Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I had never seen nor really heard of such a strange house that could be moved on wheels to a different town, or even state, until my first glimpse of one in a magazine Mama had picked up. She and I thought they were cool and wanted to see one up close, inside and out, hoping we could one day. Daddy was now a politician, elected to the Louisiana state house of representatives and traveling back and forth to Baton Rouge. Our family was experiencing a new life style. Mama would often spend days with him at the Heidelberg hotel while we free ranged around the farm with Annabelle in charge. Annabelle lived in a shot gun, with her family, next to our barn. She was as much a part of our family as anybody and well trusted to take care of the four of us. We were as comfortable in her home as her children were in ours.
Occasionally, mama would allow one of us to travel with her while the rest stayed home. I remember, vividly, one occasion in 1953, when I was 10 years old. I got to see a whole parking lot full of these motor homes.
The history of travel trailers dates back to the beginning of cars and motorized travel on highways, but not until the early 1950's were they being marketed as an inexpensive form of housing. People were still recovering their lives after World War II and were reluctant to spend large sums of money so the trailers were described as an option to renting apartments; a cheaper form of housing. They were rectangular in shape and only eight feet wide. Not until around 1956 did they become 10 feet wide. They were an alternative to site-built homes the ads would say.
Mama and I had gone to Baton Rouge and settled in our second home, the Heidelberg hotel.

 The hotel was built in 1927 and was a favorite haunt of Governor Huey Long who stayed there in the 30's when he was overseeing the construction of the state capital building, four blocks from the hotel. The hotel had an underground passageway that led to the hotel across the street where Huey would meet his flamboyant mistress. During the 50's this hotel was THE place for politicians to stay and so we did. While Mama attended sessions at the capital or luncheons with politicians' wives, I would roam around the hotel with legislator children spending time at the pool on the third story roof overlooking the Mississippi river, or roaming through the underground passageway to the hotel across the street, unaware of the history of this underground tunnel, but fascinated that I could come out in the lobby of the King hotel across the street. It was just a great way to play with friends. When we tired of this game we would play ball or hide and seek on the capital grounds or climb on the statue of Huey Long, gazing toward the capital, when guards weren't watching. 

One day, while playing around the statue, my friend said his daddy was buying a house trailer and they would bring it to Baton Rouge, staying near the LSU campus, instead of at the Heidelberg, to save money. Not to be outdone, I told him that I already knew all about those trailers and how my mama and I had already seen one and were thinking of buying one, too, and keeping it near LSU. This was partly true. We had seen some at a dealership in Baton Rouge and Mama and I had planned to visit the lot on the way home.

One afternoon, Mama decided we should visit the trailer lot posing as millionaires and have fun with our little adventure. She had me dress up in my Sunday clothes, a suit and bow tie, while she dressed in a pink shirtwaist dress, pill box hat with a short veil, gloves and chinchilla stole. We had a Buick station wagon at the time and it probably didn't look like the fanciest car, but we didn't care. Off we went to the trailer dealership, laughing and practicing our story. Our adventure had began. Mama concocted a story of being a state representative's wife and a distant cousin of Huey Long and that we were interested in purchasing several trailers ourselves for our family to stay in for home games at LSU. The man practically fell over himself showing us the finest trailers on the lot. Mother inspected the insides with a fine tooth comb, swiping her gloves over surfaces, lifting mattresses, checking out all the cupboards, inspecting every inch of this new house on wheels while talking non stop in a snobby attitude of a voice. She carefully wrote down every detail concerning prices and handed me several brochures to chose the kind I wanted, explaining that we would be back the next week or two to purchase three trailers to be delivered to our land near the college campus. This salesman must have thought he had a great deal going with his new venture in trailer sales.
Suddenly mama straightened herself , abruptly thanked him for all the information and the tour while ushering me quickly toward the car. While driving back to the Heidelberg, Mama said with a wink, “Now wasn't that better than just going to look at those old trailers, like ordinary people?” Of course, I couldn't wait to tell my friends of my great adventure.

