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Category Archives: the seventies

The Help

Last fall, my sister-in-law and BFF recommended a book that her book club was reading titled, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. She thought that I would enjoy it because of my relationship with Rose, the lady that basically raised me and was so important to our family.

It was the first book I downloaded to my Kindle app on my new iPad. As I began to read the story about early 1960′s Jackson, Mississippi and the struggles of black maids working for white families, pangs of familiarity began to churn in my gut. It wasn’t so much the dreadfulness of Civil Rights’ indignities of the day — I am all too familiar with the effects of those days — as it was the stories of the women who were charged with white parents’ most precious possession (their children), but were not allowed to use the restroom inside the lily white homes of these Southern hypocrites.

I was captivated by the historical context and of course, by the personal story of Skeeter Phelan, who sets out to write a book about stories of “the help” — both good and bad. Yes, there were some good stories about relationships between the races, even though very few see the light of day. I read it in two days and was touched in a way I hadn’t been since I read The Horse Whisperer many years ago.

Perhaps the story resonated so deeply with me because of Rose. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood, Rose was a constant except for the year or so that she and my mother had a falling out…but more on that later.

My parents were married in May, 1952 and my father moved into my grandparents’ home with my mother so they could save up to build a house of their own. They had my sister nine months after they were married and starting building their house “in the country” about six miles from “town”. My father owned a plant nursery with his father right around the corner from their new homestead. Once the house was finished, they prepared to move their small family into the home that they would occupy for the next 40 years.

My parents were not rich folks, but it had been decided that my mother would need “help” as she only had the use of her right arm, her left arm paralyzed from polio when she was two. Additionally, they had just found out that their daughter was deaf. My father employed alot of field hands at the nursery and was particularly close to his foreman, nicknamed Shawee (which, incidentally, means racoon in french). Shawee’s wife, Rose, also worked at the nursery. They had a growing family and some of the older kids helped out at the nursery in the summer. My father arranged a meeting between my mother and Rose to see if she would be a good fit to “help” my mother in the house. They immediately hit it off and Rose became a fixture in our house and synonymous with our family for the rest of her life.

A short while later, my brother was born and became Rose’s child. He called her “Mamma Rose” and followed her everywhere. He spent most of his days with Rose as my mother was taking my sister to speech therapy and classes each day, trying to prepare her for school. Rose’s kids often spent time with our family and were fantastic playmates.

Rose had nick names for everyone, particularly her kids. Pictured above is Gros Bay Bay (meaning Big Baby in French). There was also Tougi, Tee-an, Sis, and Teeny. The twins would come later…but, more of that later. She also was instrumental in assigning my brother’s moniker as she called him a “chip” off the old block. Since he was a Jr., the name stuck — Chip, or Chippo as she preferred.

Nine years after my brother….surprise, surprise, my mother was pregnant. My sister was off at school in Baton Rouge and came home most weekends, but the house had basically been my brother’s domain with Rose attending to his every need. Rose indicated that this new baby would be a girl and decided upon Suzy-Q as an appropriate name. Rose’s youngest son, Teeny, was a toddler, but she hadn’t had a little girl to spoil in a long time. So, when I was born in the fall of ’64, Rose was in her glory. Many nights, she and one of her daughters would spend the night and baby sit, dressing me up like a little doll and of course, spoiling me rotten.

We loved that lady. I mean truly loved her. Then, when I was about five, Rose was gone. I don’t remember anyone saying why or what happened, I only knew that she was gone and another lady was there to “help”. She was nice enough, but she was no Rose. I missed Rose so much, but I didn’t know where she was. Then, almost magically, she returned when I was starting 2nd grade. It was like she never left. I was soooo happy to have her back. It appears that I had acted out pretty severely at the new lady and looking back, I’m sure I saw her as an impostor and wanted the real deal.

I would find out, years later, that Rose and my mother had a falling out around Rose taking up with a new man after she and Shawee divorced. Not that it was her business, but my mother was concerned for Rose and her children so she applied some kind of tough love and basically told her not to come back if she was going to continue living with the man. So Rose quit or Mamma fired her. After a few months, Rose’s older daughter, Sis, let Mamma know that Rose was pregnant, with twins. My mother was NOT happy and I’m sure she let it be known. She was pissed at Rose because she knew how hard her life was already and now she was supporting a man and two babies and dragging young Teeny through it all. To my mother’s credit, she finally came to her senses and asked Rose to come back. I don’t know if she felt sorry for Rose and wanted to help or if she really just missed her best friend, but I was happy as pigs in shit that Rose was BACK!!

