“I became an altar boy in the summer between third and fourth grades, in an old wooden church in Harahan,” says Jean Haydel.

“My weight of around 85 pounds and height of under 50 inches were small handicaps in ringing the church bell to announce Masses and toll for funerals.

“The bell was rung manually via a rope that extended down into the confessional area. Because of my height I had to stand on a bench, rope in hands, and jump off the bench. Holding onto the rope and springing on my toes as I touched the floor resulted in a rhythm that was in sync with the swing of the bell. After the bell chimed a sufficient number of times, all I had to do was release the rope as my feet touched the floor.

“The real challenge was tolling the bell for funerals. The spring on my toes had to be timed just enough so that the bell would not chime on the return swing, yet lift my body off the floor. My elevated body provided enough weight to cause a sufficient swing to produce a distinctive toll.

“Until the timing was perfected, my pastor, Father Roy Champagne, was patient, and somewhat amused.”

Nontraditional hymn

Dan Stein, of Baton Rouge, has a “joyful noise” story:

“Some years ago, actually a lot of years ago, I attended Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral one Sunday morning.

“My angelic-voiced wife, Mary, was upstairs in the choir loft, while I sat below in the singing-impaired section of the congregation.

“Monsignor Cage Gordon was the celebrant, and at the most solemn part of the Mass intoned, ‘The Lord be with you...’. We responded, ‘And with your spirit...’.

“And with impeccable timing, from the side chapel that accommodated parents with children came a small but strong and very sincere voice singing, ‘Spider-man...Spider-man...’

“Before this future Pavarotti could continue his ditty, his quick and very embarrassed mother had her hand muffling his mouth and was carrying him outside for a private Bible lesson.

“Monsignor Gordon, not one to ruffle easily, just smiled and continued with the Mass as the congregation softly chuckled. And I am pretty sure I could hear a faint chuckle from above.”

Midwestern Cajun?

Jim Wadsworth, of Metairie, calls this a “reverse Cajun” story:

“I occasionally work the registration desk for meetings held at the New Orleans Convention Center.

“A gentleman walked up and handed me his registration form. I looked at the form and greeted him with, ‘Good morning, Mr. Hebert (A-Bear).’

“He quickly informed me that his name was ‘Hee-burt.’ He was from Minnesota.”

Name games

After stories about nuns in Catholic schools assigning names to students, we heard from Nobey Benoit:

“The nuns were not the only ones who changed one’s name.

“I attended public school in Thibodaux, and when I started school, I was told that Nobey was not a real name and that my real name was Norbert.

“All my school records reflected that until around the fifth grade, when my name mysteriously became Nobey again.

“My family name Benoit (pronounced ‘Ben wah’) was pronounced ‘Ben oit’ by the drill sergeant in Army basic training.

“Talk about identity crisis.”

Which reminds me

Like Nobey Benoit above, I’ve had trouble making people believe that “Smiley” is my real name. (And I’m a junior: my dad was named Smiley to honor a friend of my grandfather whose last name was Smiley.)

All through school, and beyond, I had to answer the question, “What’s your REAL name?”

It didn’t help that I was usually the class clown, so teachers assumed it was a well-earned nickname.

When I started dating my Spanish Town neighbor Katherine Scales (later to become my spouse, Lady Katherine), one of the first things she asked me was my real name. I couldn’t convince her that ‘Smiley’ was it, and finally had to go root through my personal papers to find my birth certificate. Only then did she accept Smiley as my real name.

Penny wise

Jackie Segura, of St. Martinville, tells of a thoughtful gift:

“My youngest granddaughter, Leah, handed me a watch box wrapped up, and inside were 77 pennies, one for each year! Loved it.”

Special People Dept.

Evelyn Lafitte celebrated her 91st birthday on Sunday, April 17.

Thought for the Day

From Shirley Fleniken: “A clean house is a sign of a broken computer.”

Just give up!

A sure sign that you haven’t gotten enough sleep and should just go back to bed is when you inadvertently pour orange juice over your morning cereal.

This happened Tuesday morning to, uh, someone I know...

Contacting Smiley

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.