Category Archives: Louisiana writers & Literature

The American Destiny and the Dudley Leblanc Exhibit at the Acadian Museum

THE CURRET POSITION IS THAT THIS EVENT SCHEDULED FOR AUGUST 20 WILL BE POSTPONED UNTIL AUGUST 27 DUE TO FLOODS.

July 28 is the day set aside in the Queen’s Apology as a memorial day for the expulsion of the Acadians from their ancestral homeland in Acadie/Nova Scotia.  The person who on the Acadian side of these negotiations was most responsible for bringing about this date is Warren Perrin. He has recently set out his thoughts about this holiday in a letter to the editors at the Daily Iberian. You can see that letter here. But in part it says the following:

In 1990, I filed a petition seeking an apology for the Acadian Deportation. On Dec. 9, 2003, Queen Elizabeth II signed the Royal Proclamation acknowledging the wrongs committed against the Acadian people in the name of the Crown and establishing a Day of Commemoration on July 28 of each year.

Without in any way wanting to trivialize the weightier aspects of recognizing this annual commemoration for some of us I cannot help but think that the one of the most difficult things to admit in all of this is that it has already been more than a quarter of a century since Warren Perrin filed that lawsuit or petition. It has already been more than a decade since the Queen’s Apology was issued. Perrin is still involved in preserving and working to enhance the Acadian people, culture and legacy throughout the world. He concludes his letter to the editor as follows after the gallery of Acadian related images below:

The queen established July 28 as an annual Day of Commemoration of the “deaths and suffering of the Acadians” as a result of the Crown’s actions. On July 28, let us pause to remember our Acadian ancestors. Vivre l’Acadie!

 

In fact Vivre l’Acadie is a sentiment which still commands quite a bit of attention and in the Museum Warren Perrin is much involved in operating and has been much involved in founding that  legacy goes on with the  celebration, commemoration and examination of the life of Dudley Leblanc. This exhibit has also been part of my own daily activity for quite some time. This post is partly repetitive and partly contextual in that it seeks to take a closer look at an event which has been discussed on this blog before. On August 20, the Acadian Museum of Erath will celebrate its 25th anniversary by hosting its annual fundraiser and several special events, according to Andy Perrin chairman of the museum’s executive committee. This has been posted in this blog before.  At 5:00 PM at the museum, 203 South Broadway Street, Michèle Le Blanc, Sen. Dudley J. LeBlanc’s granddaughter, will sponsor the re-release of LeBlanc’s historic books The Acadian Miracle (1966) on its 50th anniversary of publication and The True Story of the Acadians (1926) on its 90th anniversary. Both of these books will be available for purchase, with part of the sales being donated to the museum. Both the museum and Dudley Leblanc have long been among my significant interests. But those interests have only recent led to a greater degree of  actual involvement directly with the institution. Trent Angers, whom I know fairly well and who has written on subjects related to the Acadians for many years is only one of the knowledgeable people who has been consulted in producing this project.

 

 

I had intended to be, or at least hoped to be enrolling at Louisiana State University Graduate School in a few weeks, I cannot say that the financial crises, legislature crises, police crises and civic crises which have wracked the State Capital this year have affected my plans or not. I tend to think they have not been a major factor compared to other things, I simply did not get off the waiting list to the active list.  Whatever the case may be as regards why I am not enrolling there it seems quite clear that my efforts to enroll there caused me to more or less bring my academic book Emerging Views to the near completion which is reasonable in a book not under publisher or agent contract. I have quite a few nearly complete books and have yet to publish one and probably never will.The last true  chapter after then end of  the numbered chapters and before the appendices opens with a picture of an oiled pelican from the current century but it could start with a picture of Zachary Richard. Perhaps that would be a more positive tone than I really wanted  to set in the draft or will ever set should the book come to press.  Trent Angers wrote a book about Dudley Lebalnc in which he sets the tone of his biography by describing the pattern of highs and lows which defined the man’s life and career. That is certainly accurate as far as it goes. But it is not how I define Dudley Leblanc. I think of his legacy in the Evangeline State Park and the State Park system itself in the pilgrimages that in many ways laid the foundation for the reunions that endure in the form of the Congres Mondial des Acadiens. I see his legacy in the cleaning up and modernization of the rice milling industry in Louisiana, in the tombstones marked with his emblem of TBA for his burial insurance firm. Film and photography are a particularly important part of the struggle for preserving the culture, language and identity of the Cajun people and Dudley Leblanc’s pictures of the Evangeline girls with various US presidents over various pilgrimages clearly set  a tone along with his participation in the design of the Evangeline State Park, his HADACOL images of such variety, they set a tone for this use of images in the cause of a culture. That has never stopped, in 2016, as I was on the waiting list for admission to  Louisiana State University’s Doctoral Program in History, Zachary Richard was named Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. And his work as a musician, poet and songwriter have been enormously impressive. However, he has always been connected with and aware of the camera and its role in communication, in communicating environmental concerns and  making people aware of any aspect of cultural development and structure. He has said that reading Dudley Leblanc’s book The Acadian Miracle had a real impact on his early coming to be the Zachary Richard we all know. That is true for quite a few people, less successful and acclaimed –like myself for example. The spirit of Dudley Leblanc is both humorous and very much a combative or fighting spirit. Yet he is also a man typified by steady hard work all his life. Work within a context of being misunderstoodby the larger society.

 

Film and photography form a set of focal points in many of our lives. Zachary Richard, Warren Perrin, Barry Ancelet, Trent Angers and Carl Brasseaux to name a few all know that the images tell much of our story and they are not without some debt to Dudley Leblanc in making that connection. One of the things that has come about in this exhibit being put together at the Acadian museum is the donation of the Corinne Broussard collection of memorabilia.  She was the Evangeline Girl who represented Baton Rouge Acadians on Dudley Leblanc’s first pilgrimage. She was part of his striking campaign of visual imagery and she has preserved a great deal of information from the journey donated to the museum by her heirs and enriching all aspects of the exhibit as well as achieving other goods. She connects us to what the memorial we celebrate or observe today meant to people of her time.  She frames for me the breadth of this exhibit and highlights this day ina unique way and that is recent and makes this year special.

The book  I was working on for my enrollment this fall seeks to set out to say something about the Acadian and Cajun experience which is particularly American.  It is neither boosterism nor anti-American but by contrast and comparison illuminates  number of communities which are not equal or similar in their treatment in the book in every way and in fact are dissimilar in many ways. Those communites interacted during the life and work of Dudley Leblanc and he is part of the story in the book and at the center of at least one chapter. The groups or communities highlighted are: the Acadians of Louisiana also known as Cajuns are  the most important to the text; The Documentarians also known as documentarists are a second community; The crew  and cast of the great Robert Flaherty and his exceptional wife Frances who made so much of a difference to the development of documentary film ( these people also overlap into all other communities and are a more intense community within this community of documentarians); another key group is the Standard-Humble Oil people form another community and that exists with the nebulous but very real oil and gas industry or Oilpatch or Oilfield as sometimes referred to when those words are capitalized and the last distinct group in my story is the McIlhenny family under various names and guises and with various annexes is another community in the text.

My own work on this project began in 1991 and I was not the only person in the area thinking about these topics at that time. Here is an excerpt of other work being done more or less at the same time. Almost no real coordination or communication occurred regarding these things. But the notice following this paragraph appeared in the Abbeville paper when I was researching and writing early drafts of this topic at LSU while earning my Masters degree. In Abbeville the memory of Louisiana Story has endured. It also is featured prominently inAngels of the Basin which is a film which deals with such current  crises and coastal erosion and such a recent event as Hurricane Katrina. So there are many reasons why not only film and photography but this film and these photographs have remained highly relevant to current discussions of film and photography.  The struggle for a full understanding of Cajun life and identity today must address these images. There is no way to ignore the role in shaping the image and identity of a people and a place without greatly limiting the understanding of how that place and people moved into the world of mass communications through film and photography. This seems to be an easier association than the connection with Dudley Leblanc for some people for Leblanc was flashy and a showman and took risks and his distant Kinsman Lionel Leblanc who plays the trapper La Tour in the Louisiana Story was a quiet man who had been a fur trapper all his life although he had become a kind of manger for the McIlhenny family fur operations. Dudley is somehow easy for people to want to minimize but I do not. He had his connections to the marshes and in fact was involved in a lawsuit with Aristide Broussard for the rights to trap lands which both the sate and Broussard —  a Cajun cattle baron claimed. Aristide Broussard is Warren Perrin’s ancestor.

When I was at LSU earning my masters and starting Emerging Views it was 1991, the year when  Abbeville added a new feature to its local architecture as the Abbey Players acquired their current theater building and set it up for business. It was also the year that I began graduate study in history. It was not long after that  Louisiana Story found its way into my research and their theater in different ways.

 

The cohesion of the community goes back to the way the film was dealt with by the paper and others at the time and does not seem to have diminished.  The names in this list are left in place partly so that the reader can remember seeing some family names earlier in the text and also be fairly sure of not having seen others. The original production in 1992 was about as big a dramatic and musical experience as Abbeville has ever seen. Few can equal or surpass it in a town that does have a good bit of music and drama. The ties of LeBlanc to the Louisiana Story are somewhat tenuous although I try to bring them out a bit I also point out how limited they were. That lack of connection is in a sense at the heart of my book. And the movie remains a great source of  inspiration for the

Eight years later after the rather extensive support that the original production of the Wade Russo work had received Abbeville celebrated the sesquicentennial of its founding ( that’s right 1850 after saying it is rooted in the 1840’s but the founding was based on act act late in the total process of founding — its incorporation — most of the work was done in the 1840s). Mayor Brady Broussard chose Russo’s musical revue as the centerpiece of the celebration and it was largely billed as a celebration of life in Abbeville in the 1940s. That may be fair enough but I think we have seen that the premiere was by no means a typical day and the issues and interests it brought to the fore were by no mens limited to Abbeville.  Louisiana Story has remained however part of the consciousness of this city and a mayor named broussard could appreciate that reality.

But however important the Standard Oil projects may have been they were not coming primarily out of this place. One of the most important image makers for receiving broad recognition from this area was George Rodrigue who with his Blue Dog phase crreated an international sensation for the latter part of his life. But there are those of us who remember his earlier Saga of the Acadians series as the work which really defined him. The Rodrigue family realizes that in cultural terms these images are important  the last link goes to his wife’s communication on the subject and they have lent the museum a digital image transfer on canvas of the piece Rodrigue did depicting Leblanc and companions in association with their return to Acadie in the historic pilgrimage. Rodriguehas left a great Acadian legacy and it deserves to be linked to both today’s date and the Leblanc exhibit. The legacy of both men and both families will be enhanced.

The years go on piling on new images and new perspectives that come into the world because of or merely at the same time as other images. The films being shown to the audiences that either do or do not go to theaters and movie houses to see these feature films  change. Many of them hardly have any life as true film and some none at all. Mostly they are streams and patterns of digital information created in processes which imitate the film-making processes and ventures of previous decades. The result is also intentionally filmic. But whatever their function they owe little to cellulose many may still come to be printed on this medium in the end but they are not crafted in the old rituals of silver, sweat, light and cellulose which defined this art and expression so intensely for a   few generations. Each artist and filmmaker and documentarian telling a story works in a new set of circumstances. The exhibit at the museum has real resource and space limits and the holiday today sets out a contrast with the historic Feast of the Assumption.  There are for those like me who see so much to preserve a very pressing set of limits on every effort to preserve what is being remembered. One of my goals in Emerging Views was to capture the moment of the technology as it was then and to show how it did and did not offer a bridge of communication to various parties in the process. How it allows us to see what was happening. The time invloved was in the time of Dudley Leblanc and the chapters of that book were the occasion of me becoming more involved with Warren Perrin, I sent him copies of each chapter and he was kind enough to associate me with this Leblanc exhibit. Like F. Wade Russo moving beyond his roots, the film industry has left film and the demands it made on men like Flaherty and Leacock and Webb somewhere in the past. It may be a past that is respected and valued but it is not the present. For me the use of film was a large part of my daily life for many years and now has been entirely replaced by the manipulation of the digital component of images. Dudley Leblanc was a historian and preservationist who lived and worked in the very most modern communications technology and systems he could possibly achieve. Things changed a lot all around him and to a remarkable degree he kept abreast of the changes — but he did suffer terrible challenges and many setbacks as well.

When I went to China I had a film camera which my sister Mary had given me and it saw a lot of use there. Some of the pictures I took and others I composed but had executed by third persons appeared in the second most popular periodical reporting mostly on Vermilion Parish. Bonnes Nouvelles, where I had written quite a bit, carried this article about my experience there and photographs connected readers and neighbors back home to those days spent in a far away land. It was not the first time I had appeared in the local newspaper.

I took a lot of pictures and yet not as many as I probably should have. The camera required a special film to allow it to take pictures in three various formats including a broad panoramic view. One can compare that to the increasing universality of the digital experience. I relied mostly on my chief contact and handler in the Board of Foreign Experts, Special Exchanges Office at the Shandong Institute of Business and Technology to procure the rare film. So even in the recent past film made it mark on lives such as mine and the experience of Flaherty and the documentarians in Acadiana was also shaped by any number of experiences based directly on real and tangible facts about film. Some film was ruined, some was delivered late, some was defective. These instances were kept at a minimum. Film management was the reason why. Daily rushes are one thing but today one can see the image on replay right away. There is less need for the kind of structure in community and functional team which existed in the lives of those photographers and filmmakers.

Today the kind of work they did could be done with less obtrusive organization because of the  ability to avoid the problems associated with film itself. This may allow all sort of records to be kept edited and erased which would be nice to have on a research project such as this has been. But it also lessens the chance of organizations which can be kept accountable in the same way. These people expected to be judged by history and while I applaud much of the work they did I also criticize it and find fault. That sense of doing work that endures in a group that is committed and documented is likely changing. Media companies abound in entertainment but the cohesion of the old studios is largely gone. That trend is likely to be more pronounced in work such as this.  Nothing stays the same and what lessons may be gained here are not lessons for those doing exactly this work because this exact work will never be done again. That perspective of struggling within the rigors of a set of resources and opportunities is so much at the heart of Leblanc’s life, at the heart of the Acadian Museum and at the heart of my own work.

The Leblanc family is releasing Leblanc’s works on this occasion and I salute that effort. Like the Rodrigue’s lending the painting it is an act of faith. Faith we must all affirm. Faith that members of the human species remain literate, curious, prosperous and sympathetic enough to give a damn about a narrative that does not immediately determine their own survival. Of course one may hope that either social pressure from the popularity of the book among a reader’s friends or real pressures on students assigned to read the text may help its popularity and boost its readership. Nonetheless most writers realize that the odds are long against their  book achieving either of those two particularly desirable benefits.  Sometimes that faith seems misplaced,  when one examines the circumstances in which one is writing and all the urgencies of any year including 2016 it may seem unlikely that one’s words will find their way to the last (or at least the current) descendants of Thucydides, the latter votives of Clio who will really find in themselves the energy to address a vision of the past and find in it some direction and insight as regards the present and the future.  Anyone who has read this up to now can see that in part it is a family history in any number of  ways, it is thereby equally prone to deeper insight and also more likely to be subject to  accumulating misinformation.   For me this exhibit, this memorial day and the book I was writing are all connected in a tying together of the past and the present and a hope for the future. For me the book was an effort to set forth a history one would hope would endure. Acadian history as I have known it, petroleum history and film history as subjects similar enough to my topic to matter may one or the other or all three  well be over within a generation or two. That is not mere baseless conjecture but in all three cases one can readily enough see signs that could portend the end of Cajuns and Acadians, the end of the oil and gas industry and the end of anything that could be called the film industry. I personally hope that none of these cessations will transpire and most of all that Acadians and Cajuns will be around for a long time to come. But perhaps history is most itself when it is written to preserve a story with as much depth, reality and fullness as possible  in every way that the historian can  preserve it. What is true of readers of a history text is also true of those who thoughtfully view and exhibit.

If this  relationship with readers is one in which a great deal is invested in an uncertain outcome then that is perhaps as it should be. The winners and losers of actual wars often will both read the histories of those wars but in all the small cultural struggles which occur across a society and across lifetime’s and generations there is involved in these times a struggle for relevance and readership.  In the minds of many writers there is a sense that simply in being read at all there is a dimension of victory, just knowing that people are aware of the exhibit and even more when they view it  — that does mean something. For those in an intense and broad struggle of ideas that are not very compatible being read seems to indicate that the writers side has won through, because the writer feels, his or her opponents are by and large through with  reading the sort of things the writer is producing.

 

Cajuns and other people in Acadiana were not extremely and broadly concerned about the SONJ documentary projects. Many people are not going to observe today or the Feast of the Assumption even with a mental note.  The thing about my book is that it remebers a moment when resources for preserving images of what was a cultural moment were abundant. They are not usually that abundant. But even in that moment most Cajuns were not interacting with those viewing and documenting there culture. That is one of the most definitive  realities that cannot be escaped as one researches the response to the documentarians and to Flaherty’s somewhat autonomous film crew within the Stryker SONJ organization. These creative and observant outsiders were the objects of gossip and newsgathering but they were not major objects of either. Largely, this is a story of a people caught up in a period defined by the end of a war they did not believe was going to lead to any certain and enduring peace.  As a whole the regional press was very concerned with rebuilding Germany and Japan, with the threat of Communism and with what would happen to the economy, The press also reported on the progress of the oil and gas industry in the region and the country, Movies also commanded some attention. But reporting on the SONJ projects as such was limited. Dudley Leblanc however, was very Cajun and very committed to preservation and he did get a lot of media attention at every level over his lifetime. I am proud of what he achieved.  He made a mark for himself and his people and never at the expense of his state or the United States. He was a great man and deserves to be remembered and studied as such.   He  lived through two Wold Wars and a Great Depression but then Dudley Leblanc kept on living. His time in the Cold War is no less significant to the arc of his life.    Historians and other scholars as well as journalists and just well informed people have commented on the anxieties of the Cold War. The fear of nuclear annihilation was certainly a feature of daily life for Americans and people across the world. However other anxieties were clearly abundant. In America, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, China and many other places lives were affected by the new and emerging world order after World War II through the lens of the nation states in which these people lived. The major powers in the world and certainly the United States were under significant pressure to change and conform to a new set of demands. The Cajuns in many ways had fully entered into an identity as an American community for the first time since the Civil War in the huge changes, trials and opportunities of the Second  World War and now there were to be many questions about what kind of America was emerging from that same experience. Clearly it was not to be an instance of joining the same society that had existed in 1940. In many ways the changes that had occurred had more risk and more opportunity for the Cajuns than for almost any other of their anxious Cold War fellow American citizens. One of the voices that assured the Cajuns in the journey into American identity was that of the French radio programs by Dudley Leblanc.  He was an optimistic voice in theses times. I once worked as a DJ at KASC which was the sister station to KROF where Dudley Leblanc finished his broadcast career. He could not solve all the problems the community he loved faced — but did he make a difference?

I think he was a big part of what made a difference. He saw a people moving into a period of anxiety but he did not exacerbate it nor did he flee into escapist nonsense. Yes, it remained for the Cajuns as for many Americans a period of anxiety. But it is nonetheless wrong to see this as a period primarily of anxiety and resentment. Cajuns were in general optimistic about the future of America. There was an increasing transition between calling those outside the community Americans and calling themselves Americans. This was a hugely significant transition and can be traced to more or less this very time in the history of the community for many rural families. So this was a complex time.

 

The complexity is hidden in the lack of significant events that marked the lives of most Cajuns who did not serve in the Korean War. Acadian history is not uneventful and this period contrasts with many others as not being so starkly distinguished by conflict and upheaval as many other periods in history.  There is no Grand Derangement, no War of American Independence, no War of  1812, no Civil War, no Reconstruction and the great turmoil of the Civil Rights Era  in the Deep South had not yet begun. It is pardonable and perhaps even  reasonable that many people would look at this era and see it as a peaceful, prosperous and optimistic time. Many people both within and outside the Cajun community more or less take that view of the 1950s as a happy, prosperous and optimistic time.Just after our period of 1953, in 1957 came the turmoil of hurricane Audrey, a terror to great to describe here. J.C. Boudreaux lost his first house to a hurricane in that storm and would lose another in hurricane Rita which came the same season as the more famous Katrina which was featured in Angels of the Basin. Robert Leblanc the Brigadier General whose life is a part of the framework of this story was at the forefront in fighting the horrors and devastation of the storm with the largely Cajun units he commanded in the National Guard.  But aside from hurricane Audrey in 1857 which comes after the close of my nearly finished book there were choices optimists led by Leblanc really helped to create. It is not simply delusion that many Cajuns take a positive view of the fifties and among those who take that view there is usually a fairly positive view of the oil and gas industry. It is not the intention of this text to see the region as merely an oil producing region. Many other forms of economic activity and employment survived. But for many Cajuns oil and gas related activity provided the main chance for a good future and survival in the present era.
I was not born until 1964. Therefore for me all of this period is in fact history outside of my personal set of recollections. But anyone my age cannot help but feel that this is a world much closer after Dudley Leblanc’s career was much  to the one we all know today than the one he came of age in was — he helped a people make the transition.   This story of Dudley Leblanc, like the story of my book or the story of the exhibit  ends not with some great conflict or transformation. It simply stops as the world is going on for a people still caught up in change, still living between the past and the future. In recent months, realted to the book as I said and now to the exhibit I have become much more involved in the Acadian Museum.  I am by no means as engaged as some and yet am quite involved in this worthy project and ongoing institution of the Acadian and Cajun people and culture. The museum and its work are by no means entirely new to me.

That's me with docent Casa Vice at the Acadian Museum several years ago

That’s me with docent Casa Vice at the Acadian Museum several years ago

However in recent months that latent involvement has increased. This means that instead of simply having some vague influence and being an avid observer there is now something that I can really say that  I am officially attached to going on there.

On the date  mentioned –August 20th — the museum will also induct Morgan LeBlanc, as representative of the LeBlanc family, into the Order of Living Legends and he will officially open the new Sen. Dudley J. LeBlanc Sr. permanent exhibit at the museum. The exhibition will contain over 100 historical photographs, articles, and objects—many displayed publicly for the first time—including the diary and scrapbook of Corinne Broussard, who in 1930 traveled by train to Grand Pré in Nova Scotia, Canada, with 22 other “Evangeline Girls,” to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Acadian Deportation. Some mention of this book and some images of it have appeared in this blog already but the quality of this material will be greatly superior in the exhibit.

This exhibit is supposed to then introduce the wonderful Corinne Broussard scrapbook which records in impressive detail what was the first of three trips by Cajuns to visit their ancestral homeland—all organized by LeBlanc in his life-long efforts to re-unite Acadians of Louisiana, Canada and France. LeBlanc, who lived in Erath until age 14, and much of his life in Abbeville was born on August 16, 1894.The primary contributors to the exhibit, which is  jointly curated by museum director Warren Perrin and a local historian known as Frank W.  Summers III, Sponsors and parner early on  were Robert Vincent, Winn Murphy and members of the LeBlanc family but donors and lenders of items and money have continued to emerge. That includes the largess of B.I. Moody – a prominent business leader in the region. These events will not be the end of the festivities but the start of them. there will be another ceremony in the great tradition of living legends. The total event will be one that will have meaning in memory for years to come.

At 6:30 PM in the Erath Community Center in City Park, the newly-appointed La. Commissioner of Conservation—and former La. Attorney General—Richard Ieyoub will be inducted into the Order of Living Legends. “I am really pleased to be honored by the Acadian Museum and look forward to again visiting my friends in Vermilion Parish,” Ieyoub said. Marilyn Melancon Trahan will have her student chorus sing French songs and several authors will be present to sell their books–Tom Angers, Josh Caffery, Michèle Le Blanc, Mary Perrin, Sheila Hebert Collins, and Nelwyn Hebert.

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Dudley Leblanc Exhibit at the Acadian Museum

On August 20, the Acadian Museum of Erath will celebrate its 25th anniversary by hosting its annual fundraiser and several special events, according to Andy Perrin chairman of the museum’s executive committee. At 5:00 PM at the museum, 203 South Broadway Street, Michèle Le Blanc, Sen. Dudley J. LeBlanc’s granddaughter, will sponsor the re-release of LeBlanc’s historic books The Acadian Miracle (1966) on its 50th anniversary of publication and The True Story of the Acadians (1926) on its 90th anniversary. Both of these books will be available for purchase, with part of the sales being donated to the museum. Both the museum and Dudley Leblanc have long been among my significant interests. But those interests have only recent led to a greater degree of  actual involvement directly with the institution.

 

 

In recent months I have become much more involved in the Acadian Museum.  I am by no means as engaged as some and yet am quite involved in thsi worthy project and ongoing institution of the Acadian and Cajun people and culture. The museum and its work are by no means entirely new to me.

That's me with docent Casa Vice at the Acadian Museum several years ago

That’s me with docent Casa Vice at the Acadian Museum several years ago

However in recent months that latent involvement has increased. This means that instead of simply having some vague influence and being an avid observer there is now something that I can really say that  I am officially attached to going on there.

On the date just mentioned in August  the museum will then induct Morgan LeBlanc, as representative of the LeBlanc family, into the Order of Living Legends and he will officially open the new Sen. Dudley J. LeBlanc Sr. permanent exhibit at the museum. The exhibition will contain over 100 historical photographs, articles, and objects—many displayed publicly for the first time—including the diary and scrapbook of Corinne Broussard, who in 1930 traveled by train to Grand Pré in Nova Scotia, Canada, with 22 other “Evangeline Girls,” to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Acadian Deportation. Some mention of this book and some images of it have appeared in this blog already but the quality of this material will be greatly superior in the exhibit.

This exhibit will introduce this wonderful scrapbook which records in impressive detail what was the first of three trips by Cajuns to visit their ancestral homeland—all organized by LeBlanc in his life-long efforts to re-unite Acadians of Louisiana, Canada and France. LeBlanc, who lived in Erath until age 14, and much of his life in Abbeville was born on August 16, 1894. There is a bit more to be said on the matter of his association with the Town of Erath, which just had its very splendid Fourth of July Festival this weekend  before these edited sentences joined this post.  The Abbeville Meridional, as cited in my book, Emerging Views (appearing in draft here on this blog) in chapter on Dudley Leblanc, considered DL an Erath man when he married his Abbeville bride. She was apparently  also received in some Erath residence after the honeymoon.  However the house in Abbeville that is usually considered their first residence together was nearly finished by the time of the wedding… They also seem to have spent some of that time in hotels…

I have no idea where that residence in Erath may have been and assume it was rented. He had lived in and out of the region in the course of his business and had branch offices in many states if not all states for one or another of his enterprises. Some of those would only have been a post office box, a salesman with a sideline of TBA and a pending trade style registration with some county…. So a residence before marriage was not a big priority… The primary contributors to the exhibit, which is  jointly curated by museum director Warren Perrin and a local historian known as Frank W.  Summers III, were Robert Vincent, Winn Murphy and members of the LeBlanc family.

 

These events will not be the end of the festivities but the start of them. there will be another ceremony in the great tradition of living legends. The total event will be one that will have meaning in memory for years to come.

At 6:30 PM in the Erath Community Center in City Park, the newly-appointed La. Commissioner of Conservation—and former La. Attorney General—Richard Ieyoub will be inducted into the Order of Living Legends. “I am really pleased to be honored by the Acadian Museum and look forward to again visiting my friends in Vermilion Parish,” Ieyoub said. Marilyn Melancon Trahan will have her student chorus sing French songs and several authors will be present to sell their books–Tom Angers, Josh Caffery, Michèle Le Blanc, Mary Perrin, Sheila Hebert Collins, and Nelwyn Hebert.

Emerging Views: Chapter Fourteen; A relatively Humble Standard

Standard Oil paid for the projects discussed in this book. This last numbered chapter in this book is about them and Humble Oil who worked closely with Louisiana Story. Hopefully it sets in context other references from across the text.  It is not long enough to do much more.   This chapter is out of sequence on my blog. The thirteenth numbered chapter will have to follow in time. But this is a chapter about the oil industry as well as about funding these pictures.   It is a chapter which is only a hint at the breadth of a topic that goes far beyond the book as a whole in many ways.

The Gulf of Mexico's oil reserves remain vital to our country's future.

The Gulf of Mexico’s oil reserves remain vital to our country’s future.

But despite controversy and complexity the relationships described in this chapter were never all good or all bad. Here a few topics are discussed  within the context of what might have meaning for this text and its readers.  Much more work could be done in a different book.

Here is the pdf form:EmergingViewsChapterFourteenARelativelyHumbleStandard

Here is the text itself such as it currently is:

Chapter Fourteen: A relatively Humble Standard

 

The title of this chapter plays with the meaning of the two capitalized names when one is used as an adjective and the other as a noun. Thus this chapter is about Standard Oil and Humble Oil and how in the years between 1943 and 1953 they created a norm for these projects which was tied into their overall management style and philosophy.  In contrast to their philosophical approach as it has appeared to other writers and to this writer at other times, this was humble standard of operating procedure. To a great degree oil was trying to fit into America’s energy coast (and yes was hoping to transform it — but–) they saw and others saw the operation of the energy sector in the region as one important set of activities among many. They aspired to lead as has been stated before,  but the leadership had a different flavor and texture than other times and places have sometimes been asked to consume. It was easier on the palate.

 

There is evidence of this in their dealings with Flaherty himself. Flaherty had known great triumphs and Nanook is still at least the equal of Louisiana Story by almost every measure. But he had known a variety of pressured manipulated projects where his work was compromised. Murnau had squeezed him out of directing their supposed collaboration, Tabu. The story one sees on screen was largely written by him and some of the locations and casting may be due to him as well as many other aspects of the fim. But great as the film is in its own right it was Murnau’s as a director and it is more accurate to give Flaherty half a dozen other credits on the film and not to list him as director. That was only his greatest and not his only disappointment in terms of feeling taken advantage of by those with whom he worked. Compared to much of his life’s work this was a his widow Frances later asserted — a princely commission. Princes are not often equated with humility but in fact the royalist ideal is of a gentler and more deft touch in rule than is typical of the tyrant or the dictator. Not to overstate the case this is a story about oil companies which behaved themselves. During the time and in the place which this text describes….

 

In Chapter Twelve it was remarked that Dudley Leblanc’s thirty-fourth birthday party was an occasion for him to receive a kind of tribute from people from a variety of industries but not the petroleum industry.  It is also true that we have discussed how the Broussard Brothers became a very successful firm and remains so today but its growth as a major named focus in the oil industry on the Attakapas Prairie has been a fairly slow process. The firm was located mostly in Chalmette at first and then has gradually assumed more prominence in the region. Only in recent years has it bought the prominent and fairly stately office building in a leafy neighborhood where it now holds sway.Chris Crusta Flying Services was operated by Danny Babin of the Gueydan area and by Chris Crusta of Abbeville. Both were pilots with distinguished military careers however, the firm which provided crop dusting services across the Parish  for many years also helped to launch the business career of one of the leading figures in the oilfield in Vermilion Parish and the Prairies.  Revis Sirmon was a French speaking native of the region whose family farmed rice and who married a Cajun girl, name Lorraine Breaux,  many of his closest friends were Cajuns. Yet Revis Sirmon was a distinctly non Cajun person with his own set of folklore and religious experiences shaping his life.  His close relationship with the wealthy rice-milling  Godchaux family was a relationship with a white Creole family. Possibly there both not being Cajun entirely formed a common part of their identity in the intensely Cajun region. Revis Sirmon flew fifty combat missions in Europe in World War II and loved to fly. However, after a few years of of the risks of agricultural aviation and with two small children to worry about leaving orphaned he was ready to spend more time on the ground. He went into the oilfield fluids business called the mud business with the backing of Frank Godchaux III. Revis Sirmon’s memoirs, Eternal Pilot, a book co-written with Joseph Chaillot  do a good job of charting his life in Acadiana and the tensions between Cajun identity and residence in Acadiana. They also provide a useful glimpse of his rise in the local oilfield world and its ties to world commerce and it also is true that the book like so much else describes many people whom I knew well although it also leaves out a great deal and a great number of people whom I know were involved in the events described.    But whatever angle on takes in viewing these things it is different than the take of a book like this one, the scholar has to bring something to the research as it is not the book’s purpose to address any or all of these questions directly.  Revis Sirmon was encouraged by the ethnically prominent Charles Broussard of the Flying J. Ranch to ask Edwin Edwards (who has always identified as Cajun) to appoint him to the Mineral Board, while in that position he raised the royalty payments made to the State for mineral leases. However, as an active commercial oilman he was disqualified from future service after seven fairly distinguished years on the board when new ethics rules defined his operations as a conflict of interest. He resigned rather than before the newly propounded rules would have formally disqualified him. My maternal grandfather was in business with Revis Sirmon in a company called Riptide Investors and in developing a port known as Freshwater City. However, almost all of this oilfield story is outside the scope of this book. Almost all but not quite all. It was in 1953, the very end of this period that the pilot known as the Scatterbrain Kid founded his mud company. This was just one more sign of the growing importance of the oilfield and related industries in the immediate region where Louisiana Story had been filmed.  

 

Humble Oil and Standard Oil lend their names to the chapter and especially the capitalization of the words Humble and Standard in its title. They have since merged but at the time of the focus of this study from 1943 to 1953 they were both relatively autonomous and certainly legally independent corporations and each had a distinct and significant role that they played in the production of these photographic projects and the film Louisiana Story. The two companies had national and global connections and so forth but both came from distinct regions in the United States outside of louisiana where they retained significant rootedness.  It is not easy to minimize the importance of the oil industry and of Standard Oil of New Jersey and Humble Oil in the production of these projects more than has been done here without leaving aside  a very significant part of the story indeed. The truth is that cramming what is left of the essential parts of that story into one chapter is not an entirely satisfying solution either.  But it is the solution which is achievable in this case.

 

GAS RECYCLING PLANT IS ASKED IN ERATH FIELD

Preliminary plans for the erection of a gas recycling plant estimated to cost $2,000,000 in the Erath oil field in Vermilion Parish though the unitization of approximately 3300 acres included in the productive area were discussed at a public hearing held here Monday by Conservation Commissioner Jos. L. McHugh and other members of the committee.

 

The notice which appears here set in perspective the money spent on Louisiana Story and on the larger photography project. Here there are two points and set of line from which to measure. One is to compare the cost of the film to what Flaherty had spent on other films and also to what Hollywood spent on a feature film. The other set of measures is that established by what the oil and gas industry were spending on other expenditures in the region.  That will come back into this chapter and has already appeared in the comments made in Abbeville and Vermilion Parish which appeared in Chapter Eleven of this text. The same little article lends us more insight.


