Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Art of Wes Parker

 Wes Parker of Talisheek paints wall-sized renderings of birds and wildlife scenes, several of those for schools with mascots from the animal world. He's been doing this for more than 40 years and recently received recognition from his employer, the St. Tammany Parish School System, for his work in the maintenance painting department which includes his artistic endeavors. 

While he says he didn't have any "formal" art training, his parents were both "artistic" in some respects, and his bi-weekly hour-long classes with the intinerant art teacher at Sixth Ward Junior High got him off to a good start. When he went to Covington High he continued with his art classes, impressing his teachers and gracing the school with several outstanding examples of his wildlife artwork, especially lions. He could make a lion look fierce for athletic programs or he could make it look knowledgeable as a "king of the jungle" for academic purposes, a former art teacher said. 

His painting of a flying eagle with talons reaching out adorned the ceiling of his high school art classroom for years. 

Wes Parker and a couple of his paintings
Click on the images to make them larger.

Now 53 years of age, Parker enjoys painting landscapes, especially with old buildings and wildlife, and his work has been well-received across the area. He started out as a child with pencil drawings, and often when in church his mother would give him a pencil and paper to help him stay quiet by drawing things. "That was when I was three or four years old," he stated.

While he steers clear of doing "portraits" where someone's likeness is sought, he does occasionally include a generic-looking  person in some of his artwork. He is impressed when he sees an artist produce a portrait that does capture a close resemblance of someone, but in his own work, he prefers the wild environments, moss-covered trees with interesting bark textures. "And if you do portraits, there's always the chance that you might offend somebody," he laughed.

Parental Artistic Flair

He remembers as a child seeing his father sketching, primarily artistic doodles, but he also did some paintings for family members. "He had some talent, but he just never really did anything along those lines," Wes explained. His mother, he remembers, had art skills with using color and she was able to use somewhat advanced coloring techniques that impressed people.

"So I guess I got some of my artistic talent from my parents," Wes commented. He remembers how his dad designed a sign for a local store, first drawing it out small scale on paper, then transferring that design to the large-size signboard at the store. That's a skill that Wes has acquired and uses in some of his wall paintings today.

While his father was quite meticulous in his art projects, Wes says he kind of stays away from "straight lines." Sitting there doing art with a ruler would drive him crazy, he explained. His mother wanted him to go into architecture, but that involved pretty much all straight lines, so he stuck with the landscapes and wildlife renderings. 

Gaining Recognition

 As he continued with his artwork, showing it to his friends and teachers, he started getting some recognition for his skills around the third or fourth grade. People started taking notice of his artistic talents, and he began seeking ways to explore and improve his art. 

He spent a lot of time just drawing. "I seemed to get better with practice," he said, "spending countless hours just sketching." He did a lot of things for his school, and he was always called upon and enjoyed doing projects that his classmates and teachers would ask him to do for them. He did flyers and special events posters and even painted a cardinal on the side of the Sixth Ward Junior High water tank. 

A  mascot painting done by seventh grader Wes Parker 40 years ago

When he got to Covington High his art teacher saw his skills, and he was able to bypass Art I classes and went directly into Art II. "That kind of gave me a jump start and helped me get into Art IV during my senior year," he explained. "That class enabled me to work on various projects of my own choosing, using a variety of media. Up to that time I was working with colored pencils and pastels, but there I was able to explore different painting techniques."

After he graduated from high school, he applied for a variety of art scholarships at various colleges and art institutes, but nothing became available. At that point he thought that going to Southeastern Louisiana University would give him a good background for an art-related occupation or especially art education. His art education experiences with grade school art teachers had influenced him to consider teaching as a career.

He was doing construction work during that time and had saved up almost half of his tuition. That line of work dried up, however, and after several months he did not have enough money to go to college. At that point, he decided to go  into retail and spent more than 20 years in that industry with Eckerd's Drugs for four years and then 19 years with Walgreens. 

The Retail Art World

 While in the retail business he did have an opportunity from time to time to use his artistic talents when setting up various product displays. There was even some competition among setting them up. He would paint display backdrops and won several awards and even some cash prizes for his work in that area. "That was pretty cool," he said.

