Tag Archives: USL

Fifty Years Ago Today

wedding-leavingToday, 21 Jan 2017, marks fifty years of marriage for Janis and me. Yes, fifty years ago I watched her father escort my weeping bride down the aisle of St Rita Church in Harahan. Why was she weeping? I don’t know, and she doesn’t either. I asked. “Emotional moment” was the best she could come up with. It was so intense I don’t remember much about that day, the weeping bride being one of only a few things, but let me try to relate some of what I do remember.

I remember my friend Sam showing up at my door thoroughly confused about the workings of the bow tie on the monkey suits we wore. Gads, but they were stupid looking suits. “Does the tie go inside the collar or outside?”

I remember standing in a reception line for about a week. At least, it seemed that long. We survived only because my best man and a few frat brothers kept us supplied with food and adult beverages. Thankfully, they don’t do reception lines anymore. The bride and groom can now enjoy their reception.

At the end of the “week,” we were rushed from the reception line for the cake cutting, then the dance. Or was it the other way around? Then change clothes and leave for the honeymoon. We went to Hot Springs. (I know what you are thinking, but try to ignore that. I am referring to the place in Arkansas.) It was all we could afford, and I don’t recommend it for a honeymoon.

We visited the chicken circus where chickens do tricks. Whoo-hoo! I even have pictures of that somewhere. We visited an auction where I was suckered into buying a diamond ring. No one was bidding on the cheap diamond ring being offered, and the slick auctioneer asked me, “Would you give $125 for this ring, sir.” I think the “sir” impressed me because I replied in the affirmative never thinking he was asking for anything more than my “expert” diamond appraising opinion.

“I have a bid of $125. Do I hear $130?” He didn’t. “SOLD for $125 to the gentleman with exquisite taste in jewelry.” And I was the proud owner of a diamond ring, and my bride was looking at me like I had two heads. We immediately went and had it appraised. It was worth maybe $65. We went back to the auction house and complained and got some of our money back. The diamonds were chips, and Janis later had them reset and the ring melted down for its gold value. We actually made out on the purchase, but it took about thirty years.

Enough of that…

Our relationship goes back way past fifty years. We started dating when I was sixteen and she was fourteen, some six years before the wedding. She followed me wherever I went. I went to USL (University of Southwest Louisiana now ULL, University of Louisiana at Lafayette) and she followed. After a year or so, her dad asked while writing out a tuition check, “Tell me again why you are going to college in Lafayette.”

wedding-janis

Janis lived on Minor Street in Kenner. I lived on the intersecting Sixth Street (now Toledano), and since there was a vacant lot between my house and her house, we grew up within sight of each other. But I never noticed her until the hormones kicked in. Among many I have one very vivid memory of that time. It is of her walking home from the Airline Highway bus stop in her Mercy Academy uniform complete with saddle oxfords and white bobby socks, clutching her books to her chest, and her long ponytail dancing behind her head to the rhythm of her steps. In retrospect, I think that was when I fell in love with her.

After school and marriage, it was the Air Force for me, and of course she followed. Our oldest son was born in the base hospital at George AFB in Victorville, California. It was a difficult delivery that ended up as an emergency cesarean. She was in the hospital for nearly a week and got no real food until near the end. When I checked her out, I had to pay $14 and some change for her meals. She wanted me to go back and ask for a refund. “I didn’t eat that much.” I figured $14 for an emergency caesarian is pretty cheap regardless of how much she ate, but Janis was and remains very frugal.

In all that time, our only separations were the time I spent in basic training, tech school, the occasional short TDY assignment, and the eleven months I spent at King Salmon AFS, a remote station in Alaska.

Then came discharge in ’72 and buying a house in ’73. We had to borrow the down payment for the house. That money came from Janis’ grandfather in Oxford, Mississippi. When told the house was costing us $24,500.00, he asked, “What are they buying? A mansion?” I gather you get a lot more house for your money in Oxford. It was a two bedroom one bath little 1,100 square foot house built in the thirties. Son number two came along in 1975, another caesarian but planned this time. We moved into a larger house in ’86, and we are still there.

So two boys, five grandchildren, five great grandchildren, and fifty plus years later, we are still married.

I’m thinking about keeping her.

5 Comments

Filed under Family History

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.

51dvJGHSVPL

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner