The Questionable End of Armant Plantation

The Armant Brothers were like other antebellum plantation owners along the Mississippi River. They loved a good bet. Endowed with the recent inheritance of their father, Jean Baptiste Armant’s plantation, in 1858, the Armant Brothers had money with which to gamble.  Their profitable 1150-acre sugarcane plantation was located on the Mississippi River between present-day Oak Alley and Laura Plantations in Vacherie, Louisiana.  Before the Civil War, it was the neighboring plantation to Valcour Aime’s plantation — La Petite Versailles.

All of the wealthy planters along the river had a variety of ways in which to compete and gain the monetary upper-hand of their peers.

A popular trick card game called “Boston” was often played in private clubs.  (One of these clubs in New Orleans occasionally had visitors from the city of Boston, Massechusetts attempt entry assuming it was a private club for Bostonians.)  In that club, one of the wealthiest planters on the River, Duncan Kenner, was said to have lost $20,000 ($485,000 today) on one game of Boston and was still not considered a plunger.

Horse racing was another exciting way to win money, or lose one’s money in the antebellum south.  The gaming Mr. Kenner also loved racing his thoroughbreds — so much so that he built a track and stables at his home Ashland Belle Helene near Darrow, LA.

John Burnside, the Sugar King of Houmas House plantation, was also passionate about racing horses.  Once he stabled a champion thoroughbred in his billiard room in order to keep it hidden until a race at Kenner’s track.  Did Burnside win?  Yes, he did.


Map of Armant Plantation in Houmas House

I learned of the latter story while on tour of Houmas House plantation. On this same tour, I noticed a map of the Armant Plantation hanging on the wall in the billiard room. This map was of particular interest to me since it is the plantation of one of my ancestors, my 5th great-grandfather Jean Baptiste Armant  who inherited it from his father.  I thought it was strange to have a map of a neighboring plantation in the home so I inquired about why it was there.  The tour guide told me that the Armant Brothers, who had inherited that plantation, wagered it in a bet and lost it to John Burnside in a horse race.  A whole plantation lost in a horse race? I had to know more.

If this story is true, I am appalled that my ancestor cousins were so careless as to bet their inheritance on something as fleeting as a horse race.  If false, I wanted to clear the name and reputation of my Armant kin.  So I began my own investigation to determine the details of this story.

It is true that John Burnside began acquiring plantations soon after he bought Houmas House in 1857.  In fact, he purchased 12 more plantations before, during, and after the Civil War — sometimes for pennies on the dollar.  Could he have acquired some of them through bets?  The evidence of the gambling habits of the local planters did give credence to this possibility.

I first inquired of Dr. Kevin Kelly, present owner of Houmas House, to find out how he discovered this story. He said the story was told by a descendant of the Miles family — former owners of Houmas House.  The descendent, Dr. Henry Miles, who was born in Houmas House in 1901, died around 2005 and I was told that he was the lone historian of the Miles family.  Therefore I was not able to verify this story directly.

I decided to go to the St. James Parish courthouse to see if I could find any property records that had to do with the transfer of the plantation from the Armant Brothers to John Burnside.  The old documents I found were fascinating — some written in French,and others in English — with handwriting and signatures written with a flare seldom seen today.

Final page of the document of the purchase of Armant Plantation in January of 1860

Final page of the document of the purchase of Armant Plantation in January of 1860

I did find a document of the property transfer containing the signatures of one Armant brother, the signature of John Burnside, and others, but it was on a document of the purchase of Armant plantation, not a transfer of ownership without payment.

Most of the plantations that Burnside owned were acquired during or after the war, but this one was purchased before the war in January of 1860 — six years after the death of their father. Armant Plantation was ordered by the court in September of 1859 to be auctioned on January 12, 1860 to settle inheritance and succession issues.  The land was divided into 31 sections and sold individually.  John Burnside bought 29 of the sections including Armant’s French-style plantation home on the river. He purchased the homestead for $25,000 ($630,000 today) and the sections of land for $68,102.77 ($1,700,000 today).

