Jerry Pierce

Thoughts of Ghosts

In October, thoughts of ghosts flutter through my mind.  I don’t believe in ghosts, but there is some sense of relief for me every year when Halloween is over and talk about ghostly things subsides. The first funeral I ever attended was for an old uncle in Jackson, Miss.  I was in grade school, and the funeral experiences alone were enough to spook me even without what my Aunt Annie Belle saw. It was not unusual in those days for a body to be viewed at the home of family members leading up to a funeral.  Uncle Robert was on display in the living room when we arrived to spend the night at my aunt’s house. I never went in the living room but got glimpses of  my late uncle from the hallway.  He was removed from the house later in the day and returned to the funeral home.  But I could hear strange sounds from the living room that night as I laid awake in my bed upstairs. It was what I heard the next day,  though, when we went down for breakfast that unnerved me the most.  Aunt Annie Bell said, “I saw Robert clear as a bell standing here making coffee when I walked in the kitchen this morning.” The Uncle Robert I caught sight of the day before didn’t seem up to making coffee.  I watched him later at the church service and burial and was sure he had not been walking around in the kitchen earlier that day. After asking my parents a lot of questions, I realized that Aunt Annie Belle seeing Robert was just some kind of illusion or vison.   It was sort of like the times I could picture myself in Yankee Stadium playing for my favorite team. But the thought of Uncle Robert making coffee the morning after people were viewing him laid out in the living room in his best suit gave me chills for a long time. That boyhood experience and memory helped me understand our little granddaughter Charlee Ann’s reaction to a discussion about ghosts that we were both involved in a few days ago. Actually, Charlee was listening much more than talking when her older sisters Allie and Ava were asking me questions about the legend of the ghost on Northwestern’s campus. Northwestern students have heard tales of the mythical ghost Isabella for more than a century.  The story goes that she lived in a mansion that became the first building at the school and took her own life after her fiancé was killed in a duel. The original columns of the mansion that still stand as the symbol of the university are near the elementary lab school where Charlee, Allie and Ava are students. Bits and pieces of the Isabella legend have floated among lab  school students for decades.  Allie is in the fourth grade and Ava the fifth, and they have heard the tales that seem to spread every year as Halloween approaches. But Charlee is a first grader and was learning about Isabella for the first time that afternoon as the four of us were riding around the campus. The older girls wanted to know what happened to the ghost after the mansion was torn down.  We talked about Isabella living in another historic building until it burned and then being moved to the next oldest structure at the university. They wanted to see it.  As we rode by the building that was once a women’s gymnasium, I assured Charlee again as I had been doing since the conversation started that there was no such thing as ghosts. One of the girls asked Charlee if the talk about the legendary ghost scared her.  “I’m not scared right now,” Charlee said, “but if I ever think about this when I’m by myself, I’ll be horrified.” I could relate to that.  For years when it was near Halloween and I remembered my Aunt Annie Belle saying she saw Uncle Robert making coffee a few hours before his funeral, my spine tingled. Even now, I’m like Charlee and try not to think about ghosts when I’m by myself.

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Pandemic Attire

Not many things about our daily lives are easier now than they were before the pandemic.  But dressing for the workplace is certainly less complicated and time consuming.

Since Zoom and all these other forms of video communications have replaced in-person meetings, most of us have not worried much about whether our socks match our pants or even each other.

Dress shirts and ties are not required for most business meetings anymore.  A nice polo shirt looks dressy now compared to the things some folks are wearing on these electronic gatherings.

Stiff leather shoes are in closets gathering dust and might never see the light of day again.  Sneakers, sandals and flip-flops are fine for videos that focus mostly on heads and shoulders.

My old friend Bob Griffin, the legendary television personality in Shreveport, would not have needed to alter his attire much for the global pandemic.

Bob was way ahead of his time in the concept of combining apparel that provided both comfort and propriety like people around the world are doing now on Zoom and Webex.

The first time I was in the studio with Bob for a broadcast, he wore a white shirt, tie and sport coat for the camera, but his cargo shorts, floppy white socks and tennis shoes were out of view.

After the show, he ditched the coat and tie, put on a golf shirt, and we went to lunch.

Bob, who died earlier this year before the pandemic hit, needed a variety of apparel in his early days on TV.  He was doing news, sports, weather and a live cartoon show for kids when his wardrobe was topped off by a straw, flat-top skimmer hat.

