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Counting the Blessings - Re-Counting the Tales Life is a Trip – Come Along for the Ride In May of this year, l996, my friend Margaret Murphy and I attended an Elderhostel Program in Georgia. We really went to take the Golf course, (use the golf course), and ended up in a Course of story- telling. We had more fun in that course because the teacher was so entertaining, and the group was a good one, but she insisted that we write down our own "Tales", so here goes. Hold on to your hat.

Top row, Lillian Mestayer, (Nantee), Tante Lulu DeGruy, Uncle Louis DeGruy, Daddy, Carmen Mestayer. Aspasie Mestayer, Pere Mestayer, Yvonne DeGruy, Mere Mestayer, Uncle Roland Mestayer.

I can't remember when I was born, but I am told it was on April 22, 1921. That was a long time ago and God has been so good to me. So many happenings and blessings. 1


We lived on Audubon Street, in New Orleans, La. I was four years old and my mother had died from complications of childbirth. Her maiden name was Jeanne Olivier. My brother, Dick, was eight years old, sisters Mildred, Jane and I were seven, six and four, respectively, and Bessie was four months. My father’s mother and sister agreed to care for us. I can't imagine anyone taking on a job like that, but they did. My first memories are of my Father, Grandmother who was Mere to everybody, and my Aunt, Nantee. My other grandmother, Mere Olivier, (MereO, as she was called) would have taken my sister Jane and brother Dick, but my father wanted us to stay together, so we went to the Mestayers. Mere's maiden name was Richard and MereO's maiden name was Maspero. She married Caesar Olivier. MereO's mother was named Lombard, and the home where she was born is way down on Chartres Street and is an old plantation home that is now being restored and will be listed in the Historical List of old homes. Let me state here that all the grandmothers were called “Mere�, which 2


means “mother” in French. The custom is still in use today in our family. My sisters, cousins and all grandmothers are called Mere. It gets confusing when a lot of nieces and nephews are around and you don’t know which Mere is being addressed. My grandmother Mere Mestayer's house was too small for six extra people so my father built a large house on Paris Avenue, which seemed like the country back then. It had a full basement above ground and the main floor was upstairs. We could skate and play in the basement, have plays; the washwoman would come and wash clothes in a tin tub over the coal fire, and hang the clothes to dry down there. When we didn't play in the basement, we were allowed to play on the sidewalk (called the banquette) in front and side of the house. Our house was one block from St. Leo’s church and Mere went there every time the doors opened, we thought. Lots of times we went with her. I find myself doing the same thing. School was behind the church and we all attended there. We would come home for lunch, and it was such a big treat if we could take our lunch to school once in a while. I would smell my sandwich, which was usually bologna, and so good! I would sit on it to make it flat. Also we would smell each others sandwiches, (all the lucky ones who could take their lunches) all day. There was no such thing as a cafeteria or lunch room. We ate our sandwiches on the benches, and it was the same in High School, I think. 3


Life wasn't too exciting back then, as everyone (it seemed) led a very structured life. I know we did. Nantee was very strict and we were well disciplined. We had a large sleeping porch in the back, with ten windows and five beds. Most of the time we took naps after lunch, and later after school. How we hated that. There was no air-conditioning then, and it was so hot! We would get up soaking wet. Then we got a Window fan and it brought the hot, humid air in. Even when I later visited Nantee with my growing children, she would make everyone take a nap. Our house had central heat with radiators in every room except the sleeping porch. There was a small gas heater in each of the two bathrooms and one in the central hall .We would get out of bed in the mornings when it was freezing and run to the hall to dress in front of the heater. We would sleep with open windows at night and we stayed healthy. We would make colored sand by mixing sand with powdered brick, bluing, and anything we could to get some color, as we had to find our own entertainment. When we got old enough, about l0, I think, we were allowed to skate and ride bikes around the block. We would put on plays in the basement and charge people to come see them... (We probably let them in free). A girl across the street took dancing lessons and we would use all of her old dance costumes - (squeeze into them). Everybody had to perform something - that's all I can remember about that - as there was not a whole lot of talent there, especially when it came to dancing. We would hang sheets for the curtains, and put chairs around. That was a lot of fun. We didn’t go to other houses very often. We stayed home and out friends were always welcomed to come. In later years, when we were teenagers and had dates, we would have parties and dance to records. There would be refreshments, and I imagine everybody would go home about 11:00 P.M. We also played “baseball” with a broomstick and a homemade ball. I think it was a cork with scraps of cloth wrapped around it. What is now a street beside the house was a vacant lot and we played there. All ages played and it was fun. We played dodge – the-ball. And of course we played marbles, Jacks, TiddleyWinks, etc. When we were a little older we played Michigan Auction and that was fun. We also learned to play bridge which was a lot less complicated than what we play today. Mere loved to play Bingo and we would play almost every Friday night. Nantee would have some of the children in the neighborhood over to teach them Catechism. Then we had a bingo party. Mere also loved to play Casino and we would have to play with her.

