Friday, December 13, 2019

Covington Candlelight Caroling at the Trailhead

Hundreds of people turned out Friday night for the Candlelight Caroling at the Trailhead event in downtown Covington. Kids young and old enjoyed the holiday music by a variety of musicians and singers, including Paul Wilson who sang his new song "Covington Christmas" which recently won a contest just for the occasion. 

Mayor Mark Johnson welcomed all present, and a number of children sang hit Christmas songs. Participants included Crispin Schroeder and Band, Kids Shine, and Kiley McDonald. Special thanks went to The English Tea Room, The Covington Fire Department, Beck and Call, and Separate Checks. 

Here are some photographs of the occasion. Click on the images to make them larger. 


Songwriter Paul Wilson

CLICK HERE to listen to "Covington Christmas" on You Tube.

100 Years Ago This December 13

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer of  December 13, 1919. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

Click on the sample images below to see larger versions.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Covington Invitation Basketball Tournament

In today's Tammany Family article, Phil Pfeffer shares another memory of Covington in the mid-twentieth century. This account deals with the Covington Invitational Basketball Tournament of the 1950's. 

By Phil Pfeffer

In the 1950s, and before and after that decade, Covington hosted an annual high school basketball tournament. Teams were invited from around the region for this three day event. It would begin on Thursday afternoon and culminate with the championship on Saturday night. At one time, it was the second oldest consecutive invitation high school basketball tournament in the country.
The bracket was drawn up so that it was “almost” a pure double-elimination tourney. If you lost your first game, you moved into the loser’s bracket. If you lost again, you were out. If you won your first game and lost your second, you moved into the loser’s bracket. So many tournaments in those days were set up whereby if you won your first game and lost your second you went home. That was unfair. Below is the filled-in bracket for the 1956 tournament.

Game times were set up so that Covington high school always played their first game on Thursday afternoon during school time. Students were let out of class to attend the game (and pay their admission). It was also set up so that if CHS lost they would play on Friday morning, if they won they would play on Friday afternoon. Either way, students could again attend the game. In the late 1950s, Covington high school actually won its own tournament several years in a row.
Games were played in the old gym which was attached to the main school building. On the north east corner was the boy’s dressing room. On the southeast corner was the girl’s locker room which was commandeered for one of the visiting teams. The gym was unique in that it had a balcony that surrounded the court. It actually overhung the side of the playing area by six-inches to a foot, making an inbound pass difficult at times. The backboards were metal and fan shaped units, not like the rectangular, wooden backboards found elsewhere. Glass backboards were still in the future.
The balcony had numerous two-tier benches along both sides which were constructed by the school’s wood-working classes. At the southwest corner of the balcony were a Coke machine and a 7-Up machine. On the north east corner, tables were set up to sell candy and hot dogs during tournament time.
Teams from Hammond, Ponchatoula, Albany, Bogalusa, Franklinton, Slidell and others could travel to Covington in about thirty minutes and return home between games. St. Paul’s participated every year. However, teams from New Orleans or Baton Rough had a longer travel time. The Pontchartrain causeway was not there until the late 1950s so New Orleans teams had to travel around the lake through Slidell, a two-hour journey, one way. From Baton Rouge area it was also two hours because the Interstate highway system was not yet available.
To alleviate the travel problem, local families were asked to house individual (or a couple) visiting players for a couple of nights, giving them food and a place to sleep. Many families stepped up. It was particularly exciting for a young boy in the family who aspired to play some day on the high school basketball team.
One memorable (or maybe forgettable) occasion was when the boys from Baker high school near Baton Rough stole the Abita Springs fire truck. They were kind enough to leave it at the traffic circle approaching Baton Rouge.
There were a lot of good and great players who participated in the annual tournament. Many of them went on to play college ball. The most famous of these young boys played for Baton Rouge high and was selected the MVP of the tournament in the early 1950s. He was slightly over 6-foot, five-inches tall then but still growing. He played for L.S.U. and was all-American. He had a distinguished career with the Milwaukee/Saint Louis Hawks in the NBA. L.S.U. retired his jersey number 50 and a street on campus bears his name. That was Bob Pettit.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Life on Turnpike Road - Late 1800's

Carl Bennett with the Madisonville LA Historical Group Facebook page shared this glimpse into life along the Tchefuncte River on Turnpike Rd. around the time of the Civil War as written in the words of Augusta Bennett Stanga.

"I thought some would enjoy a glimpse into the Civil War days around Madisonville," he wrote. "This is an excerpt from a paper that was written by Augusta Bennett Stanga (born in 1876) about the days of her father Leroy Preston “Pres” Bennett (1851-1928) and her grandparents Daniel “Dan” Bennett (1825-1885) and Sarah Mixon Bennett (1832-1885).

Augusta Bennett Stanga married Frank D. “Fritz” Stanga.

The first account tells about her grandparents Daniel “Dan” Bennett and Sarah Mixon Bennett.

"Grandma Bennett's log house was up off the ground on cypress wood blocks. It was plastered with red clay and sealed with boards. It had four rooms - two in front and a drop shed in the back with two rooms. The floor was wood planks.

