For the second time, the prestigious Images of Modern America series has released a book devoted entirely to Lake Charles. This one, titled simply Lake Charles, was authored and collated by Jessica Hutchings.
Hutchings, a librarian at McNeese, was a co-author of the first Images volume on the city.
Hutchings makes the direction of her new book crystal clear with the title of her first chapter: “Mid-Century Lake Charles.” Don’t let that chapter title keep you from reading the vastly informative introduction, which includes many fascinating demographics from the pre-1950 era, and covers the city’s major historical developments, such as the creation of the deep water channel.
A strong feature of this book (which, like all Images of America books is primarily a slice-of-life photography book) is the series of downtown street scenes of the 1970s and before. These include shots of such long-gone landmarks as The Fair, Woolworth’s, Riff’s and The Majestic Hotel (as it was in the process of closing in 1964).
There are also a number of maps that were printed in years past.
The book will inform readers of some area figures from the mid-century era who are starting to be forgotten. There are, for instance, shots of Norma Tornabene (dean of women at McNeese in the 1970s), and Margaret Lowenthal, the first female legislator from Calcasieu Parish.
There’s also a shot of Joe Gray Taylor, long a professor of history at McNeese, and author of the informative, succinct and highly readable Louisiana: A History (published by W.W. Norton). It was only in Hutchings’ new book that I learned that Taylor was also a highly decorated member of the U.S. Army-Air Force in World War II, and that he wrote several books about the Air Force.
You can also learn from Hutchings that historical figure Voris King was a 33rd-degree Scottish Rite Mason.
Many historical details on education in Lake Charles during the mid 20th-century are provided in the captions of the photos of historical local schools.
As the author moves further from the mid-century there are, of course, photos of the effects of Hurricane Rita. I found especially interesting a McNeese photo of a fleet of National Guard vehicles parked in the College of Nursing lot.
Because the book goes right up to the present era, readers can learn about aspects of local culture they may not even know about yet, such as India Night, McNeese’s Crocodile Specialist Group Conference (at which attendees have the option of slicing a piece off a smoked alligator), the ReALLIEty Challenge (an obstacle course for runners) and the End of the Human Race race. A Daniel Castro shot of the Spring Art Walk somehow manages to portray in one image the sense of the crowd, the festival spirit and the obviously creative work of the artists.
There are also photos of popular, current area musicians Wendy Colonna, Lucinda Williams, Chester Daigle II, Paul Gonsoulin and Rusty Metoyer.
One of my two favorite shots in the book is of the old Rikenjaks bar — a photo that will be nostalgic for many. The text reminds readers that the best-known house microbrew was Old Hard Head.
The second favorite is an image of a lime green Pitt theater taken shortly before the building’s regrettable demolition.
Of course, I’ve only mentioned a few of the many dozen images in this book. It retails for $22.99. You’ll see it for sale around town. If you’d like to learn more about the book, visit arcadiapublishing.com.
Sweet Music Amidst The Noise
Everyone hates Public Broadcasting fundraisers, right? It’s almost agonizing to listen to the speech of an emcee who has nothing to talk about.
Still, this time around Louisiana Public TV will be broadcasting some worthwhile programs in an effort to rake in the bucks. I’ll mention the ones that seem especially interesting to me (which will pretty much be the ones about music).
Late on the night of Friday, March 6, LPB will air Justin Hayward: Spirits … Live. Hayward led the band the Moody Blues. I’ve always seen him as one of the few stand-out songwriters of the pre-Cobain era. The show should be especially interesting since it will feature cuts from Hayward’s new solo album. (It was news to me that he had one.)
Although it’s not really my kind of music, the sounds of Bobby Vinton, the Everly Brothers, Connie Francis and Ricky Nelson do represent a particular era well. You can hear these singers on My Yearbook 1960-1963, which will air Saturday, March 7 at 8 pm, March 8 at 10 pm and March 13 at 11 pm.
There will be two programs on the music of Muddy Waters. Guitarist Joe Bonamassa (who was good enough to open for B.B. King at the age of 12) will perform Waters’ music on Wednesday, March 11 at 7 pm and Saturday, March 14 at 9 pm. That second show will be followed by Soundstage: Blues Summit in Chicago—1974; in that one, you can hear Waters himself, as well as a large contingent of Chicago bluesmen.
