Category Archives: Family History

Roosevelt’s Ice Pick

Sometimes the importance of one’s possessions cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Their personal value far exceeds what you could ever sell them for. I offer as evidence two very mundane items for your consideration—two common ice picks. Both are special, but one is very special. In the modern world of ice dispensed from the door of your refrigerator or purchased in a bag at the corner convenience store, it is understandable that some might not have ever used an ice pick. Decades ago, ice picks were very common and every household had at least one. Why? To pick ice, of course.

Some ice pick background.

My wife’s family used to own ice houses in Kenner, Gretna, Marrero, Grand Isle, and Lafitte, LA—Cristina Ice and Cold Storage. They are down to one plant now, and though they have some modern equipment that makes the ice like you find at your neighborhood convenience store, they still make some ice the old way—in 300 pound blocks. And let me tell you, that is a lot of ice. I know because I have manhandled my share of 300 pound blocks around to proved my worthiness to marry one the Cristina daughters.

These behemoth blocks of ice are formed in “cans” suspended in a brine solution that is below freezing temps and kept there by ammonia compressors that are around a hundred years old (next stop for them: the Smithsonian). But they still work because they built them like battleships a hundred years ago. The “ice puller,” which was me during one summer working at the Cristina plant down in Grand Isle, uses an electric hoist and picks up a unit of four cans from out of the brine, then manhandles that over to a pool of water and lets it down into the water to allow the ice to be freed from the can’s sides. Once the ice pops free, the four cans of ice are picked up and placed in a cradle. That allows the cans to be tipped onto their sides, and the ice slides out onto the deck.

But they are laying on edge and must be stood up. The ice puller grabs a set of ice tongs, clamps them securely at the top end of one of the 300 pound blocks, and with a mighty heave, stands it up. This works well most of the time. I say that because one time it didn’t work so well for this ice puller. I grabbed the ice with the tongs and with a mighty heave tried to stand 300 pounds of ice on its end—that would be the end that had a corner missing somehow. I got it about half way up, and the missing corner caused it to twist free of my tongs and land on my right foot! After dancing around on one foot screaming unprintable expletives at the top of my lunges, I got my boot off. Big toe was somewhat larger than it had been a few moments prior, and the toenail was perched on top of at rather impressive looking blood blister. No matter, I’m 19 and tough. I put my boot back on and finished my shift. Fortunately, I was due for two days off, but as I’m driving back to Kenner from Grand Isle, my big toe is loudly protesting my aggressive use of the accelerator on my ’57 Chevy. Also fortuitously, my father was a doctor, and I found him at home when I limped in the back door. He made a quick examination of my throbbing toe, and as was his modus operandi, he simply nodded knowingly before retiring from the room to return with a Gillette razor blade. He lanced the aching blister, which promptly belched a bunch of blood, releasing the pressure and relieving the pain completely. The toenail fell off a few days later, but I grew a new one just as ugly as its predecessor. (Really sorry, but I have no pics of that to share with you.)

Back to the ice. After the blocks are stood on end, they are dragged with the tongs into the cold storage. From there they might be sold whole to some shrimper, crushed, or cut down into smaller blocks for sale to individual customers wanting ice for whatever.

Ice Boxes

Back before WWII, it was common for homes to have an “ice box.” The name comes from the fact that early refrigerators were not electrified but kept their contents cold with blocks of ice. Below is a picture of a real ice box made by the Illinois Refrigerator Company. It is probably over 100 years old. The small door on the right was to the compartment where the 25 or 50 pound block of ice went. This ice box has been converted into a bar. We had an ice box in our summer home in Waveland back in the fifties. It was a “modern” version because it was made of white porcelain coated steel instead of wood like the much older one in the picture. Ice “peddlers” would make the rounds of neighborhoods, delivering ice for these old ice boxes. For decades after they were replaced by electric refrigerators, we often called modern refrigerators “ice boxes.” Some of us probably still do so. Now you know why.

Back to that 300 pound block of ice again. Opened wide, the ice tongs were used as a measuring gauge to divide the block into thirds (100 pounds each). These were often cut in half (50 pounds each) or down to 25 pounders. This is where the ice pick comes in. The ice is “scribed” with the ice pick point by tracing a line of shallow jabs along the side of the ice block where you want it divided. That is followed by one or two deeper stabs along the scribed line, and the ice breaks cleanly. It is actually pretty amazing to watch. Ice picks were also used by customers to further break down the larger blocks for iced drinks or use in their portable ice chests. The Cristina Ice Service bought ice picks by the hundreds. They used them, and others were given away as promotional items to good customers. One such promotional ice pick is seen in the image attached, the smaller of the two with the brand info on the handle.

