Tag Archives: Kenner

Manard Lagasse Hated Getting Shots!

Me, Manard, Joey 1953I had a brief discussion with Elton Lagasse, Manard’s older brother, at a meeting the other night, and he reminded me of a story from our childhood. Manard had a needlephobia, a really bad needlephobia. I never really considered Manard to be a coward. He was always there with the rest of us, doing all the stupid and risky things boys did back then, but he really feared getting shots. (Manard is in the middle in the image on the right.)

As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, my dad, Dr. M.B. Casteix, used to periodically round up all the kids of our extended family for inoculations for just about every disease known to man. Those were followed in a few weeks, or a few years, maybe both, with booster shots. And then there were the tetanus shots for our frequent wounds and rusty nail punctures in our bare feet, and we were always barefoot during the summer. Seemed like we were always getting shots for something when we were kids.

The call would go out, and all us kids would be required to report for inoculations, usually on Saturday afternoon or at night after the my dad’s office closed. The roundup included Manard and Elton Lagasse, Bobby and Melanie Manard, Kibby Manard, and sometimes even my cousins, Stephanie and Robin, and sisters, Jeanne and Martia, who were all quite a bit younger than the first mentioned group.

All of us had “side-entrance privileges,” which means we could go in the side door of the office. Usually escorted by parents, we marched into the last examining room at the side entrance end of the hall and lined up for our shots. On one of the first such inoculation roundups, Manard managed to be at the head of the line, and he was looking a bit nervous—maybe a lot nervous?

CabinetMB went to his instrument cabinet (which now resides in my bathroom) for a syringe. Whatever it was he came out with, Manard evidently thought it resembled something on the order of a turkey baster with a big needle, because his eyes got got as big as saucers, and after only a brief moment of indecision, he concluded he wanted no part of that thing and promptly decamped.

Panic stricken, he headed out the examining room for the side door, but Henry Lagasse, his dad, waiting there for him to take him home, happened to be blocking his way. Upon seeing his dad standing there with a questioning expression on his face, Manard did an about face and headed up the hall that ran the length of my dad’s office, but that offered no means of escape; the front doors were locked. Henry knew something was up and was in hot pursuit of his youngest child. He caught up to Manard in the little room at the end of the hall where the bathroom and coke machine were (Heath has that over in Texas, the coke machine, that is).

Somehow, Manard got past his dad, bolted out of the coke room, failed to navigate the turn and bounced off the hall wall, then headed back down the hall at a full-tilt run for the side door—and needle freedom! About then MB innocently stepped out of the examining room with the syringe in his hand to see what was up with Manard. As soon as Manard got a  look at “Dr. Frankenstein” with his turkey baster hypodermic, he slid to a halt, his Keds making little screeching sounds on the highly-waxed, asphalt tile floor. He did another about face only to run smack into his dad, who was still in hot pursuit but obviously gaining on him.

Henry manhandled the loudly protesting and squirming Manard into the torture chamber—er, I mean examining room—for his dose of whatever it was we were getting that day. MB stuck Manard, and he squealed like a stuck pig.

Kip and ManardThe rest of us kids stood around kind of big-eyed and slack-jawed in complete awe of what had just transpired. Most of us were thinking maybe we should be considering some kind of escape plan ourselves? But the door was by then well covered by at least two parents, and seeing no way out, we reluctantly got our shots with only minimal whimpering. They stung a little, but we lived.

The whole affair became a source of humor for all of us but Manard, of course. All future inoculation summons were somewhat looked forward to, because we wanted to see what Manard would do, and he never failed to impress us with his fear of the needle.

The last photo is of Kibby (on left) and Manard with my dad’s office behind them. Thanks to cuz Bobby.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner

Buck Barbre and Me

Buck Barbre RThere have been two Bucks in my life (not counting the deer). Both are deceased. One was my good friend Michael “Buck” Roy. The other was my grandfather, Stephen Jefferson “Buck” Barbre. He was known as “Prof” by most of his friends and acquaintances, because he was an educator. But I knew him as “Buck,” not “Gramps” or “Grandfather” but just “Buck.” My sisters and cousins also called him “Buck.” And no, I don’t know why.

