Wednesday, February 20, 2019Members of the Sabine Parish Police Jury recently gave themselves a raise – a big raise – a 50 per cent raise. That’s right. From $800 a month to $1,200 a month. And remember, that’s for a part-time job. And they will tell you the justification is that it’s been a long time since they’ve had a raise. But that’s only part of the story. The other part is how much the Police Jury pays for health insurance for part-time Jurors. It varies, I suppose, depending on how many family members are included in the policy. Former Tax Assessor Conrad Cathey who has looked into the matter found that Jurors and employees of the Jury pay 16 per cent of the insurance costs while the Police Jury pays the other 84 percent. Let’s look at what the part-time Jurors get paid: Richard M. McCormic: his monthly insurance premium is $580.49. He pays 16 per cent, or $92.87, and the Jury pays the remaining 84 percent, $487.62. When you add the jury’s share of insurance costs to his $1,200 per month salary, it totals $20,244 per year. Willes Funderburk: monthly premium of $605.59; he pays $96.88 and the Jury pays $508.71. Add that to his $1,200 per month salary and it totals $20,496 per year. Ronald Bison: monthly premium of $970.23; he pays $155.24 and the Jury pays $814.99. Add that to his $1,200 per month salary and it totals $24,168 per year. Charles Brown: monthly premium of $3,031.03; he pays $484.96 and the Jury pays $2,546.07. Add that to his $1,200 per month salary and it totals $44,950 per year. Randall Byrd: monthly premium of $2,305.73; he pays $368.90 and the Jury pays $1,936.83. Add this to his $1,200 per month salary and it comes to $37,632 per year. Kenneth Ebarb: monthly premium of $84.24, with him paying $13.48 and the Jury paying $70.76. Add that to his $1,200 per month and the yearly total is $15,240. Eric Garcie: monthly premium of $3,115.27, with him paying $498.44 and the Jury pitching in $2,616.83. Add in his $1,200 per month and his yearly salary amounts to $45,792. William Ruffin: monthly premium of $53.69, with him paying $8.58 and the Jury paying $45.11. Add in his $1,200 monthly salary and the yearly total amounts to $14,940. The total pay to Jurors for a year amounts to $244,155.24. Cathey stated, “The insurance premiums total $10,746.27 per month or $128,955.24 for the year. Salaries amount to $9,600 per month or $115,200 per year.” He continued, “The insurance premiums alone would pay for 322 loads of rock at $400 per load. The total compensation to Jurors in a year would pay for 610 loads of rock that could be placed on parish roads. And our roads are in bad shape.” Now, another thing we learned last week. The Jury employs people to work at the dump stations. We are told their allowed hours are only 29 ½ hours per week, and some slightly over minimum wage. They are part-time employees and are not provided insurance because of that. A double standard comes into play: The Jurors are considered part-time employees, yet 84 per cent of their insurance premiums is paid by the Police Jury. The folks who man the garbage collection stations are also part-time employees, but get no insurance. And in a related matter, the Louisiana Public Service Commission is not pleased with the way board members of rural electric cooperatives are abusing health insurance payment. In 2017, health insurance payment accounted for about half of the $2.5 million for part-time board members. According to our Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, regulations have been proposed that would forbid the co-ops from providing board members with health and life insurance, cap per diems at $200 per day and set term limits. Commissioners were startled to learn that board members received an average of $26,250 in 2017 alone, while some members made as much as $50,000 in per diem payments for attending meetings. They also received compensation for travel. A private report published in February 2018 for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, recommended against providing directors with medical insurance. The report said providing insurance for part-time board members could, among other things, increase the cost of insurance for full-time employees. “Insurance is the most expensive benefit enjoyed by these part-time directors and in my view, any reform proposal must include this restriction,” Campbell stated. Sabine Parish Schools Supt. Sara Ebarb said the School Board last week approved a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Sheriff Ronny Richardson to fund eight security officers. “Right now the sheriff provides three officers that rotate among schools, and he will now provide four,” Supt. Ebarb explained. Under the agreement, the School Board will fund four additional officers. The City of Zwolle has been providing an officer for Zwolle schools and will continue to do so. Supt. Ebarb continued, “These officers will cover each school community and SPARK, the alternative school. One officer will be available to be where needed and cover absences. At this time the Many campuses will share an officer and the Zwolle campuses will continue to share an officer. Hopefully in the future, we can add officers for those campuses. The Sheriff is working to get officers in place and get them trained to begin the school year in August. He mentioned that he had two ready to enter the present campus rotations.” The Cooperative Endeavor Agreement will be for one year and will be considered at budget time each year, depending on funds. The School Board has agreed to pay up to $221,204.72 the first year, which is roughly half the cost. Supt. Ebarb said, “The Sheriff will do the hiring, training, purchase any related equipment and will invoice us for our part. Since we are not a law enforcement agency, it is necessary for us to partner with local law enforcement, and we are very appreciative of our Sheriff and the City of Zwolle for working with us to provide daily protection for our students and staff.” She concluded, “We have been very concerned about our schools needing sustained security for several years, and it is certainly good for our community to make the protection of our children a priority.” Sheriff Richardson told Observations, “We have been working on this agreement for a long time in case the tax didn’t pass.” A proposed tax for school security was recently voted down in Sabine Parish. Former Tax Assessor Conrad Cathey conducted a campaign asking the voters to wait until property in Sabine Parish is re-assessed. The completed re-assessment is due in August. Cathey said under the new assessment, the tax base would probably rise and new taxes may not be necessary.
“Funny, Funny, Where Did They Get The Money?”That is the battle cry after word about the School Board and Sheriff coming to a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement for School Resource Officers (SROs) last week. It is rumored that both Frankie Howard and Chris Abrahams, candidates for Sabine Parish Sheriff, are taking credit for the agreement. Word is they say the agreement came about because both had earlier proposed if elected Sheriff they would provide SROs without additional cost to the taxpayers. Word is also out that Rep. Howard will officially announce his candidacy within the next couple of weeks. We are sorry to report that Robert “Tex” McKnight of Florien passed on to his eternal reward mid-afternoon on Friday, Feb. 15. Laurie and I were on our way to see him at WK Hospital in Bossier City when he died. Tex was truly one of a kind. He was a true American, proud patriot, talented artist and craftsman, and a first-class human being. I hired him many years ago to work at the Many Pawn Shop for about a week. That employment lasted for several years. We send our deepest sympathies to his wife Carolyn, son Mike and other members of the family. At his request, there will be no services. His body will be cremated. As of this writing, the notice of Tex’s death that we shared on the Observations Facebook page Friday night has had 64 shares, reached 6,777 people, and had 2,410 engagements. He was certainly loved and the outpouring of sympathy and memories shared online demonstrates the powerful legacy he leaves behind. RIP, my friend. Nancy Spiller was honored on Sunday, Feb. 17 at First United Methodist Church of Many. She was presented a Special Mission Recognition by Vicki Isgitt, local United Methodist Women (UMW) President. Spiller works tirelessly at the church, serving as chairman of the Worship Committee, working with the youth of the church, singing in the choir and in so many other ways. Though she has faced health concerns in recent years, she has never failed or faltered in sharing her talents with the church. Spiller is the wife of FUMC-Many Pastor Emeritus Ray Spiller. “Nancy never, never gives up,” Isgitt noted of Spiller’s work. And that is, indeed, the case. We were so happy to see her honored in this way. She is more than deserving. Speaking of FUMC-Many activities, our own Carolyn Dove will soon attend The United Methodist Church’s Special Session of the General Conference to be held Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, MO, in response to Judicial Council Decision 1360, which was handed down on May 25 of last year. The special session will address, in part, “how the church might move forward around the issue of human sexuality.” Dove is one of eight official representatives attending from the state of Louisiana. She is one of four lay leaders who will attend in addition to four members of the Methodist clergy. Also in the group are lay leaders Sarah Kreutziger, Terrel Deville and Peter Aguila. Louisiana clergy attending are the Rev. Andy Goff, Rev. Juliet Spencer, Rev. Pat Day and Rev. Bernadine Johnson. A dozen others from Louisiana will attend, but not in official capacities, except for the Rev. Francey and Rev. Dick Hooton, who are in charge of the Marshalls for the special session. Linda Curtis-Spark did a wonderful job of putting together the No Man’s Land event celebrating the Bicentennial of Louisiana’s Final Frontier last Friday at Ft. Jesup State Historic Site. She is shown with Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, left photo, who was the featured speaker at the event. Looked like close to 500 or more were in attendance. The celebration will go on for three years. Rep. Frankie Howard is shown with Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, right photo. Rep. Howard spoke on the program and also offered the benediction. More photos from the event will be carried in next week’s Observations. Michael Wagley, musician and Spanish teacher at Leesville High School, will present his second music show at the Many Community Center [Sabine Theater] this Saturday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. Wagley will feature Henry Reggans and The Turn-Ups with The Turnettes, a popular area band headed by his dad, James Wagley , and Henry Reggans, talented and versatile musician from Leesville who is well known for his voice and his virtuosity on the keyboard. The Turnettes are popular sisters Natalie Rowe and Kate Rowe Gilcrease, who provide backup vocals for the band. It may seem like Talent Night at the Feb.23 music show because this show will also feature some talented young performers, including students from Leesville and Shreveport. Among them are Patrick Parker, a 17-year-old who attends Leesville High School. He has played guitar and piano for 10 years now. Sophie Elliot, 9, is from Shreveport and sings in the St.Marks Episcopal Church Youth Choir. Jamarae Wilson, a senior at Leesville High School, will perform a comedy act. Zara Lee, a sophomore at Leesville High School, will sing and play guitar. Daishawn Grooms, Leesville High School sophomore, is a Hip Hop artist who will perform his original songs. Admission for the Feb. 23 show is $7 for adults and $5 for kids under 12 years old. Popcorn and soft drinks will be $1 each, as always. Music in Many offers music shows of a wide variety once or twice each month throughout the year. The series is sponsored by the Town of Many Cultural District Advisory Committee, Mayor Ken Freeman and the Town of Many. I love to hear from you, so please call or write with your ideas and suggestions for future articles. Phone me at (318) 332-8653 or send an email to email@example.com. See below for recent Observations columns, and go online to our Observations Facebook page to see older ones, where they are listed under Photos and sorted into Albums by date. 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Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Sabine Parish now has under construction a very large natural gas facility. The site is located just off Hwy. 171 about three miles north of Many. Its size is about 15-20 acres. The land has been cleared and a large portion of it has been soil-cemented with an overlay of rock. A fence has also been constructed around the property.
At present, cement has been poured for the foundation of buildings and for equipment pads. It is a big project and a lot of money is being spent in Sabine Parish.
It is expected that the facility will offer natural gas gathering, compression, gas conditioning and treating and processing services.
The present Sabine Gas Plant, Toledo Bend Midstream is located just across the road from the new construction. That facility consists of high-pressure gathering pipeline to gather, transport and treat natural gas for area producers located in the Haynesville-Bossier Shale of western Louisiana.
In addition, Tellurian Inc. of Houston has proposed the Haynesville Global Access Pipeline to come through Sabine Parish. The cost is estimated at $1.4 billion with 200 miles of 42-inch pipe. The proposed pipeline will be capable of transporting upwards of 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from supply sources originating in the Haynesville-Bossier Shale area.
The pipeline will consist of one compressor station (approximately 23,000 HP) and 18 meter stations. It is estimated the pipeline will be in service in 2022.
