Category Archives: Stories

ROAD TRIP: HENRY FINCHER EASON

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It was a beautiful late September day last Thursday when friend Cheri Atkins and I drove to Texarkana, Arkansas on a quick road trip to do some research at the Miller County Court House. Her goal was for Dial and Collins documents, and I would be searching for Martins and Hemperleys.

As we drove we talked about late blooming summer flowers and how it was difficult it was to recognize some parts of Highway 71 since I-49 construction had changed the scenery. We passed round bales of hay in fields, a pasture filled with a herd of buffalo, churches and graveyards. There was some construction and we even passed a group of prisoners picking up trash along the roadway.  Cheri, who has a vivid imagination, commented on how she thought it would be easy for one of those convicts to escape.  A short time later we passed a police vehicle heading South flying down the road with lights flashing soon to be followed by five more patrol cars.

Arriving at our destination of 400 Laurel Street, there it stood…… the Court House. My imagination ran rampant about the discoveries we were about to make. I could already smell the old books filled with Our Families Untold Stories.

The Court House is located in older section of town filled with homes of the same era and nearby beautiful churches. This was not the original Court House which initially served both Texas and Arkansas, but the one finished in the late 1930s to serve only Miller County, Arkansas.

Miller County Court House

Once inside we must have looked as if we were strangers to its halls as a man I recognized from the Court House’s website as County Judge Larry E. Burgess offered assistance by directing us to the Clerk of Court’s office. I can only sing the praises of those who work there as they were friendly, courteous and only too eager to answer our questions or offer assistance.

The search was on! Cheri and I both were able to obtain documents pertaining to marriage licenses, preacher certificates, deeds and other priceless pieces of our families’ history.  Then it dawned on me that I was standing not only among history of Miller County but the history of one Henry Fincher Eason, former Clerk of Court and Tax Collector of Miller County AND his mother was a Hemperley!

Henry Fletcher Eason-1

(Photo owned by Susie Higginbotham Reynolds)

Fincher Eason (son of Seaborn Sidney) was one of fifteen children born to his father and mother, Luella Hemperley (daughter of Dr. Edward Thomas Hemperley, great grandfather of my husband). His family lived in Sulphur Township on his father’s farm.

He attended college at Louisiana State Normal School and at the age of twenty-two began a career in education. He served as teacher, principal and superintendent. Below is a photo of College Hill Ward School in Texarkana where he was a principal.

Fincher Eason, College Hill School

On December 23, 1908 he married Miss Ollie Minnie Walton and from this union there were six children born, two of which died in infancy.

In 1916 he became Miller County Clerk of Court and served for two terms before becoming Tax Collector in 1920. The 1920 Census shows him living at 414 Hickory Street with his wife and four children: Fincher, Jr. age 9, Sidney S. age 6, William Boyd, age 5 and Evelyn who is 1 year of age. On November 20, 1923 Fincher and Ollie divorced and he retained sole custody of the children.

During WWI he served as Chairman of the registration board; enlisted as a private and reached the rank of Captain.

 

 

Recently while looking over notes I had made while interviewing a Hemperley relative thirty years ago, I had jotted down “committed suicide” by his name. It was time to revisit Fincher and locate any information I could find regarding how he died. Below are a couple of articles I found on www.genealogybank.com relating to his death.

Fincher Eason found deadFincher Eason FuneralFincher Eason , Tax office closed

Why, I thought? Why would a man who was a pillar in the community commit suicide?  He had to be well thought of as there were 2,000 people that attended his funeral and 4,000-5,000 at the gravesite!  This man was a 32nd degree Mason, a member of the Mystic Shrine, served as senior deacon of the lodge, Member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythia, Woodmen of the World and Baptist Church. I had to know more and so I enlisted the help of one of the clerks to locate the probate records from his estate. Surely his will, one of the letters he had written, or the “To The People of Miller County” mentioned in the newspaper article about him being found dead would give me some insight.

His will was not in the Probate Records. None of the letters were.  Nor was the “To the People of Miller County”.  Nothing to give me a hint or understanding of his taking his life.  However, what I did locate was a list of his debts, which amounted to $83,000.  In 1923 that had to be comparable to millions today!

Fincher Eason, Total Debts

As you can see from this document, the administrator of his estate asks the Court to allow 35% payment of his debts or $29,050.

Did he commit suicide because of his divorce; his being the sole parent raising four children; ill health; or the amount of debt he owed? I suppose I will never know!

What I did learn was that the two ounces of poison he took changed the lives of his children forever. Fincher’s sister, Ida Hughes, petitioned the Court for custody of the children as set out by Fincher in his will.

Fincher Eason's Children Guardianship

The children’s mother sued for custody of two of the four children and according to the article below, the judge in the case awarded them to Fincher’s sister, Mrs. Ida Hughes of Bright Star, per his handwritten wishes.

Custody of Henry Fincher Eason's Children

 

 

 

 

One week later Arkansas State Police and other law enforcement officers are still looking for the escapee.

One week later I am still looking for more information on another escaped man, namely  Henry Fincher Eason!

 

 

 

 

VIRGOS: HERE’S OUR SIGN!

According to astrology, Virgo, the sixth sign of the Zodiac, runs from August 23 through September 22 (although some say the cusp day is the 23).  It is the only sign represented by a woman.  Virgos typically are reliable, practical, meticulous and do well in vocations of service, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, bookkeepers.  They are also creative and sensitive.  Do I, as a Virgo, believe all of this?  I don’t put a lot of credence in it however I do read my horoscope daily!

In my family tree of most recent relatives, I have sixteen Virgos not counting myself.  My grandmother was one.  One aunt, one uncle, one daughter, one daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, one grandson, one great grandson, one niece and her husband, one nephew, one nephew’s wife, two great nephews, and one great niece are all Virgos. Whew!  Not to worry only four are the subjects of this post.

Granddaughter Emerson Avery Hemperley (Emy) was born September 3, 1992 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Steve and Andrea Tanet Hemperley.  As a child she took ballet but soon diverted her competitive spirit to sports playing tee ball and soccer.

Emy Hemperley

 

Emy, 1996

The photo above shows her determination while playing at an arcade in Celebration Station in New Orleans in 1996.

Emy began school in Mandeville, Louisiana; graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Following graduation she traveled to Paris, France and has visited other large cities including New York City.   She attended Ole Miss, missed New Orleans, returned and is currently enrolled at the University of New Orleans.  She and her family enjoy spending time at their camp in Monterey, Louisiana however Emy is truly a New Orleans girl to the core!  She loves the city and all it has to offer; Mardi Gras, clubs, good food, family and friends.

Emy at Mardi Gras

Zachery Tucker Hemperley, Emy’s brother, was born September 6, 1994 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Tucker first attended school in Mandeville, Louisiana and graduated from Jesuit High School in New Orleans.  While living in Mandeville, he played tee ball and loved skate boarding.

Tucker Hemperley

Tucker likes to hunt and fish and can often be found at the family retreat entertaining friends.

Tucker's First Deer

Tucker’s first deer was taken in Monterey, Concordia Parish, Louisiana.  The following photo was made while fishing in Mexico.

Tucker fishing in Mexico

Tucker is in his second year at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge where he pledged K A.  Below is a photo of Tucker and Southern Belle, Gabby Ray at the fraternity’s celebration of the Old South.

 

Tucker and Gabby

Nine days following Emy’s birth, granddaughter Lauren Elise Brown was born in Hobbs, New Mexico on September 12, 1992 to Scott and Kelly Hemperley Brown.

Lauren was active in scouting beginning at the age of four.  Too young for the Daisys, she attended meetings where he mother was scout leader.

Lauren's first apron

She went on to become a Brownie, Girl Scout, and earned the Silver Star award which is the equivalent to the BSA Eagle Scout.

Lauren Elise Brown

She attended Herndon Magnet School in Gilliam, Louisiana and graduated from Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport. Lauren enjoys Renaissance Festivals, Dr. Who, fly fishing and camping with family. They have traveled as far West as Colorado, North to South Dakota, and East to Florida and Washington, D. C. Lauren attended University of Louisiana Monroe and Louisiana Technical College in Shreveport where she studied the culinary arts. She is currently employed at a law firm in Shreveport.

the Dawsons

Lauren married Christopher Wayne Dawson and on August 23, 2014 gave birth to another Virgo, a son, Benjamin Rhys Dawson in Shreveport, Louisiana. Ben enjoys being fed, napping, and being spoiled by everyone.

Benjamin Rhys Dawson

And the final featured Virgo is my daughter, Kelly Anne Hemperley Brown. Kelly was born on September 21, 1963 in Texarkana, Arkansas. She was a mischievous child who was always into something. The joke in our family was that had she been born prior her brother, he would never have been born! There was always impishness in her eyes as she was about to get into something. However, to this day when she hears me call out “Kelly Anna”, she knows she’s in deep trouble! Give her a challenge and she will eagerly accept it.

Kelly Anne Hemperley

Kelly was educated in public schools in Vivian, Louisiana graduating from North Caddo High where she was a member of the Louisiana All Star Marching Band and the winner of the I Dare You award at graduation. She attended Louisiana State University-Shreveport for a short while before enrolling in business school. Prior to her graduation she was hired by the Caddo Parish Police Jury as personal secretary to the administrator; a position she held for seven years before moving to Hobbs, New Mexico. While employed at the Police Jury it changed to a Commission and a resolution was written into the Commission’s minutes, which was entered into Caddo Parish’s history, for her dedication and work during the transition.

Resolution of Appreciation for Kelly Hemperley Brown in Caddo Parish

 

In New Mexico she was employed by the City of Hobbs where she received special recognition as employee of the month.

Kelly Hemperley Brown, Hobbs, New Mexico

In 1993 her family moved back to Caddo Parish and she returned to work for Caddo Parish; this time in the District Attorney’s office in the drug division. Since then she has been responsible for the training of all secretaries in the District Attorney’s office and most recently moved to the position of secretary for the Appellate Court.

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Kelly’s dedication to helping others, lead her to become a Girl Scout leader for many years; church secretary; church youth leader; and exercise instructor. However I think she would say her most important job today is that of being wife, mother and grandmother. A job she does well!

Now that you have allowed me to give you a little insight to my favorite Virgos, I would also like to wish the others who share the sign a Happy Birthday. They are Andrea Tanet Hemperley, Marty Stanley Roberts and husband Jimmy, Damon Goodwin, Melissa Slaughter Goodwin, David Stanley, Greg Stanley, and Amanda Roberts Mather!

 

 

ROAD TRIP: NEW ORLEANS IN JULY, PART III, DAT’S DA PLACE!

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Tourists visit New Orleans to eat, drink and be merry.  On every corner there’s a place to “do dat”.  While tourists flock to the world famous restaurants of New Orleans, locals have their favorite neighborhood haunts. That is not to say they don’t frequent the more renowned ones, they do; however New Orleans is about neighborhoods and a sense of belonging.  Mostly we ate in the Garden District area.   Some restaurants there are expensive; some are funky and fun but all are loud!  Since I love to eat, the subject of Part III of New Orleans in July will be a few places my son Steve Hemperley’s family and I ate on my recent visit.

Early Saturday afternoon when we arrived, everyone else had already eaten or were running errands so Steve took me to GG’s Dine-O-Rama located at 3100 Magazine Street.  GG’s specializes in homemade, fresh and unique recipes made from scratch.  They offer fine dining or a casual menu with your choice of seating; inside or out.  He and I opted to dine on the sidewalk cooled by a mister fan and watch the activity along Magazine Street.  I ordered the St. Patty’s Day Massacre which was shaved corned beef, Swiss cheese, French fries, ancho-honey slaw, 1000 Island Dressing, Creole mustard on pumpernickle rye bread.  It was huge!! And I would have never thought of placing the home-made fries IN the sandwich.  I cannot remember what Steve ordered (probably something health!) but I was on holiday and not counting calories. Mine was delicious and since I wasn’t able to eat it all, the rest came home in a doggie bag to be savored at another time.

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That night Steve had marinated duck breasts to grill. Tucker made duck poppers by placing cream cheese and a bit of jalapeno pepper inside before wrapping the breast in bacon. Steve grilled them and talk about good!

I taught Max how to make a coconut cake. The cake was drenched in coconut milk and condensed milk and topped with Cool Whip and fresh coconut.

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I would give the Hemperley’s kitchen a five star rating!

For lunch the next day, Steve, Andrea and I went to Tracey’s Bar and Restaurant on the corner of Magazine and Third Street. It specializes in Po-boys, sandwiches, and fried seafood, and sides such as cheese fries, boudin balls, and fried okra, etc. It has been in business since 1949 and is dubbed The Original Irish Channel Bar.

Tracey's
From Tracey’s website

The ceiling is covered in New Orleans decorated umbrellas.  The World Cup Soccer final game was drawing a huge crowd who had come to watch on one of the 20 TVs that show nothing but sporting events.  We opted to finishing watching the game at home.

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On Monday, Tucker, Max and I had lunch at The American Sector Restaurant of the World War II Museum where Chef John Besh puts his twist on American cooking.

That night the family went out to Pascal’s Manale, a restaurant known as the “Home of the Original BBQ Shrimp”.  Located at 1838 Napoleon Avenue, it specializes in seafood, Italian dishes and steaks.

Pascal's Manale

From Pascal’s Manale Restaurant & Bar website

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Andrea and Max at Pascal’s Manale

Dinner began with an appetizer of oysters on the half-shell.  Some in the group ate steak, veal, or BBQ shrimp.  I opted for Chicken Bordelaise.  Max and I finished off dinner with a scrumptious bread pudding.

Andrea invited the boys and me to meet her for lunch at the Weston Hotel in Canal Place on Tuesday.  The River 127 located on the 11th floor has a spectacular view of the river with barges, paddle wheels, and other river traffic.  I had intended to make lots of pictures however as soon as we were seated a squall came through and the magic of the moment was gone!  Following a delicious lunch, Tucker, Max and I headed for the nearby Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium where we learned about the most ferocious diner in New Orleans…… the almighty Termite!!!

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Before heading home, we stopped on St. Charles Avenue for pralines.

That night we ate at Dat Dog on Foret where Emy works.  It is such a fun place, bright and colorful with any type of hotdog you can imagine.  None of which you would find in North Louisiana!

Freret-Dat-Dog

From Feret-Dat Dog website

Their menu is imaginative with vegan, spicy chipotle, turducken, duck, crawfish and alligator among other specialties.  The night we were there was Trivia night and the place was jumping!

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Max’s Alligator Dog

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Cheese Fries, anyone?

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Or something from the bar?

By Wednesday I was pooped and opted to stay home and rest.   Emy and Tucker told me that some of their fondest memories had been that of eating chicken and dumplings at my house when I lived in Covington.  I rested most of the day and then prepared a huge pot of chicken and dumplings with a salad for dinner.  It must have been good since there was none left.

The next night, Steve grilled venison burgers for a couple of Emy and Tucker’s friends and the rest of the family.  Needless to say it was another gastronomic delight.

Wow!  What a food binge I had been on!  If you would like an and epicurean experience such as this, then try New Orleans ‘cause dat’s the place to do it!

 

(For more information on any of these restaurants, check out their websites or Face Book page.)

