Dear Smiley: When I was 8, I was honored to serve as an altar boy at St. Michael’s Church in New Orleans, opposite Annunciation Square.

I recall vividly the time, around 1951, when I was manning the paten (plate) for Father Stanley Iverson at 5:30 a.m. Mass.

As he put the communion host (wafer) onto the tongue of a lady, she sneezed, projecting the host several feet behind me.

Father Iverson sighed and placed a linen altar cloth over the host. He explained to me that it was not a simple matter to pick up the host; rather, it was necessary to de-sanctify the square where the host lay (all in Latin, of course), then re-consecrate the spot.

Fast forward to 1970, where I was serving at Ascension Episcopal Church in Lafayette.

This time, I was trailing the priest with the chalice when a congregant accidentally hit the paten and scattered the communion hosts.

I froze, while Father Wayne Marrs was signaling me to pick up the hosts and consume them.

I finally understood what he wanted me to do, while still expecting lightning to strike me.



Cat people revisited

Dear Smiley: In answer to Faye Melancon’s request for a support group for “cat people” — I am in her situation, only with four!

I cannot take a shower/bubble bath without an “audience;” my recliner is now theirs; they think EVERY time I go into the kitchen, it’s treats time, and so on!

I love my babies, too, and it’s very hard to get people to understand how we cat people feel about our babies.

Hang in there, girl. You have kittens. They grow up — brace yourself!



Final act

Dear Smiley: My late mother, Roxie Alford Penton, was dying in a Bogalusa hospital in 1956. I asked if I could do something for her. She asked me to get her some Vienna sausages.

On a Sunday, I finally found them at a small neighborhood store.

She took one or two bites, but could not swallow any more.

That was the last thing I could do for her.



High on the hog

Dear Smiley: Your recent comment about Spam cupcakes reminded me that Austin, Texas, used to have an annual “Spam Fest” that included a competition for the best Spam recipes. After extensive research (Google said 16,100,000 results were found in 0.55 seconds), I was sad to learn that the last such festival in Austin was 2007.

For the highly motivated Spam Fest-goers, that same research revealed that there is now a “Spam Jam Festival” in Waikiki, Hawaii.

This year’s event is scheduled for April 30, so there’s still time to catch it.



Dear Kelan: Thanks for the tip; I’d love to make the Hawaii event. Unfortunately, my trip to Destrehan this weekend has shot my travel budget...

Tradition of giving

Dear Smiley: Mention of the many collection plate stories reminded me of my own experience.

My Cajun grandmother was reared Catholic, but switched to Baptist after marrying my grandfather.

One of my fondest memories of her is sitting next to her in church when the plate was passed.

She always put her change in the plate, or handed me the change to do the honors. No, I did not keep any, but I was probably tempted.

As I got older and learned of “the widow’s mite,” it meant a lot to me that she set that example.


Denham Springs

No gold record

Dear Smiley: Years ago, when I was an officer at a local bank, I received a complaint from a safe deposit box customer who said someone was stealing money out of his box. The elderly gentleman had his teenage nephew with him.

I explained to him that there were two locks with different keys, and the bank had one and the customer the other, and neither of us could open the box without the other. Yet the old gentleman insisted the bank was taking his money, the threatened to sue.

A few days later I received a call from someone who knew the old man and his nephew.

The caller suggested we check with juvenile authorities about the nephew.

He said, “He ain’t got a record, he’s got an ALBUM!”

After our next discussion with the elderly gentleman, he told us he would not sue.


Baton Rouge

Bare facts

Dear Smiley: I, too, grew up hearing the expression “Naked as a jaybird.” Your recent column on the subject had me looking it up. Here is what I found:

In 1920s and ’30s America, “J-bird” was short for jailbird. And when they were brought in from the bus, they went to the showers, were given their kit and made to walk from one end of the prison to the other naked. Hence naked as a J-bird — or jaybird.



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.