In another development, out in the woods just north of Many is a five-acre-plus site that Shell Oil Co. has cleared. This site has also been covered with rock. A road has been constructed to the site. It is speculated that as many as six gas wells could be drilled there.
Sunday afternoon Laurie and I attended a celebration for an elaborate CD Box Set entitled “At The Louisiana Hayride Tonight” being nominated for a Grammy. It was held at the historic Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport. “The Louisiana Hayride” was a live Country music show, which originated there from 1948-60.
The 20-CD set contains a whopping 559 songs performed on the Hayride by its stars including Hank Williams Sr., Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Slim Whitman, Johnny Horton, Kitty Wells and so many other performers – many who got their start on the Hayride.
The CD set also contains a wonderful 224-page hardback book, which delves deeply into Hayride history, along with many pictures. Some years back, I issued a two-book volume on the Hayride, and am pleased to say that some of my material was used in the “At The Louisiana Hayride Tonight” boxed set’s book.
Alton and Maggie Warwick, owners of the Hayride, provided the old recordings, which were cleaned up digitally for use in the set. She was mistress of ceremonies for the Sunday program.
On Sunday, Gov. John Bel Edwards and his wife Donna were present. He pleased the nice attendance by singing the great George Jones hit, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Also present were new Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins and Bossier Mayor Lo Walker.
Former State Rep. Billy Ray Montgomery, a native of Provencal, was recognized for the part he played in obtaining state funds for restoration of the Municipal Auditorium while he was serving in the house.
We were glad to see old friend Johnny Wessler of Shreveport. He has been an advocate for Country music and tourism for many years and at one time was director of the museum at the Municipal Auditorium.
Also at the event were Tommy Tomlinson and his wife Kelly of Uncertain, TX. A wonderful friend, Tom’s father was the legendary Tommy Tomlinson who played guitar for Johnny Horton. The elder Tommy was in the wreck in Milano, TX that claimed Horton’s life.
Among others on the program were Kent Gill of Shreveport, Robin Vosbury of Shreveport and Ted Jones of Baton Rouge.
I am glad to report that my wife Laurie came through surgery for breast cancer well and is on a great road to recovery. She is so thankful for all the folks who have supported her on this difficult journey.
We have both very much seen the power of prayer and positive thinking. I’ve never met a person who faced such a difficult task with such great strength.
We thank all the many folks who have lifted her up in thought and prayer. There have been so many and we have seen God’s grace at work. Thanks to those who have brought food, who have sent cards and letters, who have sent words of encouragement on social media, those who have called her on the phone, and those who have asked about her and sent good wishes.
We can never tell you how much this means to both of us. We honestly and from the heart say, “Thank you.
Thought for the day:
Cherish yesterday, dream tomorrow, live today.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser will be coming to Ft. Jesup State Historic Site this Friday, Feb. 15, in a program to celebrate the Bicentennial of Louisiana’s Final Frontier, No Man’s Land, 1819-21. The program will start at 10 a.m. with the lieutenant governor speaking at 10:30 a.m.
Entertainment and lunch will follow the ceremony.
The Neutral Strip region, known as “No Man’s Land,” draws its name from the area’s brief stint as an official buffer zone between Spain and the United States following the Louisiana Purchase. When the U.S. purchased the territory from France, Spain and the U.S. were in conflict over the boundary west of Natchitoches. The region’s use as the buffer between Louisiana and Spanish Texas lasted roughly from 1806 until the 1819 Adams-Onis Treaty that established the Sabine River as the territory’s western boundary.
Sometimes described as a place filled with an outlaw culture or as a region with a reputation for a tough and isolated place, the region is better understood as a bastion of those cultural groups who wished to find a home where they could preserve a way of life they cherished in Louisiana’s No Man’s Land.
The No Man’s Land Louisiana Bicentennial Celebration is a collaborative effort between seven parishes, including Sabine, that are historically tied to Louisiana’s final frontier.
Lessons Learned Along Life’s Highway
This one is from Bo Stewart of Florien: “A half-truth is also a half-lie.”
Those Annoying, Unwanted Phones Calls and Such
It never fails: I am busy doing something I have been putting off for weeks. My mind is on what I am doing and both hands are full. Then it happens: the phone rings!
Usually I am aggravated and annoyed as I quickly put everything down and rush to the phone. As things would sometimes have it, I am home alone and expecting an important phone call.
I look at the caller ID and it reads “New Iberia.” “Must be an old college chum,” I think. As I say hello, a voice I can hardly understand calls my name. After I try to understand the gentleman, I finally tell him, “Look, if you are going to have a conversation with me, you need to speak English.” “Click.” as his receiver goes down.
Then there are the calls that come up on caller ID that show you are calling yourself. Not only that, but our landline often gets calls which are masked under family and friends’ names we have programmed into our phone. That sort of masking should be illegal, by the way.
When I have time, I like to have fun with those folks.
“I see you are calling from Many, LA. Do you live there?” I ask. This always rattles their cage as they strive to come up with a suitable answer.
Sometime they say “Yes,” and if so, I continue. “Say, the Mayor there is an old cousin of mine. Do you know him?” Again the caller strives for an answer. If he answers, “Yes, I know him,” I then ask, “What is his name? I just can’t remember it!” Another “click” as the receiver goes down.
One time there was a florescent light bulb salesman who called me. He spoke English well and I could understand what he was saying. After several calls from him, I had him believing I was going to buy a box car load of bulbs. He really gave me a good price, too. After we got up to that amount, it was I who hung up when he called again.
Almost as bothersome are unwanted e-mails. There is nothing more annoying than something you didn’t ask for and don’t want.
There is a place on the unsolicited e-mails you can click to supposedly be removed from their list. Every time I click on one, not only do I continue to receive e-mails from that organization, but at least 10 additional groups start sending unwanted e-mails, too.