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JIMMY CLYDE STANLEY: JULY 30, 1933-MARCH 1, 2009

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Jimmy Clyde Stanley

Jimmy Clyde Stanley was born July 30, 1933 in Ida, Louisiana to Clyde Henry and Mamie Martin Stanley.  He was the first of six children and easily accepted the role of big brother to the rest of us.  He was a mover and a shaker before his time; meaning he was often the instigator of the antics of his two brothers and me (our two other sisters came along much later).  Mostly he was the one that was the most daring of the group, such as the time he wanted to be Captain Marvel.  He draped himself in one of Mother’s tablecloths to use as a cape, climbed the roof of our garage and bailed off thinking he could fly! Luckily the only thing broken was his pride and he lived to dream up some other new adventure.

Jim (also nicknamed Coot or Pete) attended school in Bivins, Texas prior to our moving to Atlanta, Texas.  In Bivins he was in a school play and in Atlanta he was an Atlanta Rabbit (football team) member.

Jim, High School

He first worked as a life guard at the Atlanta public swimming pool and later at Meyers’ Department Store.   His outgoing personality, smile, and the ability to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge was well suited for his occupation of sales or public relations with the exception of a few years he spent working in the oilfields in Odessa and Ganado, Texas.  While working in Odessa he received a good samaritan award from the Texas Highway Department for assisting someone in need.  Following that he served as district manager for American Built Homes in Texarkana, and Baton Rouge. Later in the Houston area he owned his own construction and remodeling business.

Jim’s first marriage was to Mildred Eva Howard of Texarkana.  They were married on November 21, 1952.  Prior to their divorce in January 1980 they became parents of Brenda Jane, Jimmy Lanier, Eva Carol and Scott Howard.  Eva Carol died at birth.

While he and Mildred, who had now changed her name to Toni, were living in the Nassau Bay, Texas area he learned to love boating.  Below are photos of a couple of his boats appropriately named the Phoni-Toni.

Jim's BoatPhoniToniII

In March of 1980 Jim remarried Patsy Jean Miller.  Jim’s new brother-in-law was an owner of Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana and also owned an oil refinery in Venezuela.  He soon became general manager of the track and Commissioned Deputy Sheriff for Acadia Parish form 1988-1992.  He often traveled to Venezuela on business.

Jim Stanley's Acadia Parish Deputy Sheriff Commission

Jim Stanley's Passport

Jim married a third time to Denise Milsap and lived in Mobile, Mississippi for a while. No children were born of the second or third marriages.

He was a true Leo with a zest for life, warm spirit, confident, generous and loyal. He loved the finer things in life such as clothes, cars, boats and beautiful women. However a good joke or a heated game of Rook with his mother against other family members, were also indulgences he enjoyed. He was most generous with his parents and loved to take them out to dine or for a day on the bay in one of his boats.

The two greatest pleasures in his life were his children and grandchildren. He was giving, loving, and always there for them.

Jim passed away on March 1, 2009 of complications from Myasthenia Gravis and is buried in Vivian, Louisiana along- side his parents.

Happy Birthday, Brother! We still miss you!

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ROAD TRIP: NEW ORLEANS IN JULY, PART 2: THE NATIONAL WORLD WAR II MUSEUM

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When Steve and I began plans for my trip, he asked if there were things I wanted to do; places I wanted to re-visit; or explore for the first time.  My immediate reply was “The World War II Museum”.  Asking if he thought my grandsons, Tucker and Max, would want to go with me he said he wasn’t sure about Tucker, but that Tucker would be my assigned chauffer while I was visiting and could take me. He thought Max would love to go. Much to my surprise when I spoke with both boys they were eager to go with me!

Monday, July 14th the three of us set out in Tucker’s truck under threatening skies for the corner of Andrew Higgins Boulevard and Magazine Street where the museum is located.  After parking a few drops of rain began falling and I thought, it’s going to be another hot humid day in New Orleans and I, for one, was glad we were going to be inside! Plus, since it was a Monday and raining, there shouldn’t be too many tourists.

Across the street, there it stood!  Homage to all whose lives were lost or fought to insure freedom……… a repository of history, life’s tragedies, stories recorded, and items preserved so that the deadliest war in history would never be forgotten.

The museum, which was opened on June 6, 2000, consists of three buildings.  It is currently the most visited attraction in New Orleans.  The Liberation Pavilion is not open to the public at this time but will have three floors dedicated to the closing months of the war and the post war years.

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We briefly met Steve, who was having a business meeting at The American Sector Restaurant, a Chef John Besh restaurant where he puts his twist on American food. Steve greeted us and soon after left as his associates arrived. He looked dapper in his tan summer suit. Max commented he was the only one in the group not wearing a dark suit. Tucker said we would now get to see Steve working in “business mode” rather than his “Dad” role and laughed! This was going to be a fun day!

After a delicious meal we set off to explore the three buildings that comprise the museum and to purchase tickets for the museum and the movie Beyond All Boundaries. The movie would not start for another hour so we had time to explore the U. S. Freedom Pavilion/The Boeing Center and the Gift Shop.

The Boeing Center has displays of the B17, B25, B24, TBM Avenger, F4U Corsair, Mustang 51 and Sherman tanks. I am sorry to say that due to the number of visitors, taking good photos would have been difficult therefore some of the ones below are from www.wikipedia.com.

