Dear Smiley: Speaking of "five-and-dime" stores, the popular Benjamin Franklin five-and-dime was our favorite store when we were kids growing up in Fayetteville, Arkansas, during the ’50s.
Mom would give each of us a quarter and we could buy five candies or five toys! It was like Christmas!
The guy who owned the store lived about 20 miles north of Fayetteville and was a friend of our extended family.
In fact, he had asked my uncle's father (in nearby Fort Smith) if he wanted to be a ground-floor investor in a possible new retail business. His idea was to expand the Benjamin Franklin stores, but under his own name, which was Walton.
Naturally, my uncle's father declined. Five-thousand dollars was an enormous amount of money and simply out of the question. And the name … Walmart … well, it didn't really sound like a good name for a five-and-dime!
(Smiley, this story is absolutely true. My uncle Harold Yandell in Fort Smith has been telling it for years … and crying every time he tells it).
Dear Smiley: On the subject of punishment from teachers, I submit my remembrance of my second-grade teacher, Sister Sabina.
Sister Sabina had her own unique way of punishing those students who talked too much in class. It was the dreaded "Red Tongue." She had fashioned a piece of red felt into the shape of a tongue, with ribbons attached to each side to be tied on the head to hang below the chin.
The recipient of this humiliating punishment was required to stand in the hallway during recess and lunch hour with the "Red Tongue" hanging from their head while the other classes passed by and laughed, knowing what their classmate was guilty of.
After a while I got used to the procedure, and it was no longer the embarrassment it was meant to be. I'm still guilty of talking too much.
Making Elvis cry
Dear Smiley: The mention of sad country songs reminded me of Elvis.
If you Google his "Aloha From Hawaii" concert, he says, "This is the saddest song I ever heard," and then goes on to sing Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
You can see the tears running down his face.
Dear Smiley: Some of the street names in our Lafayette neighborhood have a definite British flavor: "Buckingham, Dover, Ayreshire," etc.
But next to "Stratford" we mysteriously have "Aron."
I have always assumed that name was meant to be "Avon," but someone who missed out on Shakespeare made a typo.
Accentuate the positive
Dear Smiley: My favorite response from someone with an accent was given by Ricardo Montalbán.
When Johnny Carson was teasing him on a "Tonight Show" appearance, he said, "Never make fun of someone with an accent. It shows he speaks one more language than you."
Dear Smiley: After LSU, I joined the Air Force in January 1976.
They forced us Air Force radio broadcasters to "de-regionalize" to be on-air personalities.
"Warsh" became "wash," and "groc-ries" became "gro-cer-ies," etc.
Mine was a "must-fix" list of about 100-plus words or phrases.
Panama City Beach, Florida
Dear Smiley: I've lived in Baton Rouge all but 10 of my almost 70 years being on this Earth.
A few years ago, I was in Beijing, China, on business. The company assigned a young engineer to help me navigate around Beijing, pick me up from the airport, and drive me around as needed. (I'm not quite senile enough to drive in Beijing, but that is a different story.)
After about a week, my guide said to me, "Before I met you, I said, "OK," like everyone else in China. Now I say "Ooookaay."
Yes, I'm proud to be from the South.
Dear Smiley: Since you have been discussing nicknames lately, here are those of some of my friends in Montegut, below Houma: Possum, Donk, Judge, Stuck, Hound, Squirrel, Wabbit, Fuzzy, Cockroach, Tu-Tu, Noo-Noo, and Bah-dee.
I even knew a girl called "Spider."