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We wore school uniforms - Navy blue pleated wool skirts with white blouses. My grandmother sewed all of the uniforms, and the blouses had buttons to hold up the skirts. There was a double band at the waist to conceal the buttons. We had two skirts and about three blouses, and would hand them down to the next one that they would fit. We wore black cotton stockings with garters above the knee. We were not allowed to wear socks until it got warm enough in the Spring, usually about Easter. We wore saddle oxfords and had one good pair of shoes for Sunday, as well as one dress. It was a big treat to go to Canal street. It ran from the Mississippi River all the way to Lake Ponchartrain. If we had to meet anyone, we always met under the Large Clock in front of D.H. Holmes department store. It was a very nice store and has been sold to Dillard's. Canal Street divided the downtown from the uptown areas. The people from uptown would go downtown to Canal St. and the people from downtown would go uptown to Canal Street. Most of the French people settled in the Vieux Carre, (French Quarter). The big markets were there and also the Morning Call Coffee and Doughnut place. It is still one of the biggest tourist attractions there. Also the French Market, a large outdoor market. The French people used to make Drip Coffee in a pot by dropping one spoonful of boiling water at a time. It was so strong and black because the coffee had chicory in it so they added hot milk, which made it CafĂŠ au Lait.

MereO lived in Jackson Barracks with my uncle Dr. "Patie" Estopinal and his wife, Aunt Andre', Aunt Marie and Tante Dideen Olivier. Aunt Marie was my brother's godmother so we all called her Dick's Nenaine. That is another French name

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meaning Godmother. “Parain” means Godfather. That is so amusing, I think. I remember going to spend the night with my godmother, Aunt Andre and MereO. The minute the sun started going down I would call my daddy to come and get me as I was homesick. I was like that for a long time, in fact, almost forever, especially while my daddy was living. We adored him. He was so sweet and loving. As were Nantee and Mere. Everybody we knew spoke French. We could understand it but couldn't speak it. When they didn't want us to know what they were talking about, they would keep us wondering. The French were very clannish and when a French person married someone of a different nationality, they pronounced their name in French. They were distressed when the schools started teaching in the English language instead of French. That was before our time, however. MereO was a tiny little lady who loved flowers and people and was so generous, she gave everything away. When we would take her a present, she would turn around and give it to one of us, so my father started giving her money. She loved and grew flowers so much she would help herself to everybody else’s, and I remember one day in particular, my sister Jane and I rode the streetcar to the Barracks, (incidentally, the Barracks was where Andrew Jackson housed his troops and there was a group of large two-story buildings where they lived.) After the war, my uncle, having been an officer in the army, stayed there to live. The rooms were so big, with a porch surrounding both floors, with large pillars. There was a family living upstairs in the building in which they lived. But to get back to the story, when Jane and I got ready to leave, MereO gathered a big bunch of flowers for us to take home. We didn't want them and the minute we got outside the Barracks, we dumped them in the trash can because we were too embarrassed to take them on the streetcar. Kids are so foolish at times. The Barracks was in Chalmette, La. on the Mississippi River and we would play on the levee. It was beautiful there. It looks so different now, and I don't know if military people still live there. It seems so much smaller now. My uncle Alfred Olivier and Aunt Camille lived in Chalmette and had a tennis court. My brother Dick was the same age as their daughter, Heloise, and they played tennis a lot 6


