Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Paul Cordes

In 1972, Pathways magazine ran an article about Mandeville Mayor Paul Cordes written by Anne Abernathy. To read the article, click on the image below.

Here's another article, from 1985, on the occasion of Cordes retiring from the phone company.

Philip Pfeffer, Well-known Covington Attorney

One of Covington's best known and respected attorneys was Philip Emmett Pfeffer. He died in 1997 after a long and accomplished career. 

Here is his obituary as printed in the St. Tammany Farmer, offering details on his life, hobbies and community involvements. Click on the image to make it larger and more readable. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Square Dancing

Square dancing is a popular activity in St. Tammany Parish. Here's a photo of some kids getting off to an early start. 

Below are excerpts from the history of the Tammany Twirlers Square and Round Dancing Club, reprinted from their website at http://www.tammanytwirlers.com

CLICK ON THIS LINK for a number of photographs of the Tammany Twirlers taking part in their special events during the year. 

by Pete Lumley

     The Tammany Twirlers Square and Round Dance Club was formed in 1962 in Slidell, Louisiana and quickly grew to over 100 members. Their first festival was held in 1963 at the Slidell Municipal Auditorium with a live square dance band,  four callers from two states, and a  round dance program. This tradition has continued for the past 42 years.  Hundreds of dancers from several states attend the festivals each year to enjoy the friendship, fellowship, and dancing provided by this annual event. 

      In 1990 the Tammany Twirlers purchased nine acres of property on Home Estate Drive in Slidell .These buildings were renovated by club members into one of the finest square dance facilities in the state. The work was finished in 1994 and is now the home and dancing facility of the Tammany Twirlers.

      The regular dance night of the club is Saturday night with alternating square and round dance tips. During the months of September through May the club has a "Dance of the Month" with a nationally-recognized caller and cuer, usually from out of state. 

     In the winter classes are held from October to May each year where we introduce new students to square dancing and develop the skills to square dance at a high level.  On Friday night we have  A1 and Dancing by Definition (DBD) workshops. 

     Square dancing is the official state country dance in Louisiana and many other states.   Square dancing and round dancing is worldwide and the calls are always given in English regardless of the language of the country. So when you travel abroad, look for a club - enjoy dancing the world over."

 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 Twirlers, 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 aply 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

And in addition to Square Dancing, there's even Cajun Dancing clubs...

Here are some pictures from a square dance group visiting an area school in 1989...

Sunday, January 29, 2017

With Sawmills Came Prosperity

The early history of St. Tammany Parish deals in a large part with timber. That, combined with sawmills, means lumber, and growing communities throughout the South needed lumber to build homes, businesses and boats. 

Lumber Sawmill

The Poitevent Favre Lumber Co. sawmill in Mandeville. It was located just east of where the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway north toll plaza is today.

In this 1976 article, Polly Morris explains what an efficient operating sawmill meant to a community in particular and what it meant for St. Tammany as a whole. 

Click on the image above to enlarge the text. 

Here is the text from the article above

BY POLLY MORRIS Feature Writer

St. Tammany News Banner February 25, 1976

It has been said that the soil of St. Tammany is half sawdust and splinters. Often it seems like an understatement instead of an exaggeration, for every town has the site of a sawmill not too far away, plus the many mounds of sawdust rottening in isolated areas. 

But the jealous soil of St. Tammany slowly and surely reclaims its own, and it is difficult to imagine the screech of saws, the scream of the steam whistle, and the loud voices of the workmen where there is nothing left but a sprinkling of woody remains of hundreds of giant pines. All are gone down the sawdust trail of yesteryears.

The word "sawmill" brings to mind the whining, whizzing machinery that savagely rips logs into finished lumber. In truth the first of the sawmills had little resemblance to the modern ones. The early mills used only man power. 

Stripped to the waist the laborers shaped the logs with brute strength, uncommon skill, and a few simple tools. . . and plenty of sweat. They worked with broadaxe and adze for the heavier timbers, but the specialists who made the narrower planks were the sawyers.