Barbre is French, and the family tree shows it spelled several different ways. Buck Barbre hailed from McCrea, Louisiana in Pointe Coupee Parish. He went to college at the Southwestern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette, Louisiana. It was called the University of Southwestern Louisiana when I attended in the sixties, and is now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He later attended Mississippi A&M and Louisiana State University for advanced degrees.

Upon graduation, he took a position as a teacher at Carencro in Lafayette Parish and then another in Washington Parish, then finally at Jena High School in LaSalle Parish. There he met and fell in love with Rubye Ina Boddie. They married in 1922. From 1922 to 1924 he was principal at Loranger High School in Tangipahoa Parish.


In 1924 a new high school was built in Kenner, Louisiana in Jefferson Parish, and he took the position as it’s first principal. That building was designed by architect William T. Nolan who designed a number of buildings in Louisiana that are on the National Register of Historical Places.

When Buck and his young family moved to Kenner, they stayed in what I will call a “boarding house” until they could find proper housing. I think this boarding house was somewhere along the tracks not far from the Cristina Ice House. The only thing I remember them saying about this place was how the water from the cistern tasted funny. That was because they found a dead rat in it.

They then moved from there to a rented house on Third Street about a block from Clay Street. At this time the levee was being pushed back closer to Third Street with First and Second Streets disappearing into the Mississippi River. Like many back then, the Barbre family had chickens, and the levee construction crew overdid the dynamite just a tad and blew a hunk of tree stump over their house and killed their rooster in the back yard.

From there they moved to Williams Street between Sixth Street and Airline. They had chickens there too, and family lore has Buck catching a chicken-stealing possum by the tail as he exited the coop. He dispatched him with a whack on the head with a hammer.

They then built a house on the corner of Sixth Street and Minor. Son Lockbaum built that house. That was around 1947 or 48. They remained there until both Buck and later “Mother,” as we called Rubye, passed away in the seventies.

When Jefferson Parish built East Jefferson High School in 1955, they picked Buck to be its first principal. I graduated from there in 1962.

He never drove a car. My grandmother or a friend always chauffeured him around. She took him back and forth to Kenner HS, and later, Joe Yenni drove him to EJ and back. And no, I don’t know why he never drove. We were never given an explanation when we asked.

Buck and I were very close. My mother and I lived with them between her divorce from her first husband and when she married Dr. M.B. Casteix in 1950. She worked at Keller Zanders on Canal Street, so Mother and Buck took care of me while she was at work.

I had a pedal car of sorts that was like an airplane with stubby little wings and tail. I was only about four and got into some paint and proceeded to paint it white. Mother caught me down in the garage with paint splattered all over my airplane/pedal car, the garage, and me. “What are you doing?” she asked. “Painting my airplane, and I have to hurry and get this done before Buck gets home and catches me,” was my lame answer.

School Bell 2RBuck retired from EJ in 1964. At his retirement party, they presented him with a copy of the portrait that had hung in the office at Kenner High School. They also gave him the handheld school bell he used to ring to start classes at Kenner HS before they put in the electric bell system. That’s it on the right. During the many speeches at his party, someone asked him why he waited so long to retire, probably expecting some pontificating from him about personal dedication to the job and the kids of Jefferson Parish. His replied with a chuckle, “I wanted to make sure Lane graduated from high school.”

Buck died in December of 1972 right after I got out of the Air Force. He went in for heart surgery and died of complications from the surgery. They could not account for all the surgical sponges after they closed him up and had to open him up again to search for the missing sponge. They did not find it inside him but later found it in a trashcan. He never recovered from that. He lingered on for a few more days, and one of the last things he asked was, “Is Lane home yet?” I had been discharged and was home two weeks before his surgery, but he was so disoriented he did not remember. Christmas that year was the worst I have ever experienced.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner

“Nanna” and “Tanda”

Anna and Candy were our two dogs when I was a kid. If you were my mother, they were named “Nanna” and “Tanda”, which was my mother’s baby-talk pronunciation of Anna and Candy. They were medium size dogs, about 35 pounds, short-haired mix breeds. The vet thought they had a lot of Fox Terrier in them.

Anna came first. She showed up as a stray around 1951. My dad tried his best to run her off, but she always came back (probably because my mother was feeding her behind his back). Eventually, Anna became “our” dog, and she was pregnant—naturally.

