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Jeanerette, Louisiana. LeJeune’s Bakery

6 Jan

The Flashing Red Light Alerts Customers That Hot Fresh French Bread is Available At LeJeune's Bakery.

Have you ever had a taste for something and you could not be satisfied until you had whatever it was that you were craving?  Every once in a while I get a craving, or taste, for gingerbread.  If it can’t be had at home how nice it is to run upon a bakery that bakes their own and to get a large piece, along with a cup of coffee, and sit there and enjoy every bite.  Not to mention the smell of freshly baked gingerbread.

A few weeks ago I had to satisfy a gingerbread craving and so I headed off down Bayou Teche to Jeanerette, Louisiana.  Recently I have seen a lot of references to LeJeune’s Bakery and to their famous Ginger Cake.  Every time I hear or see a reference to LeJeune’s the gingerbread cravings start.  Now I have passed the bakery a number of times but have never paid attention to the bakery and I can’t say why.  Well, that situation had to change.  As I drove past the harvested fields of sugarcane I could taste freshly baked gingerbread.

The ride was long. The day was gray and rain was threatening.  Every slow poke along the bayou was on the road that day.  Although long (time wise) the ride was enjoyable.  First on the bayou was Breaux Bridge.  My wife was driving but I was giving directions based upon my faded memory. Slow was the word for the day as many cars and pickup trucks were on the road and all seemed to be out just to enjoy the ride – a slow ride at that. We also passed through Parks, St. Martinville and New Iberia. As we approached Jeanerette the  gingerbread in my mind started to smell and taste delicious.  How nice it would be to sit and munch on some with a nice cup of coffee on such a cool and bleak day.  Soon the time began to be a concern and I was afraid that we would not make it to Jeanerette before the bakery closed.

Late in the afternoon we arrived in Jeanerette.  All we had to do was stay on main street until we got to the bakery.  Pretty soon we arrived and there was not a parked car in sight.   Closed I thought!  Well we parked and I walked up to the front of the building that housed the bakery.  There were some Christmas decorations in the small windows but look as hard as I could I could not see a counter or booths  and worst of all no gingerbread!  The place didn’t even look like it was in business.  There was a lighted sign out front which added to the confusion.  Then I saw a small sign that said “Use Side Entrance.”  Quickly I walked to the side of the building and found a door open!  I walked in and figured I was in the right place because there were pallets of LeJeune’s Ginger Cake stacked everywhere.  There were stacks of bags of flour, a half a crate of sweet potatoes, and a small counter with a cash register.  The counter had a basket of Hubig’s Pies and some LeJeune’s Sweet Potato Pie or Bread. That explained the sweet potatoes!

To the right was what was the front of the building and it was closed off and used for storage but to the left was the place where everything was baked.  In fact a fresh batch of french bread had just been baked.  Finally we caught the eye of an employee and he waited on use.  He was very nice and helpful and answered all of our questions.

I can’t tell you how disappointing it was to find out that LeJeune’s basically only baked for commercial purposes and so there was no coffee nor a table at which to sit and enjoy the ginger cake.  Maybe I had not paid close attention to all that I had seen about LeJeune’s.  How could I miss the fact that there would be no freshly baked gingerbread waiting for me when I arrived?  So, I bought a hand full of ginger cakes and a couple of loaves of the hot freshly baked french bread that was just out of the oven.

All of a sudden a couple of men entered the place and asked for some french bread.  Well, soon we were not the only customers.  As I stepped outside a few more cars pulled up to the side entrance.  When I walked back around to the front of the building I could see why customers were arriving.  There was now a flashing red light alerting the locals that fresh hot french bread was available.  Now I have seen such lights to alert people that hot doughnuts were available but this was the first time I had ever seen a light to let people know the french bread was ready.  Soon more customers arrived and they each pulled to the side entrance and entered there.  They knew were to go!

While there I forgot to ask the fellow that waited on us how LeJeune was pronounced down the bayou.  In some places an R is inserted into the name to make it sound as LeJurne.  Well, that question will have to asked the next time I pass down the bayou.  The rain was falling and the sky was very dark as we started back up the bayou on our way home.  We snacked on warm french bread and ginger cake as the rain started to pound the windshield.  The french bread was delicious and the ginger cake was okay.  Certainly not the fresh gingerbread I had envisioned.  In fact it tasted the same as the LeJune’s Ginger Cake that I can buy at the store that is about one mile from my house!  From now own I will be content to purchase it there and if I want it hot I will pop it in the microwave!  http://www.lejeunesbakery.com/legacy.html

Lacombe, Louisiana – All Saint’s Day – La Toussaint

10 Nov

Cleaned and Painted Graves, Flowers, and Candles are All Part of the All Saint's Day Observance in Cemeteries in Lacombe, Louisiana

Louisiana is a place of contradictions – or at least it may appear that way to the outsider.  Many of us that live here even have a hard time figuring it all out but as time goes on we learn.  The great river, The Mississippi River, has sculpted and shaped our landscape but is also responsible for shaping our culture and even our lives.  The river brought many cultures together along its banks.  These diverse cultures found a way to live together and to create a unique common culture.  This blended culture at times appears to be contradictory in many respects but in fact it is the glue that keeps us together.

In Louisiana we have a hedonistic celebration called Mardi Gras but then we also have observances that I would classify as very spiritual. New Orleans, and south Louisiana, have become the cradle of Mardi Gras but this location is also famous for its All Saint’s Day observance.  Louisiana is a very spiritual place and these roots run deep among most of the cultures that call this place home.  So, many people and cultures that have come to this place have seen their customs and traditions blended over time.  Many of those cultural traditions are expressed through religious venues.

A religious tradition associated with south Louisiana is the observance of All Saint’s Day.  November 1st finds many cemeteries clean and sparkling and filled with beautiful flowers and with people.  Some communities even have night-time observances, with the lighting of candles, in their cemeteries.

Priests Prepare to Bless the Graves

In the community of Lacombe, Louisiana, the newly cleaned and painted and whitewashed tombs welcome visitors on the first of November.  Most of the graves have also been decorated with lovely flowers and other expressions of love.  However, as dusk approaches more solemnity comes over the people and it is not long before the priests are there with robes and water and are walking through the cemetery blessing the graves.  After the procession of the priests through the rows of pretty graves it is time for the candles. White candles are placed around most of the graves and are lit.  As evening and night become established the cemeteries take on a beautiful glow from the many candles.  Children, usually relatives of the deceased, hurry to light the candles at some plots.  At others it is more of a ritual.

Although many of those that come to the cemeteries on November 1 are observers, the occasion is for the living family members that have relatives buried there.  They perform their rituals, or observances, and it matters not if people are there to watch.  What is done is between the relatives, the living and the dead, others are welcome to watch but those participating pay them little mind until the proper time.

At LaFontaine Cemetery, in Lacombe, the relatives of the dead tell the stories of their family members that have died.  They relate the hardships and joys that their families have experienced through the generations.  They young children listen intently.  The children also have participated in preparing for this day and they look eager to help when the candle lighting starts.  In a few years some of them will be standing where their parents and grandparents are now standing and telling the same stories about their families.  They will become the guardians of a great tradition and of family knowledge.  It is a wonderful thing to see those that are living honor the lives of those that have died.

Woman Relates Family History, and Some Personal Notes, About Her Relatives in LaFiontaine Cemetery in Lacombe, Louisiana

I guess in some respects many people think that this night is an observance of the dead.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The night is to honor and to remember the lives of family members that have departed – what a great way to honor the memory or relatives and to pass on that memory and respect to future generations.   Those in attendance, just to observe, learn of the things that are important to the families from this region.  Things like what brought their relatives to this place, and the hardships and triumphs that the family has faced.  After listening to many stories and looking at the decorated graves it seems somewhat odd to me that World War 2 has now become a part of the past.  It was so real to my generation.  Many of the graves have pictures of the deceased placed on them and the pictures are of soldiers that are wearing the uniforms of the  United States Military.

Many of the men and women in the cemeteries served in the United States armed forces and all seem to have been honored to serve and many are still honored for their service on this occasion.   If one listens carefully they will understand that most that came to this place had different backgrounds and cultures.  However, they blended into one culture over time but at the same time retained elements of their own family’s cultural heritage.

The cultural heritage of south Louisiana is unique in many respects.  The Mississippi River attracted people from all over the world yet the people lived among each other.  In New Orleans there weren’t strictly Italian neighborhoods, or German neighborhoods, or French neighborhoods among the immigrants.  They lived among each other. There was a gradual blending of the cultures but at the same time families of different cultures maintained some of their own cultural expressions.  There was cultural give and take.  That explanation is a little simplistic and leaves out the problems and hardships that took place among different groups but in the end it resulted in a common blended  culture, sort of like a gumbo, with all the ingredients mixed but at the same time separate.  In a good seafood gumbo the oysters and shrimp and the crabs all retain their distinct identify but they are in that gumbo together.

Both Flat and Tapered Candles Adorn This Grave

The observance of All Saints has changed down through the years.  I have read and heard stories of how great and important the observance was in New Orleans and yet I am not sure what goes on during All Saints in the city these days.  The lighting of candles, in New Orleans, has been forbidden because of the threat of fire.  At one time it was a great religious and social tradition.  So many people were going to the cemeteries that vendors offered special foods and treats and had carts outside many of the cemeteries. Women gathered and prayed and talked and of course there was plenty of peer pressure to keep the family cemetery plot clean and decorated.

A Cleaned and Decorated Plot is Ready for a Night of Candle Light

In the region around New Orleans, and in French influenced areas, All Saints is also called Le Toussaint.  Le Toussaint and/or All Saints has been observed in Louisiana for over 200 years.  It is still with us.  Much of the drama and the tremendous throngs of people in the cemetery has slipped into the past.  In New Orleans it was not uncommon to have thousands of people in one cemetery.  In Lacombe the crowds in some of the cemeteries may approach 100. In the areas outside of Lacombe there are tens or maybe dozens of people. Small scale stuff compared to the past. I have to remind myself that this is an important family observance for the local people and not for me – the outsider. This observance would take place regardless if outsiders attended or not.

Although All Saint’s Day is not the social occasion that it once was in south Louisiana it is still an important ritual and observance.  In my opinion the candle lighting will go on for more generations in Lacombe and other areas around the state.  Mums will continue to decorate many graves on November 1st.  As mentioned earlier many things in Louisiana are spiritual in nature and that spirit is alive and well for the time being in Lacombe, Louisiana.

Amite, Louisiana – Tangipahoa Parish Fair

4 Oct
 

 

An Exposure of Several Seconds Helped Make the Ferris Wheel and Another Ride a Wondrous Pattern of Lights

It has been over 25 years since I had attended any portion of the Tangipahoa Parish Fair.  Every year I attended, all the way through high school.  Going back was somewhat of a surprise.  My original intention was to photograph the livestock – the back bone of fairs when I was younger.  The only livestock on exhibit happened to be poultry.

Good Things to Eat Everywhere!

Now there was plenty of food.  Funnel Cakes, Blooming Onions, Large Corn Dogs, Popcorn and of course the traditional Cotton Candy and Candied Apples.  A fair is not a fair without a good candy apple or cotton candy stuck in your hair one your hands and all over your face.

Cotton Candy Was Being Sold Faster Than She Could Make It!

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Lots of lines at the food booths and not many people at the game booths.  It was just the opposite when I was younger.  We couldn’t afford to eat all the food and all they  had available were hamburgers and hot dogs.  Nachos had not even made the scene yet.  We would crowd the game booths even though we weren’t playing to see if anyone actually could win a large teddy bear.

Plenty of Temptation for Those Wanting to Win a Large Prize

It was fun though.  There was a cowboy shootout in the Pioneer Village and plenty of rides to make one sick.  Pans of squeezed sugarcane juice were being cooked and reduced to syrup too.

Top Gun Shoot Out at the Pioneer Village

There were a number of scary rides and that is where the lines were.  Not much of the tame stuff – one had to be scared to death or throw up in order to get their monies worth.

The Sizzler Runs So Fast One Can't See the Carts Full of Kids On a Timed Exposure. The Streaks of Light Were Made By Lights on the Side of the Carts As They Raced By

But I came for pictures and found plenty.  The press of the crowd was terrific but everyone was in a good mood and polite.  The weather was much cooler than in previous days – a good time for all at a good time of the year.

Natchez, Mississippi – Routh Cemetery

20 Jul

Behind the brick wall was a well kept cemetery of some age

In April my wife and I had a visitor from England and we decided that a day in Natchez would make a nice trip.  We didn’t realize though that we would spend so much time in Lorman, and in Rodney, and at Windsor Ruins.  Earlier in the day we even stumbled upon what appeared to be the last resting place for fleets of school buses.  All of these places begged to be photographed and appreciated and we happily obliged.

The time soon got away from us and by the time we arrived in Natchez it was getting late.  Our first stop in Natchez was the Natchez City Cemetery.  Again more photos were needed and more time spent but it was worth it.  The cemetery is a very pretty and historic place and worth a visit in itself.  However, a visit to an antebellum home is a necessity when in Natchez and the sun was going down.  Now there is not a shortage of antebellum homes in Natchez but there is a problem in selecting just one, for a picture, and hopefully before the sun goes completely down.

We headed for Dunleith.  It is very open there and good pictures can be taken from the street and as luck would have it there was an empty parking lot for a business that had closed for the day fairly close to the the house.  My wife opted to stay in the car but Sally and I headed toward the house.  As we approached the house I noticed a brick walled area on a small hill on the other side of the road.  It appeared that this may be a cemetery, which meant I had to check it out.  The pictures at Dunleith went quickly as the sun was already behind the beautiful columned house.  The westward light was on the brick walls across the street.  We made our approach in haste and then up the steps to what indeed turned out to be a cemetery.  This was a complete surprise to me.  A very nice cemetery it was too and the graves appeared to be fairly old as indicated by the wear on the tall stones and vaults.  One thing very special caught my eye and that was a large black dog statue that appeared to be sitting beside a larger tomb. It was near the rear of the cemetery and since it appeared to be a private or family cemetery we did not enter  All of this was a mystery so when I arrived home I went to work searching for clues to the mysterious cemetery that we had mysteriously stumbled upon.

Image taken from the front of Routh Cemetery

It didn’t take long to start unraveling the mysteries via the Internet.  It was the Routh Cemetery and as I studied along it became clear why the cemetery was at that location.  Dunleith was at one time named Routhville and it was the Routh family that first established Routhville/Dunleith.  Most of the inhabitants of the cemetery were the old time owners of Dunleith and their relatives. It was interesting to learn the history of the family and the house but I soon discovered there was a story about the dog statue in the cemetery.

The dog was a life size Newfoundland made of iron.  It was next to a tomb and one of the persons interred there was a man named Walton Pembroke Smith.  He was married to Mary Routh if I remember correctly and he was originally from Virginia.  As a child he fell into the Potomac River and was in danger of drowning.  His dog, a large Newfoundland, jumped in and saved him.  When Smith became an adult he described his beloved dog to a New York iron works.  The result was a treasured statue that resembled his well remembered dog.  After Smith died the family was left with the statue.  It was decided that the best thing to do with the statue was to place it in the family cemetery next to the vault of Mr. Smith.  Today the statue, of the dog that once saved Walton Smith’s life, now guards him in death.

A Friend in Life and a Friend in Death

Being an ignorant traveler can be a disaster, however, I do not believe I would have appreciated that cemetery as much had we not discovered it by accident.

There are many places with unknown stories all along the course of the Mississippi River.  I hope to post many more such “discovered places” in the future.

New Orleans, Louisiana – Around Town

22 Jun

Well, I thought I would make a post of nothing but images from around New Orleans. When in the city there are plenty of unique and pretty signs, houses, people, and everything else one could think of to take a picture.  However, getting these images formatted on a blog page as I would like them to appear has turned out to be much more difficult that I thought. In the beginning I had wanted these pictures spaced nicely in a tight arrangement. For now they will appear centered and in a neat line.

Good Eggs Are All Over New Orleans

In The Quarter

Falstaff Beer Brewery

Buttered Up In Some Parts of Town

If You Like Olives!

Taking a Rest in Metairie Cemetery

Only Female Women of the Opposite Sex Admitted Here

Andrew Jackson Does Not Ride Off Into The Sunset

Vicksburg, Mississippi – Margaret’s Grocery & Bible Class

17 Jun

The Reverend H.D. Dennis "God Sent You Here Today!"

“God sent you here today” said Reverend Dennis as he looked at me directly in the eyes with a peaceful and confident stare.  He then looked over to my friend Paul to include him. Margaret stood behind the counter and smiled at us.  She knew that she would have to remain there and interpret as the Reverend began to talk.  Rev. Dennis could not hear well at all, and I was convinced that the battery was always dead in his hearing aid.  It was not long before he was obtaining some loud Amens from Paul and me.  We had to almost yell for him to hear us but he knew he was getting a response and that was invigorating to him.  Since the Rev. could not hear hardly at all his speech was somewhat, okay mostly, garbled.  This is when Margaret would interject her interpretations of his speech.

Margaret was one of the most kind a gentle people that I have ever met.  Her gentle voice was soothing and always pleasant.  Occasionally she was humorous.  On a previous visit with another friend she told me how enjoyable it was to have some country folks to talk to.  She said that even though she loved the many people that stopped most of them were from the city and she felt that country people had a unique richness about them because they were close to the land to other people that worked the land.  I guess she could tell both of us were piney-woods bumpkins from our speech and the things about which we talked.

As the Rev. carried on with his mostly incomprehensible sermon Margaret showed us some items around her place and took particular pleasure in showing us some pictures of her mother.  We did not ignore Rev. Dennis because he did say something we understood every once in a while and we acknowledged that he indeed was correct and that we agreed with him totally.

He told us how the City of Vicksburg had given him an old school bus and that he had turned it into a sanctuary in order to preach the gospel.  I am hesitant to call the bus a church but the Rev. would place people in the seats of the bus and deliver a short sermon to them.  he stood near the drivers seat and left no doubt he was in charge of the occasion.  He was the driver and those in the seats were the students. In fact his whole place along old US Highway 61 was the Church and the bus served its duty as he needed it.

Main Sanctuary at Margaret's

A Typical Southern Grocery and Bible Class Place

As he showed us around his wondrous place he talked that day mainly about the colors of his creation.  His “place” had grown to be world known and everyday people from all around the world would stop and visit.  “Just like those people, said Rev. Dennis, that come here from all over they are of different colors.  The Lord made it that way”.  He talked about the many beautiful colors that God had used in his creation.  “That is why there are different colors here at this place, they are to show that God likes things of different colors and that there is no difference between the black man and the white man and there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile.”  In fact Reverend Dennis encourage all people to drop by his place and take a visit and to hear a little of the Gospel.

Margaret was always near with her loving smile and gentle voice.  Her voice always had a tone of encouragement and love for all who would listen.  Despite their trials in life the Dennis’ were filled with love for other people.

Margaret was first married to another man.  I think she loved him very much and he was married to her when she started with the grocery business.  She said that he had gone through World War Two without a scratch but had come back home and was murdered during a robbery.  The Reverend Dennis was her second husband.

Margaret told us that the parents of Rev. Dennis had died when he was young and that he had to live with a close relative.  She said either a grandfather or an uncle I think.  In any case the man treated Rev. Dennis badly and when he had all that he could stand he sneaked a ride on a train to escape.  He had ridden on the front of the train on top of the “cow catcher” and that he always remembered that ride of 19 miles because it was very cold that night.

Margaret died last year at the age of 94.  She lived a full life and had seen the extremes of sacrifice and the joys of love.  The Rev. Dennis is now in a care facility in Vicksburg.  I have read that a church is supposed to preserve the Dennis place but I do not know if that is possible. It takes a special person to keep a place like that up.  Once his spirit is removed there will be nothing there to keep things in order.

Beautiful Margaret Waved Good Bye As We Left

There are some things I will never forget about Margaret and the Rev. Dennis.  Margaret would never let us leave without a hug and a kiss and a kind comment.  I have to smile though when I remember one thing that the Rev. talked about.  Once he spoke you understood fully why Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans with such fury.  I will not tell you why but my guess is that he thinks that the terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is for the same reason!.

I am thankful for the times that I stopped and visited with Margaret and the Reverend.  Things do not stay the same forever and now I know that a colorful part of our Southern heritage has gently faded into the past.