Tag Archives: Manard Lagasse

Earthworms

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.

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Joey Giammalva

Last night Janis and I ran into Beverly Giammalva at a function. She is the widow of a very dear old friend, Joey Giammalva. Joey and I grew up together in Kenner, and we go back as far as I can remember, like when I was around six. I lived on Sixth Street near the corner with Williams Street. Joey lived on the same block as me but facing Minor Street, and just so happens right across the street from my future bride, Janis Cristina.

Me, Manard, Joey 1953Joey, Manard Lagasse, and I were the closest of friends in those days and remained so through high school, even though I went to East Jefferson, and Joey went to De La Salle. We kind of drifted apart after that, simply because we were separated by schools. Both Manard and Joey were two years younger than I was. Joey and I reconnected a bit, when I transferred to the University of Southwest Louisiana, and he was attending there.

As I was talking to Beverly, my emotions were flooded with memories of Joey and me as kids. What came to mind?

For one, his home on Minor (in which Beverly still resides). I can still picture every room. I would show up there on Saturday morning and find Joey watching TV in their den, a smallish room at the back of the house. He had a back porch that was initially only screened, and then Mr. Giammalva added jalousie window glass. We were not allowed in the living room. The sofa was even covered with plastic. No, I’m not making that up. I think they used that room only once a year, Christmas.

And, of course the kitchen.

Mrs. Giammalva (Miss Mary) was a fantastic Italian cook and somewhat tradition bound, because they had the same meal every Sunday at noon: spaghetti and meatballs and fried chicken. I’m not sure, but I don’t think fried chicken is very Italian? Whatever, it was great fried chicken! I must confess that I sometimes managed to be around the Giammalva house about lunch time on Sunday a bit more often that perhaps I should have been, and naturally, they invited me to eat with them.

Mr. Giammalva was an ice peddler for my future wife’s family business, Cristina Ice in Kenner. He delivered ice (some of us still had “ice boxes” then) to homes and businesses in his red, stake-bed, Studebaker truck. I will never forget that truck.

And get this! His helper was none other than Lloyd Price, before he became a famous recording artist. Some of his hits: Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Staggerlee, Personality, and I’m Gonna Get Married. A resident of Kenner who made good.

Mr. Giammalva also was a part-time trapper. He ran a trap line somewhere west of Kenner and brought in muskrat and little animals I think were mink. He treated the skins and hung them to dry in his two-car garage.

I spoke elsewhere of Joey and me having Red Ryder BB guns. Did you know robins were good table fare? I didn’t either, but the enterprising Mr. Giammalva did. Robins migrate and in the fall stopped on the way south in his hackberry tree to feast on the little hackberries, often filling that tree with robins by the hundreds. Mr. G and Joey’s Red Ryder BB gun were waiting for them. Many robins went into his freezer after getting their fill of hackberries. And no, that wasn’t legal. But, hey, it was Kenner in the 1950s.

Joey was a bit chunky when we were young but slimmed down as an adult. He suffered from flat feet, and I mean flat as pancake. We often played with the hose on the summer and Joey’s feet would make flatulence sounds on the wet concrete. Funny what you remember. And that one brought on the tears.

We also had go-carts, and we were often chased by the Kenner Police for running them on the streets of Kenner. I wrote about some of those adventures here and here.

The photo above of (from left to right) me, Manard Lagasse, and Joey was taken by Mrs. Giammalva in Joey’s back yard. He carried that old photo around in his wallet for decades. Finally about twenty years ago, he made 8×10 copies for Manard and me and presented them to us. It hangs in my home office. I am sorry to say that both Manard and Joey are gone now.

I miss them both, and unfortunately, we often don’t realize how much we miss someone until they are gone. If you have friends you love, spend time with them, because they won’t be here forever, and neither will you.

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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.

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Barefootin’ – Manard, Joey and Me

I took out the garbage last night, and being too lazy to look for my shoes, I dragged that can out to the curb barefoot.

And my feet hurt!

The driveway is well worn, and the aggregate tends to be a bit more exposed than in recently laid concrete. I felt like I was walking on rocks!

And you are thinking, What is your point?

I don’t really have one, other than my feet never used to hurt like that. I guess that comes with age? I remember when I was a kid, we never wore shoes in the summer, except when we had to “dress up” to go somewhere. Otherwise, once school let out, our shoes went into the closet and didn’t come out again until school started, assuming they still fit.

Our feet may have been a bit tender after nine months being encased in leather, but they soon toughened. Within a couple of weeks or so, we could run across Sixth Street, which was “paved” with gravel or clamshells, without feeling any pain. Naturally, being shoeless, we did incur a few cuts and bruises along with a few rusty nail punctures, but my dad always had the tetanus shot handy.

Those days are gone. Now I am old and a tenderfoot for life. I doubt I could stand the pain long enough to build up the calluses again.

