“Muriel Humphrey was a charming lady, in addition to Lyndon Baines Johnson’s’ vice president’s wife. It was at the annual White House Christmas Party when we stood watching the white powder fall softly on the South Lawn. She spoke gently of the Minnesota winters’ snows from her childhood.”
So begins my memoirs.
As I wrote in TheTentacle.com Friday, growing up in New Orleans didn’t bring much sleet and ice into life of a tow-haired boy; my classmates were generally darker, of Italian and French ancestry. There were Latinos, mainly imported from Cuba, with other countries in the mix. Irish added. A couple of boys whose families came over from Yugoslavia to do commercial fishing as they had done in Eastern Europe.
We all attended Holy Cross College, in the French meaning of college: students who slept together in adjacent beds or rooms. After World War II, the state in the blue-eyed part decided they had enough of French – so began the high and middle school. It came after my graduation in 1945.
When I was still attending, Brother Melchior started the wrestling team, which won 25 years straight of the annual Louisiana championships; I went to the mat in the light-heavyweight class. We first met in the junior dormitory, where he was noted for roaming around at night, catching talkers when they were supposed to be sleeping. One evening, before midnight, a guy propelled a marble on the plastic carpet; we heard it when it descended on the wood floor. Somebody-in-the-know yelled “Mother, mother, pin a rose on me.” Immediately, the brother threw on the lights; he turned them off when no culprits were found.
Otherwise, he was a feared presence on campus: he could throw a desk and a boy three feet, somebody said four. The last years he taught German. I last saw him, when he was waiting to go to Indiana’s Notre Dame for retirement. He craftily let me know his nickname was “Brother Butch.” He died in South Bend.
It seems like all my friends have passed on: Bill Meachum, who was like a brother to me; Roger L. Stevens, who founded Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Arts; brother-in-law Davey Marlin Jones, and on the local level: Richard Lebherz.
This is the season to remember the dead, as well as the living. Ghosts gather around me for what will be my 86th Christmas. They consist first of family members: my great-grandparents Samuel Brignac and Idella Thompson; my grandfather Oren Morgan Dowdy and his son, who taught me how to whistle; and Cousins Sadie and Madie. My boarding house family, Aunt Kate, Uncle Pat and Uncle William. My radio-TV friends: Lloyd Dennis, John S. Hayes, Oren Swain, Jack Manchen, Joe Judge and Tom Jones. All gone, along with Pushkin the English pointer.
People I know have frequently heard from me: “There are many under the ground and few walking on top.”
My children, Thomas Moore, Roy Neal, Susan Lee and Michael Andrew, are still living and breathing; so do George and Bettie Delaplaine, John and Gaile Ashbury, the Covert boys, Oscar-Milvia and especially Jeffery, Pat Kelly and most of all, Goethe the Weimaraner, whose hazel eyes frequently stare at me – not all for food.
Thanks for those still living!