Dear Smiley: Danny Heitman’s reflections on playing a corpse, published in a recent Advocate column, reminded me that my sister, Mary Pitchford Melton, got her Screen Actors Guild card after portraying the corpse of the first European woman to die of AIDS in “And the Band Played On.”

Mary, a Baton Rouge native and Central High grad, had been an extra in dozens of movies but was never on screen long enough to get a SAG card until she played a dead woman.

Mary now lives in Hilltop Nursing Home in Pineville.



Smart talk

Dear Smiley: I recently ran across two phrases I frequently heard growing up as a child in the ’30s and ’40s but no longer hear or see.

A friend of mine sent me an email that used “smack dab in the middle.”

And my late mother, when asked by my wife about the amount of lard she used to make biscuits, answered with “a right smart.”

Both my wife and I knew that “a right smart” meant “a lot,” still not a specific reply but one we understood.

The “right smart” answer popped up again in a book I was reading last week.

I wonder what your readers’ reflections would produce if they reflected on phrases no longer in use. And the origin of those phrases, if possible, would be a bonus.



Memory lane

Dear Smiley: The recent reminiscing in your columns got my memories stirred up.

I was raised in Morgan City by my grandmother. On cold nights after I was in bed, she would “tuck” me in with a blanket and a couple of quilts. When I awoke in the morning, I was still in the same position I had been in the night before: The quilts were so heavy I couldn’t move. (The greatest thing a house could have when I grew up was central heating.)

We all walked to school because we didn’t have bus pickup for kids who lived in town.

Friends who lived farther away from school than I did would come by my house, and we would all walk to school together.

After school, on a winter afternoon, Mama would have hot cocoa, and condensed milk sandwiches or freshly baked sweet potatoes waiting for me.

Those really were some “good old days.”


Morgan City

A Capital career

Dear Smiley: Mention of “five and dime” stores reminds me:

In high school, I worked at Diesi’s Little Capital Restaurant in Krotz Springs, beginning as dishwasher.

In the fall of 10th grade, the bookkeeper quit, and my teacher recommended me. Each month, I would write me a bus ticket to Opelousas, give the books to the CPA for review and then was free for a while.

I’d shop for any waitresses’ special requests from the five and dime (McCrory’s?) and buy 45 rpm records for the jukebox. I remember one waitress pleading, “You must get ‘Treasure Of Love’!”

The summer after 10th grade, I was the night watchman. The bartender wanted the next summer off, so I did that job (16 going on 17). Served Earl Long “Black Jack and Coke” several times.



A nun thing?

Dear Smiley: All the talk in your column about cloak rooms and basements reminds me of when I was a student at St. Anthony School in Bunkie.

The nuns were Sisters of Divine Providence.

We also had a “cloak room,” and the restrooms were referred to as “basements.” Is this something that only nuns at parochial schools do?



Confusion reigns

Dear Smiley: I can’t bring any clarity to the school basement issue. What I can offer is more confusion.

When I moved to Lafayette in 1980, I thought I had left that controversy safely in the past.

Having grown up and attended grades one through 12 in the ’50s in rural Vermont, I raised my hand many times to be excused for a “basement” break.

My very old two-room grade school had a “cloak room” and a basement, which housed a furnace but no restrooms.

This issue requires academic scrutiny. There might be a master’s thesis here.



Hot news

Dear Smiley: Putting up Christmas/holiday decorations sometimes requires repair or renewal with a glue gun.

After replacing an old one, just by chance and certainly not by habit, I read the instructions.

Makes me wonder about those of us who use the things.

One entire section under “troubleshooting” was:

“Glue gun will not heat. Make sure glue gun is plugged in. …”



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.