Category Archives: Growing Up

Yancy Derringer

yancy_derringer_cast_2I cut the cord, or in my case, since I have (had) satellite, I broke the dish. I got fed up paying for 400 channels and watching six. Saved $91 a month. I have switched to receiving over-the-air (OTA) channels through a Tivo device. That meant installing a TV antenna on my roof. Now I get over thirty local stations, mostly in HD, and all for FREE.

With the Tivo came some builtin apps like Netflix and Amazon among others. I was already getting Netflix via my AppleTV device and had switched a large portion of my TV viewing to streaming through Netflix using the AppleTV. That made the satellite even less relevant. Besides, it has been periodically failing and taking whatever I had stored on the DVR with it.

It was an easy decision for me, but less so for Janis. You have to change the way you manage your TV watching. I won’t go into that now, maybe later, because some interesting arguments over the controls have been experienced since the switch. I may write about them later.

The title of this post is “Yancy Derringer.” If you were born later than the early fifties, you may never have heard of Yancy, because the old black and white TV show by that name aired in 1958 and 1959. I have discovered that old Yancy episodes are available for FREE on Amazon if you are an Amazon Prime member. So are a lot of other old TV shows, but more on that later.

Yancy is a Rhett Butler wannabe, and in some ways is better than Rhett. He doesn’t have all that emotional baggage and drama associated with Scarlet. The series takes place in New Orleans just after the War of Northern Aggression (Civil War if you are a Yankee), and Yancy is an unrepentant southerner and gambler who owns a riverboat (the Sultana) and a bar in Yankee occupied New Orleans. Yancy actually works for the northern city administer, not because he is a sympathizer with the Yankees, but because he loves New Orleans. He acts as the city administrator’s undercover enforcer to help manage crime in the city.

Yancy usually dresses in the uniform of the day, that being a white linen suit with a brocade vest and a broad rimmed white planter’s hat—oh, and a pencil thin mustache. He is also armed, though not obviously so. Being a gambler, he carries a four barrel derringer pistol up his left sleeve and another inside his hat. Of course Yancy can hit a squirrel at a hundred paces with that little pipsqueak pistol. (Sarcasm off.) But his main weapon is Pahoo.

Yancy has a faithful Indian companion, which was kind of the vogue for westerns in those days. His name is Pahoo-Ka-Te-Wah, which means “wolf-who-stands-in-water.” It seems that Pahoo once saved Yancy’s life, thus altering fate, and now he is responsible for Yancy’s life. Pahoo is a big Indian dude and wears a blanket over his shoulder, which hides the double barrel shotgun hanging from a strap over his shoulder. It comes out from under that blanket a lot, and with both barrels, he blasts some evil doer into the next century. He also carries a really big knife behind his back up by his neck. And he throws it a lot—and always hits what he throws it at. Pahoo, being a non-PC Indian of that day, is also very sneaky, not in a negative way, but you NEVER know when he will be standing right there behind someone ready to protect Yancy. He appears out of nowhere with shotgun blasting, knife flying, and bad guys dying. And he never speaks, communicating instead using sign language.

Pahoo was played by Jay X Brands and is actually of European origin, Germany to be exact. He plays a Pawnee, and members of that nation sent him a letter congratulating him on his accurate portrayal of an Indian and, especially, his learning the native hand language, which evidently was accurate in the series.

Yancy is super cool and nothing ever gets him upset. He rarely raises his voice even when threatened. He is always in control. He is also something of a smartass, coming up with some very sarcastic one liners. Like the time the bearded city administrator is describing his sister to Yancy so he will recognize her on the boat when she arrives in NOLA, “She looks a lot like me with red hair, blue eyes…” Yancy adds without missing a beat, “…and a beard?”

The shows were for thirty minute time slots, so they are only about twenty minutes long with the commercials stripped off. I have also found “Wanted Dead or Alive” with Steve McQueen as a bounty hunter before he became a famous movie star and “The Rebel” with Nick Adams. I haven’t watched any of those yet. I also found three old movies I have been looking for to watch for decades.

Bottom line: I won’t miss satellite, however, Janis might, therefore, I will be made to miss satellite.

The photo above is public domain from Wikipedia. They are from the left Pahoo (X-Brands), Madame Francine (Francis Bergen, wife of Edger) and Yancy (Jock Mahoney)

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Mr. Frank

One of the joys of growing up in Kenner was being a boy during the best time in history in what was possibly the best place in the world to grow up, Kenner. At least that’s what my cousin, Bobby, thinks. I tend to agree. In post war and prosperous America, we lived a carefree life that simply can’t be recreated today.