My mother and Rose had an unusual relationship for black and white women in the South in the ’60s. But, then again, southwest Louisiana was a little different in terms of tolerance. Not that there wasn’t racism, but there were more accounts of close relationships between black and white families. My parents demanded our respect for Rose. If we talked back, we were punished just as if we had disrespected one of them. My mother trusted Rose with her most intimate secrets and as a true confidant. Rose knew and understood all our family dynamics and she was often the sounding board for problems, cheerleader for accomplishments and overall, just an objective observer of our lives.

I learned so much from her. Friendship, loyalty, humbleness, integrity, compassion, faith and love, not to mention how to cook the perfect round steak. Probably the most touching part of the story of The Help was the maid, Aibileen, trying to instill confidence into Mae Mobley, the toddler in her care and whose mother was a bit “detached”. Each morning when Aibi arrived and took the little girl from her crib or when she read her story books, she had Mae Mobley repeat: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.”

Rose did the same kinds of things, making us feel good about ourselves and setting her expectations high for us, even though she was always right there and helping to pick up the pieces when we stumbled. Rose died the week of Thanksgiving, 1993 on the same day and hour that my brother’s daughter was born. It was such a bittersweet day in our family, but we knew that this new baby was likely kissed and blessed with Rose’s spirit. A few days later, I delivered the eulogy at her funeral…it was such an honor. Her headstone reads: “In Loving Memory from ALL her children” and lists her name as “Mama Rose”, a tribute from all of her children.

I tell this story because there’s so much talk about racism, bigotry and inequality, but little about love and mutual respect between the races. When little children find a caring, loving and trusted friend who instills self-confidence, the color of their skin or the differences in their cultures fade away. There is only love…and loyalty…and remembrance. So, when I read the book and found out that the movie was being made, I made a promise to watch the movie, alone with Rose. Since I couldn’t have her next to me, live and in person, I brought along this picture of her from my grandmother’s 90th birthday party and of course, her spirit. I laughed and I cried at familiar and compelling parts, knowing that Rose was laughing and crying right along with me.

So, needless to say, I highly recommend going to see The Help. And, when you do, consider the relationships of those women with those children and what an integral part they were in forming these children and giving them such a strong foundation — some who grew up to be priests, teachers, businessmen, doctors, authors and others who are simply “good” people, in part, from the values and teachings of the “help”.

 

Free at Last…

That’s right! The Louisiana Lethario, the Riverboat Gambler, the Silver Fox, the Cajun Capon, is out of prison after serving over eight years of his ten year sentence for rigging riverboat gaming licenses (a little thing called bribery and extortion). The 83-year-old Edwards was released into a halfway house in Baton Rouge, but is likely to serve out his release conditions in Baton Rouge with his daughter, Anna Edwards.

Now, all you non-Louisianians are likely saying, “So what? Another politician caught with his hand in the cookie jar…glad he went to prison and he deserves the public shunning he’ll get for the rest of his life.” Ah, but this is Louisiana, people. And to understand the enormity of this news, you have to understand Louisiana politics and the maelstrom that is Edwin W. Edwards.

There are some monumental political figures in Louisiana’s history….Governor and Senator Huey P. Long, his nephew and renowned U. S. Senator Russell Long, Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Senator John Breaux, etc., but none are as renowned, celebrated and talked about as “Fast Eddie” Edwards.

You see, EWE hit the Louisiana scene when the state was going from a sleepy, backwater farm and seafood economy to the back room for the oil industry. In the late ’60s and through the ’70s, oil money was FLOWING, particularly in South Louisiana — home to one little cajun girl who shall remain nameless.

I have vivid memories of Edwin Edwards. He was the first Governor and yes, celebrity that I can recollect. Like many Louisiana towns, the small town that I grew up in had a fall festival every year that was part fund-raiser for worthwhile community causes and, in the Cajun way of life, a concentrated effort in celebration and party….you know, the joie de vivre. In Youngsville, that was the Festival of Beauties. We had a full carnival, complete with boardwalk, carney booths and amusement rides. My absolute favorite was the Tilt-A-Whirl, where centrifical force held you against the wall while the floor dropped out. I can still remember the thrill of the first time I mustered up the courage to ride “The Bullet”.

There was the Friday night Fais Do Do held outside at the old Elementary School that I attended and where my uncle was the principal — my Daddy’s best friend growing up was my 7th grade homeroom teacher. French music permeated the festive air where parents showed off their dance moves to mesmerized children waiting to ask for another two dollars worth of quarters for the rides. Then, on Saturday, the whole town (and then some) attended the beauty pageant to crown our queen. My Nanny (Godmother) usually played the accompniment on piano and many times I sat next to her, again mesmerized at her uncanny ability to playing everything by ear, simply hearing the song once.

Finally, on Sunday, the festival was capped off by a big parade, complete with various high school marching bands, floats and politicians pressing the flesh for votes in the next election. That’s where I was first exposed to the phenomenon that was Edwin Edwards. This particular year was an election year, so many politicians showed up to shore up their electorate. Edwards was running for Governor and need every Cajun voter to go out there and pull the lever for him. Of course, in my pre-adolscent mind, politics was a non-starter. This particular year, I was more concerned about my role as a junior maid for the festival and making sure that I got my “princess waive” down pat. (On the left…)

However, the irrepressible Edwin Edwards was not to be upstaged by a bunch of girls…young or old. He walked the length of the parade route (about 5 miles), basking in the adulation of his adoring Cajun public who dreamed of touching the cloak of their king. You see, in South Louisiana, there is no more adored thing than one of their own. Edwards was a product of Marksville — considered Yankee territory to most Cajuns –but his mother was a fluent, french-speaking Cajun Catholic. These two traits basically cannonized him in the hearts of the whole of South Louisiana. His savvy scrappiness and dedication endeared him to North Louisiana. So, one the whole, he was THE MAN for Louisiana.

To properly understand his magnetism among the Cajuns and Louisianians as a whole, you have to understand the vehement loyalty that this society has for one of their own. Many a foible is overlooked if you are deemed to be “one of us”. There have been few too many Cajun heros, but those attaining that status can do no wrong no matter what wrong they do. A few Cajun legends with this status: Ron “Louisiana Lightning” Guidry – Cy Young Award-winning New York Yankee; WWII Hero Claire Chennault; Kentucky Derby jockey, Calvin Borel; 1996 Miss America, Ali Landry; and, Cleveland Browns’ QB Jake Delhomme, not name a few. Those attaining this status are pure Cajun gold — never paying for a meal or a new car…heh.

Cajuns are, by nature, a pragmatic and forgiving people, so a little malfeasant is tolerated, if not expected. Edwin Edwards had a perfect understanding of this and simply took full advantage of his legend status with the people of Louisiana.

Even after the first round of twelve years as Governor and law-bending, Edwards came back to the populus to return him back to the glory spot. I was among those who reluctantly held my nose and pulled the lever for EWE in 1991 when he ran against one David Duke. The choice was between a known philanderer/crook vs. a known racist. A popular bumper sticker of the time? ” “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.”

To his credit, Edwards fully understood the public quandry and fully played it up. When asked about his chances of beating David Duke, he responded that the only way he could lose was “if he was caught in bed with a dead woman or a live boy”. Now THAT, is cahonas.

I still remember the day that we saw the cop cars screaming down Highland Road toward the Country Club of Louisiana. It was 1996 and it was the day we were moving to Memphis. Come to find out, they were headed to Edwards’ house to arrest him. At that time, I was elated that the crook was finally caught. He had brought shame to the Cajun Nation and failed to live up to his promise as the Cajun Redeemer.

However, now — after 15 years of bad politics and representation across the nation — I have to wonder…was he really all that bad? After all, he did more for Louisiana and its’ government than any Governor before or since. Good, bad or indifferent, Edwin W. Edwards was a leader, albeit a greedy one…and, he will always be — a CAJUN. Therefore, I say, live and let live. Let the old man play out his days in peace and freedom…unless I start seeing Edwards 2011 bumper stickers.

 

R.I.P. Gerry Rafferty

1947 - 2011

Gone too young.  Gerry Rafferty taken by liver disease at 63.  Fare thee well, King of “Baker Street”.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in memorials, the seventies

 

The Trust is Broken

1916 - 2009

1916 - 2009

This is the face I saw every day, growing up.  Next to my father, Walter Cronkite, was the most prevalent male role model in my life for the first 14 or 15 years.  Every night at 5:30pm, Walt would deliver the news while my Mother was cooking dinner.  Most nights, my much older brother and sister were off somewhere doing their teenager thing, leaving my Dad and I to take in the world happenings of the day.  My father was not an extremely demanding parent, but he did encourage us to read the newspaper and to watch the evening news so that we understood the issues of our time.  It’s something that has proven to be invaluable in work and life, in general.

I’m not sure why, but our daily newspaper always came in the afternoon.  My father usually picked up the paper when he returned from work, precisely at 5:05 pm (his nursery business was around the corner).  Then, he went straight to the den, kicked off his shoes, put his feet up on the stool, and cracked open the newspaper.  I’d enter after finishing homework, turn on the enormous RCA console TV and flip the big manual knob to Channel 10, which was CBS in our town, to catch the sports and weather from the local news.  You see, I was the remote control to switch between the four channels we had access to.  I had just the right wrist action to fly between 10 and 3, around to 7 with a short stop at 15.  It took a special talent and an understanding of the optimum UHF antenna position, but after years of practice I had it down pat.

At promptly 5:30 pm, the reliable and familiar “Good Evening” from the most trusted man in America.  He then would dispense whatever vile and unconscienable acts mankind was committing on each other that day.  While I know that every generation has absorbed “news” that is astonishing and unbelievable, growing up in the late ’60s and ’70s was an endless diet of war, pestilence and death.  I’m talking assassinations, riots, protests, war fronts, burning bodies, cracked heads, hateful words, corruption, lies, murder, and general mayhem.  In short, it was NOT the best of times.

But, there were also fantastic, new “discoveries”….the space program, microwaves, trans-atlantic Concorde flights, The Beatles, cassette tapes, and unleaded gas.  Both good and bad, Walter Cronkite brought it all to us, with integrity, honesty and wit.

Unlike the biased and entertainment focused news from the likes of Katie, Brian, and assorted cable “anchors”, Cronkite’s news was gospel.  And, while there may have been some manipulation of the news, most journalists were searching for the “story”, to right wrongs, to change the world.  It was a serious time for serious news and Mr. Cronkite let us know the happenings of the day with appropriate seriousness.  While I don’t long for the crazy, volatile times of those days, I do long for the time when there was at least a perception of truth and trust in the news of today.  In Cronkite’s passing, perhaps today’s media will undertake a little introspection into just how shallow and superficial their news has become.  In the 24/7, sensational reality news of the new millenium, “news” people have lost the ideals of true journalism that Cronkite so aptly displayed in his tenure over some of America’s darkest days.  It is a credit to Cronkite’s integrity that no-one really knew, until well after his retirement, that he was a Democrat.  It was a testament to his objectivity and commitment to impartiality.  With all of the accolades sure to follow his passing, those delivering the news would be wise to follow more of his example. 

When CBS forced Cronkite into retirement in 1981 to replace him with a younger, shinier Dan Rather, it subsequently sold its soul and eventually lost its hold on night time news.  Rather’s obvious left bias would be his undoing, leaving him woefully short of Cronkite’s legacy and class.

As a child of the ’70s, I tip my proverbial hat to Walter Cronkite on a career and life well lived.  Perhaps the most appropriate homage to the end of Uncle Walt’s personal broadcast are his own iconic words:

And, that’s the way it is….July 18th, 2009

Musically, the one song that kept coming to my mind is John Mayer’s Waiting on the World to Change…

…when they own the information, oh, they can bend it all they want…..

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2009 in John Mayer, memorials, the seventies, TV

 

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Love Story

I simply cannot explain why I like this song.