Anna had five puppies in the closet that housed the hot water heater. It was warm in there and she needed it because it was late winter when she dropped her litter. MB managed to give away all five puppies, but my mother managed to get one back. Instead of black and white markings like her mother, this pup was rust and white and marked almost identical down to the thumb-sized spot in the middle of the white blaze on the forehead. My mother named the pup Candy (or Tanda, if you prefer).

Anna and Candy were not supposed to ever get in the bed, but they did and moved in with my mother and dad. Consider that back then, there were no Queen or King-sized beds; at least we didn’t have one. My parents slept in a double with the two dogs.

They were excellent guard dogs and protected their territory with ferocious-sounding barking. Our yard was fenced on all sides but one. My dad’s patients parked along Sixth Street or in front of the office on Williams Street. To this day, I am not sure how he even had any patients. If they parked on Sixth Street, and Anna and Candy were out, they had to “run the gauntlet” past the two dogs barking and sounding for all the world like they would take an arm off if not for the fence. It was so bad that Janis, my future bride, would cross the street when she had to pass my house to visit her friend on Williams Street.

Anna and Candy lived a long time, and where we went they went, and that included our vacations whether to our house in Waveland, Mississippi or a brief trip to Panama City, Florida, and these dogs loved the water.

We had a summer ritual of spending two weeks at our house in Waveland, which was my dad’s vacation. That, of course, included the dogs. We usually managed to go “floundering” at least once. That means we attempted to catch some unsuspecting flounders sleeping in the shallows at night, which was mostly not very likely. That was because we had the two dogs with us.

We would have our “trusty” Coleman lantern that MB would always have to install new wicks in and spent the greater part of the afternoon getting it to work properly. We had homemade flounder spears, which were old broom handles with a sharpened nail stuck in the end. Being a boy, I always went for the “harpoon,” leaving the nets to my two younger sisters. MB carried the lantern. My mother attempted to manage the dogs, unsuccessfully, of course.

So, there we are wading around in the dark in knee-deep water looking for flounders. In all the summers we did this, we never-ever went home with a flounder. I am thinking it might be because Anna and Candy were busy loping and splashing around ahead of us in complete abandon to our “serious” attempts to harpoon a flounder! No self-respecting flounder would hang around after such advance warning.

The dogs also went with us when we went swimming. MB always had a boat and never missed a chance to use it, even if it was just to run out of the mouth of Bayou Caddy, hook a right and drop anchor off the beach there that was not accessible unless you had a boat.

In the late fifties and sixties, it was a twenty-footer he had custom built by an old man up near Hanson City. He named it the Marjelou a combination name made from the names of my two sisters (Martia and Jeanne) and my mother, Neva Lou. (Boys don’t get their names on boats.) It was open with only a windscreen and a small deck forward, MB’s ideal fishing configuration. Aft he had two mismatched outboards, an Evinrude and a Johnson. (MB was frugal; he already owned one and picked up the other dirt cheap; why buy new just to have a matching set?)

On either side of the transom were two small decks about two feet square. Those were where Anna and Candy rode. Most of the time they managed to stay up there, but sometimes while underway, we would lose one or more dogs. No one ever actually saw them when they went overboard, so we were never sure if they fell off or they just abandoned ship to frolic in the water. It would be just like them to do the latter. Either way, we had to turn back and search for the missing dog(s). We always found them blissfully swimming along.

Like most dogs, Anna and Candy loved to hang out the car window and do the “wind-in-the-face” thing all dogs seem to get off on. Back then we had no AC in the car, so the windows were always down. One day while returning from Bay St. Louis along the beach road, Anna was hanging out the waterside of the car and must have had a notion to go swimming? She jumped out the window. We were doing about twenty, and she hit the concrete and rolled down the street. We stopped, called her and she ran and jumped in the car, none the worse for wear.

They were good dogs–unless you ask my wife.

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Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner, Waveland

He be deid!

By all rights, my friend Buck should have been dead in 1969 when he was involved in a bad accident on his motorcycle. He was working in Morgan City and commuting to NOLA on his days off, spending those with friends Al Bartlett and Sam Hopkins, who were living the bohemian lifestyle in the French Quarter.

It was winter and cold, and Buck’s sole means of transportation was a Harley Sportster. He bundled up in his shepherd’s coat, the kind made out of sheep’s skin with the rough leather on the outside and the wool side facing inward. For added insulation he lined the inside his coat with newspaper, which makes excellent insulation, by the way. Thus bundled up, he headed for NOLA.

