When I entered school in Lafourche Parish, there was no free school bus transportation or hot lunches. Coal was the fuel used for heat. There were no air conditioners or ceiling fans and it got hot long before summer vacation began.
During the winter months the children of fur trappers were given books and allowed to leave school to join their parents.
Mr. Lafarge and later Mr. Monclair were superintendents and we were always prepared by our teachers for their visits, which was a big deal.
Huey Long, who was elected Governor in 1928, had delivered on his promise to give students free school books. I submit no judgment, praise or fault, but it’s a fact that he was well loved in South Lafourche.
Most homes, including ours, had three pictures hanging on the wall, Jesus Christ, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Huey Long. Some even added a fourth, Mr. Sears of Sears, Roebuck and Company.
How did we get to school or eat lunch? At that time our neighbor, Mr. Esmire St. Pierre, had converted an old truck, added benches and covered it with tarpaulin. And voi la, we had a school bus!
He would charge a dime per person but the truck would break down often. In those cases, he would shout, “First to third graders, stay in the truck; four to seven, get out and walk; eight to eleven, get out and push.”
It’s amazing how we ever made it to school.
Silver dimes, as we called them, though I doubt there was any silver in them, were the ‘coins of the realm’, since that’s how the shrimp pickers were paid. Every home had a roll or two of ‘silver’ dimes and sometimes no other cash at all. I know---I was there.
Mr. St Pierre was a World War 1 veteran, tough but fair. He had lost a son, Pennington, to leukemia. ‘Penny’ was our playmate, a little older but we loved him.
Mr. St. Pierre was also ‘maître de balle’ (a bouncer) at the Saturday night dance at Rebstock’s dance hall where ‘Ma Ma SA SA’, (Mrs. Elucia Colin who was Nicholls’ Chef Randy Cheramie’s great-grandmother and the local midwife), would sell ice cream on the front steps. The band was usually the Triche Brothers (later known as the Dufrene Bros.) and the ladies would bring their children who would sleep on the benches while they danced.
When a fight would break out, as they often did, Mr. St. Pierre would break it up and make them schedule a rendezvous Sunday morning under a street light he had installed by his house. This was next to our house and my mother would dread it because the fighters would often come and wash off the blood at our cistern faucet.
Since there were no cafeterias or hot lunches, the families would pack a lunch for their children. When my mother could not, mostly on meatless Fridays, she would give me 15 cents to buy a ten cent fried potato sandwich from Mrs. ‘By yan’ at Rizan’s grocery store, and an M.B.C. ‘pop rouge’ for a nickel. (A good ‘pop’ story’s coming next week).
Sometimes I would pass up the soft drink to buy a nickel Dixie cup of ice cream with a movie star picture on the lid. I always wanted a cowboy hero, but it was usually some yucky star like Greta Garbo or Robert Taylor.
One of the few things I remember from grade school was a play I was in where I portrayed a ‘little blade of grass’. My mother made the costume as you can see by the picture submitted here. Please try to refrain from laughing … Augh, OK, go on and laugh!
On Saturdays there was the 10-cent movie matinee with a news reel, a travel log, (which we would boo), a serial (which we called a continue picture), Dick Tracy or Flash Gordon, a comedy (we cheered when it was The Three Stooges), a cartoon, (my favorite was Porky Pig), and a cowboy B picture such as Hopalone Cassidy, Durango Kid or always the favorite, Gene Autry.
After church on Sunday, mother would read the funny papers until I learned how to do it myself. That was one task my Aunt Sarah could not do. Today they’re called the comics, and they’re all that, but back then there was action, Caption Easy – adventure, Tim Tyler’s Luck, pre-historic Alley Oop, tear jerkers Apple Annie (later called Mary Worth) and Little Orphan Annie. (Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ‘ya tomorrow … but Broadway was way in the future).
Until next week remember, the meek shall inherit the Earth, but not the mineral rights.
… Tha, tha, tha, that’s all, folks!
Leroy as a ‘little blade of grass’
Posted on Tue, August 26, 2014
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer