Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Not About Glitz and Glitter...

From our photo collection, in honor of the season and the 100-year anniversary of WWI: 

0000.014.036 Pearl Rials collection
World War I era Christmas tree, decorated with American Red Cross bags. Note on back of the photo says “D.A. Rials, Christmas tree, just make believe 1917, decorated with scraps of paper—no gifts”. 
From the History Center family to your family, may we all remember what is truly of value in this holiday season. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Louisiana Maneuvers in Bossier Parish

This photograph of soldiers in the Bossier City branch library brings an interesting part of Louisiana history to light. 

The Louisiana Maneuvers were large-scale training exercises beginning in 1939 including a mock ’war’ to prepare a young and inexperienced force for possible US entrance in the Second world war. The idea was for troops (and equipment, including newly designed tanks and aircraft) to be tested in actual primitive battle conditions. As General George Patton himself said, "If you could take these tanks through Louisiana, you could take them through hell."

The 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers were the largest training exercises ever in US Army history – before and since– and were held with half a million men in a 30,000 square mile area in northwest and central Louisiana. “The Second Army” commanded by General Ben Lear was pitted against the “Third Army” commanded by Lieu. General Walter Krueger fought for control of navigation rights to the Mississippi River. There were even real casualties—61 men total killed in accidents. They tested new types of equipment, strategy, supply systems and the use of massive divisions and corps instead of customarily small units. The maneuvers also brought public attention and money to the area and resulted in the establishment of new training camps like Fort Polk and Camps Claiborne and Beauregard. The 1941 maneuvers ended with the “Battle of Shreveport” in September, 1941 then moved to the Carolinas, wrapping up only 9 days before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor Dec 7, 1941 and the U.S. entered the war the following day.

The soldiers in the photo spent time at the library branch, catching up on news, reading, and writing home with stationery provided by the library. Do you have memories of the maneuvers here in Bossier? We would love to hear about them! Contact Pam at 318-746-7717.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

History Center Holiday Open House

The Bossier Parish Library Historical Center will be hosting its annual Holiday Open House on Friday December 5 from 2:30—4:30 p.m in the Historical Center meeting room.
The Historical Center is located at 2206 Beckett St. in Bossier City – adjacent to Bossier Central Library. There will be refreshments, live, old-time music by Allen Smith of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Department, special exhibits and lots of decorations. All are welcome and it’s free
This year’s decorative theme is baking and cooking. The Historical Center is collecting (and currently displaying) cookbooks from Bossier Parish churches, schools, family reunions or other organizations for its local history collection. If you donate a local cookbook that is accepted into the Historical Center’s collection, you may display the cookbook with order forms at the Historical Center’s Holiday Open House. Please contact Pam Carlisle with your interest or questions at 746-7717 or pcarlisle@bossierlibrary.org  
Of course, for our local history collection the cookbooks don’t have to be recent ones that are currently for sale. We would love to have donations of any vintage extras in your family collection. We can scan or photocopy a dog-eared copy from which many of your holiday standards come so you can have your well-loved original back. We will even wait until after the holidays when your kitchen gets a break!
Much is being written about both the charm and historical value of “community cookbooks,” also known as fund-raiser cookbooks or compilation cookbooks. The Dec. 2002 issue of Food and Wine notes that vintage community cookbooks are full of a sense of time, place, and local character you usually don’t see in commercial cookbooks. They are also special because “they were a labor of love” and if a cookbook had your mother’s name in it, it became an heirloom. And not to mention, the food is often really, really good! The National Public Radio blog, the Salt, on July 20, 2012 referred to these cookbooks as the Pinterest and cooking/lifestyle blogs of their day where women could and still do share their domestic know-how.
As an example of some of the local history you can learn in the Historical Center’s community cookbook collection, did you know that chef Willis Bellar, who invented the Pop Tart, is from Plain Dealing? You can find that factoid in the “Recipes from Plain Dealing” cookbook compiled by the Whispering Pines Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Family Council in 2005.  Of course more traditional, local fare can also be found in the book. This Yankee was impressed to count no less than 15 different recipes for cornbread.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sacred to the Memory exhibit

Our exhibit “Sacred to the Memory: Gravestone Symbols in Bossier Parish Cemeteries” is back for the fall season.  The display cases in the Historical Center will feature the exhibit through November. Although not as widely publicized as the cities of the dead in New Orleans and South Louisiana, the graveyards of North Louisiana are equally fascinating due to the wide range of tombstone symbols and imagery.