The sawyers considered themselves experts and they were, even though they used hand saws. So when two men teams started the pit saw business with only a shovel and a long handled saw between them, the professional sawyers were sorely vexed. The two men had saw and would travel to a building site and be set up in a very short time. 

All they had to do was dig a pit and roll a squared off log over it, and they were ready to go. One man called the pitman would get down into the hole and pull down on the saw, cutting through the wood. The tiller who stayed on top of the ground pulled the blade back up.

However there was one definite disadvantage of the pit saw. The blade was at least 6 feet long and quite flexible. It would bend or whip. This was corrected by putting the saw into a sash. or a frame, that kept it taut, and all went well with the pit saw business until someone had time to sit on a stump and watch the toilsome operation. 

It was far too much labor to suit him. There should be some way to raise and lower the blade with less effort. . . and without man power. It was like grinding meal by hand when there was a grist mill.

The loafer chewed on a pine splinter and was inspired. He picked up a small twig and drew plans in the dirt. Put the  sash saw into another sash. This would let the small frame with the saw slide up and down freely in the larger frame. Which could be attached to a crank, which could have horse power or a water wheel to move it.

The sawyers were even more furious with the new fangled method than they had been with the pit sawmen. They united and decided to burn the sawmills that went along with the tomfoolery that made their trade obsolete. There was no stopping of progress, and it took no great brain to make yet another improvement. Use two blades instead of one. . . or even 3. The "gang" saw came into being.

It is believed that another idler that was less industrious than the stump sitter made another important contribution from his chair beside the fire. He had nothing more to do than watch time tick away the days. The wheels of the clock counted off the minutes and the hours with little revolving wheels. One of them was the ratchet wheel, and it was also inspiration to the clock-watcher. Its notches were like unto the teeth of a saw, and it turned constantly. Why did a saw blade have to be straight? It did not, and soon the sash saw that cut 100 feet of lumber a day was replaced.

The sawmill business boomed. More men were employed at higher wages. Loggers felled trees and lopped off the limbs. Men loaded the logs and hauled them by ox teams to the streams where they were rolled into the water. They floated to the mill pond where men removed the bark and shoved them against the greedy saws. Other men stacked them for seasoning, or loaded them on schooners.

The sawmill was the busiest place in the country. Farmers came to buy lumber or to sell timber. Often he went halves with the sawmill operator, getting his part in finished lumber for the raw product. If he was short of cash money, he would often bring in farm produce "to boot." And the mill operator was more than a horse trader. He swapped for anything of value.

In time the operator could hardly move around his own mill. There were stacks of hides, barrels of molasses, and sacks of potatoes everywhere. Added to the noise of the mill was the cackling of chickens, the bawling of calves, and the yelping of coon hounds and bird dogs. The operator fed them with grain and wheat and corn he had swapped, but his mill was a mad-house. So he built a store building where he could sell the motley merchandise.

Sawmills attracted people like magnets attract nails. Everyone wanted to take part in the prosperity. A logger's wife started selling cakes and pies to the mill customers who waited for their finished lumber, then turned her parlor into an eatery. 

Her brother opened a blacksmith shop to repair wagons and to sell farm tools. The inevitable saloon obliged weary travelers who came through the swinging door "spitting dust."

The suspicious wives who smelled whiskey on their husband's breath refused to stay home next mill day. So a merchant moved his general store opposite the mill and stocked cotton flannel, calico, and Ladies Ready-To-Wear.

Production increased, and so did the population. There came to the sawmill settlement a variety of merchants and craftsmen. A harness maker.. . a cobbler... a semstress. And a minister who built a small white 'church with donations from customers, consumers, and school children who passed by on their way to a little red building with a bell.

Then came the steam powered mill and the large companies who built spurs to the railroad, and sometimes even encouraged the main line to pass through and put up a depot. Logging trains smoked up and down the tracks and even the old mill stream was not needed any longer.

The timber fell fast and was fed into the hungry saws until the surrounding areas bristled with stumps. In a surprisingly short time there were not enough trees to keep the sawmills going. The policy of many companies was to cut down until the land was cut over. Then close up and move on to a new location.

