Evergreen - Memories Letters
Edmond Anthony Dugas - Spring and Summer 2007
It has been stated many times before, but growing up in Evergreen was a blessing for which I will be forever grateful. Many current guidelines for standard of living would not have given me, as an individual or Evergreen, as a town, very high marks. However, to a youngster growing up there - it had all I could have hoped for and more… family, church, school, and community interwoven in a most unique way.
Born on August 27, 1940 in Evergreen, my earliest memories were of World War II. My parents are Clophine Mary Descant and Walter Joseph Dugas. My mother loved actor Edmund O’Brien and my paternal grandfather was Edmond Dugas, so Edmond it was. Many of our days prior to my starting school ended at the home of my mother’s mother, Mrs. Celestine (Pierre) Descant. News was received by radio and newspaper and brought to her home for discussion, usually on the front porch.
Uncle Marvin Joseph Descant, child number 12 (there were fourteen children born to Pierre and Celestine Descant), was born on August 15, 1924. He entered the Army on July 2, 1943 and earned the wings of a U.S. volunteer paratrooper. On September 18, 1944 he was mortally wounded near Hungerford, Germany. His death was a most difficult time for the entire family, especially Granny and his sisters who loved him so. Thus, the family’s interest in the war became more intensified and dominated the discussions at her home. As you entered her living room there always was a large picture of him in his military attire.
On many of the days during this time, I remember Granny recalling her conversations with the Red Cross about Marvin and everyone being tearful. It was not unusual on any day to find most of the family at her home. She had married children residing on each side of her home and more located in the close proximity in Evergreen. Within a stones-throw of her home and the Church of the Little Flower Catholic Church six children resided, seven counting Aunt Elise who lived with Granny along with Elise’s daughter, Martha Ann Trump.
In my earliest recollections, my father owned and operated a general merchandise store on the West corner of Louisiana State Highway 29 and Rabbit Lane in Evergreen.. Rabbit Lane runs from Evergreen to Hwg. 115 (Bay Hills), the main highway between Bunkie and Hessmer. The Dugas Family lived in a small frame house on the West side of the store. Both buildings were close to the highway, so the rear of both were on large pillars, as they extended out above and next to Bayou Rouge.
Life moved at a fast pace and there was always excitement. My father also drove a school bus and for some time hired my Aunt Elise and Uncle Clave Riche (Aunt Nora’s husband) to work in the store while he was out. Across the highway from the store was one owned by Robert Tanner and the Evergreen Post Office.
With military personnel stationed in and around Alexandria, I recall my father taking people (mostly girls) to dances there in his school bus. I remember one night there was a serious accident on our way home, but can’t remember any of the details. Later my father would take people to the park and pool in Alexandria, Lake Valentine and Shady Nook near Glenmore, where the water was ice-cold and most kids walked around shivering with blue lips. Each year drownings occurred at this particular swimming location.
Our immediate neighbors to the West on Highway 29 was Mr and Mrs.. Tom Fisher, who also owned and operated a store. Directly across from our store on Rabbit Lane was the store of Mr. Ford Robert, who was Evergreen’s long-time Mayor. Next to Mr. Ford’s store was a vacant store which later became a service station operated by my uncle, Jake Descant, and then later by my first cousin, Murphy Descant, . I had the distinct honor of working for both of them on a temporary basis and cherish those memories.
About the time I started school, my parents purchased one acre of land on the Burns Road from Uncle Clave Riche. It was only about a quarter of a mile from Mr. Gene Heiman’s store and next door to the Adelma Galland family – one of life’s blessings. He was one of the kindest, considerate persons I have ever known. Brutally honest and hard-working, he introduced me to many jobs and always took care of me while we worked – whether picking cotton or picking pecans. His entire family were good neighbors and we were most fortunate to have them next door. His youngest daughter, Ivory, was friends with my sister, Geraldine. She married Gerald Riche, oldest son of Elmer “Boulet” Riche. The oldest daughter Maureen married Herman Paul Carmouche (Human) and they lived on the other side of Mr. Adelma. It was so easy to stop by his house at any time and visit with his family, as they spend a lot of time on their porch swing. However, most of our conversations took place with both of us near the fence separating our homesites. I can still see him milking his cow or working in his garden. Since I did both of those things for awhile, it was easy for me to follow his lead.
While preparing the acre of land for our homesite, my father borrowed a mule and plow from someone. I recall following behind him in the newly-created furrows. There was a small pecan tree located near the coulee which bordered the South side of the property and my father passed too close to it and it leaned over slightly. After seeing what he had done, he stopped the mule and told me to pack some dirt around the tree – that it would probably make it. Make it , it did – Jr. Matthews, who purchased our home site in the early 60s, had an awesome crop from the tree in 2006.
While I was in my early teens, that tree provided fodder for another fond memory. My father would occasionally park his 1954 white Ford pick-up truck under the tree which was close to the front porch, instead of going all the way into the garage past the back of the house.