The show 50 Years with Peter, Paul and Mary will air on Wednesday, March 11 at 8:30 pm and on Sunday, March 14 at 7 pm.
On Thursday, March 12 at 7 pm, you can hear Robert Plant, Dr. John, Jimmy Buffett, Elvis Costello, Cyndi Lauper, Trombone Shorty and Irma Thomas perform music of prolific New Orleans songwriter Allen Toussaint in the show A Tribute to Toussaint. That will be followed by Fats Domino: Walkin’ Back to New Orleans, which will broadcast what’s thought to be Domino’s final performance at Tipitina’s.
On Monday, March 16 at 9 pm, in the program Transatlantic Sessions, viewers can listen to James Taylor, who this writer feels was another of the handful of stand-out songwriters of the ’60s-’80s era.
Also performing on the show will be Allison Krause. I used to watch the teenage Krause perform every Thursday night at the now defunct jazz club Nature’s Table in Urbana, Ill. Even in the ’80s, those were SRO shows.
The LPB musical offerings will conclude on March 17 at 8 pm with American Creole: New Orleans Reunion, the story of New Orleans jazz musician and banjo virtuoso Don Vappie. The show will focus on the progress of Vappie’s life and career after his house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
So, if you can bear to listen to some talking and tear yourself away from The Bachelor, you stand to hear a lot of music, most of which is well above average.
How Can You Mend A Broken Debt?
ISIS must be a hell of a thing. Nobody knows what it is, but everybody knows what to do about it.
You could say exactly the same thing about Common Core. I never thought I’d live to see the day when parents researched educational curricula. But that day is here. Many Louisiana parents are now researching Common Core curriculum, and they’re saying pretty much the same thing Bayou folk say when they glimpse the Loup Garou: “What is that thing?”
One parent recently expressed anger that a developer of a Common Core test said that at least one question could have multiple answers. You can see how parents would get angry and young children would get confused. To any question in any situation, there are only two answers: the right one and the wrong one. What sort of education are we providing when we teach children otherwise?
One thing the Common Core controversy has accomplished is to take the edge off area rage against Obamacare. And that’s surprising when you consider how many hours how many people around here spent on hold, waiting to hear the voice of an Obamacare representative (and hoping that the news would be good).
Of course, we have yet to get into the matter of people being fined for not having health insurance. There are rumors that some in the area are getting notices of fines in excess of the $95 figure that’s always cited.
Part of me thinks that if Obama has figured out a way to make poor people pay a $95 fine, he might be able to make a dent in his $17 trillion debt. But another part of me thinks, “Is there really any way to make a dent in a $17 trillion debt?”
Don’t See A Doctor About Your HIPAA
When people talk about the federal government overreaching itself, they’re usually talking about things like Obama making the unilateral decision that he can declare amnesty to illegal immigrants or unilaterally declaring Congress out of session so that he can make political appointments.
I understood the concept of federal overreach. But I didn’t think it really applied to me personally.
Then I met HIPAA.
Even though it’s still the new year, I’ve had occasion to go to the doctor twice. And I’ve learned how many new forms the federal government expects everyday citizens to sign when they go see a doctor in 2015.
At one point, I’d signed so many I said I was going to have to take a seat if I was to continue. I think I signed one form that stated I was signing a form to verify that I was signing a form.
Eventually, I did so much writing, I started thinking I was at work. When it was finally over, I asked for my check. “Un huh,” said my nurse. “For this paperwork, you send a check. To the IRS.”
What a relief it is to discover at long last that all my tax money is paying for something.
And now to introduce a few new regular features to the column … Hope you enjoy them.
I remember … When the big truck full of canisters of Charlie’s Chips rolled around the neighborhood once a week … When I went to the fire station to pet the Dalmatian and get an 8 ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper for a dime … When I stood staring down in amazement at the big bin of plastic dinosaurs on sell for 50 cents each at Woolworth’s.
Question: What kind of doctor do you need to fix Obamacare?
Answer: A URLologist.
Temeratures are still wildly fluctuating, but soon one can be perfectly comfortable while wearing nothing more than a short sleeve shirt. With just a little concentration, we can always find something to be thankful for. Be thankful and God bless.