Gary E. Penton, of Pineville, says he's originally from Franklinton, and remembers this incident from his school days:

"From our fifth- or sixth-grade window we could look down on the entry to our furnace room (the school's two large buildings were heated with steam).

"One day our janitor came up from the below-ground furnace room with flames at his 'tail feathers.'

"Running to the principal's window, he yelled, 'Mr. Foil, get the kids out. It's going to blow!'

"The principal turned on the alarm, and we all got out on the field in front of the school.

"The furnace did not blow, but we kids thought we had seen and heard a miracle.

"Our janitor was nearly deaf, and no one had ever heard him talk. We didn't think he COULD talk.

"But on that day he proved that we do what we have to do."

Dimes to dollars

"Driving through far northeast Baton Rouge the other day," says Henry Bradsher, "I kept passing various 'dollar-this' or 'dollar that' stores.

"They made me think of the days around 1940, when Baton Rouge was a small town where all the bus routes converged on Third Street.

"This main shopping street — outlying malls came much later — was then lined with stores that included Kress and Woolworth, the original 'five-and-dime' stores.

"An inflation calculator shows that a dime then would now be equivalent to $1.82. So perhaps the dollar stores are a cheap replacement for those defunct five-and-dime stores of my youth.

"In those days before I turned 12, a movie cost only nine cents, tax-free — the inflated equivalent now of $1.64, plus tax — but most movie prices have gone up faster than inflation."

X factor

Speaking of entertainment, Bill Huey says, "The sidekicks items in your columns brought back memories.

"One of my favorite TV series was 'Yancy Derringer,' which was set in New Orleans, starring Jock Mahoney.

"Yancy's sidekick was an Indian named Pahoo, full name Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah (translation: "Wolf who stands in water"), played by a dude named 'X Brands.' Couldn't forget that name."

X Brands got his unique name because in his ancestors' hometown in Germany there were two Jan Brands. One took "X" for a middle name to avoid confusion, and was known as "X Brands." The name traveled to America with the family, but no family member could use the "X" until the previous holder of the name had died.

Despite his German ancestry, the actor's portrayal of a Native American won praise from a spokesman for the Pawnee nation for its authenticity.   

Flat nice people

Mary Ann and Carl Mistric thank "the gentleman who assisted us with our flat tire on Sunday at the College Drive Interstate 10 exit in Baton Rouge.

"We appreciate his kindness and help getting our tire changed and us back on the road again."

Special People Dept.

  • William “Bill” Cambre celebrates his 95th birthday Thursday, May 16. He is a World War II veteran and a retired lieutenant in the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office.
  • Lionel J. "Buck" Keller celebrates his 93rd birthday Thursday, May 16. He is a World War II Navy veteran.
  • Ethel Chustz, of New Roads, celebrated her 91st birthday Wednesday, May 15.
  • Jeannette P. Clark, of Harvey, celebrates her 90th birthday Thursday, May 16.
  • Austin and Waveel Sagrera, of Esther, in Vermilion Parish, celebrate their 60th anniversary Thursday, May 16.

Rainy day groaner

Frank Fronczek, of Baton Rouge, offers us an example of the way life imitates bad jokes:

He says, "Seeing the painters struggling to make much progress on our house's exterior during those recent rainy days reminds me of the old story about the unscrupulous guy hired to paint a church.

"Figuring that the churchgoers were trusting souls, he watered down his paint in order to save a few bucks.

"About the time he was done painting, a tremendous thunderstorm suddenly came up and washed off all the paint.

"Then the sun came out, and a booming voice came down from above: 'Repaint, thinner, and thin no more!'"

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.