The public hearing was adjourned Tuesday afternoon and will open until the presentation of additional information, it was announced by E. L. Gladney, Jr., attorney for the commission. Other members of the commission attending the hearing were H. N. Bell, director of the minerals division; John J. Huner, state geologist; and Percy Irwin Chief Petroleum Engineer.

 

We see the importance the newspaper attributes to this commission in giving details of various kinds including names. We see that there is an attorney, a director, a geologist and a petroleum engineer. We also  see that the Conservation Commission is a very well established and multifaceted bureaucracy.  Additionally the lack of even one distinctly Cajun name or any of the phrases that might be used if the people involved had close ties to large numbers of readers. Such a thing is not entirely determinative of their identity and connections to the place but it does indicate such a level of connections or the lack thereof. This reminds us that the local readership were informed participants but did not necessarily have a shared identity with the oil industry.

 


The operators owning about 85 percent of the leases located within the productive limits of the Erath field and who are seeking the orders from the commission to unitize the field include the Phillips Petroleum Company, the Texas Company, The Humble Oil and Refining Company and the Tidewater Associated Oil Company.

“We believe that the Erath field constitutes one of the greatest and most valuable reserves of gas-distillate and gas-condensates now known to exist in the entire mid-continent area,” declared Dan DeBaillon, Lafayette, attorney who represented the operators. “We can state frankly, with the firmest of convictions, that waste of a large percentage of these valuable resources is eminent, and inescapable, if this field be either unoperated. Wisely planned development and intelligent operation of this field as a unit, as distinguished from development and operation on a wasteful basis, will result in the recoveries of millions of barrels of distillate and condensate not otherwise recoverable and at the same time, billions of “cubic feet “of gas can be saved by returning the gas to the productive formations. This returned gas, by, helping to maintain the reservoir pressure, will itself greatly increase the ultimate recoveries of distillate and condensate and also will itself, as gas, have a value in dollars and cents estimated in terms of millions of dollars.

 

Here we see that Humble Oil which would interact closely with Standard Oil in pursuing the making of Louisiana Story was accustomed to interaction with other oil companies in unitization hearings, in other interactions with the Conservation Committee and in a variety of other circumstances. While they had a special relationship with Standard Oil the industry itself was to some degree a cohesive community which could pursue its community interests in ways not so disimilar from the way that the Cajuns and the documentarians also formed communitiescapable of pursuing community interests.

 

The article goes on at some length and its detail in some places is at least some real and fairly compelling evidence that the readers of the Meridional had a fairly sophisticated understanding of the oil industry at the start of the SONJ projects. It also shows the Vermilion Parish definitively had relationships with Humble Oil.

 

 

The oil industry was remaking the realities of the life in Acadiana during the years between 1943 and 1953. One of the purposes of this chapter will be to understand through the lense of the work done on Louisiana Story and the rest of the SONJ projects how the oil industry operates and what its culture was  as regard interacting with the people, local culture and the environment of Acadiana. Without going into great detail we will seek to understand as well to what degree the portrayal of the oil interests is a valid one — mostly in the film but also briefly revisiting their portrayal in the photographic projects. There are various levels of distrust for that portrayal which are possible and in this study we will at least be honest about what level of mistrust is at the foundation of our study. This is a book largely about perception and understanding. Here we take a further step back and ask ourselves how we ought to perceive  both the role of the oil company and industry that funded these projects and the wa way that historians, scholars in general and others have perceived those involvements up to now.

 

 

One real factor to remember in the midst of documenting and analyzing these projects and the people and places that they chose to document is that  Standard Oil was footing the bill. The relationship between Humble Oil and Standard oil was a complicated one and a complete understanding of that relationship is beyond the scope of this text. However one of the objectives of this chapter will be to create a basic framework of understanding for that relationship in its most basic configuration without much appreciation for  the nuances and  complexities of the full reality even where those different and varied complexities may have shaped and impacted the experiences of the production and organization of the SONJ photography project and the Flaherty unit that created Louisiana Story.

 

I was honored to sit with Mr. Sirmon for a year (2008) and gather his stories, organize them, and ghost write this book for him (as acknowledged in the Introduction). I will be glad to answer any questions I can about it … Joseph Chaillot ( josephchaillot@gmail.com

 

At this writing there are over 125 years of  ExxonMobil history and one can fairly trace the evolution of the company to many stories including that of Humble Oil as well as that of Mobil. But the main story is surely still that of Standard Oil which has evolved and developed  from a New Jersey based and largely regional distributor and  marketer of kerosene in the U.S. to the iconic symbol of an industry which is only overshadowed by state firms in a few countries and is the  largest publicly traded petroleum and petrochemical joint stock corporation in the world. The company in 1943 and in 1953 was closer to today’s firm than to its origins. The biggest difference is perhaps hidden behind a similarity is that while ESSO and EssoMarine were prominent brands that had the kind of currency still true of the company’s dealings with the larger world today as today they operate in most of the world’s countries and are readily identified familiar brand names: Exxon, Esso and Mobil. There was another name that really mattered in those days and was essential to the life of the firm and which is not so important today.

 

That name was Rockefeller.

 

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, located in eastern Cameron and western Vermilion Parishes, is owned and maintained by the State of Louisiana. When deeded to the state the refuge encompassed approximately 86,000 acres, but beach erosion has taken a heavy toll, and the most recent surveys indicate only 76,042 acres remaining. This area borders the Gulf of Mexico for 26.5 miles and extends inland toward the Grand Chenier ridge, a stranded beach ridge, six miles from the Gulf.

When the Rockefeller Foundation officially granted the property to the state, they spelled out in the Deed of Donation exactly how the property was to be used. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes periodic inspections of refuge activities and has reversionary rights over the refuge if the state fails to meet its obligations pertaining to the Deed of Donation, as amended.

The major terms of the original agreement stipulated 1) the property must be maintained as a wildlife refuge, 2) boundaries must be posted, 3) enforcement agents must protect the area from trespassers and poachers, 4) no public taking of fish or animals is allowed, 5) refuge staff must study and manage the property for wildlife, and 6) mineral revenues must be used on the refuge first (surplus may go toward education or public health). In 1983 the Deed of Donation was amended with a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of the Interior and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The MOA allows for regulated sport fishing and commercial trapping when compatible with the primary purpose of the refuge as a wildlife sanctuary. The MOA also allows surplus revenues to be used for land acquisition for wildlife management purposes. A 1987 MOA between the same two agencies ceased yielding surplus revenues for education or public health.

Planners had the foresight to realize that mineral revenues would cease at some point in time, and steps were taken to ensure that the refuge would be financially capable of operation and maintenance indefinitely. Act 321 of the 1972 legislature created the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Trust and Protection Fund (Trust Fund). One fourth of funds derived from royalties, rentals, or otherwise from Rockefeller mineral leases were to be deposited in the Trust Fund until a principal of $5 million was reached. Act 342 in 1978 raised the Trust Fund goal to $10 million. Act 807 in 1980 increased the Trust Fund goal to $20 million, and also established the Rockefeller Scholarship Fund for Louisiana wildlife students from 5% of interest from the Trust Fund. Act 63 of 1982 raised the Trust Fund goal to $30 million, and Act 707 of 1989 reduced additions to the Trust Fund from 25% to 5% of mineral revenues. Senate Bill 662 of 1989 established an annual donation of $150,000 to the Fur and Alligator Advisory Council, and Act 832 of 1995 raised the Trust Fund cap to $50 million.

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is one of the most biologically diverse wildlife areas in the nation. Located at the terminus of the vast Mississippi Flyway, south Louisiana winters about 4 million waterfowl annually. Historically, Rockefeller wintered as many as 400,000-plus waterfowl annually, but severe declines in the continental duck population due to drought and poor habitat quality on the breeding grounds have altered Louisiana’s wintering population. More recent surveys indicate a wintering waterfowl population on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge reaching 160,000. In addition to ducks, geese, and coots, numerous shorebirds and wading birds either migrate through or overwinter in Louisiana’s coastal marshes. Neotropical migrant passerines also use the shrubs and trees on levees and other “upland” areas of the refuge as a rest stop on their trans-Gulf journeys to and from Central and South America. Although Canada geese no longer migrate to the refuge from breeding areas in the north as they once did, a resident flock of giant Canada geese was established in the early 1960s.

Common resident animals include mottled ducks, nutria, muskrat, rails, raccoon, mink, otter, opossum, white-tailed deer, and alligators. An abundant fisheries population provides recreational opportunities to fishermen seeking shrimp, redfish, speckled trout, black drum, and largemouth bass, among others. No hunting is allowed on the refuge, but some regulated trapping is allowed for furbearers that could potentially damage the marsh if their populations are not controlled.

The refuge is a flat, treeless area with highly organic soils which are capable of producing immense quantities of waterfowl foods in the form of annual emergents and submerged aquatics. Since 1954 Rockefeller Refuge has been a test site for various marsh management strategies, including levees, weirs, and several types of water control structures utilized to enhance marsh health and waterfowl food production.

The style of this text has been a bit less orthodox and strict in adhering to the manner in which some other standards of text have been put together by competent people seeking to establish a norm. Standard Oil was becoming a leading company in offshore exploration and was involved with others in that field and in deep drilling. But there world’s largest refinery in Baton Rouge was leading the way to providing the   petrochemical building blocks that would lead to thousands of consumer goods. An would usher in many of the most unique qualities of the emerging era an era of the very start of a process which would distinguish previous worldwide international commerce from what is called globalization. Standard Oil itself was a mature and venerable institution. In the 2007 film There Will Be Blood American and international viewers were reminded, if they had not already known, that  the oil industry has been around for a while.  This film was loosely based on the 1926 novel OIL! By Upton Sinclair. That novel dealt with many of the issues explored by people involved in these events — and yet it is a profoundly different story. But regional texture, capitalism, a rough and dangerous industry, powerful personalities and socialism are all themes common both to this book and its subjects as well as to Sinclair’s novel and its subjects.  

Standard Oil may not have been the name of the concern but in the Rockefeller dominated era and even today the company that became Exxon was well aware of its heritage going back to the same year the Abbeville  based history of the Vigilante Committees of the Attakapas was written by a French historian living among these people that year was 1859 when the remembered exploring entrepreneurs  

Colonel Edwin Drake and Uncle Billy Smith drilled the first successful oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The colonel’s discovery triggered an oil boom that in many ways resembled the gold rush of a decade earlier. The internal combustion engine was a long way into the future.as the icon of  oil consumption. However it was also in 1859 that Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir created the first commercially successful internal combustion engine.  As the oil industry prepared to lead its way in creating this region’s future few felt it was in any way a fledgling enterprise.

Lionel Leblanc and Robert Flaherty’s  parent’s generation were in some cases unborn, were in diapers or in the case of a few late to procreate were when in 1870 Rockefeller and his associates formed the Standard Oil Company (Ohio), with combined facilities constituting the largest refining capacity of any single firm in the world at that time and seemingly exceeding any comparable entity consisting of consortia or government entities. In America 79 years is a fairly long time compared to most other continents. The idea that they were leading America to a new future does not mean that they were themselves perceived as new. The  name Standard is chosen to signify high, uniform quality and the name Rockefeller .was iconic as a symbol of wealth and prestige. It would be foolish and would distort the story to pretend that Flaherty, Stryker or the Cajuns did not have a healthy respect for all things Standard Oil.

In 1882 the SONJ entity which has its name or initials stamped on so many documents in this project came to be.  It was in that year that it touched another great American icon when

Standard Oil lubricated the invention of the man who also revolutionized the film industry by revolutionizing a system related to film itself. Standard Oil  contributed to Thomas Edison’s first central generating system by providing lubricants from its new chemical divisions.. Besides SONJ  in this year, Standard Oil Trust formed to include the Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) and in those years SONJ was referred to usually as the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and shortened to two words rather than four letters –Jersey Standard. .

In 1885 the company became associated with New York City, where documentary film and photography had its main American nest from 1920 to 1953 at the very shortest duration. That year the Standard Oil Trust relocated its corporate headquarters to 26 Broadway, New York City. The nine-story office building became a landmark which would have been known to the majority of the scene and history conscious film and camera people involved in this set of projects long before they worked for Standard Oil.

In 1911, following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, that reshaped a lot of the United States in its view of itself in economic terms Standard Oil was broken up into 34 unrelated companies, including Jersey Standard, the SONJ which funded this photographic venture.  The year also marks the first time Jersey Standard’s sales of kerosene are surpassed by gasoline, conjectures about a photographic bias against horses which seems evident if in fact it exists would be related to the fact that by the 1940s the company depended largely on a  product that in the early days had often been discarded as a waste product.  In 1911 many buggies could carry a kerosene lantern and be good customers. Auto racing became part of the Standard Oil legacy through Mobil products in the decades between 1911 and 1943.

In 1919 the company that actually furnished the drillers for Louisiana Story became a real part of the Standard Oil family and tradition when SONJ or

Jersey Standard acquired a 50 percent interest in Humble Oil & Refining Company of Texas. In that same year Humble Oil , led by its pioneering Chief Geologist Wallace Pratt, developed the full commercial employment of  micropaleontology in oil exploration.This study of microscopic fossils contained in cuttings and core samples from drilling was an aid in finding oil which tied the Oil industry more to local universities in various region and made the science and technology of the industry a bit more compelling. It laid the foundation for the kind of postwar industrial leadership sought in this set of projects.

Just about the time these projects were getting cranked up and closer to the subject of this text in 1942, the world’s first fluid catalytic cracker went into onstream operation at Louisiana Standard’s Baton Rouge refinery. The process, was developed by four SONJ scientists known as the “four horsemen,” and became the worldwide industry standard for producing gasoline. Fortune magazine when it covered the story described it as “the most revolutionary chemical-engineering achievement of the last 50 years.” In the fifties SONJ would found more cultural and educational programs and more automobile related products as centerpieces of its overall vision. Those fascination with shaping culture through the Esso Education Foundation after 1955 and the increased interest in playing a dominant role in serving the needs of automobiles after the development of Uniflo in 1952 doubtless affected these projects, though this text does not provide a close analysis of how that played out.

 

This chapter simply provides a bit of history to serve as a background to other observations made throughout the text. It is very far from exhaustive and does not disclose a great deal of highly compelling close analysis of Standard’s role here. But it is the place to make a few assertions if there is indeed any such place.

 

  1. Standard Oil and its competitors and friends funded education, built things and employed people. But Cajun technology in building, dredging, design and drainage was seldom incorporated except by a few who struggled hard to do so. Lack of respect for the accumulated knowledge of regional conditions had a powerful negative set of impacts on the region from the Cajun point of view.
  2. Standard Oil and the Rockefellers with deeply Baptist Protestant heritage may well be responsible for the lack of Catholicism in Louisiana Story simply because of their enormous general reputation. Likewise, the other desires and needs of that family and coporation likely transmitted themselves across the project with little direct efforts from those at the top of the power structures involved. All evidence for this is general in nature at this point and may exist in specific form or may not.
  3. Cajun inventions continued to proliferate in navigation, crawfish farming seafood processing and elsewhere across the region, horseracing and breeding of the Cajun quarter horse continued to produce ethnic excellence. There is a sense among many that Cajun leadership in this industry and the cultural accommodations that could have produced better relationships never fully materialized.
  4. Both Huey Long and Dudley Leblanc were at different times Public Service Commissioners and as such dealt with the oil and gas industry. The importance of this industry to all sides of the political spectrum over a much larger period than is central to this text can scarcely be disputed. Longism was of course more influential and successful than whatever Leblancism may be said to be. On the other hand, Huey was killed by the husband of one of Dudley Leblanc’s Evangeline girls Yvonne Pavy for suggesting that she had Negro blood. Weis’s family disputes that claim  and he was in many respects one of the finest and most gifted citizens of Louisiana in his time. But it is highly credible that the dictator was killed for insulting the genealogy in question by a man who considered himself and his family superior specimens to Long himself. Dudley Leblanc, diminished over time but died in peace and as a fairly old man. The oil industry although soaked by Huey in many ways was more associated with Huey and the Long Machine than with Dudley Leblanc.
  5. These projects coincided with the last great push of Dudley Leblanc in politics. Had he been closer to the oil industry and less close to four or five other industries it is quite possible that his fortunes would have continued to rise and the period would have been a different one than it was.

In conclusion to this chapter, Standard oil is not at the heart of this text about a project it made possible. But in many ways it chose to take a back seat, to hide behind the scenery and many other metaphors. They influenced many things but determined very few. There chapter is the last numbered chapter before the conclusion and their role is the least thoroughly studied of the communities whose interactions define this text.

   

 

Emerging Views: Chapter Twelve; Dudley Leblanc and the Sense of Acadiana

The Honorable Dudley J. Leblanc -- Acadian Icon

The Honorable Dudley J. Leblanc — Acadian Icon

 

This is a special chapter among many chapters that are special to me because it focuses on the life, work and views of one man as a context for what was going on in the region when the documentarians  (or documentarists as is often preferred) arrived in Acadiana. Dudley Leblanc is man mentioned many times in the text before now and a great deal is left out even after this chapter is read. In fact he too has his place in the conclusion. In a different world this book would have been written long ago and there would be another book out under my name about Dudley Leblanc alone.  But such is not the case. In fact this serialization is running up against difficulties born of my relative weariness doing other things entirely separate from this book.