During those years in retail, he didn't really have time to do any other types of artwork, especially when he married and his family responsibilities grew. "Only in the past ten years have I started getting back into it and been doing a few things," he explained. 

Some of his work is visible at Lee Road Junior High, Sixth Ward Elementary, and Fifth Ward Junior High. He has been asked to paint a bull dog at Fontainebleau High. Some of those projects required getting up on ladders and painting letters six foot high. That required a lot of pre-planning and layout work ahead of time so it was a matter of transferring the grid pattern on the layout sheet to the full-scale painting on the side of a wall. He would love to be able to do more of those school mural and mascot paintings, but the other demands of his job are pretty time-consuming.

While he has only done a few art projects for the schools, mainly paintings of school names and mascot renderings, he did produce a number of murals, one being a huge mural for the City of Bogalusa, a job that took him five months to complete. 

The Challenge of Free-lance Artwork

A few years ago he set up a Facebook page called  "Wes Parker Custom Designs" and that gave him a place to showcase his artwork and interact with friends and art admirers. When he left retail, he decided to try to launch his free-lance art design and paintings service to provide murals and stuff like that. He did a few murals in homes throughout St. Tammany Parish as well as a couple in Bogalusa and Franklinton.

 The Bogalusa mural on Willis Avenue was painted on the retention wall around what used to be the armony. It  measured 330 feet long and was 18 to 22 feet  high in some places. Originally it was to feature the history of Bogalusa, but city officials gradually settled upon a wetlands landscape teeming with local wildlife. Oh, and also a big sawblade was included, a tip of the hat to Bogalusa's main industry. "That mural was by far the biggest thing I've ever attempted," he said. "It was the biggest challenge I could ever imagine, and even more."

The Bogalusa Mural

The sheer scale of that project, along with working in the heat every day and painting up on ladders, made it a very unusual project.

He wound up picturing 42 different animals in the mural. Today that mural is fading in the daily exposure to sunlight, moisture and heat, a fact that saddens him. A better quality of paint that would have withstood the elements a little better was out of the price range of the project's  budget and not available from the local supplier. 

When he's doing mascots and murals for school board projects, he does use the specialty paint that lasts longer, and they are holding up very well, he reports.

It was always a challenge being a free-lance artist, figuring out just what to charge for his time and talent. "There was always the concern of pricing yourself out of a job, and sometimes it would turn out I was only getting a dollar an hour for a big complicated job," he explained. 

The Steady Job Opportunity

While he enjoyed going out and doing art "on his own," and although he never had a problem with selling his artwork, he needed something a little more steady. His current job with the school system  tasks him with a variety of standard painting assignments, as well as a few interesting artistic opportunities. Every day he is out either painting hallways, pressure-washing walls, striping parking lots, and any other a multitude of school building maintenance projects. 

School System Award

His special skills were recognized January 19 when Superintendent Jabbia presented him with the "Impact" Award, a recognition for school system employees that go "above and beyond." 

Superintendent Jabbia presents him with the Impact recognition

Jabbia said that Parker gets a painting job done with enthusiasm and professionalism, and on top of that, Wes adds an artistic touch and creates something special for a school community to enjoy. He congratulated him for winning the Impact Award saying that he was so talented and positive that the entire school system benefitted. 

"Those schools are so proud of what you've done for them," Jabbia told him. "It's guys like you who make us feel so special. I've heard from parents and administrators, and they all tell me the same thing: they appreciate you."

Parker told Jabbia that he enjoys doing his artwork and being a part of the painting crew for the school system. "I have a good time doing it," he said. The job has been great for his family and a good fit for him. 

Wade Gottschalk, director of maintenance for the school system, said that Parker is humble about his talent, and he gives his best efforts on every project that they give him. "When you put Wes on a job you know its going to be done correctly and efficiency is a top priority. 

"When Wes was a student at Sixth Ward, he painted the original cardinal on the school's water tank.  A few years ago when he heard that the painiting had gotten old and out-dated, he painted a new mural up there. It's a great improvement over the one he did when he was in the seventh grade, but he had also done a good job on the project back when he was in the seventh grade," Gottschalk stated.

