The Four-Sided Pentagon


Pentagon Barracks in Baton Rouge, LA –  Image by Spatms (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the first questions asked by any visitor to the Pentagon Barracks in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is, “Where is the fifth building?” There is a space for it, but there are only four, hefty-columned brick buildings in a pentagon arrangement with the fifth side open to the river.


This architectural anomaly, originally designed in 1818-1819 by Capt. James Gadsden for U.S. Army fortifications and barracks, called for four of the sides of the pentagon to be barracks that would house one thousand soldiers and the fifth building would actually be two buildings constructed end to end to make the fifth side. The southern of the two fifth-side buildings would be a commissary-quartermaster warehouse and the northern building would be an ordnance warehouse. These buildings were located nearest the river so that supplies could be loaded into them more easily. (See image below.)

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Design plan by U S Army Captain James Gadsden 1819  (Source: Map Collection, Louisiana State Library, Baton Rouge)

But designs, materials, and environments do not often mesh well together.

In the case of the ordnance warehouse, poor workmanship and sub-standard building materials, caused it to be condemned and demolished shortly after its construction.

In the case of the design of the fortification barracks, the oppressive heat and humidity of south Louisiana were not taken into adequate consideration.

An inspection of the progress of the barracks’ construction was made in May 1820 by the U.S. Inspector General’s office of the Baton Rouge Barracks and a portion of the final report follows:

The building is intended both for Barracks and Fortification: the lower story is
pierced in the rear with loop holes: these apertures are not sufficiently large to admit such a passage of air as to render it comfortable as lodgings, it is even now
scarcely habitable and in mid summer, must be abandoned. This work is calculated 
to use at musketry, it would appear then better that there should be larger openings in the rear, so as to render it more fit for Quarters, which in case of attack might be closed with shutters musket proof.

The Arsenal or Storehouse now building under the direction of the Ordnance Department and which forms a part of this work will be found every way inadequate to contain a moiety of the stores & which this defense will require,
the whole of the lower story of the Barracks is not more than will be wanted
for that purpose.

That part of the work which has been superintended by the Quartermaster appears
to be executed in an artist like manner. The Arsenal or Storehouse built under the direction of the Ordnance Dept. is wretchedly executed. The brick of the basement of the first story are laid in what resembled Mississippi mud more than mortar, this substitute for cement will never become hard, and may now he removed from between the Bricks by the finger alone; the wall towards the river is five or 6 inches out of plumb. It is impossible that this building will stand if charged with the weight of one half the stores it is designed to put in it.

[Records of Inspector General’s Office, 18 H-1824, National Archives, Record Group 1591.]

As the buildings stand today, windows with heavy shutters replaced the musket loop holes in the barracks.

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In addition to the design and building problems disease among the soldiers and workers constructing the buildings plagued the work.

Diseases common to living in encampments as well as mosquito-borne illnesses like yellow fever, dogged the soldiers and the other workers who had been brought in from other states to assist in the construction. In 1819, 30 workers and 20 soldiers died of yellow fever.  In 1821, 91 soldiers died.

My 3x great-grandfather, U. S. Army Lt. Jasper Strong, was stationed at the building site during the barracks’ construction, but he was only on-site a portion of the time. Unfortunately in June of 1821 he was listed as “present sick” at the barracks site. It is probable that he was sick due to the oppressive heat, being that he was a native of Vermont, but the hot and humid conditions so common in south Louisiana were no surprise to him since this was his second assignment in the South. He had already spent the previous year building a new fort near New Orleans at the Rigolets (RIG-uh-leez) Pass, the strait connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico.  He could have suffered from one of the many maladies associated with camp life, but if he had been sick with yellow fever, it is not likely that he would have survived.


President Zachary Taylor (1848) – By Joseph Henry Bush (1794-1865) (The White House Historical Association) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly when Jasper Strong was present for duty at the Baton Rouge barracks from December 1822 through January of 1823, his Commander was future U.S. President Zachary Taylor who was 38 years old at the time.

US Army SERVICE RECORD for Jasper Strong as 2nd Lieutenant:

  • 1819 – Graduated from West Point
  • 1819-1821 – Stationed at Fort Petite Cocquille at the Rigolets near New Orleans for the construction of Fort Pike
  • Jun 1821 – Baton Rouge Barracks – Present sick – Commander Richard Whartenby
  • Oct 1821 – Fort Belle Fontaine (St. Louis, MO) Absent on furlough – Commander Thomas Hamilton
  • January – November 1822 – Baton Rouge Barracks – Absent on furlough – Commander Talbot Chambers  (In October of 1822 Jasper Strong is listed as Justin Strong – was he gone so much that they forgot his name?)
  • December 1822 – January 1823 – Baton Rouge Barracks – Present for duty – Commander Zachary Taylor

As Lieutenant Jasper Strong:

  • Mar 1823 – Baton Rouge Barracks – Present for duty – Commander Talbot Chambers
  • May 1823 – Baton Rouge Barracks – Absent on Recruiting service at New Orleans – Commander Talbot Chambers

The US Army soldiers who were constructing the new barracks were housed in the old fortifications to the south of the construction site formerly known as Fuerte San Carlos (~ Fort St. Charles).

Baton Rouge map 1805

A Spanish map of Baton Rouge showing the earthen fortifications of Fuerte San Carolos in 1805.   Pintado, Vicente Sebastián. Florida Occidental, Distrito de Baton Rouge, año de 1805. 1805. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <;

This earthen fortification was built by the British after they gained control of the area in 1763 due to the Treaty of Paris. The fort was named Fort New Richmond and it remained in British hands until the Revolutionary War when Bernardo de Galvez, commandant of Spanish-controlled New Orleans,  happily sided with the colonial patriots in order to move the British out of the Mississippi River region.  The Spanish marched from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in September 1779 and were successful in their attack on the British in the only battle of the Revolutionary War fought in Louisiana.  The Spanish renamed the fortification, Fuerte San Carlos and it remained under Spanish control until 1810 when some disgruntled English citizens living in the Spanish controlled area were unhappy with Spanish rule. They seized the fort in September of 1810 and declared themselves the independent Republic of West Florida.  That independent country lasted three months until the United States annexed the fledgling Republic. To replace the rundown fortification, the US Army made plans to build a new arsenal and barracks in Baton Rouge.

