I spent Thursday evening at T.J. Ribs, where a book signing for Charles deGravelles’ “Billy Cannon: A Long, Long Run” attracted scores of folks who lined up to have their books signed by the author and his subject and exchange a few words with Dr. Cannon. (Who probably had to see another doctor Friday for treatment of writer’s cramp.)
Hanging out with Billy and his family brought back memories of our days at Istrouma High and LSU, including one story I don’t think I’ve ever told Billy.
In the spring of 1959, not long after then-Vice President Richard Nixon had presented the Heisman Trophy to Billy, I attended a conference of college journalists in Indianapolis, where Nixon was the main speaker.
I was in an informal receiving line greeting the vice president as he entered the hall where he was to speak.
Nixon, a socially awkward person, shuffled down the line, barely making eye contact with the students, and muttering “Good to meet you...” or some other innocuous remark.
We were all wearing name tags with our schools’ names on them, and when Nixon got to me he stopped and said, “LSU; yes, Chinese Bandits, Billy Cannon. Do you know Billy Cannon?”
“Yes, sir,” I said, “we went to the same high school. I heard you on the radio when you gave him the Heisman.”
He nodded and said, “Oh yes, great running back, great...”
I knew Nixon was a football fan, and was about to say something else when I noticed the guys in line down from me craning their necks to see why the vice president had stopped to chat with a kid from Louisiana.
Nixon nodded at me and continued down the line, leaving me thinking what a great story this would be when I got home, and how I’d probably tell it often...which indeed I have.
Yell from hell
“I was at LSU in the ’60s,” says Tookie Hendry, “when, if my memory serves me correctly (ha-ha!), a cheerleader named Dickie Flowers came up with the ‘Hot boudin, cold cush-cush...’ yell, and I’ll never forgive him! If anyone ‘knows better,’ please let me know, so I can forgive Dickie.”
Let’s hope not
Here’s a story that brings up unpleasant thoughts about a popular, as Anthony Bourdain says, “meat in tube form:”
Bobbie Spencer, of Lafayette, says our mention of misused words “took me back to a Lafayette High’s haunted house activity 20-some years ago.
“A delightful co-worker served my 4-year-old nephew a hot dog, and after he carefully unwrapped it, he exclaimed, ‘You can’t have a hound dog without ketchup! My daddy says that people are supposed to put ketchup on their hound dog.’”
One little letter
Avid newspaper reader Dan Burkhalter, the Carencro Curmudgeon, tells how just the slightest misprint can have alarming results.
He says he saw this note in a paper (NOT The Advocate): “Dead Abby can be found on page 5D...”
“A group of us old guys were talking about the good old days,” says Wayne Weilbaecher, of Covington. “I mean the real good old days, when we were 8 years old and everything mattered and we took such pride in the smallest memory.
“My greatest memory was my mother taking me to visit my grandfather, who owned a drug store in uptown New Orleans, on State Street and Laurel. We lived in Maple Ridge in Metairie, so we only visited once in a while.
“I couldn’t wait to get there. My grandfather would always give me a cigar box full of Double Bubble gum. This was during World War II, when nobody could get gum because they used it for military purposes for tires, etc.
“This was like winning the lottery. I cherished that cigar box and guarded it with my life.
“I couldn’t wait for my next visit to my grandfather’s drug store and more of my delicious bounty.”
Rita Sander, of Slidell, says, “In 1962, when my son was in kindergarten at Gentilly Terrace school in New Orleans, the mothers received a letter advising us that girls were not to wear pants on school property. Only skirts or dress were considered acceptable.
“Needless to say, no one paid any attention and nothing more was said.”
Sin Street blues
Sounding just a bit cynical, Tom Boone, of Gonzales, makes this observation: “I just read in The Advocate that an undercover operation conducted in the French Quarter around Bourbon Street found instances of drug activity, improper touching, prostitution and lewd and immoral acts.
“Say what? One can only wonder what’s next, con artists and pickpockets?”
Algie Petrere tells this one: “Driving her car one afternoon, a lady rolled through a stop sign. She was pulled over by a police officer who recognized her as his former English teacher.
“‘Mrs. Brown,’ he said, ‘those stop signs are periods, not commas.’”
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.