All of us grow up knowing important days and dates.
If you’re lucky, parents and those close to us take time to remember our birthdays. Then there’s Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July and Easter, days when, even at an early age, you know the world stops for a day to celebrate life and living.
Then there are those other days — days like today.
For those of us in the few years following World War II, we knew all too well what Dec. 7 meant to our parents, their siblings, relatives and their friends.
We grew up knowing it was a pivotal day and date in their young lives, and while it took years for us Baby Boomers to approach an understanding of the significance of Pearl Harbor Day, we later could relate it to Nov. 22, 1963, and Sept. 11, 2001 in our lives. (Look them up if you don’t know what those dates represent.)
And Katrina’s sweep through here Aug. 29, 2005, is etched in the memory of almost everyone who lived in southeast Louisiana then.
Friday was special, too, because it afforded the opportunity to sit and talk with someone who was young on Dec. 7, 1941. Sure I knew dad was at LSU that day, a senior in ROTC, soon to be commissioned an U.S. Army second lieutenant, soon to spend almost four years away from his home and more than a year on European soil. Mom was in her last year of nursing school in Kansas City, Mo., and soon to be an Army nurse.
And Ted Beaullieu Sr. wasn’t a “senior” yet, because he was nearing his 14th birthday in his hometown of Broussard.
“I remember we went to 8:30 (a.m.) mass ... and we went to my uncle’s house after mass,” the 87-year-old man said Friday at a duck camp in the remoteness of the Louisiana marshes.
“We heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio.”
Beaullieu recalled that it was some minutes later when somebody remembered that someone from Broussard was stationed aboard the USS Arizona. Word like that spreads fast in small towns.
“We knew about Ducrest,” Beaullieu said, pronouncing his older friend’s name “Due-cray,” in the familiar French way. “We called him ‘chat.’ His name was Felix.”
That was familiar, too, because darned near everybody named Felix picked up the nickname “cat” after the then-popular cartoon character Felix the Cat, and “chat” in French is “cat.”
“Everybody was in shock after we learned about him, and we were angry that the Japanese had the audacity to bomb us,” Beaullieu said. “We were hoping, too, that the Japanese had bitten off more than they could chew.”
Many years later, Beaullieu made a trip to Hawaii, made it a point to visit the Arizona Memorial, and say a proper goodbye to Seaman First Class Louis Felix Ducrest, one of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed Dec. 7, 1941. Let us remember, too.