Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sardine Point: Social Life

Cleanwood School was a small one-room school erected on land donated by Victorin Comeaux in 1893.  Grades 1 through 7 were taught.  The school room was divided by a movable partition.  There were two teachers- one whom taught grades 1 through 4 and another who taught grades 5 through 7.  Teachers who were employed at Cleanwood School from 1893 through 1932 were:  Anna Hebert, Irene Germany, Iona Dardenne, Leda Mellon, Miss Kirkland, Miss Gassie, Ruth Kornegay, Aline Foret, Roberta Hebert, Lewis Landry and Evelyn Vaughan.  

St. Francis Chapel was erected in 1888 on land donated by V.M. LeFebvre, who then owned Australia Plantation.  Father Eugene Royer, of St. John the Baptist Church in Brusly, celebrated 7 a.m. mass on the first Sunday of each month at St. Francis.  He said Mass, performed marriage rites, baptized infants and conducted funerals.  On the other three Sundays each month, Sardine Point parishioners came on horseback or by horse and buggy to St. John's in Brusly.  In 1927, a new chapel was built but was dismantled and moved to Brusly in 1932, where it served for catechism and a meeting hall for St. John the Baptist.  In addition to her teaching duties at Cleanwood School, Miss Anna Hebert taught catechism to the students.  There were no Protestant churches on the Point at that time.  

Traditional customs observed on the Point were similar to the norm for most communities during that era.  When a woman's husband died, she went into a period of mourning for approximately one year.  She was not allowed to attend public affairs, such as dances, until her period of mourning was over.  Pregnant women did not make appearances in public when their condition became obvious.  Young girls were not allowed to go on a "date".  If they went somewhere, it was with a chaperone, usually a sister or neighbor.  On Sundays, it was customary to walk along the levee and stop to visit with friends along the way.  Another custom, now forgotten, is the chivaree (or charivari)- a surprise "party" was given for newlyweds upon their return home after the wedding.  When the lights went out, people from the village would surround the house, banging pots, pans and whatever would make noise, until the groom exited and invited them in for coffee or a drink.  Once appeased, the villagers would leave the couple in peace.  Occasionally, a groom would become annoyed with the revelers and would come out firing a shotgun.  Usually the revelers would get the message but returned later to annoy the couple.  

Sundays were a special day on the Point, a time for family and friends to gather and enjoy each other's company.  They would often meet at someone's home for a time of dancing and eating.  Infrequently a band entertained the crowd.  In such instances, the school house was utilized.  Everyone, except the families in mourning, would attend.   The dances were usually limited to the 2-step or a waltz.  When the Tango was introduced, the residents were shocked!  It was not allowed on the Point.  Two favorite bands were the black bands of Toot Johnson and Claiborne Williams, very popular in 1910 and later.  They charged as much as $35.00 per night to play at the dances.  Often the dances were held in the big houses with the owners opening their ballrooms to white members of the public.  Romaine Fryoux's half-sister Emma and her husband, Uncle Willie Bourgoyne, had a band.  Uncle Willie played violin, Aunt Emma played guitar, a son played bass and two other children played additional instruments.  Some families had their own band for private entertainment.   In 1910, the arrival of a showboat in the area sparked the interest of the residents.  The arrival of the showboat was heralded by music, which could be heard long before the showboat was even seen.  Calliopes were playing, and soon everyone knew the showboat had arrived.  When the showboat docked, the showboat band paraded down the main street.  The attention they attracted peaked the interest of the people and soon everyone wanted to go to the showboat.  Admission was 5 cents and the show was worth every penny.  There was a vaudeville show, complete with comedians, dancing girls, bands, gambling for those who desired it and fun for everyone. Politcal gatherings were also popular on the Point.  After a political rally, a supper was served which usually consisted of gumbo and baked sweet potatoes.  Such a party was called a "hoo-shaw".    A great treat for the residents was a trip to Plaquemine to attend a movie.  Until the advent of automobiles on the Point, the trip was made by horse and buggy.  Another diversion was swimming.  There was an island in the river out from the Point and the people would row out to the island to swim.   Other common social activities on the Point included baseball, marbles, horseshoes, and playing card games such as bunco and lotto.  Mrs. Ella Comeaux Dupont recalled playing on the levee with small friends on sunny days and on rainy days she played paper dolls or helped with housework.  During recess at school, tag and hopscotch were favorite games.  

Sardine Point- A Lost Culture, Sue Fryoux Blanchard
West Baton Rouge Parish History, Joseph D. Chauvin DeCharleville
Chronicles of West Baton Rouge, Elizabeth Kellough and Leona Mayeux

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