In 1947, I left Golden Meadow Diesel (I remember another partner, Mr. Raymond LeLoupe, with Mr. Joe Bagala) and became a full time musician with “Dudley Bernard and the Southern Serenaders”.
It was physically impossible to keep both jobs even at that young age and since I was making twice as much as a musician than as a clerk, I chose music.
We were playing dances six nights a week and twice on Sunday. We played the “Lovely Inn” in Cheniere from two to six, packed up and drove to Chauvin (Tee Caillou) to play at the “Rose Room.”
In that first band, joining Dudley and I were Gillis Foret on drums, Luke Charpentier, Jr. on guitar and Harry Anselmi on steel.
We wore out many tires on the Larose short cut (Hwy. 24) which was then a shell road.
For the next two years I played music at night, slept till noon six days and had a live radio program every Saturday. “Leroy Martin and the Southern Serenaders”, (Dudley had left the band), was first heard on KCIL (Thibodaux remote studio of the Houma station), then WWEZ in New Orleans. That went on for 1948 and 1949.
Everything was “Hunky-Dory” (1947 for “O.K.”), but just over the horizon were six events that would change lives forever … a war, a car, two elections, Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers, and a girl.
Flashback to 1947: The G.M. Diesel building was located on the batture of Bayou Lafourche near Roy Rizan’s* grocery store, north of Golden Meadow High School (built in 1929, my birth year). The old wooden school building stood next door and had held grades 1 to 11 (no 12th grade then) before G.M.H.S. was built. It was later destroyed by fire and never re-built.
Also on the batture was a barroom (Rebstock’s), a restaurant (Kit Kat Café), and four net shops: Alidore Terrebonne, Alzia Terrebonne, Adam Doucet and Webb Callais. Those buildings were demolished when the state built the Golden Meadow floodwall.
The last occupant of the Rizan building was my late friend Harry Anselmi’s Music Shop. (When he was flying oil company helicopters out of Grand Isle, Kris Kristofferson would spend many afternoons with Harry, searching for new records. He was totally unknown until a few years later when … well you know!)
*The Rizans had two daughters, Rhea (ux Bobby Dill) and Dolly. Both Bobby and Dolly are now deceased. Mr. Rizan died young and his widow Inez later married Dr. Sako and moved to Raceland, where they built the Sako Hospital, now the Raceland Nursing Home.
Now, back to 1935, before my school days. (My memory does not come back in chronological order and flashbacks are sometimes confusing).
My maiden aunt, Sarah Callais had lived with us since I was born and until she died in the 50’s. We all loved her dearly. She took care of me while my Mother worked in a factory peeling shrimp to supplement the family income, which was meager. (Remember, this was the middle of the Great Depression.) My Dad was a shrimp trawler and times were tough. (He quit during the shrimp strike of 1938, as depicted in Glen Pitre’s movie $8.50).
Historically, the Cajuns had only two sources of income, fishing (fish, shrimp and oysters) and farming. Shrimp factories had proliferated in Golden Meadow in the 20’s and 30’s. I remember three of them, Max Phillips, Dunbar-Ducay, and Bertule Cheramie, but I’m sure there were more. To summon shrimp peelers, mostly ladies, a truck would pass and the driver would call out something like “Big shrimp at Mac fee lip” (sic). A big change was coming!
“Black Gold” was first discovered in Lafourche Parish in Leeville in 1929. With the oil boom, the “Texians” arrived. Our culture would have to merge with theirs, and theirs with ours. Our lives would never be the same again.
Now I’ll put one of my favorite C.D.’s on, definitely not one of mine, but “Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys”, (a cultural change I was talking about), and try to figure out why World War II Kamikaze pilots wore helmets or why the shortest route between two points will always be under construction.
I’m at email@example.com, where U B? Bye now.
Posted on Wed, August 6, 2014
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer