Dear Smiley: Speaking of VW campers:

In 1969 my wife, Mary Ann, and I drove our camper from a conference in Detroit to her home in Massachusetts.

We were driving on the New York Thruway, windows down (no A/C), my wife's shoes off, feet resting on the dash.

We realized that every time we passed, or were passed by, another VW camper, the people in it would honk their horn, yell, whistle, and greet us with very happy faces.

Then we noticed that almost to the vehicle, there seemed to be a stream of smoke leaving the windows. Strange! Our VW emitted a lot of smoke — but all from the tailpipe, not the windows.

Also strange was that when we passed the exit to Bethel, New York, all of them got off the highway. Not until the next morning was our puzzle solved, when we read in the paper about the music festival being held at Woodstock, which was some 40 miles from Bethel.

I guess we should have also exited. It seems like we came very close to the biggest party our old VW camper could have taken us to.


Baton Rouge

Weighty topic

Dear Smiley: Your story about the Krispy Kreme doughnuts reminded me of when I quit smoking many, many years ago.

Next door to the courthouse in Napoleonville was the famous Napoleonville Bakery, a stopping point for everyone traveling down the bayou as far as Grand Isle. The French bread was most often hot and delicious.

Almost every morning, I would cross the street and grab a couple of hot doughnuts and a carton of milk. In a matter of a couple of months, I noticed my clothes getting a little tight, and looking in the mirror before dressing, I was beginning to look like a martini olive with a toothpick running through it!

I had to quit my morning trek, and soon lost the 25 pounds I had gained.



Dear Tony: Yeah, that milk can really put on the pounds…

Bottle businessmen

Dear Smiley: Another "youth entrepreneurship" story:

As many over 65 will recall, soft drinks used to be bottled exclusively in glass containers. People were encouraged to return the empty bottles for a few cents, eventually as much as a nickel.

My friends and I would ride our bikes around looking for discarded bottles and bring them to the A&P store on Choctaw. Once we had amassed enough "profit" we would buy soft drinks at the local convenience store, retaining the empty bottles for the next economic cycle. While this may sound like "recycling," we never called it by that name.

If I had only known how society would evolve! A shift to plastic bottles would have put us out of business. And then, decades later, an excess of plastic bottles would have returned us to recycling.

Why, I might have become an executive of a recycling facility, or at least I could have returned to picking up bottles, a highly lucrative venture.


Baton Rouge

Free trees

Dear Smiley: You're probably tired of hearing about chinaball trees, but here is one more.

They are easy to propagate. Just place the balls in soil and water them. I have about six of them, about a foot tall.

I don't plan to keep them; will probably put them out at the road for anyone who wants them. That's what I usually do with extra plants.

They came off my mature tree I planted just for nostalgic reasons. We had one in our backyard in the '40s that kept us occupied for many hours of play.



Freeze trees

Dear Smiley: The loss of New Orleans' chinaball trees may be related to their messiness, but I suspect that they, like the camphor trees (also messy!), were wiped out by the Great Freeze of 1961, when it reached about 12 degrees.

Prior to this time the city had many camphor trees, but they all died in the freeze and were not replaced — because they are messy and they do freeze!.



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