Sabine Sheriff’s Patrol Sgt. Richard Patrick was selected Deputy of the Quarter, according to Sheriff Ronny Richardson, who said, “He goes above and beyond in helping keep Sabine a safe place to live and work.” Left to right are Chief Criminal Deputy John Adair, Sgt. Patrick and Sheriff Richardson.
Sabine’s Joe R. Salter, a member of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, was among those who joined Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, Commissioner of Higher Education for Louisiana, in visiting Northwestern recently. The trip was for a briefing with administrators, tour of the facilities and to meet with students. Also present were Marty Chabert, a member of the Louisiana Board of Regents and Lola Dunahoe, also on the Board of Supervisors. Left to right are Chabert, Dr. Reed, Northwestern President Chris Maggio, Ms. Donahoe and Salter.
Very sad to note that two priests who served in Sabine Parish were listed among 17 from north Louisiana accused of sexually abusing children prior to 1986.
Msgr. Robert Friend served at St. Joseph in Zwolle. An allegation of sexual misconduct and abuse of a male minor dating back to 1954 was brought before the Catholic Permanent Review Board in 2004. The allegation was deemed credible and a settlement was made with the victim in 2005. Msgr. Friend died in 1977.
Father Moise R. Gremillion served at St. John the Baptist in Many, Holy Trinity in Shreveport, St. Matthew in Monroe, Sacred Heart in Rayville and St. Clement in Vivian.
A review of his file in 2019 revealed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of male minors dating from the 1960s. The evidence was presented to the Review Board in 2019 and the allegations were deemed credible. Father Gremillion retired from active ministry in 1969 and died in 1973.
On another sad note, Scott Smith last week resigned as Superintendent of Bossier Parish Schools. He is married to the former Jane Holland, a native of Many.
The Bossier Sheriff’s Office said the Department of Homeland Security is conducting an investigation into Smith’s ordering a large quantity of prescription-only, anti-anxiety drugs online from overseas.
As Observations went to press, no charges had been filed.
Laurie and I were going to New Orleans a few weeks back and stopped in Gonzales to visit with former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards. Glad to report that he and family are doing well.
As we drove up, he was standing in the driveway. Laurie got out of the car and asked, “Governor, how is it that you keep getting younger while the rest of us get older?”
Without missing a beat, he responded, “I’ve cut back on sex to four times a week.”
We brought him and Trina a couple of dozen hot tamales from L&W Tamale House in Zwolle. Back in the day, when he was campaigning, EWE always said Zwolle had the prettiest women and best hot tamales around. Note, he always put the women first.
Recently, he asked young son Eli, “Do you have a girlfriend at school?” Eli replied, “No, I have two.”
Wife Trina responded, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Although a little late, we want to share this picture of the Super Blood Wolf Moon from the night of Jan. 20. The photo was taken by our friend Tonia Bridges. The next total eclipse will not be until 2021.
Hats doffed to Linda Curtis-Sparks on being named the 22nd member of the Sabine Hall of Fame. She will be inducted in banquet ceremonies on Tuesday, March 26, at Siloam Baptist Church.
Known as a community leader, she is a 1966 graduate of Many High School where she was a member of the band, was a majorette and was Miss MHS. In addition, she was crowned Miss Sabine Parish.
Ms. Curtis-Sparks was raised in Many First Baptist and is one of four children born to Geraldine and Douglas W. Curtis Sr. She earned a degree in Speech/Hearing Pathology and Public Speaking at Northwestern State University, plus 30 hours credit. She taught school at Florien before opening Merle Norman Cosmetics and House of Gifts.
She served on the Many City Council from 1989-2002. She also served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Sabine River Authority. Now Director of the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission, she is devoted to Toledo Bend Lake and is coordinating a three-year celebration of “No Man’s Land.”
Upon induction, she will join her brother, John W. Curtis, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, thus becoming the first brother and sister to be honored in the Hall.
Watch out for the State Police. We understand the State Police are no longer funded by the Highway Trust Fund, so they are out writing tickets to bring in additional monies.
They have been in the Town of Many. It is said that traffic is usually slow in town, so you may be a ticketed for an out-of-date inspection or for not wearing a seatbelt. Drivers, beware.
And there are quite a few troopers writing tickets on I-49 as well. So, drive with care.
Last, but certainly not least, we wish our readers a very Happy St. Valentine’s Day tomorrow. Love is a wonderful gift of God, and we wish you and yours a very special day. Singer Lana Del Ray said, “When someone else’s happiness is your happiness, that is love,” and the disciple John wrote, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” We agree with both and especially the latter.
That’s all for now. Please call or write me with your thoughts and ideas for future articles. Call me at (318) 332-8653 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Older Observations are archived on our Facebook page, where they are listed under Photo Albums by date. More recent columns may be found below. To print this week’s column, right-click anywhere on the content and select “Print.”
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Back in the early 1960s I was a student at Northwestern State College and worked for the old Natchitoches Enterprise and was also a stringer for the Shreveport Journal and Alexandria’s Town Talk. The Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce started a drive to have “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” at Hidden Hill Plantation at Chopin developed as a tourist attraction.
Legend has it that the Harriett Beecher Stowe book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” had its setting at Hidden Hill Plantation, now known as Little Eva. The book was published in 1852. It is said the character Simon Legree was patterned after plantation owner Robert McAlpin, and that there was a black man called “Uncle Tom” who worked there. The matter has always been controversial, but presents convincing arguments both ways. The book is credited with doing much to lead to the beginning of the Civil War.
On March 16, 1960, the Journal carried a story I wrote about the Chamber’s drive to have the site become a tourist attraction, which would be operated by the State Parks system.
The article brought a flood of letters to the Chamber, including one from Deacon Thomas C. Parry of Shreveport, and his brother Robert McAlpin Parry. They claimed to be grandsons of the original McAlpin.
