Sunday, November 20, 2016

Miss Ella Paine

Miss Ella E. Paine lived on the Mandeville lakefront for many years, enjoying her position as the "go-to" person on Mandeville history. She took part in much of that history and was a key member of the St. Tammany Historical Society when it organized in 1972. 

Miss Ella Eugenia Paine

She was born on July 21,1893, in Anacoco, La., the daughter of the well-respected Dr. R. B. Paine. He  moved to Mandeville in 1894, and soon was well-known throughout St. Tammany Parish for his work in improving the lakefront community. In fact, in 1902 he was elected mayor of Mandeville and served two terms, in addition to serving as the health officer for the town. 

He had memberships in the St. Tammany Parish Medical Society, the La. State Medical Society, and the American Medical Association. His office was located at the corner of Lake St. and Coffee St. in Mandeville, according to A History of Louisiana, (vol. 2),by Henry E. Chambers, published in 1925.

Reading on her front porch overlooking Lakeshore Dr. 

Miss Ella began taking an active part in community life at an early age, as the following excerpt of Frederick S. Ellis' book on St. Tammany history illustrates:

In 1911, she was listed as a student at Tulane University in New Orleans, and her name also appears in a 1922 Edition of the St. Tammany Farmer as a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Anyone doing serious historical research on the Mandeville area would include her in their interviews, and even young people doing history reports for school would visit her at her home to hear about the early 20th century hurricanes, the lakefront lifestyle, and even the Mandeville earthquake she had lived through. 

In 1956 she guided the operations of the St. Tammany Parish Library System for a few months. 

Her work with the St. Tammany Historical Society was extensive, and she served as president of that group in 1978 when she was 83 years of age. Here is a picture of her greeting guest speaker Pie Dufour

Miss Paine at a historical society meeting with Carl Fredericks. 

Reading a proclamation on the Mandeville Lakefront, 1976.
Miss Ella Paine at right

Ella Paine, at left, with Bertha Neff on her Mandeville porch looking over a stack of old photographs

In 1985 this article about her appeared in the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper:

Miss Ella Paine Remembers Life In Mandeville
At 92 years of age. "Miss Ella" Paine's memories are older than most of Mandeville's citizens. Having been a resident of the city since she was eight months old, she vividly recalls incidents from her early childhood.

ln the mld-1890's when Mandeville had a population of approximately 800 and horses and buggies were familiar sights, her father, Dr. Rufus Paine, had a pharmacy on the lakefront, and "Little Ella," as she was called, prided herself on her ability to dispense directions and information to his customers and patients.

She chuckles now as the Dupres, neighbors on Carroll Street, come to mind. The family, she explains, owned a grocery store, and Mr. Dupre would hide her in a pickle, bean or rice barrel when her mother came looking for her.

She can still almost taste the ice cream her mother made made in 1896. That winter, she remembers, a hard freeze occurred, and tin cans were filled and taken outside while she eagerly waited for the dessert to harden.

Her current home on the Lakefront, she says, was begun in 1914  and completed three years later. "If walls could talk," she says,that house would provide an absorbing commentary. Though the hurricane of 1897 was destructive, the one in 1915, which ravaged many old landmarks, was the worst one in her memory.

"Anyone who lived through it can live through anything." says Miss Ella. The level of the lake rose eight inches in twenty minutes, and the water in the family's backyard reached to her chin.

The house was generally a center of activity, overflowing with frequent crowds of people. She reports that the home once accommodated 28 guests "with nobody having to sleep on the floor." African violets and orchids were at one time grown in a large room upstairs where she could regulate the light and heat.

One Sunday In October of 1955 is particularly memorable to her. Some 2400 invitations had been sent to those whom Dr. Paine bad delivered to participate in the celebration of his 90th birthday. More would have been asked, she notes, had a fire not destroyed her father's records prior to 1915.

Cake, fifty pounds of coffee and more than fifty gallons of Ice cream were consumed by the 1300 white patients who attended the party during its first day and the 300 blacks who came on the second, and reporters from local newspapers were there to document the festivities.

On that same Sunday, Miss Ella entertained 39 members of her family at a reunion featuring a large turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

The past fifteen years have seen her activities curtailed, and she regrets that she is unable to socialize as much as she used to. A 1919 graduate of Newcomb with a Masters degree from LSU, she has been a high school teacher, "principally math and science," and a librarian.

Retaining her interest in "people and what they are doing," she often receives visits from former students and from her father's patients, and her mind is keenly aware of what's happening to the hometown that she loves.

When asked the secret of her longevity, she admits to no special factors and says with a smile that her physician has proclaimed her "disgustingly healthy."

Though modest about her achievements, Miss Ella, a dedicated historian, has filled volumes of scrapbooks. and paging through them allows a glimpse of a journey through time and a segment of local history which can only be imagined.

Included are numerous newspaper photographs and articles relating her community involvement and her leadership role in its organizations, correspondence from the U.S. Treasury Department where she worked during World I and knew Franklin D. Roosevelt before he became president, and certificates commemorating her fiftieth college reunion.

But especially touching are the original photos, a six and a half-year-old Ella, her long dark curls flowing over the shoulder of a ruffled and ribboned white organdy dress, details of which she can still fondly describe; a middy-bloused Ella posing with friends beside a gushing well; a college chemistry lab; the first Easter Service at the Mandeville Union Protestant Church where she played the organ for 67 years and proudly participated in ceremonies marking the church's 100th anniversary.

Her mobility may be limited, yet she delights in an occasional luncheon out and attends church when her health permits. She is a determined and charming lady who says, "I've led a very busy, full life, and I've enjoyed It."

St. Tammany Farmer 1985

She died on October 25, 1990, and is buried in the Mandeville Cemetery. 
Here is her obituary.