Dear Smiley: I’m sure you’ve had your fill of hitchhiking stories, but my favorite one is about my Uncle Elmer when he was discharged from the service in January 1946.
He had been wounded and spent Christmas 1945 in the hospital.
When he was discharged in San Antonio, he decided to hitchhike home to Iola, Texas.
He said he waited about two hours before a car finally came by — the couple passed him by, then backed up.
The back seat was full, but they said to climb in and they would take him as far as they could.
When they found out he had been wounded and was just discharged, they took him all the way to Iola.
He asked them to let him out in town; he needed to get his bearings before he went home.
After about an hour, he walked the few blocks to the house.
His biggest worry was that his three nieces (my two sisters and I) would not remember him.
He said he was about a block from the house when the youngest niece came running down the road to meet him … that was me. I was 5 years old.
He was interviewed by a writer in Katy, Texas. When talking about the war, he got emotional, but the only time he cried was when he talked about coming home.
He died two years ago at the age of 91.
United by crawfish
Dear Smiley: Recent articles about the closing of the Westmoreland Piccadilly and chance encounters folks have when they’re abroad reminded me of this entry in my “Tales of the Crawfish” encyclopedia.
To earn money during my undergraduate days at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, I delivered crawfish to restaurants and stores for my grandfather’s Amy’s Fisheries of Henderson.
Among my stops was the Westmoreland Piccadilly, managed by Sandy Plakidas, pictured in The Advocate a few weeks ago locking the door of the cafeteria for the final time.
I was barely in my 20s when I visited Paris in 1975. I was standing in front of the McDonald’s on the Champs-Élysées when Sandy walked by.
We noted how unusual it was for both us to be far away from home and promenading on the famous street on a wintry evening at the same time.
We’ve kept in touch over the years (Sandy gave me some great information about Piccadilly’s role in the development of the Louisiana crawfish industry), but we never fail to comment on that chance meeting.
It is further proof of my theory that if you stand on the Champs-Élysées long enough, you’ll see someone you know.
Dear Smiley: While visiting husband Pete’s family near Philadelphia, we had a big group of friends and family over for dinner.
I sat down next to a huge man who was wearing a rather stunning ring.
I commented that I could wear that ring as a bracelet.
Pete, kind of embarrassed, told me it was a Super Bowl ring. Oh.
Turns out the large gentleman was a former linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, Bill Bergey.
Well, duh on me! I’ll bet that HE didn’t know who Rudolf Nureyev was!
Actually, he was quite gracious about my not recognizing him or his ring.
That magic hour
Dear Smiley: My granddaughter Emily Jennings just graduated from Auburn University (yes, she is a little misguided, I guess), and landed a job in Atlanta a few weeks ago.
Since then, she has been complaining to her mother about how short her college career was and how she wishes she was back in school having a fun time.
Then, a couple of days ago, she sent her mom a text message and said she thought that “happy hour” after work was really helping her grow up.
I hope she doesn’t grow up too fast.
Dear Smiley: In the ’40s, my first job was part-time cashier at Rayville’s only “picture show” (admission 25 cents for adults, 9 cents for those under 12).
Every Saturday, one regular customer was a little 80-something-year-old lady, who sat through the double features twice.
On one occasion, when I was inside the theater, I heard her shout, “Look out, Roy, he’s behind that rock!”
Dear Smiley: I received this GREAT advice from a dear friend and pass it along for the good of all mankind.
Simply quit calling it the “John” and start referring to it as the “Jim.”
Henceforth, when the topic of exercise comes up, you can proudly brag, “Oh, I go to the Jim every day!”
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.