That brings me to the ice pick that prompted this post. I refer to the larger one of the two in the picture above. That one is a homemade ice pick made by one of the Cristina Ice Service employees and given to me as a gift one Christmas about 30 years ago. It was made by Roosevelt Henry, Sr. Roosevelt lived in Kenner and rode the bus all the way to the Cristina Jefferson Box on Jefferson Highway in Old Jefferson near Causeway Blvd. The Jefferson Box was not a manufacturing plant but rather a sales outlet for their ice made elsewhere. I think he worked for the Cristinas for around a hundred years, at least it seemed that long. He was old when I first met him and older still when he retired some 20+ years later.

We lived not far away from the Jefferson Box and got our ice there. Roosevelt knew me well, and he eventually found out I worked for the Sazerac Company. Every Christmas, Roosevelt would ask if I had a “little something” I could give him “to put in my coffee?” And every Christmas I would find a bottle of something for Roosevelt’s coffee, for which he was always grateful. Then one Christmas he surprised me with a gift, an ice pick he had made. It was obvious that he was very proud of his handiwork by the way he described how he made it. He made them from old automobile radio antennas. Back then auto antennas were rather stout shafts of stainless steel, which he would acquire from the junk yard. He would then cut the antenna down into ice pick sizes, probably getting as many as three out of one antenna, and grind the shafts into a sharp point for cutting ice. To this he added an old, cut-down hammer handle for grasping, which he got from who knows where, because I’m sure he didn’t buy new ones from the hardware store. And voila, you have a very effective, hand-made, ice pick. It wasn’t fancy, but it was effective and a gift from the heart.

Roosevelt is dead now, but his memory lives on in the ice pick he made for me, a Christmas gift I will always cherish for the memories it brings forth. Every time I use it I think of his smiling face and him asking me if I have “a little something he can put in his coffee?”

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The Nutcracker(s)

It’s that time of the year when our thoughts turn to nut-crackin’, and I mean the kind you eat not the stage play, although that is also part of the season. This is nut season when we have an abundance of fall-harvest nuts to chose from—and I LOVE nuts, raw or roasted. My favorites are pecans, but walnuts, Brazil nuts, and almonds, especially roasted almonds make my eating list. With the advent of nut season, out comes an array of instruments designed to get at those delicacies inside their nutshells. I am going to review three such nutcrackers, three only because that is what I use and cherish, as you will see.

The first is the common nutcracker composed of two shafts double hinged at one end. The nut goes between the shafts and squeeze—simple. We have all used them or one very like this one in the pic. They are very effective for their intended purposes, as testified by their still being around and in use long after they were invented. (I have no idea when that was, except it was a very long time ago before I was born.) Down heah in sout’ Loos-e-anna, they serve double duty during the summers to get at the meat inside blue crab claws. You’ll know whut ah meen, cher? Mine were inherited from some long dead relative but still serve just fine.

The second in my nut-crackin’ arsenal is a bit unusual. Janis and I picked this one up in the HEB grocery in Abilene, TX about 15 years ago. It resembles some kind of mid-evil torture device for nipping off the tips of fingers of people you don’t like. They are quite effective on certain kinds of nuts, especially pecans. So much so, I am betting they were invented for that specific nut. Since it didn’t come with instructions, I had to experiment to learn how to most effectively use it for opening pecans. I discovered it works best if you nip off the two ends of the pecan as seen in the pic above.

After that, you locate the two halves inside the shell and use the fingertip nipping blades to split the pecan along the two halves.

Once the nut is split in two, all you need do then is nip away the shells from the meat until the half comes out usually whole. It beats every other form of pecan-opening device I have encountered short of a scissors zipping open a bag of already shelled pecans.

I have never seen these for sale anywhere since, but a search on Amazon turned up one called the Texan Nut Sheller. Looking for a good pecan cracker? This is it.