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But Jasper Strong was not my only ancestor to walk the grounds of this plot of land on the Mississippi River.  Another of my third great-grandfathers, Jacob Guice, joined Col. Claiborne’s 1st Mississippi Militia and marched to Baton Rouge from Natchez in the Mississippi Territory during September 1812 to defend it against the British in the War of 1812.  Jacob was stationed at the fortification of Fuerte San Carlos until March of 1813.

Grave of Jacob Guice - Guice/Armstrong Cemetery - McNair, MS

Grave of Jacob Guice with star emblem denoting service in the War of 1812

More recently my grandfather, C.L. Guice, was a student cadet at the Pentagon Barracks in the 1920’s when the buildings were part of Louisiana State University.  He never knew his great-grandfather Jacob Guice had been stationed almost on the same grounds one hundred years before.


I was born in Baton Rouge in 1962 not far from the Barracks at the old Lady of the Lake Hospital that used to be across Capitol Lake from the State Capitol building. I have walked the grounds of the Pentagon Barracks many times through the years, never realizing how many of my forebears preceded me. Needless to say, these historic buildings are now an endearing connection to my past.


The Guice Box

SONY DSCI have been in possession of the Guice Box for several years now. It is a well-built, sturdy, varnished box emblazoned with the Guice family crest on top and trimmed out with brass handles and latch. I came to acquire it in a roundabout way.

In 2008 my mother and I traveled with other members of my family to attend our first Guice Family Reunion held yearly near McNair, Mississippi.

My mother was so excited to go.  She had never known any of her Guice relatives beyond her father, since he had died when she was seven.  And his mother and father died before my mother’s parents were married.  So to meet other Guice “faces” and to see the family resemblance was a dream come true for her.

Sitting in folding chairs in the shade of trees in the grassy yard of the family home of a Guice relative, family members caught up on news from the previous year.  After partaking of some scrumptious family reunion food — you know the kind — my mother was chosen by a drawing to receive a small treasure chest-like box that was part of a Guice Family Reunion tradition.  The recipient was to take it home for one year and bring it back to the next reunion.  During that year, the holder of the box was to contribute a family treasure — be it a photo, recipe, Guice family story, etc.

Since I am our immediate family’s historian, my mother gave me the box so that I could add a “family treasure” and be the holder of the box it until the next reunion.

As a genealogist and historian, I had fun going through the box’s contents. There were photos, family histories, articles, and obituaries.  It was like Christmas morning discovering more Guice family history!SONY DSC

In the months to come, I worked diligently to self-publish a book about our branch of the Guice family, then I added it to the box.  I was excited to show the other Guice family members our contribution at the next reunion, but the reunion in 2009 was cancelled. We would have to wait another year.  So I put the box safely away in my genealogy cabinet.

CCI02012013_0002But before the next reunion could be held in 2010, my mother passed away. I’m not even sure that it was held that year.  I’m so sad that she was never able to attend another reunion, but I am glad that she was able to attend at least one.

Because she was the contact person for the reunion, I have not seen another invitation to attend one. There is a contact name and address under the lid of the Guice box, but I was hesitant to send the box in the mail for fear it may be lost — it, nor its contents can be replaced.  I tried to contact another Guice family member that I remembered meeting that day, leaving my information with them to let me know of the next reunion, but I have not been notified.

I hope that by posting this page, someone from the Mississippi/Louisiana Guice family will see it and contact me about the next reunion so I can return the box and the tradition can continue.  I will write a letter to the address in the box in hopes that I will get a response about the reunion.  Until then if you are a member of the Guice Family, please contact me through this blog and know that the Guice box has been well taken care of. I will come to the next reunion bearing it in one hand and food in the other!

Life on Byron Street: Christmastime – 1960’s Style

Santa and me at D.H.Holmes in Delmont Village in 1967

Santa and me at D.H.Holmes in Delmont Village in 1967

Every Christmas season our little noses were pressed against the store windows of Delmont Village Shopping Center which was located just a couple of blocks from Byron Street.  We closely inspected every detail of the colorful, animated window displays. The mechanical elves slowly repeated their movements as they sawed, hammered, and painted the toys they were crafting. Next to them, a large Santa gently nodded as he inspected their work. In other windows there were more elves, Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, large sparkly candy canes and in some windows there were moving reindeer. Hanging throughout each scene were large glittery candies and, piled high along the bottom of all the displays were hills of light fluffy “snow” — something we rarely saw in Louisiana. It was all so magical!

Down the road from Delmont Village on Plank Road was Tony’s Christmas Tree lot. About two weeks before Christmas, we would ride down there to buy our tree. Mr. Tony Pizzolato, always the entrepreneur, rented the front lot of Shopper’s Fair to sell his Christmas trees after he had sold his last pumpkin for the fall season from his fruit stand. There were post holes dug in the ground for each tree and light bulbs hung above on wires throughout the lot for easier evening shopping.  We loved to run and hide from each other in the rows of trees — except for stepping in water-filled, “treeless” post holes. Then with wet socks, we would help our parents try to find just the right tree.  Our Christmas tree of choice was usually a Scotch Pine.  It was known for its crooked trunk, but it also had a wonderful pine fragrance. The smell of pine lingered on our clothes until we got ready for bed that night, and it will always linger in my memory as one of my favorite Christmas smells.