For us kids back then, summers were our favorite time of the year for obvious reasons, mainly because the dress code was so minimal, and we didn’t have to go to school. It was a time when we roamed the streets in our neighborhood with no fear, wearing only shorts, no shoes and no shirts—maybe sometimes a baseball cap. It was also the time Mr. Frank would pay us daily visits.

Mr. Frank was our local, roving, ice cream man. He was an over-weight, somewhat elderly man with a fatherly appearance, and wore a worn straw fedora to protect his balding head from the sun. Mr. Frank roamed the neighborhoods of Kenner on his little three-wheeled Cushman motor scooter ringing a hand bell and shouting out, “Ice cream! Get your ice cream!” (As if the bell hadn’t done the sales job already.) He sat in the back of his little scooter over the motor, and in front over the two front wheels was his dry ice cooled icebox filled with a veritable cornucopia of frozen delights for kids.


He sold the usual ice cream cups that came with a little wooden device for scooping the ice cream from the cup. That “scooping device” was a “spoon” in name only, being only a thin flat piece of wood cut in the shaped of a stubby spoon. Splinters in the lip were not unheard of.

His cooler also contained frozen bars of ice cream on a stick dipped in chocolate, ice cream sandwiches, which were two rectangular chocolate cookie slabs with a block of vanilla ice cream in between, and Dreamsicles—those bars of vanilla ice cream on a stick with a frozen orange sherbet coating, and ice cream cones with a chocolate topping and peanuts wrapped in paper you had to peel back. And, of course, he had the ubiquitous Popsicle in a variety of flavors to satisfy the tastes of any kid.

Mr. Frank rang his hand bell as he slowly motored through the neighborhoods of Kenner. Of course, with our super-tuned kid hearing, we heard that bell approaching when he was still five miles away. With a Pavlov’s dog-like response, we dropped everything we were doing and began an immediate and urgent assault on our parent’s pocket books.

“Can I have some money for ice cream, please, please?

Our parents were notorious foot-draggers when it came to such wild and extravagant expenditures of their hard-earned cash. (A Popsicle cost every bit of 5¢.) As Mr. Frank’s siren song and that clanging bell drew nearer, the pleading increased in tempo designed to break down even the most penny-pinching parent. “Please, hurry! I’m going to miss him!”

As Mr. Frank reached our street, our foot dragging parents finally gave in to our pleading and coughed up some cash. I’m convinced it was a conspiracy among them, because they all paid off at the same time. From every door on Sixth Street, frantic kids clutching nickels and dimes in their sweaty hands burst forth screaming “Mr. Frank! Mr. Frank, wait!

Not one to miss the big sales, Mr. Frank was, by then, exercising his favorite marketing ploy. He had slowed his scooter to a mere idling crawl, slow enough that it threatened to kill the sputtering motor on his scooter, and his bell ringing had gotten even more frantic.

And we assaulted him.

Then came decision time. “Do I want a popsicle or a Dreamsicle today? No. Um. Maybe an ice cream sandwich? I donno…?

And Mr. Frank smiled and waited patiently, knowing he was about to rake in the big bucks from all the kids gathered around his little scooter. When one of us finally made up our mind, Mr. Frank opened the hatch on the top of that cooler box. And the rest of us stared mystified at the dark yawning opening that was spilling out this mystical cloud of “smoke” from the dry ice. And it was just cloudy enough that we couldn’t see into that dark interior. But Mr. Frank could, either that or he had the location of the contents memorized, because he would reach in, his arm disappearing into that black, smoking hole, and always come up with the correct item. And BAM, with a puff of magic smoke, that door slammed shut again over that mysterious hole until someone else finally made up his mind.

The sales made, Mr. Frank pocketed his new-found wealth, mounted his Cushman, and motored down the street ringing his bell and shouting, “Ice cream! Ice cream! Get your ice cream!”

And we kids sought a place in the shade to enjoy our frozen treats and plan our next summer adventure.


