Human Condition: Lake features in many a Baton Rouge memory _lowres

 

An article on the front page of The Advocate sparked my memory about the first time I saw the LSU and City Park Lakes.

I was arriving in Baton Rouge after a long drive from Centre, Alabama, that had included an overnight stop in Meridian, Mississippi. I was looking for West Chimes Street, which I knew was somewhere near LSU. I was on I-10 going west when I spotted an LSU sign at the Dalrymple Drive exit.

As I drove south on Dalrymple, I was excited to see the beautiful large lake on my left. My thoughts rushed ahead to thinking that I might water ski on those lakes or even live in an apartment on their shores. It was uplifting to see such an inviting open space near a major university and right in the middle of a large city.

Not long after that I was able to live in an apartment building across Stanford Avenue from the large lake. By that time I had learned that it was a shallow lake compared to the ones I had known in Alabama and not really suited for water skiing.

I enjoyed its beauty, however, and the way it set the LSU campus off from the humdrum of the city. I remember how beautiful I thought the area around the lakes was. The azaleas in the College Town area were so beautiful that first spring that I lived in Baton Rouge.

It was on the banks of the lakes that I gave my future wife a diamond dinner ring that I bought for her in Gadsden, Alabama, when I had to go back there for my grandfather’s funeral. I probably would have given her an engagement ring at that time, but we had only been dating for a month or so. I think I knew already that she was the one for me.

Through the years we have made many memories on the banks of those lakes. Our first child, Kelly Elise, loved to go there and feed the ducks.

Later, she and her two younger sisters would pledge Phi Mu at LSU, and I would present them at the beautiful sorority house on West Lakeshore.

My daughter, Becky, majored in civil engineering at LSU, and her senior year I helped out at the concrete canoe competition on University Lake. I was the safety guy and rode around in the lake on my bass boat, using trolling motor only, while the future civil engineers raced their canoes made of concrete. My son, Trey, and sometimes my youngest daughter, Meg, and I would park on the bank in front of the AgCenter and tailgate and then walk to the football game in Tiger Stadium.

One time I was fixing a flat tire for Meg in the Phi Mu parking lot when Becky’s future husband, David, was thrown in the lake by his fraternity brothers after he had dropped her. Meg wouldn’t let me watch the commotion and said she didn’t know any of them. A few years later Becky and David held their wedding reception at the Lod Cook Alumni Building on Lakeshore Drive.

These are memories of more than University Lake, but the lake has a prominent part in them. It is an important landmark for LSU, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the Roberts family.

Woody Roberts lives in Baton Rouge.

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