Hurricane Rita has made landfall practically right over Lake Charles in Calcasieu parish where I spent quite a bit of my childhood. We first lived there when I was in pre-school, kindergarten and first grade while Dad was a campus minister at McNeese. I remember singing "Talk to the Animals" from "Dr. Doolittle" and making a yellow recipe card holder for Mother’s Day out of a hairspray can cap, a clothes pin, and some clay. We moved to Baton Rouge while Dad went to law school at LSU. During 3rd and 4th grade we lived in historic Spanish Town and played on the grounds of the state capitol, particularly enjoying the old canons. The house was old and I remember being the only "white" girl in my class. In 5th grade we moved to a newer neighborhood where we roller skated, picked blackberries and played with crawfish in the ditch behind the house. There was a (seemingly) tall pine tree behind the house that I liked to climb and once got stuck in.
When I was in 6th grade we moved to Lake Charles, shortly before July 4th. I was particularly put out that we would miss the Baton Rouge fireworks on the river. I especially enjoyed the Holsum bread van that threw tiny loaves of bread to the crowd. We stayed in Lake Charles until I graduated high school. Before we could drive my friends and I would walk to the Prien Lake Mall where my favorite snack was red licorice shoe strings and Jelly Bellies were a huge hit when they were first introduced. Sometimes I went with Jennifer and sometimes with Diana but at first it was very rare that the three of us did anything together. Jennifer’s mother, Ruby, is Cajun French and didn’t learn to speak English until grade school. She made wonderful gumbo, a delicious garlic studded roast, and the best carrot cake. I was fascinated by her method of cooking the okra down until it was nearly dry for inclusion in her gumbo. I hope that Jennifer collected her and that they’ve evacuated to someplace safe.
Legend has it that Lake Charles was a hiding spot for a pirate named Jean Lafitte and that there’s treasure hidden somewhere. There’s a festival every summer called Contraband Days celebrating this legend. Louisianians love a good festival and they’ll have them just about anytime for anything. I was a band geek in high school and marched in a few Lake Charles Mardi Gras parades. We used to get 5 gallon jugs of milk delivered by the Borden’s truck that seemed to disappear fast in a family with 4 kids. The Borden’s ice cream shop was also a popular treat. My sisters and I had many dance recitals at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Later when we were driving age, my friends and I spent many summer days at the I-10 beach enjoying the summer sun. I heard this morning that the I-10 bridge has collapse. When I first learned to drive I hated driving over that high and steep bridge. I’m not a fan of high things.
Lake Charles was often flooded. Countless times we walked home from school in knee deep water. If you were growing fast and your pants a bit short you were often teased that you were from Cameron or you were wearing "highwaters". Once my uncle came to visit and said we’d not warned him he needed a pirogue to get to the house.
After high school I moved to Lafayette into a dorm at USL now known as U of L at Lafayette. Some of the broadcasting this morning has been from Lafayette. I lived for several years in Lafayette and then several more in Carencro before moving to Massachusetts. I hope all my Louisiana friends are safe and sound, I’ll be thinking of you today.