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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hanging out in Louisiana Day 7

After enjoying the views from the room window, it was time to turn to TV. The Mysteries of Laura and Code Black and then I found Three Cousins at War about Tsar Nicholas,Kaiser Wilhelm and King George and WWI. Pretty familiar with the story and the change of the British Monarchy's name from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor etc etc but still it was interesting to review the events. Today we continued the exploration of cousin relationships. We'd stopped in Ferriday, La last year on a Sunday and the Delta Museum was closed. Everything is very shuttered in the South on a Sunday. Since Ferriday is only ten miles from Vidalia we decided to return. In the years when laws were enacted requiring all public buildings to have access for the handicapped the Ferriday Post Office wasn't equipped. So the building was sold and then donated by the purchaser to a group of locals who had been attempting to develop a Museum commemorating the town's famous sons, Jimmy Swaggert, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley. They are also cousins. Today, though the museum was open, it was necessary to knock on the door for admission. Through the years, by the time the PO building was acquired, the museum applied for and received a State Charter making it a State of Louisiana Museum. As such they have become a sort of quasi Delta Music Hall of Fame and they induct people to it. Nevertheless, it has as its focus the three boys. There is a wall dedicated to Howard K. Smith who was born there and moved by the time he was 3 and another dedicated to one of the Jews----her words, I'll get to that in a minute--who was born here and moved to California by the age of 12--a young woman who wound up married to Jack Warner. The docent attributed her abilities as a good hostess in Hollywood to her first 12 years in Ferriday! But, I'm getting ahead of myself. We were admitted after knocking by a thin very Southern woman--I'm sure Junior League or some Southern equivalent. She reminded me in mannerisms and facial expressions of Bill's sister Kate, though she spoke more matter of factly with just a trace of Southern syrup. She started by telling us of the story I already mentioned. She then went on to describe the early history of the town--the main businesses being cotton and lumber but then the railroads came--three of them--so the town was called Ferriday Junction after a wealthy landowner. The railroads were "followed by the Jews." I wasn't sure I heard correctly--it was said without rancor--just a statement of fact, as she said the railroads had come. She went on to say they were the merchants of the town. As the oral history of the town continued, she spoke of the town's decline as first the railroads and then the Jews departed. It was then that the group decided they had to do something to contribute to the town's health and so the idea of a museum about the trio, who were at the time pretty popular and well known, became a dream. As she spoke about the men, she talked of Swaggert's father becoming a preacher and Jimmy's mission which followed. But here, with humor, she said she goes to Church every Sunday but her husband does not. When she'd return home she'd say he's played truant again and he assured her that wasn't the case, he'd gone to TV Church with Jimmy. She then assured us that she was Presbyterian NOT Pentacostal. I think she mentioned that at least three times during our visit. At another point, oh, yes, when Mickey Gilley's birthday was mentioned--March 9--she said on Mardi Gras. But then said we Protestants don't bother with that much. Catholics are the ones who go crazy celebrating and then giving everything up for Lent, which is a big thing to them. BUT, she thought we'd enjoy Mardi Gras in Eunice. I don't know how I kept from laughing at times--she was just so oblivious --we could have been Jewish, Pentacostal, Catholic even Presbyterian--didn't phase her at all. My goodness! Well, it took 2 hours to see a museum that, if left alone, we would have finished within 45 minutes, at most. She gave us a town map to see some of historic buildings: the only remaining Jewish merchant's house--Pasternak House, in which one of her friends now lives. A beautiful place with a pool that is covered now. I felt like I'd just met Hyacinthe. Also the small Church in which the boys played piano and sang--she didn't mention it but Jerry was thrown out of that congregation because of his jazz--rock black tinged music. The reproduction of Haney's--actually it is one of the old cotton warehouses redone to look like Haneys and used for outdoor concerts in the nice weather. Today's 45 degrees warming to the low 60's doesn't work. Included, too, a small but pretty gray stone cottage with a small arch over the entry walk which belongs to Mickey, whose name was Jilly until he got famous and it became Gilley. I think she meant the pronunciation rather than the spelling. Apparently, the Lewis House is somewhere behind a grocery store that we passed. Jerry had it built for his mother and his youngest sister lives there now and has her own family museum. Neither of us were particularly interested in seeing it. So by noon, we were back to our room in front of the River. The sun brightened room with the wide screen view of Mark Twain's Big Muddy was inviting and we both pulled up our chairs to the window, books in hand. Picnic lunch, which we'd have eaten at one of the wrought iron tables on the shore were it warmer, was quietly devoured as we relaxed. Now The Five and the evening's TV begins. Tomorrow St Francisville and Grandmother's Buttons. They are having an online sale and I asked if the discount applies in the store. They sent me a message saying the sale in the store starts next week but if I'm coming tomorrow they will honor it for me in the store. It pays to be a regular. Until tomorrow--enjoy your evenings, folks! The Valley Vagabonds KandB

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