"Thinking of alligator stories," says Bill Bankhead, of Baton Rouge, "reminded me of 1958 or ’59, when I was on the LSU track team and we competed in the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Florida.

"Teammate Billy Cannon bought a baby alligator and brought it home with him on the bus. When we arrived at Broussard Hall, the athletic dorm, we were met by 'Brother' Ike Mayeaux, resident manager and a strict disciplinarian.

"On exiting the bus, Billy put the gator up to Ike's face and said, 'Look what I got!' Without flinching, Ike grabbed the alligator and threw him in the lake that flanked the dormitory.

"Billy just said, 'There goes two dollars!'

"A few years later, when I was LSU director of aquatics and ran the old Huey P. Long swimming pool, the university was in the process of draining the lake to build a dormitory.

"I saw a group of students gathered there and walked over to see what was so interesting.

"An alligator about 8 feet long was in the foot or so of water left in the bottom of the lake. I have always wondered if that was Billy’s baby alligator, all grown up."

Initial reaction

Dudley Lehew, of Marrero, discusses the problems faced by folks who use initials for their name:

"My late father, J.D. Lehew, never had a given name; just initials.

"I had checked him into Baton Rouge's Our Lady of the Lake Hospital back when it sat next to Capitol Lake. I was in his room when the telephone rang.

“ ‘We need Mr. Lehew's real name,' the caller from the admissions office said.

“ ‘J.D. That's his real name,' I answered.

“ ‘The system won't take initials. We need a name,' she said.

“ ‘OK, it's spelled J-a-y D-e-e,' I replied.

“ ‘OK, thank you!'

"True story. And I bet many of your readers who use initials for their name can add their own 'tangled name' stories."

Bagdad to Transylvania

Catherine Altazan, of Port Allen, says Bunkie (cited in the Monday column for being named for a child's attempt to say "monkey") is not the only community in the state with an unusual name:

"Louisiana has a number of unique town names, including Bagdad and Transylvania.

"Do you know the origins of those two unique community names? I think your readers would love to know!"

While I came up empty in my (admittedly cursory) search for an origin of Bagdad (on U.S. 71 in Grant Parish), I did find some information on Transylvania (on U.S. 65 in East Carroll Parish).

It was named in the early 19th century by Transylvania University alumnus Dr. W.L. Richards, who had acquired a great deal of land in north Louisiana.

Transylvania University, a private liberal arts school, is located in Lexington, Kentucky. (Trivia: The school's mascot is said to be Raf, a big-eared bat.)

"Since Transylvania will be forever known for its connection to Dracula movies, it seemed likely that merchants would take advantage of the name.

"So the general store there sells Dracula items, bat-related merchandise, etc., to folks driving through on U.S. 65."

Special People Dept.

  • Wiley Duke, of Baton Rouge, celebrates his 95th birthday Saturday, July 18. Wiley is a decorated Battle of the Bulge veteran of World War II and "still an occasional sac-a-lait fisherman."
  • Patsy Ruth LeBlanc Judice Ruckstuhl celebrates her 90th birthday Saturday, July 18. Originally from Donaldsonville, she has been a Baton Rouge resident since 1972, moving there to attend LSU.
  • Gayle and Sidney Allison, of Baton Rouge, celebrate their 57th anniversary Sunday, July 19.

A blooming treat

Dudley Lehew, of Marrero (him again!), says, "My nomination for Louisiana's most scenic drive is every road that winds through St. Francisville, especially when the crape myrtles, azaleas or magnolias are in bloom."

State of beauty

Our mention of scenic drives through various areas of Louisiana led Gary E. Penton, of Pineville, to recall this quote:

"Huey Long used to say, 'There is more beauty in Louisiana than anyone can see in a lifetime.'

"I have become a believer since finishing high school here in ’48."


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.