In this edition of "The Talent Bank" newspaper column, I talked about landscaping as a talent, a very important component of making St. Tammany as attractive as possible as commercial and residential development continues into the future. We have come to expect the professional artistic layout of plants and trees everywhere we look, but it takes a lot of thought, design skills, and shovels in the dirt labor to make it all happen. Click on the image to make it larger.
One of Polly Morris' most fascinating articles was the time she wrote about the legend of how St. Tammany Parish got its name. Here is the article that appeared in the 1970's. Click on the images of the statue and the article to make them larger.
Saint Tamanend (Tammany), the Patron Saint of America
Here is the text of the above article:
Legend of St. Tammany Name
By Polly Morris
Of all the 64 parishes in Louisiana, none has a prettier name than St. Tammany. It has a sweet sound, like the chiming of distant church bells. But it also has a ring of mystery, and perhaps discord.
Why did the Territorial Governor of Louisiana change the District of Ferdinand to St. Tammany Parish? The changeover itself is understandable. West Florida was added to the territory after a minor rebellion against the Spanish. The former owners had named it in honor of King Ferdinand VII, who had reigned less than three months before he renounced his claim to the throne. The name was very inappropriate.
The Controversy There have been various stories about Governor W.C.C. Claiborne and a council who sweated out the decision in a smoke-filled room. It was the custom to name parishes after Indians or Saints, and it would be unwise to do otherwise. The group compromised the situation by putting Saint before a Northern Indian named Tammany and hoped to make everyone happy.
It would seem that the choice would have made them happy if cold logic had been employed. It might have even been an offense.
The Creoles took their Saints seriously, and to bestow sainthood on a "savage" without approval of the Catholic Church was akin to Blasphemy. And choosing an Indian name to appease the Indians was an excellent idea... but it could have sent less placid Indians on the warpath. The local Redskins were ignored, and the Chief was from a tribe hundreds of miles away, and not even of the same linguistic stock. It would have been more diplomatic to have named the area Choctaw, Acollapissa, or Tangipahoa Parish, an oversight corrected years later.
Tammany Himself It has been repeated over and over by historians that a politician suggested the name because it translated "friendly" in English, and that Tammany was worthy of sainthood. This great Chief was a living legend in his time, a man who walked and talked with the mighty Manito, and was sainted by his own people, in a sort of way, if the Indians had had saints.
His information, it was rumored, came from the writing of another living legend, the famous Father Rouquette, missionary to the Choctaw.
According to the fabrication, the assembly was swayed by this inspiring twosome, and the name St. Tammany was tearfully accepted. It made such a pretty story that historians accepted it without question though it would have been difficult to explain the influence of a Father Rouquette who had not yet been born.
Some historians have delved into legends about Tammany and come up with tales that are even more far-fetched. The truth about Tammany is short and sweet. He appears in history in 1682 with William Penn. He kept peace between the two races for he was a kind man and a wise one. He had formed a government for his people based on democracy. Then he disappears from history in 1700.
In legend he lives on and on, and then some. He becomes a superman God who wrestles with the God of Evil for two moons. The furious battle felled forests that became great prairies, a la Bunyan. His life span was incredible, for he was in Peru advising the Incas in 1050, a position he held for 200 years. When he left there, en route presumably to Pennsylvania, he might have had a stop-over in the parish that bears his name. Or so hope the wishful thinkers who frantically try to tie Tammany with St. Tammany Parish by the slenderest of threads which inevitably shred to bits.
Logical Legend There could be an explanation that has never been pursued because it cannot be romanticized. It is pure speculation and purely political, but it makes sense. Or a least another legend.
When the American Revolution was brewing, those loyal to the Crown had societies such as that of St. George, St. David, and St. Andrew. The budding American revolutionists at first called their society the Sons of Liberty. But not to be outdone by the British, they had to have a hero, too, so they rediscovered Chief Tammany. He was all-American and endowed with virtues to which they aspired: bravery, brotherhood, patriotism, and love of freedom. They added Saint for fun, but Tammany had been a man of exceptionally high ideals. The Sons of St. Tammany gave a tea party in Boston and heckled the British, and fought for Independence. Then they disbanded, after victory.
In the 1700's a society was started that was all for making a monarchy out of the new republic. An upholsterer in New York City began one of his own for the middle-class native-born and called it the Society of St. Tammany. It was a democratic organization that turned to politics. Its officials were given Indian titles, and it went to war on the political front when Thomas Jefferson was elected. It is stated reliably that he generously rewarded them for their support.
The Louisiana Purchase made extra duties for President Jefferson. He had to appoint men to fill important positions in the Territory of Louisiana, and he naturally selected capable men from the rank and file closest to him. These men had never dreamed of such an opportunity to rise to greatness, and they were grateful to the man who put them there. No doubt they all felt rather under obligation to the Society of St. Tammany which had indirectly opened the way for them.
