Doug Johnson, our senior Watson correspondent, says Gordon Jarnagin’s tale of “simpler times” in 1954 “reminded me of one from the small town of Waverly, Tenn., where I grew up (OK, as close to growing up as I ever got).

“It was between quarters in college in 1959, and I needed a small loan to get back to school.

“I went to the local bank, the only one in town, to borrow $75.

“The conversation went thusly:”

“Aren’t you the son of Miss Martha who goes to First Baptist?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Y’all still live over in Slayden Holler?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“How’s Miss Martha and your sisters doin’?”

“Fine, thank you.”

“I’ll need to see your ID.”

Rubber band man

Claude Nall says when he got his Advocate one rainy morning, he was glad it was in a plastic bag.

But still, he says, he misses the old rubber bands — so much so that he composed an epic poem about them.

Here’s part of it:

“Hail to thee mighty rubber band,

protector of the ‘pressed,’

with zeal and snap you served so well,

to keep the pages from being messed …

Long gone now, sad to say,

gone your great mystique,

replaced by one oh so plain,

a bag of simple plastique.

I’ll miss you always, not to be found,

either in mall or stationery,

a gap in my world will need to be held,

by tape or something more temporary.

Above all else, as time moves on,

the thing I’ll miss by far,

are the screams of pain and joy,

engaged in ‘rubber band war’.”

The steak queen

Randy Fertel describes his mother, the late Ruth Fertel, as one of “the three queens of New Orleans cuisine,” with Ella Brennan, of Commander’s Palace, and Leah Chase, of Dookie Chase.

His article, “Eshu on the Bayou,” in the current Kenyon Review, tells how Ruth started Ruth’s Chris Steak House with the help of Earner Sylvain, “for 42 years her housekeeper, right hand, and chief pot-stirrer.”

Earner, he says, was famous for stirring more than gumbo in that pot — she liked to stir up trouble, in the tradition of Eshu the Trickster, a West African Yoruba figure who in Louisiana became Compair Lapin, and later Br’er Rabbit.

Randy’s moving tale of Earner is a chapter from his forthcoming book, “The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak,” a memoir of his colorful family.

Think pink

Emily Anthony says at Saturday’s LSU-Kentucky football game the LSU Student Government Association will hold a fundraiser for the Bradie James Foundation 56 for Breast Cancer Awareness.

For the “pink game,” football players will wear pink ribbon stickers on their helmets.

Thank-you note

Howell Andrews praises the Baton Rouge Area Speech and Hearing Foundation “for its outreach to the autistic community. My son is an alumnus of the foundation and I know firsthand its good works.”

He also thanks the Redemptorist school system for “its dedication to special-needs children through Guardian Angels and Redemptorist Career Education/Special Education.

“The East Baton Rouge Parish School System simply does not have the resources to provide well for our autistic children.

“But a public school that should be lauded is Brusly High, that has a very excellent reputation for helping special-needs children.

“These institutions should be honored and supported by our community.”

Special People Dept.

• Josephine Davis celebrates her 98th birthday Monday.

• On Monday, Elaine Gomez Cortelloni celebrates her 91st birthday.

Divine joke

Terri Karam Willett says she got this in an email titled “God’s Sense of Humor:”

“While creating wives, God promised men that good and obedient wives would be found in all corners of the world.

“And then He made the earth round.”

Truth in advertising?

Joan Pennington says, “When my daughter was in first or second grade, she was at that stage of learning to read when children feel compelled to read all road signs out loud.

“We were on the way to Piccadilly after church and passed a small service station offering minor mechanical and flat tire repairs.

“Susan announced to us that there was a ‘Maniac on Duty’!”

Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.