Dear Smiley: Referring to an article about Fair Grounds picks, years (probably over a half-century) ago, I was an operator on the old-time switchboard at Bell South.

Customers from pay phones were notified that their three minutes were up by flipping a key and saying, “Your three minutes are up; signal when through.”

While notifying, this customer talked over me, saying, “Remember, Joker in the (number) race!”

A hot tip indeed; the horse came in first!



Dear Alma: Just curious: how much did you put down on Joker?

Stay humble

Dear Smiley: In the mid ’60s, during my summer break from college, I found myself working for an electrical contractor building a high line between Elton and Kinder. It was grueling work, for which I was paid the grand sum of $1.62 an hour.

It was the usual hot and humid day when I mentioned the heat. One of my erstwhile coworkers said, “College boy, it’s not the heat but the humility that will get you.”



Recipe for disaster

Dear Smiley: My great-grandmother was an immigrant who spoke a very broken English.

At home they all spoke Yiddish.

Every Friday, all the children and their families went to supper at my great-grandmother’s home.

One night she asked the only daughter-in-law, who didn’t speak Yiddish, how she liked the food. She replied that it was good, and she would like the recipe.

Her mother-in-law left the table crying. When her son asked what the problem was, she said, “Your wife insulted me. If she didn’t like my food that’s OK, but did she have to say, ‘Give the rats a piece?’”



Mistaken identity

Dear Smiley: Your tale of a “stolen” car reminds me of the day my English teacher didn’t come back from lunch. She finally walked in with this story:

During lunch she had driven downtown — just a few blocks away — to pick something up at the local department store. When she came out her car was missing.

Police were summoned. As they questioned her a man drove up — in her car. It was the same make, model, year, and even the same color as hers...and started with the same key. He had gone shopping at lunch and didn’t realize the mistake until he got back to his office and couldn’t find his briefcase!

Back then, most car makers had only a few dozen key-and-lock combinations, so mix-ups were inevitable.



The write stuff

Dear Smiley: In your Sept. 19 column there was a letter (from Karen Poirrier, of Lutcher) mentioning how pupils learned script handwriting in the second and third grades.

The practice of push-pulls and ovals (“Stay within the lines”) and the alphabet in capital letters and small letters all helped develop eye-hand coordination as those little fingers mastered their motor skills.

The pride of accomplishment for detailed attention, followed by praise, built ego and confidence in a child’s early life. This educational tool needs to be kept.



(Retired elementary school teacher)

Having a ball

Dear Smiley: Reading about Miss Olga Hotz brought back such wonderful memories of Destrehan High School.

Miss Hotz was not only a highly professional, strict teacher but was an accomplished pianist who played for all of our school functions. She began the annual Carnival Ball with the themes and tableaus, just like the high society balls in New Orleans. She had us practice for days before the ball, with court etiquette and krewe etiquette memorized. She brought us joy.



Now, now...

Dear Smiley: When I was a kid, I knew the difference between “now” and “right now” when my mom was calling me. I remember wondering if I should answer, “Is there a left now?” It was probably a good choice not to say that.

Besides, if there were right and left nows, I would probably get stuck in the middle now.


Denham Springs

Thanks, Mom!

Dear Smiley: Many years ago, while attending LSU, I got a very expensive speeding ticket in Port Barre.

After pleading with (St. Landry Parish Sheriff) Cat Doucet and promising votes as long as he ran for office, he agreed to “fix” the ticket.

When my mother found out, she called him and told him if I was stupid enough to go that fast she wanted to make sure I paid — and that she could cost him more votes than I could get him and he better “unfix” my ticket.

It was very expensive.



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