The politics of Dudley Leblanc are mostly the focus of this chapter and the personal life with the business aspects only creeping in a bit. The merest glimpses into a full and rich life of great complexity. But politics is very much in the fabric of Acadian and Cajun culture and the tradition of these places that make up Acadiana. Politics has always mattered to me as anyone can tell who reads this blog. I am not in any way the kind of political figure that Dudley Leblanc was in this region but he does sort of fill the atmosphere of all politics with a kind of (to me at least) glory tinted residue.

 

Congratulating Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills on reforming Marijuana law...

Congratulating Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills on reforming Marijuana law…

My grandfather was influenced by and we are related to Dudley Leblanc. I once watched an old home movie of them on a boat together. Warren Perrin pictured with me below has made available to me recently some fascinating materials provided by the heirs  of Corinne Broussard, one of the Evangeline Girls who made the first pilgrimage with Dudley Leblanc to Acadie. His legacy lives on ….

Dudley Leblanc was an author, historian, showman, President of the Association of Louisiana Acadians,  the leader of the lawful opposition to what many consider to be the closest thing to a dictatorship ever under the United States Flag, he was a devout Catholic , a family man and a skilled legislator. He wrote a charted song and besides all of that was a very serious businessman. But he was part of Acadiana and it was part of him in a uniquely strong way that showed through all he did. He loved Louisiana and the United States and worked with Acadians and their causes in several countries but  he was our politician — the great contribution of this place and time to politics . His influence is still around even when it is not noted.  But his French language radio shows, his huge business which disappeared like a fairy dream and his superb devotion to his ethnic community framed his politics and gave them life.

HADACOL was once the second largest advertiser in the United States.

HADACOL was once the second largest advertiser in the United States.

There is a tendency among some to see him as style over substance but nothing could be farther from the truth. In my view only a tiny handful of U.S. politicians have equaled his substance but his substance was not the substance many analysts are looking to find. He left a book behind which is fifty years old this year which along with founding state parks in this state, helping to create an old age pension, negotiating countless positive deals in the opposition and opposing others — along with all of that his book is his legacy. His family is of course as well.

The Acadian Miracle by Dudley Leblanc is fifty years old this year.

The Acadian Miracle by Dudley Leblanc is fifty years old this year.

The Acadian Museum in Erath is a place where a great deal of his legacy is preserved and new materials are still coming to light in their efforts to archive and preserve things. You can link to them here.  The rather poor picture of Warren Perrin and I together  that I have above is taken in the Acadian Museum and below is another I took  related to the Museum. They remain and are active in outreaches across the community that Leblanc loved.

Acadian Museum table at an Abbeville farmer's market.

Acadian Museum table at an Abbeville farmer’s market.

Here is where the text in pdf form will be when a technical glitch is cured :

 

He is the chapter in such text form as is available:

 

Chapter Twelve:

Dudley Leblanc and the Sense of Acadiana

 

This set of chapter in this book is in large part a collection of and commentary upon clipping. My use of scholarly quotes earlier on was more extensive than average and so the change should not be too drastic. I prefer to use enough of my source material to let it speak for itself where it can. This text seeks to bring together many distincto points of view to create a whole which the reader can inhabit much as the mind inhabits a bit of fine verse or fiction. Entering into all these points of view the reader can form his or her own point of view.

 

Early in this chapter, second only to a clipping from 1928 and excerpt from a play there is a brief article from the Abbeville Meridional in the 1930s. It reports on an act of violence perpetrated against a Boudreaux from Abbeville in large part because of his association with Dudley Leblanc. Without understanding the violence that runs through Cajun experience there is no way to understand Cajun experience. Cajuns are a people whatever else that are and they are a small people. It would be interesting to do a book about Cajun courage entirely  — but that is not this book. This writer that I am is also a man. As a man I consider myself a fairly brave man ( and by my own lights that has never been a very wise thing to say in public or in writing for almost anyone) but it is not in doubt that a small group of people who value ethnic identity are by definition at risk perpetually. It does not take all that much reasoning to figure that out. Languedoc with is structure of confederated ethnic communities within a powerful nation state which accepted these diverse communities is a kind of paradise dream for our way of viewing the world. The Confederacy as our ancestors hoped it might be is another. The golden age of the 1840s saw this sort of life more or less achieved under the banner of the stars and stripes. But the bad times have been many and of varying seriousness. Much of politics in this and many other modern societies with which the Cajun has to interact appears to be the wholesale degradation of any real chance of cultural integrity or any real chance of preserving a responsible policy as regards culture. When the Cajun is urged by others to discard the burdens of his or her culture because others are doing so this often  appears to the true Cajun like the suggestion like the serious suggestion that he cut off his fingers because a friend had to change gloves. We will return to that metaphor or strong simile  at the end of this chapter.

 

Before reaching the article about Boudreaux and Leblanc the reader will read a brief excerpt from a play about a Boudreaux and a Leblanc. In the midst of all of this the reader hopefully remembers that a Boudreaux and a Leblanc had the largest Cajun roles as the father and son LaTour in Louisiana Story. Any reader who is not a Cajun  should remember that Dudley Leblanc probably saw America differently that the readers parents or grandparents in ways that were specific to the Cajun experience. But the Cajun experience also varied and Leblanc is a very individual and specific person. This chapter is about Dudley Leblanc and the way that he represented a focus and expression of Cajun identity.

 

This text is not intended to comply with the conventions of a text written about the history of New York City because there is a certain body of knowledge about New York City which is part of the patrimony of educated American ‘s cultural patrimony and which is not applicable to discussion of postwar Acadiana. In addition to the need to make clearer some basic facts about each relevant aspect of Cajun life and Acadiana there is also the cost to this writer which perhaps is made less by being middle aged, divorced and more or less permanently curmudgeonly not to mention childless. As was evident in Gene Yoes review of Louisiana Story in 1949, people worry about the perception of larger society which is created by almost any assessment or expression of the culture, identity or   way of life of the people here. Defensiveness is commonplace enough, so is courage and so is the pressure to produce work without the supports for research and a quality process of authentication which might be available for other subjects. In addition the conditions described above make the producers of plays, films, histories, journalism, songs and other works responsive ot questions and concerns of the ethnic community more sensitive to criticism than they might otherwise be — none of this makes a text of this type easier to write. On the other hand, these are differences of degree. Any book about perceptions and understanding between American communities is fraught with some of the same challenges though perhaps not to the same degree — nonetheless, to a substantial degree.  Dudley Leblanc and his family appear in the social and personal notices sections of the Meridional so many times it is difficult to express without superlatives. That context is worth remembering when we discuss the man as this text does.

 

Below is a piece about his birthday party which appeared in the August 25 issue of 1928.

 

LEBLANC WAS HONORED AT BIRTHDAY DINNER

Dudley J. LeBlanc, who is also head of the T. B. A. Benevolent Association was guest of honor at a surprise birthday dinner given Saturday night at the Terrace Hotel. Over 100 employees, business associates, and other friends of the Commissioner attended. An orchestra played during the evening.

 

Greetings were extended to Commissioner LeBlanc by several speakers, the first being T. L. Evans, president of the Commercial National Bank, Robert Voorhies, manager, and Miss Sadie Folse, secretary of the T. B. A. and V. Gray qf the Dixie National Insurance Association, and Sidney Alpha for the Lafayette Tribune in which Mr LeBlanc is also interested.

 

Near the close of the banquet the honoree was presented with a platinum gold watch as a gift from his employees The presentation was made by Bennett J. Voorhies, local attorney.

Another feature of the occasion was the presentation of a large birthday cake on which were 34 candles. The cake was a gift from Mrs. H. Scranton, proprietor of the Terrace Hotel

Advertiser, Lafayette.

   

Comparing the pictures here and scene of the trappers eating in Louisiana Story to what Dudley Leblanc’s wife Evelyn Hebert Leblanc experienced as dinner with her girlfriends is also useful. It illustrates a set of contexts for the Cajun experience at the time and a set of experiences neither the documentarian backgrounds and presuppositions nor the interests of Standard Oil of New Jersey were eager to see presented to the nation as the Cajun experience at the time of the nascent oil boom.  In that context it is useful to notice that in the list of interests above which feted Dudley Leblanc there are financial, hospitality, professional and print media among others — but no specific petroleum interests. So now on to the life of Mrs. Dudley Leblanc:

 

MRS. ROBERT YOUNG JUNIOR ENTERTAINS 500 NIGHT CLUB

Another delightful, meeting of the 500 night club was held Wednesday night with Mrs. Robert Young, Jr., at hostess. This beautiful home on Main St. was beautifully arranged with vases and bowls of nasturtiums.  Ladies’ first prize was won by Mrs. R. A., Dalton. Second by Mrs. H; A. Eldredge. Guest by Mrs. E. L. Terrier* Gentleman’s first prize was won  by Mr. Clay Summers. Second by Dr.  P. J. Young, Jr., Guest by, Mr. Andrew Broussard, Consolation by Miss Della Broussard and Booby by Mr. I. H. Oertling.

 

Mrs. Young served a 3 delicious plate luncheon consisting of dressing’ sliced turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, with sweet peas, stuffed tomatoes, salad on lettuce, olives, hot rolls and tea. Members present were: Mr, and Mrs Clay Summers, Miss Delia Broussard, Mr. Pete, LeBlanc, Mr. and Mrs. Perry LeBlanc, Miss Bess Faulk, Mrs. Dudley LeBlanc, Mrs. Roy Richardson, Dr. and Mrs. H. A. Eldredge, Dr. R. J. Young Jr., Guests present were. Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Terrier, Miss Hilda Hebert, Mr and Mrs. I. H. Oertling, Mrs. Marcus Broussard, Mrs.  Newton LeBlanc,. Miss Mabel Young, and Mr. Andrew Broussard.

 

This house was on the same street where the film Louisiana Story was edited and where the crew lived and the people in story were by and large as  Cajun as Lionel Leblanc or the fictional LaTours. Mr. and Mrs. Clay Summers were my great grandparents. While he was born an anglo-protestant she was a very Cajun French speaking Catholic named Esther Leblanc and was Dudley’s cousin.  The choices made of what to portray are real choices continually made in the creation of an American identity and sense of self.

 

Dudley Leblanc’s connection to the community is glimpsed a bit in the coverage of his wedding in the Meridional.  A lot more could be gleaned from it than will be attempted in this chapter.  The following appeared as a social announcement in the Meridional in 1921 and was a significant sign of social and community recognition for a fairly important match which would be meaningful for Abbeville, Vermilion Parish and the Cajun community. The wedding is certainly not a sumptuous affair to rival the elite of Europe or New York City and the notice does not claim that it is  — but it is not the stuff of a trapper’s cabin either.

 

One of the pretty church weddings of the season was that of Miss Evelyn Hebert, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Morgan Hebert of this place , to Mr. Dudley LeBlanc, of Erath, on March 29th, at 8 o’clock a. m. at St. Mary Magdelein’s Catholic Church.. The marriage ceremony was performed at mass. The bride was handsomely gowned in white embroidered chiffon with illusion veil, while the maid of honor and bridesmaids wore pink organdy gowns and pink picture hats. Miss Evelyn stands high in this community and has many friends. The happy young couple left on the morning train on their honeymoon trip. On their return they will occupy their own little bungalow on the West side of the Bayou which is just completed. The Meridional wishes them a long life of prosperity.

 

A later announcement in the Meridional’s social notices completes the coverage of this early state of their union. It is worth remembering what is not included in the portrayals of the Cajun communities in the SONJ projects but to remember that these goings on were quite important to the community as a whole..

 

April 19, 1921, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Leblanc returned from their honeymoon * trip to New Orleans, Sunday.

 

It is useful to remember which Cajuns were not much included in the SONJ projects to represent these people in either the photographic collection or the film Louisiana Story. Dudley Leblanc lived a very different life overall than the one lived by the natural actor Lionel Leblanc. LaTour and the actor who portrayed him were clearly selections with political, economic and moral dimensions made by the Flahertys and by Standard Oil of New Jersey which led to a particular view of the people and region portrayed in Louisiana Story. The influence of Harnett Kane’s book The Bayous of Louisiana is deeply to be felt in so many SONJ choices. The use of Avery Island is certainly suggested by Kan’s appealing treatment of that locale. Kane also reports on living with a trapper family and in doing so really maps out a rough draft for Louisiana Story even in the happenstantial way that this unrelated segment of his book is near the segment on Avery Island. The discourse of real outsiders continues to inform itself primarily and to primarily seek to avoid being informed by the Cajun community as a whole. The effort to communicate Cajun experience to the mainstream society is not so simple a task for those within the community either.

 

However, much this text  may seem to be a web of the author’s close personal associations it is actually more the case that the reader gets only a minimal sense of all the connections between this writer and his subject. A choice has been made to make such connections but not without also many specific choices to limit such references.  

 

The following is an excerpt from the play A Sort of Miracle in Loreauville, published by Edgemoor Press, of Houston Texas. The playwright was a returning undergraduate  who had gone from Abbeville to Louisiana State University as an undergraduate where she had become pregnant for a son, hid the pregnancy and dropped out. She had given that son up for adoption, moved to Abbeville and married and old friend, nearly an early puppy love and a son of a prominent local family. They had a child in 1964 and did not have any others for a long time. When that young son began attending school she returned to the University of Southwestern Louisiana and wrote a play for an English class which was published.  She did not graduate at that time but graduated after her son who was in first grade in 1973 graduated many years later. She is still very much alive at this writing and she is my mother.

 

The play is set in 1900s Loreauville where her own grandmother grew up, 1900s Loreauville provided the setting, motifs and characters about which her grandmother  — Regina Oubre Hollier composed a series of paintings some of which were awarded various honors, sold and given other recognition at the time of her writing A Sort of Miracle. This conversation takes place as a priest is preparing the sacrament of the sick, also the last rites (in an irreducible tension) for a very sick little girl, Madame Leblanc is the girl’s mother.

 

MADAME LEBLANC: Pere Boudreaux, he’s a good man of God, him. So holy. You should have heard how strong he prayed for MArie. It was so beautiful… (serenely) they say that when the blessing is given, sometimes they have a miracle.  

 

  1. DUBOIS: Prayer is very good for the soul, and I’m sure the good Lord has some plans for us all, but miracles seem to be getting scarcer all the time. Science is teaching us more about things that used to be explained in other ways.

 

MADAME LEBLANC: I don’t know nothing about science. I only know the Lord. He hears everybody’s prayer and he always answers. Sometimes he answer “no” because he knows everything what’s best. Maybe if He takes Marie up to Heaven, it means  that she couldn’t never have been happy here.

 

  1. DUBOIS: Maybe so.

 

The play is about the 1900 and is also very much about becoming an adult in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There is not on the surface much to connect it with the period of 1943 to 1953 nor with the life of Dudley Leblanc outside of names and ethnicities but in fact there are some connections that are worth making.

   

 

State Highway Man Pardoned In Attack On Jos. Boudreaux

BATON ROUGE, La.—Louis A. Jones, assistant superintendent of the’ Louisiana Highway patrol, convicted of assaulting Joseph Boudreaux of Abbeville, La., on the capitol steps ‘during the 1932 ‘legislature, was pardoned by Gov. 0. K. Allen last Friday.

The pardon was approved on recommendation, of the state pardon board. Jones had previously been reprieved by the governor before serving any of a six months jail sentence imposed*by Judge Caruth Jones in East Baton Rouge district court.

Boudreaux –,. friend and supporter of Dudley J. Leblanc opponent of the political’ organization of Huey P. Long in the 1932 governorship campaign in which he ran against Allen — suffered a fractured skull when he was slugged in front of the Statehouse. Boudreaux said he was struck from behind while being put out of the capitol by two men. He blamed political animosity.

 

The article above  appeared in the Abbeville Meridional on November 17 of 1934. Everyone knows what a highwayman is — an outlaw and a land pirate. The headline is fairly confrontational while the  legitimacy of the corrupt government itself is not directly challenged.  The truth is that Louisiana politics in general is now and always has been a pretty rough business. But most people agree that Huey Long was the toughest character to deal with in Louisiana politics since the period of Statehood.  His use of violence, corruption and intimidation were underreported.  Huey Long was one of his most visible and vocal opponents. The British Empire, the Union armies and a variety of other large opponents are part of the heritage of  opponents which Cajuns remember their ancestors opposing. Cajuns did not dream up and do not dream up reasons to be defensive. But neither is there any overly simplistic basis for all feelings of ethnic concern.  Earlier in this text I put forward a brief allusion to evidence (which I believe to be substantial) that the ku Klux Klan was at the very least influenced by Cajun institutions and associations at it inception and in its early days. However, that does not mean that the Klan was not seen as a threat by the Cajuns of the Dudley Leblanc era along with many other threats. The following is an excerpt shortened mostly because of places where the text was problematic for physical reasons rather than for content. During the time when Dudley leblanc was directly facing other issues the Meridional which covered him faithfully was also reporting on the matters related to the Klan in the region. Very little of the topic appeared in the Meridional compared to other matters which were related to ongoing  conflict but the discussion that does appear is worth noting..