One afternoon I caught a Trailways Bus from Natchitoches to Shreveport to meet the brothers. I walked from the bus station to their Milam St. home. I interviewed them for about two hours and took some photos of them. I then caught the bus back to Natchitoches.
Deacon Parry said his grandmother was Lucinda Harrison, an Indian slave of McAlpin’s who was brought from Shelby County, Tennessee.
McAlpin and Harrison had two children: Carrie and Cora.
The plantation master is said to have died in a drunken spree in 1852. After his death, all the slaves, including Harrison and her children were set free. They left Chopin and afterward several ended up in Shreveport in 1873. Once there, the elder lady helped care for the yellow fever epidemic victims that year.
In Shreveport Carrie McAlpin married George Parry and they had 12 children, six of which died in infancy. Deacon Thomas C. Lewis Parry was born Jan. 30, 1884 and was named after Capt. Thomas C. Lewis of the Confederate Army. His brother Robert was born Dec. 24, 1886.
The deacon remembered his grandmother telling about how mean McAlpin was and that he was a heavy drinker. She told how the whole community respected McAlpin because they were afraid of him.
“I guess he was mean to everybody,” Deacon Parry said. “My grandmother said he was very mean to her.”
He continued, “My grandmother was the mistress, so to speak, of the plantation. She was McAlpin’s property. She and McAlpin told the slaves what to do.”
The two brothers related that their grandmother hated so to have intercourse with McAlpin, that when she could not escape it, she would pull the hair on her head. Their mother was later born with gray hair, and they attributed that unusual fact to their grandmother’s hair-pulling.
It was interesting to meet and visit McAlpin’s two grandsons and listen to their stories and recollections of family lore. Whatever the exact truth of the matter to be, the tragedy all started more than 150 years ago, and the controversy of its legitimacy continues.
Renovations on the future ”No Man’s Land Museum in Many” are moving right along, according to Many Mayor Ken Freeman.
Kowonno Green Handyman Services completed extensive repairs and renovations to all woodwork in the building, and in some cases, new exterior doors had to be custom constructed to match the original two doors remaining in the depot.
A complete paint job throughout the exterior and interior of the depot is now in progress. Kevin Gosey Painting is doing the work, and it is expected to take at least another month to complete.
When complete, the exterior and interior doors will be painted an authentic Dover White with green trim. Ceilings in two of the display rooms will be stained to match the original dark brown paint on those ceilings. The “railroad history” room’s ceiling will be painted Dover White with medium green on the beams and the walls’ wainscoting. All outside trim and exteriors ceilings and eaves will be painted white. Interior designer Thomas Dunigan of Richard Eugene Miller Interior Designs in Houston worked closely with Mayor Freeman and members of the Cultural Advisory Committee to select authentic colors historically suitable to the early 1900s depot.
The two bathrooms have been retiled with small white octagonal porcelain tiles that closely match the original tiles that were installed in the depot when it was built in 1912. Toledo Center Floor Covering laid the tiles and also installed a new laminate wood floor is what will become the Train Display room.
Daniel Jones Electrical and Plumbing has installed new exterior security lighting around the depot, additional track lighting in the Depot Art Guild. Jones also installed porcelain pedestal lavatories in each of the two bathrooms. The pedestal sinks were also selected to remain true to the time period when the depot was built. New toilets and additional plumbing were scheduled to be installed recently by Tommy Byles Electrical and Plumbing as well.
EastGate Electrical installed new central air conditioning and heating throughout the depot. Hurd Electric completely rewired the building and installed ceiling lights and fans throughout.
A new roof over the main part of the depot was installed by Herman Miller Construction and Clevenger Roofing installed the portion of the roof over the baggage room that is already operational as the Depot Art Gallery.
Freeman said that the city has been very careful to seek bids on the different components of renovation and repairs. “Sometimes it takes us a little longer to get some work done because we are waiting on contractors to turn in their bids and we then select the lowest bid,” Freeman continued. “We are also very proud of the fact that we have used all local companies and contractors on this project,” Freeman added.
He is hopeful that the building itself will be finished sometime in early spring. “Then comes the fun part – we plan and install the exhibits,” Freeman said.
Freeman said members of the Cultural District are already working closely with various historians, tourism groups, colleges and universities to plan the exhibits. “This may take a little time, but we want to get everything just right because we believe our ‘Save a Building/Build a Museum’ project is such an important one for our town and the entire parish, and we want it to become a major reason for people to visit our town and parish,” Freeman said.
DON’T FORGET: This Saturday, Feb. 9, is the big Richard Bruce Cook Tribute to Elvis Concert for Valentine’s Day at Many Community Center [Sabine Theater.] The show starts at 7 p.m. and admission is only $7 for adults and $5 for kids. Veterans will be admitted free of charge. Concessions are always available for only $1 each.
Cook will present a special “I Love You Truly” Elvis Presley tribute for the holiday, so you don’t want to miss it! He’s one of the best Elvis artists around and Many is mighty lucky to have him back.
The show is part of the Music in Many annual concert series sponsored by the Town of Many, Mayor Ken Freeman and the Many Cultural District Advisory Committee, who all work hard to bring lots of cool activities and entertainment to Sabineland.
That’s all for this week. Please write or call with your ideas and suggestions for future articles. Send an email to email@example.com or call me at (318) 332-8653. Recently archived columns are found below; older ones are archived on our Observations Facebook page under Photo Albums, where they are listed by date. To print this week’s column, simply right-click anywhere on the content and select Print.
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
It was 45 years ago this past Jan. 2 that legendary Western movie star, Capitol Recording artist and Grand Ole Opry star Tex Ritter passed away from a heart attack in Nashville, TN. It was 10 days before his 69th birthday.
He grew up at Murvaul in Panola County just across the Sabine River in Texas. He acted on Broadway, performed in 78 movies, ran as a Republican for Senator from Tennessee, sang the title song for hit movies including “High Noon” and so much more.