It is quite likely that Governor Claiborne had once been a member of the Society. Or that Secretary Thomas Robertson or Legislator Thibodaux belonged to the same political group, for it had many members who profited by its growing power.
Not a Joke It would indeed have been prudent to have played politics with the powerful society, and taking the liberty of joining the legend-makers, it might have happened like this:
Someone in the planning committee said, "We must keep the Creoles and the Indians happy, but how? If only there was an Indian Saint!"
Someone else idly remarked, "What about St. Tammany?" and amid the laughter, Claiborne jumped to his feet and exclaimed, "Hey, fellows! That is not a joke, it is an answer."
However it happened it was a perfect answer. One illegitimate saint would not be noticed in the hundreds of holy ones. The Indians would have supposed that Tammany was from a small tribe somewhere in the boondocks. But the Great White Father in Washington and the Society of St. Tammany in New York would know.
There is yet one small part of the St. Tammany puzzler that will perhaps never be understood.
Claiborne faced almost impossible odds when he came to claim Louisiana for the United States, and remained on as Governor of Territory and State. The Creoles were bitterly resentful about American rule, English language, and Protestants. He was all that they hated, yet he won their good will by his patience and tolerance and understanding. He would have had to have been a tolerant man, so a statement he made about St. Tammany is not only unjust, but almost impossible to explain.
It was 1810, when the parish was named, that he said, "There is in that quarter a great scarcity of talent, and the number of virtuous men too ( I fear) is not as great as I could wish."
There was certainly something that caused him to be so prejudiced, and with that attitude, he might have had a secret smile about naming the parish St. Tammany. Even at that time, there was public exposure of corrupt politics in the Society of St. Tammany. He could not foresee when the word "Tammany Hall" would be equivalent to the words "political corruption." Perhaps he only felt that the Society and the parish had too few "virtuous men."
It would be interesting to know what caused Claiborne's condemnation of St. Tammany, the parish whose sweet name sounds like the chiming of distant church bells.
The Covington Cemetery No. 1 has been a maintenance challenge over the years, and it was in pretty bad shape in the early 1990's, that is until a group of community preservationists got involved. Here's the story. Click on the images to make them larger.
The historical re-enactments helped raise awareness.
History of Covington Cemetery No. 1 was published in 1988 by the St.
Tammany West Chamber of Commerce Auxiliary. Entitled "The Legends of
Covington Cemetery No. 1: Covington, LA, 175th Anniversary 1813-1988"
the 166-page book contains volumes of information about the cemetery and
who is buried within. Click on the image below for several paragraphs
from the beginning of the book:
A new overnight guest quarters has opened in Abita Springs, called "Cardinal's Rest" by owner Mary Blom Davis. Located in an old but updated structure just a block from Tammany Trace, the AirBNB location will feature a suite of a living room, bedroom, and bath.
The work of well-known local artists and photographers grace the walls, and the front porch and outdoor patio sitting area, complete with bird bath, offers a cool spot to relax. She reports a wide variety of birds populate the neighborhood.
The structure was at one time one of the guest cottages adjacent to the famous Abita Springs Hotel of years ago, so it has a legacy of accommodating visitors to the quiet St. Tammany getaway.
The location is just two blocks away from the Abita Cafe and one block to the UCM Museum and Abita House of Mystery. Just a short walk down Tammany Trace brings visitors to the famed Abita Springs pavilion park, the train depot museum, and the Abita Brew Pub restaurant.
CLICK HERE for the link to the Air BNB Webpage. Here are some photographs of the newly-renovated overnight accommodation.
Abita Springs, of course, has been welcoming visitors for more than a hundred years, with certain health-enhancing characteristics attributed to drinking its spring waters. It has several other things going for it, according to the links below.
What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer edition of June 15, 1918. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.
Click on the images below to see larger versions.
1918, was a tough time. The sacrifices of war were beginning to weigh
heavily on the hearts of Americans. Questions were being asked,
patriotism was being encouraged, and the grievances that kept so many
people at odds were being set aside so they could work together to fight
the common enemy, Germany.
The life mission of Frank Levy is to introduce children and adults to the creative world of the theater, and over the past 40 years he has done so with enthusiasm, energy and expertise. During that period he has directed close to 30 plays, 15 of those for which he wrote the scripts.
His countless theatrical plays, creative consulting gigs, workshops, and "stories in motion" have touched the lives of thousands of young people. While he gives the spirit of New Orleans living much of the credit, he exemplifies the Talent Bank philosophy. That is, he uses his own talents to help others discover and develop the talent within themselves.