Plain Dealing Cemetery grave of John Gayle

Gravestones reflect the culture of the people who produce and erect them.  Nineteenth and twentieth century monuments in Bossier Parish contain symbols that were recognizable to the people of the past, but the meanings are no longer as familiar. This exhibit shows how tombstones in our area cemeteries can give us clues about the age, birthplace, family bonds, religious affiliation, clubs and social organizations, and military service of the deceased.

As the weather starts to cool down, plan a visit to some of our local cemeteries and see the gravestone symbols for yourself.  Please check on hours and be respectful of any regulations. Don’t forget to take one of our handouts with you so you can easily identify the symbols you may see. If you are searching for specific ancestors, check Clif Cardin’s book Bossier Parish Headstones: A Complete Inventory of All Known Cemeteries, Family Plots, and Lone Burials. It is available at all Bossier Parish Library branches, including here at the Historical Center. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

W. P. O'Neal, Small Town Boy and a Big Time Financial Story

The O'Neal Store at Bellevue 1900's-1910's

In her latest column for the Bossier Press Tribune, “The Bossier Parish Boy who More than Made Good,” our Director Ann Middleton excerpted the words of a writer for the June 28, 1928 issue of The Bossier Banner who took pleasure in introducing a friend, former playmate and schoolmate named W. P. O’Neal, known to him as “Pierce:”

“Mr. O’Neal was born and reared at old Bellevue, removed with the members of his father’s family from that place to Benton about the time the town became the parish seat and his employment during the days if his youth, when not a student in the home schools, was to clerk in his father’s general merchandise store, both here and in Bellevue.  He left Benton for New Orleans twenty-eight years ago, and we happen to know that he reached that city with only 75 cents in change in his pocket—and fewer changes of underwear in his weather-beaten suitcase.  But he had the determination to succeed—bulldog tenacity—and did.  Being stranded and in a city, among strangers, did not daunt him in the least, as his rapid rise in commercial life reflects.  Recently he was elected president of the Louisiana Bankers’ Association, which is the highest office the bankers of the state can bestow upon any one of their members."

I would add that “Pierce” ‘made good,’ no doubt, but he was also lucky. Mr. W.P. O'Neal was president of the Louisiana Bankers Association for the year 1928-29 in a "bull market." Imagine the year his successor must have had for 1929-1930, the time of the Great Stock Market Crash of (late) 1929. Ironically, the mass of stories like Mr. W.P. O'Neal's, rural Americans emigrating to cities with hopes of a more prosperous life in the rising industrial sector, is often blamed as a significant factor in the crash. While American cities prospered, major migration from rural areas and the resulting neglect of US agriculture created financial hopelessness among American farmers and instability for the US economy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Looking back: Smokey the Bear at BPL, 1968

Did you know that Smokey the Bear is celebrating his 70th birthday this year? In 1944, Smokey started his campaign to educate Americans about the danger of wildfires. Smokey has appeared in many posters and television commercial messages throughout the years. Smokey visited the Bossier City branch library in 1968, where he passed out bookmarks and spread his message about fire safety.

These boys took part in the Smokey Bear Summer Reading Club and got their picture taken with Smokey. Each child who completed the summer reading program received a certificate.

Smokey waves at the camera while posing with Miss Linda Gates, Parish Librarian. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gold Star Mothers

Gold Star Mothers are mothers whose sons or daughters died in the line of duty in the Armed Forces of the United States or its Allies, starting with World War I. Upon the death of their soldier, a gold star replaced the blue star families displayed to show they had a soldier overseas. 

In the late 1920’s, the War Department of the United States compiled a list of mothers and widows of WWI soldiers killed and buried in Europe and offered to take them to their loved ones’ graves. Between 1930 and 1933, 6,000 women traveled on these “Gold Star Mother Pilgrimages”. A rare act of public support for private grief, the trips were entirely planned and paid for by the U.S. Army. 

