In 1951 my only job was bandleader and I made $70 a week, compared to the $30 a week job I had quit. I had no car note because I had won a car, and room and board was on Mom and Dad. Who could ask for anything more? The world was my oyster and “what? Me worry” about the future at age twenty -one?
I remember winning a new Oldsmobile at the Fireman’s Fair in Golden Meadow playing blackout bingo on June 25,1950. Good news … that’s also the day the Korean War began. Bad news … I had joined Thibodaux Company “D” National Guard a month before and I was not certain how that would affect my draft status.
I had only one note left on my 1949 Ford which I gave to my Dad on condition he paid it. It was the first car he ever owned. The night after I went “honky tonking” in Grand Isle, spent the note money I had saved and arrived home at 6 a.m. finding my parents dressed for church.
“Son,” Dad said, “I’m proud that for once you are coming to church with us.”
Everybody knew better, but I played along.
Entering the church, I grabbed the pew but 5 minutes later, I fainted dead away. I woke on the arms of two men who revived me. I survived but was haunted by that episode for many years.
I was playing music at the Lovely Inn in Cheniere one Sunday afternoon when my good friend Dick Guidry walked in with a beautiful girl he introduced to me as his fiancé, Phyllis Guidry. Oh! Oh! Our bachelors’ club was about to lose a member, and the president yet.
Actually I was happy for them and I served as best man at their wedding. About two weeks later came his phone call that started our political adventure.
That year I registered to vote and took my draft board physical. My friend Dick trumped me. In his own words:
“In 1951 I got engaged, got married, registered to vote, qualified to run for State Representative, went to the draft board for my physical and started campaigning all in the same week.”
A busy week indeed!
It was my first vote and I had been selected a poll commissioner. Each candidate nominated one per precinct, and five names were pulled from a hat. I had been submitted by Dick and several other candidates, and it was always hoped that all sides were equally representative, but as fate had it sometimes the selections was one sided, by luck of the draw. Poll commissioners were sacrosanct in an election, as I will relate later on.
It was the last paper ballot in Louisiana and it was a long one with over 25 offices and hundreds of candidates to vote on. It took us 2 and 1/2 days to count. After 24 hours, I ripped off a ballot box sheet, wrapped it around me and went to sleep in the corner. I never lived it down.
Each political ticket had a car with a “poll watcher” and their voters would get instructions which were: (1.) Pick a certain commissioner (2.) To vote themselves on such a long ballot, they were told to “vote only governor and sheriff, forget the rest” (their other candidates would be sacrificed for the two top offices) (3.) If illiterate, pick a certain commissioner to mark your ballot.
I was well known and considered honest, so when their commissioners were busy, they would pick me. A typical conversation was “who do you want for governor? For sheriff?” I would honestly mark those. Then “how about the others?” (Included more than a hundred other state, district and local candidates). Most of the time they said “Leroy, finish the rest.” This was often the case, and I voted all the candidates I supported. I had honestly voted their choices and legally marked the ballot.
First primary voting was on! “Into the breach” “Damn the torpedoes” “Geronimo” and “Remember the Alamo” were all great battle cries, but not today. Today the only one that mattered was “Don’t Forget to Vote”.
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Posted on Tue, June 2, 2015
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer