Source: The Lutcher
(Editorís note: This memoir was written by Ms. Helen to share with members of her family, but we thought it would be interesting to others to see what life was like in Vacherie, just a few years ago.)
In early 1922, we left Valcour Aime Plantation (about a mile from Oak Alley) and came back to Vacherie to live in Mr. Jimmie Torresís house on the Front Lane (where Angelina Falgoustís house is today). At first, we occupied only the rooms on the west side of the house, and the dining room and kitchen in the back. We were ten people (Mama, Papa, Vie, Florence, May, Raymond, Bernice, Wood, Earl and me) living in only part of the house.
Two rooms on the east side of the house were closed off. Those rooms contained furniture that belonged to the previous tenant. The furniture had to be auctioned off because the previous tenant had no heirs (or possibly for some other reason I cannot remember now). When the auction took place, Papa bought the desk (which I am now using) and a hat rack. I donít know what happened to the hat rack. Earlier, Mama had gone visiting in the neighborhood and when she returned home, slipped her umbrella into that room and forgot about it. It got auctioned off as well. After the auction, we started using those extra rooms.
Tante Caliste (Falgoust) Torres and Tante Lydia (Falgoust) Becnel lived next door to us. They were Memere Polineís sisters. Rosamond Torres, who was living in Donaldsonvffle at that time, was Papaís first cousin and they were very good friends. When he came to visit his mother (Tante Caliste) next door, he often crossed over to talk with Papa. It seemed, however, that every few minutes his wife would come out on the front porch and call for him to come back. Young as I was at that time (6 years old), I thought, "Why canít she just leave him alone?" I realized later in life that she was simply possessive of him.
For Christmas that year, we hung our stockings on the mantel piece. On Christmas morning we had an apple or an orange and a couple of nickels in our stockings. We were very satisfied with this. I remember going with my siblings to Mr. Calís (Forestal Oubreís) store up the Front Lane from our house and buying some candy with our nickels.
We moved to Uncle Gusís house on the Back Lane (across from my current house) during the Christmas holidays of 1922. John was born on January 4, 1923, a week after we moved. When they were discussing what to name him, I remember Memere Poline teffing Papa, "Of all the boys you have, you did not name one for your father." So they named him "John" but not "John Chrysostome" like PťpŤre John, but "John Albert" instead. I think Chrysostome is a beautiful name, but maybe I would not have thought so back then.
So began our twelve years of residency in Uncle Gusís house. That is where we grew up. We all loved the place. I still do. When I look across the road today, I can still picture the house in my mind and see the children playing outside and the chickens in the yard. And what was extra good about it was that we were next door to Memere Reulet, None Tetin, None Jean, Aunt Marie, Nan, None Bertrand and Tante Menee.
We would visit them several times a day, often eating dinner or supper there. At Memereís, they would eat supper earlier than we did, so if there was something left over from supper, she would come on her back porch and show us the dish and we would know what it meant and would run to get it. There was no refrigeration to preserve food back then. It would be lost and we were happy to eat it. Memere was a very good cook. So was Mama.
We had cows. Mama milked the cows until Florence and May were big enough to do so. Then Raymond took over the milking chore. Then Wood, Earl, John, and Lewis each had their turns. The milk was boiled and put into individual cups for our supper. I did not milk cows until much later (after I was married).
None Tetin had a big garden with a lot of vegetables which was too much for them to use so we could have as much as we needed.
In the fall, he always produced a big crop of sweet potatoes. Just about every day in the fall and winter, Mama cooked an oven full of sweet potatoes. Since everyone had a cast-iron woodburning stove, the potatoes could be cooked while the dinner was cooking on top of the stove.
Memere Poline also always had sweet potatoes cooking during this time of year and always treated us. Since None Tetin had a lot of peach and fig trees, we also often enjoyed peaches and figs, both right off the trees and as preserves. It was very good living next to Papaís family.
During the summer of 1934, Papa heard about a house for sale near the old St. James High School in St. James. It was one of the houses built by the Burton Lumber Company while con-
ducting its lumbering operations in the swamps behind St. James.
The house had to be removed from its location. Because it was a very large house, it had to be dismantled and the lumber moved away. Papa bought the house for $275.00. Raymond, Wood and others did the job of taking it apart. The lumber was brought to Papaís land in Vacherie. He had bought two arpents of land from his mother a few years before. The land was part of the land she had inherited from her parents. We were very happy that we would now have our own house. None Bertrand, Raymond and a few other carpenters built the house in two and half months. We moved into the house on December 12, 1934.
This is the house that Marjorie now lives in. The house was built quickly because at that time, there was no wiring or little plumbing to be done. We used kerosene lamps for lighting. There was no electricity in Vacherie back then. Electricity came to Vacherie in 1937. Butane gas tanks became available in 1940. We bought a gas stove and heaters then. All things considered, our house was fairly modern for the times.
Helen Reulet Gravois 4/20/2002
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