a Canine

Colonels and a Canine

This will be my 58th column, which first appeared on July 23, 2014.

Although I lacked the talent, I had tried it twice before. In 1947, Mr. Joe Silverberg had just purchased the Lafourche Comet and we met at the Golden Meadow teen center where he hired me as his “Lower” Lafourche correspondent. It didn’t last and he fired me for “padding” the column. No great loss at $2.50 per week but I had lost my first job.

In 1959 I wrote a column called “Gumbo File” for the Lafourche Parish Press. That ended when the Lafourche Comet bought the Press, so technically I was fired twice by Mr. Silverberg.

I had one memorable moment when the great New Orleans Item columnist Hermann Deutch commended me in his column, which is included in the pictures montage.

Ten years later, he called me about a murder in Lafourche Parish. I gave him the information and he mentioned me again in another column. He wrote the “new kid on the block” he had once written about was now a “Big Fish in a Small Pond.” I did not like being compared to a fish, and I did not consider Lafourche Parish a “small pond” but he had given me a title for a book I hoped to write one day … or a column!

In 2014, needing something to fill my retirement years, I met with The Lafourche Gazette Editor Vicki Chiasson and presented her a flash drive of what I considered memorable events in my life. She was very kind and we agreed that I would write a weekly column. I named it “In a Small Pond” and she sub-titled it “The musical, political and cultural memoirs of a bayou native.”

A good day, but not yet over! On my way back home, I stopped to chat with my good friend Paul Chiquet at the South Lafourche Library.

“Just the guy I was looking for,” he said. “I have just built a glass exhibit to display your political and musical mementos alongside Vin Bruce and Dick Guidry.”

How could I refuse to be in such great company? A very good day indeed!

Now back to life on Bayou Lafourche as I remember it.

The Lafourche Parish elections of 1952 and 1953 I write about were important because they began the demise of candidates running together as a “ticket”, the end of the decades-old Harvey Peltier, Sr. versus Dave Robichaux political feud, and events that determined the rest of my life.

Although I only attained the rank of sergeant in the military, in 1952 I was commissioned a Colonel “Aide de camp” to Gov. Robert Kennon. What a promotion! I had gained a title I might still have since I was never decommissioned. It was the same title Kentucky gave Colonel Harland Sanders and Louisiana Governor Jimmy Davis gave Colonel Tom Parker.

Here’s the real story:

The newly elected officials of the bitter election of 1952 were sworn in and the political atmosphere subdued for a while, until an incident occurred.

A Governor’s commission of “Colonel” is honorary and carries no duties, authority or salary, just a Governor saying “you voted for me”. Colonel Sanders and Colonel Parker used theirs for the rest of their lives.

Animosities still lingered and when a staunch “Old Regulars” supporter began flashing a Colonel commission issued by Governor Kennon, emotions erupted and Rep. Dick Guidry was flooded with complaints.

To soothe his disgruntled friends, he brought a list of one hundred names to the Governor, requesting they all be commissioned “Colonels”.

Though unorthodox, Kennon signed them all. I got mine and the others got theirs but the large number furthered their meaningless. Even bragging rights were lost when a supporter, as a joke, submitted his dog’s name. It was granted and his dog became “Louisiana Colonel Rex Cheramie, Jr.”

One day at the Post Office, my friend, Numa Guidry was in line.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He flashed his Colonel card with a broad grin saying, “I’m waiting for my check”, knowing fully well that there was none coming.

Politics ain’t bean bags.

Next week, the finale of this part of my life.

BYE NOW!

Comments are welcomed at: leroymartin1929@gmail.com