The last one in my arsenal of nutcrackers is very special to Janis and me, because it was a Christmas gift to us from our two sons some 20 years ago. Elder son Heath was serving in the Air Force then and had just completed his tech school at Aberdeen Proving Grounds where he was learning to repair battle damage on aircraft. Part of his training was learning machining, and he machined the metal parts of this nutcracker out of aircraft aluminum. He brought that home for Christmas leave and turned it over to his younger brother Ryan. Ryan was into woodworking, and he made all the wooden parts—its base and bowl. The base is made of cypress, and the bowl was turned on a lathe out of cypress and mahogany blocks glued together. The mahogany came from his grandfather who had salvaged it from a mill in Harahan, LA some 50+ years before.

The cracking “hammer” part is threaded into the handle and is thus adjustable. The nut is cradled in a machined groove in the base and the “hammer” breaks it open. It is very effective on a variety of nuts but especially so on walnuts. For obvious reasons, this one is very special!

There you have it. Go out and buy a bunch of nuts and get after them while they are plentiful.

This is Thanksgiving week, as I write this, and time to be thankful for all the great nuts God has left for us. And I mean the kind you eat and the ones we have to learn to live with. As for those, remember we are commanded to love them. Have a great Thanksgiving!

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Wild Day in the Soccer Field

I had the pleasure (and laughs) of watching my granddaughter, Ruby, play in a soccer game on her sixth birthday. Understand that what five and six-year-olds know about playing soccer is pretty limited. Their grasp of the sport is pretty much limited to 1) they must get the ball into their goal and 2) stop the other team from getting the ball into their goal and 3) lots of kicking the ball is involved.

Beyond that, all bets are off—to everyone’s amusement.

The two teams were unbalanced. Ruby’s team (with the red shirts) had only six players while the silver shirts team had eight. That didn’t matter much because, by the time we left, the red shirts were leading four to zip.

There isn’t much team strategy in soccer at this age level. Both teams kind of gravitate around the moving ball like a leaderless herd with most not really doing much beyond following said herd up and down the field—and often off the field.

Way off the field, as seen in this pic.

A six-year-old’s grasp of the field’s boundaries is quite limited, evidently to the point of “who cares?” On several occasions, both teams chased the ball well out of bounds—like maybe thirty yards out of bounds—and with as much enthusiasm as if it were still in bounds. They were still merrily chasing/kicking the ball when the coach finally yelled, “The field is over here!”


Ruby, the birthday girl complete with her birthday crown as seen in the pics, seemed more content to just kick over the boundary markers. Her heart wasn’t in this. She was likely more interested in getting back to her cake and ice cream.

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Shark!

This isn’t going where you think. It isn’t about sharks that swim. It’s about Sharks that vacuum clean the house. Yes, Janis decided we needed a Shark vacuum cleaner, one of those semi-autonomous devices that meander around your house sucking up dirt. Or, if you have a dog that leaves stool piles lying around, it redistributes that all over your house. Fortunately, we no longer have inside pets, so that was not a concern.

You can manage these things from your iPhone now, but it requires you to give it a name. You can leave it as the default name, which is something like “Shark,”  but I decided to name mine “Tank” because it reminds me of a round tank, like the one Leonardo Da Vinci designed around 1485. That was the beginning of “Tank” becoming a family pet.

As soon as I unpacked him, I released Tank and followed him around to see what he would do. Turns out you have to get wires and other small entanglements up where he won’t run over them. Tank gets snagged on the fringe of the carpet in my den. He struggles and usually fails to free himself then cries for help. No, really, he does. Tank beeps out a distress signal. I guess if you could translate the beeps, he would be saying something like, “Help! I’m stuck!” If you don’t come to his rescue soon enough he shuts down. Tank’s final beeps might be translated, “Oh well, he isn’t coming. Screw it!”

He has sensors that tell him when he is close to some object, and he changes direction. He also has sensors that detect stairs so he won’t take a tumble. Tank wouldn’t last long if he wasn’t so equipped.

Tank seems to move in a completely random pattern. He will run from one room to another never finishing what he started but often coming back a dozen times to run over the same three square feet, like the dirt in that spot is particularly tasty. I am compelled to wonder if Tank ever vacuums everything or very thoroughly? His little dirt compartment does, however, get full, so he is doing something—or my house is really dirty.

Tank is afraid of direct sunlight. (Maybe there is some Transylvanian vampire blood in him?) Whenever he hits an area of the floor illuminated by direct sunlight, he backs off and changes direction. So, any sunny floor area never gets vacuumed.

Tank has a docking station where he goes to recharge his batteries when they become exhausted, you know, kind of like a feeding bowl for the cat. He uses Wifi to find it and makes several jerky lunges at the dock before he gets properly lined up and plugs himself in. I swear I heard him sigh when he docked.