 

A STALE TOPIC

For a long time the Ku Klux Klan question has practically been ignored by the leading local papers of the state, but the recent statements of  R I. Thompson, at a Klan initiation near Baton Rouge, has partially revived the discussion. ….Thompson reasserted the ancient fallacies of the hooded order “The Klan does not believe in religious prejudices …. but the Klan is a fraternal structure it has no negro members ‘ The Klan is a Christian order therefore no Jews are admitted ” “The Klan is an American order. Therefore no Catholics could be admitted, because the Catholics owe allegiance to a foreign power, and therefore are not American in the Klan’s understanding of the word ” Wise qualification–“Klan’s understanding ” Of course if that is the honest “understanding” of the Klansmen it is their American privilege to so understand. We are ready to excuse the ignorant member of the order, who follows the lead of unscrupulous stump speakers, but how a man of Thompson’s supposed intelligence can voice such idiotic statements is one of the mysteries we are unable to solve. By the above statement as well as several others Mr Thompson qualifies for a special niche in the Menckenian category of “dull and dangerous asses.” We are very sorry to have to touch on this disagreeable subject again but we pride ourselves on letting it down easy…

 

It is not easy to write this text from the position which I take as a fifty one year old man who has done a good bit of living but it has proven impossible to complete it earlier. I think it would not only be dishonest but pointless for me to attempt to write this text as though it  seemed likely that was going to witness a golden age of Cajun wellbeing, or that I thought things in America were really going very well or that I believed that all in all the world was making excellent progress in all the most important ways.  So it is that I do not see the end of struggle for ethnic identity and the preservation and perfection of a sense of community as being a process that will be likely to end either. The question of American identity posed by the Klan is not one which this text has sought to avoid although it has not centered on what constitutes the nature of Roman Catholicism. I started with the clipping about the birthday party in part because it allows a chance to see that whatever struggle may typify much of Cajun experience in the United States it is not an entirely strident and directly confrontational struggle. Cajuns do not live lives in which ethnic interests and mainstream interests are always pitted against one another, It is not a community that alway seeks to see  things in stark confrontational terms even when it  would be possible to see things that way. Below is an example of one struggle handled by Dudley Leblanc and reported by the Meridional. There was an article introducing and explaining the context of his open letter but only the letter is reproduced below because it gives a voice to Dudley Leblanc in a manner which is one of the objectives of this Chapter.

.
LOUISIANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

Sept. 12th, 1929.

Abbeville Meridional, Abbeville, La;

Gentlemen,’ You will probably be interested in knowing that I have had the train schedule restored. The schedule was changed without consent or approval of the Commission and  it has been; a pleasure for me to be of some assistance to the good people of Abbeville. There will be a formal hearing in the near future, probably at Abbeville, where both sides of the question can be heard before a member of the Commission and the case will then be decided as to whether the schedule will be changed or left as it is now.

With kind regards and best wishes, I remain,

Very truly yours,

Dudley J. Leblanc

 

In all of his political career Leblanc was fully engaged in real struggles for a better quality of life for his community and these struggles were not couched in terms of ethnic confrontation most of the time.

 

But the Cajuns are and always have been devoted to the American experience and identity even during the long spell between about 1875 and 1940 when most Cajuns only called themselves Americans in a legal or very formal and explicit context. Nonetheless, in all those years there was an effort to merge effectively with each era of American institutions. But the Cajun vision of America did not always resemble the mainstream vision very closely: Nonetheless, in understanding a man like Dudley Leblanc it is useful to understand this desire to  succeed as a true American and to see Cajuns succeed as true Americans. This second glimpse from the Meridional shows that aspect of Leblanc and of Cajun life as well. It does so in a subtle and not very flag-waving kind of way.

 

DUDLEY LEBLANC NAMED. ON LAFAYETTE BOARD

Lafayette, La.—Announcement of the election of 12 directors of the reorganized Lafayette Chamber of Commerce was made at a meeting last Thursday night at the courthouse. The board, which will meet soon to name officers, is composed of E. E. Soulier, Mike Donlon, J. J. Davidson, Jr., Dudley J. LeBlanc, T. M. Callahan, A. F. Boustany, Dr. L. O. Clark, E- E. McMillan, Donald Labbe, A. M. Bujard, Felix H. Mouton, and J. L. Fletcher.

The Chamber of Commerce in Lafayette at that time and in any part of the united States at any time is an institution devoted to the relatively optimistic pursuit of commerce, development and well being in the context of  the commercially viable and economically vibrant United States of America. Dudley Leblanc who was not less an ethnic activist than many other form better known communities, was also a member of the Chamber of Commerce and accepted most of its values and vision for America.

 

Acadiana had never been isolated in the sense that a handful of places are. Rather it had always been a place of commerce, change and  migration since the time the first Cajuns began to emerge as such. In this text one of the challenges has been to try to show an ethnic community which is in continuous change within a larger American social and cultural context. Dudley J. Leblanc was a voice for the region and also for the Cajun people. It is important to understand the totality of his involvement in the issues of his time and the life of the state and the region.  The questions of whether he lived in better  times or worse for the Cajuns and for this region cannot be answered fully here. But to the degree that this text sees him as an influence over the SONJ Projects and over the region that they came to document  he must be properly understood or nothing much is gained by way of understanding in  referring to his influence.  In earlier chapters the work of Leblanc as regard Cajun identity  has been the only focus of discussion in this regard and some brief applications of that aspect of his life and work to the film Louisiana Story. But a great deal more remains to be discussed if he is to be at all understood.

 

One fact worth remembering is that Dudley Leblanc had a large set of connections across the nation and the globe. Merely to catalogue these would take a great while. But his core constituents were kept abreast of many of his contacts through the local press. For every two Cajun associations with a specific quality he had two that were about some other aspect of what he saw as the real American fabric of life.  

 

TBA Celebrates Thirteenth Anniversary

Celebrating the thirteenth anniversary of the TBA  American Benefit Association, a number of persons were guests of Dudley J. Leblanc at a delightful party at the Edgewater Club near Lafayette.  Formerly known as the TBA Benevolent Association, and operating mostly in Louisiana, the TBA American Benefit Association has enlarged its scope until now it operates in practically every state in the United States. The main offices are located in Lafayette. President Leblanc of this association is a native of Vermilion Parish and a resident of Abbeville.

 

As Dudley Leblanc’s life progressed his political career became one of his most distinguishing endeavors. It would grow apace with his business ventures. Space will not allow me to reproduce the more colorful and perhaps pandering advertisements announcing some other candidates efforts to be elected to various posts but the announcements by Leblanc like much of his life were characterized by a simple and straightforward manner.  

 

I hereby announce myself as a ‘candidate.’for the House of Representatives from the Parish of Vermilion subject to the Democratic primary of 1924. Your vote and support is respectfully solicited. Dudley J. Leblanc

 

I hereby, announce myself as a candidate for the House of Representatives from the Parish of Vermilion subject to the Democratic primary of 1924. Your vote and support is respectfully solicited. Dudley J. LeBlanc

 

Dudley Leblanc did not take long to become involved in controversy as a representative in the state legislature.  His Leblanc Warehousing Bill was an effort to attack a host of ills and was much supported and much opposed and fully controverted and the storm of controversy seems to have not made any dent in the resolutions of this very new political figure.
Cliipings were passed around the local papers more in those days and a great deal of recopying of letters, editorials and press releases occurred in relation to all this. Rice millers organized to oppose his bill and the efforts with it to increase the rights and security of farmers. “We are in receipt of a communication from Mr. H I. Gueydan, of Crowley, also forwarded to Mr LeBlanc, vigorously protesting against the Warehouse Bill introduced by Mr. Le Blanc in the present session of the State Legislature. The clipping from The Acadian …. we  it are reproducing m this issue,” A sort of semi editorial in the Meridional would begin that way. At another point  the Meridional would report:  “This is the letter of Mr. Gueydan to the Meridional, and Mr. LeBlanc in regard to the bill. Personally we know very Iittle about the matter….” The local press seemed overall to have started off fairly certain that  Dudley Leblanc would fail to sustain his solidarity with the Rice farmers in the face of the organized opposition he met.  The fact that other states were using similar provisions did not persuade opponents that his concepts would prevail. Probably some of them were motivated and formed in their thoughts by hatred and contempt for Cajuns who predominated among rice farmers but the language was tempered and a name that was at least somewhat local and French was usually attached to opposition propaganda. An example of a letter printed in those days is excerpted here:  “Mr. LeBlanc points out that certain similar laws have been in existence in various other states for a number of years where what is pursued in this bill has proved advantageous to the farmers. Questions have arisen as to the the similarity of those laws with the bill presented by Mr. LeBlanc and also to the amount of good they have accomplished. .We are convinced, however that the State should operate with as few commissions os possible… .we are fast drifting into a condition amounting to government by commission. There is the possibility of a commission of this sort becoming so well ‘set’ as to work a vast amount of harm, and. bid defiance to those who would seek to dislodge it. And if the farmer ultimately pays the bill for this warehouse service will his condition be bettered to any perceptible degree? …  As Mr. LeBlanc has so ably pointed out, our present system is beset with many evils, at a minimum: Farmers at times suffer rank injustice in the disposal or their rice, but is it true that the bill proposed would remedy all this—or would it make matters worse?  All we can do is to hope and pray that the right will prevail. We are sure of one thing and that Is that Mr. LeBlanc has the interest of the farmer at heart, that it is his honest belief that this bill will work to their benefit. I am convinced that this Bill would work farther expenses on the rice farmer, and would be a Godsend to rice graders.  Mr. Dudley LeBlanc would hurt the very ones he wishes to benefit. … There is a fair amount of the most offensive forms of condescension in the tone of this letter. But Leblanc would not in this or any other significant instance be pushed aside by people who perhaps held him in low regard at least partly because of his ethnicity

 

The Meridional reported some of the efforts to oppose Leblanc. Politics were fierce even when they were not corrupt and violent:

 

VIGOROUS PROTEST IS RAISED BY LOCAL RICE MEN OVER LEBLANC BILL

Local  Warehousemen  United in Meeting. to Kill the Bill; Other Crowley men joined Mr. H. L. Gueydan today in the vigorous fight against the warehousing bill introduced by .Representative Dudley J. LeBlanc  of Vermilion Parish, creating a new commission and  requiring every public rice warehouse to furnish a public rice grader at a salary of not under $150.00 and which would force each warehouse to pay a  license fee of $10 annually for every two feet of floor space, payable in advance and also other objectionable requirements of the LeBlanc Warehouse Bill.

 

Dudley LeBlanc responded articulately in my opinion and his struggle is real but not excessively confrontational in tone or manner: Elsewhere his words appear as follows

“It s not my intent to hope for radical change  nor is it my intention to have the Legislature enact laws that  will prove detrimental to some of our business interests.  I would certainly prefer not to make any enemies, but I fail to understand how men who are supposed to be interested in the rice industry can conscientiously say- that such a measure would hurt the rice farmers “In some of the country papers in the rice district, there is now some opposition but this opposition comes from the mouthpieces of corporate interests. Some have seen fit to criticize the minor details of this measure and have •endeavored to make it appear that it would work against the interest of the rice farmer Every Insignificant detail can be worked out satisfactorilv to me. provided, of course, that the principle of the Bill is left intact and that the measure carries with it a degree of relief to our poor oppressed rice producers “It is estimated, as a matter, of explanation, that the total amount of money to be expended bv a rice producer would be five cents a sack of 200 pounds in order to obtain this rice. There is no additional expense entailed — neither on the Parish nor on the State and neither the warehouseman nor the rice mill would he called upon to put out any money since this five cents per sack would cover the entire expense. Every intelligent person realizes that due to the fact that many of our farmers are uneducated, They are not in a position to market their product’ intelligently. This Bill provides the proper assistance and enables the farmer to market his product in a similar position with the grain grower in other grain growing states.”.

 

Over various issues of several local papers Leblanc made his case and explained what the Bill did and did not required. Here are some of his words: “It requires every warehouse to be licensed and bonded and to furnish a public fee grade for a length of time after it is stored in said warehouse. It  requires the warehouseman to issue a reliable receipt showing the exact  grade or quality of his rice with the percentage of each grade or quality to the farmer storing his rice on each trip to the rice grader — appointed by the created Commission will by this new measure  enable the farmer  to know exactly the grade and quality of his products and with this knowledge, he will be in a better position to sell his rice. This will eliminate the possibilities of the big man  using undue influence and will help the regular fellow.  In the event that the farmer wants to obtain a little loan on the crop to deal with corresponding expenses and does not want to sell it at  that particular time, a receipt can serve as security for the stated amount of sale to get a loan through any bank…..”

 

The fact is that whether in helping to create the State Park system, build his business or interact with Robert Flaherty as with his opposition to Huey Long Dudley Leblanc was a deeply devoted ethnic Cajun. He however used the term Acadian almost exclusively. We will return to other aspects of his life before reaching the end of this text and have already discussed him before but it is important to know what he meant to the Abbeville in which the SONJ  folks centered their work in Acadiana. He described his early service as a State Representative: “During my campaign for member of the House of Representatives I made certain political pledges to my people which I have endeavored to faithfully keep; My people are to a certain extent very much oppressed. The Parish of Vermilion is an agricultural parish and the farmers have expected this administration to give them some relief. I have endeavored to the best of my ability to enact laws and which would carry to the aggrieved  farmers some degree …

 

Dudley and Evelyn were building all aspects of the Cajun ideal of leadership and that meant  growing a family in March 14, 1925 a birth announcement for their son appeared in the Meridional. Nine years later the little boy is in the papers again for a festive occurrence called the

“Queen of Hearts” at Mount Carmel Elementary School where  Dudley J. Leblanc Junior received a second prize reported in the Meridional. February 17, 1934… He also played golf with neighbors of all ethnicities among whites and in at least one tournament the honorable Dudley J. Leblanc, who on the course was just “Dudley”, took second honors.

 

These are mere glimpses into the life of Dudley Leblanc. The influence he had in the region had not declined substantially by the mid 1940s. He had never successfully organized the trappers around himself across South Louisiana and  by the time Harnett Kane’s book came out they had lost several struggles especially in the southeastern section of the State. Flaherty and Standard Oil could possibly see them benefiting from the coming of the oil industry. But Dudley Leblanc’s rice farmers would benefit far more often than the trappers as more of them had more land in most cases.
While the last chapter was the lion’s share of the reportage on the film Louisiana Story this chapter is a tiny sampling the reportage on the story told by Dudley Leblanc for and about the people of his part of Louisiana especially. It was Harnett Kane and not Dudley Leblanc whom the documentarians were predisposed to pay attention to in covering the Cajuns. Dudley Leblanc had established himself as a voice for the Cajuns in all the ways described in earlier chapter and in countless ways vaguely suggested in this chapter. But it was not his voice that those who had the privilege of informing mainstream America were likely to seek out. Kane was a better man and a better writer than many, but the reliance on his text to the exclusion of Dudley Leblanc’s  point of view is inexcusable. Only Flaherty really absorbs some of it and barely gets some credit here for that.  The business of American understanding has its own shame and corrupt  inner processes even as it has been known for exposing corruption and insider dealing elsewhere in American society.  Leblanc could have contributed a lot more to the discussion in the FSA documentary period and in the SONJ period. To evaluate documentaries and reporting I think an historian must consider what they leave out and under represent as well as what they do shot, write, publish and exhibit…

Emerging Views: Chapter Eleven The Movie at the Dixie as it Was

This posting of this chapter raises a few issues for me. Not the least of these issues is that Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen are still not ready to be posted and chapter fourteen will be ready before Chapter Thirteen. So my little serialization system is about to experience some more strain than it already has. Secondly it is time to post a few more bits of accompanying information for those who are not  reading this right now but may in one of the unpredictable future upswings in readership which this blog occasionally enjoys. Below is a map to more or less remind or inform people of what the Acaidana region is.

 

More or less what Acadian means to those who do not know...

More or less what Acadiana means to those who do not know…

But this post brings up more than this  map relates to — at least directly. Here below is one of my grandmother’s pictures of a period before the film premiere and painted long after the film premiere. But it does address issues of cultural relevance and give a little more context to the discussion.

 

My great grandmother painted glimpses of Cajun life -- this is one of those.

My great grandmother painted glimpses of Cajun life — this is one of those.

So we come to a chapter that shows how the local community responded to the premiere of Louisiana Story. I hope that it is informative and entertaining to at least some reader and a bit more to an even smaller set of people.

This is a glimpse of how the black and white film was presented to the world. The local papers ran black and white promotional and reporting spreads.

This is a glimpse of how the black and white film was presented to the world. The local papers ran black and white promotional and reporting spreads.

 

Here is a pdf version of the text: EmergingViewsChapterElevenTheMovieattheDixieasitWas (1)

Here is the text itself:

Chapter Eleven:

The Movie at the Dixie as it Was

 

The previous chapter tried to see the premiere of Louisiana Story in the context of history and in the relevance it has to our own times. In doing so a few liberties were taken with the normal conventions for an historical narrative. There was no premiere at the Frank’s. The premiere was held at the Dixie which in time became the Frank’s Theater. It was not held in 1948 which is the official date of release but early in 1949. The two chapters are meant to illustrate also the problems with what I call folkloristic evidence. There is no doubt that people not old enough to be there who do have a memory — in the folklorisitic sense — of the film remember it being at the Frank’s in 1948. There are some who have better data and some worse. But such memories are not rendered entirely worthless. The building known as the Frank’s today is indeed the spot and 1948 is the place to find the film on most lists arranged by year.   This chapter seeks to look at the premiere of the film as it was viewed and understood at the time, also to provide a kind of plain and straightforward narrative history of the film as it was perceived although not in great detail nor exhaustively. It does not seek to apologize for the fact that it has been perceived through an evolving lens. It only seeks to balance that view with one more restricted to the known responses of people to the film at the time. It especially looks at the response of local journalists and the interviews they did with local people whose own words about the film have not appeared much in this text so far. This work of history is obviously more personal than most works of academic history and the people and places make up a framework of the writer’s life. In addition, the time and delays involved in the production of the text give it a certain quality of intimacy that may not be ideal but cannot be avoided. My own experience with the Abbeville Meridional newspaper is very extensive — I have been featured in it, read it and been employed by it on far too many occasions to discuss here. That is for the reader to bear in mind.  Clearly, I think that a great deal of academic objectivity is brought to all the varied sources relied upon by this text and to the questions raised in pursuing its arguments and narrative. But the reader will have to evaluate that for him or herself.