there. They would have tournaments, fish and hunt a lot. Dick spent a lot of time visiting them. Another cousin on my mother's side was Andre and she married Paul Briant. She is still living and is an artist as is her son, Peter, who is a well-known artist in New Orleans, and has lots of prints of New Orleans scenes (streetcars, Venders, etc.) I believe Janet must have inherited her talent from that side of the family. There were many old homes in the downtown side of New Orleans where we were living. A lot of them were called "Camel-back" houses with the second level in the rear of the house. There were also a lot of “shotgun " houses. They were called that because it was told you could fire a shotgun through the front door it would exit the rear door without striking a wall. The hall went straight to the back of the house. They were 4 or 5 rooms, one behind the other and a tiny bathroom off one side, the only private room in the house. The front and back doors both had shutters to let the air circulate through the house. Some of the houses were divided into two, side by side with a common wall in the center. They were called doubles. Duplex houses were one floor above the other. Most of the houses just had "stoops", three or four steps. The neighbors would sit on them to visit. Later they put "galleries" in front. Many of those old houses are being restored and are considered "charming", which is nice, I guess. Another thing I remembered was the Ice Box- a large two-part wooden box. The Iceman would come in a wagon and put a large block of ice in the top part. It had a big drip-pan which would have to be emptied every couple of hours. It would spill on the floor and have to be wiped up. If no-one was there, the iceman would leave it on the steps and the father would have to get his big tongs and move it inside. We would often run after the ice wagon to get a piece of ice when he chopped it into large blocks. Also, there was the Snowball wagon and we would get our glass from inside and get a snowball for a nickel. The Iceman had a scraper and would 7


scrape the ice and you could choose any flavor of syrup .The biggest treat was to go uptown to Canal and go the K & B drugstore for a chocolate ice cream soda. They were delicious! Mere did all the cooking - never let us into the kitchen, so when I got married I had to learn to boil water! She did all the grocery buying over the phone, and they would deliver everything. The vegetable man, Mr. Russell, would stop by each morning to see if she needed any fresh vegetables, and they would sit on the porch and visit. She would get fruit from him, also. She ordered her meat from the butcher shop, and it was delivered. I can't remember ever going to a grocery store until I was grown. We ordered from the Drug Store also. We had our milk, bread and wine (by the gallon) delivered. I don't know what those things cost then, and never thought to ask, especially since we didn't shop. Nantee was in charge of the children, the discipline part. She had been a teacher and quit to help her mother with the children. She also played the organ at St. Ann's church and gave piano lessons at home. I took for four years, but didn't enjoy it because I had to practice scales and music I didn't like. She also accompanied Jane at her violin lessons. Jane had a professor who came on the bus every Saturday, and Nantee would accompany them. Jane was an accomplished violinist, but as so many other things, she outgrew it. She could have made a career of it if she had wanted to dedicate her life to it, and she obviously didn't. Sis taok piano lessons for a while and she ended up being a wonderful pianist by playing “by ear�. She did not have to use music sheets and could play anything she heard and also sound like the different players. She is still in demand by the Schools and Churches to play and is very talented in that way. I can’t remember Bessie taking lessons. Nantee probably gave up on us about that time. Once or twice a year we would go on the bus or street-car to Audubon Park to go swimming in the pool. I remember the tale about when Sis went to the Park with Tante Lulu and her kids. She fell off the swing and stayed on the ground, pretending she was unconscious. When Tante Lulu mentioned calling the ambulance, 8


