“TW" (I wouldn't want my name on this story either) says this can either be a "youthful crime" story or a Volkswagen Beetle tale.

"I was a latchkey kid in the ’80s (two working parents and a lot of unsupervised free time after school; basically a teenager's dream).

"My dad had a ’69 Beetle my friend and I liked to occasionally borrow, when Dad wasn't around to ask.

"He left the keys in the very back of his drawer, under all his socks — it's like he was BEGGING us to take it for a spin.

"While he was away on a business trip one week, my mother came home from work and had the audacity to accuse my friend and me of taking an unauthorized joy ride in the little car.

"Her accusation was met with an immense amount of smug outrage on our part at such an unjust claim. Besides, how could we have taken the car out when the engine was as cool as a cucumber in January (box fan blowing on the engine block for about 30 minutes) and the mileage hadn't changed (disconnect the odometer cable)?

"We were completely confident in our smirking, indignant denials — until she pointed out the four road-damaged Band-Aids she had carefully stuck on the tires.

"Well played, Mother. Well played."

Mr. or Miss Million?

Jerry Artigue, of Lafayette, says, "In 1960, my wife-to-be, Barbara, purchased a new red Beetle convertible. At the time she did not know how to drive.

"Her two younger brothers assured her that was not a problem; they would teach her to drive, and drive her anywhere she wanted to go, if they could use it.

"After a few months of their using it, she had to give an ultimatum — either teach her or she would sell it. They decided it was time to start lessons.

"Their use continued, and on one occasion her youngest brother was returning home from University of New Orleans to Harvey across the 'new' Mississippi River bridge when he noticed a group of people awaiting the one millionth car to cross the bridge.

"He quickly went back across the river, and upon returning was the lucky one. He received a nice medallion.

"Consequently, for about 60 years, there has been an ongoing debate as to who should have the award — the car owner or the driver. The driver kept it."

Aroma and rosaries

Earline Gonzales recalls chinaberry trees as being useful for more than chinaballs:

"They were planted for their wonderful fragrance; they were all over New Orleans. We girls used to string the tiny purple flowers into necklaces and bracelets.

"With all its outhouses and oyster shell streets, New Orleans needed that lovely fragrance.

"They were probably gotten rid of due to the messy mushed balls on the ground." 

And Tommy Myers, of Eunice, says, "Chinaball trees were very prevalent here when I was growing up in the ’40s and ’50s.

"The fast-growing tree provided shade, but mostly weapons for our 'chinaball wars.'

"Years ago I began processing these balls into making old style Cajun rosaries. In the last 10 years my supply of trees has gone from a few dozen to a mere handful. New homeowners and landscapers have little use for this sometimes messy tree. Another old tradition fading away."

Special People Dept.

  • W.F. “Charlie” McCarthy, of Diamondhead, Mississippi, celebrated his 97th birthday Aug. 7. He is a former State Farm agent and Southeastern Conference basketball official.
  • Doris Landry, of Thibodaux, formerly of Brusly St. Martin, celebrates her 94th birthday Monday, Sept. 2.
  • George Sexton, of Baton Rouge, celebrates his 93rd birthday Monday, Sept. 2. He is a World War II Army Air Corps veteran and a graduate of, and retiree from LSU.
  • Don and Lola Plaisance, of Slidell, celebrated their 63rd anniversary Sunday, Sept. 1. They are former Chalmette residents.

Pre-plastic days

Harvey "Big Harv" Pashibin, of Lafayette, says, "You know you're getting older when you tell folks that Lincoln Log toys were once made of wood — and nobody believes you!"

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.