I thought back to Tuesday, Oct. 6, 1970 when Tex came to Many to perform at the Toledo Fall Festival. Since I had arranged the performance, I went down to the Starlite Motel about 10 a.m. to welcome Tex to town and go over the day’s agenda, as we were going to have a busy one.
I knocked on the door and after a while, Tex answered. He and his band “The Boll Weevils” had driven all night from Nashville and he had been asleep. I felt bad about disturbing him, but he didn’t seem to mind.
At noon Tex spoke to the Many Lions Club who were meeting at the Starlight Restaurant. I had the pleasure of introducing him. Ritter had studied to be a lawyer and had lost his recent run for the U.S. Senate. He was interesting to listen to and we had a full house for him.
Following that, we went by the Index office for a visit and then on to an interview with Don Lyons on KWLA Radio.
At 4 p.m. the Toledo Fall Festival Parade went through downtown Many with Tex as the Grand Marshal. He was driven in a buggy by the late Warren Meadows.
Following the parade, we went to my house where Tex was honored with a fish fry. He enjoyed it very much and enjoyed visiting with anyone who wanted to talk to him.
The concert was to be held at the Festival Ground, but was rained out. Instead it was held in the Many High School Auditorium at 7 p.m. The late Virginia Godfrey, mayor at the time, presented Tex a Key to the City. Following the concert, a tired Tex headed home. But he was a really a trooper all day as he attended the various events.
The late J. C. Ritter, who ran Ritter’s Shoe Store in Many, recalled that Tex had performed at the Sabine Theater about 20 years prior. The late Joe Luster, who managed the Theater, said that was correct, but it had been 21 years. And the late Truman D. Nichols said he, too, remembered the occasion.
J. C. said at the time Tex visited his store he wanted to buy a Stetson hat, but they didn’t have his size.
Tex also recalled that he used to come to Many and Zwolle and perform at the theaters and do what he called “bicycling.” The theater in Many would have him perform and then follow his show by playing his latest movie. While the movie was playing in Many, he would go to Zwolle to perform, then it would be back to Many. He would do this several times during the day.
Very involved in Country Music, Tex served two terms a President of the Country Music Association and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. In addition, he was a true patriot who loved his country and he was not pleased with anyone who did not.
Tex was a historian and loved to tell stories about history. Sometimes he made them humorous. He said, “If the Alamo would have had a back door, there wouldn’t have been a Texas.”
Another was, “They say that Virginia is the mother of Texas. We never did know who is the daddy was, but we always suspected Tennessee.”
I was fortunate through the years to see Tex several times at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
The day he died, he was at the Nashville jail to get one of his band members released.
They brought Tex home to Texas to bury him and I attended the funeral. It was held on Sunday, Jan. 6, 1974 at 1 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Nederland. He was buried at Oak Bluff Memorial Park in Port Neches. Among those attending the funeral was singer Tom T. Hall and radio and television star Ralph Emery.
The gas crisis was on in full force that day and all gas stations were closed. I had a little 1967 Citroen, a small French-made vehicle, at the time. I didn’t know if I would have enough gas to go there and back, so I took a five-gallon can of gas along. As it turned out, I didn’t have to use it. But I sure wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to pay my last respects to a fine human being and a great American, Tex Ritter.
Mrs. Pricilla Wolf-King will be honored at a retirement celebration at the Sabine Parish Clerk of Court’s Office, according to Clerk Tammy Foster.
Mrs. Wolf-King will retire after a long 35 years of dedicated service to the Clerk of Court’s Office.
The event will be held tomorrow, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m. in the Clerk’s Office.
Our best wishes to Mrs. Wolf-King.
Joyful songs, thankful prayers, dances of praise, and encouraging speeches filled the air of the Kings Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church as church-goers celebrated at the 24th annual Martin Luther King March and Ceremony last Monday morning in Many.
Master of Ceremonies William Ruffin set the tone with this year’s theme: “The waters have been dried up, and it’s time for us to cross over.”
Rev. Gwendolyn Snearl, presiding elder of the Alexandria-Thibodeaux District who also works at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, delivered a passionate and fiery speech reminding the audience of how far they have come in the years since the civil rights movement began and how it is now time for young African-Americans to become responsible for even more progress.
Local and area ministers who spoke about how Dr. King was a man of peace and stood for peaceful advancement of the rights of African-Americans included the Rev. Louis Smith, Rev. Woodrow Williams, Rev. Curtis Fields, Rev. Recie Medlock Jr., Rev. Curtis Fields and Rev. Jerome Newsome. The theme of their speeches was the same: “We’ve come a long way in gaining our rights as citizens of the United States, but we have a way to go, and young people must now pick up the mantle and lead us forward, not through violence but peacefully.”
The Daughters of Jerusalem choir led the congregation in inspirational songs such as “Lift Every Voice” and “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.”
Children were also part of the celebration. Young Praise Dancers from Kings Chapel AME and New Jerusalem Baptist Church had the congregation singing and swaying as they danced for them.
Many Mayor Ken Freeman gave the welcoming remarks after marching with a large group to the church from the corner of Alabama and San Antonio Avenues. It was the 24th year Mayor Freeman has participated in the March and Ceremony, having not missed one since the event began.
Older members reminisced about how they could remember years ago when African-Americans citizens could not drink water from the same fountains as white citizens, could not enter through the front door of a building, could not eat in the same restaurants or stay in the same hotels, and could not vote.
“That’s all changed now, and we have these rights and many more, but we still have a ways to go. Racism still exists,” said one minister. “And now we need you young people to get busy, but to do so only with respect and non-violently,” he reminded the younger people in attendance.
All in all, Martin Luther King’s birthday in Many was celebrated with memories, respect, thankfulness, and a reminder to keep moving forward.