Sis dramatically “came to”, That was typical of her. She is still dramatic. When she sneezes she can be heard a block away. We thought the pool was so big, and Nantee thought it was cleaner than the City Park pool, which was closer to us. So we would have to go all across town to Audubon Park. Of course we took a picnic lunch and that was a big treat. Also, every once in a while we would go to the Gentilly Circle, a park about the size of a small city block. It was perfectly round, and was a block away from our house. We would take sandwiches and eat supper there. We thought that was great. There was no equipment in the Circle to play on, and I don't remember what we did there, except chase each other around and play hide and seek among the big palm trees that grew there. The circle is now gone and there is a big intersection there. We would also go for walks across the railroad and there was a little bridge where we were told the Old Troll lived so we would tromp our feet, like the “Billygoats Gruff”. Then the troll would stay in the water. All simple kid fun! (we thought) Oh, how simple life was then. It was a wonderful treat for us to go to Lake Ponchartrain. There was a little beach there but better than that there was a wonderful amusement park with all sorts of rides. One in particular was the Zephyr, a really scary rollercoaster. The Lake was miles and miles of seawall. Later when we were dating we would go there to shrimp, crab, etc. It was the east side of New Orleans and later, after World Ward II was declared, there was an army base there. Some of Tom’s hometown friends were stationed there. I have to admit that New Orleans was strangely laid out. Canal Street ran from the Mississippi River on the West to Lake Ponchartrain on the East. Then Canal Street cut the City in half. The uptown side was North and downtown was South. We lived in the downtown section which was the older and more historical than the newer and “ritzy” part of the city. Mere Mestayer had five children, and 23 grandchildren. Aunt Carmen Schimpeler lived in Louisville, Ky. and had seven children. She would come almost every summer and stay with us. Some of the kids would stay with other cousins. Tante Lulu DeGruy had seven children and they lived uptown. They would come visit on Sunday afternoons, and different cousins would spend a night now and then, and vice-versa. Uncle Roland and Aunt Alice Mestayer lived at the other corner of the block, and had four children, all younger than we were, but we would baby-sit them. I considered the oldest, Bobby, as my child, and Aunt Alice called him my child always. We were especially close to those cousins, and seemed to see more of them. They were Leea, Roland and Anne. We are still close to them. 9


Sometimes, in the summer, we would visit one of the families across the lake, and it would take us all day to get there, it seemed. My father thought it was his duty to take us all for a ride on Sunday afternoon, and I hated it. Thought it was so boring to ride and see only trees. He had a large car with fold-up seats and we would have to take turns sitting on them. Sometimes we would ride through City Park and he would speed up over the only hill in the country -the bridge- and we would all squeal. I still love going over that little bridge. I remember the holidays so well. The most looked forward to was Mardi Gras. On the feast of the Epiphany, which was Jan. 6th, Dick's Nenaine would send us a King Cake. It was a large cake, not real cake, more like sweet bread shaped like a ring. It was decorated with little sprinkles or such as that, and it had a little baby in it. That called for a party and we had all the neighborhood friends over. The person who got the piece of cake with the baby would have the next King Cake party. That custom still exists in New Orleans, except the Cakes are more elaborate, some with frosting and fillings. The office crews often take a cake to the office, and the person who gets the baby is the one who brings the cake the next day. That would sort of start the season leading up to Mardi Gras. We would plan on a costume to wear on that day, but the most fun was going to the parades. The different Organizations would have a Ball after the Parade and you had to have a special invitation to get in. It was strictly formal and the men had to wear

Tuxedos and the women long evening gowns. I didn’t go to any until I was older. There was one every night for about a week before the big Tuesday, the day we all put on costumes, and masks, and went to the downtown section for the whole day. We would wait for about an hour for the parade to come, and break our necks to catch the necklaces and baubles that the people on the floats would throw. My daddy would have a time making us stay back so the horses wouldn't trample us. The torchbearers carried kerosene torches that would blaze up and the smell was 10


