I always enjoy hearing about true characters — larger-than-life folks, and such originals that when you describe them it sounds fictional. Here's a tale of one such character:
A.B. Crochet, Baton Rouge artist, says during his boyhood in Morganza he delivered the Baton Rouge State-Times daily and the Morning Advocate on Sundays. On Saturdays, he sold turnips to fishermen at Melancon's Cafe. Owner Morris Melancon bought what he didn't sell.
A.B. says, "It was there that I observed the antics of Hookie (or Blackie) Ransome (I think his real name was Charles).
"He would boast to the fishermen about his exploits as a preacher, undertaker, boat captain, carpenter, etc. It was quite a show!
Hookie ran a 30-foot launch to his fishing raft at Alligator Point on Old River, where you could fish all day for 50 cents.
"When customers boarded the motorized launch," says A.B., "Hookie played the roles of deck hand, engineer and captain — shouting out orders, to the amusement of his passengers."
John Murphy says, "While living and working in Europe, my wife and I had the luxury to take weekend trips.
"One weekend we decided to explore Luxembourg City. Getting hungry for lunch on Sunday, we found few restaurants open.
"Finally we found one, and while waiting to be served, my wife noticed an older couple (evidently American) having problems ordering. The menu was only in French and German, and the waiters only spoke French and German.
"My wife suggested that I help them. After assisting them in ordering, I asked where they were from.
"They replied that they were from 'a little burg across the lake from New Orleans.'
"'Slidell?' I asked.
"'No, outside Slidell,' they replied.
"'Alton?' I asked.
"'Yes,' they replied.
"I then asked, 'Did you use a retired fire truck to pump out your swimming pool?'
"Astonished, they replied, 'Yes.'
"I said, 'My father delivered your mail, and I swam in your pool as a child.'
"What a small world it is!"
Their own "Cheers"
Ellis' Lounge, on Government Street in Baton Rouge, closed 40 years ago. It was a friendly neighborhood place where, indeed, everybody knew your name.
After it closed, Pat Flanagan organized a committee with Richard Day, Fenton Dormier and Ronnie Lalumandier, and they put on a yearly reunion of regulars from the beloved bar.
The reunion was at the Cotton Club until it closed, then moved to the Hawk's Nest, where owner Ray "Big Head" Smith welcomed the gang for years.
Despite the deaths of Pat and Ray, the 40th reunion will be held at the Hawk's Nest on Saturday, Dec. 15, from noon to 4 p.m.
As always, the event invitation promises "Lies, gossip, rumors, innuendo."
The Big Chill
"Talking about Western Auto," says Yogi Naquin, of Gray, "Dad and Mom bought a Wizard freezer from the Chauvin Western Auto. When it finally gave out, it had been in the family almost 54 years."
Special People Dept.
Residents of Amber Terrace Assisted Living in Baton Rouge celebrating recent birthdays are:
- George Hill, 95 on Saturday, Dec. 8.
- Ann Dietzel, 95 on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
- Gloria Bellone, 93 on Dec. 2.
- Mary Crews, 90 on Dec. 3.
Ward Oliver says a football trivia story by J.A. "Bud" Oliver (no known relationship) "mentions that back in 1939-40, he played guard for Baton Rouge High.
"Which reminded me that I played guard for Baldwin County, Alabama, High in 1947.
"Days after my graduation in 1948, I joined the Navy. For the first time I was weighed 'nekkid,' and came in at 139 pounds. I was embarrassed — I thought surely I weighed over 140.
"I suspect that few high school guards these days weigh less than a hundred pounds more than I did back then."
You better watch out…
John Morgan, of Baton Rouge, tells how the folks responsible for highway safety are getting in tune with the season:
"I saw a traffic alert sign that made me smile this morning.
"The one on Interstate 12 westbound between Millerville Road and Sherwood Forest Boulevard says, 'Santa is watching. Buckle Up.'"