 

The masthead under which the coverage appeared was different than than of today but similar and familiar as well. Today’s masthead states that the paper is “The Voice of Vermilion Parish, The Most Cajun Place on Earth”. In those days it merely said: “ABBEVILLE MERIDIONALOLDEST CONTINUOUS BUSINESS IN VERMILION PARISH ABBEVILLE, LOUISIANA, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1949 LEADING NEWSPAPER OF VERMILION PARISH SINOE 1856 NO; 8 “

   

There were two articles on the front page in that issue but deeper inside was an extravagant full page pictorial spread that told readers it would be at the Dixie Theater from the next day, Sunday, February 20, 1949 to the following Thursday. The newspaper also had a regular advertisement for its films which showed too mainstream films playing as a double feature on Friday and Saturday which were its biggest money making days. That same advertisement did however give the “Southern Premiere” of Louisiana Story bigger billing than either of the other two films. But in addition to being extravagant for such a spread in this particular paper it has the following telling lines on the side among others:|

Showing In The South A GEM! Abbeville has been chosen as the “Premiere City for this great film, LOUISIANA STORY, because it was filmed here and stars Vermilion Parish people. It’s- film is the everyday story your friends and your relatives.

 

The pictorial spread shows review snippets from the New York Times, Life Magazine and other sources. The celebration of the film as everyday life is very telling. It is not clear if the writer of those lines had seen the film but it has some significance in any case. It was a Saturday issue and in Louisiana to be classified as a daily one need only publish five papers a week. That is what the Meridional has done for a while including at the time of this writing. Today there is no Saturday or Monday issue but in those days the Saturday issue came out regularly and this was one of those issues. There were at least two articles about the film on the first page and may have been a mention elsewhere that has escaped my research.

The first and more background oriented article begins; with a montage of photographs described as follows:

Filmed entirely in the marshes of Vermilion, Iberia and Lafayette parishes, “Louisiana Story” has as its stars Joseph Boudreaux of Cameron parish and Lionel LeBlanc of Abbeville. Scenes reproduced from the picture show Mr. LeBlanc, above, looking into the sky, Joseph talking with Frank Hardy, an oil worker, left, and fondling his pet raccoon, top left.

This little detail is significant because photo essays are expensive and time-consuming  for small community papers and this would not be the last to be placed in the paper related to this film. This article goes on:

Louisiana Story’s Lionel LeBlanc — Abbeville’s own movie star, came to our office Tuesday, sat down in our chair and told us how much he enjoyed making “Louisiana Story”. “It’s too bad we didn’t meet 20 years ago,” he quoted Producer-Director Robert Flaherty as telling him, “because we could have done great things together.” LeBlanc, who is now 65 years old and .’almost* past the times when he could spend days and days bogging through the marsh country, says that, despite his age, he didn’t find the filming of the story, too rigorous a job “Times have changed since I first went into the marshes. Then it ‘was work to kill an alligator, but now my four sons, all of whom are trappers, can drive their boats with ‘motor paddles’ right up to where the ‘gator is,” the Louisiana Story actor remembers. “Then all they have to do is shoot him and drag him into the boat.”

 

The personal tone is typical perhaps of Southern rural newspapers and even small American newspapers but it is especially true of the Cajun rural community press.  The story about how much harder life was when he was young than it is for the pampered trappers of the modern era is also an old Cajun tradition which resonates no doubt among cowboys, loggers and lobstermen of other American rural ethnicities. The article continues to let the reader get to know more about this man lifted to the movie screens which Cajuns generally liked and admired.

 

LeBlanc killed his last alligator 10 years ago. He now handles E. A. Mcllhenny’s trapping ranch • and has been doing that work for 20 years. It was through Mr. Mcllhenny that Mr. LeBlanc was discovered by the film producer. He reports that Mr. Flaherty asked the fur ranch owner where he could find a man who knew the marshes and who looked like and was a fur trapper,  Abbeville’s star, whose home is on Maude Avenue, remembers one bad experience during the filming of the movie.

 

In the days of the film Abbeville had racial segregation of housing. Today Maude Avenue is made up of some white families, some Vietnamese families and is largely an African- American (with the distinct cultural mix that still exists to a fading degree among African Americans in Acadiana) middle class neighborhood. In those days it was a neighborhood of the prosperous white working class. Nothing fancy but a good place to live from which a daughter or son might contend for a place in what economically based social strata existed in the parish not as an equal but above a few other neighborhoods in a town which did note such things.  After this implied bit of social introduction and orientation as to who Lionel Leblanc is in the community, the Meridional gives a brief passage a chance to relate the worlds of trapping and movie-making as they coexist in this new moment of history. Here it is worth repeating the last half of the last sentence.

 

… Abbeville’s star, whose home is on Maude Avenue, remembers one bad experience during the filming of the movie.

He and a crew of others went out into the marshes on a “marsh buggy” which bogged down. LeBlanc and the crew had to walk several miles to get out of the swamp. Mr. LeBlanc smiles as he remembers that the producer, who is about 65, wanted to make the trip with them. With his knowledge of the danger in the swamp and the weaknesses of all man-made attempts to tame the swamps, he adds that “Mr. Flaherty might not have gotten out because you have to know how to ‘walk the marshes’ “.

 

Walking the marshes is no joke. Harnett T. Kane has a passage in his influential book in these projects about walking what I was raised to call Flotant  and there so many risks they literally could fill a chapter very neatly.  The marshes and swamps are beautiful and abundant but they offer more risks than a stranger can usually even properly imagine. Flaherty of course was no ordinary stranger but a man who had put new lands into the world’s maps.  Yet the trapper, who clearly liked Flaherty just fine knows the man was not ready for that environment in the time of preparation allowed in a shooting schedule. Trappers walk the marsh — almost nobody else does. Native Americans rarely did and more as proof of manliness under grave risk than as a livelihood. Hunters, fishermen, ranchers and oilmen may boast of having done so a few times now and then and they do so usually with a lot of bravado in the telling. But for the true trapper it is a matter of daily life and daily bread. The Meridional knows that many of the parish’s young people of greater advantages would in many cases dream of being movie stars and they have catered to such interests in varied ways over decades. Therefore, they explore what the unlikely local hero of the glamorous industry has to say about life on film.

 

When asked if he intended continuing in the movies, Mr. LeBlanc said, an emphatic “no”. He says that he will continue to trap however, in this, however, he also is a bit discouraged. “Trapping isn’t as good now as it was. This season I have seen many go into the marshes and come out with their expenses on their backs.” But, at 65, he has the right to ‘hibernate’ at his home on Maude Avenue, and bask in his glory. There aren’t many who can become full-fledged movie stars after spending 64 years in the marshes of Louisiana.

 

There is a whole fabric of social cues in this brief article which cannot be spelled out without making too much of them but which the reader may be able to speculate upon after reading this text. The next article on the front page serves as an interesting framework and foundation for better understanding an earlier chapter about “Cajun Works”. Remember that the film industry has become rooted in this small place of small enterprises and the newspaper coverage shows that this work was begun as people took every advantage they could of the possible opportunities to make the moviemakers feel connected and welcome in this place. The next article is about the premiere itself.  It is reproduced in full below as it appeared.

 

Throngs Are Expected For Southern Premiere

 

The first premiere in the history of Abbeville will be held Sunday when “Louisiana Story,” a film depicting the encroachment of modern industry over trie fur trapper in his native marshes, opens here. State officials, representatives from nearby towns, stars of the film, representatives of the state press and a contingent from Life magazine

 

Robert Flaherty, producer and director, with his staff, will arrive by plane Friday and will remain through Sunday. Invitations have been extended to Governor Earl K. Long, the directors of various state departments, Mayor Delesseps Morrison, the mayors of Lafayette, New Iberia, and Crowley and to others. The film, which has been awarded several prizes for its excellence, was produced by Robert Flaherty under a grant from a major oil company. The veteran producer spent 14 months making it and maintained his headquarters at the Mettles home in Abbeville.

 

He picked the stars from the surrounding territory, Lionel LeBlanc, who lives on Maude avenue and is employed by E. A. Mcllhenny, was selected to play the part of the father in the film. Joseph Boudreaux, a native of Cameron parish, was cast in the roll of the son. It is around him and his experiences with the members of the oil company crew that is the basis for the story. But the film is more than the story of the boy and the oil country —it is the story of the adventure and the intrigue of bayou swamps, the marshes. The film was shot in the natural surrounding and depicts the marshes as they are. The ‘characters in the film are real, too. They are the trappers who have lived for generations on the bayous and have learned their ways of trapping the muskrat and mink from their fathers and grandfathers. Even the oil company men are taken from real life, many of  them being brought Abbeville from the different locations at which they are now working. Joseph Boudreaux, Lionel Le Blanc, Mrs. Evelyn Bienvenu, and Frank Hardy are coming for the premiere. The Chamber of Commerce and Civic organisations, along with the Abbeville Women’s Club, are planning to entertain Mr. Flaherty and the out-of-town visitors.. ,

 

The occasion is clearly anticipated as a major event in the small town. It is also true that not everyone is presumed to have been very closely following the production of the film prior to that point. Had the film been well covered in the Meridional prior to this front page coverage? The local paper certainly gives some indication of how the film crew were received.

 

Flaherty had received favorable press in the newspaper back in the 1930’s for Elephant Boy made in India and the admiring reviewer also lauded the earlier Man of Aran  when he praised this film. All of this preceded his coming to Abbeville or having any plans to do so for that matter. On Saturday July 12, 1947 the following piece appeared in the Meridional as reproduced below:

 

Film Production Unit Shoot 250,000 Feet Near Abbeville

Shooting schedules of “Louisiana Boy”,  a feature motion picture with a southwestern Louisiana background, were completed this week and the company of Robert Flaherty Productions from New York’ were preparing to head north again to complete technical finishing afj the 250,-000 feet of film made here. Flaherty, discoverer of Sabu; the Indian youngster who rose to stardom in “Elephant Boy” and other films, stated that he had spent approximately three months looking for a native Acadian’ boy to use as a star in the production, finally finding J. C. Boudreaux of Cameron, Louisiana on a lucky hunch by Mrs. Flaherty. Other native characters were found to fill supporting roles. Including Lionel. LeBlanc of Abbeville, well known trapper and fisherman of Vermilion Parish, where most of the scenes were laid. The film depicts the life of a ‘youngster of the Louisiana , marshes, and the change brought when the barge derricks of “oil survey crews begin to probe into the remote fastnesses of the swamp. The film shows many scenes of the lonely grandeur of the marshlands, and records the sounds of its amphibious Wildlife. Flaherty said that title ‘Louisiana Boy” was purely a working title, and that the film would probably appear under another name when released sometime in November 1947.

 

There may have been a bit more coverage of the filming process but not so very much more. The film was not as big of an event as the premiere. Some films had been made in part in the region but a film premiere was unheard of and  was received with a very warm welcome. The Saturday, February  26, 1949 running mostly in ENglish had a full page pictorial coverage of the premiere. It ran under the banner:

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 26, 1949 THE ABBEVILLE MERIDIONAL as usual and then in French  Vien ici ~~ mon Petit Salo-pri . The words loosely indicate that a call had come out to display Acadian heritage and that the people had responded. The chief manifestation was the much photographed buggy parade. The central brief article in this pictorial was  as is reproduced below:

They ‘hooked ole Dobbin to the shay’ last week and came to Abbeville to stage the now famous “Buggy Parade*’ to the Dixie Theater for the Southern Premiere of the movie “Louisiana Story.” Mr. and Mrs. Ulysse Hebert came in from Maurice in their buggy to lead the parade. They followed behind Police Officer Howard Guidry and Happy Flats the hillbilly singer, and a member of his band. Representatives from Life Magazine, from Time Magazine, from Harper’s Brothers Publishing company, and many local photographers started taking pictures and they couldn’t stop. When the buggies were unloaded and the crowd had filed into the theater, there had been more pictures taken in Abbeville than in any other one day in History. Uncle Nick Broussard of Erath, who traveled “many a mile in a buggy, arrived just in time to join the parade as it was going into it’s last lap. Co-chairmen of the parade were Corbette LeBlanc and Ernest Trahan of Maurice.

The future Buggy parades of Church Point may have owed something to this precedent and the totality of the event was clearly in the realm that has earned Cajuns a reputation for exuberant celebration among many Americans. However, to a Cajun there are other aspects to this story than mere exhilaration and the coming together in this way seems suitable to the event.  Nonetheless, it was clearly a big event that would long be remembered in the town.

 

What could be gleaned from the local press about the way the film itself was remembered and appreciated as a final complete work viewed and remembered? Here again it is useful to work through the limited text that exists in its complete totality. The March 5. 1949 article incorrectly names Frances Parkinson Keyes as Evelyn and has a few other problems typical of the overworked and understaffed quality of small papers. For while big city papers may have more pressure they also have more resources and so careless errors are ferreted out that a local rural writer carries into eternity on every piece even when they are not added in by other careless errors. The errors are as much the result of cares in many cases as they are of carelessness.

 

 

LOUISIANA STORY—A REVIEW Premiere Film Uses New Technique To Tell Story Of State Marshes

By Gene Yoes, Jr.

“Louisiana Story”, the great documentary film about the marshes ‘ of Louisiana and of Vermilion parish has come and gone. Behind it, it leaves some who did not appreciate the picture But the vast majority of those who saw the stirring film acclaim it as magnificent “Louisiana Story” is the recital of ‘ the life of an Acadian fur trapper’s  son—told through the all-seeing eyes of a camera It is a true to life story, a story that is happening every day in the marshes at our back door It shows the fur trapper’s son, played by young Boudreaux, as a child of nature almost untouched by the synthetic mechanized world we live in.

 

But, as the story develops, we see this child’s playground, the marshes, invaded by an oil exploration crew. We see the ordinary calm of his life, at first, disturbed, later altered, by the man-made machinery.’ Then, the oil company leaves. Left behind is a child who feels empty because of its departure!, but a child who very easily slips back into his normal, everyday way of life. Two of the most magnificent sequences in the film were presented without the use of words—a technique that is new, and many times as powerful as the shopworn phrases of Hollywood. After the oil well had “blown out” with dangerous underground gas and. water, the crew was waiting! for orders to move to another location The child, in his desire to keep his newly found friends from leaving, poured the contents of his evil-spirit-chasing-salt into the well to remove the “hex” that was causing the well to “blow out”. This dramatically demonstrated the change in the child, his acceptance  of this new mode of life. In the other sequence, the child was fondling his new rifle that his father had bought in the city. His pet raccoon, which he thought had been devoured by the alligator, returned. The child dropped his new rifle, and went to his coon. “Told” without the use of dialogue, this sequence powerfully shows the child as he rejects the mechanized world, the artificial world created by machinery, and returns to his native environment, to his native way of living. Some have said that the film gives a “bad impression” of this area of Louisiana, that it presents this area as a large swamp. But, we think that they may have missed the point of the story. At the beginning of the film, it is implicitly stated that the movie was made in one particular locale, Bayou Petit Anse.

 

It is true that the people of the Northern part of the United States may believe that all of Louisiana is a swamp. “Louisiana Story” will not change their opinion—no amount of films or stories can change them. But, after seeing this film, we are sure that the occupant of a penthouse on the richest ground in New York would gladly exchange his property for the property of John La-tour or any property in the marshes of Louisiana that are capable of spouting black, liquid gold. Robert Flaherty’s product was not an ordinary film—it was not’ made with the flourish that is typical of Hollywood films. For its locale, the producer picked the area around Bayou Petite Anse in Vermilion parish. For its star, Flaherty picked native Acadians—Lionel LeBlanc of Abbeville, Joseph Carl Boudreaux of Little Pecan Island.

 

The cost of the film was less than one-fourth that of a Hollywood production—but the film has been acclaimed as great by the New York Times, New York Post, New York Mirror, Harper’s Magazine, the Brooklyn Eagle, the New York Herald-Tribune, Life and Star. And the comments of many of those who saw the film here—Miss Evelyn Parkinson Keyes, (noted author), W. B. Cotten, Jr., (Baton Rouge), F. A. Godchaux, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. W. B. MacMillan, Mr. and Mrs. Matt Vernon (Daily Iberian), President and Mrs. Joel Fletcher of Southwestem Louisiana Institute, and many others echoed those reviews.

 

Boudreaux’s family had moved for Cameron to Little Pecan Island while he was making the film. He used the thousands of dollars he earned to buy the family a set of propane powered appliances.  Later he would continue to hunt alligators but would not be in films other than Louisiana Story; The Reverse Angle as himself.  Beyond that, one who has read up to this point should not need much explanation to follow this review. An opinion can be formed of how Southern, Cajun and rural American identity are interrelated in the minds of various people.

