Dear Smiley: Your mention of guys from my age group remembering their past questionable athletic achievements reminds me of my own glorious moment.
Since I had an afternoon job delivering the State-Times, I didn't have the time to take part in high school sports. One year, however, I tried out for track.
I couldn't jump, pole vault, throw a javelin, and wouldn't DARE enter a sprint. So I gave "long distance" a shot, and actually competed in a match with Istrouma, your alma mater and Baton Rouge High's hated rival.
Your best runner was about to overtake me, but I leaned forward and crossed the finish line before he did!
Then I went on and finished the lap I was behind.
Dear Smiley: In my early years as a teacher, I was often called upon to do many jobs.
I was asked to coach the track team, which was ironic: you could use a calendar to time me in the 100-yard dash.
One year I had a great group of sprinters; we were winning all of our meets. On the day of the district track meet, I realized that even though we would probably win the running events, I needed points in the field.
I did not have a pole vaulter. One of our best athletes, Dwayne Lemoine, was not on the track team because he was not very fast.
I got him out of class, brought him behind the school where there was a sidewalk, gave him a pole and told him to practice vaulting over the two-inch-high sidewalk.
He came in third and we won the district meet.
By the way, he continued to soar in later life; he became superintendent of schools in Avoyelles Parish. And his grandson is now a medal-winning high school vaulter.
They know beans
Dear Smiley: In the 1970s, I was going to class in USL's social studies building and became curious when I heard Dr. Pitchford mention "Red Beans and Ricely Yours."
After class I thanked him for introducing this delicious cultural expression to my vocabulary!
On Tuesday, when several firemen finished installing fire alarms in my house, we got into a discussion regarding red beans and rice.
These delightful young men plan to bring me some to hear my preference: theirs or the red beans from the fried chicken place down the street.
Your recent story of Louis Armstrong's use of "Red Beans and Ricely Yours" in letters gives everyone a great history lesson.
Steak and a shower
Dear Smiley: About your mentions of Charlie's Steak House, a New Orleans institution:
Many years ago, we made a business lunch reservation at Charlie’s. It was well known for its atmosphere, onion rings, and steaks (not necessarily in that order).
We arrived at the restaurant during a heavy rainfall, and were seated at a table directly under a major roof leak.
We had to request another table, and the waiter reseated us at an adjacent table, where the water was still splashing on us.
As I remember, the steaks were great, and the onion rings a bit soggy. For atmosphere, I had to visualize myself eating a steak under Niagara Falls.
Dear Smiley: I was delighted by the comments about hand pumps; they brought back a memory of Ecru, the small town in the hills of northeast Mississippi where I was born.
The town pump was a fixture in most Southern communities, and elsewhere in the country: Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a tale entitled “The Town Pump.”
When I was grown and moved from Ecru to New Orleans, the state of Mississippi saw fit to ban town pumps as “health hazards."
It was a major loss to locals, especially the elderly men, who gathered there most days to socialize and gossip.
When my grandfather died, Bill Mounce, a popular barber and local wit, was reported to have observed, “Yeah, they had to take out our old town pump because it was unsafe! It killed old man George Holditch, and he was only 93!”