Lydia Harriett Smith Dalrymple, “Grandma Dalrymple,” went to France as a Gold Star Mother to visit the grave of her son, Henry Homer Dalrymple, who she raised in Linton, near Benton, LA. Homer perished in World War I and was buried at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France in 1917.
 2002.004.055 Photo of “Grandma Dalrymple” with Harry Gray
and Della Sorrell Gray Lane.

2002.004.055 Photo of Henry Homer Dalrymple (1892-1918)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bossier City Child Writes to Roosevelt

We received a donation of some newspaper clippings (2014.035.002 & 2014.035.003) from Billie Jackson Lynn of Bedford, Texas. Ms. Lynn lived in Bossier City as a girl, graduating from Bossier High School in 1950. Her mother saved two clippings about a letter Billie wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942. Billie had four uncles and a cousin serving their country during World War II, all but one in the Army Air Forces. Two were prisoners of war, captured after the Philippine fighting. Worried about them, Billy decided to appeal to President Roosevelt to do his best to get them back safe and sound to their homes in Shreveport. He referred her letter to the War Department, which, in turn, referred it to General Ulio, adjutant general.

Here is his reply: "Dear Billy, Your letter of September 12, 1942, addressed to the President, concerning your loved ones who are now serving their country, has been transmitted to the War Department for reply. Your comments have been noted with interest and you may be assured that the War Department is always glad to receive the opinions of our young women and future citizens. Very truly yours, J.A. Ulio, Major General, The Adjutant General."
The newspaper noted the status of the soldiers in Billie’s family: “Billy's [sic] uncles are: Staff Sergeant H.F. Leeman, now a prisoner of war in Japan, formerly with the Army Air Forces; Private Charles H. Haynes, in the Air Forces in England; Private Homer W. Haynes, last heard from in Fort Lewis, Wash., with the Air Forces; and Corporal Clyde A. Jackson, in San Diego, with an anti-aircraft unit of the coast artillery. Her cousin: Private First Class James H. Markham, of the Air Forces, a prisoner of war [in Japan].

All are from Shreveport, and Billy hopes they all get back safely, after the job is finished. If she, the President, and General Ulio can affect it, they will. Meanwhile, she is an earnest collector of scrap metals, which will free her uncles and cousin.”

Both SSgt. Leeman and PFC Markham had been stationed at Barksdale Field and were reassigned to Savannah Army Air Base in Georgia in early 1941. They then went on to the Philippines where they were captured by the Japanese and taken prisoner. The men survived the Bataan Death March and were held in separate prison camps in Japan. They were finally released after the war and returned to the US.

Her newspaper photo shows Billie holding the letter she received along with a bomb, which her uncle had been fashioning into an ashtray before he was called into service. Billie donated the bomb to a scrap metal campaign.  Ms. Lynn remembers that “in those days, we were all patriotic.”

Newspaper clippings are commonly saved and passed down as family mementos, but newspaper is acidic by nature. This acid causes the paper to turn yellow and break – things you don’t want to happen to your family keepsakes! Since the information in the clipping is the real treasure and not the newspaper itself, be sure to make copies of fragile clippings. Use an acid-free, lignin-free paper for the copies. Much of the standard copy paper today is acid-free and can be purchased at any office supply store. By making copies, you ensure all of the important information is preserved for future generations. We made photocopies and scans of Billie’s articles so that we can easily preserve and share the story of her presidential correspondence.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chautauqua in Plain Dealing, 1917