Toy companies flooded Bob with samples of products that he gave away as prizes on the Bob and His Buddies show.  One of those new-fangled toys left bumps and bruises on my son when he was in elementary school.

Bob would spend afternoons at my house when he came to town for Northwestern football games and bring my kids toy company samples.  One was an early version of a “water wiggle” type toy that attached to a water hose.

When we hooked it to the hose, the water pressure sent the hard plastic cartoon figure flying and gyrating wildly, flapping my son in the head and body before we could turn the water off.

Bob was distraught.  The next time he visited, he brought a toy doctor’s kit.

My interest in wardrobe matters like the attire folks are wearing for Zoom meetings goes back to the 1940s when my mother dressed me in those awful riding pants with puffs on each side.

Old black and white snapshots of birthday parties and such show other boys in jeans and overalls and me in the prissy riding pants.

I have worked hard since then to dress conventionally and much like my peers even when I started my journalism career in New Orleans and we all wore short sleeve white shirts and thin, clip-on black ties.

All these decades since, I have been properly attired in dress shirts and pants, ties, sport coats and all that.  But I have also kept shorts and T-shirts handy for tennis and other activities.

My late friend Tom Murchison and I played a lot of tennis matches after work.  He didn’t want folks at his law office to know when he left early some days that it was for a tennis match.

The courts were near my house, so Tom would go by and change in the utility room off the carport.  One day when he had on nothing but tennis shoes and bent over to get his shorts, my big boxer dog Bandit snuck in and stuck his cold nose on Tom’s rear end.

When Tom got to the courts, he told me about it and said, “I made a new opening in your utility room.”

With mostly Zoom meetings now, I can just wear decent looking shirts and nobody knows if I have on shorts, sweatpants, jeans or some of those riding britches with the puffy pockets.

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New Look In Golf

In this year when nothing is normal, it is fitting that the winner of the U.S. Open golf tournament looks like Tarzan, wears a saucer-shaped hat and celebrates victories with chocolate milk.

Bryson DeChambeau’s very name suggests that he is different. That name should belong to a playboy prince from another land.

DeChambeau, the only player to break par for the tournament, is not quite foreign.  He’s from California and played at SMU.

Some other players and a lot of fans think he’s a kook.  That probably really worries DeChambeau when he is spending the $2.25 million prize money for the U.S. Open.

It’s hardly surprising that so many folks look askance at the new U.S. Open champion.  He is 6-1 and has bulked up with protein shakes to 240 pounds.  He hits drives well past 300 yards with the help of  “muscle activation techniques.”

DeChmbeau calls golf “a science,” uses geographic compasses and analyzes topographical charts of courses and the design of golf clubs.

Maybe just to make sure that nothing he does is conventional, DeChambeau always wears the flat, old fashioned Ben Hogan type cap in tournaments and signs autographs left-handed and backwards even though he’s right-handed.

For me, DeChambeau has added spice to a sport that has become too staid.  All those cookie cutter players with the flat bellies and tight shirts have frozen faces that could break if they smile.

Golf might be the hardest game ever invented, and I’m not good at it.  But the sport has given me much pleasure over the years as a spectator and player.

I loved golf from the first time I ever saw it as a teenager.  Some of us kids made a dollar a day caddying at the Springhill Country Club in the 1950s.

When the rich bankers and lawyers went to the clubhouse for lunch or another beer, we took clubs and balls from their bags and chipped and putted.

My first real round of golf was at a country club in Cantonment, Fla., where my uncle was a member.  My cousin and I, both right-handed, had to use his old left-handed clubs.

Working at the Times-Picayune in the 1960s got me in the press areas at the New Orleans Open.  It was a chance to see golf greats like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer up close.

And to laugh with some of the game’s colorful characters like Tony Lema, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Doug Sanders.  Called the Peacock of the Fairways, Sanders might dress in orange pants and lime green shirts.

Regina and I had a memorable golf moment a few years ago.  We were having dinner at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri when Nicklaus stopped at our table to chat.  The picture with the greatest golfer of all time is priceless.

I have shared many laughs with golfing friends. Randy Hodge, Jeremy Patterson and I were playing at a resort in Mexico when Hodge landed a shot near a lake where an alligator was sunning.