Photo Credit: Wiki Commons


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner


Me, Manard, Joey 1953I often see posts on Facebook about things we did in our childhood that are considered “very dangerous” today. We ran around barefoot, played with firecrackers (and some of those were potent enough to take off a finger or two), rode in the bed of pickups, played on gym sets that would be the targets for litigation today, got spanked (child abuse today), played with fire, drank from the hose, had pet red ear turtles, rode go-carts in the street, roller skated behind said go-carts, and was made to sit on the front porch in one’s grandmother’s dress while reading the Bible because one used profanity—and got caught. (Yes, that really happened to someone—not me. Another clear case of child abuse!)

After this long list of things we did as kids, the FB post usually ends with “and we survived.” And we did. My, how times have changed.

One of the members of our little rat pack of kids, who barely survived the fifties and sixties, was a couple of years younger and smaller than the rest of us. Though smaller, he was wiry and strong, and very hard to catch and hold on to and bring down when he was carrying the football. (Yes, add tackle football without any protection to that list above.) As a result, he picked up a nickname, “Grease-ball” shortened to just “Grease.

Grease went on to become a successful “rock star” (he even played at Hard Rock Café one night) and eventually developed some modicum of respectability as an attorney, father, and grandfather, thus the need to protect his identity.

Grease, being younger and wanting to fit in, was susceptible to dares from us older boys, especially the impossible-to-refuse-ultimate-throw-down “double-dog-dare.” As pointed out so well in the great, classic movie A Christmas Story the double-dog-dare was never taken lightly, and its use called for a series of gradually escalating dares that culminated in the double-dog-dare.

Poor Grease was often the victim of abuse by us older boys, especially after our failure to tackle him in a football game. One form of such abuse, and I have no idea who started it (Grease may remember), but we double-dog-dared him to eat an earthworm—a live worm—and swallow it—on more than one occasion.

I can see one such time in my mind as I write this. It took place in the vacant lot across Sixth Street (now Toledano Street) from my grandmother’s house on the corner with Minor Street. This same empty lot was our favorite playing field, just the right size for a football game or even baseball until we got big enough to hit the ball across the field into one of the Giammalva’s windows, or a fun game of shoot the arrow up in the air and see where it lands. (Add that one to the list, too.) At the end near Sixth Street were two trees, a sidewalk, and the ubiquitous open ditch (but that’s another story).

On this occasion, we stood under those two trees and dangled a wiggling earthworm in front of Grease’s face while we hit him with the double-dog-dare. He looked scared, though he tried to hide it and look defiant instead. But with me, Manard, Kibby, and Joey standing there and repeating, “we double-dog-dare-you,” Grease had no choice but to eat the worm. It was that or be compelled to live forever in the shame of refusing a double-dog-dare, never finding acceptance with the older boys and forever wondering aimlessly in the wilderness of social peer rejection. That was NOT going to happen as far as Grease was concerned.

I think his lower lip trembled involuntarily for just a second before he snatched the worm from Manard’s hand and dropped it into his open mouth in such a way that it was clear to the rest of us that he was indeed eating that worm.

I don’t think he chewed, but he did swallow.

I wanted to throw up.


Filed under Growing Up, Kenner

Conversations With My Truck

Modern technology now allows us to have conversations with our vehicles. I drive a 2012 Ford F150 Crew Cab pickup. It came equipped with what they call “Sync,” which is a product by Microsoft (and that should tell you a lot about the product). In places like the Ford F150 forums and the privacy of many Fords, Sync gets called many other names, and the names are neither polite or flattering nor repeatable on a nice family blog like this one.


What does Sync do? Besides infuriate you, that is. The idea, it seems, is Sync puts you “in sync” with your Ford.  Sync has a female voice, a rather irritating one. Microsoft must have recruited Nurse Ratched for the part.  She asks you questions, takes commands and executes them, so you don’t have to push buttons and get distracted by that. “Executes them” is a term that I say is open for discussion when applied to the Sync B****. Sometimes she does what you ask, and sometimes she argues with you and even pushes you around. And you want to know what “distracted” really looks like, just get into an argument with the Sync B****. (The linked video above is a bunch of Sync users at a therapy session.)

I’m not making this up!

Haven’t you ever seen someone driving down the highway yelling his head off and shaking his fist, and there was no one else in the truck or car? He wasn’t singing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on his iPhone Bluetoothed to the truck’s stereo. If he was in a Ford, he was probably having an argument with the Sync B****.

I have considered shooting her, but the engine would be in the line of fire—and I would only have to pay to get it repaired, not to mention explaining THAT to the police after some suspicious Ford dealer reported the bullet hole. I can see the police report now: “Claims he was mad at his truck, so he shot it.” That would not bode well when I renew my concealed carry permit.