Many film and television versions of “Little Orphan Annie” have been produced, but the much-loved musical comedy movie “Annie” playing this Saturday, Feb. 2 at Many Community Center at 7 p.m. is the original version based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie. All later productions are based on this first film.
“Annie” stars Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks, Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, Tim Curry as Rooster, Bernadette Peters as Rooster’s girlfriend Lily St. Regis, and Aileen Queen as Annie.
Some of the songs from this musical comedy that have become popular through the years include “It’s a Hard Luck Life,” “Tomorrow,” and “Easy Street.”
“Annie” is presented by the Town of Many Cultural District Advisory Committee, Many Mayor Ken Freeman, and the Town of Many as part of the Movies in Many program.
Free movies are shown at the Many Community Center [Sabine Theater] on the first and third Saturdays of each month. This year, the movies were selected from a list of requests submitted by the public.
The movies are all rated G, PG, or PG13 so the entire family can attend the movies without viewing violence, bad language, or graphic sexual content.
“We think ‘Movies in Many’ is a huge bargain for movie fans,” Mayor Freeman said. “Here an entire family of five can come and enjoy a movie and everyone have popcorn and a soft drink without spending more than $10 because our movies are always free, and concessions are only $1 each,” Freeman emphasized. “Where else can you do that except for ‘Movies in Many?’”
The annual movie fundraiser for the Sabine Parish Animal Shelter was a big success, and animal advocates are already looking forward to an additional movie-fundraiser later in 2019.
Attendance to see the classic boy and his dog drama “Old Yeller” at the Many Community Center was good despite miserably cold weather the evening of Jan. 19.
The sizable crowd donated lots of blankets, collars, cat scratch posts and other items as well as $300 in donations to help make shelter animals’ lives more comfortable.
More than 13,000 animals have been taken in by the Sabine Animal Shelter since the shelter building opened nine years ago. Thousands of animals have also been spayed or neutered under the voucher program.
Five emaciated horses were recently seized and taken to the animal shelter. They are now being fed well and, hopefully, will recover their health. Shelter Manager Lisa Butler is seeking qualified foster homes for some of the horses while they are regaining their health.
She is also asking for donations of hay and feed since the shelter will continue to need more hay to feed the horses while they are the shelter. Someone who wishes to donate hay or feed for the unfortunate horses is urged to call the shelter at (318) 256-2275.
“All donations will be deeply appreciated,” Butler said.
That’s a wrap for January 2019! Remember, I love to hear your ideas and suggestions for future articles, so send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (318) 332-8653. Recently archived columns are found below. Older ones are archived on our Observations page on Facebook, where they are listed by date under Photo Albums. To print this week’s column, simply right-click anywhere on the content and select Print.
Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Remembering George Jones
It was Sunday, April 29, 1979 and I had booked the great George Jones to sing at the annual Memorial Day at Rebel Park near Marthaville. The contract called for him to do two shows, one at 2 p.m. and another at 7 p.m.
We had one heck of a crowd present to see him, about 5,000. A little before 1:30 p.m. his big bus rolled into Rebel Park. About the same time, I received a phone call in the park office. It was George.
“My bus with the band is on its way there,” he related, “but my private plane went off and left me in Baton Rouge.” Oh, boy.
This was in the days before cell phones, so I got on the park’s phone and located his plane at Hart Airport in Many, and told the pilot the problem. Said he, “I couldn’t find George before I left, so I thought he was on the bus.” The boys on the bus thought he was on the plane. The pilot immediately turned around and flew back to Baton Rouge, and said he would call me back when he found George and was ready to leave Baton Rouge.
Seems George had a show in Baton Rouge the night prior and afterward, he and Johnny Paycheck celebrated Willie Nelson’s birthday. Turns out that April 29 was Willie’s 46th birthday. Must have been some party.
We kept the problem from the crowd and kept reassuring them “George is on his way,” all the while hoping for the best. We learned first hand that he didn’t get the name “No Show Jones” for nothing.
At about 4 p.m., I got another call from the pilot saying he had found George, and they would be landing at the Many Airport about 4:30 p.m., and wanted me to pick them up. I had a station wagon from Lowrey Chevrolet at the time and my friend Rivers Murphy, who taught art at Northwestern, and I headed for Many.
We had not been there long when the plane came in. George was in good shape for the shape he was in. He and the pilot rode in the back seat, and we headed to Rebel Park on the rough old Marthaville Road which goes through the woods, but is the quickest route between Many and Marthaville. If you’ve ever been on it, you know how bad it is. I kept looking at George in the rearview mirror.
He was holding a Baby Ruth candy bar in one hand and trying to eat it, but that rough road had his head bobbling around like a TV character.
“When are we gonna get on the interstate?” he asked, head bobbing. He must have had a headache. I replied, “We’re on it.” In spite of everything, we found him to be a pleasant person and we talked about a lot of different things on our ride back to Marthaville.
We got to the Park, and he went on stage a little after 5 p.m. The crowd had waited for him. His first performance was not too good as he forgot the words to some of his greatest hits and at times just mumbled parts of his songs.
After the first show, George asked me, “Since we are late, could I just do the one show instead of two?”
“That’s fine with me,” I responded, “if you only want to get paid for the one show.” Without argument, he accepted the answer and said he would do a second show, but would like a little time to rest before starting the second. I told him that would be fine.
The crowd stayed and he put on a better show the second time around. The second show was over about 9 p.m. and he was soon on his way to Nashville.
The late Rev. C. D. Bates was Master of Ceremonies for the show that day. He told me that he talked to George about his spiritual life that day and George seemed receptive to what he had to say. Who knows how that conversation might have affected George’s life.
But it took a Louisiana girl, Nancy Sepulvado, to really straighten him out. They married on March 4, 1983.
Roy Acuff, The King of Country Music, once said of George, “He could sing the damn Nashville phone book and make you cry.” And Mr. Acuff was right. He was just that good. His place in Country music is secure. He ranks right up there with Hank Williams Sr., who was one of his idols.