"Built off to the end of the front porch was a dining room and kitchen. The larger room at the front had a glass window in the end, and the fireplace at the other end. That was their bedroom. They had a big four-poster bed and a big black armoire. On one end was a table that was just a big block of wood - a section of log, cleaned. ( I have been told there was two such tables.) 

"They had a wash stand with the bowl and things. The living room end had a drop leaf table, and a chest made against the wall where they stored things and kept their books. Grandma Bennett kept scarfs on everything, all the time! There was a porch across the front. They had two rocking chairs by the fireplace, and a few odd chairs. (Mother described the rockers as plain - like the old ones heat up on Aunt Ida's porch.)

"Ten feet, or so, from that was another pretty, well built cabin that was the dining room and kitchen. On the side was a window with just a wooden door. The front door was the same. (upright boards). In the back was a room without a closed ceiling (unsealed, I suppose). 

"There was a window by the stove that had a glass window. The other end had shelves and a table with benches. The dining room was the front room, with a porch across the front. It had a table with a bench on the end, and a few chairs. In the corners of the room she had two tables that were sawed logs. 

"She had a lamp and cookie jars on them. She had reflector lamps by each door and a table lamp that stood on a foot on the table. That's what she had for light if they had to eat after dark. She made a great effort to finish in the kitchen and get it locked up against the varmints before dark. A vine grew on the porch that made a little purple fruit.

"An immense oak tree stood in the yard. (Mother believes that tree is still standing.) Grandma Bennett had a set of blue willow ware dishes, from England. She had a set of blue glasses with a foot on them - she had a shelf full of them. (Mother has some) 

"She had a pitcher with strawberries on it. The back yard had a little smoke house with the floor build up a foot, or so. Benches ran down both walls, and that's where they kept their sack of flout and can of syrup. They locked it up at night against the varmints with a stick of wood through a hasp. 

"Grandma Bennett swept her yard every morning, she made biscuit every meal, and corn broad if she had company. She loved to cook pumpkins, and always cooked two pots - one sweet and one seasoned.

"Grandma Bennett was quite proud of her wash bench, and delighted in her sweet smelling wash when she took it inside. She had a long bench right by the well - with three tubs on it. She kept the bench scrubbed white - no dirty legs. She also had a boiling pot and a beating block for her wash. She would haul water up from the well in the well bucket and empty it into her tubs. 

"Mother says she can remember when she was older, that the well top was covered with boards, and a hand pump installed. "That was much better than having to lift the bucket full the length of the well." My grandma told me her mother took clothes down to the river to wash if the weather was good. It was less work "than pulling the bucket". Sometimes her father carried water for her.

"Mother says Grandma Bennett kept white shams on the pillow all the time (ironed!). If she sat down she crocheted - shams, drawers and slips had to have edging. "

War Story

Carl Bennett notes that the next account tells of a Yankee patrol out of Madisonville that had just been ambushed at Lanier Crossing on the Tangipahoa River. The Yankee officer wrote in his diary that they pulled up and watered at the home of ”Dan Bennett” on Turnpike Rd. who was actually Daniel Bennett. Little did they realize that Dan Bennett was not at home because he most likely was one of the Confederates that had just ambushed them. 

"I am most certain that had they known this they would not have been as polite as they were. What is mentioned here as “The county wireless” was a slang term for yelling through the woods from household to household. When this Yankee patrol left here they rode off to Madisonville."

The story begins: "My grandma said Grandpa Bennett was teenage when the Yankees marched down the Turnpike (remember he was the oldest of 12) from toward the Bennett Bridge. There was a family of color living above the bridge, and they also had a teenage son. 

"When the men left to fight the women joined forces to survive. They kept the garden and place by working the two boys together - first one place and then the other. When the "county wireless" sent word the Yankees were coming, his mother told grandpa to hurry and hide the gun and horse. (An old rifle and plow horse). 

"He took them to the branch, as he was told, tied up the horse, and in fear threw the rifle in the branch. (We are talking about the branch that ran in front of the cemetery behind the old Bennett place - now the ostrich farm). There were 10 or 12 soldiers in the company - they looked in bad shape. The officer knocked on the door and told her to "cook the mutton they had killed". 

"They had apparently taken the animal from the pasture on the bridge side of the house. They cleaned it, and she cooked it. The officer came in to eat but the other men stayed in the yard. One of the men carried it out. No story of conversation, if any. When they were ready to leave the officer led grandpa to the "hidden" plow horse, and had him fish the rifle out of the branch. He asked if he could clean a gun, and told him to do it right away or he would end up without a gun to hunt with to feed the family. 

"They did not take the plow horse or anything else. The children tried to hide the geese in the branch brush, but they came home while the Yankees were there. One was eaten but the others left."

"Things were hard to get during the war. One thing was material to make pants. (most clothing was made at home by hand). His mother made him long shirts to hand below the knee and that had to do, - but everybody had to do the same thing, so the boys couldn't mind too much."

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Square Dancing Club Histories

Forty-three years ago, in March of 1976, News-Banner reporter Polly Morris wrote this overview of area square dancing groups.