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Inside the Boeing Center

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From Wikipedia.com
640px-Sherman_Tank_at_WWII_Museum_in_New_Orleans
From Wikipedia.com

Crossing the street to the next exhibits we discover this German Air Raid Shelter which looks as if it would be too small for an average size person.

Air_Raid_Shelter_in_front_of_Museum
From Wikipedia.com

Once inside, we discover veterans of World War II located at tables in intervals around the bottom floor eager to share their experiences and roles in the war. Stop and visit and they will enlighten you with photos, maps and their first hand knowledge of particular campaigns. There is also the Train Car Experience which depicts farewells and returns of soldiers and their families.

Upstairs is a maze and so much to see, not only from the United States but other countries as well. Rifles, handguns, uniforms, rations, tires, personal histories on tape, letters home, and so much more that I cannot even begin to share it all with you. In fact I can’t due to not being able to get into some areas for the other people there.

Soon it was time to enter The Solomon Victory Theater, home to Beyond All Boundaries, a 4 D movie narrated by Tom Hanks. I have to say that normally I do not like 3 D movies and was anxious about sitting through this one but I must add that it was the most spectacular thing I have experienced in many years! Of course the theater is total darkness and then goes through a multitude of exciting effects. The first loud bomb noise startled Max (who will soon be 13) out of his seat. In fact it did it several times! The gentlemen seated next to him asked if he was okay.

Lights flash, fog rolls in, and chairs begin to tremble at certain dramatic events during the movie. At one point a German Stalag guard house rises from the floor. In total darkness a search light canvasses the audience. Not a sound is heard other than a siren blasting. A gun turret emerges spitting out rounds and smoke in every direction. Your chair, which has had slight movement and coordinated with the actions being shown, begins to shake even more. I can only say it is a dramatic experience and Tom Hanks does a fabulous job in narration! But above all, it is a powerful documentation of the cost of freedom about over 400,000 soldiers who lost their lives that were Americans. Estimates of those who lost their lives in the war, from sickness related to the war, by the gas chambers, or who were civilians is believed to be at least 600 million!! Yes, that’s millions!

I had hoped there might be an opportunity to learn more about some of my fallen relatives or those who served in this terrible war. If the resources are there, I didn’t find them. However it you are interested in research on a family member who served in World War II, you will find this website helpful: http://www.nationalww2museum.org/honor/research-a-veteran.html.

For more information, I am including a map of The National WW II Museum below:

WW II Museum

Outside the storm had passed and the temperature and humidity had risen to intense extremes. My hair was instantaneous a mass of frizz. Suddenly I was aware of being in dire need of a snow ball!!!! And Tucker knew where we could find a snow ball stand not far from home.

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When Steve came home from work that day, each of us shared our experience. It was wonderful to hear these two boys tell their dad about our outing. Max ended by saying Steve was the only one not in a dark suit when he met his business associates at the restaurant. I couldn’t help but laugh! It was meaningful to have made a memory, a good laugh and shared it with Tucker and Max.

Who knew what tomorrow would bring? Wait! Didn’t I say that at the end of Road Trips: New Orleans in July, Part I? Ah, but you will soon know when I post Road Trips: New Orleans in July, Part III.

 

ROAD TRIP: NEW ORLEANS IN JULY, PART I: WALKING IN THE GARDEN DISTRICT

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Through the years I have been to New Orleans many times and on each trip, the experience has been totally different.  There is always something to do; a new dining experience; old favorites to revisit or new memories to be made.  Recently when my son, Steve, called to ask if I would come for a weeklong visit with his family, my immediate response was “Come and get me!”  Only on this trip my time in New Orleans would be different.  There would be no Bourbon Street bars, no beinets at Café Du Monde, no Audubon Zoo, nor Aquarium, no French Market, no strolls down Royal Street, no Super Dome……. It was to be more, specifically time with Steve and his family, wife Andrea Tanet Hemperley, and children, Emy, Tucker and Max.  And, oh yes, his hairy kids, Cane, an English Lab and that funny, spunky Cairne Terrier named Jax.

Steve lives in the Garden District of New Orleans and while he is just a few blocks off St. Charles Avenue, he had told me of the walking tours that passed on his street visiting the historic district which is a mecca for some of the most beautiful homes in the city.  Originally the wealthier citizens who did not want to live in the French Quarter with the Creoles lived on  plantations with large tracts for their homes featuring beautiful gardens; thus the name, Garden District. Today the district is known for the beautiful architecturally designed homes which are on much smaller lots with manicured yards, cast iron fences and majestic oak trees.

Sunday morning found most everyone sleeping in; that is everyone but Steve, Jax and I.  The morning was cool (unlike most days which are horribly hot due to humidity) so I decided Jax and I would take a stroll.

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Jax was comfortably resting on the sofa until the leash came out and boy did he know what that meant! Out the door, we began our walk on Prytania Street which is home for celebrities Drew Brees, Anne Rice, Nicholas Cage, and the Mannings, Eli, Peyton and Archie.  While I don’t know the addresses of these people, Sandra Bullock maintains a residence within sight of Steve’s “stoop”.

