Dear Smiley: Your recent articles on Father’s Day brought back a memory over 50 years old.

My father did not have much education, yet he and my mother raised three girls, who never realized they were poor.

Dad’s last job was as night manager at Pennyland in New Orleans.

He made $50 a week and every Saturday morning turned it all over to my mother.

She returned two worn $1 bills for cigarettes, his only vice.

When I graduated from F.T. Nicholls High School in 1950, I wanted to be a teacher, but there was no money for college.

But one Saturday morning in December, my father and I took a Greyhound bus to LSU where, by a stroke of good fortune or the grace of God, we found Mr. T.K. McKnight (director of student employment and scholarship) still working in his office.

I told him my story, and he said, “If you are willing to work, I’ll get you a job and arrange for you to pay the university as you earn the money.”

My job was typing — 50 cents an hour.

Every few weeks, I’d get a letter from my father.

Always short — “How are you? Work hard.”

Inside the pages were always two worn $1 bills — his cigarette money.

God bless all our dads.



P.S.: I went on to earn a master’s and doctorate. I taught in Orleans Parish for 33 years as teacher and principal.

Seeing the music

D ear Smiley: My wife, Janet, and I attended the closing performance of “Annie” at Theatre Baton Rouge and had a great time.

For me, one of the best parts of the show was watching Dr. Dan Burch, a large man in black with silver hair and beard, perform along with the cast and orchestra.

Dr. Dan interprets the play, including musical numbers, for the deaf.

This opens the powerful and uplifting experience of musical theater to people who otherwise would have trouble following the story and would miss all the music.

Dr. Burch is not only a great interpreter, he’s got rhythm!

When the music starts, his whole body comes alive. He bounces, dances and his hands become beings of music, flying, sailing and soaring while still interpreting the lyrics of the songs.

At the end of the play, he’s grinning with joy and dripping with sweat, just like all of the other cast members.

Dr. Dan is not the only one to serve our community in this capacity, so I’d like to thank them all with a special tip of the hat to Dan Burch and to the board of governors who decided that musical theater is for everyone, whether they can hear the music or not.



Greek to him

Dear Smiley: Another “gasoline shortage” story, suggested by Sarah Stavinska’s recent note:

In Greece, when you get into a jam, you go to the tourist police.

But I was 15 miles west of Houston with three top German engineers in the car.

We were low on gas and surprised that all the gas stations on I-10 were closed.

On an FM (farm-to-market) road, I drove a risky couple of miles and found a 7-Eleven with indoor lights but dark gas pumps.

Inside, I explained our dire circumstance and asked the favor of 2 gallons of gas.

The clerk said he could not help, so I asked to call the police.

He responded, in shock, “You want the police for buying gas? I’ll sell you $5 worth!”

Tendering the five, I said I was using Greek lessons.

He did not want to know the story, but the engineers appreciated the outcome.


Baton Rouge

Potted on the autobahn

Dear Smiley: Not sure if you have finished your hitchhiking series, but here is my story if not too late:

Many years ago, Leonard Nelson and I were hitchhiking across Germany on the autobahn.

We were twice warned by the police that this was not allowed, but we played dumb (not hard for teenagers from south Louisiana) and went back up the ramp to continue with our efforts.

We were soon picked up by a man driving a station wagon with a front bench seat and just a platform for the rear.

In broken English, he started telling us that he had just had his car repaired and was on a test drive.

I crawled into the back and decided to open a can of potted meat that we had purchased at a nearby U.S. Army base.

When he smelled the meat, he started yelling that his engine was burning up and slammed on the brakes.

It took us a while to convince him that potted meat was actually an edible product and that his engine was ok.



Dear Michael: Sorry, but I have a problem with “potted meat” and “edible” being used in the same sentence. …

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.