Memories of DeRidder

Submitted by Barry Hutton

This is part of an article I wrote on my lifes experiences as I remember them. Parts not pertaining to my years in DeRidder have been omitted.

I was born at Saint Joseph’s Infirmary (Hospital) in Houston, Texas on November 18, 1938. I recall very little of my youth in Houston. The only two recollections I have are that we went to a school grounds nearby our home and they built large bonfires. I think this had something to do with the war (WW II) but am not sure. The only other thing I can remember was that one night as we were eating supper we smelled something burning and it turned out to be the transformer on my brothers electric train.

At age three or four my family moved from Houston to DeRidder, Louisiana where we lived with my Grandmother, Margaret Owen Dupuy (Buhler), in her home at 316 North Pine Street. She had a very large home with four bedrooms, a large separate living and dining room, large kitchen with pantry and two enclosed back porches, the larger of which was turned into a bedroom for my brother and I in later years. There was also a large covered front porch complete with rocking chairs and swing. The ceilings of the house were very high, about fourteen feet, which was not unusual back then as the higher ceilings helped keep the interior cooler and there was no air-conditioning in those days. It also had four fireplaces which we did not use as natural gas was available and used for cooking and heating. I remember that we always turned the heaters off at bedtime and that Dad would get up early the next morning and light them so that it would be warm by the time we woke up. The yard was extremely large and when my brother and I got old enough to push a lawn mower it somehow seemed to get even larger, every time we had to cut it. My Father always said that if he had his way he would cement it in and paint it green. Personally, I thought this was a good idea too.

One year my Grandmother purchased a live turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, which we put in a fenced area to fatten up. It became sort of a pet and when Thanksgiving came and it was the turkey’s time I had a fit but to no avail. I did not eat turkey that day.

I recall the family washing clothes in a large iron kettle and using scrub boards. I also remember a washing machine they later used. It was like a large barrel on legs with two rubber rollers on top with a crank handle attached. When the wash was through they would take each piece, put one end between the rollers and turn the crank handle causing the article to pass between the rollers squeezing the water out. They were then hung up on a clothesline in the yard to dry. The clothes line was about 50-70 feet in length and stretched between a tree and a post. The line sagged in the middle so when the clothes were all hung up it sagged quite a bit and they would take a board with a notch in it, put the clothesline in the notch and stand the board on end. This would raise the clothes to keep them off the ground and out of the reach of pets.

There are two stories about this clothesline that I will relate. We used to play hide and seek at night and one night as I was running for base to beat the seeker I ran into the clothesline catching myself around the neck. From then on when we played at night I made sure the boards were in place and the clothesline was at its highest level.

The other incident actually started out at my friend George LeRay’s house where we found a cache of medications his mother had thrown in their garbage. We retrieved several containers of the pills and although we did not ingest the pills we did put them in our mouth to get the benefit of their sugar coating. We went on to my house and were playing in the back yard. A stray dog came up and we tied a rope around his neck to keep him from getting away and set him on top of a table. We gave him some of the pills, which he chewed and swallowed. We left to go play elsewhere and when we returned the dog was dead. My parents questioned what was going on and we told them about the pills, how we had given some to the dog and had tasted them ourselves to get the sugar coating flavor. Pandemonium set in but everything turned out for the better when they finally discovered that the pills we had sampled were a form of laxative and it was determined that the dog had hung himself on the rope when he jumped off the table.

Another incident occurred only this time with the lawnmower. Again, while playing hide and go seek I was running for base and ran smack dab into the handle of the lawnmower. This wasn’t one of the lightweight gas powered mowers but was one of heavy metal push mowers. Anyway, it hit me right in the stomach and hurt like the devil. So from then on, not only did the clothesline get raised; the lawnmower was put up out of the way also.

We had a large dining room table and from time to time I would push my luck with my behavior and if my dad got after me I would head for that table where I would play ring around the table with him in an effort to escape punishment. I knew that eventually he would get me so after about two or three rounds I would head for my mother clinging to her legs with all fours and begging her protection. Now, let me make it perfectly clear that although my father did spank us, he was in no way abusive in administering his punishment, usually with his hand but when the occasion called for it he could, with pinpoint accuracy, direct his belt to our rear ends. We usually deserved what we got.

The family, aunts & uncles, would gather at Grandma’s house frequently and they would play bingo and cards, usually rummy, so I learned to play cards at an early age and often played with the adults for money. I remember one time when we were playing (for money) and my dad was in the process of discarding a card that would have put me “out” and I couldn’t hold my excitement. At the last moment he pulled back, put the card back in his hand and discarded another. I learned the true meaning of playing with a “Poker Face” that day.

My other gambling experience involved a nickel slot machine, that my Aunt Marguerite Buhler (Reynolds) owned and often brought with her when she would come visit from Shreveport. I quickly learned why they were known as “One Armed Bandits” early on. One time I was returning to Shreveport with Aunt Marguerite and Uncle Bill and they stopped at a slot machine repair shop in Leesville, Louisiana and as we walked into the shop all you could see was money. Nickels, dime and quarters lined the entire floor and oh how I wanted to get down on my all fours and help myself. Actually, all I wanted to do was help the guy who owned the place by cleaning his floors for him.

My brother, myself and about 8 of our mutual friends were playing with a stray puppy in a friends yard. Naturally the puppy was scratching and biting as puppies will usually do. As best I can recall, someone spotted a puppy similar to the one we had been playing with that was frothing at the mouth and it was believed he had rabies. Well, we all had to take the rabies treatment, which consisted, I believe, of fourteen shots in the stomach, alternating left side then right side. Near the end of our treatment my brother and I were walking to the clinic for our shots when I decided that I was NOT going to get my shot that day. Karl, my brother, was equally determined that I was, and we got into a big fight in someone’s yard. The people knew who we were so they called the house and someone came and got us and I did get my shot.

I guess you could say that around the age of 9 or 10 I launched my business career. There was a large military base (Camp Polk, Fort Polk now) located about 15-20 miles north of DeRidder and a lot of the guys would come to town for liberty, particularly on weekends. So I, and some of my friends, concluded that we could earn some money by selling newspapers and shining shoes. We didn’t get rich but did earn money to pay our way into the movies ( 9 cents for a child’s ticket, it cost 14 cents in Shreveport ) and buy plenty of popcorn, candy bars, fountain drinks and comic books which cost about a nickel or dime back then. On occasions, I would even catch the bus and go to the base to shine shoes.

This was not my only venture. My “Uncle Freddy”, Frederick Dupuy Buhler, sold chickens to the commissary at Camp Polk and he had a man by the name of “Red” Springer and two of his sons, one was called “R T”, I can’t remember the others name, who killed and “dressed out” the chickens for him. On occasions he would let me help. This may be a little gory so you might want to skip to the next paragraph. The live chickens were in a large pen and we used a metal coat hanger with a hook on the end of it to catch the chickens around the leg/foot. We would take the chicken and place its head on a stump and whack its head off with a hatchet or grab it by the neck and give it a good jerk braking it’s neck.. We would then throw them off to the side and let them flop until they were dead. We would then take them by their feet and swirl them in boiling water in a huge iron kettle. After a period of time we would remove the chicken and pull out the feathers. After this we would cut the chicken open and remove the insides and feet. We retained the heart, liver and gizzard, which we cleaned and put back in the chicken. The gizzard had to be cut open and a sand like grit disposed of.

In addition to this, my brother and I would from time to time set up a lemonade stand in front of the house and sell lemonade, which we made from fresh lemons.

There were two movie theaters in DeRidder. The Realart and Uptown. On weekends, Saturdays especially, they would have a double feature, which consisted of two westerns or one western and one monster movie. The monster movies were usually Frankenstein, The Werewolf, Dracula, The Mummy or Creature from the Black Lagoon. When the monster movies played and I didn’t get out ‘til after dark I would usually walk, or run, home in the middle of the street keeping a sharp eye out for any unexpected movement. I kept telling myself that such things didn’t exist except in the movies but that didn’t do much good. I was always relieved when I reached the safety of our front yard.

One year while in the seventh grade (notice I said one year, actually I enjoyed the seventh grade so much I decided to stay there a second year) I had a teacher named Mr. Smith. He was an elderly gentleman with gray hair and was practically bald. He had a few hairs left that stood straight up on the top of his head. He slept frequently during class and one day I took my scissors, snuck up behind him and cut some of his hair. The class started giggling and woke him up but I don’t think he was ever aware of what I had done.

That same year, one of my classmates had given an “end of the year” class party at his father’s farm. We had a lot of fun and went on hayrides and did some horseback riding. While riding one of their horses I was having a problem getting him to stop and regardless of what I did he seemed to go faster. The last thing I can remember was seeing a tree with a low hanging limb and we were headed straight for it. With my experience as a movie goer I concluded that the smart thing to do was to duck and go under the limb. This works in the movies but it didn’t work for me. The next thing I remember was waking up in one of the farmhouses with bloody towels all around me. I hit the limb and it knocked me off the horse and my head hit on a metal drum. They called my dad and let him know what had happened and then took me to the hospital in DeRidder. Dad was there waiting and after they took the necessary stitches in my head he took me home. When we arrived my mother had a fit. Dad didn’t tell her about my accident, just that he had to go somewhere and would be back later.

This accident really irritated me because my cousin, Milburn Roco, had planned a swimming party at his Grandmother’s weekend home on the San Jacinto River (they had their own pool) and he had invited plenty of girls. Needless to say I was unable to make the desired impression with my head all bandaged up.

I guess when I was about eleven or twelve years old my mother had fixed Spanish rice for supper. I loved Spanish rice and was capable of eating all that she could fix. Later on that night I became sick at my stomach and threw up everything I had eaten and had continuous dry heaving. After a while they decided to take me to the hospital and by 8 the next morning I was without my appendix.

At night the family would congregate in mom and dads bedroom and we would lay on the floor and listen to radio programs. I guess that is how I picked up my habit of laying on the floor because to this day I would rather sit or lay on the floor than in a chair. TV was practically non-existent in those days. Reception was available only in major cities and television sets were very expensive.

My Grandmother died in 1948 and she lay in state in the front bedroom on the north side of the house. I had a problem going into that room for quite some time after that.

In 1953 we moved to Shreveport and that pretty much concluded my life experiences in DeRidder. Even though 50 + years have passed I still remember many of my friends and classmates names. There was George LeRay, Danny Lewis, Jeffrey Shirley, Richard Bilbo, Stuart Kay, David Sailor, Val Hanchey, Gene Hanchey, Jeffrey Shirley, Sammy Killman ( Sammy died in Shreveport about 2000 ), Shirley Barnes, Carolyn Harper, Margaret Sitton, Troylene Geoghagan, Mary Lane Crouch, Adelene Johnson, George Jouban, Robert Welborn, Paul Hinson and many other first names. Not bad for 50+ years later....I guess.

Barry R. Hutton