  Love Story, Taylor Swift

Perhaps it stems from an inexplicable attraction to this…

  Afternoon Delight, Starland Vocal Band

…old habits die hard.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2009 in Country, the seventies

 

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Shut Yo Mouth…Soul Man Isaac Hayes, Dead at 65

Stax music legend, Isaac Hayes, has reportedly died from a “simultaneous” stroke and heart attack at his home in Memphis, TN. 

Known for the watershed album, Hot Buttered Soul, and the mega hit Shaft, Isaac Hayes became the savior of Stax Records when Otis Redding died in a plane crash in 1967.  Hayes started at Stax as a session musician for Redding and others, eventually taking the forefront in the early ’70s.  He was also a successful songwriter, writing the Sam & Dave hits, Hold on, I’m Comin’ and Soul Man, with writing partner David Porter.  He is considered a pioneer in Urban Contemporary and Rap music, adding “raps” or dialogue to many of his songs.

Most recently, Isaac Hayes was best known as “Chef” on Southpark and was working on the film Soul Man, with Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac, who also passed away yesterday.  Both will be missed.

 

Can you dig it?

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2008 in memorials, Otis Redding, Soul, the seventies

 

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ABBA vs. Journey

In the previous post’s comments, one reader who shall remain nameless (but has the initials Shrew) indicated that ABBA and Journey would provide the same level of pain if used for torture by 24-hour repetitious saturation.

Now, you might be able to put the two groups on the same level as far as clothes go, but hey, it WAS the ’70s. No-one was immune….

However, musically, ABBA and Journey are on two, totally different planes. ABBA was 70s Pop at its finest, whereas Journey was 70s Rock at its finest. As a newly minted teen in the mid to late 70s, Journey was my generations’ Rolling Stones. ABBA was fun, but Journey was serious stuff. I give you Exhibit A…”name” songs.

ABBA’s Fernando:

versus Journey’s Oh, Sherry:

While ABBA’s song is decidedly feminine and light; Journey’s is studly and full of hard-beat.

Exhibit B…Geography songs

  Waterloo

vs. the great Journey’s City Lights

While ABBA evokes thoughts of 9th grade American History and Napoleon, Steve Perry is putting you on Fishterman’s Wharf in San Fransisco.

Exhibit C…Biggest Hit

  Dancing Queen

vs. the great Journey’s

  Don’t Stop Believing

‘Nuff Said.  Rawk on.  BTW, DSB was my class song….GEAUX SPARTANS!

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not reference the Music Maven favorites of both.  From ABBA

  The Winner Takes It All

vs. the great Journey’s….

  Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’

Feel free to make your own comparisons, add to either or just comment.  I am SOOOOOO looking for dialogue.

PEACE.

 

 
 

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Mamma Mia!….No ABBA Reunion

Hopes of a reunion of the great ABBA were dashed this week when Benny and Bjorn unequivocally denied rumors of a seventilicious confab of the enigmatic Swedish songbirds.

Over the years, the quartet has reportedly turned down $1billion (yes, that’s a “b”) for a reunion tour.  Tthe disco-era fab four won’t hear of reuniting, stating that money is not a factor.  Perhaps some of the recent “reunion” tour bands should take heed to observe Benny’s recent quote on the matter:

“We would like people to remember us as we were, young, exuberant and full of ambition.”

Agnetha and Anni-Frid joined Benny and Bjorn at the Swedish premier of the new movie, Mamma Mia – based on the hit musical — and were rightly impressed with the vocal styling of ex-James Bond, Pierce Brosnan.

Ok. Mamma Mia features 22 Abba songs!! In addition to Remington Steele, Oscar-winner Meryl Streep is part of the ensemble cast along with Christine Baranski and the erstwhile Brit, Colin Firth.  It seems that the language of ABBA is, indeed, universal.

Of course, this is not the first movie to feature the music of the great ABBA.  Their music has been featured in no less than 25 other movies (go figure), including Muriel’s Wedding, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and most recently, the remake of Get Smart.

While ABBA is immortalized on the big screen, back in the real world there will be no Dancing Queen reprise…unless you count mindless covers by would be pretenders

Thankfully, through the magic of MTV and VH-1, we still have these “real deal” gems, captured for posterity.

Fernando

  Take A Chance On Me

  Knowing Me, Knowing You

  S.O.S

  Waterloo

Vinnaren tar allt det!

 
 
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