Victor Armant, one of the brothers, bought two sections of land for $23,681.10 ($597,000 today) that held some of the plantation buildings, possibly used for sugar manufacturing.  The final section of land was purchased by another individual.Victor Armant Sig168

Stories, even those that can’t be proven true, often have a grain of truth to them.  So I wondered if possibly Victor may have lost his portion later by gambling it away — maybe in hopes of winning back his beloved home.  I went back to the St. James courthouse to see what I could find.  And once again I found another document stating that John Burnside bought Victor’s portion in 1866, a year after the war ended for $3500 ($54,000 today) — a fraction of what Victor paid for it.

I don’t know all of the possible nuggets of truth that have caused this story to survive, but as former U.S. President John Adams once said,”facts are stubborn things.” The facts I have discovered so far show that Armant Plantation was purchased by John Burnside. Could he have won another of his plantations in a horse race?  That could be an interesting investigation. But I am satisfied knowing that my ancestors were not the type of people who would needlessly squander their inheritance.  Jean Baptiste Armant’s family reputation can be held in high regard once again.

Jean Baptiste Armant, Sr. and Rose Carmelite Cantrelle Armant are my 5th great-grandparents.  They are also the grandparents of my 3rd great-grandmother whose story is told in “Of Plantations and Hurricanes.”

© 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.

Always Remember…

DSC_0414As I write this post on the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, we in the United States are celebrating our annual stream of patriotic holidays — Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veteran’s Day. Ceremonies are conducted.  Flags are flown.

I am more than glad to take part in ceremonies that help remind us of the sacrifices made by so many people on our behalf.  Their sacrifices have allowed me to live and raise my family in a country that tenaciously guards freedom for all.

Twice each year our local American Legion puts on a small, yet meaningful remembrance service at one of our town cemeteries — once on Memorial Day and again on Veterans’ Day.  These ceremonies are complete with patriotic readings, prayer, the playing of Taps, a three-gun salute, an American flag risen on the flag pole then lowered to half-mast, and a red, white, and blue floral wreath placed at the base of the flag pole all in honor of the fallen.  Most of the people in attendance are older members of the post, their spouses and a few people from the community.DSC_0388DSC_0372I always try to attend.  And I bring my children.   By attending they will learn to care about things that matter like respect, honor, and patriotism. DSC_0416At these memorial celebrations they witness these qualities in action.  These services not only help bring us together as a community and connect us to our past, but celebrating them with our families will assure that our children will continue to remember the sacrifices that have been made for them. They will learn that the good life we experience today, due to the service and sacrifice of so many veterans, should never be taken for granted.

We’ve learned from the past that a threat can come from anywhere at anytime so our soldiers are on guard around the world to make sure our safety and freedom is protected.  Just yesterday, the body of a young soldier, from my community, Christopher Drake, 20, was flown home from Afghanistan after he served there for only five months. He was killed in the line of duty.DSC_0383

I don’t think recent generations in America can have any idea of what it truly means to have freedom threatened.  I know we have experienced isolated terrorist attacks, but we don’t know what it would be like to have an enemy army come barreling into our towns and cities and across our countryside bombing our buildings and homes, shooting civilians, and committing other brutal atrocities in order to take over our country.

All of this happened in Europe only a generation ago and it threatened to cross the oceans and engulf the United States.  Americans genuinely had to accept the reality that the enemy may actually engage in fighting on our own soil and in our coastal waters.  In fact, in World War II the enemy made attacks on our territories and sunk ships in our own waters.

In her diary from 1941 before the United States entered the war, Louisiana resident Bea Denham expressed these very real fears many times through the year as she listened to the war unfold in Europe.  Here are some poignant excerpts:

April 7th – “...they are openly saying now that our country is practically in the War,…Oh, what a dreadful thing to happen!  … we can’t survive in Hitler’s world.”  

April 9th –  “Things never looked blacker to me. Oh, war is too horrible!  Nobody can foresee where all this will end, but there can’t be any easy solution and settlement for us.

April 13th – “The war news is worse than ever.  It seems all the world is against democratic government.  We are bound to go to war soon, it seems to me.  Horrible thought.”

May 2nd – “The war news is worse each day that passes. … It is generally predicted that very few more months of peace are left to us.”

May 27th – “We listened to Roosevelt, and I could only feel that war is ever so much nearer.  This little endangered peace we are enjoying now will be our last, I’m afraid.  Our world after war won’t be the same.  We are watching the dying of an age, and only God knows what will come out of it.  We will never see the end, or know carefree happy days again.  There have been very few for our generation anyway.”