Parker was surprised by the honor of receiving the award, but he has always known his work is appreciated. It wasn't always like that when he worked in retail. 

Helping Others Through Art

His wife is a school teacher, has been for over 25 years, and he often helps her decorate her classroom. He always tells her that he really enjoys doing that kind of stuff, because he was so inspired by the many people who did that when he was growing up, people who were using their artistic talents to make life a little brighter for those around them. By sharing his talents, he hopes to inspire others, especially young people, to recognize and develop their own talents. 

"If you like doing art, just stick with it," he says. "Keep working at it, and you will be rewarded." He especially likes doing random sketching and artwork as a way to pass the time. "It's nothing for me to sit down and just start drawing and four or five hours just fly by," he recalls. 

A Talisheek Youth

He was born and reared right there in Talisheek, and he recalls that his dad's first job was at the Talisheek Service Station run by Mr. Pitt. "When I was growing up, we kind of knew everybody in the area, but these days you can go down one of these roads off the main highway, and it will open up and there'll be a dozen house back there, big houses," he explained. 

His Art Will Last

He may not have taken the usual course for using his creative art skills, but he knows that in twenty to fifty years, people will see his artwork and his name at the bottom, and they will remember him. People in the future will appreciate his efforts to capture and immortalize in art Louisiana landscapes as well as help them recall fond memories of school mascots. "I have thought about that aspect of it," he concludes. "Maybe some of my artwork will outlive me, and that would be nice."

Some of his art

But for the time being, he just enjoys creating art. "I'll be doing something the rest of my life being creative and producing art," he stated. "I think it's good for me in the overall scheme of things."

Both of his children are showing signs of artistic creativity, already enrolled in the school system's Talented Art Program, so they may continue the family line of expressing their observations of the world through art. "My daughter has already been recognized for some of the art things she has done, and my son really is into art," he explained. 

"I seem to have gotten my interest in art from both my parents, and now my children are doing the same," he noted. 

See also:

Talent Bank

History of Talisheek

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Top Horse Facilities In 1977

 St. Tammany Parish being horse country was increasingly well-known in the 1970's, so much so that the local newspapers were writing articles naming the top stallions. 

A map of major horse breeding facilities in 1977

Click on the images to make them larger and more readable. 

See also:

Horse Farm Maps From Years Ago

Native Plants Discussed

 Several dozen people turned out Saturday morning for a talk on the native plants of Louisiana and how to use them in local gardens. Speakers were Tammany Baumgarten, president of the Louisiana Native Plant Society, and Tracey and Dave Banowetz. 

Tracey Banowetz is the former executive director of the LSU Hilltop Arboretum, a former president of the Louisiana Native Plant Society, and a member of the Master Gardeners of East Baton Rouge Parish and the Feliciana Nature Society. Dave Banowetz served on the advisory committee of the Louisiana chapter of the Nature Conservancy for the Baton Rouge area. 

The event took place in Bogue Falaya Hall in the rear of Covington City Hall. It was sponsored by the Keep Covington Beautiful group.

The speakers Tammany Baumgarten, Tracey and Dave Banowetz

Click on the images to make them larger. 

 A poster was on display at the event to show the many activities of the Keep Covington Beautiful organization.  

Keep Covington Beautiful is a resident-led organization formed in October 2008 to improve the quality of life in Covington, increase property values, improve aesthetics, reduce clean up costs, and increase civic involvement. Its mission includes efforts in beautification, education, and prevention of litter. It is an Affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. 

The group was derived from a group called the Covington Gardens Partnership, which was a non-profit organization formed in the early 1990's. 

The group seeks to continue the tradition of building garden partnerships to beautify the city as well as sponsor volunteer-based beautification, litter prevention, recycling and educational activities and events, such as the native plants presentation.

It hopes to engage all citizens in every aspect of keeping Covington clean and beautiful, encouraging  individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community. A number of projects have been initiated to support those goals. They include Arbor Day Celebrations; Tree Planting and Tree Care; Tree City USA designations, the Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail, the Bogue Falaya River Sweep, the care and maintenance of the downtown planters and Garden Partnerships.

Other endeavors include event recycling, education and Conservation Programs and educational Meetings and Special Events.