As he topped the overpass over I-10 where Airline Highway becomes Tulane Avenue on the New Orleans side, he saw the South Carrollton Avenue light was green for him and laid on the gas to be sure he made the light.

But, someone ran the light, and Buck t-boned them. The Harley came to a complete stop, but Buck didn’t. He flipped over the car, landed on his back, and slid down Tulane Avenue thusly, his fists still firmly grasping the Harley’s handgrips, which he had pulled off when he “disconnected” from the bike. He came to a stop abreast of an elderly black man who had been making his way towards Carrollton on the sidewalk along Tulane.

And Buck lay there motionless.

The old man hobbled over to Buck and bent over him for a closer look. Satisfied with his examination, he looked up towards the gathering crowd near the motorcycle and car crash scene and yelled, “He be deid!”

Buck opened his eyes and said, “No he’s not.”

And he wasn’t. Surprisingly unscathed, he had only a few scratches and a ruined coat, which, with the newspapers, had contributed to his lack of significant injuries. He got up, called his dad, who showed up with his pickup, into which they loaded the mangled bike, and went home.

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Filed under Friends, Growing Up, Kenner

Today, I lost my best friend …

Lane & Buck ca 1963Michael (Buck) Roy and I have been friends for nearly 60 years now. During that time, we were like the closest of brothers. In fact, he lived with my family for a spell when we were teenagers. He went to be with the Lord this morning around 9am.

In a way, I am glad he’s gone, because he suffered with Lewy Body Dementia. He was aware he was quite literally losing his mind, and as expected, it scared him, and not many things scared Buck. It would scare me, too. I know he would not want to live in his own private hell of non-existence, dealing with the frightful hallucinations he was having as a result of the LBD.

He’s at peace now.

It is hard to put into words one’s feelings for another after being so close for so long. We shared so many adventures together, some of which I have written about here and here and here. (And I will write more as they come to mind.) We spent many a night around a campfire, discussing things that made no sense to us and things that did, solving the world’s problems and maybe helping aggravate a few. Our minds worked so much alike, it was scary. I suppose that is what drew us to each other.

Buck, which is what all of us who knew him from childhood called him, was one of the most outgoing people I ever knew. He could strike up a conversation with anyone about anything, even if he knew nothing of the subject. It was very hard to not like Buck. It was very hard not to smile when around him for any but the briefest periods. We did smile a lot, and we did laugh a lot, and we even wept on each other’s shoulders when we were hurting inside.

We knew the other would be there when we needed help, have each other’s back in a fight, even down to burying the body if it ever came to that.

Buck is gone now, but will never be forgotten. The best part of his passing is I know I will see him again in eternity. You see, when he was a teenager, Buck accepted Christ as his Savior. He went forward at a Billy Graham Crusade in New Orleans. Our separation will, therefore, be only temporary. And once again we can sit around a campfire, this time in Heaven, and swap tales.

In the meantime, I am going to really miss him.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner

Crusin’ down Ole Highway 90.

Returning from a week in Blue Mountain, Florida this Sunday, we were alerted to a severe traffic jam on I-10 at the Louisiana/Mississippi state line by my son, Ryan, and DIL who were over an hour ahead of us. We shifted over to US. Highway 90 at the Stennis exit to avoid some of this. Should have gotten off at the Bay St. Louis exit, because we hit the backed up traffic right after passing Bay St. Louis.

Oh well…

When I was a kid and before I-10 existed, we made many a trip to and from Waveland, MS using this route, so crusin’ down Ole Highway 90 was a trip down memory lane for me. I was reminded of those many Friday nights going east and Sunday nights returning to NOLA on that dark two-lane highway.

We always had a station wagon, which was the van or SUV of my day. It was always a nine passenger with a rear facing third seat. That was my favorite place to ride on those trips. The middle seat was folded down, and quilts were spread over the flat floor for my two little sisters to sleep on the way. They shared the space with our two dogs and sometimes a bird or that blasted rabbit mentioned elsewhere.

Seatbelts? We didn’t need no stinking seatbelts! Besides, the cars weren’t even equipped with them back then.

Did I mention luggage? No, because I can’t recall us ever carrying any. We must have had some little something somewhere, but it never took up much space. We had extras of almost everything stored in our Waveland house, so we don’t need no stinking luggage! Well, not much anyway.