Settlements became mere shadows of themselves as sawmills closed and railroad tracks were taken up. Buildings sag and fall and seedlings of pine come up through the ruins, but it will be 40 years before they are sawlog size. Some towns survive because they have something else to support them, Others simply disappear. except for heaps of sawdust.

The old sawmills are only memories now. . . the Davis sawmill at Mandeville. . the Cedar Hill mill at St. Benedict.. the Todd mill on Bayou Lacombe. And the town with the great expectations, Ramsey, is only a ghost of a ghost town, where the hoot of an owl sounds strangely like the whistle of Engine No. 1 of the Greenlaw Lumber Company.

The Greenlaw Lumber Company saw mill was in Ramsay, just north of Covington

Jay's Saw Mill was on the Tchefuncte River in Houltonville

The following photographs are from the Madison Lumber company operations

The Koepp Sawmill in 1919

Saturday, January 28, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Parade - 1997

Every March, about the middle of the month, St. Tammany Parish (and the rest of the Irish world) celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Covington is just one of the many cities that has St. Patrick's Day parades. Here are some photographs from the parade in Covington held in 1997, twenty years ago. Click on the images to make them larger. 

See also:

St. Patrick's Day Parade 2019

Moss-Picking and Processing

In 1976, Polly Morris of Lacombe wrote a feature article telling the story of a St. Tammany man who, in the early days, made his living picking moss from the many oak trees and selling it to keep his family clothed and fed. 

It was just one of the ways in which St. Tammany folks made their living off the land. Click on the image below to enlarge the text for easier reading. 



See also:


Friday, January 27, 2017

100 Years Ago This Week

What was going on in St. Tammany 100 years ago this week? The following link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service. CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper edition of January 27, 1917. 

Some of the headlines are Covington Asks Railroad Commission for Depot, Oil Well Going Down Into Last Big Rock, and Slidell Visited by U.S. Boat, Machine Gun Exhibited. 

An excerpt from President Wilson's Monroe Doctrine address to the U.S. Senate  was printed in the above edition of the Farmer.

Governor Talks To Retired Teachers

Governor John Bel Edwards and his wife stopped by the Treen Instructional Technology Center in Mandeville yesterday to visit with retired teachers from St. Tammany Parish. His talk to the St. Tammany Retired School Employees Association centered on state budgetary concerns as well as public education funding. More than 120 attended. Here are some pictures. Click on the images to make them larger. 

     Governor Edwards addressed concerns about the state budget, and particularly the funding of public education and state employee pension plans. With more than 120 people in attendance, the Governor explained the challenges for the state over the next few years, the importance of public education, and the dedication and work of school system administrators and elected officials.

     He noted that his success in life was due in a large part to the educators who taught him as a young person. Not only are teachers important in the lives of children, but custodians, lunchroom workers, and paraprofessionals are a key part of he team as well, he stated.  Making sure all those people are acknowledged and appreciated is important, he felt.

     Balancing the state budget while protecting funding for public education is one of his main goals, he said. It has been a difficult year for Louisiana, he reminded the audience, with two major disasters affecting many thousands of residents. Choosing the priorities in cutting expenses and raising revenues is quite a challenge, and there is pain on all sides of that equation, the Governor went on to say.

     STRSEA President Roxanne Lagarde noted that the meeting was the group's annual "legislative meeting" where issues of concern coming up in the next legislative session are explained and discussed. Usually the group invites several area state representatives and senators to join in a forum, but this year the Governor accepted the group's invitation to speak. 

     Among the special guests at the event were Superintendent Trey Folse, District Attorney Warren Montgomery, Louisiana Retired Teachers Association Director Rodney Watson, LRTA President Bertha H. Breland, District III LRTA President Lazette L. Watterson, and Bogalusa Chapter President Alva Martin. 

     Several St. Tammany Parish School Board members were also in attendance.
Christine and Lexie Weber, students from Fontainebleau High School, sang the National Anthem at the beginning of the meeting.  

STRSEA President Roxanne Lagarde, Governor and Mrs. Edwards