Sandra Bullock's home

Most of the homes are of Gothic Revival style; many have beautiful gingerbread trim; most have oaks that have endured hurricanes for years.  Homes with iron fences and bright colors are also along our route.  Here are a few photos of homes Jax and I passed on our stroll.

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Although difficult to see in this photo this home has a playhouse built like a castle in the back.

Susie Higginbotham has been researching someone in her family tree that, according to a census, lived on St. Charles Avenue. I was able to locate that home for her.
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Back on Fourth Street I discovered this cornstalk and morning glory designed iron fence and while I failed to notice the first walk by, it actually had corn growing in a small portion of the fence.

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The lot the cornstalk fence surrounds actually has more than one home; one of Gothic Revival and this modern home. Many of the historic homes have placques that displays the original owner’s name, date built, and other pertinent information. Below is a photo of the one by the cornstalk fence.

Col. Short placque

Translated it reads: Colonel Short’s Villa built in 1859 for Colonel Robert H. Short of Kentucky, Commission Merchant. Henry Howard, Architect, Robert Huyghe, Builder. In 1832 this property, which was a part of the Livaudais Plantation, was subdivided into city squares. September 1, 1863 the house was seized by the Federal Forces occupying the city property of an absent Rebel. In March 1864 the house briefly served as the executive mansion of the newly elected Federal Governor of Louisiana, Michael Hahn. It then became the residence of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, U. S. Commander, Department of the Gulf. On August 15, 1865 the house was returned to Colonel Short by the U. S. Government and he lived in it until his death in 1890. An addition was made in 1906 and the house restored in 1950. The unusual cast iron morning glory and cornstalk fence was furnished by the Philadelphia Foundry of Wood and Miltenberger.

Jax and I also passed one of the Cities of the Dead, Lafayette Cemetery #1 which opened in 1833. Burials here are in wall vaults as is the case in most areas of South Louisiana due to the water table being so high. Anne Rice created a fictional tomb here for one of her books. She also staged a jazz funeral where she rode in a glass enclosed coffin down the aisle of the cemetery to introduce her book, Memnoch the Devil. The movies Double Jeopardy and Dracula 2000 were filmed within the cemetery. Musical videos by LeAnn Rimes and New Kids on the Block were also made at Lafayette Cemetery #1.

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Back home after our long walk, Jax drank lots of water and then curled up on the couch with Steve, who was sleeping, for a nice long nap.

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I got another cup of coffee and reflected on what a beautiful day it was. We had seen tourist snapping photos along the route, joggers, dog walkers, and passed a coffee shop where customers sat outside reading the paper or having breakfast. How nice it had been to see another side of New Orleans. Who knew what tomorrow would bring? Ah, but you will soon know when I post Road Trips: New Orleans in July, Part II.

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Road Trips: After the Estate Sale with Sissy Hanson Burge

Leaving the Estate Sale of Billy and Dixie Hanson, I was now headed to the home of his sister, Virginia “Sissy” Hanson Burge, which was a short distance down the road.  My friend Cheri was still with me as we followed Tommy and Kathy to his mother’s home.   My relationship with this family is so closely related that they appear in three of my family’s trees.  On my paternal Stanley side, my grandfather, Wes Stanley’s sister, Roxie Lee had married Robert Benjamin Hanson.  Roxie and Robert were parents these kids father, James Hanson, therefore their grandparents. On the maternal Martin side of the family, my mother Mamie Martin’s sister, Gladys, married Roxie and Robert’s son, James also known as Jim.  And on my husband’s side, Laura Hanson Hemperley, his grandmother was the sister of Robert Hanson!!!  Okay, this is getting very confusing and I’m afraid one of us is married to a monkey’s uncle!
But allow me to introduce you to Sissy:

Sissy Hanson Burge

Sissy was only two years old when her father, “Jim” Hanson died during a yellow fever epidemic in 1932; her brothers James and Billy were only four and one. Aunt Gladys had a hard life providing for these children and Sissy says they often wondered where their next meal would come from. She was in the second grade in Ida, Louisiana before she saw her first white cake. Brother James sold his dad’s saddle to buy a wooden bicycle to deliver ice to the residents of Ida. That cause quite a stir in the family, but it did help provide for them.

Children of Gladys Martin Hanson

By 1939 Gladys was remarried to Claude Norris Gingles, better known as “Buster” and was working as assistant post mistress in Ida. Buster was in the Army and in 1946 they moved to Doyline and lived in Green Tree Village which was the housing for those associated with the shell plant located there. Leaving Ida in her senior year of school was the hardest thing Sissy said she ever had to do but Aunt Gladys offered her encouragement and told her she was going to like it.
The neighboring family, the Greesons, had six girls and so Sissy made friends quickly. There was a handsome young man named Wilburn Thomas Burge on the basketball team and Sissy asked the Greeson girls about him. They approved and within a week Wilburn “Kink” had asked her for a date to a ballgame. In her last year of school Sissy played the cymbals and baritone tuba while her brother James played the bass tuba.