You think I am joking? Let me give you a sample of a Sync B**** “conversation.”


Lane –  I want to listen to some tunes stored on my iPhone by connecting it to the truck’s stereo through Bluetooth, so I push the “media” button on the steering wheel

SB – Answers: “Line in. Say a command.”

Lane – “Bluetooth Audio” That should be all I need to say to establish a connection.

SB – “I did not understand you. You can say USB, next turn, line in, Bluetooth, leave massage…” And she rattles off a list of around thirty commands I can say that include everything from changing map directions to connecting my iPhone to the stereo via Bluetooth, which is what I want.

Lane – I punch the “media” button to shut her up, cutting her off at around “Update route…” (In retrospect, that may have made her mad.)

SB – “Line in. Say a command.”

Lane – The microphone is in the overhead console only about 15 inches from my mouth, but I say it  little louder, thinking that will help, “Bluetooth Audio.”

SB – “I did not understand you …”

Lane – I scream at her, “I didn’t stutter!” That didn’t help either.

SB – Unfazed by my outburst, she continues, “…You can say USB, next turn, line in…” and we go through the list again.

Lane – Back to the “media” button.

SB – Stops her list at “Say ‘Play’ if you …” Pause. “Line in. Say a command.” (Rinse and repeat.)

Lane – I considered spelling it, but went for emphasized enunciation instead, figuring anyone this stupid couldn’t possibly be able to spell. It came out something like this, “BLUE-TOOTH-AU-DIO.” You know, like when you are trying to explain something to someone who does not speak English and you don’t speak their language, so you say it in English very loud and slowly—as if that will help?

SB – “I did not understand you. You can say USB, next turn, line in…”

Lane – While I am shaking my fist at my truck’s dashboard, my mouth vomits out a string of profanities directed at HER.

Janis thinks I need professional help.

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Hearing Impaired.

I am hearing impaired and began wearing hearing aids in 2012. I was pretty much forced to by my job and my wife.

As for the job, I decided it was a bad idea to continue to complete meetings with clients and then have to ask my account executive what we just agreed to do.

Janis was another matter. I had to turn the TV up so loud it bothered her. Wearing TV headphones helped that. I could crank the volume up in the headphones, and she could listen through the speakers at normal levels. And by-the-way, she has the hearing of an Arctic Fox hunting for moles under three feet of snow.

That worked until I bought a new TV and later, Apple TV. Apple TV doesn’t go through the Dish Satellite DVR, which is what the headphones are plugged into. No problemo! I bought an audio system with six speakers, thinking I could plug my headphones into the TV, which silences the sound coming out of it, and Janis would listen through the nice six-speaker audio system, while I listen through the headphones.

One minor problem: The TV doesn’t have a headphone jack!

That means whenever we are watching something on Netflix through Apple TV, I have to crank the volume way up (nice bass!) and past Janis’ comfort level. Now I have to buy a new TV with a headphone jack.

“How did this hearing problem happen?” you ask.

Listening to loud rock music through headphones, gunfire without hearing protection, and listening to F-4 Phantom IIs take off on a daily basis while in the Air Force. The weather observation site where I worked was about fifty yards from and about halfway down the active runway. And that would be about where they “rotated,” meaning just as the front landing gear came off the ground and both engines were under full, screaming, flame-spitting, afterburner power. Yes, it was loud. Very loud! We were issued hearing protection, but I know of no observer who ever used them.

F-4 Take Off

When I mustered out in 1972 at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, they did a full physical makeup to compare to when I had entered service four years earlier. I distinctly remember the audio tech commenting as he read my latest test compared it to the older one. “Boy, you have lost some hearing in the last four years.”

I was thinking, So what! I can hear fine. Just give me my discharge.

Well, I couldn’t hear fine, and it progressively got worse. I began to realize something was wrong when I was in bed at night and I could hear crickets chirping—in January! That is when I discovered those “chirping crickets” were tinnitus—hearing loss that is not recoverable.

Where am I going with this?

Some funny stories, of course.

Being hard of hearing has led to some humorous situations, usually the result of me attempting to “fill in the blanks” of what I just heard someone say. My brain hears a few words of a six-word sentence and “logically” supplies what the other words must be. Trouble is, my brain usually gets it wrong.