Ironically, years later when daddy became a state senator he did buy a house trailer and keep it near LSU. It was convenient to stay in after home games and not fight the crowd heading back to Alexandria.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Ah, Fall. What a glorious season it is. A season where our senses awake from the dull heat of summer. On cool, crisp mornings our breath seems to hover around us like a misty, early morning fog as we breathe in the freshness of the earth. In fall, people are friendlier, happier, less sluggish here in the south. We actually begin to enjoy the outdoors and move about with a new sense of purpose. We begin to prepare for the winter, like squirrels gathering nuts. The excitement of the arrival of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas puts a lighter step in our gait. We visit with neighbors, leaning against our rakes in front yards, catching up on families. Long walks in wooded areas are planned to see the changing leaves. Decorations are hauled from the attic or garage, dusted off and displayed with pride. 

Pumpkins and mums are placed on front steps with Indian corn and other fall squashes. 

Tables are covered with candles and fall leaves. Annual checkups for the heating system are arranged. Menus are planned for football gatherings, or block parties. 

Favorite quilts that grandmother, or a favorite aunt, lovingly made are brought out of storage and placed on beds while memories and stories are told and re-told.

As mornings become cooler, we switch our summer closets to winter ones but still hold on to those blue jean shorts and summer tee shirts. Fall here in the south, though exciting, is still unpredictable and the summer heat may still cling to the trees tenaciously, unwilling to accept change. Yet, we sense its arrival in the air and see the difference in the position of the sun and how it slows its early morning arrival and lingers longer in the evenings. We know it is coming and are more than willing to accept it with open arms.
Fall is the time to recharge, to connect again with nature, build stronger bonds with families, prepare jams and jellies and gather pecans. Fall is the time for carnivals, festivals, state and parish fairs.
Fall also means harvesting of crops.
In the 1950's my dad raised cotton for several years and October meant the crop was ready. We didn't have machines like today and relied on human labor to pick the cotton. Every morning he would drive his pick-up slowly through Samtown in the quarters, honking his horn asking for people willing to come pick cotton for the day.

All day long they would do back breaking work, work that wore fingers raw from the cotton bolls, without complaint.

 These were strong, prideful people, who were willing to work for extra money.

 One of these people left a lasting impression on me. Her name was Sweet, which was her name, not her disposition. She was as wide as she was tall, 4 feet, 9 inches. Her husband, Rufus, would snuggle up to her and with his wide, toothless grin, say, “Acres and acres and she's all mine.” Sweet would just smile and hit him hard over the head. Might be where he lost those teeth.
It was a Saturday and hot and humid for a fall day, with rains expected. Everyone was relieved when noon came. We piled into the truck and headed for Tommy's Grocery or the Tic Toc.

 Buying moon pies and R-ah C colas.

 Sweet wasn't there. Some worried that a rattler may have gotten her, but Rufus denied it, saying that she was so mean she would just bite that ole' rattlers head off and have it for lunch.. Everyone laughed.
At the end of the day everyone came in dragging their full bags of cotton, waiting for daddy to weigh each bag. Here came Sweet. Not only did she have a full bag of cotton but she also had a new born baby girl. No one even knew that she was pregnant, not even Sweet, she admitted. We named that baby Cotton.
After all the excitement and everyone had been paid and shuttled home I climbed in the wagon and stretched out on the clouds of cotton, with friends, and enjoyed the ride to the cotton gin under the brilliant stars. It was better than any hayride could ever be. Laughter surrounded us as we talked about Sweet and that baby being born in the cotton field, while burying ourselves or pummeling each other with cotton bolls.

*Note: the field  no longer exists but is now the grounds of Brame Junior High school. Cotton visited on occasion, with her mama, until she became a teenager. I have lost touch with Cotton Caulder and often wonder at this time of year about her.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.