 

One of the questions in a book like this is whether a book mostly without presidents, armies and stacks of dead bodies deserves really to be an academic history at all. For this book aspires to a serious record of this film and these photographs and the people about whom they were made. But the fact of the lives of the actors does raise a question, if history is to really cover such apparently ordinary lives can it be history in the same way that a history of commanders in World War II is American history? The trivial details set in the Battle for Gettysburg are one thing, but should history take cognizance of the trivial details of daily life? That is the question which led me to show in earlier chapters all the ways I believe Cajun significance has been unfairly diminished in our history. If they deserve (or we deserve) real historical recognition then it will consist largely of ordinary people and events being described in stories of special significance. Not every story can be significant history and have those words mean much. But where the significant stories are Cajun the ordinary will usually predominate as a mode of experience.

 

The ordinary is a trait of Cajun and Acadian culture more than of most places. There is an extraordinary ordinariness about life among these people in some ways. Even those to whom they are very exotic note this as well. In that ordinary life things that are real and useful are seldom wasted. The premiere had much to offer the people of the region in terms of support for memory and recollection. A March 12, 1949 issue of the Meridional had this something still to say. It is reproduced in full on the following page

 

BUGGY PARADE’ FILM HAS FIRST SHOWING

On Monday night at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lionel LeBIanc, a film of the “Boggy Parade” was presented by Charles Nunes. The movie was made during the pre-premiere festivities of the “Louisiana Story” which had its Southern premiere here three weeks ago. Lionel leBlanc, a native of Abbeville, played one of the leading roles in the movie. He was chosen to play in the film because of his knowledge of the Southeast marshes. The “Buggy Parade” movie was made by Mr. Nunes from the sidewalk awning of the Audrey Hotel and from in front of the Dixie theater where “Louisiana 8tory” was shown. Attending the showing were Mr. Nunez, Mr. and Mrs. LeBIanc, Mr. and Mrs. Minos LeBIanc, Mr. and Mrs. .Gene-Yoes, as well as several children.

 

       

We will return before the last words of the conclusion to other written responses to this film among the Cajun people and the people of Abbeville. But in this brief chapter the bulk of the Meridional’s published response to the events related to the entire series of events related to the SONJ cinematic invasion has been reproduced. The photographs are not here and add a great deal. The struggle of different Americans to correctly perceive and understand one another is illustrated in these relatively few words. Not the only local paper to discuss these events the Meridional still deserves a chapter of its own. They give us the record not necessarily of the premiere at the Dixie as it was in any absolute sense as perhaps this chapter title might suggest — but at least how the film’s premiere was perceived in town and in the Parish as a whole at the time.

 

In segregating this particular source here I both show respect and a kind of mistrust. Community journalism has very real limits and shortcomings. I choose to expose the reader to this voice after having said some other things. Likewise differences in my perspective and those in these articles are more clearly and I  think fairly illustrated when the words are joined into a single compelling voice for whatever perspective the local newspaper represents.

 

Emerging Views Chapter Five, The Write Thing

 

CHinaMombishopGO

My mother gives her memoirs to a Catholic Bishop in China.

This is one of the shortest chapters and anyone reading it has a chance to catch up on the previous chapters recently published as posts on this blog. Writing itself is a subject most writers of every description think about quite a bit.  Today with mind and eyes a bit weary I think about the writing process behind Louisiana Story.

Here is a link to the pdf version currently available here: EmergingViewsChapterFive.

Here is the actual text:

Chapter Five:

The Write Way:

Stories, Screenplays and Texts

 

In the last chapter an analysis was done of how the film which we now have as Louisiana Story compared and related in some way to the film City Lights by Charlie Chaplin. Other references were made to how the film compared and contrasted or may have been positively or negatively influenced by the films Nanook of the North and Gone With the Wind. It is hoped that each chapter in this book builds toward a more complete understanding of the whole subject. Therefore bearing in mind all that has been written about movies and moviemakers in the last chapter should continue to inform the analysis and narrative of the remaining chapters. However this chapter looks at a different reality. Here there is an examination of the film itself and of our larger subject by examining the transformation of the project Robert J. Flaherty was paid to produce from the earliest form we have of that idea in full to the final production. That is an effort to understand the transformation of the project from the screenplay The Christmas Tree written by Robert and Frances Flaherty,  which appeared shortly after that initial business meeting lubricated by Jameson Irish whiskey, into Louisiana Story.

 

The two titles are quite different. One can make too much of such changes surely but one can also make too little of them. The first title is not specific to the location and is the common name of a piece of oilfield equipment. To the average viewer or reader such a title suggests children receiving gifts from their parents, perhaps in the disguise of Santa Claus and offering little in return. In the second title it is a story and not an object and it belongs at least to the state and larger region. It does not imply the child waiting for the magic of unearned wealth but the story and whatever magic, skill or spell-binding quality it may contain and embody belongs in some way to Louisiana. If that were the only difference in isolation then it would not be very significant. However, there is a great deal more evidence to support a similar line of transition. Toward end of this chapter there is an examination of the way in which the transition was not complete. But there was a transition.

 

Virtually the only proper nouns in the early screenplay are: Cajun, Jean Latour, Avery Island, Houston, Texas and — debatably — Mon Dieu.    In the final production Alexander Napoleon Ulysses Latour is introduced in a single long name made up of four significant parts. In the original it seems that a shot of Avery Island rising 150 feet above the marshlands around it  will be central to establishing the look of the film and in the final film there is little if any visual reference to this isolated and elevated prominence.Cajun and Jean Latour exist in both and Texas finds its way into the film.  But Jean Latour is an old Cajun in the first concept and while he is certainly not a young father he is not particularly old in the final film. The boy carries magic salt and a frog with him in the final film to ward off werewolves. Werewolves and mermaids are not mentioned in the first concept. The idea of the werewolf and the mermaid will be revisited later in this chapter and again in the next but for now it suffices to say that they were added on location.

 

This plot transformation is not an entirely positive desirable on from the point of view of every Cajun.There is a humiliating  aspect to the boys use of these talismanic objects in the way he uses them for those Cajuns seeking to fit in a little better and not worse in American society and clearly they are not typical practices of Cajuns or Cajun trappers and were not in the mid 1940s or probably ever. On the other hand the magic salt seems to save the day. In the original the oilfield equipment is referred to as “the monster” and there is not great story about the giant alligator only the pet coon. In the final version the boy bravely avenges the perceived murder of his coon by hooking, landing and killing a giant gator. His inability to understand the oil industry is shifted more in the direction of his condescending to observe their odd behavior from his position as a master and being of the swamp. In this new version the boy master the blow out with magic and fights what was discussed as a giant alligator with grit and still boyish muscles. Yet he is afraid and anxious about werewolves who are not specifically said to become wolves but  are said to dance at night in his wilderness with red eyes and long noses.

 

There is an idea here that the boy is not a trifle and that some being greater or at least more dangerous than he is haunts his environs ar at least his imagined version of it. Something is or is imagined to be scarier than large alligators or drilling rigs close at hand. If one counts every time the boy touches his talismans as a reference to werewolves then there are many references to these creatures although they are scarcely noticed by most viewers. In the final version magic used against werewolves has not lost its effect when it transitions into the modern context of oil drilling. There is a mythopoeic feel to the whole which is not so odd in Flaherty’s work but is largely absent from the original concept. The magical cure-all the boy keeps with him at all time could remind one of HADACOL. That magic salt if it is a reference to HADACOL in anyone’s mind would also be a reference found on site from the real Cajun people.

 

So Robert Flaherty and Mrs. Flaherty establish contacts with Avery Island and the McIlhenny family early on. It turns out that the property is largely overseen and the operations on it largely administered by a Cajun who  does know how to trap and has done a great deal of it. He is also an experienced hand in the wetlands. They soon meet Lionel Leblanc themselves and  he is cast as the imagined Jean Latour. The struggle between the product of original imagination and the real Cajuns on the ground had begun.  Cajuns like Dudley Leblanc were sensitive to the many efforts to collect information and to communicate the Acadian tradition which in their view were openly hostile. Specifically the legislature of Nova Scotia had commissioned a sort of published archive of Acadian documents and letters related to their colony and there expulsion from it. The documents paid for were collected and edited by Thomas R, Akins between 1857 and 1869. The consensus based on the small archives preserved or supported by Acadians  made people in the ethnic community feel that his was a grossly biased and distorted collection of letter and documents intended largely to establish the claim of Nova Scotia to the land taken from the Acadians without compensation. For Cajuns this formed part of the seamless trial and horror that these Civil War years would produce in the end. In addition the years since 1915 had seen openly false, hostile and even absurd lesson plans make their way into the English only schools from time to time. All of this meant that Dudley Leblanc kept an eye out for people who  came in with a story to tell of their own in which the Cajuns were to be characters.    

 

Cajuns continued to wish for and actively seek good relationships with many different communities, However,   

 

If there was a meeting between Dudley Leblanc and Lionel Leblanc in these early days it has not yet emerged into the clear light of the kind of sources which provide the relative certainty and clarity of the best and even the average in professional academic historical writing. the next chapter deals with folklore and folkloristic evidence but it has pervaded all chapters to some degree and this one more than most. The fact is that those who know and are really part of the region can imagine numerous connections and excuses for contact between the two men and in addition there was a whole complex of cultural connections which joined them in the first place.  Leblanc had numerous contacts in the genealogical professionals and near professionals in the Cajun ethnic community. He could be pretty readily acquainted with all of the people who were are should be associated with the Grand Famille des Leblancs.   Lionel Leblanc was in a sense that would seem alien to many Americans at his time or this time Dudley Leblanc’s kinsman. In addition there were a limited number of highly visible and interesting places within his realm of greatest interest and influence in the  world which was Vermilion Parish and the rest of the Attakapas  and the Cajun prairies. One of those very interesting places was Avery Island and it was managed largely by a man he thought of as his kinsman. He had a good deal of respect for the McIlhenny operation but it was not a simplistic admiration. He saw plenty to value and admire in the mingled Avery and McIlhenny clans and their operations on the island a set of institutions and the accompanying values that sustained those institutions. That Lionel Leblanc had a good and constructive relationship with them was a fact which was worth something real to him. He had a great deal of awareness of the ways that the Cajun and Acadian identity and heritage had been contested for generations. He had spent a life working to preserve that heritage and he knew of numerous instances when there had been large and organized slander campaigns in the centuries since the expulsion and before. he had meetings and connections with people from virtually all parts of the Cajun and Acadian ethnic community.

 

While Flaherty had been working on an officially New York based film that was funded  and produced  by a French Canadian fur trading concern which became the stunning Nanook released to success and acclaim in 1922.  Leblanc was starting to organize a constituency. He had his honorable discharge and a university degree when he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1924.  His greatest achievement in that office was that  in 1926,  the last year of that first term was that he wrote and introduced a bill to buy the land and begin the project that was at the time called Evangeline State park located near St. Martinville. Later in 1926 he was elected to the Public Service Commission and in that position he represented a third of the State of Louisiana. In 1927 he wrote his first book, The True Story of the Acadians secured his status across the larger Acadian ethnic community. In 1932 he took his First Official Visit of Louisiana Acadians to their Ancestral Homeland and on the way he and his large segment of officially uniformed women posed with President Hoover in front of the White House.   The Public Service Commission was considered a very good springboard to the governor’s mansion and in 1932 he ran and lost in the same year that saw Huey Long elected to the United States Senate and one of Long’s lieutenants in his political machine elected Governor of Louisiana. in the midst of that run and his defeat he edited, improved and published another version of his Acadians book also in 1932.  

 

He had a large network of people who were both connected with him and with other people and so he had a value to many of the enemies of the Long Machine even when his politics differed from theirs. In 1936 he took the Second Official Visit of Louisiana Acadians to their Ancestral Homeland and on the way to Grand Pre he stopped at the White House for a few photographs and some brief meeting with President Franklin Roosevelt and his administration.  In 1938 and 1939 he distributed a number of fine statues of St. Therese of Lisieux. In 1940 he was elected to the Louisiana State Senate to represent Vermilion Parish. That year the Food and Drug Administration began to investigate and harass him and he discontinued making the Dixie Dew Cough Syrup and Happy Day Headache Powders that were the principal source of his income. In 1941 while serving in the United States Senate he began to manufacture and distribute HADACOL. The commitment to innovative advertising set the product apart from the start. But at some level this writer has to address the fact that he was more than all of these things. Some time in 1943 the first Roy Stryker researchers or photographers made their first forays into Acadiana.  It is not all that improbable that Dudley Leblanc was aware of these forays before anything much had developed from those early days of the SONJ  project under Roy Stryker. Stryker was of course confronting the demands of a project that embraced not only the oil producing regions of the United States of America although that has been most often mentioned in this text  by way of comparing the work to the work done by the New Deal agencies. The truth is that they were already envisioning shooting around most of the oil producing regions of the world especially once the Allied victory that they hoped would come had come. The size of this project was vast and the commitment to Acadiana was a tiny part of it. However, the filming of Louisiana Story puts the Acadiana region in a category of its own.   Stephen Plattner’s book on Roy Stryker and this Project gives a sense of the scope of this project and the qualities and experiences that made Roy Stryker the man in charge of this vast enterprise.

 

Dudley Leblanc never met Roy Stryker but he too had many concerns of his own.  Beyond his public curriculum vitae were the countless interactions within the culture as a whole which formed the very fabric of life he was trying preserve.  The Cajun ethnic community was deeply committed to making life and culture work as Americans at this very time, There had been an impulse after World War One to both restore Acadian heritage and also become more integrated into the culture of the United States as a whole. That had been the struggle which had defined much of Dudley Leblanc’s life. He could see that the new postwar era might offer even greater opportunities.  The same year that the SONJ project got started Harnett Kane’s Bayous of Louisiana came out in its 1843 Victory  Edition which turned a nicely designed book with photographs and drawings into something that felt a little cheap because the wartime paper conservation protocols were observed. The book was not the best or the worst treatment of the Cajuns, Acadiana and the other peoples with whom they shared the region. But it was highly accessible to the people working the project. It is likely the Flaherty’s had both read the book when they were approached by Stryker and it is certain that several of the photographers had read it when they started shooting.   To a significant degree it was this book’s version of Acadiana and this book’s version of the Cajuns which the people on Standard Oil’s  payroll came to shoot.  They will still go back to it and in some ways there experience would always be in a conversation with that text.  But for example the book may not have a sufficient clarity about the Cajun house to make it clear what a Cajun house is but it has some helpful information and in some ways the understanding of the photographers who worked the region and had read the book seems clearly inferior to the understanding embodied in the book itself.

 

Harnett T. Kane was vastly more knowledgeable about rural Louisiana and about its French heritage than many or most writers of the time. He had some real Cajun friends and while that is dismissed as the catch-all excuse of all bigots today the truth is that it makes a vast difference over not having any friends in the community one describes. Kane could read and speak a bit of French and knew some educated leaders of the Cajun community. Despite all of those qualities and attributes Kane was as almost always was the case after 1915s outlawing of the French language and bilingual public schools more or less a bigot. At least he was what could only seem a bigot to many Cajuns. However, he was not nearly as intentional a bigot as many and  although there are a handful of error and falsehood in the book it is mostly a matter of confused context and misunderstanding. A lot of the controversial information is true enough but like the elements in treatment of those elements is simply confused where it would mean the most.

 

One of those cultural elements is dueling which continued to exist in Prairie Cajun communities in 1943 and perhaps afterwards.However the knife fighting duel in an unconcealed list by two men biting on different end of a single bandana  was certainly the least classy expression of a practice Americans already found objectionable. But it was an easier kind of dueling than others for a reporter and an outsider to track down because it was more in the province of those who had the least to lose by being discovered.  All duels in Acadiana’s Cajun communities are different than mere street fights in that they were developed in a system of ritual confrontation which limited fatalities however deadly they might appear to be this had been the case for centuries. There were few fatalities relative to the number of challenges in all  Southern dueling before the Civil War as is shown in Kenneth S. Greenberg’s book Masters and Statesmen.  Dueling in 1943 meant gathering a group of people for extra-legal violent activity. That has some relevance perhaps to scary beings that might or might not gather in the swamps near a trapper’s cabin at night.

 

Longfellow’s poem was part of the Cajun heritage in which Dudley Leblanc and all the other still found an attachment to both their traditions and to the United States. The folklorisitic traditions of the spoken tale in the Acadian villages before the expulsion are summarized in the following few lines:

 

Ripe in wisdom was he, but patient, and simple, and childlike.
He was beloved by all, and most of all by the children;
For he told them tales of the Loup-garou in the forest,        
And of the goblin that came in the night to water the horses,
And of the white Létiche, the ghost of a child who unchristened
Died, and was doomed to haunt unseen the chambers of children;
And how on Christmas eve the oxen talked in the stable,
And how the fever was cured by a spider shut up in a nutshell,        
And of the marvellous powers of four-leaved clover and horseshoes,
With whatsoever else was writ in the lore of the village.

The Loup-garous are werewolves, All of this folklore is coming through a lense or two of the perceptions of Longfellow who had heard the basic story from a student at Harvard and had further educated himself by collecting  a good bit of published and primary unpublished material before writing his epic poem. Here the werewolves are clearly merely a literary motif in the spoken folk tales of the village and are not intended to represent any very specific underlying reality. Although Longfellow allows for a little ambiguity. He tells of men and dogs out among the wolves in the colonies wilderness places. Depending on whether one sees the word “wolfman” or lycanthrope inits various forms as being a word related to words like cowboy, horseman and fisherman. If one sees the folklore from that point of view then Longfellow’s shepherds of Acadie have a chance to be familiar with wolves.