No AC in the cars either, at least not in ours. Only the “very wealthy” bought cars with AC back then (1950s), and MB was too frugal for that. I can recall several times we noticed water dripping from other cars, and being ever concerned for the safety of others, we flagged them down to report the strange water dripping from under their cars. Inevitably, they would roll down their windows (because they had AC) and say, “What?”

To which we replied, “Water! You have water dripping from your car!” And we continued on, thinking we had saved the lives of some poor family that we were sure their car was close to exploding—or something.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the dripping water was condensation from their AC!

We didn’t know any better!

One story MB told of a trip to Waveland has always stuck in my mind. He and his friend, Pete Constancy, built our house in Waveland, mostly from scraps of a house they tore down in NOLA that Pete owned. They carefully removed the window frames and sashes and stacked them on a homemade trailer. The trailer was, shall we say, a bit bouncy. They stacked the windows flat, not on edge like they should have. Stacked so, the glass could not stand the bouncing, and they arrived in Waveland with every pane broken, and Highway 90 strewn with broken glass from NOLA to Waveland.

My sisters, Jeanne and Martia, and my cousins, Melanie and Bobby, will remember the “Pama-Pama Bridge,” which I think was the one over the Chef Menteur Pass. (One of the four will comment and correct me if I am wrong.) Why was it called the “Pama Pama Bridge?” Because your car tires made “pama-pama” sounds as they passed over the expansion joints. I never knew of any other bridge that sounded quite like that.

I went over it today, and, sadly, it doesn’t go “pama-pama” anymore. Another childhood memory lost forever!

Motorcyclists have it right when they say, “It isn’t the destination, it’s the trip!” We are always in a rush to get somewhere. We need to spend more time on the Old Highway 90s of our lives and enjoy the ride.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner, Waveland

Box Turtles

I am referring to highland terrapins, more commonly called “box turtles.” The turtle saga began about 1957 or so with an article in the Dixie Roto Sunday Magazine supplement in the Times-Picayune. The article was about box turtles in the garden and how the author used them to control the bug population. Anything that gave my mother an excuse for another pet was welcomed in our house, except by the pet-longsuffering MB, of course.

I looked at the pictures in the article and was immediately struck by the fact that I had frequently seen these box turtles while I was roaming the woods around Waveland. I made the mistake of telling my mother this and was immediately dispatched to hunt box turtles on the next weekend we were in Waveland, a task I gleefully accepted as hunting was in my blood. In short order, I collected at least a dozen box turtles, which we took back to Kenner to do bug control duty in my mother’s gardens.

What seemed like a good idea really wasn’t. The problem was our yard was not completely fenced. There was a stretch between the house and my dad’s office of about 20 feet with no fence, an obvious avenue of escape for our new bug patrol. Our solution was to identify the turtles as our own, so I painted “Casteix” on the back of each turtle’s shell with a different “serial number” for each on top. That actually worked for a while. We would get phone calls from neighbors over a block away to come and retrieve our turtle.

That got old, but MB had a solution. By then he had bought into the turtle/pet thing and knew we had to deal with the turtle escape issue to maintain peace in the household.

A couple of years previously, MB had built a “swimming pool” for the kids. It was a “swimming pool” in name only, thus the quotation marks. It was simply a concrete tub about the size of a king-sized bed and maybe 18 inches deep. Since it lacked a filtering system and any means to drain it once the water became fouled, it failed in its design function.

Now, my dad was a brilliant man in many respects. He skipped two grades in school and entered LSU two years younger than his classmates. He was a great family doctor. In the days before all these tests, he could make an accurate diagnosis of illness with only a brief examination and a few carefully worded questions. Other doctors often described him as one of the best diagnosticians they ever knew. But as a “tinkerer,” he lacked finesse, the alleged “swimming pool” is a good example.

The useless “swimming pool” would become the new home for the turtles and was christened the “turtle pond.” These were land turtles and needed “land” to live on, so MB built an island in the middle of the pool leaving a moat all around. My mother populated it with various kinds of plants and had MB erect a statue of St. Francis in the middle of the island.

Baby Box TurtleThe turtles moved in and thrived. My mother feeding them cat food daily must have helped. They mated and laid box turtle eggs and we had new generations of turtles! (The one in the picture is a baby.)