May 28th – “…the shadows ahead are so thick and heavy, with certain suffering and heartache, bitter want for the whole world after this orgy of bloodshed and waste.”

June 21st – “This war seems destined to envelope the globe.”

July 24th – “…I am afraid the war is nearer to us than we think. …Japan is definitely off the fence she has tried to straddle so long and is in the German camp.”

October 27th – “… it looks like Hitler will acquire world domination much sooner than anybody could have expected unless we decide to go all out for his defeat, and quit this everlasting stalling.”

November 4th – Germany has torpedoed another boat…Just anything can happen now, and it seems to me we are going to have to fight in the Atlantic and Pacific simultaneously.  This war keeps one’s spirits at the lowest ebb constantly.

November 18th  “…Japan is blustering, and will probably do more than that before it’s all over.  This world certainly seems to be in a mess.”

December 7th – 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 8th –  “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.”

December 20th – “I’m so scared.  They passed Selective Service – 20 to 45 – this week, and what would I do if Earl had to leave me?”

It was the men and women of America who fought and won against seemingly invincible Germany and Japan. Many fought and died.  Today soldiers are still fighting and dying in service to our country.  So the next time you meet a veteran express your gratitude.  Or if your community conducts a patriotic ceremony, take time out from your busy day and attend to show your respect and patriotism.DSC_0393

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.

Life on Byron Street: The Fruit Stand

Right across a gravel drive from my father’s hardware and garden store sat Tony’s Fruit Stand.  This was very convenient for a kid like me.  I used to walk over to their counter and plop my dime down on it and ask for “10 cents worth of grapes.”  They weighed them out for me, put them in a plastic bag, and off I went on my way back to my dad’s store.  Some times I would get hot, boiled peanuts which they put in a foil-lined white paper bag to keep them hot for me. The big, soft, salty ones were the best!

Tony’s Fruit Stand always had fresh fruits and vegetables, but they also had a “cold drink” machine right near the front.  It had fruit flavored “cokes” in it that I preferred over the Coca-Colas in my dad’s drink machine. So I’d go there often to get a Fanta strawberry, orange, or grape drink.  Their machine was the type that had a tall, slender glass door on the left that held the bottles in individual compartments, each locked in place with a gate around the neck of the bottle.  When the coins were dropped in the slot, the gate would release so that the bottle could be pulled out.  I can still hear that clinking sound.


Tony Pizzolato

Mr. Tony Pizzolato had a cold-storage room where he kept some of his watermelons to market them as “ice-cold.”  And they were!  My dad and he had a friendly competition to see who could come closest to guessing the weight of a watermelon just by holding it in their arms.  I’m not sure if my dad ever got one for free if he guessed the correct weight, but he did win bragging rights!

In the fall of the year Tony’s Fruit Stand would get in a large load of pumpkins which would be stacked in a large pile out in front.  One October day in 1970, Art Kleiner, the photographer for the State Times and Morning Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge, was driving around town looking for a human interest photo for the Halloween edition’s front page.  He dropped by the fruit stand when he saw the big pile of pumpkins out front.  He inquired at the counter if they knew of a school-aged girl who could pose in her Halloween costume while sitting in the pumpkins.  They immediately recommended that he go next door and ask my parents about me.  I was eight years-old at the time.  My mom brought me back home quickly and we threw together a homemade witch outfit, grabbed our household broom, bought a witch’s hat at the Pak-a-Sak down the street and headed back to the fruit stand — all in about 20 minutes!  It was great fun!Byron Street Melinda PumpkinNot long after this, Tony’s began selling seafood — fresh and boiled.  When that branch of the business took off, he and his sons rented an old gas station up Plank Road to expand this side of the business.  Today his children own and operate Tony’s Seafood Market and Deli, one of the largest seafood markets in the state of Louisiana.  They also produce “Louisiana Fish Fry” brand products.  What started as humble beginnings has turned into a very successful operation.

The original stand is not on Plank Road anymore, but I’ll always remember the original Tony’s Fruit Stand with fond memories.

1941 (Nov. 1 – Nov. 15)

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

November 1, Saturday

First frost of the season.  Cold and clear

Letters from Lil and Edward.  The men came and hooked up the heater, but made a mess of the hot plate. Earl came in, said “Let’s go home,” – he wasn’t allowed to work Sunday, so home we went right away.  We got to singing “Old Black Joe” and I thought of C.L., and how he loved to sing the old songs and it ended my happy mood. The dead would not like casting such shadows, but somehow sadness comes easily to me lately, happy moments are always followed by sad thoughts.  It was so good to get home again and find everybody all right.