Our "tall" tree

Our beautiful “tall” tree (My great-grandmother “Sukey” is in the background.)

My parents always bought a 5-foot tree because the taller trees were more expensive than they wanted to pay, but we improvised to make it seem taller. We placed it on a low tree table that had brick-looking paper around it — to look like a chimney, I guess. When we added the pointed, glass tree-topper, it was almost as tall as our ceiling! We decorated our tree with strands of big, colorful light bulbs, colored glass balls, gold garland, and silver icicles — a Christmas tree can never have too many icicles.

Byron Street Christmas '66247

Our nativity set on our TV behind my brother — and his excitement

Our manger scene was often placed at the base of the tree with a yellow bulb put through a hole in the back of the stable to light up the inside. But sometimes we put it on the television set. I loved playing with the little figurines as I imagined telling the story of baby Jesus and how God sent him into the world to save us from our sins. My mom decorated dime-store ceramic figurines with real satin cloth to make them more life-like.  She even added glitter to the gifts of the wise men. I arranged the little figurines — then rearranged them — then rearranged them again — everyday until Christmas.

We didn’t decorate the outside of our house very much, but we sometimes decorated our front door with big, colored lights that had silver reflectors around each bulb. My mother liked putting a decorative covering on our door that looked like Santa was opening the front door to let you inside. But sometimes she made cardboard cut-outs of choir children, or wise men, and stood them up on our front porch with a Penetray color wheel light shining on them. My bedroom which had a window that faced the front porch glowed green…blue…red…and orange…then repeated the color sequence again and again.

My family loved riding through different neighborhoods in Baton Rouge to see all the lights.  Houses back in the ’60’s were often decorated with all blue lights, or green lights, or red, with an aluminum Christmas tree placed in the front picture window.  The tree usually had corresponding colored balls and glowed with the light from a spinning color wheel light.  Ah, the memories!

The neighborhood kids caroling at my Grandma's house

The neighborhood kids caroling with our Sunbeam Bakery song sheets at my Grandma’s house on Byron Street

In our own neighborhood, my mom and dad took the kids on our street and went house to house singing Christmas carols.  Sunbeam Bakery used to give out tabloid-size, newsprint caroling sheets that had the lyrics printed in green. We carried these papers with us as we sang at each house and, if we were lucky, we were given cookies or hot chocolate as a thank you.  But we always got a smile for our efforts! When we got back home, especially if it was cold, we had a cup of our homemade spiced tea made with fresh orange, lemon, and pineapple juices that were laced with a touch of cinnamon and cloves. This spiced tea recipe is still a treasured holiday treat in my family.

CCI09072013_0003On one Christmas some of the caroling kids from our block, decided to do a Christmas play in our backyard and invite the neighborhood.  We worked very hard on our set and costumes — even getting Burger King crowns for the wise men.  We had one attendee besides our parents. Our elderly neighbor from a few doors down, graciously came to see our play.  I’ve never forgotten that. Mr. Boden was a sweet man.

When I was very young the Christmas parade in downtown Baton Rouge was a must see.  I remember the large crowds that gathered on Third Street waiting for the parade to come by.  It seemed like we waited forever!  To pass the time, I remember watching the neon Coca-Cola sign atop one of the buildings repeat different patterns of red and white lights. I became mezmorized by that sign. To help my sister and me see the parade, my dad brought a 6-foot ladder for us to stand on.  That way we were able to see the marching bands, glittering floats, beautiful ladies riding on shiny cars, and of course the biggest float of all that carried Santa Claus!

Christmas Eve evening was a very special time for our family.  Traditions that were started back then are still celebrated in my own family. We all gathered together in our living room with only the lights of the Christmas tree illuminating the room.  One child got to light a tall pillar candle and another one of us got to read the Christmas story by candlelight from the big old family Bible we had. We took turns each year. I still enjoy hearing that Bible story from Luke 2 read in King James English — just like Linus recites it for Charlie Brown in the well-known Christmas TV special. And like most children, we rarely slept on Christmas Eve.  We were just too excited — especially if we heard a “bump, bump.”  Maybe it was Santa’s reindeer on our roof!

CCI09072013_0004When Christmas morning finally came, we had to go get Mom and Dad before we could go into the living room to see what Santa brought everyone.  Then the room was filled with more squeals of joy and excitement than there were presents. Our stockings were also extra-special. Mom would attach a small cut out of an eventful happening in each of our lives that year. Over the years, the toe of the stocking got more and more crowded, but it also held for us more and more memories. After the room was full of torn wrapping paper and lengths of colored ribbon, we would go down to my Grandma’s house or sometimes she and my Pa-Pa would walk down the street to watch us open their presents to us, which were — more often than not — socks or underwear. My Grandma was a terribly practical lady.  We now affectionately call any overly practical present a “Grandma Gift.”

Christmas was a very, very special time with many, many fond memories.  I hope you have as many wonderful childhood Christmas memories as I have, but if not, you are welcome to borrow some of mine!

© 2011 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved

Life on Byron Street: Grandma’s House

Byron Street house front284

Grandma’s House at 3538 Byron Street

We didn’t have to go over the river and through the woods to get to my Grandma’s house, because she lived right down the street from us.  That meant that I spent lots of time in that little red-brick house.

I spent much of my time in her kitchen “helping” her cook.  As a former home economics teacher, she knew how to manage a kitchen and prepare delicious meals.  As I watched her cook, she would teach as she went, sharing tips along the way. We made strawberry preserves from figs that grew on her tree in the back yard. It was a great climbing tree — a side benefit for us when we helped to pick them each summer. She also made luscious pear cobblers from her backyard pear tree. Her crawfish bisque, which took nearly all-day to make, is still the best bisque I’ve ever tasted.

On her kitchen counter a tin canister held a treat that was waiting for us every time we visited — home-made, old-family-recipe, tea cakes. These cookies were thick, fairly dense and chewy, short bread cookies that were flavored with a touch of nutmeg. Also on her counter was a large jar of sweet pickles that we would help her make. These pickles tasted as sweet as candy, which meant we were only allowed a few at a time. They were made from store-bought sour pickles whose juice was poured off and replaced with an entire bag of sugar, cloves, and garlic.  I know the ingredients may sound peculiar, but the pickles were so good that I still make them today.  Plus they remind me of her every time I open a jar.  “We” prepared so many scrumptious recipes in her kitchen!

Pa-Pa (W.T. Arnold) and Grandma (Marcia Broome Guice Arnold)

Pa-Pa (W.T. Arnold) and Grandma (Marcia Broome Guice Arnold)

The best time of day at her house was around dinner time (noon) which was her biggest meal of the day.  Roast, rice and gravy, “Mississippi-style” potatoes (boiled potatoes in a white sauce), string beans cooked down so much they wilted into a heap on your plate, corn, and pickled beets, were part of a typical meal that she would make for my Pa-Pa when he came home from his store for lunch.

I’d wait for him to come out of the back door of his store and walk across the yard to the house.  The kitchen’s screen door was on the side of the house that faced the back of his store, so he only had to walk across the side yard everyday to go back and forth to work.

My grandma married Pa-Pa after her first husband passed away. When they got married, he moved my grandma and her two daughters to live with him in the red-brick home that was built by him and his sons. A couple of years after they were married, they had another daughter together.  Her two daughters who were my mother and aunt were at the perfect age to enjoy a new addition to the family.

My mom (l), her sister and new baby sister having some summer fun!

My mom (l), her sister and new baby sister having some summer fun! (~ 1947)

The oldest girls shared a bedroom upstairs room that ran from one side of the house to the other.  It was hot for a bedroom, but there were windows at either end of the room that helped encourage a cross breeze to blow through in the summertime.

When it was really hot, the side yard was always a cool, shaded, lush retreat where one could sit in an Adirondack chair or glide in the bench swing while the cool breezes blew through the large willow tree. And of course there was always a cold watermelon or a tall glass of sweet tea to enjoy that helped ward off the heat.

The shady side yard where we ate watermelon

The shady side yard where we ate watermelon

Me planting seeds in Grandma's garden

Me planting seeds in Grandma’s garden (1967)

In the back part of the side yard, my grandmother made a garden every year. She had one of the greenest thumbs in Baton Rouge. Grandma could make a stick grow. She taught me how to turn the dirt in a garden and when to plant what. But there must be more that she didn’t tell me because my gardening abilities and hers don’t quite match up.

She would say, “Just take a cutting, make a slit in the ground with a shovel and stick it in.

It worked for her, but it hasn’t worked for me.

I often got the privilege of spending the night at Grandma’s house, but she didn’t have many toys for us to play with while we were there. She did, however, have three children’s jigsaw puzzles that she kept on a shelf in her den that I put together over and over again — trying to increase my speed from the last time I put them together.  She also usually had an adult-sized puzzle laid out on her coffee table that I remember helping her put together.  I still love to do jigsaw puzzles.

My mother and her sisters lived in that house until each of them got married.

After my mom married my dad, they lived in a garage apartment right behind my grandma’s house and later moved to a house only half-a-block away. The other two sisters eventually moved to New Orleans.

But no one in my family lives in that neighborhood anymore. I’ve always wanted to go back and see inside of the old house again and look around the place, but that neighborhood  has deteriorated in recent years to the point that it is unsafe to spend any significant time there.

Grandma's House today (2013)

Grandma’s House today (2013) – from Google maps

Today, Grandma’s house sits boarded up. My Pa-Pa’s store has been torn down. And the once shady side yard is now a parking lot. The garage, fig tree, and garden are gone as well.

I wish people who passed by it today could know what good times were had there and that it is not just an old abandoned house. It was a place of love and family, good food, and fellowship.  My heart breaks for the old neighborhood and Grandma’s house. One day things may change and the little red-brick house may have a chance to be lively again. I hope so.

© 2013 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved

1941 (Dec. 16 – Dec. 31)

bea-bryan-denham-230[This is the final installment of the 1941 diary of Sicily Island, Louisiana native, Bea Bryan Denham. References to WWII are in red.]

December 16, Tuesday

Cold, sunny

No mail.  I’ve been working on the Christmas things, and they are very slowly being finished.  Earl wanted to go to the show, so we asked  Whittons and they went, — “Navy Blues” – Nothing extra, and even worse since Martha Ray was in it.  I addressed 67 Christmas cards, guess I’ll mail them Friday.  Jo Anne’s cold is not much better, but she’s taking cod liver and vitamin tablets.

December 17, Wednesday

Cold, sunny

I spent today at Mrs. Boyett’s working on the presents.  Edna got a letter from Daisy, they have gone to Collins, Miss.  Said Davis was on the police force in Hattiesburg.  Earl was late this afternoon, and will be later tomorrow because its payday.  We ought to have $400.60 in the Bank with this pay day.  We have quit getting any mail at all.  I am writing letters today, — Velma, Faye, Mamma, Love, Kidd, Margaret and Marcia.

December 18, Thursday

Warmer, looks like rain.

Washed what things we had dirty.  Mrs. Boyett came and stayed awhile, we are still embroidering.  We went to the show to see “A Yank in the R.A.F.”  I am kinder worried about Earl, he isn’t sleeping as well as he should, and he’s awfully tired when he gets in.  It was late tonight though, after five.  A Christmas Card from Florelle, and a card from Daisy at Collins, Miss.

December 19, Friday

Fairly warm, sunny.

Jo Anne took her presents this morning and we went to town to buy groceries.  I got $7.45, and a $6.50 pr. of Red Cross shoes, a $3.98 velvet dress for Jo Anne, present for Anita, enough stuff to finish wrapping my Christmas presents.  The bus left Jo Anne and I had to go get her.  Talked to the principal, but he was anything else but nice, Cathcart was his name.  I crocheted some, but looks like I’ll never get through with the Christmas things.  Mrs. Boyett and I registered for Civilian defense.  Letter from Daisey, and cards from Bell and Aunt Florence.

December 20, Saturday

Warm and Sunny

Today is our 17th anniversary.  Earl and Jo Anne were determined to celebrate so we went to the show, “Parachute Battalion” and they got me a box of candy.  I had washed and ironed all day long, took down the curtains, besides the regular lot of clothes and was hanging them when John and Rosemary came.  But the tent looks so nice and clean now.  Earl is so good to me, and I’m so scared.  They passed Selective Service – 20 to 45 – this week, and what would I do if Earl had to leave me?  We heard today that Clare Chennault is head of the American Volunteer’s Group action in China.

December 21, Sunday

My intention was a good rest today, and leisure to digest this week’s Time, but after our baths I had to set Jo Anne’s hair which took me til nearly 10:30, then Mrs. Boyett came and I set hers, and before she left Rosemary and her kids came, and stayed till after supper.  We had just straightened up after that storm when Mr. and Mrs. Boyett came and stayed til after Walter Winchell. At last, to Jo Anne’s Ill – concealed displeasure, I got to my magazine, and read til ten, but Earl didn’t feel so well,  so I had to doctor him a little.  Bed will feel really good.

December 22, Monday


The year is almost done.  Life is like the year, never ending in its beginning, running oh so swiftly towards the close.  It seems that Christmas is rushing into me, and I’ve so much to do.  Jo Anne is trying to finish Mamma’s present – her fist handwork.  We went to see “Citizen Kane,” which was a most unusual picture, unusual in photography and in presentation, as well as in morals.  I enjoyed it. Cards from Mrs. Reeves and Miss Willy.  The news tonight was a scoop – Winston Churchill is at the white House to confer with Pres. Roosevelt.

December 23, Tuesday


It has turned considerably cooler, and we went to town, bought Glyn a Christmas present, also one for Barbara June.  I’ve worked all day trying to finish up so I’d have tomorrow to straighten up in, but I couldn’t make it.  We played dominoes at Walter’s and I read to Earl and Jo Anne while he shaved.  We had a letter from Kidd they took Jack to the negro to train.  I do hope nothing happens to him.  Jo Anne is about to finish working a dish towel for Mamma.  Oh, I’m so tired.

December 24, Wednesday


I’ve finished the hand work, and washed all our dirty clothes, ironed, mopped, wrapped, bathed, cooked, — I’ve been really industrious today, trying to impress Santa, I guess.  Earl came and we left at 5:45, got to Pop’s at 9:00 and spent an hour talking to them, then went to Kidd’s.  Mamma and Joe were there, se we talked a long time, and are ready for be, at 12:00.  I’m dog tired.

December 25, Thursday

Beautiful sunny afternoon

But for the dread that hangs over us all about the future, this has been a perfect day –.  We had the Christmas tree, and so many nice things, and Mrs. Trichel, Hazel and Ernest came for dinner, so we had Kidd, Edward, Mamma, Joe, Jo Anne, Earl and me for a table ful.  Velma and Rowland came when we went to Pop’s, and Love, too.  So did Cecil and Sprague.  We went to Margaret’s and May Usher, Melvin, and Miss Mamie and Uncle Bud came out there.  So we pretty well saw everybody, but didn’t leave until nearly 7.  Got here at 10.  So sleepy –

December 26, Friday

Cold but sunny

It took all day today to straighten up, get everything put in a place where we could find it, and clear out the middle of the floor.  Mrs. Boyett, Edna and I went to town, I bought groceries and put the usual $40 in the bank.  Jo Anne wanted to buy a bond, but they didn’t have any yesterday.  Walter had a generator trouble so when they came home Earl fixed two for him, and they came over and played dominoes.  I’m so tired and sleepy I can hardly see straight tonight.  Mrs. Tarver died Monday or Tuesday, Monday, I think.

December 27, Saturday

Sunny and cold

Mrs. Boyett said Mr. Boyett’s foreman fired him last night, she is awfully uneasy, and will be until he gets something else.  We washed all the clothes we had dirty, and Mrs. Boyett came in, had got a job in Area E.  I’m so glad, I don’t know what I’d do here without her.  I went to bed about 10:30 and slept til 12, I was too tired to move.  Wrote to Mamma, Kidd, Minnie Lea, Faye, Dobb’s and Motor Supply, and mailed them.

Sunday, December 28

Cold and Sunny

I worked on a jigsaw puzzle.   John came over and stayed awhile, said Ray Randall got killed in a car wreck Christmas Eve.  John got me a Time and I spent most of the day reading.  JoAnne was lonesome.  There isn’t much for her to do.  When Earl came we finished working the jigsaw puzzle, and I read to them.  “Trouble is My Master.”

Monday, December 29

Sunny and cold.

I’ve felt so rotten today, but had to go get a ham for lunch and some bread and milk.  I mailed letters to Marcia and Velma, and wrote to Daisy.  Edna had a letter from Daisy, she seemed to think Tucker had gone to New Orleans and all his men would be called in about a month.  We went to Shreveport and Earl and Walter went to a meeting, it was nearly 11:30 when we got in, and both Jo Anne and Earl are going to hate getting up in the morning.  I put fastenings on Jo Anne’s new dress today, and I must do some patching as soon as I feel better.

Tuesday, December 30


Only one more day in old 1941.  And what a year!  We just listened to Columbia’s round up of the twelve months, and saw how we have each month come closer and closer to war, until in December we find ourselves all in, where we should probably have been before if we had been better prepared.  And what changes have come to us!  In January we were living normal lives, as we had for sixteen years, home and work settled about us.  Today the house is empty and desolate, and we have been living in a tent for nine months, more or less.  But for the first time in our married lives we’ve paid off our debts and have a little money in the bank.

Wednesday, December 31


What a way to spend the last day of the year!  Crocheted a little, read a little.  Letter from Kidd.  Eula May has come to Mamma’s to have another baby, and we’re all furious.  She hasn’t the consideration of a goose.  I wish we had never seen her, she’s been nothing but a misery and expense since the day we laid eyes on her.  Earl and Walter went to Shreveport.  I worked the other jig-saw puzzle.  We aren’t going to watch the old year out, Earl will be tired when he comes in.

1941 (Dec. 1 – Dec. 15)

Bea Bryan Denham 230[…the continuing 1941 diary of Sicily Island, Louisiana native, Bea Bryan Denham. References to WWII are in red.]

December 1, Monday

Cloudy and cooler.

Mrs. Boyett and I washed all our clothes today, and I’m about all in.  She made squirrel gumbo for me, and I worked on that coffee table mat, so it’s completed.  We played dominoes with Walter.  Had a letter from Kidd.  Earl got the paraphernalia for the urine test from the life insurance company.  Today for the first time it seems Russia has the Germans retreating, while England has the same fine luck in Lybia.  This war has got to be routine to us, since we are not yet experiencing the awfulness nor the heartbreak of it.

December 2, Tuesday

Warm, partly cloudy

Had a letter from Faye and wrote to Mamma and Marcia.  John, Mrs. Boyett and Edna have all been here today, also Mrs. Brown, but I ironed all the things I had, and we went to town, I had several little things to do.  We read “The D. A. Cooks a Goose” tonight.  Earl got in a little earlier.  England isn’t doing so well in Africa today, but the Russians are running the Germans in Russia a little.  The days drag so, I am embroidering some trying to line up a few things for Christmas.  I wrote to Faye, too.  Mrs. Boyett sent Jo Anne candy, and a bowl of chili, which she enjoyed.

December 3, Wednesday

Cloudy , warm

I had to go to town for a few things, and that takes the most important part of the day.  I started a new piece to embroider, when I’ve got magazines just crying to be read.  Earl went to get a haircut, and we saw “Sun Valley Serenade.”  It was fair.  Sonja Henie is so innocent and fresh looking and skates so well the show would be bound to enhance its value on her account, but the plot was more than thin.  It’s a rush to get to bed early enough to get eight hours sleep.  We got our Bank statement, — have saved $320.00.

December 4, Thursday

Warm and sunny

I have felt simply awful all day, embroidered over to Mrs. Boyett’s nearly all day.  I didn’t feel like going to the Bank with Earl and Jo Anne, so they went, and Walter came and played dominoes.  We got a card from Cecil saying the baby came Tuesday, the 2nd, a boy, named Dewitt Lee, weighed 8 ¾ pounds.  I’m so glad it’s over, and I do hope they get along nicely.  I surely would like to go home and see them, but guess we will have to wait til Sunday after next.  Oh, I do hope they have good luck with this baby.

December 5, Friday


I ordered Christmas things $41.12 today, which is almost everything except Jo Anne’s – I wrote Margaret, Mamma, and Aunt Leona.  We bought the weeks supply of groceries, and I went to see about Daddy’s hat.  Also got Time and read the most of it.  We read the new Post, and Earl came in with a headache, so we are turning in early.

December 6, Saturday

I washed all the things we had dirty this morning, and after I got cleaned up, started to work on that embroidery.  I don’t believe I’ll ever get it all done by Christmas but I’ll try.  I’ll be glad when the things come so I can tell what I have, and still have to get.  Rosemary came last night, so she’s been over several times, and after supper she and John both came, we went to town and to the show, “Buy Me That town,” – not much.  We enjoyed it though, but its surely put us into bed late, nearly eleven now.

December 7, Sunday

Cool and sunny.

Today I cleaned up early and Mr. and Mrs. Boyett, Jo Anne and I rode up to Haynesville, — the country was so pretty, — dark green pines and the flaming red of gum and sumac, then all the varying shades from bright yellow to deep brown, it was such a peaceful happy looking country that I felt happier than for a long time, then when I came home I thought of the beautiful music we often have on Sunday afternoon, and turned on the radio to hear, “Japan has bombed the Philippines and Hawaiian Islands,” – such a rude awakening to cold reality.  Its WAR now, to the death.  This is no longer an oasis in a world of war, its total, and there’s no telling where it will end.  I could cry my eyes out.

December 8, Monday

Cold, but sunny

Today Mrs. Boyett came over and we listened the whole day to the radio.  To Roosevelt, when he asked for a declaration of War against Japan.  I wanted Earl and Jo Anne to hear it so badly, and when they came home, the school had had a radio, so Jo Anne heard it, and the company put the speech on the public address system, so Earl got to hear it, too.  Somehow I only feel numb, and as if I were having a nightmare, and will soon awake.  We are entering on very dark days and perhaps years.  We were born too early or too late, — war in our childhood, wildness and shifting sand in our youth, depression and war in our fruitful years.  What a life of varied emotions and experiences we will have!  Letters from Mamma, Margaret and Velma.

December 9, Tuesday

Cold, sunny

I worked on the Christmas presents, then went to town and mailed letters to Mamma, Margaret, Velma, Mrs. Peck, Kidd and Love.  Ate sandwiches with Mrs. Boyett, then when I went for the mail my package with the Christmas presents in it had come, so she came over and we opened it.  Most other things I ordered came.  I guess I’ll try to wrap them right away.  Mr. and Mrs. Boyett came over and waited to hear Roosevelt talk.  It’s so depressing and unreal.  Had a letter from Florelle today, Al (?) is out of the army, but of course he will have to go right back.  She seemed awfully blue and discouraged.

December 10, Wednesday

Cold, sunny

I spent the day at Mrs. Boyett’s working on Christmas presents.  Had letters from Love and Julia.  Poor Love, she is worried sick over the war, and thinking her boy may have to go.  Julia didn’t have much to say.  Jo Anne came home with a sore throat, so we went to town to get something to mop it with. Earl read the new “Trouble is My Master” in the Post to us.  The war news is not encouraging. The Japs have landed troops on Luzon.  Oh, what will all this war turn out to be!  It’s so discouraging.  They are going to register from 17 to 44 for military service, to 65 for Civilian Defense.

December 11, Thursday

Cold and raining

Jo Anne wasn’t able to go to school, so I’ve embroidered and she’s read, most of the day.  Germany and Italy declared war on us today, which is a good thing, there will be no more hedging.  Letter from Marcia, they have had another death in her family.  And a letter from Daisy, also one from Mamma.  I wrote to Florelle, Minnie Lee and Daisy.  Earl was tired when he came in, but he went to the Bank.  I ordered Jo Anne’s Christmas things.  We made candy for the lunches.

December 12, Friday

Cold and raining

I went to town and bought groceries and Christmas wrappings, then spent the rest of the day getting my packages wrapped. Everything I ordered came except Jo Anne’s dress.  Still I have nothing for her.  Mamma said Earl’s “Audubon’s Bird Book” came.  I think I’ll go home Sunday.  Mrs Boyett went today.  I’m still working on those presents I must make, but it’s so very slow.

December 13, Saturday

Cold, but no rain.

The war news is getting a little more encouraging.  I took Mrs. Boyett and Edna to town, and I bought Jo Anne’s teacher and two friends presents.  We finished wrapping them all today, and I got together the thing I wanted to take home.  I guess Jo Anne and I will go home.  I read “Trouble is My Master” to Earl and Jo Anne.

December 14, Sunday

Cold, but sunny

Jo Anne, Mrs. Boyett and I left at 7:30 this morning.  We stopped in Monroe for her to see her sister, then stopped a few minutes at Lil’s.  When we got home, Mamma went to Kidd’s with us.  Joe said he’d rather stay by the fire and read.  We had dinner there, Jo Anne rode the horse, and we went to Margaret’s – The baby is pretty – she looks well, too.  We went to Julia’s and to our house a few minutes, and got a away at 4:15.  Stopped at Lora’s a few minutes, got here at 7:45.  Gee I’m tired, but I was awfully glad to get back, it may be a tent, but ”home is where the heart is.”

December 15th, Monday

Cold, but sunny

Washed, ironed, mopped, cleaned generally.  Letters from Velma and Faye — I started fixing Christmas cards.  Tonight Mr. and Mrs. Boyett came over, and so did Edna and Walter, to listen to Roosevelt talk. It was so late before he came on, –10 to 10, that they all left but we stayed up to hear him, he was part of a program on the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights.  Earl Walter and I played dominoes after the others left.  The time is getting awfully short, I’m afraid I won’t get it all done for Christmas.

1941 (Nov. 16 – Nov. 30)

bea-bryan-denham-230[…the continuing 1941 diary of Sicily Island, Louisiana native, Bea Bryan Denham. References to WWII are in red.]

November 16, Sunday

Sunny and warm

We decided to go back to bed after Earl left, and I read “Luck of Scotland.”  About ten we got up, dressed, and I had made the beds when Lil and Al came.  I was glad to see them, Sundays are so long.  We fixed sandwiches for dinner and went to Belle’s spent an hour or so then drove about town and out to Barksdale Field too late to go in.  Earl had already got home and washed the dishes when we finally got home. They stayed a little while. I made coffee and sandwiches again for them.  We sat around and talked til after Walter Winchell, now we’re ready to turn in.

November 17, Monday

Warm and sunny

Mrs. Boyett and I washed clothes this morning, then she spent the day with me.  We didn’t get any mail. Daisy asked us to go to town, but I didn’t need anything so we didn’t go. When Earl came he suggested our going to Carter’s, so we did.  We didn’t stay very long though.  Didn’t have anything to read either, so we decided to go to bed early.  Jo Anne says they are going to have Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.

November 18, Tuesday

Sunshine and cloud, much warmer

Mrs. Boyett and I went to town early, came back and made coffee.  I cleaned up everything, and read awhile.  Went to the house for the mail and had to wait nearly an hour and a half, but got a letter from Mamma and one from Mrs. Peck.  I started looking for Christmas things, but haven’t had much luck.  After supper we went to Mrs. Boyett’s a little while.  Seems from the news that Germany is about settled in the Crimea, Japan is blustering, and will probably do more than that before it’s all over.  This world certainly seems to be in a mess.

November 19, Wednesday

Cloudy, intermittent showers.

John came today, brought us turnips, potatoes, radishes, milk, and butter from Mamma and Joe and coffee and letters from Pop.  John went on to Shreveport, and came back about the same time Earl got home.  We had supper, and went over to Charlie’s to talk awhile, borrowed their cot, and John is going to sleep over here tonight.  I’ve tried to figure on Christmas, but I didn’t get very far with it.  I wrote to Motor Supply about our refrigerator which has gone bad; to Sears, completing the roof payments; to Wes, sending Earl’s Masonic dues and to Prudential paying this 4th quarter premium.