Eventually, my folks moved out of Kenner to River Ridge. In fact, they moved no less than four more times, and my dad had to build a new turtle pond at each house. (This was their “gypsy phase.”)

Meanwhile, I grew up, went to college, married, went in the Air Force and moved back home after discharge, settling in Old Jefferson. Finally, my dad got tired of building turtle ponds and moving turtles, so I inherited them. I wasn’t asked, I was told, “Here are your turtles.”

Well, I wasn’t about to build any turtle ponds, but I did have a fenced vegetable garden area inside my fenced yard, and the turtles went in there to “free range.” And they prospered, mated and laid box turtle eggs! Our boys learned about sex watching box turtles mate.

The turtles also came in handy for Heath’s and Ryan’s birthday parties. I would collect up as many turtles I could find, paint numbers on their shells and the kids would have turtle races. Each kid picked a turtle, which we placed in a circle in the grass. The first turtle to make it out of the circle won a prize for its “owner.” The kids loved it and those we run into years later often mention our turtle races when they were young.

Disaster struck. We had a couple of really cold winters. Box turtles bury themselves for the winter and most did not survive. But a few must have, as we would sometimes encounter a young box turtle in the yard for years after.

In 1986 we moved from that house to one about four blocks away as the crow flies. Every few years I find a box turtle roaming around the yard. When I do I release it into the fenced area of our yard. Either they get out again or are really good at hiding because I very rarely find one inside the fence again. However, last summer Janis found a baby box turtle in our garden. We must have a mated pair somewhere in our yard!

I am sure the ones I am finding today are descended from that original bunch I brought back to Kenner from Waveland.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Waveland

School Daze

Few who knew me also knew the principal of East Jefferson High School where I attended, Stephen J. Barbre, was my grandfather. I told a few fellow students, and only those teachers who were from Kenner were aware of that fact. I liked it that way. I flew under the radar most of the time. My art teacher, Mrs. Grant (not from Kenner), somehow knew, because I found out years later she took one of my projects to my grandfather and showed it to him. She thought it was well done, except I had a huge misspelled word in it. Whoops!

EJ had a cafeteria, and the food wasn’t that bad; it wasn’t good either. One day I forgot my lunch money at home. Lunch was only 25¢ or so in 1960. So, I made my way to the principal’s office. As I entered I spied Buck (what I called my grandfather) standing behind the counter in the outer office talking to one of the admin types. There were maybe six or eight other people present on both sides of the counter. I caught his eye and approached, saying simply, “I forgot my lunch money.” He reached in his pocket and gave me enough to cover it and maybe buy some candy after.

After I left, one of the school secretaries who witnessed the whole thing and did not know me began to chastise my grandfather. “Now, Mr. Barbre, you ought not do that. You know you will never see that money again.”

He replied, “Yes, you are probably right, but that was my grandson.”


What I knew about electricity at seventeen years old could be summed up in one sentence. “It bites me when I mess with it!”

That bit of education came earlier in life when I was lying in bed reading a book one day. I had a reading lamp clamped to the headboard above my head, but there was no bulb in it, and I am not sure why. It was daytime, and the overhead light was on, so I really had no need of it.

As I read, holding the book with my left hand, my right was over my head clicking that bulbless light off and on and off and on. Eventually, I realized I did not know if it was off or on. Distracted from my reading by that nagging question, I looked up at the hole where the bulb should have been and wondered, is it on or off?

Sometimes I do things with no regard for the ultimate consequences. Dumb things. Really dumb things.

I was compelled by my warped sense of curiosity to know the status of the light switch. The index finger of my right hand pointed at that gaping hole.

Oh what the hell! In it went.


Those wires were just calling to me…

Flash forward a few years to high school, and I am seventeen. I had just finished my lunch and was headed back to wait for the bell to go to my next class. As I climbed the stairs, I noticed the light switch at the top that controlled the second floor hallway lights had no switch cover. In fact, it had no switch either. Bare wires poked out from the box, beckoning me to come and mess with them.

And like that empty light socket years before, I gave in to their siren call.

From previous experience and a bare minimum of common sense, I had learned enough about electricity to understand touching bare wires was guaranteed to generate a shock, so I grabbed the two wires, careful to grasp them in the insolated area. I then proceeded to touch the ends or the two wires together, and low and behold, the lights in the hall went on and off and on and off as I touched and separated the two wires.