I guess by now you have figured out that Tank is almost like an electric cat and just about as affectionate, but at least, he cleans up after himself, in a manner of speaking.

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Cherry Bounce Update – AT LAST!

 After the three months of “maturing,” my last batch of MB’s Cherry Bounce is ready! I strained off the mash and bottled the juice in an empty Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon bottle pressed into service. That and the deer head stopper are what I had available.

It yielded about 1 liter of finished product, plus a half quart jar of cherries that are now flavored by the Sazerac Rye Whiskey they soaked in for three months. I am amazed at how much of the whiskey flavor the cherries retained.

And, man, is it good! The Cherry Bounce is smooth and sweet when consumed straight and will go well over ice cream and in most any other concoction I can dream up.

Someone asked if letting the mixture soak for a longer period of time would improve it? I can’t imagine it getting any better. I tasted it every few weeks as it was maturing, and you could detect the changes taking place. The alcohol burn tended to overpower the flavor in the beginning, but as the three months passed, the cherry flavor took over and it smoothed out considerably.

As for the Sazerac Rye soaked cherries that are a byproduct, Janis made up some miniature pies using little finger-sized pie shells with filling made with the leftover cherries and some Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cherry Preserves. It is to die for!

I am declaring this little experiment a complete success. Now I have to wait for Bing cherries to come back in season to make more. Meanwhile, I am on the hunt for a wild cherry tree so I can try the recipe using Louisiana wild cherries. Everyone I mention this to remembers having wild cherry trees when they were kids but no one has them now. Maybe a well-stocked nursery?

This will be a continuing story …

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Sometimes You Win One…

I have been accused of many things, and one my wife often zings me on is when I fail to notice the new haircut, new blouse, new dress, or new whatever. She is usually right. I did miss the new “whatever”. But sometimes the new “whatever” doesn’t look all that different from the old one, but that is no excuse! And I get zinged with, “You didn’t even notice (fill in the blank).”

But sometimes you win one.

Notice the pic of me at the top of this post. Now, notice the one below it. See the difference? I mean besides the one at the top is a better pic, and it was also taken years ago when I was younger. Yeah, the goatee is gone.

Here is the rest of the story.

I have worn a mustache most of my adult life since I first grew one while in the Air Force.  The goatee came along only a dozen or so years ago. About once a week I needed to trim my facial hair. I used a barber type razor with an attachment over the blades that limits the depth of the cut. I would leave my beard about 1/4″ long when I trimmed it. One evening I was attending to my weekly beard trimming ritual and was only barely paying attention to what I was doing. Bad move. I was blazing away, working over the goatee part perhaps a bit too casually. Zipping right along and taking quick strokes, I failed to notice I had lost the attachment that limited the depth of the cut. And before I realized it, I had taken a swipe and completely removed my goatee on the right side. Half of it was missing!

What do I do? Do I pretend it is still there and attempt to grow it out, hoping no one will notice it is misshapen? Nah! Maybe cut the other half almost as short? Nah! Or just cut it all off? I went for the latter and zipped the rest of the goatee off and then lathered up and shaved the stubble away.

As I am doing this, I have a moment of evil brilliance. I decided I would not tell my wife and see how long it took for her to notice most of my facial hair was gone. It was bedtime and little opportunity for her to notice, so I gave her a free ride for that day. The next day was Sunday, and we went to church—and she said nothing. We went to lunch—and she said nothing. We spent the afternoon doing what, I don’t recall—and she said nothing. But that evening as she is changing out of her Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes, she holds up the blouse she had worn all day and announces, “You never noticed the new blouse I was wearing.”

Gotcha!

I faked my surprise and chastised humility. As I did so, I stroked my chin and replied, “You are right. It is a lovely blouse. Forgive me?”

She is looking at me suspiciously. I think the grin on my face and exaggerated stroking of my bare chin suggested I was up to something. Then it hit her.

Sometimes you win one. But such victories are extremely rare. Men, enjoy them when you can.

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Cherry Bounce Has Arrived!

After months of experimentation, I arrived at a recipe for Cherry Bounce I am most happy with. The last experiment finally reached three months maturity—well—one week short of three months; close enough for gubmint work, yes? So I acquired some cheesecloth, strained it, and bottled it. Oh, and I also tasted it.