One such incident occurred in Baton Rouge while we were displaced because of Katrina. We were having dinner one night with my sister-in-law, Beth, and her husband, Sid. Beth had invited some of her realtor friends to join us. None of them had arrived when Beth and I got into an argument over something she said and I didn’t understand. Actually, it may have been several things I didn’t understand, and she got flustered over me guessing wrong or asking her to repeat what she said.

About then one of her friends arrived, and Beth did the introductions. When she got to me, still a bit flustered, she said, “This is my brother-in-law, Lane, and he is hard of hearing” But she said the “hard of hearing” part loud for emphasis.

The poor woman took Beth’s comment in an overly literal fashion. Extending her hand to me, she said in a very loud voice, carefully enunciating each word, “HI—I—AM—MARY—GLAD—TO—MEET—YOU.”

We all laughed—except the very confused Mary.

Another incident happened just the other night. Janis had met with a contractor about doing some work on our fireplace chimney, and she was briefing me on what he had said. She concluded her report with, “And he lives nearby.”

To which I responded, “I really don’t care what his sexual preferences are as long as he does good work.”

She looked at me like I had two heads. “WHAT?”

“You said he lives with a guy.”

She lost all control then. Between bouts of laughter and teary-eyed she yells at me, “I said ‘he LIVES NEARBY,’ not he lives with a guy.”


This will not be the last of such stories. Standby for more…

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SCUBA — Part 3

Didn’t expect a P3, but I was cleaning out a storage building in preparation for tearing it down and found a treasure trove of “Memory Lane” stuff, everything from my old Air Force papers, to art I did as a kid, and some old mags and photos. Among the photos was my “missing” picture of the Porpoise returning to Grand Isle on the last day of the NOGI Spearfishing Tournament mentioned here.

Sadly, many in the picture are gone now.

Porpoise NOGI R


I am the second from the left, handling the rope. Moving right, Dee White is next, partially hidden behind the ladder. Buck Roy is standing on top of the cabin with Mickey Rodosti (SIC?), who is sitting and gazing into the harbor. Dee, Buck, and Mickey are gone now. Al Easterling is standing in the cabin door, and I think he is also deceased. I can’t remember the names of the other two “rope handlers.”

Long time ago and so many good memories….

And what do we learn from that? Life is short—I didn’t think I would grow old so fast! And we need to spend more time with friends, because there comes the day when they may not be around any more—or you may not be around any more. Get together, crack open a brewski, and swap “lies” and laugh while you still can.

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Filed under Friends, Growing Up, Kenner

Fire and Fireworks

Boys have a fascination with fire. The fact that we like to grill is an indication of that. One of the reasons I joined the Boy Scouts (Troop 176) was so I could play with fire. But I was attracted to fire long before that.

As kids in rural Kenner, we had plenty of opportunities to play with fire. We never missed an excuse to build a campfire in the Manard’s key lot and cook something, sometimes one of our fingers—ouch! Our parents always tried to discourage our fire building and cook outs in the key lot with a lame excuse, like the City of Kenner doesn’t allow fires.

“And? So what?” was our usual come back. What followed was about ten minutes of a half dozen kids badgering parents, who only wanted to be left alone and drink beer. “Oh, OK! But don’t come running to me with burnt fingers.”

And we had a one-match fire going within minutes. (Hint: gasoline helps.)

A favorite Boy Scout meal was foil stew. It was easy to prepare. You simply make a pouch out of some heavy duty foil (preferably) and fill it with chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots, and a little seasoning. Add just a small splash of water and seal it up real tight. (The water part became beer when we got older)

You get a good fire going and let it settle down to coals, spread those out and flop that pouch of foil-delicious on them, then add some more coals on top. Let that puppy cook for about 20 minutes and pull it off the fire.

Carefully slice the pouch open and peel back the sides to make a bowl—and dig in. I ate many a foil stew while in the Boy Scouts and with my boys on later camping or hunting trips.

Fire included fireworks, and in those days we had M-80s. If I had to guess, I would say an M-80 was close to a half a stick of dynamite! Well, it seemed like it, and was close enough you can’t get the “real” M-80s today. It is amazing we never blew fingers off, and yes, we did hold them, light-em-up and throw them, not advisable, especially with a “half-stick-o-dynamite” M-80.

Son and Margie Manard, Bobby and Melanie’s parents, had discarded a kitchen trash can. It was the kind made out of steel with a pop-up lid and a removable can insert for the garbage, also made out of heavy steel. It was in July when we had ready access to M-80s, and we decided to see how high an M-80 would propel that heavy steel, can insert. So, we got out in the middle of Sixth Street and flopped that can face down over a sizzling M-80. After which, we all ran for cover.