C.L. Guice and family, Summer 1941

C.L. Guice (my grandfather and Bea’s first cousin) and family on a trip to the Smoky Mountains (May 1941, four months before he died)

November 2, Sunday

Sunny and warmer

Earl and Edward went huntin, Kidd came up pretty early.  We ate dinner at Mamma’s went home and to Julia’s, got off at 4:15.  The woods are still green and pretty, there’s been no frost at home.  We got turnips mustard and radishes out of Joe’s garden pecans, etc. and Mamma fixed us milk and butter.l  I was awfully glad Earl got ot go home, it’s his first visit in nearly two months.  John Crawford said he was coming near the end of the week.  We got back to Minden at 7:45, and to bed we go, but everything is surely messed up for tomorrow.

November 3, Monday

Sunny, pleasant

Today has been a busy day with me, I moved things around to get the heater a safe place, washed, ironed, mopped and worked hard generally.  I’m tired right now, but Earl is shaving, so I guess we will get to bed soon.  Velma wrote Fery had her operation and is doing very well.  Letter from Momma, too.  Earl played dominoes with Walter til I was too sleepy to think.  I helped him, and he beat Walter two games straight.  Edna parched peanuts, so we ate during the game, too.  Mrs. Boyett was here awhile.

November 4, Tuesday

Threatening rain, not cold.

I suppose this has been a day just like my days usually are.  Earl went back to the dentist and Charlie and Daisy came over and stayed awhile.  Germany has torpedoed another boat, the day before the sinking of the Reuben James. This must be about 12 so far.  I think they got 22 in the last war before we went in.  Just anything can happen now, and it seems to me we are going to have to fight in the Atlantic and Pacific simultaneously.  This war keeps one’s spirits at the lowest ebb constantly.  I wrote Mamma, Velma and Lil. [Woody Guthrie wrote a song titled “The Sinking of the Reuben James“.  Although Bea mentions other boats being sunk by Germany, the Reuben James was the first U.S. Navy ship sunk in WWII.]

November 5, Wednesday

Cold and rainy

We got no mail today, but the package came, and I think we are all “heeled” for winter.  Earl has everything he will need now, and Jo Anne has all but a nice dress.  I didn’t get anything except a slack suit, it hasn’t come yet, and some ski boots.  If we don’t go anywhere I’m all right, but Earl really needs a suit and I an outfit.  It probably would be good policy to buy now, by next winter we are sure to be at war, and probably can’t buy good things any more.  We read the Post, –“The Phantom Filly, and will go to bed early.

November 6, Thursday

Clear, windy and cold.

Today has been a Jonah to Jo Anne, — I put two sweet sandwiches in her lunch and two meat ones in her Daddy’s; she forgot to take her gym shoes; she lost a tassel off her new boots; worst of all, got an F on physical education on an otherwise grand report.  I tried to tell her it didn’t matter in the least but she can’t bear to have it there.  Earl has felt badly all day – earache.  Jo Anne forgot her homework, and when we went to get it the building was locked.  We finished reading “The Phantom Filly.”  My slacks came.  I spent most of the day at Mrs. Boyett’s taking up Earl’s new pants in the waist and letting down Jo Anne’s in the legs.

November 7, Friday

Cold, but beautifully sunny

Today is my birthday but nobody knew it until Earl happened to ask what date this was after supper, and of course I had to grin and give myself away.  We went to the bank and he and Jo Anne decided we’d have to celebrate, so we went to see “Dive Bomber” and they bought me a box of candy.  We didn’t get any mail, but I started trying to write something to try for Harper’s prize.  “My Great Aunt Jessica,” – a story of Jose’s life I intend it to be.  O how I wish I could do something worthwhile.  It is so discouraging to be always turned down, and to wish so much to accomplish something.  I got the new issue of “Time,” but haven’t had a chance to read it.

November 8, Saturday

Cold, but sunny.