YUM! It is fantastic!

I emptied the last dregs of a tequila bottle I had and put the strained final product in there. That required a quickie label. This is probably not the final version, but it will do for now.

As you can see from the image, I got about 350ml out of that last test batch. Not to worry, however, a “production” batch is currently maturing in the darkened confines of my kitchen pantry. That one used a whole 750ml bottle of Sazerac Rye, so I expect it to yield as much or a bit more, depending on how much juice the cherries throw off. It is, however, only a month into the maturing process. It should be good and ready for Thanksgiving. I would make more for Christmas gifts, but cherries are evidently out of season.

The label says it is “MB’s Cherry Bounce” made from a secret family recipe handed down from generation to generation—all lies—well, mostly lies. MB did inspire this, but since I could not find his original recipe, I had to experiment. And the recipe isn’t really secret. It is attached below for anyone who wants to make a batch of their own.

MB’s Cherry Bounce Recipe

2 lbs ripe sweet Bing cherries

1 cup Turbinado sugar

juice of one lemon

1 750ml bottle Sazerac Rye Whiskey

Remove the pits from the cherries. In a saucepan, add cherries, sugar, and lemon juice and set aside to allow the cherries to throw off some juice (at least 30 minutes or so). Simmer and stir over low heat for 20-30 minutes until sugar is dissolved and the cherries are just about to begin breaking up. I like to keep them whole for later use. You should have then substantially more juice that cherries, whereas before there was very little juice with the whole cherries. Let cool and add rye whiskey. Mix well and store in a clean covered canning jar in a cool dark place for three months. Check often to be sure there is no fermentation that would build up pressure in the jars. (There shouldn’t be with the rye whiskey in it.) Once “mature” strain through cheesecloth and bottle. Save strained cherries and refrigerate for other uses like over ice cream or as an ingredient in cocktails, or maybe make some jam with them. I don’t know how long these will keep refrigerated. You may want to freeze some in small batches to be thawed and used as needed.

The finished Cherry Bounce can be sipped straight or as an ingredient in a cocktail. See my recipe for MB’s Cherry Bounce Old Fashioned Cocktail here.

Cheers!

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The Day Fairyland Burned

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … oh, wait, wrong intro. But it was a long time ago, maybe about 1953 or there-about, when this disaster took place. And the galaxy was Waveland, MS at the summer home of my aunt and uncle. They owned twenty acres of kid-friendly heaven in Waveland. Translation: lots of woods to play in and minimal to zero adult supervision.

It began simply enough: Fairyland caught fire! GADS! That place of wonderment we kids thought possessed mystical qualities because our parents told us (liars) that fairies lived there, was burning!

Fairyland is the yellow circle. Red square was my uncle’s property.

Actually, Fairyland was a garbage dump on the neighbor’s property, because there was no garbage pick-up “a long time ago in that galaxy far, far away” of Waveland. Careless burning initiated by our parents must have caused the fire?

And then again, maybe it was caused by us kids and our Labor Day fireworks?

Whatever, Fairyland was in flames, and a conflagration of epic proportions was rapidly spreading. Where would all the displaced fairies live? Oh, the humanity!

We begged our parents to get involved. “Ummm, adults, there’s a forest fire out behind the house…”

Their reaction was immediate and decisive. “Sure sure. Can you get me another cold Regal from the ice chest?”

We kids resumed our fire-watch as the flames marched ever closer to the house, eating its way through the dried pine needles that littered the ground like a brown carpet everywhere you looked in Waveland. WE ARE ALL GONNA DIIIEEEE!

Finally, FINALLY, we were able to motivate our parents into action. Actually, the smell of burning pine needles may have been more of a motivator? Picking up his beer, Boo, my uncle trudged out of the comfortable confines of the screened porch around to the side of the house, and he saw it. His response: “Oh crap!”

There was an immediate call to action. “FIRE!!!” Well, maybe that is overstating it just a bit? Boo returned to the screened porch and said something like, “Umm, we have a small problem we probably kinda-maybe should take care of—like soon?”

The others looked up from the Chesterfield cigarette smoke and Regal beers. “Like what kind of a problem, exactly?”

“A small matter of a fire behind the house.”

We kids all chimed in then, “Yeah, and Fairyland burned down, and all the fairies are now displaced, refugees! Where will they go?”

With that, the slightly inebriated, adult fire brigade sprang into action with Boo shouting orders, and the others stumbling around attempting to obey. They dragged out a garden hose and attempted to reach the fire with it only to come up short by about fifty yards.

