Dear Smiley: I notice that in spite of the efforts of radio and TV to make us all speak the same language, “Yat” survives and has even spread across all of the known universe — the area between St. Bernard and Baton Rouge.

Mr. Cleveland Bailey reported a conversation between the great Pastor T.J. Jemison and one of his deaconesses, in which Dr. Jemison noted that she had “made” another birthday.

No one calls sidewalks “banquettes” anymore. Closets have replaced “lockers,” and “making groceries” died along with Schwegmann’s Giant Supermarkets.

But it’s still possible to drink from a “hosepipe” and “make” another year of wisdom and experience.



Dance fever

Dear Smiley: During my freshman year at LSU (1956), I met my future husband, Bob. I spent many weekends at his home in Napoleonville.

On Saturday nights, if we didn’t go to the College Inn in Thibodaux, we went to The Club in Donaldsonville. The nights at The Club were better than concerts, and lasted longer!

The artists who played there on weekends were Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, Little Richard and many others I can’t remember.

I remember dancing to every song on those Saturday nights. We would have to walk outside to cool off, especially after Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman!”

The adrenaline was pumping, and any fat we might have stored during the week definitely was melted away.

Now, THOSE were the “good old days!”


Morgan City

Memory man

Dear Smiley: Fifty years ago I met Mr. “Jelly” Matherne in Lutcher. I was told he had a gift for remembering birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

I asked Mr. Jelly and to include my birthday in his memory bank, and told him I was Robert DeBate, Bob DeBate’s son.

He began reciting birthdays: “Bob DeBate, July 1, 1907; your Aunt Beula... .” I stopped him at about seven because there were 15 siblings in Dad’s family.

Many years later my wife and I and a couple of friends stopped by the old Music Box in Gonzales and saw Mr. Jelly on the dance floor.

I said to him, “Mr. Jelly, I told my wife and friends you had my birthday in your memory bank; don’t disappoint me in front of them.”

I told him I was Robert DeBate, and he started reciting my dad and his siblings’ birthdays.

I stopped him on about the seventh one, and said, “I told you my birthday 12 to 15 years ago, and you promised you would never forget it.”

He stared deep into my eyes and said, ”June 16, 1942.”

All I could say was, “Get this man a drink!”



The shining

Dear Smiley: In Natchez, Mississippi, my little brother and I would wait impatiently every afternoon for “Jabo,” the ice cream man.

He would come up B Street in his wagon, pulled by a white mule with a bell around its neck to announce his coming.

We had cleaned our nickels in the rich red dirt and gotten them shiny clean.

We’d hand him our brand new nickel “we had just made” and he would hand us an ice cream cone “he had just made.”


New Orleans

No spendthrift

Dear Smiley: My father, like many who came of age during the Depression, never parted willingly with a dollar.

Once, when he balked at splurging on a purchase, my aunt reminded him, “Arthur, you can’t take it with you.”

He responded without hesitation, “Then I’m not going.”

He did live to 89, and for a while there had us all wondering whether he might not be onto something.


Baton Rouge

Ship shape

Dear Smiley: A salty chief petty officer in the Navy decided that acquiring religion might be a good idea after the life he had led.

He approached the chaplain and asked him for help.

The chaplain explained that it would require a good bit of study before he could be accepted into the church. He gave him some literature and told him to study and come back in a week.

Upon his return, the chaplain asked him who the son of God was.

“Jesus,” replied the chief.

And who was the mother of Jesus?

“The Virgin Mary,” he replied.

And where was he born?


He was told to go study some more and come back next week.

Same questions, same answers, until the birthplace question, to which the chief answered confidently, “Newport News.”

The exasperated chaplain says, “Chief, Jesus was born in Bethlehem!”

“I knew it was one of those shipyards,” exclaimed the chief.



Contacting Smiley

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.