As mentioned, sometimes I do things with no regard for the ultimate consequences. It never occurred to me that what I was doing could possibly draw unwanted attention.

It did.

A tap on my shoulder, and I turned to see a teacher I did not know glaring at me. Must have been a new one, because he was quite young. “Let’s go to the office,” he said as sternly as he could.

I was escorted down to the principal’s office. This was a really trivial infraction. I didn’t remove the cover or the switch, and a warning would have been more than sufficient, but I went along without protest. Obviously, this new teacher didn’t know who I was, or he would not have wasted his time, and I did not enlighten him. I was told to have a seat in the outer “customer” area, while my “arresting” teacher went in to tell on me to Mr. Breaux, the vice principal and disciplinarian at East Jefferson High School.

The “arresting” teacher soon came out and, savoring his victory, kind of sneered at me as he passed. Mr. Breaux followed a few minutes later.

Mr. Breaux knew who I was. He took one look at the offender, me, shook his head and said, “Lane, I understand you are studying to be an electrician?”

I grinned sheepishly.

He said, “Get out of here!”

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Easter 1958I have two sisters. Jeanne is the elder of the two and seven years younger than me. Martia followed Jeanne by almost two years. Because they are so much younger than I am, I didn’t have a lot to do with them, plus they seemed always underfoot, especially when I started dating. Actually, very annoying would be a better description. They were always up to something, and I suspect Jeanne was the instigator since she was the oldest. I have already posted about the girls and the Dwarf Parrot, and here follows a few more Jeanne and Martia incidents I can remember. I’m sure more will come to me.

Snow in July?

Some of you may recall Ivory Snow. It was a laundry detergent that was in the form of soap flakes rather than granules or liquid like most laundry detergents today. The stuff looked like you took a pocketknife to a bar of Ivory Soap and cut off thin flakes about the size of a fingernail. Except for its flake form, it had all the usual properties of a bar of soap.

I have no idea why they did it; you will have to ask Jeanne; but they took a whole box of Ivory Snow and spread it (the WHOLE box) on the oak flooring all around the dining room table. THEN, they took their tricycles and rode round and round the dining room table through the Ivory Snow turning it back into a bar of soap, albeit one that was now a very large and thin donut shape.

I think this transpired while my mother was sleeping and MB was on his morning calls. I have no idea how MB got all that ground-in soap off those hardwood floors.

“Do you know where those girls are?”

My grandmother and grandfather lived on the corner of Sixth Street and Minor at the other end of the block from us. My grandfather never drove a car, and no one would ever explain why. Of course, that led to all manner of speculation. My grandmother drove him everywhere he went, or he bummed a ride with someone. Since he was the principal at Kenner High School, my grandparents were always up early, and Buck (what we called him, Prof Barbre to the rest of Kenner) was at school before most everyone else.

On the way home from dropping him at school one morning, my grandmother drove by our house on Sixth Street. It was January and cold, and my mother got a wakeup call from her mother. “Neva Lou, do you know where those girls are?” she asked in a very demanding tone of voice, a voice she had perfected through years of asking similar questions.

My sisters were not yet school age, so my groggy mother replied, “In bed?”

To which my grandmother replied with an even harsher tone, “No, they are not! They are running around in the front yard buck-assed naked, and it is cold outside!”

No, I have no idea why they were doing that. You will have to ask them.


Back in the fifties everyone smoked, including my mother and dad. My mother’s favorite brand was Chesterfields. MB favored Lucky Strikes as I recall. Brands were, of course, unimportant to Jeanne and Martia, they just wanted to pretend smoke cigarettes, which usually meant my mother’s because they were left laying around. The girls, only about five and three at the time, would have several cigarettes in their mouths at one time, and they were all slobbery wet with little girl spit from saliva glands over stimulated by the taste of tobacco.

One time in Waveland, they were doing their cigarette slobber thing, and big brother decided to teach them a lesson about the evils of smoking. This was another of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” things. As usual, each had at least three cigarettes in their mouths, so I lit them all! Two puffs later and just about the time my mother entered the room, both hurled cigarettes and breakfast all over the kitchen.

