While we don't know exactly when this article was published in a Slidell newspaper, the story it tells of people coming to Slidell in its early days as a community is fascinating and entertaining. It focuses on 86-year-old Catherine Abel recalling her youth in Slidell and writing poetry all along the way. Click on the image below to make it larger and more readable.
"When Aunt Kate Was A Girl"
The newspaper article was probably published around 1954, based on Aunt Kate's birthday being in 1868 and her age of 86 as mentioned in the article. Text below is from the above article:
"In the morning I see red birds chasing each other around an elderberry tree; then I hear the sound of a mocking bird scolding blackbirds for eating acorns off his ground"
Eighty-six-year-old eyes and hands still have the spryness to brighten the lives of friends of Mrs. Catherine (Aunt Kate) Abel with poetic jottings like that above and the spirit of happiness of days gone by.
Aunt Kate lives with her sister, Mrs. Mary Teresa Dubourg, in the house into which she and her husband moved 32 years ago.
Talking with Aunt Kate is an adventure carrying the listener through the history of Slidell, up to some pertinent comments on present politics and economics.
Aunt Kate's father, Lawrence Lawler, brought his family of five daughters and two sons to Slidell in February, 1884, when he was a construction foreman on the railroad being routed between Cincinnati and New Orleans.
When the railroad was finished, Mr. Lawler was assigned to the Slidell section and homesteaded his family on 162 acres at Brown's Switch. Later he was made a roadmaster on the Vicksburg-Meridian road. However, his family stayed at Brown's Switch.
Catherine married Grant Abel, a section foreman for The Southern Railroad, and they later moved onto what is now the Massimini estate.
Only One Building
She remembers Slidell as having only one building at that time—Curt Snider's boarding house, on the site of the present Ozone Apartments. Railroad men boarded at Snider's and invited local girls over for an evening's dancing after the work was done. Girls whose families wouldn't allow them to dance closed themselves off from the room and played parlor games.
Slidell began its long trek to becoming the thriving town it is today way back then when a grocery store was built where Martha's Store is now. When the big Redman's Hall was built, the youngsters moved over there for dances and plays and to hear famous political orators of the day make their play for the votes of the citizens.
Industry came to Slidell, as Aunt Kate looked on, when a brick factory was built next to the railroad tracks. Aunt Kate vividly remembers Fritz Salmen driving his team of oxen to the
Aunt Kate brought her children up in Slidell midst the changes of the growing town. Mr. Abel died in 1922, leaving her with six daughters and one son. Upon Mr. Abel's death the tribute was paid to him that he "was considered one of the leading citizens of Slidell and was always active in the progress of the town, striving in his quiet way toward the progress and betterment of the community."
War, insurrection and "conflicts" have played an important part in Aunt Kate's life. Her brother, Thomas, participated in the hostilities of the Spanish-American War, the Philippine uprising, the Boxer Rebellion and the Boer War. She sent four grandsons into World War II and two grandsons into the Korean conflict.
"Pecans are falling and I see a woodpecker pecking on the pecan tree. In the evening when all other birds are still, from a thicket comes the lonely call of a whippoorwill." Poetry written in this style still occupies some of Aunt Kate's time.
Her refreshing verse has brought her local recognition in newspapers of the area. One particularly, written some years ago, is still mentioned by her friends. The poem, "Road to Mandeville", focuses attention of the reader away from the cement highway and glaring road signs to the "witching spell" of the drive - and the springtime beauty of dogwood blooms, pink honeysuckle and climbing jasmines.
Today Aunt Kate bustles around the house keeping her mind and spirit alive with the beauty of the outdoors and fond recollections of past years. She scrubs her floors and cooks her meals, and she made it a special point Tuesday to visit the polls and cast her vote.
Her yard is alive with growing things, but as she puts it, "When I get mad and want to whip somebody, I take it out on the weeds." She keeps up with the daily and weekly newspapers keeping track of the manipulations of the world around her and never failing to make herself heard when she's displeased.
On the weekends she likes to ride around the countryside, amazed at the growth of the little town, which was just one boarding house when she moved there, before the turn of the century