We suggested he leave that ball and hit another shot. But Randy said the gator didn’t scare him and insisted on playing it.  The alligator lifted a leg, and Jeremy and I saw a miracle.

Hodge was a water skier at Northwestern and bragged about his barefoot skiing.  He was not barefoot that day, but nothing touched the water on the corner of the lake where he ran for his life except the soles of his golf shoes.

Bill Carter, James Smith, Steve Wiggins and I used to play a lot. On our way to a club at Toledo Bend, Carter, the Alexandria Town Talks sports editor, saw a sign advertising Texas Two-Step dancing.

Carter, who was from Paducah, Ky., said the dance should not be called the Texas Two-Step because it was invented in Paducah. Then there was a billboard for “Texas barbecue, where barbeque began.”  Carter said barbecue was created in Paducah.

Later, he said he loved playing Scramble golf tournaments because they originated in Paducah.

Smith, the women’s basketball coach at Northwestern, said, “Carter, I guess sex was invented in Paducah.”  Carter said, “No, but it was perfected there.”

Pro golf needs to be more fun, and DeChambeau is taking it in that direction.

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BC Powder

My old granddad, who was probably not nearly as ancient as he seemed to me back in the 1950s, always had some packets of BC headache power in his shirt pocket.

I thought about that a couple of weeks ago when Regina’s doctor suggested that she might try BC powder for some cluster headaches that hit her out of the blue a while back with no rhyme or reason.

That’s apparently what cluster headaches do.  Medical folks don’t seem to know what causes or cures them or how long they will last.  They just prescribe things for the pain, including BC powder.

My granddad worked in the railroad yards, and that job must have created headaches and other ailments.

I spent a few weeks with my grandparents in Bogalusa one summer when I was in high school and was surprised at all the home remedies and patent medicines my granddad used.

BC powder seemed to be his favorite.  His daily routine was to come home from work in the afternoon, sit on the porch swing before ever going in the house, get a BC powder from the pocket of his denim shirt, tilt his head back and pour it in his mouth.

He always explained just before ripping the end off of the blue paper packet with the white BC symbol that he needed to get rid of his “splitting headache.”

I read the directions on a packet that he emptied one day and learned that you could just dump the powder on your tongue like he did but that you should wash it down with a “full glass of water.”  I never saw him drink anything with his BC.

My granddad’s frequent use of BC got my attention, I guess, because I had heard so much about the headache powder growing up but had never seen any of it at our house.

There were some Bayer aspirin in the built-in medicine cabinet of our bathroom.  They were in a flat tin container that could be opened by pressing one corner of the metal box.

I never saw my dad take one, but my mother used the aspirin when my brother and I put her, as she always announced dramatically, “on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

BC headache powder was a widely-advertised product in those days, especially across the southern part of the country.  I was into country music even as a teenager and heard advertisements for BC on the Louisiana Hayride and Grand Ole Opry radio shows.

One of the celebrity spokesmen for BC was Faron Young, the country singer from Shreveport.  He went to Fair Park High School and had sort of a slicked-back ducktail hair style even before Elvis.

It’s ironic that Trace Adkins, another country music star who did commercials for BC years later, is also from Louisiana.  He grew up in Sarepta a few miles from my hometown of Springhill.

So I knew about BC powder but had never seen anybody use it until the summer I stayed with my grandparents.  I learned about some other medicines and remedies during that visit.

Working in the train yards must have caused digestion problems, because my grandad had a couple of fizzing glasses of Alka Seltzer every day and drank Pepto Bismol straight from the bottle.

To stay regular, as my mother used to say, he had stewed prunes for breakfast followed by a swig of milk of magnesia.

He kept a bottle of Geritol in his overalls pocket for his “tired blood” and “run down feeling” and always seemed to be in a little better mood after a dose or two of the alcohol-based elixir.

Maybe Regina’s cluster headaches would get better if she could wash down that BC powder with some of those old-fashioned 1950s alcohol-heavy concoctions like Geritol and Hadacol.

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Comfort in Nostalgia

There has been some comfort in nostalgia as we hunkered down during the coronavirus.

A video a guy from Springhill did about life in his hometown and mine in our growing up days is on the internet, and it keeps pulling me back.  When I watch it, the words and images stir good thoughts.

