James R. "J.R." Clary Jr., of Baton Rouge, has this "hard times" story:

"Mention of the Depression-era CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) brings to mind an exchange I had with an elderly client when I was a young lawyer 40 years ago.

"As part of the initial client interview, I explained with great seriousness how information was needed from this burly old gent regarding his employment history and rates of pay, along with some idea how his income was allocated.

"'Let's start with your first job,' I explained, following the form my firm utilized.

"The white-haired fella adjusted his black horn-rimmed glasses and leaned forward: 'My first job? Well, in 1935 or '36, I started with the CCC. We worked seven days a week. I earned a dollar a day.'

"'And how was that income spent?' I asked, still following my written form.

"'Let's see,' the client replied with great solemnity, searching both the conference room ceiling and his memory. 'I sent $4 a week home to Momma. I held back a dollar and four bits a week for food and clothes. I needed another dollar and two bits a week for my housing — and I reckon I just blew the rest.'"

Stretch it

After a reader questioned hard-boiled eggs in gumbo (something I noticed Coach O's mom doing in her delightful "60 Minutes" interview), Linda Whitman, of Denham Springs, explained:

"My dad’s mother raised six kids before and during the Depression. Sometimes the chicken and sausage gumbo needed to be stretched, hence protein in the form of an egg.

"I still make it that way, with potato salad perched on the edge of the bowl.

"Her oldest son, 'Johnnie the Hunter,' always said he could look at rabbit tracks and tell how much gravy it would make. They never went hungry."

Which reminds me

When I judged a spaghetti cook-off at the Italian Festival in Independence, I felt well qualified; I'm half Italian. My mother was a DeMarco and made classic garlic-laden spaghetti and meatballs.

But I realized that, according to the Independence cooks, I didn't know spaghetti at all.

They not only used lots of sugar in their sauce, but added hardboiled eggs (I assume to add protein, as Linda Whitman mentioned regarding gumbo).

I learned never to assume I know anything about how folks cook.

Drinking songs

Mark Richterman, of Baton Rouge, continues our recollections of New Orleans brews:

"My father, Bernie, was a cellist with the New Orleans Symphony for 23 years. In his spare time, he loved playing chamber music, particularly quartets, and had an extensive chamber music library.

"One of the musicians he often invited to our home to play quartets was violinist Herman Decauff, brewmaster for Dixie Beer.

"Upon arriving, Herman would ask me to retrieve what he had brought for my dad from the trunk of his car, which I remember always being three cases of Dixie.

"Ironically, Dad was not much of a drinker and gave the beer away to friends. In fact, I only remember once seeing him drink a beer, Dixie of course, at a restaurant with pizza.

"As a teenager and fledgling musician myself, I developed quite a taste for and appreciation of both chamber music and, unbeknownst to my parents, Dixie Beer."

Dangerous dining?

Sandy Shahady says, "I’ve really enjoyed your recent stories about misunderstood words. I have a good one:

"My husband, Naif, is a tour guide in New Orleans. One of his specialties is culinary tours, and there is a stop at Antoine’s in the French Quarter.

"One day he was talking about the illustrious history of this very famous restaurant and said, 'Many American presidents have dined here.'

"Later, a tourist in his group sidled up to him and said, 'Naif, is it really true that many presidents have died here?'"

Grin and bare it

Claudia Ortego says, "I was babysitting my 2-year-old grandson, and when getting Parker ready for his nap, I asked if he wanted to sleep with his socks on.

"He said, 'No, I want to sleep with just my toes on.'"


Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.