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The Three R’s: Reading, Riting and Rithmetic

The Three R’s: Reading, Riting and Rithmetic

I ended my column last week with “its 30 4 me”. “30” is a newspaper columnist’s sign off, meaning “end of story”. (I suppose my language can use a little brushing up, too.)

Correction in last week’s column: Rex Griffin’s granddaughter Trorine Richoux’s husband is Danny, not Harry. Sorry, I was thinking of an old friend. Danny and Trorine live in Galliano.

A while back I wrote about how my Aunt Sarah helped raise and tutor me, and she did a good job, too, because by the time my mother entered me in first grade (no kindergarten or pre-k then) I was pretty bright. I knew my prayers, (we were all Catholic), my alphabet and my numbers up to 100 and beyond. But there was only one problem---IT WAS ALL IN FRENCH! I DID NOT KNOW ONE WORD OF ENGLISH!

I even knew the national anthem, not the “Star Spangled Banner” but France’s “Le Marseilles”. I can still sing it, “Allons enfants de la patric, le jour de gloire est arrivay”.

I’m glad that our teachers didn’t understand the words, because the State of Louisiana had passed a law banning the French language in our schools. Imagine thousands of Cajun boys and girls booked and jailed on a “speaking French” rap. This was happening all over the Cajun country, so it would have taken a lot of jails.

When my mother left me at school, I experienced a feeling of sheer panic. The Cajun boys and girls grouped together and the few English speaking ‘Texians’ did the same. It was not until about the third grade that the teachers could start to teach us the fundamentals.

The Cajuns had felt disrespected since their arrival in the eighteenth century, so they withheld a bit of loyalty for the South during the Civil War, as depicted in the Glen Pitre movie, “Belizaire the Cajun”.

There was ‘us’, the Cajuns, and there was ‘them’, les American. That’s why when the Confederate recruiter came for our young men, they hid in the woods, some in hollow logs, as told to me by my grandmother, Irma Callais.

Remember that the events I write about were in some way happening throughout South Louisiana. It might have been rice instead of shrimp, cotton instead of oil, and a plow instead of a boat but we were all in that ‘same’ boat.

As I write, I’ll try to make it interesting and my editor will try to make it readable, but a Cajun typing without waving his arms? That’s hard Cher!

So here’s a toast to yesterday which is gone, today which is here, and tomorrow which will never come. Why? I don’t know!


Leroy Martin at school age -1936