I've known Frank for quite a while, and this blog article shares some of his many accomplishments over the years. Much of this information came from his website, with pictures provided by countless newspaper articles and photos.
Wine Expert Frank has written for numerous publications, directed stage productions, served as a lecturer, a sought-after public speaker, performer, educator and even a wine expert. "He worked his way through college as a waiter in the Wine Room at Commander's Palace Restaurant and later, he was a sommelier at La Provence Restaurant for 11 years," his website declares. Not only that, but "he owned his own wine shop for four years as well as writing wine columns for two magazines. He also taught the Wines of the World course at the University of New Orleans Northshore Campus."
Frank was a teacher and debate coach at Mandeville High for years, and has taught writing, speech and dramatics from elementary school through university level. In Louisiana, he is a state certified evaluator for talented theater, and he has performed one-man interactive shows across the United States, Canada and in eight tours of Australia. How did it all begin? With an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York when he was eighteen, according to his website.
A Leading Webpage Designer
He has, indeed, been a busy guy, and the families of St. Tammany Parish have benefited greatly from his artistic contributions. Even in the early field of webpage design, he became an award-winning forerunner in the early 1990's. Frank was a founding partner as well as principal speaker and head writer of a nationally successful website design company, Diamond Bullet Design.
His work (and specialized training) has allowed him to engage in working with large groups who have Post Traumatic Stress. The Red Cross gave Frank special recognition for interactive performances he provided at dozens of shelters after Hurricane Katrina and again for Hurricanes Rita, Gustave, Ike and Harvey. "Over the past 12 years, he has been used by Red Cross 44 times," his website states.
"Frank has also taught theater at Southeastern Louisiana University, Media Arts at Tulane University and performed in a highly acclaimed production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans. Locally, he has been named St. Tammany Parish Performing Artist of the Year and is included the Louisiana State University Library Registry of Performing Artists.
Frank Levy at right with Mandeville High Principal James Huhn at left and student debate winners Leah Russell and Daneeta Shorter back in 1983.
Most of the local population, however, both young and old, have come to know him with his work as founding director of the Playmakers Summer Theater Camps in Covington, Louisiana. Frank is in his 23rd year as the "creative force" behind the camps and his 44th year as a director at Playmakers. His motto for that venture has been: Every Actor Has Lines, Every Actor Can Choose to Dance, Every Actor Gets to Choose Their Own Part, and (to the benefit of appreciative parents) costumes are provided.
Frank Levy and his wife Bonnie Bess Wood come as a team, and they have offered area young people a variety of opportunities for developing their talents across "a broad spectrum of artistic endeavors. Their original children's plays, interactive programs and instructive lectures have toured a variety of venues, including libraries, festivals, conferences and classrooms. The couple tailors each presentation or series of presentations to the individual needs of the audience."
They specialize in what they call "three dimensional storytelling, a technique that allows both to work as one, acting and narrating their marvelous portrayals of a multiplicity of worthy tales." Their story-telling efforts in the unique Levy outreach called "Instant Theater" covers a wide range of resources: Louisiana Heritage, Historical, or Great Events: from the Louisiana Purchase (1492-1803) to the Battle of New Orleans, and from the Battle of Lexington and Concord to an cross-section of Australian Heritage called "Waltzing Matilda." There's even an Instant Theater production in which the participants choose their own historical, scientific, social or other great event and make it come to life. In one Instant Theater scenario, Frank becomes a historical character chosen by the presenter. His specialized performances schools and libraries have included Thomas Jefferson, Franz Schubert, Karl Faberge, and Claude Monet.
Frank Levy as Karl Faberge
"Students can't help getting caught up in Instant Theater," he said. He enlists audience members as the cast and crew of a theatrical, historical, or famous event performed on the spot. "With wit, charm and a deft turn as narrator, Levy takes the group from zero to a full show in forty-five minutes, complete with sound effects, props and even perhaps a pirate ship or a magical cave or two," the website explains.
As a result of his efforts, "Students learn first-hand that the art of theater is accessible to anyone. They learn presentation of self through exposure to fundamentals of acting," he said. "They learn that performing in front of others is not so frightening and that a group working together can produce more than individuals working alone. They especially take with them the valuable lessons contained in the social, historical, literary and other educational elements of each production."
His repertoire of Instant Theater Plays (of which there are over 50 to choose from) include Jewish Folk & Hanukkah
Tales, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Beauty and the Beast, Lil Red
Riding Hood, Little Mermaid, Goldilocks and the 3 Bears and a multitude
of long-favorite childhood stories and fairy tales. Then there's Instant
Theater performances spotlighting the first Thanksgiving, the story of
Columbus, "A Visit with Huey Long," "A Visit with Thomas Jefferson," and
the true story of the "Star Spangled Banner."
Frank Levy's Stories In Motion Theater Workshops have been a favorite for years. These are the presentations where he directs a group through a "complete theatrical learning experience aimed at putting on a show. Students receive instruction in fundamentals of acting, use of props, sound effects, mime, body language and the actual staging and performing of a workshop production."
The Frank Levy Summer Theater Camps have been immensely popular with area youth. The theater camp is located at Playmakers Theater in the Sans Souci forest, two miles north of Covington. According to his website, Playmakers Theater has been described by one parent as, "a wonderful, enchanted place for a child to go to camp. I wish I had had this opportunity when I was a child." The camp offers personalized scripted renditions of old favorites like Aladin and the Jungle Book.
His many years of producing the directing the summer theater camps have resulted in a substantial supply of full scripts for those performances, scripts that accommodate large casts. As another one of his services, he is now supplying those scripts to others, complete with "EZ poster templates" for producing them on their own.
Levy's greatest impact, however, has probably come with his tours of area schools, bringing to campuses both local and distant a wide variety of interactive theater programs for students as well as workshops, and performances.
He has taught theater at Southeastern Louisiana University, Media Arts at Tulane University and once performed in a highly acclaimed production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh at the CAC in New Orleans.
A scene from "Twelve Angry Men."
On top of all that, Frank has traveled around the world as a public speaker. He has taken part in Speech Consulting engagements in Melbourne, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sydney, Australia; Toronto and Ottawa, Canada; also Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, San Antonio, Mobile, Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Nashville, Orlando, Miami, Cleveland, Buffalo, Houston, Baton Rouge, all over New Jersey as well as New Orleans. In 1998 he was the featured speaker in the session named "Making the Connection for the Next Century," at the Louisiana Surplus Line Association in Lafayette, and in 1997, he was a featured speaker at AT&T conferences on Web site design, in New Orleans, Mobile, and Atlanta. He spoke to the New Orleans Police Department also in 1997, and the Goldrush Electronic Banking Conference featured him in a session in San Antonio, TX.
In 1996, he was the featured presenter at an Internet seminar at the Park Royal Hotel in Brisbane, Australia.
One of his favorite performances was when he portrayed Karl Faberge for the SLU Lab School and Mandeville Middle School. In the mid-1990's, he portrayed the artist Claude Monet at a number of area schools and on television, helped narrate performances of the Northlake Performing Arts Society, and took part in a film lecture series entitled: "Through the Lens, 1995; Film: The Art Behind the Art, 1994; Great Moments in Film, 1993; and Cinema As Art In The Twentieth Century, all at library branches in Covington and Slidell. His lecture series on "Theater and Public Speaking and Creative Writing" at Southeastern Lousiana University was quite popular in 1992 and 1993, and his contributions to the Walker Percy Symposium at the public library in 1992 were well received. Other talks have involved " Peer Pressure" (DePaul Northshore Hospital, Covington), and a televised "Education Seminar" (Cox Cable, New Orleans). His writing credits have ranged from local media to more than 30 political campaigns, technical writing assignments, editing and consults for companies in Colorado, Michigan, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana, as well as Australian companies in Brisbane, Sydney and the Gold Coast.
Frank and friend in Australia
His work as Managing Director and Author of the play "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Mother Goose Is Loose"; and Director of Pocahontas and Cinderella, graced the stage at The Discovery Center in 1995 and 1996. In addition he was author and director of the play "T. Petit and the Loup Garou: An Original Louisiana Creole Folk Tale," and, with his wife Bonnie wrote and directed eight children's plays, including: The Gargle Needs an Agent, 1994; Flutterby the Blue Butterfly, 1993; The Fat Rat Who Sat, 1992; The Sad Fairy, 1991; and The Cat Who Dreamed She Was A Dog Who Dreamed He Was A Cat, 1990.
Consultant His consulting gigs have taken him to Australia, Michigan, and other points across the globe, and he even served as an Infomercial Writer on the QVC Network and Joan Rivers Show for Sterling Spring Water Filters, in 1994. His talents have been widely recognized. He was featured in Reform Judaism Magazine for his Red Cross work after Hurricane Katrina, and he has been listed, Who's Who In Media and Communications, 1997-Present. His scrapbook contains literally dozens of news articles and photographs about his work with children and the schools.
A number of young people who worked with him through the myriad variety
of theatrical productions went on to make a living in the arts and
share their talents with thousands of others as well. Even
those who didn't become artists or actors benefited from his creative
perspectives, brightening their lives and all those in the Covington
area who witnessed their plays and performances. Playmakers has brought
much to its audiences over the past several decades, and Frank Levy has
played a large part in keeping that spark alive and growing in the young
people who have attended his summer camps, workshops, and "instant