And it’s not just a Springhill thing.  We loved our upbringing there, but so did kids in Natchitoches, Many, Coushatta and other area towns.

All those communities had things that made them unique, but there were more similarities than differences in the way of life their young folks shared.

At a time when the pandemic has kept us apart, a video that shows how closely schoolmates and neighbors were connected in those towns is soul-stirring.

David Welch did the video.  It’s a hobby. He’s a retired football coach who was a few years behind me in school.

His dad had a shoe repair business in town, and David was formed and fashioned by Springhill and its people.     Just as I do, he still has some of the town in his blood and bones.

He did the guitar playing, singing and songwriting for the video that was created with mostly old black and white photos of people and places from his school days.

Those images are etched in the mind of folks who are spread far and wide now but who spent their teenage years in the same soda fountains, ballparks, hamburger joints and other hometown hangouts.

There are photos of paper mill smokestacks as Welch sings, “Things could be tough for a country town.  They came in and shut the factory down.  Things change…nothing stays the same.”

Yearbook pictures of classmates roll by to the words, “Some would say it’s just a poor town now.  Just a shadow of itself.  It’s best days are gone.  But those memories, they will live on.”

And then the chorus, “In my mind, I’m seventeen.  Back in time and back at The Hill.  Dragging Main to see and be seen, eating French fries at Billy’s Dairy Kream.  A Stampley song on the radio.  Football games on Friday nights, the ‘Jacks would play; everybody came.  Teentown dances at the old rec hall. Where did it go?”

Photos flashed of Springhill Lumberjack teams and the stadium where they played, the recreation center where kids danced in their socks, and of local singer Joe Stampley who became a big music star.

There were pictures of Main Street where kids cruised on Friday nights, the movie theater that had Saturday morning double feature westerns and our old high school that was torn down not long ago.

And more words to the song, “The old school is gone, replaced by a new one; the black and gold, it’s gone too.  The memories, they still remain.  Memories of those ivy walls, they live in us forever; they won’t be taken away.”

Interwoven in those lyrics are references to the school colors we wore and the alma mater we sang.

David’s words in that little four-minute video surely reflect the thoughts of those old friends and classmates who watched it.  “Things change and nothing stays the same…but the memories will live on.”

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25-Cent Gas

I went to fill up my car one day last week and paid my bill after the transaction with a quarter.  That was just one more indication of how upside down the world is right now.

It was the same service station where I use a credit card to fill up every week or so.  But the storm and demand for gas for generators and things like that knocked everything out of whack.

Hand-written signs taped on pumps indicated that credit card sales had to be conducted inside with the cashier before gas was pumped.   Exact change was required for cash sales.

When I surrendered my credit card to the cashier, she said I could fill up at Pump 6 and go back in the store afterwards to complete the paperwork.

As promised, the pump was working when I got back outside.  I squeezed the handle and got 21 cents worth of gas, about .0009 in gallons, before it cut off.

When I went back in, the cashier said that pump was probably out of gas and asked if I wanted to put the sale on the credit card.  I gave her a quarter instead, knowing I would not get change back.

My problem, I discovered, was that I was trying to fill the car with a higher grade of gas than “regular.”  Signs on other pumps showed that there was no mid-grade or premium gas.

The owner’s manual for my car is emphatic that it requires a higher grade of gas.  But I eventually filled up with regular, and nothing has shut down or blown up.

Anyway, the whole incident of trying to fill up my car and paying just 21 cents after the pump stopped reminded of when I started driving in high school.

Gasoline was about a quarter a gallon when I got my driver’s license in the 1950s.  That seems cheap, but it was more money than teenagers had most of the time.

Even when I had a quarter, it was hard to decide whether to spend it on a gallon of gas or a hamburger at the Dothl House that was so juicy it dripped down your arms.

Cars got better mileage then.  My best friend and I were both dating girls from Taylor, Ark., seven miles away.  We could put a gallon of gas in my family car or his, drive to Taylor, ride around with the girls a while and have enough gas to get back home.

We got interested in some Plain Dealing girls once, but that was 18 miles away.  Even when we could afford two gallons of gas, getting to Plain Dealing and back to see them was cutting it close.

So we stuck with the Taylor girls until the night I gave away the Elvis Presley autograph.

We had saved up a few dollars and decided to take the girls to the Louisiana Hayride show in Shreveport to see Elvis Presley.

