Dolores Benedetto says “It was so fitting” that the Passover seder of Baton Rouge’s Congregation B’nai Israel was held in Mother Alice Hall at St. Joseph’s Academy:

“As the tale goes, in the early 1940s Mother Alice of the Sisters of St. Joseph walked into Lewis Gottlieb’s office — he was president of City National Bank.

“She was a round and jolly lady who always had a purpose. She found a parcel of land on Broussard Street that she wanted in order to build a new St. Joseph’s Academy. The old building was on Fourth Street, Baton Rouge was growing, and she needed much more land.

“She sat eye-to-eye with Lewis Gottlieb and told him she needed a loan for this land and her new school.

“The story I heard was that he looked at her and asked what she had for collateral. Her reply was $38.16.

“He laughed heartily and said, ‘Mother, you have your land.’ And the synagogue bought the land across the side street.

“I am sure the two old friends were in heaven — and delighted that Mother Alice Hall was the selected place for Passover.”

Cruising and bruising

Russ Wise, of LaPlace, says our mention of “urban legends” reminds him of this one, “which two people I know (but who live in two different states and don’t know each other) swear happened to some relatives of theirs.

“A couple was crossing the country in a newly-bought motor home. She was in the galley; he was driving, sitting in his comfortable ‘captain’s chair’ up front and watching the scenery from those big wide windshields.

“Suddenly he walked up beside her, bent over, and took a soft drink (we’ll call it) from the refrigerator.

“They stood and talked for a moment until she suddenly cried, ‘Who’s driving?’

“He rushed back to take the wheel, but the big land yacht had already left the pavement, run into the grass, and slowly tilted onto its side.

“The captain’s chair was so comfortable, the view so beautiful, and the cruise control so smooth that — according to the storytellers — he had ‘forgotten he was driving.’”

(That identical story, titled “Cruise Control,” is told on Page 295 of “Too Good to Be True,” Jan Harold Brunvand’s collection of urban legends.)

Grab a gator

Our seminar on creative door handles/knobs rolls on:

Gerald Eiermann, of Gonzales, reminds us that “Middendorf’s Restaurant in Manchac is another establishment with unique door handles. Brass alligator handles are on the men’s room door.”

He doesn’t mention the handles on the ladies’ room doors.

By the way, thanks a lot, Gerald; now I’m craving thin-fried catfish...

Bad Luck Bob

John LaCarna, of Baton Rouge, comments on a recent column topic, cowboy movie actors:

“Bob Steele was one of my favorite Saturday matinee Western stars, too, second only to maybe Lash LaRue.

“But when he moonlighted in mainstream movies, his characters didn’t fare so well.

“As Curly, the boss’s son in the 1939 movie ‘Of Mice and Men,’ his hand was crushed when he picked on Lenny, played by Lon Chaney Jr. And he was shot down by Humphrey Bogart not only in ‘The Big Sleep’ but also in ‘The Enforcer,’ another film noir in which he played a hit man.

“Seems Bob couldn’t win a gunfight with Bogie, any more than he could lose one in his own Westerns.”

Chemistry 101

George Lane, this column’s unpaid consulting chemist, offers this safety tip:

“One of your guest columnists recently claimed that mixing ammonia with bleach produces mustard gas — not the culinary mustard, but rather a toxic chemical used as a chemical warfare agent.

“However, mustard gas is an organic compound containing sulfur (formula: C4H8Cl2S). Neither ammonia (NH3) nor bleach (NaOCl , CaOCl, or HOCl) contain sulfur.

“However, ammonia does react with bleach, and can form hydrazine (N2H4), a toxic liquid used as a rocket fuel, or chlorine (Cl2), a dual-use chemical, which means it can be used both as an industrial chemical and as a weapon.

“Bottom line: Don’t mix ammonia and bleach at home.”

Special People Dept.

-- Eudorah White, of Covington, celebrates her 92nd birthday on Wednesday, April 15. (Daughter Suzann Davis says, “Mom says she was a tax deduction before there were tax deductions.”)

-- Harvey Pryor, of Baton Rouge, celebrates his 91st birthday on Wednesday, April 15. He is retired from Allied Chemical, and active in First Christian Church.

-- Alec and Pearlie Ruiz, of River Ridge, celebrate their 72nd anniversary on Wednesday, April 15.

That’s heavy!

Our mention of heavy fog reminded Doug Johnson, of Watson, “of one I heard while working at a plant in Chattanooga, notorious for its thick fogs.

“A co-worker reported that he stopped while driving to remove a log from the road, but found it to be a hole in the fog where a rabbit had crossed.”

Contact 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.