Dear Smiley: Clay Davis’ account of his Tenn-Tom experience brought back memories of my recent Trip of a Lifetime on that waterway.
In 2013, I bought a 1979 Fiat Spider from Jim Fine, who lives in River Ridge. Part of our agreement was that Jim would help me restore it, so once a week for almost a year we worked on the car and became friends.
Jim’s 44-foot sailboat had been damaged beyond repair during Hurricane Katrina, and he decided it was time to find another boat. What he found in early 2015 was a 22-foot sailboat docked at Pickwick Lake, Tennessee.
The route was to be the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to Mobile, along the Gulf Coast to Lake Pontchartrain, and finally on to Slidell! His brother Steve and I were recruited to be the “volunteer” crew.
When we left Pickwick Lake and entered the Tenn-Tom, almost immediately we encountered our first lock!
We struggled with tying the boat to the floating pilings so much that the lock master rode over on his golf cart to tell us, “You can do it that way, but here is how I would do it!”
After 13 days, over 600 miles, 11 more locks, going under 30 bridges and a few root beers, we made it home!
Dear Smiley: During the Korean War, my father, Dr. Vincent Cangelosi, was stationed at Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he met and married my mother and brought her back to Baton Rouge.
She had red hair and freckles and clearly was not of Italian heritage.
In those days, for an Italian to marry an “Americana” was a serious breach of tradition.
Mom was looked on with some suspicion by my deeply-rooted Sicilian family in Baton Rouge, and it took her years to be fully accepted into “la famiglia.” Thank God, she was Catholic.
Seven or eight years later, my father’s first cousin, Nick Benedetto, also married an “Americana,” a strikingly beautiful blonde named Delores Norwood.
Aunt Delores did not experience any cultural problems to the severity my mother did. For one thing, attitudes were slightly changing, and, more important, Delores grew up in Baton Rouge and attended St. Joseph’s Academy.
I needn’t explain the “brownie points” a young Italian Baton Rouge man received from family for marrying an Academy graduate. Had she just been Italian, she would’ve been damn near perfect!
PHIL “FILIPPO” CANGELOSI
Dear Smiley: Mention of the Starmist Lounge brought back wonderful memories from my disc jockey days on WJBO in the late 1950s.
Joe Alesce bought a 30-minute program during my classic jazz program every Friday night at 9. Larry Muhoberac was the piano man, Bobby Alexis was the stand-up bass guy and Ronnie Capone was on drums.
These guys were terrific, went on to work at a Memphis recording studio after graduating from LSU and later went on to the bigs on the West Coast.
Gwin Pilcher (professional name Gwin Grey) had just returned to Baton Rouge after two years singing in jazz clubs in Kansas City and joined on vocals many nights.
Regulars on Friday nights included Aubrey Moore and Bud Hebert, plus other media people. We’d close the place and continue the show in the parking lot.
Usually Baton Rouge’s finest would show up, roll down the window and say, “Oh, it’s you guys again” and drive off.
Dear Smiley: At various times during our careers, my daughter, Leila Pitchford-English, and I have both worked for The Advocate, the Times-Picayune, the Alexandria Daily Town Talk and The Watchman in Clinton.
During the last four years of my career, Leila and I were at The Advocate at the same time, as was her husband, Gary English.
One night when I was staying at the home of Leila and Gary, a pollster called her. His first question was whether “any member of the household was employed by the news media.”
“EVERYBODY in this household is employed by the news media,” she responded.
The caller quickly hung up.
The littlest barber
Dear Smiley: Sarah Stravinska’s story about her doll’s heart transplant reminded me of the first of my many instances of misapplied logic.
As a lad, we were told that it was OK to get haircuts. Our hair grew back. Even eyelashes.
Well, my niece (raised with me as a sister) had a doll that presented a tempting target. I cut the eyelashes.
And I calmly explained to her, as she was bawling, that the eyelashes would grow back in time.
My parents must have recognized the earnestness of my explanation because I wasn’t spanked. And the eyelashes never grew back.
ALEX “SONNY” CHAPMAN
Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.