When Elvis finished singing, he signed autographs near the stage.  The girl I was with begged me to get his autograph for her.

The line was long, and I crawled under seats to get closer to the front.  Elvis singed my Louisiana Hayride program just before the announcer said, “Elvis has left the building.”

On the way back to my cheap seat in the balcony, a pretty girl from Springhill said she would do anything for the autograph.  I gave it to her and found out she didn’t tell the truth.

We were in my friend’s Ford.  I never realized how big the back seat was until I rode home back there by myself.  The girl I was with got in front with the other couple and wouldn’t speak to me.

My friend said I messed up a good thing, because the Taylor girl he was dating quit seeing him too.

Most nights after I gave the Elvis autograph away and we lost the Arkansas girls, my friend and I just stayed in town when we had a little pocket change.  We had greasy hamburgers at the Dothl House and listened to sad songs on the juke box.

My 21-cent bill at the service station brought back some good memories.

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Demand for Tuna

The magnitude of this pandemic really sank in with me when I learned that the demand for canned tuna fish has soared in America during the global crisis.

Tuna producers around the world say sales of cans and pouches of tuna went up by 100 percent in the first months of the coronavirus.

Big retail groceries put limits on the number of cans of tuna customers could buy as shoppers tried to stock up on food.

That sudden surge in tuna fish sales was disturbing for some of us who lived in an era when consumption of canned tuna was extensive and just a way of life.  We had been encouraged by the declining popularity of the food in recent years.

From the 1950s when I was growing up until the late 1980s, tuna was the most consumed seafood in the nation.  More than 85 percent of households in the country had containers of tuna in the pantry.

But canned tuna sales had plummeted steadily for nearly three decades before the pandemic.  Per capita consumption in the United States dropped by 30 percent from 2000 to 2015.

Before it fell out of favor, tuna had been marketed for years as a healthy ingredient for sandwiches, salads and casseroles.  Lord knows my mother contributed to the tuna fish craze in her day.

Neighborhood gatherings of ladies’ groups were common back then.  There were frequent prayer meetings, Tupperware parties and home permanent days at our house, and tuna was a main attraction.

My mother would mix canned tuna with boiled eggs, celery, mayonnaise, onions and other stuff, put a glob of it on lettuce and call it tuna salad.

That was for fancy meetings.  If some of the ladies were just getting together to give each other home permanents, she usually served tuna fish sandwiches on white bread with the crust cut off.

She concocted some tuna casseroles a couple of times with mushroom soup in them, crushed potato chips on top and things like that, but my dad refused to eat them.

His main complaint was that they made the whole house smell bad.  I agreed with that and never could decide if the tuna fish or the home permanents smelled worse.

I dreaded the days my mother made tuna fish, because I knew she would put a tuna fish sandwich in my school lunch if there was any left over.

My third grade teacher Miss Bearden asked me to tell my mother not to send tuna sandwiches, because they smelled up the whole classroom before lunch.

I delivered that message, but my mother thought I had just made it up because I didn’t want any more tuna fish sandwiches in my lunch bag.  I told my dad, and he thought I was kidding.

Miss Bearden finally called my mother to complain about the smell of the tuna sandwiches.  The teacher didn’t help me learn the multiplication table that year, but she did save me from tuna fish.  This absolutely true story emphasizes how bad tuna fish really tastes. A tennis coach friend of mine was dating a girl from Russia who came to America to play college tennis.  They fell in love, and he wanted to ask her to marry him.

He is old-fashioned and felt he should get her dad’s permission before proposing.  He flew alone to Russia to meet him.  The coach didn’t speak Russian and was concerned about ordering food on the long trip.  So he took a few cans of tuna.

The girl’s dad granted his approval for the engagement, and the coach headed home.  At the Moscow airport, he saw some cans of food with a picture of fish on them in the gift shop and picked up several for the trip.

When his girlfriend and future wife was helping him unpack, she asked why he had cans of cat food from Russia in his backpack.  He had eaten a couple of them on the plane.

The coach said he really didn’t notice much difference in the tuna and the cat food.  I wish my mother was still around to hear that story.