Needless to say, I got punished, but the girls never touched a cigarette again, at least until they got a lot older.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner, Waveland

That Sinking Feeling

Lane & Buck ca 1963We were in our camping phase. Roughly translated that means we used camping to get out from under the supervision of our parents to do stupid things—mostly at night. To our parents, it seemed innocent and wholesome enough. “They went camping. Isn’t that nice?”

Camping meant: Fire! Meat! Um! Good! Sleeping under the stars! You know, that whole primeval thing boys are so into?

It began innocent enough as “camping” in the Manard’s key lot, then came the Boy Scouts, but our Scout leaders weren’t all that much into “roughing it.” The fact that they had been “roughing it” in WWII only a few years before may have had something to do with their lack of interest in pup tents and sleeping bags. They much preferred the cabins at Camp Salmon or the Small Group Camp at Fontainebleau, which had real beds and mattresses.

We liked to cook over open fires, too. My favorite meal as a kid was foil stew. Who knows what that is? Chunks of meat (insert simian-like grunt here), potatoes, and carrots in a pocket made from tin foil (OK, aluminum foil!). Add some seasoning and a dash of water (beer when we got older) and throw that puppy on a bed of glowing coals, toss some more coals on top, and wait 20 minutes or so. Just slice it open and dig in. GOOD!

Back to camping.

As we grew older and could drive and even had automobiles, we pushed the camping envelope. Once we pushed it all the way to Cat Island, but we needed the assistance of a boat to complete the trip.

Cat Island is a small island about seven miles off the coast of Gulfport. It seemed like a great place to camp, and it was. But you needed a boat to get there. My dad had one, so we borrowed it. I still can’t believe he actually let us use it. It was a small speed skiff with the brand name of “Yellow Jacket,” and it was fast with a 35hp Evenrude on the back. By then MB had graduated to his 20-foot custom built fishing boat. The little 14 foot Yellow Jacket was left mostly unused.

We were about to finish it off.

There were four of us: Dee White, Bob Hansen, Buck Roy, and moi. Problem was we couldn’t carry all four of us with our camping gear out to Cat Island in one trip. So, we did two trips. I dropped off Dee and Bob and returned to Gulfport to pick up Buck and most of the gear.

Things went well, until we discovered Cat Island was heavily populated with horse flies—the kind that hurt when they bite. Big fires and mosquito nets kept them under control most of the time. We swam and fished and cooked over open fires and had boy-type camping fun on our own little deserted island. We went to sleep that first night to the sound of a crackling fire and campfire tales. It was heaven!

We woke up the next morning to discover the Yellow Jacket was gone. We were marooned!

We found it later that morning way down at the other end of the island. The winds and tide had carried it down there dragging the anchor the whole way. Whew!

Unfortunately, it had suffered some damage on some concrete something-or-the-other along the beach, but we did not realize this at the time. We pulled it up on the beach well above the high tide mark to make sure it remained safe.

My dad showed up the next day in his new boat to check on us, having come all the way from Waveland. That was convenient, because we were about to leave. So, he took Dee and Bob and most of our gear in his bigger boat and left Buck and me to take the Yellow Jacket back to Gulfport where my car waited.

MB left, and Buck and I finished packing the Yellow Jacket, getting a late start near sunset. We are cruising full speed for Gulfport and were about half a mile from Cat Island when Buck taps me on the shoulder. Over the roar of the Evenrude, he yells, “We have a problem!”

“What kind of problem?”

“The worst kind. We’re sinking!”


He points at the back of the boat, and I see lots of water where it should not be—inside the boat!


And he did. I had the throttle wide open, and Buck was bailing as fast as he can. The outflow was just barely keeping up with the inflow. It is dark by then, and don’t you know we come upon a big shrimp boat pulling his trawls. I can’t run in front of him for fear he will run us over, and going behind risks getting fouled in the lines or his nets—and sinking for sure—and maybe getting shot! Behind is the only option, so I swing wide, and Buck bails faster still.

We got it around it without fouling the prop, but there was lots of vigorous hand waving and yelling issuing forth from the shrimp boat’s crew during the maneuver. We did make it to Gulfport and got the boat on the trailer before it sank. My ’57 Chevy struggled to pull that water filled skiff up the ramp. It probably did not stop draining until we were nearly to our house in Waveland.

The cement whatever had punched a hole in the bottom right at the transom. Turns out that was a place that held water even with the drains open, and the wood was rotten there. We gave up on camping on islands after that.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner