Dear Smiley: Your “Before GPS” quotation in Monday’s column concerning travel to a hard-to-find place (“hell, west, and crooked”) brought to mind an experience that happened to me just last month.

Without a GPS device, I was traveling from Metairie to Florence, Alabama. I Googled to find the quickest way there; the route involved some confusing twists and turns, and I managed to get lost.

When this became evident, I stopped at a small, isolated service station and asked the two employees, “How do I get to Florence?”

They were baffled, but then an older gentleman came in, and the two employees shouted, “HE would know!”

When they asked him, he said, “To FLORENCE?” in disbelief. I murmured something apologetic about getting directions from Google, to which he responded, “Whoever done that to you done you wrong!”

So here were his directions, out in the middle of nowhere:

“Keep on going on this same road until you come to a four-way stop with a flashing light. Turn right, and then you’ll go and go until you can’t go no more. Then turn right again. But THEN, turn left almost immediately. And then you’ll go and go and go (he did name some small towns along the way) until you see a sign that says, ‘Welcome to Tuscumbia.’ Then turn right, and you can’t miss it. I used to go fishin’ up there alla time.”

On blind faith, having no mention of road or highway numbers, I followed his directions, and by golly, he was RIGHT, or rather he was right, right, left, right!

The only thing I missed was seeing the sign that said “Welcome to Tuscumbia,” but by then, it didn’t matter.



Dear Virginia: Or, you could find Florence the way Lady Katherine and I did: Get on the Natchez Trace and drive until you’re too tired to drive anymore and hungry for some fried catfish. At this point, you get off the Trace and find yourself in Florence, where there’s a fine catfish place right on the river.

Principal solution

Dear Smiley: Your Dec. 19 column (about an adult magazine found in a classroom) reminded me of my days as principal of Baton Rouge High School in the 1970s, installing the magnet program.

Our head librarian, Mrs. Lula Sanchez, brought a large reference book to my office, closed the door and handed it to me.

Stashed in the middle was a “girly” magazine widely circulated by GIs in barracks life.

Mrs. Sanchez had been head librarian at Broadmoor High under Principal Frank McLavy, a former World War II tank commander in the Pacific.

“Mr. McLavy’s policy was whenever I found this type of ‘reading’ material, I was to consider it ‘classified’ and therefore bring it straight to him,” she said in hushed tones with a twinkle in her eye. “He told me he would dispose of it properly, and I was to replace the scandalous item with a copy of Better Homes & Gardens and place the reference book back on the shelf.”

Having attended LSU on the GI Bill, I immediately recognized the military wisdom of Mr. McLavy, and instructed Mrs. Sanchez to henceforth follow the same policy at Baton Rouge High.


Baton Rouge

Tiny dancer

Dear Smiley: Your story about teasing short people resonated with me.

When I was choreographer and sometime performer with Dutchess County Ballet in Beacon, New York, we were having technical rehearsal when a voice from the light booth boomed out, “Who is the choreographer for this next piece?”

I stood up and waved to the booth. The voice boomed, “Will you please stand up?” Har, har all around.

Later I got up to dance a dramatic pas de deux to Joan Baez’ “Go ’Way From My Window.”

At the end of the dance the voice boomed out again: “Madame choreographer, my apologies for earlier remarks. You may be short, but you are definitely all there!”

Take THAT, Randy Newman!



Cutting remark

Dear Smiley: The “almost” headline in your year-end report, “From Cut Off to bite off” (about the guy from Cut Off who got in Mike the Tiger’s cage) reminded me of the actual headline when Joe Labruzzo, a former LSU football star from Cut Off, left a pro football training camp.

The headline read, “Labruzzo cuts out for Cut Off.”


Goodyear, Arizona

Right at home

Dear Smiley: Several years ago when I still worked full-time, we had a company dinner at a local restaurant.

There was one guy there who had just been hired a couple of days before. As he and his wife passed behind me at the table, I heard her whisper to him, “Why, they’re just a bunch of rednecks!”

She said it with a tone of relief, as in “They’re just like us!”



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.