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Poem, Story, Remembrance. A virtual chapbook by Leola Claiborne Carhee



Way Back Yonder When
When the older generation begin to leave the scene, somebody had better wake up and do some recording, so that the younger generation will know their history. All families do not have storytellers like my grandfather to leave a bit of history behind. Well what I did not get from him, I got from my older cousin, Cleveland a couple of years ago. You see I was aware of his failing health and the possibility of him forgetting some of the old landmarks, so I started to ask questions and record answers. -- L.C.C.


The colored quarters in our town was separated by the KCS railroad tracks. The white folk lived on one side of the tracks and the colored folk and Mexicans lived on the other side.

           Mon Ervin was the first black grocery store in town and a man who was called, "Niger" Morgan, barbecued in a building rented to him by Mon Ervin. Ellis Lewis opened a barbecue pit beside his house and sold charcoal and barbecue. Mr. Lewis sold the only colored newspaper in our quarters which came from Shreveport, La. The paper was called the Shreveport Sun. My cousin told me that Pat Carter came on the scene and opened the second black grocery store in Big D. Spencer Davis got brave and opened a grocery store on the present of Jabo's place. On the same street that Jabo's pawnshop is located, there was a colored baseball field where Eddie Citizen's home is located at the present time.

           The Dew Drop Inn -- what my cousin's generation called a hunky tunk -- was owned and run by Sidney Davisan and his wife, Mammie. We also called the hunky tunk, "Mammie's Place." This family made a lot of money from their juke joint and was considered a permanent wealthy family. Tragedy overtook them one day as the entire family and their pastor was coming from Beaumont, Texas, and some holiday shopping. They ran over the railing of a big bridge that divided Texas from Louisiana and were all killed instantly. The dead consisted of Sidney, Mammie, their two children, her sister and their pastor.

           I remember hearing my aunt say one day, after a group of us teenagers had disobeyed our parents and went to the Dew Drop Inn, "I wish God would take that building and turn it into a house of Worship." Little did we know that years later tragedy would strike and the building would become a house of worship. The building was moved to its present site which is St Mary's Church of God in Christ. Rev. Ackley was the first pastor in that building.

           Carver Elementary School's location was where colored school's playground was. It also served as a football field with lights in the area. Mr. Tolliver was our first football coach. The school was located in the little stucco building behind what is now The Beauregard Head Start building. The colored USO was located on the school's playground also. It was closer to the road, directly in front of the Starlight Baptist Church wooden cafeteria, which was on the right side of the church.

           The school used the church cafeteria as the school cafeteria until a new school was built with its own cafeteria located at the present Head Start building. I remember eating a lot of stewed prunes, pinto beans and rice and stewed meat. Sometimes we would have smoke sausage cooked in tomato gravy and meat loaf was a specialty. We would also have stewed chicken with rice, but it was very seldom that we had fried foods. The cafeteria was eventually torn down when Starlight was renovated for the first time, I was still a little girl.

           The graveyard was extended toward the church to make space for more burial ground because they were beginning to overlay bodies on top of bodies. Starlight's small cemetery was the only one for black people in our community. After growing up, we formed a committee and bought another cemetery located behind John Lewis place, which he later turned into a store.

           Mr. Alexander was our Agriculture teacher at the colored school before and during World War II. He had only one arm, but he was the best darn teacher we knew. When Roosevelt was president, there was a program in our community that my grandfather found out about from some of his white friends or acquaintances. This government program allowed citizens to can their meat, fruits and vegetables that they had raised. They took it to the agriculture building and canned and processed their food. They would seal the cans with a sealer provided by the government. My grandfather would always tell the appropriate person when he would find out about a program that the colored people were missing out on. He would go with the person in order to deter any cursing that would otherwise happen if he were not present.

           This particular time he told Mr. Alexander and went with him to the school board office to prevent the teacher from being cursed out and called brazen which was in some white people's vocabulary concerning black people. The entire community had high regard for my grandfather because he was the last living slave in Beauregard parish. The only thing our families were required to do was give two cans of food to the superintendent. That had to be all right with our old ancestors at that particular time. Our ancestors knew their place and stayed in their places, all of them but my grandfather. He would say his only bad word in his vocabulary, which was "drat you," and speak his piece.

Leola Standing
Electronic photograph illustration, Leola Standing,
© Leola Claiborne Carhee -- All rights reserved.
           After my grandfather passed away in the late thirties, my mother had to work at the white school as a custodian on Third Street. A young fifteen-year-old girl worked along beside mother. My brother and I had to walk with mother to work during all types of weather. The young lady eventually met an older man who owned a business in what we called the New Heights. She courted and married him and became a permanent citizen. My mother was like a mother to her and she was like our big sister.

        Something's in life,
        We should never forget.
        It sticks to us like a Tick.

        Your skin may crawl
        Your voice may growl,
        But history shall conquer all.

        Things that change from
        Hunky Tunk to Church,
        This old news tells me much.

        Around the corner brews the truth
        About a wooden platform
        Called the Buzzard Roof.

        Come my friends and relive the past
        My mother played pool
        With an old straw broom.




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