Smiley: A column is born

Back in 1979 a gruff old Advocate editor looked out across the newsroom, saw a cub reporter pounding out a story on a battered old Underwood typewriter, and yelled, “Come over here, kid!”

When the industrious youngster approached his desk, eager for his next assignment, the editor, chewing on his unlit cigar, said, “Lad, I like your style. We want you to start an items column. It’ll run six days a week, and if we’re lucky it’ll be mostly written by our readers. You want the job?”

“Golly gee, I sure do, sir!” cried the youthful reporter. “And I’ll really try to do a whiz-bang job for you!”

“OK,” said the editor, adjusting his green eye shade. “All you have to do is put a lot of names in it, give some credit to nice people and worthy causes, let people tell cute grandkid stories, get nostalgic about old places that aren’t around anymore, and maybe throw in some bad jokes.

“Start it June 4, and we’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t work you can go back to doing, uh, whatever it was you’ve been doing …”

As you might have guessed, that starry-eyed cub was me, and those readers who have written the column for 34 years are you.

Thanks for your contributions, which inform, amuse and often touch me.

Most importantly, they keep me from having to go back to doing, uh, whatever it was I doing before …

Upper crust

Alex “Sonny” Chapman, of Ville Platte, says the Runza meat pies from Nebraska we’ve been discussing (in hopes that LSU baseball players and fans will get to Omaha to try them) do sound tasty:

“They sound like a Natchitoches meat pie with cabbage. I heard that Germans/Russians put cabbage in all their meals, kinda like we try to put rice in all of ours in south Louisiana.”

Cut that mustard!

Dr. Bill Smith says our home remedy seminar wouldn’t be complete without mention of mustard plasters:

“A mustard plaster is made by mixing mustard seed powder, flour and water to make a paste. The paste is spread over a piece of soft fabric such as flannel or a towel, and covered with the same fabric to make a poultice.

“The poultice was used to treat colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia or other respiratory problems as well as other ailments.

“It was placed on the problem area, usually the chest, covered with a blanket and left on for a short time, to prevent skin inflammation.”

Which reminds me

When I was a very young child in Natchez, Miss., we lived in the home of my grandmother, Camille DeMarco, who appointed herself guardian of my health.

At the least sign of the sniffles or coughing, she would put me to bed, rub down my chest with Vick’s Salve, then cover my chest with a hot towel.

She would follow this with a small dose of bourbon (she kept a bottle on hand for this purpose only) in hot water with lemon juice and a little sugar.

I recall having a great many colds during my Natchez years …

Museum by night

On Saturday “Night at the Louisiana Museum: Year of Louisiana Music” will be hosted by the Louisiana State Museum Friends from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The fundraiser features Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, the Michael Foster Project, a silent auction, food by Heirloom Cuisine, and a guest appearance by one of your favorite columnists.

Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door, and $35 for members of the Friends. Visit or call (225) 763-1096.

Looking for stuff

Pam Rice, engaged in a project to catalog cemeteries, is looking for one mentioned in a 1960s edition of The Louisiana Genealogical Register:

“Called the 105 Mile Spur Cemetery, it has 10 to 12 graves.

“We know who is buried there, just not the location. I’ve come to the conclusion that 105 miles measures the railroad miles from New Orleans.

“Does anyone know the location of the cemetery, or how I can calculate on the now-defunct railroad tracks where the 105-mile point would be?

“I was told that the railroad had spurs that backed into farmland all along the tracks.”

Pam’s at

Special People Dept.

Cloty Carlisle celebrated her 95th birthday Monday.

E.J. and Tracie Dugas celebrate 52 years of marriage Tuesday.

Not Cajun enough?

After I bestowed the title of Honorary Cajun on Francisco Lomas in the Saturday column, I received two “nay” votes.

Rhonda Wagoner, of Lutcher, is concerned that Francisco said he ‘shucked’ crawfish:

“You can’t ‘shuck’ crawfish! You peel ‘em. The only shucking we do around here is to corn on the cob. Take his title back!”

And Mike Eldred, of Tylertown, Miss., says, “I just can’t confer Cajun status on Francisco until he is able to look at a field of rice and tell me how much gravy to make.”

Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.