Me, Manard, Joey 1953Actually, that event reminded me of this picture hanging in my office. It is of me on the left, Manard Lagasse in the center and Joey Giammalva on the right. It was taken in 1953. We were best buddies then. I was 9 years old. Manard and Joey were 7 years old.

Note the “summer uniform,” which was limited to shorts and maybe a tee or hat but no shoes. (Side note: Joey had flat feet, and on wet concrete, he could make realistic-sounding flatulence noises with them.)

Joey’s mom took the pic, and Joey carried it in his wallet for years before he made enlargements for Manard and me.

Both Manard and Joey are deceased now. Good times together! Good memories! Good friends sorely missed! Whenever I see Bubba, Manard’s son who I think looks just like him, I want to grab him and hug him, pretending for just a few moments that “Man” is still with us.

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Kenner, Kids, and Go-Carts – Part 2

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I said in the post Kenner, Kids, and Go-Carts that another story would follow. Here is Part 2, the painful part.

I must have been about 14. It was a warm summer day in Kenner, and the “gang” was playing with roller skates and our go-carts, which, as it turned out, was a bad combination. The gang that day consisted of Manard Lagasse, Joey Giammalva, Bobby Manard, me, and several others I can’t recall just now. The skates were, of course, the old steel wheel versions you clamp onto your shoes. Kind of hard to do with Keds, but It can be done. You have to get the clamps tight enough the soles of your Keds are folded in half lengthways and your little toe is almost kissing your big toe.

In one of my more “brilliant” moments, I thought it would be a good idea to roller skate behind the go-cart, kind of like water skiing, albeit on a much less forgiving surface, concrete. This took place on Sixth Street between Williams and Compromise, and the concrete was the kind with lots of aggregate in it, meaning rough—very rough. Joey was elected to do the pulling with his go-cart, and I volunteered to do the skate/skiing. Seemed logical, since it was my idea. Actually, I think the others were smart enough to wait and see if I died before they tried it.

Disclaimer: Kids don’t try this at home. Dangerous stunts like this should only be attempted by professional idiots.

It began badly and ended worse.

With me holding onto the back of his seat, Joey headed down Sixth towards Compromise and soon reached maximum velocity, probably around 20mph. The rough concrete was taking its toll on my skates. With the ball bearings screaming, the steel wheels were heating up, and sparks started flying. Those steel wheels on that rough concrete were vibrating so much, I was sure the fillings in my teeth would rattle out. (OK, maybe all that was an exaggeration, but not by much!)

After about a hundred feet of roller skating terror, I decided I had enjoyed as much as I could stand and yelled for Joey to stop. Either he didn’t hear me, or he ignored me, because he didn’t stop. Louder yelling still got no response. With his head down low and leaning into the onrushing wind like some dog with his head out the window of the family sedan, Joey plowed ahead ignorant of my plight. My only option was to let go before the steel wheels melted and burned through the soles of my Keds. So, I did, just about when we hit the turn onto Compromise.

I thought (hoped) I could stay upright long enough to coast slowly to a stop. Didn’t quite work out like that. I managed to remain upright for, oh, maybe a second and a half before I crashed and burned, rolling down Compromise like a very large, wayward football. When I finally came to a stop, I figured something HAS to be broken and immediately took inventory. Feet and legs OK! Right hand and arm OK! Left hand—OH CRAP! NOT OK! BAD! VERY BAD!!

My bird finger was no longer straight but was zigzagged. The index finger wasn’t any straighter, but more significantly, it was not where it was supposed to be! It was on the side of my hand back near my thumb and pointing in a decidedly inappropriate direction—at me!

Manard, Bobby, and Joey stood there in awe, slack-jawed, eyes wide, and I am sure deciding not to try that themselves. One asked, “You hurt?”

I held up my mangled hand and let fly with a string of adult expletives.

“Yeah, he’s hurt!”

The still smoking skates immediately came off, and I headed home, which, fortunately, was only a block away. MB, my dad and doctor, was tinkering in the garage at the time I walked up and announced, “Look!”

He did. I guess his experience treating wounded in WWII had enabled him not to show emotion that might alarm the patient. His expression unchanged, he calmly asked, “How did you do that?”

I was thinking what difference does that make? Fix it!

Not waiting for an answer, with his left hand, he grabbed my wounded hand at the wrist and examined it. I suppose to avoid what would certainly have been my screaming protests, without a warning, he grabbed my dislocated finger and put it back where it belonged.

There, fixed.

I very nearly fainted!

MB decided the rest was beyond his bone setting skills and made me wait until he finished with patients in the office that night before he took me to a bone specialist to have everything set properly. I got to wear a cast for six weeks, which effectively ended my skating behind a go-cart career, not that I was disappointed at its loss. Both fingers healed fine, except I can bend them in directions that make some people a little queasy.

On the plus side, my finger now knows when the weather is about to change.

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