That can went straight up almost as high as the nearby trees were tall, forty feet or more! WOW! We gotta do that again! And we did; numerous more “agains,” until that can was all bloated looking and dented from M-80 detonations.

I was really into building plastic model airplanes, and another of my favorite uses for fireworks was to glue bottle rockets under the wings and make my plastic F-80 or P-51 fly. Trouble is, it never quite worked out like I expected. Getting the two bottle rockets, one on each wing, coordinated was something outside my skill set at eleven years old. My airplanes mostly went in circles as one rocket fired off before the other, and the in the opposite direction when the other finally lit up. Then the wings melted from the heat. That game got expensive, so I gave up.

This fascination with fire lasted even into my parenting period. I went on a father/son camping trip with my youngest son’s (Ryan) Scout troop. We stayed in the Group Camp Cabins at Fountainbleau State Park. Part of the weekend pitted the scouts against their dads in various scouting skills like first-aid, wilderness navigation, and, of course, fire building. The dads faced off against several teams of scouts on who could build a fire and get it going enough to burn through a thread stretched over the fire at eighteen inches above the ground. And we had to use flint and steel to start the fire. The scouts, not being clever like their devious dads, went the traditional route: first laid down some flammable material like dry leaves, then some kindling , then larger twigs, and finally some sticks.

In our scavenging through the woods for materials to build our fire, I discovered that dry Spanish Moss, the black stuff, burned like it was soaked in gasoline.

You know what’s coming.

With all our fires built and ready to fire up, the scouts looked questioningly at our mound of dry, black Spanish Moss, piled up high enough to almost touch the thread.

Ready, set, GO!

I struck flint to steel and FFOOOMMMPP! In a blaze of fiery glory, that thread disappeared in about three seconds flat.

We won.

Ah, the good old days. And I suddenly feel the need to fire up the Weber…

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Going Downtown

For us living in Kenner, even though “downtown” New Orleans was less than ten miles away, going “downtown” was somewhat akin to a trip to Jerusalem and held near religious significance. We made these trips maybe once a quarter.

We didn’t just hop in the car and head for Canal Street like we do today. This was more like an expedition, requiring careful preparation with a ritual-like execution.

First, it was expected to be an all day affair, leaving early in the morning and return about sundown.

And you dressed for the occasion.

That means the women wore nice dresses and fashionable shoes, usually heels. I was forced to forgo my shorts for nice trousers, a pressed shirt, and shoes and socks. And my hair was greased and combed.

My grandmother drove her Ford downtown. She ALWAYS had Fords; never knew her to own anything but Fords, and in the nearly thirty years of our shared time on earth, I can recall only three, and the first two had standard transmissions. We piled into her Ford and made the trip down Airline Highway to “downtown.”

She always parked in the same parking lot on the corner of Iberville and Burgundy. We then made a circuit of the stores on Canal Street, first the upriver side and then the downriver side. My favorite was Kress’ Five and Dime Department Store, which had a great toy selection. We usually ate lunch in the D.H. Holmes cafeteria and ended up back at the parking lot in the late afternoon loaded down with packages.

Many years later, when I started dating, one of our frequent destinations was downtown to one of the movie houses on Canal Street like the Joy, or the Saenger, or the Lowes, or the Orpheum on University Place, because they got the first run movies. In those days (late 1950s-early 60s), these dates required coats and ties for the men and nice dresses and heels for the ladies.

The Joy had a curving staircase to the balcony level (which was perfect for necking, BTW). One night, after the movie, when Janis and I were descending the stairs, I was not paying attention to my date as I should have been. As I made my way down the stairs, Janis, who was one step behind me, suddenly passed me on the way down. Trouble is she was bouncing down the stairs on her butt, skirt all in her face and high heels in the air. She reached the bottom before I could catch up to her.

That date did not end well.

But most other dates downtown did end well, usually for pizza at Gibby’s on North Rampart, but that’s another story.

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Playgrounds? What playgrounds?