so exciting. We could see the parade from several blocks away when it was approaching. The crowds were so large, but nothing compared to today. You can't even park downtown anymore. People rent storefronts where they can watch the parades and the maskers. When we were older, large groups of people would rent and decorate flat-bed trucks to ride on and everybody wore the same costume and mask. There would be so many trucks of maskers and it was fun to see who was the best dressed and the imagination of costume makers was wonderful. I don't know if they still do that. My father's favorite parade was the Zulu parade, composed of all black people. They would dress as Indians with beautiful costumes and large feathered headpieces. They were scary to us, but he would know some of the ones on the floats and call to them. They would throw coconuts, and my father got a big kick out of that. Christmas was another fun time because all the cousins would come on Christmas Eve, and we would have eggnog and cake. Mere gave each of her grandchildren a dollar and on Christmas morning we would each get one nice thing, perhaps a pair of skates and another gift, such as gloves, etc. I really don't remember anything in particular. Once I got a Mickey Mouse watch and I really loved it. We would all go to midnight Mass, we had a decorated tree and had a big meal on Christmas, turkey, etc. I remember the Oyster Patties more than anything else. They were delicious! . On St. Joseph's Day, some of the more affluent Italians would put up an altar in their homes, and put all sorts of food on it. Cooked dishes, desserts, breads, sweets and everything you can think of. We didn't know it at the time but it was to feed the poor people. We would go visit the altars in the neighborhood, and eat some of the feast. We loved that. Our parents didn’t know we were going to eat (a snack here and there) but the food was so enticing We were not rich but we didn’t qualify for the food. They probably thought we were going to pray to St. Joseph. On Halloween we would have parties where we had a big pan of water with apples floating in it. We had to duck to get one to eat. That meant we had to bite into an apple and bring it up before we could keep it. I guess the water was full of spit by the time ten or so kids put their mouths all over the apples in the water. It made a mess. Then we had something (I can't remember) hanging from strings we had to grab with our mouths. We would go around the neighborhood and stick pins in doorbells, write in chalk on the banquette, try to scare people passing by, leave 11


empty wallets tied with a string to let people think they had found something, then pull the string. We thought that was fun. Today it doesn't sound so great. On November l, the feast of All Saints, everybody would go to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their family members. The graves would have all been freshly whitewashed and each grave would have fresh flowers on them. We would see so many people that we knew and it would be like a big family reunion. Today hardly anybody goes. It’s sad. I remember that every Sunday morning my father would take us to the cemetery to visit my mother’s grave. He would pick up some flowers from the Florist and place them on the step of the tomb. He did that for many years even after he was remarried. When he moved to Waveland, he still had the Florist deliver the flowers and they would bill the Company. That went on for a few after he died, I am told. He really loved my mother and never forgot her. On Good Friday, when we were in High School, we would try to make a pilgrimage to nine churches, and walk to each one. There were a lot of churches in New Orleans because practically everybody was Catholic, (or everybody we knew). It would take several hours and we would consider that the Stations of the Cross. Almost every Good Friday there would be a thunderstorm in the afternoon, usually about three o'clock. We would keep all the radios turned off because we considered it a solemn day, and we thought it was sacrilegious to have fun. The stores would all be closed as well as places of entertainment. On Easter, we could put on socks with our new dresses and we thought we were really dressed up. We were so glad to get out of stockings. When my father remarried, I think I was about 12 years old; he built an apartment in the basement for Olga, Lolita, (her daughter) and himself. He came up to see his mother every day and he saved all his dimes for her. She had enough dimes to give each of her female grandchildren a gold rosary when they were confirmed 12


quite an expense. Olga and Lolita were very nice and we got along well with them. We never lived with them. My father was the most wonderful son to his mother, as were her other children. And he was a wonderful father to his children. We adored him. I was several years younger than my brother, Dick, so I don’t remember a lot about him except that he was a good athlete and played all sports. He also enjoyed fishing and hunting and did a lot of that. He sometime played hooky and my father would have to ride around the neighborhood and usually find him playing tennis. One time he went swimming in the canal near our house and cut his foot on a large spike sticking out of the cement wall of the canal. He ended up in the hospital with a lot of stitches and also tetanus from that little outing. Of course no one was supposed to swim in the canals. They were mostly for drainage. He was always a sweet brother and had a lot of friends, both boys and girls. He dated some of the best-looking girls at Dominican. When war was declared he joined the Air Force and was gone for several years. After that he married Helen Hayes and had three children, Dick, Beth and Allen. They lived in Waveland and we would see them in the summer when we visited there. When we were older we all went to Dominican High school, which was seven miles away and uptown. We rode the bus to and from school, and the bus fare was .07 cents. It now costs a dollar to ride the bus or one remaining streetcar. It took us 35 minutes to get to school, and we all wore Navy Blue pleated skirts and white blouses. My grandmother kept them in good repair so they could be handed down. My sister Sis was something of an upstart so they sent her to boarding school in Bay St. Louis, Miss. She would sneak smokes with her good friend Lydia, who lived in the next block and was very spoiled. Sis played the piano by ear and was very 13


