Jim Burke says our hitchhiking stories remind him of the most memorable ride he ever caught — because it wasn’t in a car at all:

“In the mid-1950s, I hitchhiked 70 miles virtually every weekend — to Minneapolis from St. John’s, a small men’s college in central Minnesota, to see my high school sweetheart, who was then attending the University of Minnesota.”

His best ride happened when “a friend and dorm mate of mine had decided to quit school and become a Navy pilot.

“His physical exam was scheduled for a Friday after classes, and the Navy was sending a helicopter to bring him from school to the Naval Air Station in St. Paul.

“He asked if they had room for a passenger (me), and they said yes.

“The afternoon arrived to a beautiful snowstorm. Big flakes were making visibility poor and rapidly accumulating on the ground. Navigation was by a Minnesota state road map, and the flight was barely above the silos and barns.”

Jim adds, “Three years of riding my thumb to see a girlfriend. Was it worth it? Yes, it was — she and I will be married 57 years in September.”

Haus arrest

Ted McNeel Sr., of Metairie, was bemused by The New Orleans Advocate story in the July 23 edition headlined “Deutsches Haus must revamp design; City planners: New building should be ‘less Germanic-looking.’ ”

Ted says since the proposed building along Bayou St. John would house the German Cultural/Benevolent Organization, it is hardly a surprise that it would be “Germanic-looking.”

Which I suppose means no one in New Orleans could build a Great Pyramid (“Too Egyptian-looking”) or a Taj Mahal (“Too Indian-looking”).

Geography 101

Kim “Pops” Seago, of Columbia, Tennessee, told about son John trying to get to Wichita Falls, Texas, from Dallas and winding up on the road to Wichita, Kansas.

Pops follows up on that story:

“Last week, I backpacked with my son, three grandsons and 16 other adults and youth for four days and three nights on a portion of the Ozark Trail northwest of Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

“I was amused when I learned that grandson, Emre, age 6, told his mom that they had hiked on the ‘Noah’s Ark’ trail.

“Confusion regarding names of places seems to run in our family.”

Geography 102

Speaking of place names:

Ted Landaiche says in 1955, when he had just finished high school, his aunt invited him to drive her to Albuquerque, New Mexico, so she could visit her sister:

“I was excited, since it was my first time out of Louisiana.

“Shortly after we arrived in New Mexico, my aunts decided to visit Juarez, Mexico.

“While there they bought a few bottles of adult beverages. I helped carry the bottles back across the border where our car was parked.

“Mexican border police stopped me because I was underage, put me in a small room and proceeded to question me:

“ ‘Where are you from?’

“ ‘St. Gabriel.’

“ ‘California?’ (San Gabriel is a city just south of Pasadena.)

“ ‘No, Louisiana.’

“They looked confused and decided to release me. All the evidence was confiscated, leaving my aunts very unhappy.”

Nostalgia Corner

Our mention of boats and trains of the past reminded Valery Garon of this story:

“When I was a kid, around 1940, we rode the Texas & Pacific railroad to New Orleans from Donaldsonville.

“Since Donaldsonville was on the west side of the river and New Orleans on the east, T&P had a train ferry to cross the Mississippi. The whole train would be loaded onto a ferry in two rows of three or four passenger cars.

“I was a brash youngster at the time and stepped off the train and went onto the ferry.

“After walking around for a few minutes, I was accosted by the conductor and threatened with a spanking if I didn’t get back on the train.”

Special People Dept.

  • Helen B. Fairchild, 99 on Sunday, celebrated Friday with family and friends.
  • Bessie Carnaggio, of River Ridge, celebrated her 93rd birthday on Saturday.

    Clyde Meyers Jr., of Denham Springs, celebrated his 90th birthday on Wednesday. He played 18 holes of golf at Webb Park, before attending a dinner party.

    Dorothy and Lester Jay, of New Iberia, celebrate their 63rd anniversary on Monday.

Aging process

Chuck Falcon, of Donaldsonville, says, “You know you are getting old when you are preparing for a road trip and check to make sure you have your proof of medical insurance before checking for proof of auto insurance.”

To dye for

Speaking of aging:

John Hu says, “The other day, as I was standing in line to check out at Sam’s Club, a gentleman approached and said to me, ‘We are having free hearing tests today.’

“I turned to him, intentionally raised my voice, and said, ‘What did you say?’

“He turned and walked away.

“I always wondered why some men dye their hair, till now.”

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.