Dear Smiley: Just back from the National School Boards conference in Boston, I received a message from an old friend named Bob Dabney, who once lived in New Orleans but has moved to Barbados.

It seems that in 1961 Fidel Castro formed “education brigades” that went out into the countryside and forced Cubans to learn to read. By the time it was over, Cuba’s literacy rate had gone from about 60 percent to more than 96 percent!

Now if I can just get John Bel to call out the National Guard...



View from Natchez

Dear Smiley: Enjoyed your column mention of the Natchez annexation movement.

As a Mississippi Gulf Coast native, I can attest Natchez and the Coast are far more “Louisiana” than “Mississippi.”


Publisher, The Natchez Democrat

Natchez, Mississippi

How dry it ain’t

Dear Smiley: Natchez did somewhat flout the dry laws of Mississippi.

With Vidalia right across the bridge and Louisiana with an age 18 drinking age, high school seniors who were age 18 enjoyed a somewhat higher degree of popularity.

I remember a beverage store that was a favorite stopping place for plant workers on the way to Jefferson County.

Some of the workers would load up on half-pint bottles with their paychecks, and probably double their money in Fayette, Meadville, and Roxie.


Baton Rouge

Adult choice

Dear Smiley: My daughter, Danielle, is graduating from medical school. We traveled to many locations for her to interview for her residency.

One of the cities we visited was Orlando, Florida. As we were close to Disney World, we visited the Magic Kingdom.

One of the magical experiences is the opportunity to pose with various characters from the world of Disney.

As we walked through Frontier Land, we saw the chipmunks, Chip and Dale.

I asked my daughter, who is 27, whether or not she wanted to have her picture taken with these characters.

Without missing a beat, she said, “Not with this Chip and Dale, but if they were the Chippendales dancers, you bet.”

I guess my daughter is all grown up.



Culture shocked

Dear Smiley: Late in 1976, I moved from the Chicago area to DeRidder, Louisiana.

Among the items bringing about culture shock were the retail counter checks, which you requested from the cashier by color and were specific to where you had a bank account.

Local phone service was set up similar to telephone extensions, where you only dialed the last five digits of the phone number.

The newspaper obituaries had to include one or more nicknames, so potential mourners could identify the deceased.

Once I was over these minor adjustments, I made Louisiana my home — for, I hope, the rest of my life.



Going to the dogs

Dear Smiley: A pair of slippers at our house is a right and a left. It doesn’t matter that the slipper on my right foot is blue and I’m wearing red plaid on my left.

Our dogs love slippers. Thank goodness they no long chew them; they just like to possess them.

When I get out of the tub at night I’m usually greeted by only one slipper. I may find the other when I climb into bed, or on the sofa or even in the back yard.

With dogs you learn to adapt.



Be kind to judges

Dear Smiley: Roz and her sister Lucie have become “Yard of the Month” judges for our neighborhood association.

They have no previous experience with bribes, but they are quick studies and are willing to learn from a recognized master. Any pointers?


Baton Rouge

Dear Frank: I’ve been out of the bribery game since I stopped being a float judge for the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade. But I will tell you that the best bribe ever was when a float stopped in front of the judges’ stand and two of the riders presented us with a small iced-down keg of beer. Don’t know if that appeals to the ladies, but it sure worked for us.

No longer cool

Dear Smiley: I am hearing complaints about over-usage of the phrase “At the end of the day” to summarize something someone just said. It reminded me that “The bottom line is...,” “That’s the way the cookie crumbles...,” and “No matter which way you cut it” also were popular statements in past decades, but slowly went away.

I personally am thrilled that “Know what I’m saying” is disappearing, although it has taken away opportunities or me to reply “No.”

Perhaps your readers could recall other once-popular similar phrases now parked in the archives of archaic language.

Know what I mean, jelly bean?



Dear Dudley: I dig where you’re coming from, man. Far out. Groovy...

Contacting 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.