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Jobs-Work

I hope my former and current employers can’t get their money back if they read this, but none of the many jobs over my lifetime ever felt like work, even when there were two or three at a time.
My decades of employment started at age 12. I mowed the yard for an elderly couple on a hot summer morning, and they paid me $3 in cold cash. That was a fortune to a kid in the 1950s.
I picked up two more customers for the lawn service, and my income soared to $9 a week.
The overhead costs were low. I had a manual, reel-type push mower, a sling blade and a file to sharpen them. So the $9 was all profit and more than I could spend.
I bought comic books for a dime and Grapettes at Barrett’s Grocery and spent a quarter every Saturday for the western movies.
Mowing yards was enjoyable. I liked the sun on my neck and the smell of fresh-cut grass. I have never missed a week without being paid to work since that first boyhood job.
When I went out for football in junior high, Coach Baucum observed my physique and asked if I wanted to be a trainer. That let me hang around sports taping knees and ankles.
It also provided opportunities for the future. Experience as a trainer got me a scholarship to college when there was no other way I could have gone.
And the sports ties led to other jobs. Coach Buddy Bonnette put me through a grueling water safety instructor course and hired me at the recreation center to clean the pool, mop floors and help lifeguard.
The editor of the Springhill Press paid me a dime an inch to cover sports, so she got detailed stories.
That little job led to stringing work for daily papers and to some disc jockeying and a sports show at the local radio station.
When I flunked math and stayed with my grandparents in Bogalusa to take the class in summer school, my uncle hired me to run his snowball stand. His profits fell, because girls got free snow cones.
They paid me in college to work as a trainer and for the school paper. I kept covering sports for dailies and worked nights at the Coushatta Citizen doing rewrites.
A rock with a Ku Klux Klan flyer wrapped around it crashed through the window one night. I called my editor Gordon Nelson who said he was watching a cross burn in his yard.
I had summer jobs at the paper mill in Springhill. College kids got the creampuff work. Regular employees did the important stuff.
After college, I got my dream job covering news and sports at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. There were five deadlines a night. We never missed one even when we slept on the floor to get the paper out during hurricanes.
I liked our early afternoon until midnight schedule. Long dinner breaks let us watch Mardi Gras parades, wander the French Quarter, catch the trolley to Camellia Grill for pie and have raw oysters at the Pearl and shrimp po-boys at Mothers.
On days off, my background as a trainer allowed me to travel the state selling athletic training supplies. I visited every school in Louisiana and met hundreds of great coaches and principals.
When an offer came to go back home to Northwestern, I jumped at it and have cherished my half-century involvement in media relations, athletics and other realms of the university.
Lovan Thomas bought The Natchitoches Times in the 1960s. I started writing for the paper then and still do. We did a lot of good journalistic things together when newspapers were in their heyday.
Maybe at this late stage of life, I will never have to get a real job.

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Drive-in Theaters

With apologies to the Walton family and the other nice folks at Walmart, I am not planning to patronize the drive-in movie theaters in their parking lots.

But the company should be applauded for its plan to put temporary drive-in theater screens in the parking areas of 160 of its stores beginning this month.

Drive-in patrons will see major motion pictures without leaving their vehicles.   Folks my age did that in the old days when there were drive-ins in nearly every town.

The Walmart movies will allow today’s younger generation to experience a form of entertainment that has about faded away.

When the Rancho Drive-in opened in Springhill, it offered us kids a new sense of freedom.

Parents had always inspected the family cars after we used them for dates to see if we had been  on red dirt roads to park at the gravel pits or oilfields.

After we got a drive-in, teenagers could park and make out at the theater without putting mileage on the odometers and getting red dirt on the tires and hubcaps.

The outdoor movies also let us escape the vigilance of an old usher named Charley at the indoor theater.  He wore an official gray usher uniform and waved a flashlight to keep us from talking, chewing gum or putting our feet on the seats.

There were not many rules at the Rancho.  Kids going to the concession stand often walked in front of the projector, casting oversize silhouettes of their head on the giant screen.

Horns blared from cars across the big parking area when the film broke or got fuzzy or the sound quit.

It was hard enough to hear what was happening in the movies under the best of circumstances with those scratchy, squawk box speakers that hung on the car windows.

A lot of those speakers got ripped from the posts that held them by movie goers who drove off without remembering the devices were temporarily attached to their cars or trucks.

Drive-ins got even more interesting when I went to college in Natchitoches and started going to movies at the Chief Drive-in.