Square Dancers Set To Perform at Event

By Polly Morris

There will be a hot time in the old town of Ponchatoula on the nights of April 2 and 3. Lively dancers from all over the state will Rip and Snort, Look Her In The Eye, Whirl-away, Circulate, and Pull Her By.

If this sounds like fiddle‑faddle or flap-doodle, it is because, you are not 'familiar
with square dancer-lingo, not having participated in one. And if you want to know what fun you are missing, ask a Lucky Square, a Tammany Twirler, a Square C or perhaps a Traveling Koonass.

These are all members of an exclusive set called square dancers, many of whom will be Boxing the Flea or Swatting the Gnat at the 6th annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.

Welcomed by the Ponchatoula Promenaders who will host the Festival Square Dance. On the night of April 2, beginning at 8 p.m. state-wide square dancers Brake and Trail at the Vineyard School on Highway 22, where the Gold Dust Twins of Metairie, Tony diGeorge and Stanly Viola, will be the callers. On April 3, they will swing their partners on to the next, at the St. Joseph School gymnasium. Here the caller will be Neil Howard of Houma, whose unusual talent as caller is aptly described by his nickname "Thundermouth."

This may sound rather boring to those who have seen square dances on television, were it is cut-and-dried country nostalgia. It so lacks the spontaneous appeal that few realize that in 1976 there are well over six million Americans who readily understand when a caller tells them to Roll-Away or Right Hand Star.

Even fewer in the TV audiences know that such folk dances are very very old. In fact, these folk dances were ancient even when Great-grandma was a pretty little taw. They date back to the 12th century at least. The "London Bridge" song of children was once a tune for these dances. And "Old Dan Tucker" was a human sacrifice song at a time when the dancers were swordsmen. The unfortunate who was in the center of the circle when the dance ended was the Old Dan who quite literally lost his head.

Early Dances

Some of the early dances were religious, but the Puritans thought them evil and sought to have them abolished. But they were too much fun for the common folks, and eventually became stylish in the royal court of France. The folk dances came across the Atlantic with the colonists, and it was they who added "the caller."

The caller shouted directions to the dances, adding to the merriment with his own particular patter which always had pure country flavor. He told of a "chicken in the bread pan, pecking in the dough, join your hands and do-si-do." He mentioned "whiskey in a barrel, whiskey in a jar, all join hands and form a star." Often his patter included directions. "Meet your honey...pat her on the head...if you can't get a biscuit..give cornbread."

Only those in the know understand that "biscuit" was another way of saying "swing her by the waist." If she was not within reach, cornbread would do. It was a two-hand swing.

Since the folk dances have survived for centuries, it is no surprise that St. Tammany and surrounding parishes have had several dance groups. The names that were selected for these groups are interesting and amusing: From Covington comes the Ding-A-lings, the Chain Gang, the Pine Partners, and the Square C's. Equally amusing are the Star Steppers and Tammany Twirlers of Slidell and the Lucky Squares of Mandeville.

From other parishes were the Tango Taws and Raws of Hammond, the Buttons and Beaus of Independence, and the Eight Chain Thru Club of Loranger. The popularity of square-dancing can be seen by the Square C's of Covington. A small party met in 1973 for a "Green Night" held by national caller Johnny Creel of Metairie. Twenty-three people decided to take lessons. They "graduated" in January of 1974, and at present there are 52 Square C's.

The Lucky Squares of Mandeville first formed their club on an unlucky day. It was Friday the 13 of September in 1968. To counteract the hex, they adopted a four leaf clover as their symbol. It seemed to have worked for there are six couples going so strong that they call themselves a traveling club. Ten of its members took in the Azalea Trail Festival in Mobile, Ala. after Mardi Gras. They hope to be at the Strawberry Festival also.

The 7 year old Lucky Squares and the Ponchatoula Promenades seem to share a thing with the number 13. The Ponchatoula group had an anniversary dance on Friday the 13 of February last, celebrating their start of 7 years of dancing. This is the group that will host the dances on April 2 and 3.

Honor Given

The Ponchatoula Promenaders are quite proud of an honor given to them for 2 past
festivals. Two of their number are semi-retired Strawberry farmers who have been selected as Strawberry King. Charles Keaghey wore the crown in 1974, then passed it on to Carl Drude Sr. for the '75 celebration.

The Ponchatoula group does not dance for fun only. The Dixie Chain and Double Circulate as entertainers, appearing at the nursing homes for elderly people.

St. Tammany News Banner, March 28, 1976

See also:

Square Dancing

Sunday, December 8, 2019

History and Holly Home Tour Held

Hundreds of people strolled down the streets of Covington Sunday afternoon to enjoy the annual "History and Holly Home Tour" presented by the Covington Heritage Foundation. Four residences and two churches were on the tour.

Here are some pictures from the event. Click on the images to make them larger.

The Braswell Residence

The welcome table

The Aultman residence

St. Peter Catholic Church


The Abernathy Residence


The Wilson Residence

Riding the Tram

Christmas Caroling

Covington Presbyterian Church

See also: