The Southwest Louisiana Historical Association's Newsletter
Imperial Calcasieu Notes
January 2005 Vol. 9 No.1 Kathie Bordelon, Editor
January Meeting | October Meeting | Phyllis Morgan | Kendall Book | Truman Stacey | Gingham Ladies
Gaming Grants | McLeod Lecture Series | Announcements
Louisiana Historical Association will hold its next meeting on January 17, 2005,
at 7:00 p.m., in the Calcasieu Public
Library at 411 Pujo Street.
The speaker is Dr.
Keegan LeJeune, Assistant Professor in the Department of Languages at McNeese
State University. Dr LeJeune has a Ph.D. in English from the University of
Louisiana at Lafayette with a specialization in Folklore. He is responsible for
the creation of all courses in folklore at McNeese where he teaches four
sections per semester. Dr. LeJeune is a popular local speaker who has presented
programs at the McNeese Banner series on “Louisiana’s No Man’s Land and its
Outlaws” and “Cajun Country Mardi Gras.” He has presented programs at various
folklife festivals and society meetings and has published articles and poetry.
He is an active member of several folklore organizations, serving currently as
vice president of the Louisiana Folklore Society.
Dr. LeJeune’s program
for the Historical Association will be a lecture and slide show on “A Country
Mardi Gras.” If you haven’t heard him speak on this topic before, you are in for
a treat. Please come and bring a guest!
October Meeting Report
by Truman Stacey
Louie D. “Beau” Barbe,
trustee for the Barbe and Drew Estates, spoke to the Historical Association at
its October meeting about Harrison C. Drew, one of the early timber barons of
Imperial Calcasieu. Drew, a native of Maine, was born in 1838. He came to Lake
Charles after the Civil War and became involved in the harvesting and sale of
long-leaf pine timber. He was a partner in the Lake City sawmill on the south
shore of the lake until 1892 when he sold his interests to J. B. Watkins,
another timber baron.
Drew retired from the
timber industry in 1898 and bought 14,000 acres in West Calcasieu in order to
experiment in rice growing. Within a few years he had the largest rice farming
operation in the United States, with 8,000 acres under cultivation.
When Drew died in
1916 half of his estate was left in trust for the education of the youth of
Southwest Louisiana, especially in the manual and technical fields.
Over the years the
estate has grown to the point that the trustees are able to fund 200
scholarships annually to McNeese State University students as well as funding
laboratories and other facilities for area public, parochial, and trade schools.
Drew Park is another
of Drew’s generous contributions to Southwest Louisiana. He set up the park and
deeded it to the city of Lake Charles, with the Enterprise Club designated as
the agency for its upkeep. The Enterprise Club continues to maintain the park to
this present day.
Drew was also a banker, being one of the organizers of the Calcasieu State Bank in 1892. He was also a state senator from 1900 to 1912, and throughout his lifetime was a generous benefactor to the charitable and educational needs of his adopted city.
Historian Phyllis Morgan Passes Away
Association members were saddened to learn of the death of Phyllis Morgan,
historian and Gingham Lady, on December 6, 2004. Phyllis was a native of
Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and had lived 37 years in Lake Charles. She was a
graduate of Morgan City High School and Southwest Louisiana Institute, now known
as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She began her teaching career in a
private school in Texas before moving to Louisiana, where she worked in Acadia
and Calcasieu Parish schools. She served most of her teaching career until her
retirement with Henry Heights Elementary School.
Phyllis was a member
of Alpha Rho Conclave of Kappa Kappa Iota Soroity. She and her husband, John,
enjoyed square dancing since 1977, and she was a member of the Southwest
Louisiana Historical Association and the Gingham Ladies. She was a member of the
Sale Street Baptist Church and Choir and the Christian Women’s Organization. Her
passion was for the love of her dogs.
Phyllis is survived by her loving husband of 37 years, John Morgan of Lake Charles; mother, Anne Prudhomme Adams of Lake Charles; twin sister, Patricia Anne Adams of Hecker; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins. (Lake Charles American Press, December 8, 2004)
Phyllis will be greatly missed by the members of the Historical Association. She was always willing to help out with committee work, kept up with our scrapbook as historian, participated enthusiastically in the Gingham Ladies, and supported our field trips and other endeavors wholeheartedly.
Harry Kendall’s New Book
by Robert Benoit
H. Kendall, author of A Farm Boy in the Foreign Service, the winner of
the 2003 Donald Millet Writing Award, has published another book about his
life’s experiences, this one telling of his first 30 years, including his
growing up in south Lake Charles.
His new book is titled Beyond Magnolias: My First 30 Years. He said he got the idea for the title from growing up on Magnolia Dairy, which was once located on South Lake Street, near the present day Lake Charles Regional Airport.
In his lucid, extremely readable style, which the reader finds was developed at least in part by Kendall’s degree from LSU in journalism, the author tells of his family roots, home and school experiences (LaGrange High School, Class of 1936), early work in Lake Charles businesses, joining the U.S. Army Air Corps over a year prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and subsequent training and deployment as a radio and control tower operator for the Army Air Corps.
His excellent presentation of detail of his military experiences during the years prior to and during World War II will surely please both veterans and anyone else who would like to know what life was like for enlisted privates making 21 dollars a month and working their way upward through the ranks.
But these experiences merely warm the reader up for Kendall’s wartime service, which includes such things as crossing India, “flying the Hump to China,” operating a radio-weather station in Northwest China, taking a trip into Tibet and a Sino-American romance.
Kendall rounds out the final chapters of his little autobiographical gem by telling of his studying under the GI Bill at LSU, getting an MA in international relations at Yale and more study at the University of North Carolina where he married and did early newspaper work, prior to going into the Foreign Service.
The book, which is generously illustrated with photographs, is available from Amazon.com, the publisher (AuthorHouse), and the author, who resides with his wife Margaret in Berkeley, California.
Copyright 2004. Paperback, 171 pages. AuthorHouse, 1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200 Bloomington, Ind. 47403. (800) 839-8640.
Truman Stacey Honored by Texas Knights of Columbus
Truman Stacey, Grand Chancellor of Honor of the Order of the Fleur de Lis, has been honored by the Texas State Council of the Knights of Columbus.
The Texas Knights have presented him with their St. Christopher Award in recognition of his services to the Boy Scouts of America through the Knights of Columbus.
Stacey received the award through the recommendation of Fred B. Fluitt, Jr., of DeQuincy, LA, Master of the Fourth Degree for the District of Louisiana.
Stacey has been a registered adult Scout Leader since 1971, and is a past president of the Calcasieu Area Council of the BSA. He has been a member of the Council Executive Board since 1974, and is a member of the BSA’s Southern Regional Advisory Board.
When Stacey was Master of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus he arranged for the Fourth Degree assemblies of his district to underwrite the cost of the religious emblems program for Catholic Scouts in their areas.
He also negotiated with the Shrine of North America through its Supreme Potentate who was a resident of Lake Charles, for the Shriners to underwrite the cost of the religious emblems program for Protestant and Jewish Scouts in Louisiana and Arkansas.
After his term as Master of the Fourth Degree, Stacey chaired the Fourth Degree district’s Scout Support program for six years.
Stacey has also filled a number of offices for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, including chairing diocesan, area, and regional NCCS committees.
The BSA has honored Stacey with the Scouter’s Training Award, Scouter’s Key, Arrowhead Honor, Distinguished Commissioner Award (silver), William H. Spurgeon Exploring Award, Whitney M. Young Service Award, Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope.
He is a member of the Order of the Arrow and the Founders’ Circle and is a James E. West Fellow. (TS)
Gingham Ladies Featured in American Press
Our Gingham Ladies were featured in a Lake Charles American Press article written by Warren Arceneaux on November 8, 2004. That article is reprinted below.*
For the better part of three decades, the Gingham Ladies have been on standby, with smiles and goodwill at the ready.
The group was formed in 1976 as an auxiliary unit to the Southwest Historical Association. Corrine Peace, then president of the association, came up with the idea for the group and appointed Zoe Lassman chairman. Lassman and four other committees selected gingham pinafores as the group’s uniforms.
The original uniforms were red, white, and blue.
Lassman is still an active member of the group, as are charter members Adelaide Cole, Evelyn Thompson, Pawnee Meek, and Ethel MacDonald. Cole, at 93, is the oldest member of the group, which has about 45 members.
The original purpose of the group was to act as guides for historical walking tours of downtown Lake Charles. When the Chamber of Commerce took over those duties, the Gingham Ladies turned themselves into a service group, working with local civic groups to spread cheer throughout Southwest Louisiana.
Now members can be seen at plays, concerts, and other events in the Lake Charles area. Members of the group, made up primarily of women, act as host, ushers, and ticket-takers, doing what they can do to make sure event attendee have everything they need to have a good time.
