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From Bon Jour to Who Dat

From Bon Jour to Who Dat

In May of 1942, I joined my family in New Orleans after surviving 7th grade, an oil tank explosion, viewing a Nazi-torpedoed oil tanker burning in the Gulf of Mexico, and the death of three close friends, Pvt. Nolta St. Pierre and airman Arimise Cheramie, Jr, both killed in action, and Pennington St. Pierre from leukemia. I was just 13 years old.

My sister Betty was enrolled at Leo the Great Catholic School in second grade. She skipped first grade because Golden Meadow School Principal Leonard Miller verified by letter that he had given her an oral examination and that she was qualified to begin her schooling in second grade. She was 6 years old.

I knew I had to enroll in high school but my Dad kept putting it off. On the last day to enroll he said, “Let’s go.”
We boarded the Broad Street bus and Dad asked the driver: “Hey, Cap. Is there a high school around here?”
I crawled under the seat.

“There’s one thirty blocks on this street,” he said. And like talking to a cab driver, Dad said: “OK Cap! Take us there.”

He kept talking to the driver, enumerating the locations of the best fishing spots in Lafourche Parish.

I crawled further under.

The driver kept a blank stare, but in my mind I assumed he was thinking: “Of all the buses in all the cities in all the world, why did they walk into mine?” (Sorry Bogey!)

The bus stopped and with a sigh of relief the driver said: “This is it”.

So Dad tells me: “Go do what you have to do”, and took another bus back home.

He got things done, no more or no less, but “his way”! (OK Frank?)

In front of me stood an ominous three-story building with stone letters reading Samuel J. Peters High School. I entered and fortunately saw a sign “register here”. That was simple enough since I had my birth registration, report cards and other documents I knew was required.

I was now a student of a New Orleans high school just for boys, no girls, just when I was beginning to notice the difference. I was assigned a homeroom and didn’t know what or where that was. A nice teacher escorted me and I signed in and sat down.

Suddenly I heard a voice boom out: “Leroy Martin report to the Principal’s office.”

I panicked since this was my first encounter with a public address system. I knew what that message meant at Golden Meadow High. BAD NEWS! What misdeed could I have done in such a short time?

I found the office and was escorted to a stern looking man standing by his desk. “Have a seat, Mr. Martin, I’m Arthur Scott and I was the first principal of Golden Meadow Elementary School.”

I heaved an audible sigh of relief.

“How is everybody down there, especially Miss McCabe?” he asked.

“She is now Assistant Principal Mrs. Menton Chouest and is the mother of three daughters,” I answered.

For the next hour he asked me the status of every person, place or thing he remembered and I gave him whatever information I knew. He was appreciative and it turned to be a better afternoon then I had anticipated. I had made my first friend and it was the highest one I could have imagined. I would never again be called to the Principal’s office, which was honky dory* with me, (*a 1940’s expression meaning OK).

Many years later, I read in the paper that: “Arthur Scott, former principal of S.J. Peters High School was electrocuted using a drill to repair his roof after storm damage.”

I felt a pang of sorrow since I knew him as a family man and a nice guy. It was not a memorable way to die, but what is?

Looks like I stumbled onto another “It’s a small world, after all” story.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” OK, you saw The Godfather, too. Actually it was in Godfather III.

New definition: Credit Card—“due unto others”


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