Over the years this column has lost many valued contributors — the storytellers who keep this thing working and me employed.

Last week I got notes reminding me of two of my favorite contributors who are no longer with us:

  • Chris Bamber says his mom, the late Billie Jean Womack, whose birthday is Oct. 25, always enjoyed having one of her stories in the column.

I never knew much about her, but Chris fills me in:

"Here's the real story behind my mom. She was the first female chief of the Baton Rouge Fire Department's communications division. She eventually moved to the newly founded Baton Rouge EMS, serving in the same capacity, until her retirement.

"She was a pioneer for all women in our fair city. Regardless of where you came from, she was there to help you, like all first responders are.

"For her birthday, what I can try to give her is something that made her happy — being in your column. And just maybe, when someone reads your column, they will look up and see a sunbeam shining down, and know Billie Jean is still watching over our city."

  • Brenna Allphin-Smith Perez says, "Just wanted to say hello. Thursday was the anniversary of the death of my grandfather, John Allphin.

"We always remember how much he loved your column, and the happiness contributing to it brought him. It makes us laugh to talk about the stories he sent you!

"So from his oldest and wisest granddaughter, here is a John Allphin classic:

“'Boudreaux, they just stole your pickup truck!,' said Thibodeaux. 'Did you see who did it?'

“'No,' replied Boudreaux, 'but I got the license number.'”

The pants story

Don L. Broussard comments on coverage of the death of LSU quarterback Y.A. Tittle:

"In the Oct. 10 Advocate article, the writer questions whether the story of Y.A. Tittle having his pants being pulled off during the 1947 Ole Miss game is true or not. It is true!

"I was sitting, very nervously, in the middle of the Ole Miss fans when this happened. (Tittle, also playing defense, as they did back then, intercepted a Charlie Conerly pass and was running it back when his belt broke and his pants started slipping down, slowing him enough to allow the Rebels' Barney Poole to catch him.)

"In those days this was a shocking event. The LSU players encircled him until he could regain his dignity. If my memory serves, I think the final score was Ole Miss 20, LSU 18."

Special People Dept.

Tommy and Elaine Gauthreaux celebrate their 52nd anniversary on Monday, Oct. 16.

Music men

Janice says two of Baton Rouge's favorite musicians, Floyd Brown and Kenny Neal, had birthdays Saturday. Never mind which birthdays…  

Risky hitchhiking

Bo Rougeou, of Baton Rouge, tells this flying story:

"When President Nixon decided to invade Cambodia in 1970, I was the U.S. Army intelligence analyst for that region.

"After the intelligence was gathered up, I headed back to Can Tho, Viet Nam.

"Getting a ride in helicopters was simple; show up and get on, if the flight was headed in your general direction.

"As I got on, two French television journalists got aboard with their cameras, microphones and gear. There were already five or six of us GIs aboard.

"The airfield was inside a walled soccer field with trees all around.  The pilot would back the helicopter to the farthermost corner, then make a run for the other end, gaining speed, only to fall backwards after not clearing the trees.

"We did this twice, the second time almost getting over the trees, but making a stomach-turning fall back to the stadium floor.

"As the pilot geared up for the third try, the two French gentlemen were hollering something to the pilot that translated to 'Let us off!'

"They made an animated departure and we tried again, clearing the trees by a foot or two.

"Looking back at the TV journalists, I saw they were filming us, hoping for a 'helicopter in a tree' story. And waiting for another ride."

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0371 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.