The Ladies always find a way to enjoy themselves. “It is always fun, no matter what event we are helping with,”longtime member Elaine Cameron said. “It is nice to be able to go out and meet people, to be at all of these events, mixing and mingling with people. Plus, we get to feel like we are doing something good for the community’ working with different civic groups.”
The Gingham Ladies primarily work at Lake Charles Little Theatre plays, but also volunteer at other events, such as The Lake Charles Symphony Auxiliary’s Antique Shows and the Calcasieu Preservation Society’s Palm Sunday Tour of Homes.
Member Wanda Douglas said that being involved with the group allows her to make new friends and to catch up with old ones from time to time. “ The camaraderie is the best part of being involved, I have made lots of good friends,” she said. “ And whenever I work an event, I always see someone I know and get a chance to talk with them.”
Cameron, who has been a member of the group for 15 years cannot recall one bad experience. “Everyone treats us beautifully,” she said. “They are always glad to see us, and we are always happy to do what we can to make sure they have a good time.”
Douglas said that being cheerful when showing up to work is never a problem. “You just have to roll with the punches,” she said. “Even if you are having a bad day you have to make yourself happy at work. Many of us were teachers, so we know how to handle bad days. It is never a problem for us, because we have so much fun wherever we go.”
The job comes with a few benefits. “I love being able to watch all the plays, and hear all the musical performances,” Cameron said. That’s definitely a perk.”
So are the trademark uniforms. “I think they are neat, very unique,” Douglas said. “Everyone tells us we look cute in the uniforms,” Cameron said. “So I feel cute whenever I get to wear it.”
*For the record, of the charter members mentioned in the article, Pawnee Meek is the oldest at 97. Adelaide Cole is next at 93. There are 44 current members of the Gingham Ladies since the recent passing of Phyllis Morgan. The group was formed in 1975, not 1976, according to articles in the Lake Charles American Press on file in the McNeese Archives in the Southwest Louisiana Historical Association Collection.
The Gingham Ladies celebrated Christmas with a party at the Harlequin Restaurant on November 19 with 20 ladies in attendance. During the fall the Ladies handed out programs at the Lake Charles Symphony and at the Lake Charles Little Theatre performance of Death Trap.
Gaming Revenue Funds Benefit McNeese Library
Gaming revenue funds first became available to the McNeese State University faculty in 1998 after several riverboats opened in downtown Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Louisiana Legislature enacted a statute that year requiring gaming companies within Calcasieu Parish to pay a head tax on every person entering a riverboat. Revenue from this tax was to be distributed among public educational institutions in the parish. The success of these gaming ventures generated funds for area educational institutions to improve the learning environment in the area. McNeese makes its portion available to the faculty each year with a simple proposal form and evaluation/selection process.
Frazar Memorial Library’s Archives Department has benefited greatly from this gaming revenue. The Archives staff has received funding for special projects every year since the fund’s inception. The first four years= purchases included storage cabinets, flat file cases, filing cabinets, exhibit cases, exhibit panels, and shelving. One year, gaming revenue funded the erection of a new wall and the removal of another to double the size of the Archives office.
Since 2002, funding from the riverboats has provided improved access to and preservation of collections in the department. The first of these projects involved the preservation of the MSU Media Services Department’s vast collection of negatives, prints, contact sheets, and news releases from the early 1950s to the present. The collection was in terrible shape; the earliest documents survived a fire, and the rest were dirty and housed in acidic, deteriorating envelopes. After two years of continuous funding, most of the collection is now clean, re-housed, and indexed.
Other gaming revenue projects include the transcription of MSU’s oral history collection and taped interviews from the Veterans History Project. The oral history collection includes valuable information on the history of Southwest Louisiana, including the history of the Little Theatre in Lake Charles, first hand accounts from survivors of Hurricane Audrey, and early histories of surrounding towns and communities. The Veterans History Project transcriptions are part of the materials going to the Library of Congress American Folklife Center for their effort to honor our nation=s war veterans and those who served in support of them.
Another important ongoing project is the digitization of images from the photograph collection. The photographs document Southwest Louisiana history since the 1860s. Gaming revenue provides staff resources to scan and upload images to the LSU Digital Library, a component of the LOUIS consortium. Cataloging the images provides maximum access to users worldwide through the internet.