There was no way we could have gotten our hands on alcoholic beverages to sneak into the drive-in in Springhill.  Folks at every place in town that sold booze knew our parents and our preachers.

But it was cool in college to smuggle some Schlitz beer or Thunderbird wine into shows at the Chief .  That resulted in a lot more speakers being snatched off their stands.

College students then could imbibe a little even at the indoor theater on Front Street.  There was a package liquor store next door.  Guys would get a half pint of bourbon or sloe gin to mix with their concession stand soft drinks.

People would go into the movie cold sober and leave walking into street signs and parked cars.

Drive-in theaters in their heyday had the benefits of privacy and freedom, but they had some drawbacks.

For one thing, there were only about six days a year when the weather in Louisiana was perfect for drive-in theaters.  Other times, it was too hot, cold, humid, rainy or foggy.

And mosquitos were a nuisance.  You could buy one of those insect repelling coil things at the concession stand.  It smoked when you lit it.  That made it hard to breathe with the windows up.  We put the windows down,  and more mosquitoes got in.

A big advantage of drive-ins was the price.  Admission was a quarter a person and another quarter for the car.

But that didn’t include the cost of all that mosquito repellent and replacing car windows that cracked when we drove off with the speakers still attached to them.

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In a Nice Place

Charlee Ann is the youngest of our four granddaughters who live in town, but she’s an “only child” for a week every year.

When her three sisters go off to summer camp, Charlee has what she calls “home camp” with her parents and at our house.

She’s just six, but Regina had her cutting out fabric and learning to sew masks.

It was when Charlee was helping me cook chicken and dumplings one night that she declared, “It’s good to be an only child once in a while.”  There’s still flour on the ceiling fans.

We moved the “home camp” to Branson for a few days this year.  Charlee didn’t have to be squeezed between her sisters on the roller coaster or other rides at Silver Dollar City.

There were no siblings trying to scare her when we rode through dark caves at the Big Cedar resort.  Nobody tried to douse her as she watched waterfalls and waded in cold streams.

She had the best seat on the balcony of her parents’ condo for breakfast and coffee milk in the mornings and the prime spot on our balcony for the water, fire and music show on Lake Taneycomo.

During one of our condo conversations, Charlee said she knows exactly what my first words will be when I call her on the phone or if she calls me.  “Whatcha doin’ Darlin?” she said in a perfect impersonation of my drawl and accent.

We were bantering about something and she asked if I wanted her to Hi-Yah me.  Not sure what that was, I told her to go ahead.  She gave me a karate chop in the chest and yelled “Hi-yah.”

Charlee watches karate on television and leaves bruises on her sisters with jabs she learned.  We asked if she would like to take karate lessons and she wanted to know if she would get to break some wood.

I had Charlee by myself for a couple of hours one afternoon, and we explored the whole promenade mall.  She wanted to go to the Build-a-Bear store to get some clothes for Animal.

Animal is the colorful, unsightly stuffed creature who plays drums on the Muppet Show.  Charlee got it for Christmas, and they are inseparable.

She picked out black shoes, pants and a cap but a green shirt.  I showed her several black shirts that would have matched better.  “Those are plain shirts,” she said.  “Animal likes hoodies.”

A clown working near the fountain was making things out of balloons.  He charged a dollar a balloon.  I saw girls with crowns made of one balloon and told Charlee that’s what she needed.

She asked if he could duplicate Animal with balloons.  I quit counting after a couple dozen.  He made a flawless replica of Animal and settled for 20 dollars.

At the shoe store, Charlee tried on countless tennis shoes before choosing a pair of Nikes.  She studied the fish in the Bass Pro Shop aquarium and got Sour Punch candy at the Five and Dime Store.

Charlee asked why I was lagging behind her as we walked back to the condo.  I told her I was getting too old to keep up.  She said, “Momee is just 60 or 70, and she can’t ride a bicycle.  You’re 90, and you walk and ride a bike every day.”

I said, “Charlee, I’m not 90.  I’m barely in my 80’s.  I probably won’t make it to 90.”

She asked, “Do you think you’ll go to Heaven?”  I told her I did, and she said, “Then you’ll be in a nice place.”

I enjoyed the walk with Charlee and hope to have a lot more before leaving for a nice place.

REPRINTED FROM THE NATCHITOCHES TIMES