George died April 26, 2013 at the age of 81.
We closed the park down about midnight on the day George Jones came to Rebel. And his appearance there was a day I would never forget.
Chris Abrahams is shown with his truck that was in the Many Christmas Parade on Dec. 22. He is a candidate for Sabine Parish Sheriff in the election this fall. Now the strange thing about it is what’s contained in the litter ordinance passed last year by the Sabine Parish Police Jury. The 16-page ordinance reads: “Billboards may not be erected or displayed on any vehicle or trailer.” Since when did such a billboard become litter? It has been reported that Abrahams called a Police Juror to ask about the matter, and the Juror told him he was unaware of that part of the ordinance and would have to check into it. Shades of liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who said of Obamacare, “We’ll have to pass it to see what’s in it.”
I recently had the privilege to be on the “Take No Hostages Report” with Tedd Dumas as we interviewed an ole World War II Veteran, Alton Mahaffey. He is 96 years old, one of eight children and was raised near Florien.
He had just graduated from high school at Florien when he and three friends hitch-hiked to Shreveport to join the service. That was in May of 1941. Blanchard Pruitt joined the Army and was in the March of Baton where he was killed. C. P. Gandy joined the Navy. And Mr. Mahaffey joined the Navy.
The sailor was on the Oklahoma when it was bombed by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. Later he was on the cruiser North Hampton when it was sunk. He also served on an amphibious transport ship.
He stayed in the service until the war was over and was released in 1945.
His son, George Mahaffey of Katy, TX came in to be with his father for the broadcast.
Music in Many’s spring concert schedule is the most ambitious one yet with lots of concerts booked for January through May, according to Many Mayor Ken Freeman.
“We have at least one great music show every month,” Freeman said, “and we have two shows scheduled for several of the months. Additionally, the admission price has been cut in half, and some shows are even free.”
“Michael Wagley Presents” is a new production which will feature different bands and musicians on the fourth Saturdays of January, February, and March, (Jan. 26, Feb. 23, and Mar. 23.) Wagley said he’s planning a wide variety of music which will have something to offer for everyone. The son of popular musician James Wagley, Michael is enthusiastic about the three month schedule and thinks the shows will be quite popular. Admission charge for each of the shows will be $7 for adults and $5 for kids under 12. Veterans will be admitted free.
“Elvis,” aka Richard Bruce Cook, will return with his “I Love You Truly” Valentine Show on Saturday, Feb. 9. Cook, an Elvis Presley tribute artist, is returning for the third year and is one of the most popular annual music shows at the Community Center. Admission to this holiday show will be $7 for adults and $5 for kids under age 12. Veterans, of course, will be admitted free as always. “I Love You Truly” is presented as a special, local Valentine’s Day outing for all couples and families, too!
March 9 will see Flashback, a raucous Rock and Roll group that plays popular music of the 1950s at the Community Center with a music show that promises to bring the house down with their renditions of favorite Rock ‘n Roll songs from the 1960s and 1950s. Flashback performed at the Community Center in November and is returning by popular demand.
“We had fun, the audience had fun, and we’re thrilled to be returning,” said Flashback band leader Bill Handorf.
He also promised they would once again perform “Purple People Eater” and that the Purple People Eater would, indeed, be at the theater in person. Admission will be $5 for everyone attending. Veterans will be admitted free. For Flashback’s special show, attendees who wish to do so are asked to don their best 1950s duds and hair-dos and come ready to shake a leg.
The wildly popular Brandy Roberts will be the April headliner at the Many Community Center on April 13. This marks the third year that Robert has returned to perform at the Community Center. He quickly bonded with local music-lovers the first time he appeared and looks forward to playing this engagement each year. Tickets are only $5 for everyone, except veterans, who are admitted free of charge.
The month of May will feature two entirely new and different concerts:
Choupique, the nationally popular Cajun band from south Louisiana, will perform on Saturday, May 11, at the Many Community Center for the first time. The band recently traveled to Nova Scotia, Canada as musical ambassadors to represent the State of Louisiana.
Jesse Brown, accordion player and lead vocalist, said this will be Choupique’s first appearance in northwest Louisiana and that the band members are excited about the show. Their songs are old, traditional Cajun songs and are performed in Cajun French.
“The rollicking songs will make everyone want to get up and dance the fais-do-do,” Brown laughed.
There is no charge for this highly entertaining and cultural performance due to the generosity of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, who has provided a grant to make the group’s Many appearance possible.
“God Bless America” will be presented on Saturday, May 25, and is the first ever patriotic concert to be offered at the Many Community Center. It will honor all veterans of Sabine Parish, both living and deceased. Willie Stewart Family & Friends will all sing and play their various stringed instruments as they perform not only patriotic classics, but some more obscure songs of Americana as well. Stewart promises the songs they play will inspire everyone to remember what a great country America is. Stewart also said the concert will be free to everyone. “It’s our gift to our veterans who have given so much for America,” he commented.
“We’ve reduced ticket prices from last year’s $10 to $5 [this year] for so many of our music shows. Some of the shows are even free,” said Many Cultural District Advisory Committee chairperson Mary Brocato. “We are hoping that this price reduction, along with some free shows, will encourage our citizens and residents to attend the music shows and enjoy Music in Many. It’s all part of an attempt to provide entertainment events that everyone can afford to attend,” she concluded.
All Music in Many shows will start at 7 p.m. Box office ticket sales open at 6 p.m., and concessions are also available at each concert.
That’s all for now. Please call or write with your ideas and suggestions for future articles. Call me at (318) 332-8653 or write to email@example.com. Recently archived Observations are posted below. Older ones may be viewed on our Facebook page, where they are listed under Photo Albums by date. To print this week’s column, right-click anywhere on the content and select “Print.”