topic Tante Manette

French Opera


   Tante Manette was the only sister to my grandmother Eugenie Breaud Poirier. She came to live in New Orleans when she grew up. We know that she married Honore Perrier, but he is not buried with her in St. Louis Cemetary No. 3 on Esplanade. We heard mama speak of her and when mama came to visit her, Tante Manette would take her to the French Opera, which was quite famous in the South.

   I think the French Opera was the biggest one in the South and famous singers appeared here. One of them was Jenny Lind. She lived at the Pontalba apartments while she was a guest here.

   I saw Tante Manette only a few times. That was when we were visiting Memere and Pepere Poirier in Harvey. She came for short visits and she was always in a hurry, or so it appeared to me. She was always dressed in black like a typical French lady of New Orleans. It is too bad we never really got acquainted with her. I know that she spent her last days at Maison Hospitaliere located on Royal Street in New Orleans. That was a nursing home for old French ladies. They were allowed to bring their own bedroom furniture.

topic Nell's hair

auburn curls


   I remember cutting Nell's auburn curls.

   We were under the house and I vividly remember using the big scissors and cutting off a few curls. I have no memory of getting the big scissors and going under the house with her. I can't understand to this day why no grownups did not intercept us. They must have taking their siestas. After we were back in the house, Nell took a nap and it's only when she woke up that mama noticed the hiarcut. There must have been some exclamations because I know I went to bed before 5 o'clock, before papa came home. I was a little worried about his reaction. But when he came in and was informed of my dastardly deed, he came by the bed and just mentioned it casually, smiling, "So you cut Nell's curls." That was the end of that.

   Although I was forgiven, I always felt sorry that I had cut the lovely curls. Of course, they grew back.

   All the memories...

topic Thibodeaux

turtle


   Going to Thibodaux was a nice way to spend an afternoon when we were teenagers. On one Saturday afternoon, we were going with our good friend Marie, with her father in his big Nash. We agreed to meet at Roth's drug store while he went to visit his sister, Elizabeth, and do other things before meeting us to return to Vacherie.

   When we did meet, we noticed that his slurred speech suggested that he had imbibed a little too much. Besides that as we got in the back seat of the car, there was a great big turtle sitting on the floor of the back seat. It was about 2 feet square. So my sister, Florence, got in and put our feet on the seat and Marie sat in the front seat to guide her father's driving for about 20 or more miles down a country road. She was ready to turn the wheel if he was not steering in the right direction. We had a fearful ride worrying about the driver and the big turtle at our feet. We also had to worry about a deep canal on one side of the highway. I'm sure we prayed along the way. We made it safely home, Thank the Lord!

   Both Florence and I knew how to drive at that time but we didn't dare try to change drivers. On second thought, we should have put the father in the back seat with the turtle and the 3 of us girls would have taken over the front seat and been safe.

   How about that??

topic school days

Barnette, Cora ValCour Aime Florence Brignac, Etta English speakers


   My First grade teacher was Miss Cora Barnette at the school by the railroad tracks in Front Vacherie. At that time we were living at Valcour Aime, about a mile from Oak Alley. Florence and I started first grade together. She would be 8 in November and I was 6 and 1/2. We did not speak a single word of English.

   Well, that was all right, we were fast learners and I think that is the best time to learn a foreign language. In no time Florence was placed in Second Grade, which was in the same classroom and with the same teacher. We did all our homework and since we could bring our Reader home, we would ask mama the words we didn't know and we were well prepared for the next day's school work.

   We sometimes had a ride to school with the Amedees who lived about 3 houses away and rode to school in a carriage. They were usually early, and if we were not ready, they took off without us. I remember once I was churning the butter to make our lunches and there was the carriage out front. So that day we had to get another way to get to school. I would go to the Quarters in the back and call for a young colored boy to hitch up the wagon. It took a while but then he took us to school in the wagon. We were probably tardy. Sometimes if papa was able to get out of the fields in time, he would drive us to school in the pick-up truck. There were days and then there were days.

   We were tardy and also absent a lot because if papa heard rumors of flu he said we had to stay home. (We had experienced the pandemic flu of 1918 and mama had been so ill that papa didn't want to expose us to the flu again. At that time there was nothing to prevent pneumonia-nothing.)

   Anyway by the Spring we moved to Vacherie and entered Vacherie School. The teacher promoted us anyway because we could read the whole book and write what was required at that time. Also the Spelling was just great. (not like up now!!!)

   We did all right at the new school and Florence skipped 3rd grade and was placed in 4th grade. She really caught up and did fine all through school and was Valedictorian at the St. James High School Graduation in 1929. She was a very diligent student. She went on to a year at New Orleans City Normal for Teacher Training and her grades were all as follows: 98, 99, 100. For true, she was an excellent student.

   For my elementary school school teachers, I would name Beulah Hymel as the very top of the list. I remember reading "the Chamberd Nautilus" in 5th grade and I could not understand how she could get the interpretation of that poem like she did. I was just amazed to learn all she could develop from that poetry. That gave me the love of literature which opened a whole new world to me.

   Then we went through the 6th grade in a month and then I was in the Seventh Grade with a lot of big kids that belonged in high school. Much later I came to know Etta Brignac, the best high school teacher of Literature and French, which were the tops for me.

   She is the one who ordered all the library books and placed them on shelves in the big hall and I could TAKE BOOKS HOME TO READ. What a delight. I finally finished high school in 1930.

topic school days

walk to school freezing weather


   What about that nice morning walk to school? That was not too bad. We walked and talked and were joined by friends along the way. There was very little traffic at that time, so we did not have to worry about cars, just sometimes a wagon or so. We usually walked along the little railroad tracks and then sometimes in the middle of the road, the older children looking after the younger ones along the way.

   But when it was freezing weather, some children did not go to school,but guess who went to school? Oh.the Reulet children went to school especially the older ones. You could not keep them home. When we arrived at school, the principal would be building a fire in the pot-bellied stove, and he would take a count to see how many children showed up. After waiting for a certain time, if the attendance was still low, he would tell us, "No school today!" and we'd start our walk to get back home to have a day off to read and play and help mama with certain chores.

topic school days

drought school bags school books


   What about a drought in the Spring? Well, the school cistern was about empty and we had to "carry the water" to school. We were each given an empty wine bottle and filled it with water from the home cistern. You had to be extra careful not to drop it, of course. I never heard of one single child dropping the bottle and breaking it. We had to learn to be very careful. So we were sittting in school with our bottle of water under the desk.

   My mother had to make our school bags or sacks. She would get some sturdy material, cut it out to a certain size and sew it up with a strap to go over your shoulders. You carried your own books; your composition book, your tablet, a pencil, and an eraser. Of course we did have to erase the errors we made and rewrite many assignments. We took care of our school books, etc, because we knew our parents had to find the money to buy all we needed for our school work. We took good care of our books, etc, also because we appreciated what they meant,,, the reading and the learning that our parents wanted so much for us. And we wanted that,too.

   We do remember those golden school days. There was a whole, big world out yonder and we wanted to be part of it.

topic dating

chaperone movies in New Orleans Rette & Lester


   In the pre and during engagement period we NEVER went out alone in Vacherie. A sister had to come as chaperone, either Nell or Bernice, and one time Raymond was our escort. Of course, when I came to New Orleans we went to the movies alone, or many times with Rette and Lester, if they were going together at that time. They had an on and off relationship during those years, and several times she came alone with us, because he was dating someone else.