I will conclude my “Mission to Meridian” in my next column. Now, hopefully for your enjoyment and enhancement here’s a true story from my Cajun past as told to me by my Mother.
My dear Mom, Helen or “Elana” taught me songs to sing, brought me books to read, prayers to recite and the righteous path to travel. Being the imperfect human that I am, I failed her many times but she always forgave me. She lived to be 92. Having reached 90, I hope to get there.” God bless you Mom”, but I know that was pre-arranged for your arrival. One of her stories:
Every community had a “good old boy” network, usually saloon, store or restaurant proprietors and barbers who everyone knew and liked and who could tell you how to get from here to there, who slept in jail last night, whom to buy a used car from, and who was seen with … well, ALMOST everything.
Some of them … “Crip” Ledet, Victor Theriot, Joe Perrin, Beb Williams, Joe Callais, Emanuel Toups, Son Pitre and Philip George, among others.
My mom by age 14 had only seen movies on a showboat that would dock periodically.
Jefferson Rebstock built the first movie house in 1922 and she saw a movie there and vividly remembered. It was “Evangeline”, a silent movie with Dolores Del Rio, one of Hollywood’s top stars.
The story was based on Longfellow’s poem about the Cajuns’ “Grand Derangement” from Canada when Evangeline was separated from her Gabriel, almost reunited in Louisiana under the Evangeline oak, but it was never meant to be. There are three oak trees in Evangeline Parish which are claimed to be that “certain oak” and that Emmeline Labiche and Louis Arceneaux were the real-life heroes.
The narrative poem began “Here is the forest Primeval”.
The movie, like the poem was mostly fiction but it was a literary treasure and the movie was just great entertainment.
Mom remembered a young man standing by the screen, translating the titles as they appeared. Few people could read or speak English then. Even when talking movies came, he translated the movies to French so everybody could understand it. Everyone knew him well. His name was Marco Picciola.
Marco was born in 1898, received a business degree from Chenet Institute and in 1930 bought his father’s store. He married Viola Breaux in 1917 and they had four children, Joseph, Louella, Rodney, and Hewitt who died in infancy.
Marco became the first Postmaster and Fire Chief of Golden Meadow and his clubs, commissions, boards, honors and offices he held are too many to list here. He was also a notary public and his bills of sale alone could fill many cabinets, or gigabits today.
He became State Representation when Harvey Peltier was elected Senator in 1930 and served until 1948 when he retired.
Many books, pundits and newspaper articles claimed that he was one of the few politicians who entered and left office with a clean record but everybody who knew him already knew that.
Years ago, as Deputy Assessor, my job was to visit businesses so the owner could sign an inventory form. I always set aside an hour just to sit in his cluttered office and listen to his stories of politics and events of his life.
He knew I enjoyed them and he kept me enthralled the whole time.
I cast my first vote in 1952. I voted Eisenhower for president, Bob Kennon for governor and Dick Guidry for state representative (who won that seat by 17 votes), the office which Mr. Picciola had vacated in 1948.
Marco was a good legislator, husband, father, business man and community leader. He was the best-known citizen of Golden Meadow and I liked him. He died in 1978.
Remembering him reminds me of something the great sports writer Grantland Rice once wrote: “For when the one great scorer comes, to write against your name, He marks – not if you won or lost - but how you played the game”.
Marco Picciola played it well.
(Picture are of Mr. Picciola, the silent movie, a showboat and my dear Mom Helen through the years.)