We kids formed a fire brigade of our own and commandeered a toy wagon and several buckets, which we filled with water at the free-flowing artesian well. Buckets filled, we dragged the creaky overloaded wagon to the site of the disaster. The terrain was a bit rough, so by the time we got there, most of the water had sloshed out of the buckets. We made trip after trip as our parents shoveled and batted the fire down with wet sacks and sandal-shod feet (ouch!).

And the world—well, at least all of Waveland—was saved from a flaming disaster. In other words, we finally got the fire out. Much relieved and exhausted, not to mention thirsty, they retired once more to the screened porch for fresh cans of Regal, Falstaff, and Jax beer. We kids rewarded ourselves with Nehi sodas, RC colas, pop rouge, and 7Ups.

Back at school Monday morning, we shared, with our classmates, our tales of derring-do, fighting the great forest fire that destroyed Fairyland.

And all was well with the world again. Except for the fairies who were left homeless and wandering aimlessly around Never-Never-Land, that is.

 

Dedicated to my cousin Bobby.

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More About Waveland

I have written about Waveland, Mississippi on more than one occasion. (A few such tales here, here, and here.) That is because the place holds so many memories from my childhood. During the summers, we generally went over to our little cottage in Waveland every other weekend. As soon as MB closed the office Friday night, we hit the road and did not return until Sunday night, usually quite late. MB would close the office in the summer for a two-week vacation, and guess where we went? Yeah, you guessed it.

I was poking around Google Maps, looking to see what the old hood looked like these days. It has changed a lot! Most of the houses there now were not there then and the area was more wooded. But it still brought back memories. The screen grab above shows the neighborhood. The big red square was twenty acres and originally belonged to my aunt and uncle (Margie and Son “Boo” Manard). The smaller yellow square was our property. The blue roof is the original house built by MB and his friend, Pete. Back then the yard was full of pine trees. Hurricane Camille eliminated most of those. None of the other houses inside the red square were there, and only two of those across the street existed then.

In Waveland, we fished, swam, crabbed, floundered at night, ate hamburgers, soft-serve ice cream after swims, and cold watermelons, and once watched Boo chase Jim, the horse, around his twenty acres. The kids drank pop rouge and Nehis, and the adults consumed adult beverages, mostly cold Falstaff or Jax beer (even Regal before they closed the brewery) all while exchanging gossip or playing cards. On “party nights” (when we had guests with us) they brought out the “big guns,” which was usually Seagrams 7 and 7Up or Coke. And that could lead to trouble, like the night Maxine D. fell in the bathtub and couldn’t get out. I guess she was drunk enough she didn’t hurt anything. It took three men to get her out. The fact that all four were snockered and giggling like it was the funniest thing they had ever experienced tended to hamper the operation.

When not engaged in the listed activities above, we boys were roaming the woods with our BB guns and sometimes getting into our own form of trouble but having a wonderful time. We hung out at a place near the back of the property we called “Fairyland.” (Yellow circle in the image above.) It was actually used as a dump by some of the locals, including us before we got environmentally conscious and started hauling it to the town dump. No garbage collection back then. There were a bunch of small ponds back there and lots of crawfish chimneys. It looked like a fairyland to us. I’m not sure I ever went to Waveland that I didn’t visit Fairyland.

Back behind Fairyland was a small creek that drained toward the Gulf and went under the railroad tracks. The culvert under the tracks was big enough we could stand up inside with only the need to stoop over a little. That culvert was the scene of the famous “you’ll shoot your eye out” gunfight Buck and I had—and I nearly shot his eye out. (The smaller red circle in the image above.)

No AC. in the “old days.” I slept under a huge window fan that sucked the air out of the house and across me in my bunk bed. The vacuum created in the house was filled by the cool night air. What a life!

There was no town water then, either. Our little piece of heaven was a one-acre plot carved out of the corner of a twenty-acre square originally owned by my uncle. He had an artesian well over near his house, which was on the opposite corner of that twenty acres. MB drilled a shallow well on our property, but the water tasted like rotten eggs. He decided maybe stringing all that pipe from the other corner of twenty acres wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Thereafter, we drew our water from an artesian well.

They sold the place in 1973. I wanted to buy it, but I was fresh out of the Air Force and, at the time, unemployed. Waveland is gone. My main regret is my kids didn’t get a chance to experience something like Waveland when they were young.