I feel sorry for kids today. My son won’t let his daughter play outside alone, and they live in what most would consider a very safe neighborhood. It wasn’t like that back in the fifties, sixties and even later into the seventies. We came home from school, changed clothes, and disappeared into the neighborhood. Our parents never knew where we were, and we were never in any danger, except to ourselves, because of some of the stupid things we did. We sometimes stepped on a nail—tetanus shot. Cut a foot or hand on a piece of metal—tetanus shot. Burned a finger with a match or firecracker—tetanus shot. Fell in the ditch—tetanus shot. My dad dispensed so many tetanus shots and penicillin shots we were probably immune to every disease known to man. We lived through it, even thrived, and we certainly had fun, and our parents worried very little.

We never had any formal playgrounds. The whole world was our playground. Unless it was raining, we were outside. And we stayed outside, until it either got dark, or we were somehow rounded up by a parent.

Our homes had fairly large yards, but only rarely were they large enough to contain our activities. We needed and sought more room and more varied topography to play in—and, in Old Kenner back then, there was plenty of variety.

For organized sports, like football or baseball, we had at least two immediate choices. There was an open field on the corner of Sixth Street and Minor Street. It was plenty large enough for us to use for baseball and football until we grew old enough and strong enough that it became too confining and we risked putting a baseball through Mr. Giammalva’s window. No problem—when we needed larger, we had a whole city block to play in. Our Lady of Perpetual Help School now occupies that block. When we were growing up in Kenner, it was completely unoccupied by any permanent structure.

Kids love the woods, and we had plenty of wooded lots to choose from. When we were really young, we had Joe Lorio’s wooded lot between my grandmother’s house and the Manard’s house. It was small but large enough we could hide from parents and do kid stuff in it.

After that we had the Manard’s key lot behind the double belonging to the Manards and the Legasses. It was only lightly wooded but remote enough to be a wonderful playground. Next door was a huge (to us) wooded lot facing Williams Street. When we were old enough to be allowed machetes and hatchets we chopped down small trees in that lot and built forts in the Manard’s key lot.

On that aforementioned wooded lot on Williams, one year they went in and bulldozed most of the trees and pushed them into big piles and left them there like gracious gifts for us kids to play in. We scampered over those piles of trees with our hatchets and machetes and built even bigger forts to play army in.

Every summer the Lagasses would bring in a load of spillway dirt and dump it in their key lot, and they “allowed” us kids to level and distribute it for them. That process started with “dirt wars.” There was enough clay in the dirt we could make balls and throw them at each other like snowballs. And they hurt! Then we dug small tunnels and built little villages in it to play with our toy trucks and cars. At dusk, we all went home covered with river sand and tracked it into our respective houses. My mother hated those dirt piles! (I am still trying to figure out how they got that dump truck back there?)

On Minor Street near the IC tracks, two blocks from my home, was another wooded lot. Beside it was the closest thing we had to a creek in our little world, a nice deep ditch with flowing clear water containing small fish and crawfish.

Me, Manard, Joey 1953In the summer our “uniform of choice” was shorts—period—no shoes, no shirts. That was from the end of school in May until it started again in September. At the beginning of summer our feet were tender and very sensitive from a year confined to shoes, and our skin was pale white. By the end of summer our feet were so calloused we could run across the clamshell-covered streets and feel no pain, and we were nearly as dark as some of the African Americans in Kenner.

Doors were not locked unless you were leaving your house for an extended period of time. We slept with our windows open and an attic fan roaring in the hall drawing the “cool” night air in through the open windows.

We had no TV. The elderly Manards were the first to get a TV in our part of Kenner. (Why them, I have no idea?) We had one or two stations broadcasting only a few hours a day. It was a novelty for us kids, but outside was far more interesting.

People lived their leisure lives outside or at least semi-outside on screened porches. The Manards and Legasses living across the street were always on their front porch or in their small patio behind the house. My grandparents had a screened back porch and they spent as much time as they could out there in rocking chairs.

Life was so different back then (1950s-1960s), so much less stressful, and much more interesting for kids than playing on an iPad.

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Jeepin’ – Boys and Toys

All of my childhood I wanted a Jeep. In high school, I dreamed of my first car being a Jeep, but alas, it was a ’57 Chevy, but that’s another story.

After college and four years in the Air Force, Janis and I settled back in NOLA on Jefferson Street. We had no money beyond what we needed, and the Lord supplied all our needs, but He had not supplied me with a Jeep.

Along about 1975, my buddy, Buck Roy bought a Toyota Land Cruiser, the old flat fender model, which was almost a Jeep. And then my sister bought a little red Jeep. That did it! I HAD to have a Jeep then and decided the Lord needed some help.

