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The Political War of 1951, Part II

The Political War of 1951, Part II

Harvey Peltier, Sr. and Dave Robichaux were political icons in Lafourche Parish, both actively involved in the 1952 election and both wealthy from oil leases and royalties.

Mr. Peltier, a young Thibodaux attorney was elected State Representative in 1924 and State Senator from 1930 to 1940, and was campaign manager of … take a deep breath … Huey Long.

He might have been young, but sure picked the right candidate for the time.

Dave Robichaux, also politically motivated, was elected Lafourche Parish Assessor in the 1940’s with the Sam Jones/Jimmie Davis factions, along with Sheriff Dr. Charles Barker and Senator Walter Lanier.

All three were defeated in the 1948 Earl Long landslide which led to the combative election of 1952.

Peltier and Robichaux were cordial in mutual business affairs and served on bank boards together. Both were respected citizens but were political rivals. Come election time, it was all’s fair in love, war and politics.

Long supporters held practically all public offices in Louisiana and every parish had an opposition, so called ‘reform’ ticket trying to defeat them. Some were called the Lilly Whites, others the OOO’s, (out of office, I made that up), or Jones/Davis, and in Lafourche, All Parish.

The Long faction did not believe there was any reforming to be done and a great majority of voters agreed with them in 1948.

I had quit my $30 per week job at Golden Meadow Diesel to become a full time musician with Dudley Bernard and the Southern Serenaders, making over $50 a week.

Sundays were double gigs, one from 2 to 4 at the Lovely Inn in Chenier, then 70 miles over mostly shell roads to The Rose Room in Chauvin, (Tee Caillou), playing from 8 to 12.

We also played five other clubs Tuesday to Saturday and had a live radio program Saturday mornings on Houma’s KCIL’s remote studio in Thibodaux. There was no KTIB, KLEB or KLRZ then.

Lent meant 40 days without dances, a Catholic custom, so musicians starved. (Just kidding.) Not with Mama, Grandma and beaucou aunts around. It did allow me social time to hang out with a group of young men a few years older than I called the Pa Pee Yons (butterflies), a name inherited from their father’s nickname. (My other social life is not column fodder).

Their surname was Duet and included Cliff, who had lost an arm in the war, “Pupe”, “Rom all”, “Yeff”, “Le P’tee” and Leonce (“Fee ran”), who was married but escaped sometimes, my Uncle Roy Callais and neighbor John Adams.

Most were veterans of World War II, an amazing family with little education but master carpenters and boat builders who could build a boat from scratch without a blue print. The ones not drafted were in great demand at Higgins Industries in New Orleans, building boats where my Dad also worked.

Unlike today’s gangs, they were law-abiding citizens who loved dances, fairs and social gatherings. They tolerated me, so I followed. The strongest thing we drank was beer and our hobby was meeting at ones house listening to Jimmie Rodgers, Rex Griffin and Ernest Tubb records. Oh, and something else … they loved political rallies.

Historically, political rallies invited all voters and candidates. NOT in 1948 Lafourche! Rallies were for supporters. Detected opponents were affronted and accused of spying.

Actual spies were across the bayou recording the sound trucks. Tape recorders, a gadget invented by Germans in World War II, recorded everything and criticisms were answered at their opponents’ next rally. That’s how the game was played and every faction played it.

Following them to rallies had family repercussions for me. My friends supported a young veteran, Eddie St. Marie for sheriff who was accompanied by a dynamic young speaker who kept us enthralled. This was before he became a lawyer, a state representative, a Lt. Governor candidate with Robert Kennon, (his second unsuccessful try), district attorney of Lafourche Parish, my lawyer at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, (1972), where I donated a rare and valuable Jimmie Rodgers record, and a dear friend to Vin Bruce and I.

His name was Frances Dugas.

BYE NOW.

Comments are welcomed at: leroymartin1929@gmail.com