W T and Virginia (Sissy) Hanson Burge

Sissy and Kink were married on October 10, 1947 in the parsonage of the First Baptist Church in Doyline. Kink worked as a Pepsi delivery man covering a large part of North Louisiana before he became employed at the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant where he worked for over thirty years. Sissy worked at a general store in Ida before moving to Doyline and afterwards at the Dixie Cream, the LAAP as an ordinance inspector, at the hospital in Minden as the central supply clerk and later in the thrift store at Hope Youth Ranch. Their family includes sons Wilburn Thomas, Jr. also known as Tommy, Kenneth Noel and two daughters, Barbara and Kathy. For many years they lived in downtown Doyline but for the past thirty years have resided at the dead-end of Point Road in the former home of Kink’s parents which was also a fishing camp and boat launch.

Burge's Camp on Bistineau

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Sissy’s house located on beautiful Lake Bistineau. Cheri was anxious to wet a hook and see how many fish she could catch before our visit ended but we were not here to fish.  I was her to visit with Sissy……. period!  I had not seen her in a very long time and she was much frailer than in younger years. She now has the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer live alone therefore Kenny and Barbara live with her.

At first she didn’t recognize me but when told who I was, we hugged for a long time; her smile was welcoming and that bear hug felt good. She had Barbara bring out her photo albums to share with me and when prompted could tell me of things that happened long ago but had difficulty with her short-term memory. There were two photos that she dearly cherished, those being of her father, Jim Hanson. The one below is of him on the top right, brother Doris Hanson on the left, and sisters, Myrtle Hanson in the middle and bottom Retter and Woodie.

Jim Hanson and brothers and sisters

My visit was short as Sissy was tiring and needed rest. As she turned to retire to bed I told her I wanted a good-bye hug. As we stood face to face she looked at me quizzically and asked, “Did your Momma die?” to which I replied, “Yes a long time ago”. She and I both held back tears and held each other tight.

Kookie Hemperley and Virginia Hanson Burge

She never looked back nor did I. At least we had that precious moment together and hopefully it meant as much to her as it did to me.

As we drove away Cheri declared that we were coming back….. and next time she would bring her own fishing gear!

Back home I couldn’t wait to share the photo of Jim Hanson and his brothers and sisters with another Hanson cousin, Michelle Chamblee McBride and her family. Was she ever surprised! It was like a priceless treasure as none of her family had ever seen the picture before of their loved ones at such an early age.

So, so wherever you road trips lead you, be it down a dusty road, a visit to a library, a walk in a cemetery or an interview with one of the elders of your family, please share! And if you have a “road trip” planned anytime soon, please give me a call.
Kookie

Road Trips; Estate Sale

While driving down any given highway on weekends, one is likely to come upon signage for a yard sale, garage sale, transition sale or estate sale.  Estate sales are my favorite and I confess that on occasion, I will stop and browse.  On Saturday, November 9th, I found myself driving eastward on I-20, in a slight drizzle, with friend Cheri to a very special estate sale; that being of my cousin Billy Noel Hanson and his wife, Dixie in Doyline, Louisiana.

Billy N Hanson

Billy, the son of Gladys Martin and Jim Hanson, married Dixie Faye Carter in 1952. Of this marriage were born four children; Steve, David, Donna and Bobby. Billy served in the U. S. A. F. during the Korean Conflict and later worked in the parts department for the Ford dealership in Shreveport for forty-three years. Billy liked gardening, woodworking and being a member of the First Baptist Church in Doyline. He passed away in 2005.

Billy and Dixie Carter Hanson

Dixie began singing at an early age and sang on the local radio station, the Louisiana Hayride and church choir. She, too, was a member of the First Baptist Church where she served as choir director, church treasurer, G. A. leader and was a contributor to the church’s cookbook. Dixie spent over twenty years as an Associate Engineer for LAAP. Dixie died in the fall of 2013.

In Doyline we met cousin, Tommy Burge and wife Kathy and headed on to Billy and Dixie’s home. I was excited about seeing Tommy and Kathy but more hopeful that at the sale, some of Billy and Dixie’s children would be there. Unfortunately, since their children mostly live out of state they had hired an estate sale specialist to hold the event therefore I was unable to reconnect with any of them.

Upon arriving at the sale, we were forced to park a distance from the sprawling ranch style home. They crowd was huge and I wondered if they were there for bargains or like me; seeking a final remembrance of Billy and Dixie. It was difficult to move about inside much less take in all that was on display. Room upon room was filled with everything you could imagine, could ever want or could use.

The living room had become a Christmas showcase filled with decorations, china, what-nots, linens, reindeer, ornaments, wreaths and anything else one would need to celebrate the season. It was evident they loved Christmas.
Bedrooms were filled with furniture, bedding and lamps. Closet doors were open displaying clothing of everyday wear and some special occasion dresses and suits.

The sun room was a place of comfort and relaxation where you could clearly envision them spending time with children and grandchildren. Then there was the office and my favorite room in the house, Dixie’s craft room. She must have spent many hours in this bright airy space overlooking the back yard. Apparently her skills were varied as there were patterns, yarns, a sewing machine, beads, threads, and tools. Secretly, I was envious!

Her love for cooking was apparent in the kitchen as there was every kind of gadget, pot, pan, utensil, small appliance, dishes and serving pieces carefully displayed in and on the cabinets. People were grabbing them up quickly!