The Archives Department is very pleased to have received the gaming revenue to enhance the operation and services of the department. The projects chosen first, new equipment and a larger work area, were practical and necessary and provided the Archives staff with the benefit of a better working environment. More recent projects aim to further enhance the services offered to the university and the community by the Archives Department. These include digitizing the photographs in the Maude Reid Scrapbooks, a collection of 23 scrapbooks containing many photographs beginning in the 1890s and depicting prominent people, town and country scenes, businesses, and architecture in the area. The Archives Department also plans in the coming year to create an electronic encyclopedia of information about McNeese State University and to create a website of information about musicians from Southwest Louisiana.
McLeod Lecture Series Focuses on Governors
The second annual McLeod Lecture Series, part of the McNeese State University Banners Program, has been scheduled for Thursday night, March 3, at 7:00 p.m. in Stokes Auditorium in Hardtner Hall.
William Lasater “Bill” McLeod, Jr., organized his first successful campaign and was elected State Representative from Lake Charles 1in 1968. During this session of the legislature, several reform-minded legislators banded together to form the Young Turks. The Young Turks crafted a series of bills to change the way state government operated and make it more accountable to the public. McLeod remained a State Representative until 1975 when he became a State Senator. In 1990 McLeod became a judge of the Fourteenth Judicial District Court. After McLeod’s retirement from the bench in 1997, he practiced law privately until his death in 2003.
Named in his honor, the McLeod Lecture Series focuses on some aspect of Louisiana politics. The first lecture concerned the "Young Turks," a group of newcomers to the Louisiana State House of Representatives, all elected in the late 1960's. This courageous group worked to bring about legislative reforms and legislative independence through the 1970's. They bucked the system to create major changes in how the legislature operated, including creating decorum in the House, removing lobbyists from the House floor, and bringing accountability to the appropriations process. They blazed a trail that led a to new state constitution in 1973 and reforms that still impact state government today. The "Young Turks" from around the state who participated in this session were Bob Jones, John Hainkel, Dickie Breaux, E.L. "Bubba" Henry, P.J. Mills, Jim Dennis, Thomas Casey, Jerry Lofaso, Ralph Miller, R.W. "Buzzy" Graham, Don Williamson, Kenneth Leithman, Charles Vining, and Ben Bagert.
The second lecture scheduled for this spring will focus on the historical powers of the position of governor of Louisiana. At this writing, all former living governors in addition to the current governor are planning to attend and be a part of the panel discussion. Edwin Edwards will be included through a prerecorded video. Please make plans to attend this historic event!
As a part of the Banners program and the lecture series, the Archives Department plans to exhibit photographs and other items relating to the two governors from Southwest Louisiana, A. O. King and Sam H. Jones.
Alvin O. King, Lake Charles attorney and member of the State Senate, was a man who rapidly achieved distinction in his profession and in the public life of Southwest Louisiana. In 1924 he was elected to the State Senate from the 14th Senatorial District. He was author of legislation for building a great deep water harbor at Lake Charles, establishing a system of wharves and docks, for construction of terminals, appointment of a dock commission, and the financing of the entire project.
Senator King married Miss Willie Lee Voris of New Orleans on January 29, 1916. Their two children were Voris and Alvin Olin, Jr.
While serving as president pro tempore of the State Senate, he became Governor of Louisiana in 1931, upon the resignation of Governor Huey P. Long, who had been elected to the United States Senate. Alvin O. King died in Lake Charles on February 22, 1958.
Sam Houston Jones was born July 15, 1897 at Merryville, the son of Robert Jones and Susan Elevia Frazer. Mr. Jones’ greatest service to the State of Louisiana was in his tenure as Governor of Louisiana from 1940-1944. He succeeded in transforming the government from its scandals and spoils system to one which embraced civil service and helped to bring about a movement for greater world trade to the Gulf ports. In 1953 Governor Jones was appointed by President Eisenhower as a member of the Commission of Intergovernmental Relations.
On July 15, 1934 he married Louise Gambrell Boyer and they had two children: Robert Gambrell Jones and Carolyn Jelks Jones.
Governor Jones’ contribution to his state was his fearless and long struggle for honest and clean local and state government.
Dues are now payable for 2005. Please send your check for $10/individual or $15/couple to George Ann Benoit
The Southwest Louisiana Historical Association relies on its members to contribute ideas for publications and historical markers, speakers for our meetings, and other projects. Please let us know if you have any suggestions.
Copyright 2005 Southwest Louisiana Historical Association