M38A1 Jeep R

Heath and our M38A1 after a trip to the Bonnet Carré one Saturday.

I found a very used, 1952, military surplus M38A1 Jeep for sale that had recently been freed from the Mississippi Army National Guard. It was so recently freed, it wasn’t even street legal, lacking some necessary lights. Top speed was 55mph. That was mainly because of the very low gearing in the axels. Its military 24 volt electrical system had been converted to 12 volt, and it did have a new soft top. Tires were almost new and in great condition, and it ran good. I bought it and commenced to make it street legal and eventually got a brake tag for it.

It did, however, have about 200 coats of OD paint on it. In case you have never been in the military, it works like this: “IG inspection coming up? Paint everything!” (Because nothing looks as good as something just painted.) That did help prevent rust. I eventually added a layer of my own when I camouflaged it using rust red primer, yellow primer, and flat black. I then added white pinstripes to accent the body panels. It actually looked cool. Well, I thought so.

Jeeps ain’t made for the road; they are made for the off-road, and the nearest such off-road was the Bonnet Carré Spillway west of NOLA. The fine silt sand in the Spillway could get past seals and eat bearings, so it was one of the worst places we could go play, but it was all we had. And we went running through every mud hole we could find to see who would get stuck. I am proud to say my little M38A1 never got stuck. Put that puppy in low range, first gear, and it would climb a greased flag pole.

Elder son, Heath, was about six then. Ryan was only a year old or so. Heath made more than a few trips to the Spillway with “Uncle Buck” and me, but poor Ryan was too young. On one trip, we got hooked up with some guys with their jacked-up, big-tired pickups, and they challenged us by running through stuff they figured would stop the little M38A1 or the Toyota. We fooled them.

One particularly hole of deep water, about a block long, nearly did us in, however. Heath and I dived in, and water came over the hood, but we puttered along with the fan blades of that little Hurricane Four Cylinder Engine slapping water and making fluttering sounds.

“Dad! We have water inside!

I looked over at Heath, and he had his feet up on the seat, and water was spilling in under the door. That was OK, because I had drain holes in the floor. Besides, we couldn’t stop or turn back. All we could do was plow ahead with the water rolling over the hood and hope the electrical system stayed dry long enough to get us through to dry land

It did. We climbed out with the engine sputtering and spitting. I revved it a few times to keep it running, and eventually it dried out enough to run smoothly.

The big-tired truckers shook their collective heads and said, “Never figured you would make it through that.”

That Jeep was my daily driver. I went to work in the city in it every day, and with no AC—and I was wearing a suit! We played in the Spillway on Saturday, and I spent Sunday under it, fixing what we broke. I loved that Jeep, but…

After a few years I was making enough to buy a new vehicle, and Janis near fainted when I announced I was buying a new 1978 Ford Bronco—four-wheel drive, of course. That was the first year they came out with the full size Bronco like the Chevy Blazer. I had one of those, too, a 1978 Chevy Blazer to be exact, but that was nearly twenty years later. Heath found that one in Texas.

The Jeep had to go.

The Bronco was a lot more comfortable—it had AC—and it became the vehicle we used for all family trips. Heath and I made many a deer hunt in that Bronco, sleeping in beds I made in the back. While I never got the little Jeep stuck, I managed to get that big heavy Bronco stuck bad enough it took two vehicles to pull it out one time. It was buried down to the tub, and the tires could find nothing to grab.

After the Bronco came the Jeep Cherokee Chief, also four-wheel drive. Made a bunch of deer hunts in that one too. After that no more four-wheel drive until the short-lived ‘78 Blazer mentioned above. It didn’t like humid Louisiana and quickly developed cancer. That was after it blew a head gasket on the way back from Alabama, and I had to have the heads rebuilt. I would have kept it if it had not developed the rust problem.

I figured I was maybe past having another four-wheel drive vehicle. The Spillway had long since been closed to such use, and I had given up deer hunting. But I had one last fling with a 2005 Chevy Crew Cab Z71, but I only used the four-wheel drive once when it mattered, and that was on I-20 on the way back from Abilene in a snow storm.

Both Heath and Ryan caught the Jeep bug, and both now have Jeeps. Heath’s is an older model that he is doing a body-off resto on, and Ryan’s is a newer model he has jacked up and put big rubber under it.

I have nothing now but a two-wheel drive Ford Crew Cab, but…I’ve been thinking of getting another M38A1, but one that someone has already restored.

Don’t tell Janis.

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