One Sunday he left to go play cards and reminded me before leaving that I was not to drive the truck. My mother had the truck key in the bedroom in the rear of the house, so I waited until she went to sleep, then thought I would practice my driving. I failed to realize that Dub and Ronnie Carmouche had been playing under the tree and had unintentionally swung the rope swing in such a manner that the rope wrapped around the rear view mirror on the driver’s side. In my haste to drive, I got in the truck on the passenger side and never did notice the swing was wrapped around the mirror. When I began backing-up, I hear this strange noise and turned to see the mirrow swinging from the rope.
I sat in disbelief for the longest. Later, after consulting Dub, I decided to put the truck back as it was when I attempted to back-up and wrap the rope as I thought it had
been wrapped. The plan worked temporarily to a “T” because my father came home after dark and did not attempt to move the truck into the garage. However, the next morning, he walked around the front of his truck to clean the windshield and noticed the swing. As he placed his hand on the rope, the entire mirror assembly felt to the ground. He looked it over for awhile, then decided it was time to approach me about what had happened to his mirror.
Across the road from our home was Bayou Rouge, flowing toward Goudeau. Many activities took place in and along that bayou – boating, rafting, swimming, fishing, picking berries, picnics, and hunting. Additionally, Mr. Ed Pearce, who owned the large field on the side of us, always had interesting things going on. His grandson, Arthur Ed, and I became friends and did a lot of horse-back riding.
One of my rather painful childhood memories occurred one day while I was helping my mother wash clothes. We had a small frame building off of our back porch and she was placing white sheets and pillow cases in a tub of water and blueing. I was to run each of these through the wringer. Unfortunately, I was a little careless and my right arm was pulled into the wringer. My mother hit the safety latch when my forearm was in the wringer and to this day, certain weather fluctuations remind me of that wash. Clothes
was hung on a clothes line after being washed and rinsed. Rainy days meant essential items would be dried by the butane gas heater.
While we were living next to the store, the days started quite early. Oness Matthews who lived across the highway from us in a large frame duplex had permission to set his fish net at the end of the culvert of the dirt bridge which had replaced the wooden one. As the current flowed from Cottonport, fish ended up in his net. I can remember one day, that my persistent begging reaped dividends and my mother allowed me to go down where the action was. I did not have to watch from a window in the rear of our house any longer. The size and variety of fish he harvested was always interesting and, in retrospect the anticipation of seeing what was in the net created early-morning excitement. I could never participate in any activity during this period until he had checked his net and removed his harvest. His wife, Agnes, was one of the cafeteria workers at the EHS, along with Dude Gullett’s wife, Helen, and Aunt Cecile (Mrs. Willis Rachal).
Living next door to the store was very interesting because people would stop by as long as we were open. Salesmen, delivery men, customers – created wonderful opportunities to learn of what was happening in other places. There were two slot machines, one for nickels and one for pennies. Woe to me if I ever got caught playing one of the slots. The store also had a meat market and pecans were bought and sold there.
After we moved to the Burns road, my father grew a large garden. As his top assistant, the watermelon crop was given to me. I received .25 @ for two or .15 for one Dixie Queen Watermelon. I remember trying to bring two melons per load to the store in my small wagon, but had difficulty because the weight had to be more to the front. One day, as I pulled on the wagon handle, the front end lifted off the ground and I lost a melon right on the road. A nice man was passing by and bought the cracked melon for .05. I offered it for free, but he insisted on the nickel price. .
On another occasion, I had a sale for a melon, but the ones delivered earlier in the day had all been sold. I ran home pulling my wagon and went directly to the garden to restock my supply of melons. While there I stepped on a piece of glass. When I showed my bleeding foot to my mother, she almost lost it.
Bill Albritton, was at home so my mother had him hold me down and pour kerosene in the cut. The scar is still visible today, although it is not as obvious as the one made by the monkey scratching me next to my eye from between the bars of his cage at the Alexandria Zoo or the time Babe Albritton felt on top of me when he lost control of my bike (on the bridge in front of Gene Heimans’s store), in the early afternoon on a very hot Summer day. Unfortunately, one of my bicycle pedals had come off and only the metal rod was available if you wanted to ride the bike. Babe had placed me on the handle bars so he could be taken home and when he lost his balance, we fell on the hot pavement. Fortunately for me, Mr. Bubba Patrick and Bill Matthews (highway department workers from Evergreen) were passing and they took me to the doctors office in Bunkie. I still remember them discussing my predicament, then removing the bicycle from on top of me. The word pain was starting to take on a new meaning. .
Mr. Gene Heiman was another God-sent in my young life. He came to Evergreen from military sevice and was from the mid-west. In addition to having a grocery store, he also was an awesome mechanic and repair man. He could fix anything and his prices were hard to beat. He fixed a .22 rifle which I bought from my cousin, Murphy Descant. Murphy wanted $5.00 for the rifle. My mother and several sisters were at Granny’s working on a quilt when I approached her on the item for sale. She gave me her last five dollars and the sale was made because Mr. Gene told me he could fix the gun. I cannot recall the many times he repaired my bikes. He never allowed me to pay him anything for his repair efforts. I was not the only person who he treated in this manner. He helped many others - always with a smile and his good sense of humor.
Some childhood memories by Ed Dugas