Category Archives: Road Trips

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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