Jo Anne, Mrs. Boyett and I went to town this morning, I bought groceries for the week, I hope.  It took almost all morning to get them and put them away.  Mrs. Boyett fixed a chicken for me, so I cooked it for supper, and read to Jo Anne and Earl.  We didn’t get a bit of mail.  I worked some more on my story, but I’m afraid it will be like all the other things I’ve worked so much on.  It sounds easy but it is most difficult.  Earl and Jo Anne tickled each other til I was afraid our home wouldn’t stand it any longer.

November 9, Sunday

Still cold

We were lazy today, didn’t get up til about ten, after I had got Earl to work.  Then we went to take a bath, and the water got really cold after we had soaped our heads. There was nothing to do but finish, but it wasn’t pleasant.  We took Jo Anne’s bicycle and had the tires aired, and she rode a good while.  I felt so badly I just lay down in front of the fire and read.  When Earl came we had supper and read some more.  This surely isn’t a very stirring life.  We will be regular old clods soon.

November 10, Monday

Cold but sunny

All of today I’ve tried to write, tried to complete Chapter One.  What a fake I am!  I can’t write it.  I’m only good for nothing.  I had a letter from Minnie Lea today, haven’t heard from home since we left.  When Earl came he wanted to go to Shreveport to a union meeting, asked us if we wanted to go, so we didn’t and spent the evening at Belle’s and Sidney’s.  Had an enjoyable evening. They have a pretty house, and are expecting a new baby.  Aunt Florence is going to live with them.  The baby is not any time soon.  They promised to come see us soon, she has been sick ever since she became pregnant.  Bed 10:45.

November 11, Tuesday

Warmer and sunny

Mrs. Boyett came over and made me wash my clothes at her place, but it took most of the morning.  I stopped to hear Roosevelt. [Roosevelt’s Armistice Day address] We went to town and found all the stores closed, no mail delivery.  I have read over Chapter One, with intense dissatisfaction of course.  I can’t do it.  We went over and looked at some new trailers that are beauties, but of course our tent is quite good enough for us.  When Earl came Charlie drank coffee with him and they said “When Ladies Meet” was a good show, so we went.  It was full of laughs, but Joan Crawford is so vulgar and cheap looking I don’t like her shows.

November 12, Wednesday

Beautiful, but cold, cold

I fixed the clothes to iron, and cleaned up pretty well, but we decided to go to town so Mrs. Boyett and I went and got back to get the mail. We had letters from Mamma and Love.  I was so glad to get the letters.  Love said she was going to send me a cake.   I am awfully afraid I’ve lost Love, in spite of the fact that she said she’s still my Love.  But the jobs they have are most likely permanent since they’re working for C & M.  Charlie came over and showed us the plan for his new shop.  I hope he can make it work out as he hopes.

November 13, Thursday

Cold, but beautiful

Edna came over and wanted to go to town, so I wrote to Mamma and Margaret, and mailed them when we went.  After we got back we waited for the mail, and got letters from Velma and Margaret.  Margaret said they had kept Cecil on, he still likely be there until March.  I guess they won’t come on over her now because it’s so ear time for the baby to come.  Mrs. Summers is coming to stay with her.  When Earl came we decided to go to the show, and asked Daisy and Charlie.  It was “Hold Back the Dawn,” and was pretty good.  I didn’t touch the book today.  I’m afraid I can’t do anything about it.

November 14, Friday

Perfect Day

I bought next week’s groceries, put Earl’s check in the bank, and mailed letters to Minnie Lea, Velma and Julia.  Kidd and Edward sent my fountain pen, and Love sent me a birthday cake.  And was it good!  Jo Anne said what we needed now was ice cream.  It was sweet of Love to do that for me.  I cut it and made coffee, Daisy, Edna and Mrs. Boyett came over and ate some with me.  Then I gave Earl and Charlie some when they drank coffee.  We played dominoes with Charlie and Walter, and Daisy and Edna parched peanuts and made candy, so we had a right enjoyable evening.

November 15, Saturday

Sunny and warm

We cleaned up and Jo Anne read most of the day, we had good baths and washed our heads.  I sewed some.  Mrs. Boyett and Daisy were here for a while.  I wish there was something to do that is worthwhile.  Instead I wash and iron, cook and clean up, and never feel as if I‘ve done anything at all.  I read “Time” today, too.  Letter from Kidd, but not much in it.  Earl had his bath and I read to them the Post continued stories.  We are turning in early tonight since there’s nothing else to do.