November 20, Thursday

Cooler, threatening

John went to Shreveport again, but didn’t get anything definite, though Owens was encouraging.  Earl said he was really tired, had a headache, too.  John ate supper with Charlie and Daisy so Earl lay down and rested for an hour.  Then we all went to see “Nothing But the Truth”, which was quite good.  I sewed a little on Jo Anne’s dress, we went over to Edna’s for awhile, but didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving in any special way.  But there are plenty of things I’m truly thankful for — parents, sisters, good in-laws, America, all the many things we take for granted.  And for freedom from debt, for a good job, even if it does mean living in a tent.  And for Jo Ann, bless her dear little old heart.

November 21, Friday

Warmer and still cloudy

Jo Anne and I went to town with Daisy, Edna and Glen went, too.  We got a permanent for Jo Anne, but I don’t like the way it looks.  I bought groceries for the week, sent $3 to Mamma, she bought more wool for Jo Anne’s comforter.  John came in about 3:30, got his orders to go out tonight a t 12 o’clock.  Daisy and Charlie knew of a trailer at Dozline, so Jo Anne and I went with Earl, John, and Charlie to look at it.  That one wasn’t so good, but they told us of one at Sibley, so we went over there and John bought it.  I had a card from Minnie Lea, but that’s all the mail.

November 22, Saturday

Rain all night and all day

Earl went to work in our car today, he was afraid Walter and Charlie wouldn’t work and sure enough they both came in about ten.  Charlie and Daisy went to Baton Rouge and the other to Nacogdoches.  Jo Anne and I read, and about three (o’clock) Eunice Garrison, and Cora, and her husband came, wanting to know how to go about getting him a job.  They stayed til around five, and when Earl came they had told him to take Sunday off, so of course we wanted to go home.  We got to Sicily Island about nine, went to Pop’s awhile, then to Mamma’s. They are all alright.  The dogs and Tuffy both look pretty and fat.  It is nearly eleven so we’re off to bed.

November 23, Sunday

Gloomy and cold.

We cleaned up in the house and went down to the Gillis place to hunt Jo Anne’s cow, didn’t find her.  Came back to the shop and found May Usher and Melvin.  They had three of Dot’s puppies, one for Edward, one for Cecil and they kept a female.  They are beauties.  We went on to Margaret’s. Mrs. Summers had just come spent about an hour.  Margaret expects to go to the hospital any day.  Came home and ate dinner, Kidd and Edward were with us, and after dinner Marcia and the children came.  Cecil, Mr. Dewitt and Sprague came, and Cecil rode part of the way back with us it was the first time Earl had seen Cecil since we came to Minden.

November 24, Monday

Beautiful, but cold

Letter from Florelle. Mrs. Boyett came over before I got this messy place clean and I also washed all the under clothes.  It was a job.  Mrs. B Edna and I went to town and went we got back we found that Daisy and Charlie were back and fixing to move to Baton Rouge. Charlie has a good job with Tucker a shore job but they have hopes of a longer one.  I hate to see then go, but if they can do better I don’t blame them.  They ate supper with us, and we went to the show to see “Wild Geese Calling.”  There was very little of the books charm it was sordid and cheap and the book was pretty good.  It’s awfully cold tonight.

November 25, Tuesday

Cold, but the sun is beautiful

Daisy and Charlie got off at 1:15 today. They drank coffee over here and Charlie shaved with Earl’s electric razor.  I was awfully sorry to see them go.  No mail came.  John came over for a little while and so did Mrs. Boyett.  After supper Walter and Edna came and played dominoes.

The English seem at last to have taken the initiative in Africa but they’re having a pretty tough time.  Germany seems to have renewed her attempt to take Moscow before settling down for the winter. I’m writing Minnie Lea, but I’m still worrying over what to get for Christmas for the family.

November 26, Wednesday

Warmer, but still cold.

I decided to make a coffee table doily for that crochet I’ve got, so I sewed them and made the picot part.  Mrs. Boyett wanted me to come over there, and I stayed nearly all day.  We took Walter to town after Earl came, came back and read “Bright Danger.”  Earl peeled and broke sugar cane and pecans, so we ate until it’s time to go to bed.  We had a letter from Motor Supply saying they’d exchange the unit in our refrigerator for $5.00.  Its lonesome since Daisy left, it’s awfully lonely up here, anyway, but I guess we’ve no kick if we can save anything.  Buggs Doniphan has a 2 1/2 # daughter I hear.

November 27, Thursday

No mail, we went to the bank when Earl came home, and Walter came over so we played dominoes until its bedtime.  I’ve done almost nothing today, worked on that piece of crochet.  I washed all the clothes this morning, and as a result have a backache.

November 28, Friday

Warm and sunny.

We went to town early and I bought all the groceries for next week.  Looked for the Christmas things, but didn’t find anything.  It was pretty late when we got back, so I ironed all the clothes I had washed yesterday.  Read to Earl and Jo Anne tonight, put olive oil in her hair, so I could wash it early in the morning.

November 29, Saturday

Warm and sunny.

I asked John if Jo Anne and I could go home with him in the morning so I could make bills.  Then I decided to go to town and get some things for Mamma, so did, and it was pretty late when we got back.  I got letters from Mamma and Velma, and when Earl came he had been laid off til Monday, so we decided to go home.  We got home about nine, went to Mamma’s awhile, and on to Kidd’s spend the night, and Earl and Edward are going hunting.  It’s nearly twelve, and time to go to bed.  Wrote to Velma.

November 30, Sunday

Warm, beautiful

Jo Anne and I got up early and went back home, got the books, and Mamma and Daddy.  Earl and Edward went hunting, got back about noon.  I finished the bills about one, we had a nice enjoyable day, left and came back to Sicily Island where we visited Pap and Julia awhile, and spent about an hour at home.  It’s very little pleasure to go over there, I feel awful.  I’m going home and clean it up Christmas week, yard and all.  We got back to Minden about 7:30, and we’re all worn out.