Some of my favorite stories involve “small world” encounters with Louisiana folks in other parts of the country — or the world.

Val Garon tells of one such incident:

“Your last writing about ‘bits of Louisiana’ brings to mind a business trip to Trenton, New Jersey, in 1973.

“I was eating at a restaurant there and the waitress, hearing my Cajun accent, asked where I was from.

“I told her, ‘South of Baton Rouge,’ thinking she would not know ‘Donaldsonville.’

“She said that she had recently visited Gonzales, and had gone across the Sunshine Bridge to the Lafitte’s Landing restaurant, where she met this nice couple who gave her a tour of the Donaldsonville area.

“She said that she had a picture of them in her purse.

“When she returned with the picture, I almost fainted!

“There in the photo was my sister Jeanne, and her husband, Richard LeBlanc.”

Classroom magic

James Bagley, of Covington, says, “For a number of years my daughter Lauren taught at a pre-school.

“Once when a child made a request of her, Lauren, not to miss a learning event, asked, ‘What is the magic word?’

“She received only a blank stare.

“She then asked the class, ‘Does anyone know the magic word?’

“Finally one of her brightest enthusiastically raised her hand and replied, ‘Abracadabra.’

“Lauren acknowledged that was a magic word, but not the correct one.

“She asked again, ‘What is the magic word?’

“After a moment of more blank stares, another student excitedly answered, ‘Hocus pocus.’

“Lauren surrendered and gave them the answer: ‘Thank you.’

“For some reason Lauren gave up teaching at pre-school, and is now a middle school administrator.”

Call to battle

“This is something we only do every 200 years,” says Bob Neese of Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

He’s talking about the four shows on the Battle of New Orleans on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday, “War of 1812’ at 7 p.m. is followed by LPB’s “The Battle of New Orleans: A Closer Look” at 9 p.m. and the WYES production “The Battle of New Orleans: A Meaningful Victory” at 9:30 p.m.

On Thursday at 7 p.m. there’s the WLAE production “Praying for a Miracle: The Catholic Church and the Battle of New Orleans,” about the story of the all-night prayer vigil by the Ursuline Sisters at their chapel on Chartres Street imploring Our Lady of Prompt Succor to give the victory to Gen. Andrew Jackson and troops to save the city of New Orleans from British control.

It’s followed at 8 p.m. by a repeat of “The Battle of New Orleans: A Meaningful Victory.”

History lessons

Joe F. Cannon says, “I remember early years in my life 80 years ago, when our family would sit around a pot-bellied stove at Christmas time and listen to our elders tell about their family’s migration from north Texas into ‘Indian Territory’ — before Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

“Free land was offered to anyone who would move there.

“Loading up a wagon with all their possessions and hitching up a team of mules, they started out on their 100-mile journey across the Red River, settling in the area of the ‘McAlester store,’ now famous from John Wayne’s movie ‘True Grit.’

“How easy it is today to do a genealogical search at the local library! The library’s department is free to all. You need a few facts, and library professionals will guide you through the process.

“The library will go ‘on the road’ on Tuesday, Jan. 20, to demonstrate the free services at a public meeting at Broadmoor Baptist Church. Open to the public, the meeting will start at 1:30 p.m.”

Good Deeds Dept.

“This ‘pay it forward’ movement is fun,” says “Southside Senior.”

“This week my Dollar Tree bill was paid by a pretty blonde lady in front of me in line — a complete stranger.

“Earlier I experienced similar good fortune, and paid it forward by giving my gloves to a Salvation Army bell ringer one frigid morning.

“Now I’m looking for a ‘pay it forward’ opportunity again.”

Special People Dept.

Serena Gibbens “Weenie” Borne, of Thibodaux, celebrates her 100th birthday on Wednesday, Jan. 7. She was in the banking business for 60 years.

Mattie Jarrell celebrated her 97th birthday on Dec. 25.

Mary Maxwell, of Liberty, Mississippi, celebrated her 96th birthday on Dec. 30.

J.B. Smiley, of Pride, celebrates his 90th birthday on Wednesday, Jan. 7.

The pits

Dan Burkhalter, the Carencro Curmudgeon, says he heard this creative answer on a TV game show he came across while looking for a sports channel:

Game show host: “Name your least favorite thing with a pit.”

Contestant: “Armpit.”

Talk to 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.