Robert Cabes, of Lafayette, says sports stories about the success of the De La Salle Cavaliers basketball team brought to mind this story of a hijacking by the coach at the New Orleans high school: 

"Back in my day, coach Johnny Altobello was an amazing coach, coaching football (he loved to start a game with an onside kick) and basketball.

"Coach lived out near the lake, so he had to pass Jesuit High every morning on his way to the DeLaSalle campus on St. Charles Avenue.

"One day in September, 1959, before school had started, he saw a young man walking down Carrollton Avenue.

"Coach first noticed that this young man was apparently unhappy; second, he noticed this was a really tall guy!

"Tom Conklin was the son of a doctor who had been hired to manage a New Orleans hospital. He and Tom had moved to New Orleans, and Tom was instructed to go to Jesuit to enroll.

"Tom told Coach Altobello that he was not allowed to enroll at Jesuit, because he was missing some piece of paper from his prior school.

"Coach told Tom to follow him to another Catholic school, where there was no issue about his enrollment.

"Tom was 6 feet, 9 inches as a junior; later 6 feet, 10 inches when he played starting center at LSU.

Robert says Tom led De La Salle to two state championships during his time there.

"Tom passed away last year, after retiring in Connecticut as a medical doctor.

"Eat your heart out, Jesuit Blue Jays!"

Youth is relative

Ernie Gremillion, of Baton Rouge, isn't easily offended (he used to work for the IRS), but he says this was too much:

"In Albertsons the other day, I had a very slight engagement with another customer waiting at the meat counter with me.

"He was about a mid-70s, rather upscale guy.

"He was in the checkout line ahead of me, and after he got checked out, he turned to me and said, 'Be careful, old timer.'

"The nerve of that guy!"

About aliases

"On our recent Panama Canal cruise," says Millie Matherne, of Gonzales, "husband Pat and I heard violinist Gary Lovini.

"I'm an avid Jumble puzzle fan, and as soon as the name popped up on the video screen, I noticed that LOVINI unscrambled spells VIOLIN.

"Running into the entertainer the next morning, I complimented his performance and asked about his last name. He confirmed that Lovini is indeed a stage name.

"Visiting daughter Jamie Satter's family in Ipswich, Massachusetts, I told the story to grandson Rex, 10, who recently began taking piano lessons.

"Rex reflected briefly on the tale and proclaimed, 'Gam, someday my stage name might be Rex OPINA! Who knows? It could happen, you know!'

"Absolutely — and everyone read it in your column first, Smiley."

Special People Dept.

  • Mary Grace Patin Mougeot celebrated her 101st birthday Thursday, May 2.
  • Mae Broussard, of Port Allen, celebrates her 96th birthday Friday, May 3.
  • Lela Mae Bourgeois celebrates her 95th birthday Sunday, May 5.
  • Lucille Hughes celebrates her 93rd birthday Friday, May 3. She "left Kansas to marry a Louisiana guy."

Initial reaction

Bill Haynie, of Slidell, tells of a disappointing encounter:

"Many years ago my spouse, Mary Ann, and I were on a sea cruise from England.

"We had open dinner seating on the ship with three other couples, who I deduced were local, based on their accents.

"Someone suggested we go around the table stating our names and home towns. I was very interested in learning where they were from, and had my follow-up questions ready: 'How do you make an Irish stew?' or 'What is your favorite single malt Scotch whisky?'

"When the three couples before me responded, 'UK,' I mentally gave up and responded 'USA.'"

Compassionate giving

Bo Bienvenu, of Prairieville, has a "hometown banking" story:

"Decades ago my brother went to the bank in Opelousas to borrow money to buy a used truck.

"After reviewing his application that showed a negative net worth, the manager told him no bank would loan money to someone in that financial shape.

"He tore up the application and said, 'We’ll have to do this as a signature loan.'"

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.