entertaining to other than her little sisters. She used to sit on the front steps and every time someone passed by she would make us call her "mother", and she would spank us if we didn't. I don't think that lasted too long. When Sis got a little older she bought an old car for $25.00. She named it “Asthma”, and she would take us for a ride if we paid her a nickel. She would get one gallon of gasoline at a time. One time she stopped at the filling station and the man measured her gas in the tank with a long stick. They told her she was riding on “fumes”. It was so funny. Sis decided to join the WACs and was stationed in Washington. She refused to go overseas so she drove the officers around in jeeps, etc. which was right down her alley. She later lived in New York. Then she married Eddie Means. Jane was growing up and had a lot of boyfriends. She and I double-dated a lot and I guess that was safe for me, as I was very naïve. We went to dances with dates and not everybody had a car. When I was a little older I had a date with one of my brother’s friends. He was older than I was and after the dance he invited me to his apartment in the French Quarter. I went and sat around a little while and decided I had to go home as it was getting late. When I told Jane and my friends about it they were shocked that I would be so gullible, but nothing happened. So most young people shared rides to the dances, etc. Mere was like a mother to Bessie, as she was only about 4 months old when my mother died. Mere spoiled her rotten, although she was always a sweet child (I think). She was so pretty and must have been real good because I don’t remember a lot about her. I really don't have a vivid memory for details. We were not allowed to date until we were l6, and I wasn't interested in boys even then. My brother's friend, Ambrose, took me to my senior prom. Jane worked for Higgins Industries in New Orleans, and they were the company that made the Landing Boats for the war. It turned into a 14


huge plant, and Tom worked there during the war after we were married. She met Ivan Foley there and the rest is history. They had 13 children. Van, Tim, Nancy, Al, Robbie, Joe, Mike, Steve, Jeanne, Anita, Pat, Carol, and Richard. A few years later, Bessie married Jimmy DeBlanc and had six children. Jack, Mary, Suzanne, David, Anne and Robert. After high school, I went to a business college, got a job, and went to night school at Loyola to study Accounting, of all things. The teacher was Father Butts, and was so nice to me. We even corresponded a little after I left. He let me take my exam three times until I passed. I then realized my limited potential. One thing I learned was “always anticipate a loss”. That slogan has stayed in my mind, which sorta makes you take disappointment a little easier. I worked for my daddy at the lumber company one summer. I remember the Depression. I must have been about ten years old. Many people lost their jobs. Money was scarce, which made us appreciate what we had. When I was out of school and went to work at the Mestayer Lumber Company, I made $8.00 a week, rode the bus home for lunch, (sometimes got a ride with daddy) and at the end of the summer I had saved $45.00. You can see why I am frugal to this day. Then I worked for the Wage and Hour Division. Mere and Nantee were so careful in spending my father's money, we were taught to pinch pennies. I think I was the only one who learned that lesson. Today, Aunt Mil would say that she had, too. Some of the expressions and names I remember were “Gris-Gris” which was sort of a hex or bad luck; Another was “Lagniappe” which meant you got an extra one, like a baker’s dozen; “Neutral Grounds” were space between streets like a median strip. A big treat for breakfast was “Pain Perdue”, French for lost bread. It is now called French Toast. They used stale bread to make it. We called Gas Stations “Filling Stations” I still do. Gas was 12 cents a gallon! They made 15