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Pete

Like most of us, my dad had a best friend. His name was Pete. They grew up together in the neighborhood along Orleans Avenue near City Park. Pete’s folks owned a barroom at the end of Orleans and North St Patrick where Orleans meets Marconi Drive. The building is still there and now occupied by an insurance agency. After the Casteix family decamped from the pharmacy/residence on Bourbon Street (the place where MB tried to launch the squeezin’s from his Cherry Bounce from the attic across Bourbon Street—and failed), they moved to a house on Orleans. This was in the thirties. Since neither MB nor Pete is here to ask, I assume that is when they met.

Both played baseball, and Pete went semi-pro for a while. MB was a semi-pro boxer in the featherweight division. Then came World War II, and MB went to the European Theater of Operations, and Pete went to the Pacific. They reconnected after the war and remained fast friends for the rest of their lives.

Pete was a very interesting fellow. He worked for the Post Office and did contracting jobs on the side. He had a 1957 Chevy BelAir (Sea Foam Green, of course) and a 1957 Chevy former telephone service truck for his contracting jobs. More on that later.

MB and Pete almost never bought anything new. They were “tight” and bought (or scrounged) used and/or fabricated what they needed. MB did buy a new boat, but he had mismatched scrounged motors on the back, and not even the same brand. One was an Evenrude and the other a Johnson. While the stuff they “manufactured” might have been functional, it wasn’t pretty, but “pretty” wasn’t their objective. This was definitely a case of function over form.

Pete helped MB build our “summer house” in Waveland. This was back in the mid-1950s.  In fact, Pete had a bedroom designated as his own in that house. Most of the materials came from a house Pete tore down. They stacked all the salvaged windows onto a trailer to haul them from New Orleans to Waveland, Mississippi. Since it was an “MB and Pete enterprise,” the trailer was homemade (function over form, remember?). It carried stuff well enough, but lacked that final je ne sais quoi—in this case, shocks. In other words, it bounced a lot. Also, notice that I said they “stacked” the windows. They were not stood on end or edge as they should have been but laid flat for traveling. Mistake. After the hour and a half drive over Highway 90 to Waveland with all that trailer bouncing, there was not an unbroken pane of glass left in the windows. They had to re-glaze them all.

MB and Pete did all the electrical wiring in the house themselves (neither was a licensed electrician as we shall see in a moment) and finished the job late in the evening about suppertime. We were staying in my uncle’s house nearby, so they ate supper and returned to the construction job after dark to test their wiring. Yeah, you guessed it. The switch in the kitchen turned on the front bedroom lights. The switch in the bedroom turned on the bathroom lights before it blew all the fuses, throwing them into the pitch black Waveland night. MB tried to walk through the walls between the studs to get to the fuse box and forgot they had put spreaders between the studs that day. One caught him right across the bridge of his nose.

Pete was a consummate scrounger and always looking for some “free prize” in life. Other’s cast-offs might be his diamond-in-the-rough. After a weekend in Waveland, we had to carry our garbage to the dump—no county garbage collection back then. Pete always managed to find some “prize” at the dump, and the standing joke was we always came back with more than we hauled to the dump.

Pete’s garage was a tinker/scrounger’s dream and full of just about anything you could think of that he had accumulated from various scrounging expeditions—like to the Waveland dump. That ’57 Chevy BelAir was in there after he moved up to a newer model. It had a cracked block, and I have no idea why he kept it. He lived on a busy street, and every time he left the garage doors open for any reason, someone would stop and ask about buying that ’57 Chevy. He also kept that ‘57 truck, but it was in the yard. When Pete’s wife passed away in the eighties, he offered both the truck and the car to me. Unfortunately, I had no money to restore them. I managed to get the truck and store it in a garage belonging to my wife’s family. My expectation was one day I would find the resources to restore it. Never did. Sold it. It was a unique truck with that telephone company box on the back instead of a pickup bed and probably more desirable than a regular ’57 pickup. The car went to Pete’s grandson, and I have no idea what happened to it after that.

Pete was someone you just enjoyed being around. He had a great sense of humor and was a perfect partner for MB in their many adventures. Pete passed away some ten years or so before MB. I know he missed him a lot.

NOTE: That image of Pete was in MB’s wartime photo album. It looks like he is wearing a military khaki uniform, so I think this was taken during the war when Pete was overseas, probably in India.

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