Last week, the stories outlasted my column. Like this year, my months outlast my money.
Now, more Small World …
In 1942, World War II was on and we soon learned the rules and regulations to abide by. (In a future column, I will, in detail, write about how we were informed of, prepared for, affected by, endured and survived the greatest struggle and heroic event in our nation’s history.)
I was in seventh grade. My family had moved to New Orleans and I had stayed behind to finish the grade. My teacher was Miss Mary Ann Costanza from Napoleonville and our classroom was the furthest back in the Golden Meadow High School building. Beyond that were five arpents of wet marshland leading to a huge oil tank. (An arpent is a French measure, 192 feet, used in Cajun Louisiana instead of acre.)
Suddenly, the oil tank exploded, breaking windows and shattering glass. We saw the fire, felt the heat and shockwave and kids fell to the floor.
Seeing no one was hurt, a startled teacher led a scared bunch out of the room like a routine fire drill and Principal Miller closed the school for the rest of the day.
I still remember the sound. It was not a bang, but a very loud SCHUUUUUSH! It took us awhile to realize that it was real and not a movie.
Since our country was at war, it was rumored to be sabotage, but back then the oil companies were not great environmentalists, and the oil fields were pretty sloppy and prone to such an event.
Now flash forward twenty years. I had been employed in the Assessor’s office for several years. My boss had been re-elected a couple of times, and the job hopefully looked like it might be steady, not always so with political jobs in those days.
In Assumption Parish, Mr. Nick Costanza had been elected Assessor. He was a nice guy, a bar owner who everybody knew and liked, but he knew little about the office he had been elected to. The Louisiana Tax Commission, the Assessors’ control board, called my boss, Hubert Robichaux and asked him to send a deputy to help Costanza set up the office and show him the process and the legal and mandated duties required.
He chose me. I was happy to do so, and I spent two weeks with Mr. Costanza, his staff, and his wife Alma, who was also his Chief Deputy. A law later prohibited the hiring of family members, but she was grandfathered in.
It was a pleasant time. They eat a lot of boiled crawfish in Napoleonville.
One day, the Costanzas and I were at work when in walked a lovely lady and a “deju vu” moment told me I had seen her before. She was my seventh grade teacher Mary Ann Costanza, who happened to be Nick’s sister, and my fellow victim of the oil tank explosion many, many years ago.
We had a great time reminiscing over lunch and one evening, Mr. Costanza took us to a crawfish boil on Lake Verret. It was a lovely scene and a great evening. It sure is “a small world, after all”. Another Small World, part three, next week.
I left my chair for a moment and our cat, Smokey, jumped on my keyboard and starting banging like she’s seen me do many times. Cats are in charge … accept it! Dogs have masters, cats have staff.
When I returned and put her down, I looked at the monitor and realized … hey, she writes better than I do!
Youngsters, respect your elders! They graduated school without the Internet!
Corrections: Last week, I wrote, “1929 brought the first oil well to Leeville and Golden Meadow brought the first ME!” It was misunderstood and printed as “Medical Examiner”. Actually, I was referring to myself, me, Leroy. Fortunately for the sake of humanity, there was never another “Me”.
Also, left out was, “The Town of Golden Meadow is still called ‘Canalle Yankee’ by the Cajuns.” They have no English words for the town.
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Posted on Tue, December 2, 2014
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer