|title Memories of May Reulet Gravois
|Trips with Papa
I was always glad to go on a trip with Papa. He'd wake me up early - maybe at 5:30am
which meant a 2-day trip. He'd come ask me in a low voice so as not to wake up the other sisters -
and he'd say - "Do you want to go to Shangri-la?" (or Timbuktu or some such exotic place or wherever)
(or he'd say, "Do you want to come to the Casbah with me today?") -
I'd be ready in a New York Minute, quick-quick with books, pens and pencil and with paper,
maybe a composition book, and I was on a mission.
Many times he was silent for miles and miles.
If you remember the wind shields that were made in 2 parts of glass, which,
if you wished to get fresh air, you turned to face outward.
I usually sat in the back so as to escape the hot blast of hot wind blowing in my face.
Papa liked the wind blowing in his face.
When we arrived at our night destination, I needed a shampoo most of all because my hair
was standing straight on top of my head.
||fly to Rome
Trips to New Orleans; Patterson, La.; Airplanes
When Papa called us up and said, "Allons en ville" (Let's go to New Orleans),
we were ready in a short while. We'd pack some clothes if we were staying overnight.
Taking a trip to New Orleans was a highlighted time in our quiet rural life:
I like to see the beautiful houses on St. Charles Avenue, and all the people and cars around,
and paved streets.
And the streetcars were a joy and so exciting to ride. And only 7 cents one way.
Some people knew how to get to places they needed to go,
and they would come back a different route by use of transfers and never had to pay 14 cents.
I remember one beautiful house on St. Charles which was the home of Marguerite Clark,
a beautiful silent movie actress. She married the famous aviator Harry Williams.
Some time later Papa and I were in Patterson, Louisiana. Close to Franklin.
We stopped at the Wedall Williams (aviator Harry Williams) Airport - Papa came to ask me if I wanted to take a ride in a airplane. I said yes, I was willing to go. He said it would cost $5.00. He went back to talk to the men in the hangar,
and when he came back he said no, we wouldn't take the ride.
And I did not ride in an airplane until May 17, 1970 - when I flew in a jet plane all the way to
Rome, Italy to meet with Richard, Paulette and Alice Gallant (Paulette's mother).
Papa had an old Model T Ford that often broke down.
Once we were riding with him (the top was down). The car quit in front of a store
(all the country stores had big front porches with some men sitting around relaxing
after a hard day on the farm).
Papa stood up in the car and said, "Does anyone want to buy a car?
You can have this one for 25 cents!"
I was afraid somebody would buy the darn thing - "our beloved car."
Later on he taught me to drive another car.
He had tried to teach Mama to drive, and they went all around the big yard and when he yelled,
Mama quit trying. She said she was through learning to drive.
So Florence and I would drive - also Raymond. You know, you don't have to teach a boy to drive.
He can just get in and drive - amazing! I had to worry about the brakes, the clutch,
how to put it in neutral - so many things! But I did not have to crank the car.
Luckily it had a starter!
Papa was a traveling salesman, so we could only get the car on Saturday afternoons and of course,
on Sundays when we went to church.
He went through many old cars. He bought a new car just once.
We were so proud of that car. We called it the "sedan" and it had glass windows all around
instead of isinglass (which looked like plastic - but that was before plastic was invented).
Raymond was a good swimmer. One summer Papa took some of us to Grand Isle. We had rented a small house. (That was before all these motels and such.)
We loved to go in the water, and at night we could hear the tide rolling in. Just loved to hear that. Well, Raymond would swim out, and it got me worried. I had never known that he had learned to swim. WE would just get in the water and float.
We had fun except when it came to fixing a meal. We did not cook at home yet; Mama was always in charge of that. We had to go to the store and get things we could fix more easily. (Those were the days before fast foods and such.)
On another trip, this time to Biloxi, there was Raymond again at his swimming. I was still concerned that he might go too far. There was a woman swimming near us and I told her I was worried about my brother because he didn't have experience swimming, and she told me not to worry about him because he was an excellent swimmer and a strong swimmer. Well, that was a puzzle to me. Where did he learn how to swim?
Years later, I learned that all my brothers and their friends would go out into the woods back of our property and swim in Bayou Chevreuile, and also in the Coteau Canal which was on Webre-Steib Plantation further north of our home. I think it was a deeper canal, and not too long ago my brother John told me that's where they learned to swim and Mama knew nothing about it. They all came home as innocent as lambs and apparently had dried their clothes before they got home ready for supper. At that time in their lives they only came in the house to eat and sleep. What a wonderful childhood for these boys (but the girls had to do lots of chores and even take care of babies and toddlers!!!)!!!
It really makes me smile to remember!
At home our yards were not manicured like those on St. Charles Avenue, unless we had cows and horses in
the yard eating their daily fare.
So the grass grew as tall as an elephant's knee. In our front yard, the "gazon" were a problem:
they were a tough bunch of grass with clumps of tough roots and the tops blossomed
into black specks that messed up our white dresses if we were going to church.
It would take a hoe or a spade to dig up the clumps of very tough grass. I don't think it grows anymore. We had to clear a path from the house to the front gate.
The path from the side porch to Memere's house was well tread and therefore clear of grass.
We ran that path so much every day, all of us kids going to and from our Memere's house.
We kept it as a smooth walkway.
|Norma & Raymond
||Raymond & Norma
I met Norma for the first time on January 1, 1937. It was New Year's Day at a big dinner and meeting of all the Gravois Family. We were 52 at the fabulous table that year.
She and Raymond came for a visit just before dinner. She was so pretty and it was so nice to meet this lovely girl. It seems we became good friends instantly. She was very talkative and friendly, and very candid. I'll always remember that time I met her.
When the romance had progressed to plans for the wedding - Raymond called me to ask if Norma could stay with us and plan her wedding in New Orleans. Norma left home her home with her suitcase walking to the train station in Lutcher and waiting a few hours for the train.
She arrived at my home on a gray misty afternoon in at taxicab about 4:30 or 5 o'clock. As I recall, we welcomed her - and she immediately made herself at home in her friendly way. She would rock Ronnie when he cried. He was 2 months old and Warren was about 15 months old. She took a liking to Ronnie and would often ask me about him.
We cooked together. I was really just learning to cook, and she knew more than I did. She taught me how to cook squash and I always think of her when I cook squash.
That night Raymond called from Houma where he had the delivery truck for Pelican Produce. He was working for Uncle Roger (Poirrier, Mama's brother) at that time. He decided to drive in. He and Norma sat on the living room sofa and talked and made plans for their wedding until midnight.
The wedding was planned for a Saturday - November 17, 1938. Bernice knew a priest at St. Joseph Church - the biggest church in New Orleans. So Raymond came back on Saturday to meet the priest and make plans for the following Saturday, November 17th - and to call up friends and relatives.
The wedding was lovely, at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. They all came home and the guests - I had bought a wedding cake (not very large, but enough) and some cookies. There were jelly rolls, cake - and punch, and maybe a bottle of wine. Papa and Mama had driven in with some of the children.
We had a nice little wedding party and when Raymond and Norma left - as she came down the front steps, he picked her up and carried her to the car. And they left.
On Monday afternoon we got to see them again before they left for Baton Rouge. They had stopped at Kress to get a few pots and pans. Uncle Roger had called to tell Raymond to get back to work pronto. Raymond was not too pleased, being he had to go. So - they left my home, a very happy couple. We waved them goodbye as they drove west, all the way to Baton Rouge.
|Eclipses & Chickens
We knew from the newspapers when an eclipse would occur. We'd darken a piece of glass with smoking to hold it up to the sun. We would take our places under the pecan trees and hold our pieces of smoked glass ready for the appearance of the eclipse. We just waited and watched, and we discussed how much we could see.
When it got a little darker, like dusk or twilight or darker, all the chickens would start running for the hen house. I mean they really ran - they thought it was night. Maybe an hour later the sky was clear, and most of the chickens came out to play and peck again. That was a short night - I wonder if they laid extra eggs in the mixup in their lives.
The pecan trees - that's where we spent our childhood. I was so sorry the pecan trees had to be cut down (to build a road to develop Marjorie's land).