“clabber” from sour milk. They would separate the cream from the milk, and put the sour milk in cheesecloth to let all the water drain. We would eat it with sugar, and it was good. From the Cream they would make Cream Cheese (like cottage cheese) and eat it with fresh cream and sugar. That was a real treat. Sometimes they made frozen Cream Cheese, and it was like ice cream . All cooks made a “roux” to make brown gravy or cream sauce. You had to brown your flour in butter or oil and then add liquid. I still do when I cook. We never called grown-ups by their first name. They were all Aunt or Uncle. My children still follow that rule for the most part instead, they call them Mr. or Mrs. All porches were Galleries. We always had to wait two hours after a meal to go swimming, the reason was, we were liable to have a cramp in your stomach and drown! The word “Cajun” is a shortened form of Acadian - the French who settled in Nova Scotia and moved to Louisiana. They were reportedly considered the only people strong enough to survive in that area, because it gets so hot and humid. They also introduced spicy foods. They are famous for Praline Candy. The “Creole” people were French and Spanish. New Orleans invented the original sub, and called it “Poor-Boy”. They originated it during the Depression and used long French bread with meat or cheese on it. They were real cheap. We also had Nickel Hamburgers that were so good. They were made with a little square roll, hamburger and chopped cooked onions. There was no Ketchup or Mayonnaise or other sauce on them. The St. Charles street-car is the oldest operating urban transit of its kind in the world. It appeared on St. Charles Avenue in 1833. You could ride for pennies. It is a big tourist attraction and only goes on part of Carrollton Ave and all of St. Charles Ave. That is the prettiest street in the city. You could transfer to any other bus and ride all over the city. I think it costs a dollar now. Street Car buffs are trying to get the street cars back. The buses have a terrible exhaust smell and are so hard on the streets. I dated one boy who was a friend of Nantee's, can't even remember his name, and he became a dentist. And I dated a boy named Walton Mallerich, who was in my accounting class and was a very good dancer. Then came the big event, which really, really changed my life. My friends asked me to go on a boat ride on the Mississippi one Sunday with a friend's roommate. I went and had a great time, and I was smitten. His name was Tom Covington and was he ever good-looking!! Everybody fell in love with him. He had moved down to N. O. with B. F Goodrich Company to sell tires. Our dating consisted mostly of going to a little club out on the Airline Highway. We would put money in the Jukebox,, drink a beer or two and 16


Dance. Sometime we would go to the Lakefront to shrimp or just walk along the seawall, go to the amusement park, a movie, etc. I remember one night, I believe it was Christmas Eve, we double-dated with some friends. I was learning how to drive Tom’s car, (which very few boys had then), and I made a sudden left turn to go over the Neutral Ground (on which were the street-car tracks). I didn’t slow up enough and ran into the wroughtiron street light with the large oval light. The car picked it up from the ground and the light went though the front windshield. Nobody was hurt, nobody saw us, so we picked it up and laid it on the ground and left. Tom had to keep his car hidden for several months before he could have it repaired. We didn’t tell anybody, and I mean NObody. That is the only bad thing I did. Then along came the war, and having been in the Air Force and "washing out" because of a bad hip, Tom had to do defense work. So he moved to Houma, La., sixty miles away. We became engaged a year after we met, and were married about six weeks after our engagement, at St. Leo Rectory. We were not allowed to marry in church because he was not Catholic. My grandmother had died the week before. But my aunts did not want us to delay our marriage. We had a small group of close friends and family so my father had a sit-down luncheon at Broussard's restaurant in the French Quarter. It was very nice. Things have changed and now non-Catholics may marry in church. We spent our Wedding Night at the St. Charles Hotel, which was the oldest one, and finest, and it is no longer there, having gone the way of Progress. My daddy had a little pull so we were able to stay there. The next morning he took us to board the train to go to Laurinburg to visit the Covington family for about a week. Then we moved to Houma, La. when we got back. This will end the first part of my Journey, so I will try to regroup and try to recall some of the Blessings of the rest of my Life. Stay with me.

17

Counting the Blessings  

written by Ginny Covington

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