Smiley: Shrinking mileage

My mention of creative practical jokes reminds Carl Spillman of this story, “told to me by a Boudreaux, so I know it’s true:

“Back when the small, high-miles-per-gallon cars came out, there was a guy at the Exxon refinery who bought one.

“He would not shut up about what great mileage he got, so his fellow workers finally decided to take a little action.

“They started adding a tad of gas to his tank every night. The guy’s mileage numbers went up, and so did his stories about his great mileage.

“Then they slowed down on the adding, and finally stopped. The guy got quieter.

“Then they starting removing a tad of gas from his tank. The guy got very quiet.

“I don’t know how the story ended, but I do remember the guy gave the dealer who sold him the car a really rough time.”

Ryan and Harding

Former Baton Rougean Nita Johnson, now in Gainesville, Texas, says, “While reminiscing about how some of Baton Rouge’s places got their names, I was asked a question I cannot answer.”

She wants to know how Ryan Field at Baton Rouge Metro Airport got its name.

Baton Rouge’s airport name was changed from Harding Field to Ryan Airport in 1954, not long after the death of Capt. William Joseph Ryan, a pioneer in Baton Rouge aviation and an Airport Commission member.

He was captain of Standard Oil’s port at Baton Rouge, and retired as captain of the company’s Gulf Coast ports.

He flew for the first time in 1915, and got his pilot’s license in 1932. He was active in training young pilots and organizing the Civil Air Patrol.

And he was involved in the development of Harding Field, which opened for commercial aviation in 1948 after being a military air base during World War II.

By the way, Harding Field was named for the military pilot Lt. William Wadley Harding, a Shreveport native who died when his PB-2 pursuit plane burst into flames during Second Army maneuvers over Michigan in 1936.

He stayed in his plane trying to save the life of his mechanic, who had passed out.

Both bailed out of the diving plane, but their parachutes did not open in time and they died.

Dancing for a Cause

That’s the name of The ARC of East Ascension’s annual fundraiser, to help folks with disabilities and their families.

It’s Saturday in the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the show at 7 p.m.

There will be 12 local celebrities dancing with professional dancers, before a distinguished panel of judges. And me.

The emcees are Donald Songy and Latangela Sherman, and the honorary chairman is District Attorney Ricky Babin.

Call (225) 621-2000. Online voting can be done at

I can’t say I know the dancers, except for State Fire Marshall Butch Browning. I see him every so often, because several family members are active or retired firefighters and/or fire chiefs.

Butch is going to do the cha-cha.

I would WALK to Gonzales to see Butch Browning cha-cha.

Northern exposure

Winston Vass asks if I can mention the North of Choctaw Reunion Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium.

He says, “I know you had it in your column earlier, but you know how these old people’s memories are.”

(No, Winston, how ARE they?)

Special People Dept.

Lena Guerin, formerly of New Roads, now at Rosewood Assisted Living, in Lafayette, celebrates her 97th birthday Wednesday.

Elaine Ventress Johnson celebrates her 92nd birthday Wednesday.

Glynn “Buddy” and Ann Riffel celebrate their 65th anniversary Wednesday.

One slight problem

“I asked my son how his final exam questions were,” says Marvin Borgmeyer:

“He said they were easy — but he had trouble with the answers.”

Raised on rays

Marsha Reichle, like other readers, recalls the “magical fluoroscope machines” at shoe stores when she was a kid:

“We stood there wiggling our toes while our mother and the clerk stood above the screen and discussed the fit.

“And then the machines were gone. No discussion, no warning, no explanation. Maybe our parents knew but they didn’t share that information with us. We were left to wonder.”

Marsha has a theory about all that exposure to X-rays:

“It certainly explains how weird our children turned out.”

In the beginning

Elonda Grees says, “At granddaughter Dallas Hollingsworth’s fifth birthday, I said I could not believe she was 5: ‘That is pretty old.’

“She said, ‘Yes ma’am, you start at 1 and count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.’

“Then she looked up at me and said, ‘Nana, how old are you?’

“I said ‘52.’

“She thought about that for a minute, then said, ‘Did you start at 1?’ ”

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