Priscilla Floca, director of Keep Covington Beautiful, said her organization continues to have a lot of community support as well as support from the city, and as a result much has been accomplished in the past several years. With 35 active members and quite a few special event volunteers, the group has a number of on-going projects, one of which is to help provide information on the care of the over 700 live oaks in the city. In addition to that, there is the Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail at the city's recreational complex. 

While the nature trail has been a favorite walking path, it is currently in the "restoration phase" from the damage caused by Hurricane Ida, she said. 

For more information:

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Folsom's First Parade

 Excitement ran high when The Village of Folsom decided to hold its first Mardi Gras parade in 1977 some 46 years ago. The afternoon event provided many with the last chance to see a parade that year.

Click on the image to make it larger. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Lucile Rutland, Nationally-known Writer and Poet

The literary world was shocked in 1938 when one of its favorite writers died, a Covington resident by the name of Lucile Rutland. She was well-known for her poems, plays, essays and editorials that were published widely. She was friends with famous poets, songwriters, and Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross. Miss Rutland was a longtime resident of Covington.

Text from the above article:


Miss Lucile Rutland, contributor of poetry, essays and editorials to  many publications including The Picayune and the New Orleans States, died Sunday morning at her home in Covington after an illness of several years, according to information received here. She was 71 years old.

Widely- known among literary figures of the United States, she wrote for numerous magazines and  newspapers. She included among  her acquaintances Edwin Markham, the poet; Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross and Harriet Ware, who dedicated several songs to her.

Born in Colfax, Miss Rutland was the daughter of the late Judge William Robert Rutland and Caroline Carter Rutland. The family lived for a number of years in Baton Rouge.

Contributed To Column

Educated at Judson College, she began her writing career as a young woman. She was a frequent contributor more than 25 years ago to a weekly poetry and essay column conducted by The Times Picayune.
Inheriting an interest in politics from her father, she also wrote editorials for New Orleans newspapers on political subjects. Until a decade ago she wrote a weekly editorial of a religious nature for the New Orleans States.

Kept Covington Home 

Her friends In New Orleans, where she lived at intervals during the past 10  or 12 years, included many in literary and university circles. Her residence in Covington had been maintained for more than 30 years. During the last period that she lived in New Orleans, about 10 years ago, she was hostess at the St. Charles Hotel.

Click on the articles to make them larger and more readable.

Her poems were published in local newspapers

In 1899 she published a four-act play about Lafitte

In 1906, she published a one-act play called "Light O Love," which has been deemed a classic and has been reprinted several times. 

Her poems were printed in newspapers across the country
This one is from the Arizona Republican, June 6, 1911

Other well-known writers and artists visited her often. 
Click on the images to make them larger.

Her poems often appeared in Lippincott's Magazine

In 1915 she was involved in the local Suffrage movement

She worked for a while for the Baton Rouge Advocate as well
as for the "prominent Sunday edition" of a Boston newspaper

Her poems appeared everywhere and were often reprinted

A Lucile Rutland short story that appeared in a San Francisco newspaper

Not only was she an author and a poet, but she put her scientific mind to the chemical make up of paper and came up with an interesting alternative way of making it. Sometimes we take paper for granted, but today's paper is the result of years of experimentation. 

Miss Rutland was commended  for formulating a new kind of paper, one that excelled in the properties that people need paper to possess. That paper was made from water hyacinth.

Her recipe for paper impressed a lot of people, especially since it used water hyacinth. That plant grows faster than pine pulpwood, thus enabling it to replenish faster than pine forests cut down for paper. Dr. W. L. Stevenson noted her accomplishment in a letter to the St. Tammany Farmer in 1938. 

Samples of her poetry


Friday, January 13, 2023

New Restaurant Next To Star

 The Tavi Restaurant in the 300 block of North New Hampshire St. in Covington has opened. It is located between the Star Theater and the old courthouse. An attorney's office and barber shop used to occupy the building, but it was recently extensively renovated. 

According to their website: "Tavi is an Israeli restaurant serving made-to-order pita from a wood-fired oven, elaborately finished hummus plates, and small and large plates drawing from the same modern Israeli inspiration as its sister restaurant, Shaya. The name Tavi is inspired by the Hebrew word meaning “good or beloved” and that’s what Tavi aims to deliver to the Covington community. Executive Chef Fariz Choumali leads the kitchen and brings his Lebanese Roots to life through staples from the Shaya menu plus new dishes. The menu will highlight an array of small plates, hummus, sandwiches, and slow-roasted meats."

Here are some photographs and the menu. 

The Tavi Restaurant

Click on the images to make them larger. 

See also:

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Sanders Writes Special Apollo/Saturn V Book

 Many St. Tammany residents were involved in the engineering and building of the rockets and other hardware used in the Apollo-Saturn V moon program. Their hard work and technical expertise helped make it possible.

One of the ways we know this is because of a book written by Herbert C. Sanders, a Boeing Company employee. He put together not just any book, but one heck of a book, a book that was specially printed and bound, and then delivered to the nation's tops archives and libraries for eternal preservation. It was distributed as a limited edition of  only 1,817 copies. Here is the story of that book, and the people who brought it all together. 

From the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper, May 6, 1971:

Click on the above picture to make it larger. 

Local Man Compiles History of Apollo/Saturn V For Posterity

Herbert C. Sanders, Tchefuncta Club Estates resident and motivational manager for The Boeing Company, presented an unusual book to the nation's archives recently. The book, "The Apollo-Saturn V Roll of Honor," is a history of the company's role in making the moon landing possible and it honors over 5,000 employees' whose workmanship made significant contributions toward that goal.

Many of the employees are residents of St. Tammany and surrounding parishes who, due to this book, will now always be remembered in history.

Special presentation copies were received by the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress and The Kress Library at Harvard University, and by Gov. Askew of Florida and his cabinet.

History As It Happened

The book was conceived by Sanders almost four years ago and was compiled under his direction. There are two unusual features in The Apollo-Saturn V Roll of Honor which, as far as is known, have not been done before in combination. First, history is normally written long after the event and by those disassociated with it. In this case, a history was written at the time and by those directly involved.

Second, those few privileged to have had a leading role in an event are given a place in history while the rank and file are forgotten. Not so here.--The job assignment itself was of no concern in selecting names to be entered into the volume. 

Because of this the book is of particular interest to the Kress Library at Harvard, which is a collection of rare books dedicated to the preservation of manuscripts pertaining to the history of business and development of economic theory throughout the ages. This is one of three such collections in the world. The Library of Congress will also keep its copy in the rare book selection.

The presentation to Gov. Askew and his Cabinet took place March 9. The State of Florida plans to build a monument commemorating the moon flights and "The Apollo-Saturn V Roll of Honor" encased in an inconel metal shell will be placed within it so that years from now, it can be known how this momentous step was 
Inconel is a rare and highly non-corrosive metal provided by Huntington Alloys, a division of International Nickel. Until completion of the monument, the book will be on display in the capitol building at Tallahassee.

Special Long-lasting Paper Used

With this in mind, the Cotton Fiber Manufacturers created a special paper which will last 1,000 years and all presentation copies of the book are printed on it.

The morning of April 14, Sanders had the pleasure. of presenting his book to the former astronaut and long standing acquaintance, Mike Collins. Collins was one of the three man crew of Apollo 11 which made the first moon landing. He was recently appointed director of The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

The Library of Congress received their special presentation copy from Sanders April 14 in the Woodrow Wilson Room. The following day he flew to Cambridge, Mass. to take part in the ceremony in the Baker Library at Harvard.

The book is not for public sale, but copies are being presented to the states of Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, The City of New Orleans, and to selected dignitaries. Requests for copies have come from such unlikely places as Nigeria.

In his presentation speech, Sanders gave as his purpose for writing the book, " give earned recognition to outstanding Boeing employees, employees who participated in the Apollo program. Considering the historical significance of the Apollo mission and knowing that men of many ages yet unborn will be fascinated by this daring adventure, no better recognition could be given to these employees than to make their names famous in the after ages."

In his speech he also expressed, "the sincere gratitude of The Boeing Company to the thousands of people whose names are here preserved, for they gave freely of their time, skills, and energy to make possible mankind's greatest expedition--that of sending three men to the moon and returning them safely to earth."

History's Focus

He went on to say, "An examination of history points out the fact that immediately  after many great adventures, there was a period of relative calm. And then, many years later discovery or adventure was more thoroughly understood. This understanding paved the way for greater things. A period of inactivity in exploiting the achievements of Apollo may be starting now because it, too, is not fully understood. But time has a way of changing things, or, put another way, through time new truths are unveiled about a single event.

"There may be a considerable time lapse before the true meaning of Apollo is grasped by mankind. In this deteriorate, to be thrown away, lost or destroyed. To counter this tendency an effort was undertaken to document the significant contributions made by The Boeing Co. and the outstanding participants therein relative to the Apollo program. 

"These hallowed national archives are a most fitting place to preserve for future ages this story of a magnificent human endeavor."

Of special interest is the quality of material in the presentation copies. Sanders explained, "The content of the paper which makes up this book is unique. The
Cotton Fiber Paper Manufacturers created a paper produced from 100 per cent new rag cuttings with a minimum amount of chemical materials. In this respect, it is virtually identical with the handmade papers of olden times, which have endured for many centuries in such usages as the Gutenberg Bible, the first folio edition of Shakespeare, the drawings of master artists of the Rennaisance, and in an endless array of historic documents, public records and proclamations of state.

Local Bookbinders

These volumes were bound by the Salesian Brothers in New Orleans. The covering is of goat skin. The gold lettering was hand tooled. The emblems are Bodoni inlay-gold suspended in a clear enamel."

The Roll of Honor book contains over 340 pages 11 x 14 inches in size, approximately 900,000 words, and is divided into three sections.

Revealing the Organizational Complexity

Section I depicts the story of The Boeing Company contribution from an organizational point of view. This section is divided according to geographical
locations--New Orleans, Huntsville, Ala.; Houston, Tex.; Washington, D.C.; and Cape Kennedy, Fla. Each of these divisions contain many functional organizations which are divided into smaller elements. It would be very difficult for future generations to understand how all these constantly changing organizational elements worked together to create and launch such a large and powerful rocket were it not for this book.

Section II contains the names of over 5,000 employees with an individual description of their contribution, place of birth, social security number, and a reference to the organization depicted in Section I, of which he was a part.

Over 4,000 associate contractors through the United States supplied many vital parts and services necessary for The Boeing Company to meet its obligation. Of these, 282 have been honored in Section II.

Section III of the book is an alphabetized index or locater . This section is designed to enable the reader to quickly find an employee's name in Section II.

Photos Included

The book is filled with pictures covering most aspects of life and work as it existed during the time of Apollo's construction. Sanders, a native Southerner, was born and reared in Amite, where his is an old and well-known family name. He finished public schools there and attended Southeastern at Hammond a year before entering the University of Mississippi, where he received a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering.

He entered the US Army in 1941 as a second lieutenant 
and was honorably discharged in 1946 with rank of captain. He joined The Boeing Co. in Seattle, Wash. in 1954 and was transferred to the New Orleans operation in 1962, where he serves as motivation manager, heads the department on utilization of new technology and is chief of the cost reduction department.

End of Apollo Book article

The front cover of the book

Some inside pages

The distribution notation

Sanders gave community talks on the moonshot connections, including programs where tickets were sold to benefit the St. Tammany Humane Society

A Saturn V launch 

Sanders went on to provide a variety of surveying and civil engineering services

Herbert Carl Sanders died on Monday, May 16, 2011, at the age of 92 in Bellevue, WA.  According to his obituary, he was born and raised in Amite, LA, attained Eagle Scout as a teenager, graduated from Ole' Miss in 1941 with a degree in Engineering and many fond memories of playing in the band there. 

"A member of the ROTC, he went on to become a Captain in the US Army Quartermaster Gas Supply Company while serving in WWII. He spent many years in Washington State as an employee of the Boeing Company. While with the Boeing Company, he was instrumental in the Apollo/ Saturn V Roll of Honor. 

"As a Civil Engineer, Herb worked for the Port of New Orleans as well as having his own business as a land surveyor in Covington, LA where he lived in the Tchefuncta Club Estates. "