The double carport was filled with more craft items, cookbooks galore, and boxes and boxes of games. Looking at them, I could only imagine the hours this family had spent around a table playing, laughing and learning the real meaning of family. The driveway held many of Dixie’s beautiful handmade afghans, bedding and her jewelry.

Outback was Billy’s workshop filled with drills, lathes, saws, tools of every kind and wood making supplies. Wish I could have had a day with him to see just how each one was used.

I made another round through the house trying to find a memento of them to take home with me and discovered that was difficult to do. Some things were just too personal. Nothing seemed to fit.

Back outside I found one thing that exemplified both of them to me. It was a piece of glass I discovered in the flower bed. It had strength, inner and outer beauty, and simplicity. What a perfect reminder of them! It now rests in one of my flower beds where the morning sun shines brightly exposing all the facets within.

Dixie's garden

As I left it became evident me that each estate sale I attend tells the story of a family. It is an open book of that person’s life, loves and interest. And I wondered…… when my time comes, what will mine say?

Leaving there I followed Tommy and Kathy to his mother and my first cousin, Virginia “Sissy” Hanson Burge’s home for a visit. Tomorrow I will tell you the rest of the story as I collected photos of not only her family, but also of some Hansons and Martins.

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The Five R’s of Tommy Stanley

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In this age of “going green” I would like to share how my brother, Tommy Stanley, has given new meaning to the words, recycle, repurpose, re-gift, redesign and rewards. I’m sure as you see his creations you will agree he has given these words new meanings. But before we get into that, let me introduce you to Tommy.

Tommy was the second child of six born to Mamie Martin and Clyde Stanley. In a family that large, we all wore hand-me-downs and didn’t have too many toys. Sometimes if you wanted a new toy you had to use your imagination and “recycle” a worn out bicycle wheel into a rim that you rolled around with a stick. Or a bottle became the forerunner of “Hot Wheels”. Or empty cans became airborne toys when you played “kick the can”. It was creativity to the max and we were happy with what we had. Thus, the birth of “recycling” for Tommy.

Tommy worked most of his adult life as a body shop man in several Ford dealerships throughout East Texas. One day, when work was slow, he was talking to one of his co-workers who had lost everything in a house fire. Everything but one lone spur. Tommy took the spur back to the body shop, polished it out and had the reward of seeing his co-worker’s surprise of the beauty of the only object salvaged from his loss.

That day set Tommy thinking. As a child he had seen a pair of brass spurs our Uncle Ray Martin had bought on a trip to Mexico before he entered World War II. (Ray was killed in Tunisia, North Africa on March 29, 1943.) That day he decided he would replicate them even though he had never attempted to make a pair of spurs.

He took a pair of ordinary horse shoes, straightened them into bars and then bent the horse shoes the opposite direction. That became the portion of the spur that would fit around a boot heel. He shaped, curved, filed, polished and refined it even more. When finished, he sent them out to be chromed. Once chromed, he took them to a leather shop owned and operated by a Mexican gentleman. As soon as the man saw them he said, “Chee-Wa-Wa”, which he went on to explain was style of spurs made in Chihuahua, Mexico. Could Uncle Ray have visited “Chee-Wa-Wa” when he bought his? Tommy then added a gold-plated rowel and the finished product is shown below.

Since that first pair was created, Tommy now makes spurs for bull riders, ropers, and pleasure riders. He says the most rewarding pair he made was for an insurance agent near Tyler. The man was a competing Western pleasure rider who’d had an auto accident, leaving his right arm and leg incapable of giving the horse the proper cues. He was in need of spurs that could be modified and realigned and contacted Tommy. Tommy went to his ranch, put the man on the horse, took measurements and went home to build the new spurs. Once finished, the man was able to once again ride competitively.

Pictured below are some of the spurs and branding irons Tommy custom builds.

This pair has brass inlays.

Work spurs made from horseshoes with branding iron.

Dressy in black leather and chrome.

Most recently Tommy has begun to “recycle” and “repurpose” silverware into jewelry. Spoons are used for rings, bracelets, and pendants. He also “recycles” estate costume from estate sales, garage sales, friends, and family into jewelry. My niece had a friend with some silver flatware from her grandmother that she wanted to use but didn’t know exactly what she wanted. Tommy designed a ring, earrings, and a bracelet. Now, it is worn daily and keeps fond memories of her grandmother near.

Recently he restrung pearls into a necklace, bracelet and earring that will be worn by a soon to be bride.

Here are some of his latest creations:

Arrowhead earrings.

Cross made from spoons but he also makes bookmarks and key chains.

Redesigned turquoise.

Spoon acorn and oak leaf.

Hair barrette from a belt with spoon holder.

Shell pendant made from slotted serving spoon that has hammered ribs and filed outer edges.

An assortment of crosses made from horse shoe nails and stainless.

Since Tommy’s retirement his workshop is located in his garage in Mineola, Texas. When asked where he gets his patterns, he replied, “In my head.” He is also quick to point out that he has no laser cutter, nor computer for designing. Each design is his own creation and each piece is handcrafted using adapted hand saws, files and hammers. I would add they are also crafted with a lot of patience, skill and pride. I’m sure our great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Stanley, who worked on horse farms and had a blacksmith shop, would certainly agree!

Kookie

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