 

In the same poem he mentions people lurking on the edges of the colonies watching for an English invasion. In the next chapter we will discuss whether in all these disparate elements there is a suggestion of something essential to the Cajun culture. Perhaps something like dueling may have existed in the atmosphere in the 1940s which influenced the final development of Louisiana Story in its released and exhibited form.

 

The next chapter will attempt to deal with those other aspects of his life more directly but suffice it to say that Dudley Leblanc lived a life very much at the heart of the Cajun ethnic community. He was also very much at the  heart of the Leblanc family network. He definitely had many connections with Lionel Leblanc that went beyond any of his connections with these projects or with the public offices he held or businesses in which he was involved. In addition, the road between Abbeville and Avery Island ran near his Erath home and only full-fledged official residence. The chances for him to meet with Lionel were almost too numerous too count as this other Leblanc made this trip many times during the filming year.    

 

Dudley Leblanc had the opportunity to review his files, the SONJ people had not come into Vermilion Parish with great stealth.  They were not shooting any of the film at Evangeline State Park on any large scale but rather mostly at Avery Island and a few other locations. They did not make a clear public case for why they were portraying the Cajuns at all. He could go through his files on the founding of the State Park and his research files for creating a more complete living history site there in the future.  He could peruse the copies of his two versions of the book about the Acadians. He could go through his correspondence with the Herbert Hoover and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administrations when he set up the White House visits and Presidential Photo-Ops with his pilgrims from Acadiana to Acadie.  The women from each Acadiana community on the trips were lined up in front of the White House dressed in a representation of traditional Acadian costume.    He could look at the photographs and the documents associated with these and many other projects.  He could speak with those who assisted him in finding old unpublished papers.

  

The basis of any understanding of what happened in this  period of Acadiana’s interaction with the Standard Oil projects has to start with the written word. But the  right texts are not always easy to find. They are not always easy to find nor is it clear what books and texts were determinative in setting out the vision that was developed. In addition “writing with light” is the closest literal translation of the compounded words behind the word photography and it is important to remember that  the language of visual imagery somes into play on its own and in its own right. But Dudley Leblanc surely was very much aware of the legislation he had written for the Evangeline State Park, in his twice released book about the Acadians and in his  plans for various groups and organizations that he had worked with under the umbrella of his position as  President of the Association of Louisiana Acadians in the late twenties and the early thirties.

 

At the time of this writing there is a Jean Lafitte National Park near Lafayette that honors Cajun culture in amny ways at a site called Vermilionville. However his Evangeline State park Legacy has changed a bit over time here is a 2016 description on the park’s website:

 

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site explores the cultural interplay among the diverse peoples along the famed Bayou Teche. Acadians and Creoles, Indians and Africans, Frenchmen and Spaniards, slaves and free people of color-all contributed to the historical tradition of cultural diversity in the Teche region. French became the predominant language, and it remains very strong in the region today.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 epic poem Evangeline made people around the world more aware of the 1755 expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia and their subsequent arrival in Louisiana. In this area, the story was also made popular by a local novel based on Longfellow’s poem, Acadian Reminiscences: The True Story of Evangeline, written by Judge Felix Voorhies in 1907.

Once part of the hunting grounds of the Attakapas Indians, this site became part of a royal French land grant first used as avacherie, or cattle ranch. The first Acadians to settle in Louisiana established themselves here, on the banks of Bayous Teche and Tortue, on the edges of this vacherie.

When the grant was sold and subdivided, this section was developed as an indigo plantation. In the early 1800s, Pierre Olivier Duclozel de Vezin, a wealthy Creole, acquired this property to raise cotton, cattle, and eventually, sugarcane. He built the Maison Olivier, the circa 1815 plantation house which is the central feature of Longfellow-Evangeline SHS. His son, Charles, made improvements to the home in the 1840s. The structure is an excellent example of a Raised Creole Cottage, a simple and distinctive architectural form which shows a mixture of Creole, Caribbean, and French influences.

A reproduction Acadian Farmstead is situated along the bank of Bayou Teche. The Farmstead is an example of how a typical single-family farm would have appeared around 1800. The site includes the family home with an outdoor kitchen and bread oven, slave quarters and a barn. In the pasture located adjacent to the barn, there are cattle typical of those raised by the Creoles and Acadians at that time.

In 1934, the property became the first park of the Louisiana State Parks system. In 1974, Maison Olivier was designated a National Historic Landmark.

 

One of the many facts that is simply not taught  or studied is that the Louisiana State park system was founded out of the struggle and labor of the  Acadian ethnic experience.  The other fact about the park is that its central focus on the Acadian experience has been clearly diluted. There are many different kinds of writing of course. Dudley Leblanc’s best efforts  at writing lay in the future when he would write and publish The Acadian Miracle.

 

The full story of how the screenplay was transformed is complicated at the least. It includes notes made and shared by Helen Van Dongen, correspondence  between the filmmakers and Standard Oil or Roy Stryker.It involves shared conversations about Harnett Kane’s book. But in the end the place they had chosen and the relatively powerful engines of creation for a locally acceptable understanding of the region and its people also had some influence over what ended up on the screen.

 

One of Dudley Leblanc’s  favorite passages from Longfellow’s favorite poem was:

 

Thus dwelt together in love these simple Acadian farmers,—
Dwelt in the love of God and of man. Alike were they free from
Fear, that reigns with the tyrant, and envy, the vice of republics.
Neither locks had they to their doors, nor bars to their windows;        
But their dwellings were open as day and the hearts of the owners;
There the richest was poor, and the poorest lived in abundance.

 

The next chapter will deal with some of the possible and competing ideals of Acadian culture, it was clear that Dudley Leblanc was a man with an economic and socio-economic vision informed by his Cajun heritage. In the next chapter we will get to the more contentious elements of that vision. But many Cajuns in Vermilion Parish and elsewhere  believe that the achievements of Acadie in early colonial America are not enough appreciated. Louisiana Story is not perfect  as a portrayal of Cajun culture but the evidence does suggest that there was some transformation of the presentation which Cajun culture received in the film.

 

Here in Vermilion Parish Flaherty and Stryker would come into contact with a culture deeply concerned about the endless struggle for a more honest and competent portrayal of its image. However,  they would be more likely to tolerate an account that was unduly flattering over one that was unduly embarrassing. The Boy in the film kills  the alligator out of revenge and that also developed on site. Revenge is a big theme of Cajun culture. However, forgiveness and forbearance are also part of the culture. But avenging his pet raccoon is not so absurd a motivation for a Cajun boy to espouse. But one thinks that the questions of cultural awareness and portrayal were not those of an ethnologist confronting a pristine culture. The transformation of the screenplay reflects to some degree the location of the work in a place where the culture was understood in an autonomous  and local intellectual framework and was presented in an  up to date manner  to anyone seeking information and was being promoted as such a basis for cultural identity allows a culture to be promoted…    

 mmmmm
 5

 

A Few Reflections on the Passing of Days

I have been working a lot on a novel about the life of Jesus Christ. You can see parts of that novel here, here and here.  I have also struggled with the vast wear and tear on my body and have lost a friend who was my most continuous non familial relationship since childhood. Dr. David Link Silar’s funeral was the Saturday before my Monday birthday. In addition I buried another friend that day. We will get to some prosaic concerns I had that day and every other day and yet politics matter enough that I made it to the Acadiana Press Club Forum that birthday when I turned fifty-one. The issues of the last legislative session matter a great deal to me.

Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills leafs through the budget...

Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills leafs through the budget…

But amid my fully preoccupied and not very smooth and easy life the shooting of a pastor who was also a state senator in South Carolina and many members of his Bible study. Nine people have died of the incident so far. Dylan Roof may be executed for it in time.  I did an earlier post linking to material relevant to this tragic outcome of an act of racial and political violence. But this is a post about my own since of things in the world being filled with reports of this man’s acts. It is about my life at the same time.

The truth of the last few months has been comparable to the years that have preceded those months in as much as I have almost always been very much on the side of things which notes and declares how wrongly the world was arranged on a variety of matters. But I think real change has also occurred in my life. That change is connected to change in the larger world but not so very directly and intensely as in the lives of some people.

I’m in the mode of just falling apart this month it seems. I’m not at all surprised as that is a kind of predictable and more or less cyclical consequence of the life I have lived as well as the world in which I have lived it. I have had many times when I was under the limits of my body or of other resources and was required to step back and slow down.

The truth is that there are reasons as diverse as my returning foot problems, the loss of an old friend Dr. David Link Silar and the assault on my life by a relatively large number of relatively minor physical and financial stresses. I’m blogging now after letting my blog slip or not.

I have been dealing with a large fallen tree limb in the lawn tthat I take care of normally. It has been an evolving process with lots of ancillary problems. Generally my life is always plagued with ancillary problems.

The orange tree panted and nurtured on the new house site on old family land.

The orange tree panted and nurtured on the new house site on old family land.

There are lots of stresses on the plants but it is my own life which is most stressed by the relationships and interpersonal situations that form the context of even my own now very limited life and work. I have dealt with the fallen tree in the context of wearing ankle and foot braces. I have done it in the context of a damaged chainsaw that I have not yet used at all and an axe that I have used. I have dealt with it in the context of having a trailer driver start driving off while the twenty five foot spread branch system was still hooked both into the trailer and into my hands — the jolt strained my back for a while. I took some of the pictures of the main limb and the branches I had cut in a driving rain that interfered with my schedule.

Fallen limb cleared of branches by me with my axe.

Fallen limb cleared of branches by me with my axe.

I struggled to move the cleared branches across the lawn at the time when they would damage the lawn the least. The rain poured down again just after I got the branches into a pile beside the driveway. As I have stated earlier this picture was taken in the pouring rain.

Pile of cleared branches in a heavy rain lit by the sun.

Pile of cleared branches in a heavy rain lit by the sun.

In addition the lawn has a fairly large wildlife population. I protect in one way or another the toads, non-venomous snakes, squirrels and other creatures. But I have had to kill a lot of pit vipers at close range with blades while I worked. That has also been a source of stress. I mind it less than most would but it affects me.

 

Vipers jaws protrude from the smooth and even sides...

Vipers jaws protrude from the smooth and even sides…

In addition to all of this I have been distracted from the Louisiana budget and marijuana issues of the last legislative session which mattered to me a great deal. I did attend an Acadiana Press Club Forum on my birthday. I was glad I did but Dylann Roof’s fatal shooting of nine people in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church in South Carolina overshadowed those political issues. I still think that those issues matter a great deal.

Congratulating Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills on reforming Marijuana law...

picture taken on my camera by Richard Mergist Congratulating Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills on reforming Marijuana law…

What comes next in the gubernatorial and senatorial elections matters and should be covered in this blog. The terrorist attack by a young man claiming that he is inspired by the Confederate ideals clearly demands that I confront his interpretation of a symbol that I respect. I did so briefly in my last post and will do so again. I have also stated that this tragedy occurred in a context of widespread racial political violence in contemporary American life.

Sad and troubled days will be the norm for a while at least….

The seal of the Confederacy ties the Lost Cause to the Revolution and the past long before that war.

The seal of the Confederacy ties the Lost Cause to the Revolution and the past long before that war.

 

Emanuel, Son of David Chapters 41 to 50 in Blog Post

I am going to try to do some  more to prepare for the next batch of chapters I put into this blog but for the current post this level of preparation will be enough. These links should continue to be viable when I edit the text in the next draft assuming that such a thing happens. Such as this fallen branch in the lawn and garden that I attempt to tend.

A branch from one of the oaks in the lawn where I live recently fell.

There are all kinds of difficulties along the way which may prevent any given thing happening. However, this will remain the plan for the time being. I will mention that I have 151 chapters currently in the condition of these chapters more or less but today I am able to do something and not everything.

View of  a relative named Bubba's funeral from near the church entrance looking at the altar. The Christian faith centered around Jesus remains vital to our society.

View of a relative named Bubba’s funeral from near the church entrance looking at the altar. The Christian faith centered around Jesus remains vital to our society.

So let us take up with chapters forty-one, forty-two, forty three, forty-four, forty-five, forty-six, and forty seven here in this sentence.  Then in this next sentence we can link to chapters forty-eight, forty-nine and fifty.  This brings us into that early period of Jesus’s ministry which is sort of the public ministry and sort of the preparatory portion characterized by baptism, fasting, calling certain key people forth and certain signs.

Reviewing My Mother’s Memoirs

I am not an objective reviewer here. I also do not have the same exact value placed on objectivity which some critics avow. I read my mother’s second volume of her memoirs Our Family’s Book of Acts: To Love and Serve the Lord (Summerise Media Publication, ISBN 978-0-615-45595-2-5195) which is a sequel to Go! You are Sent. I read the book’s 386 or so page in a very brief time of between two and three hours. Of course I lived many of the events, knew many of the characters, edited one of the early exploratory drafts which has then been edited twice at least before the final putting together of the galleys. This is the Asian edition put together by Noah’s Ark Creations in Singapore. I am not sure when this will be available from an American publisher. There is no large distribution plan in Europe or the Western Hemisphere right now and it is really a small edition.

Nonetheless, it is a well-written and compelling story presented nicely in  an attractive volume. I think it deals with many issues, topics and persons of real interest and importance. I would not expect it to be such a fast read for most people — indeed I plan to read it again when I get the chance. However, it really has a nice flow. Discussing life as a Missionary, being a wife and mother, an intense productive and troubled marriage, the Catholic Church, social stresses around the world and the people who make up her family is a challenge for the book of this length. It does not disappoint the reader and does not waste the reader’s time in pointless  searches thought things the reader does not have the time to really grasp or understand.  It is in my opinion a good book and well worth the cost in money and time. 

I will try to  post a comment or an update on this blog post and elsewhere when plans for North American and European distribution are knwon to me. I am hoping that this post has enough detail to be of some value as it is. However, the book is definitely of some value.

The BP Oil Leak & “Culkathadreil”

Yesterday I finished a draft of a novel on a Facebook account I call “Summers Progress” it is a draft but it is not unreadable or incoherent as it is and there is not likely to be a more complete draft later on. I have written about a dozen novels like this and another half a dozen plays that I have not submitted to anyone for publication. I have submitted a couple of short stories and had them rejected but not recently. However I have had my writing published in real paper publications of the type that pay people and undergo large distribution costs. I have also had my writing published in newsletters, paid compendiums in book form for private release and in various vehicles of my own like this blog. The novel I completed yesterday is called “Culkathadreil” .  I watch television. I buy movie tickets for myself and others. I buy several newspapers and    I surf the web like a madman. In addition I listen to the radio and watch music videos from varied purveyors. The point of my next paragraph is not that I do not like anything in the world and that it is all crap — that is not my opinion.

Nonetheless, it is true that despite Louis Armstrong, Sydney Bechet, Kate Chopin, Ernest Gaines, Stephen Ambrose, Lyle Saxon, Lauren Post, Carl Brasseaux, Zachary Richard, Fats Domino, Michael Doucet and Beausoleil, the Degas paintings of the Cotton Exchange, James Lee Burke, the politics of James Carville, the monuments to Jean Lafitte, the Jazz Festival, the Cajun Music Festival, the Festival Acadiens and the guest list of the last Weeks to rule the Shadows on the Teche –despite all those things  and the Williams with cousin Tennessee and their endowment of the Royal New Orleans Collection I live in a State which is a land of sunken things and deep shadows. I do not publish my novels for many reasons and you and I might not agree on all of them. However, the oil leak is a great symbol of the world I and so many from my state live in. The reckless madness and damaging folly of big oil, big government and even big environmentalism interfere with plans people here had and hopes they would have liked to see made real. I have no doubt that most of these plans are better and could be part of something much better than the status quo.

So after each novel is finished I take a day to feel sorry for myself. I do not usually share those thoughts. However as I sink into the shadows this time I take you with me because it is crowded with sunken people and dreams around here. Despite the New Orleans Saints winning a world championship with many local boys turned men on board and with a neighbor from Texas at the lead on the field, and despite Brittney Spears and Tim McGraw being as big in popular culture as one can really measure people to be — this is a place where much more is washed a way by storms and erosions of the natural and cultural kind thean can be easily measured either. Miles of land are damaged and vulnerable because of bad federal planning and coroporate greed American Indian Tribes have to watch till another kind of Indian from around the world is governor while they struggle for culture, natire and a future in many ways. America if it is anything (and sometimes it is not anything) as an idea has become an “English only” democracy. When it was young here it was sincerely hoped by many here and in other states that it would never be either of those two things. Many thought such a pair of calamities was prohibited by the Constitution.     We have a Preservation Hall but a hundred institutions that created jazz have not been preserved. So things are undertaken but less than is lost so as I sink into the shadows this time I take you with me because it is crowded with sunken people and dreams around here. If you look carefully and think hard about this oil leak you can see why.

Bp did not cause all these evils but this crisis is deeply tied to many other trials.  Britain has the toughest real anti-libel laws in the  world (as opposed to laws never enforceable or murderous thugs or honorable duels combatting libel) and if I ever did make some bucks maybe BP could find a way to sue me for libel for some of the things written here. But the truth is that I and others here are swimming in a see of subtle libels that are harder to prove and still suck the air out of life here. BP is among the libellers and has been for a very long time along with most people their people know. That is no fiction.