A Chautauqua was a community gathering focused on lectures about important social, intellectual, and political issues. Musical performances and plays were also frequently part of the entertainment offerings. Plain Dealing hosted a Chautauqua in the fall of 1917. The Bossier Banner, October 11, 1917, announced a “three-day whirlwind of things worthwhile” and called the event "an educational and social opportunity that should not fail to be taken advantage of by all residents of this entire community." The paper noted that “the prices of admission will be reasonable.  Sunday, free to all.  Get a season ticket and see all the numbers.”
“These four things will be given great emphasis: Community co-operation, Better Schools, Increased Farm Production and Good Citizenship.  All worthy topics."
“The Radcliff Booster Club of Washington, D. C. will present:”
“THE METROPOLITANS—a trio of artists comprising Patti Rode, contralto; Alexa Whitmire, violinist, and Edward Coleman, a musician adept at playing any and all band instruments.  Every member of this company is a soloist, and their program will be one of the musical treats of the Chautauqua.”
“THREE OTHER CLEVER ARTISTS—Louise Carlton, a contralto of unusual power and eligibility; Mary Blanton, a reader with a rare personality  and a record of triumphant successes, and Estelle Wilson, a pianist of recognized ability, for a combination which has made a wonderful impression on every platform on which they have appeared.”
“THE LYRIC GLEE CLUB OF PHILADELPHIA—Four fine fellows who are known for their great voices, clean comedy and witty wisdom.  Their programs have never yet failed to please an audience.”
“J. Q. ROBINSON—An orator and a scholar.  Opie Read said of him: ‘I wish J. Q. Robinson was stationed in my town.  What an inspiration it would be to work with him.’”
“Col. GEORGE A. GEARHART—One of the most commanding figures on the Chautauqua platform.  His lectures, ‘The Coming Man’ and ‘Civic Righteousness’ are classics.  You will want to hear him.”
“JOHN G. CORNWELL—Preacher of health, happiness and efficiency.  As an orator and lecturer his services have been in demand in every part of this country.  He is supreme in that plane that lies between pure humor and vital philosophy.”
“W. G. G. HENWAY brings to the platform a sweet and wholesome optimism.  His messages deal with modern problems and their right solutions.  His winning personality, enthusiasm, rare tact and diplomacy have won for him a distinct place upon the platforms of the largest Chautauqua in this country.”
“THE MILBURNS—Gustav Milburn is a magician who ranks with the best and his charming wife is his capable assistant.  They present a program which is irresistibly fascinating and one that shows intelligent earnestness in its conception.  This is a winning feature of the program.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

World War One Centennial Exhibit

We have a new exhibit on display at the Historical Center. Stop by to learn about the centennial of the beginning of World War I. Bossier Parish sent many men to help the war effort. Included in the exhibit is the U.S. Army uniform of James B. Sutherlin. James was working in oil fields for the Gulf Refining Co, and registered in DeSoto Parish. He was part of the 155th Ambulance Company in the 114th Sanitary Train, which was comprised of men from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. His uniform shows two gold overseas chevrons with each chevron denoting six months of service. Upon his return from France, he lived in Haughton and worked for the Louisiana Ordnance Plant. 

The exhibit also includes photographs of other Bossier Parish servicemen and articles about the war from the Bossier Banner newspaper. Be sure to check out the new exhibit to discover the stories of these brave Parish residents!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Library Expo This Saturday

Come to the Bossier Parish Libraries Expo this Saturday, 1-4 pm at the Bossier Central complex. Be sure to come into the History Center to see current exhibits, including Bossier Quilts, Building Barksdale and The Bossier City Fire Department as well as participate in an interactive learning experience on Native Americans of Bossier Parish for kids and adults both.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Yearbook collection

The Historical Center has a large collection of yearbooks from Bossier Parish schools and we are always expanding this collection through new donations. Many locals visit the Historical Center to reminisce while paging through the books. While we are glad to preserve the original yearbooks, our staff knew that access to this collection could go beyond the in-person visitor. So we worked with The Yearbook Project at OCI (Oklahoma Correctional Industries) to digitize our entire yearbook collection - at no cost to the library! We shipped 16 boxes to OCI in December of 2013.  OCI uses a special-purpose book scanner with the latest software technology to safely convert books or other printed materials to a digital format on DVD.  Our collection was returned in February and we are extremely pleased to have all of our yearbooks available on DVD. 

We are also uploading the images to our flickr account. This process will be slow but steady. Please check on our progress by viewing our flickr photos. Currently, Airline High School yearbook are partially available. All of Airline High should be available by the end of this week!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Courage to Rise Again

The Courage to Rise Again – A Journey from Tears to Testimony:
An Exhibit, Book Talk And Book Signing By Artist Bertha Harris
In Honor of Black History Month 2014

Saturday, February 22 at 3pm 

in the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center meeting room
2206 Beckett St., Bossier City, LA 

(adjacent to Bossier Central Library) 

Bertha Harris, in her 70’s, has been telling her North Louisiana life stories through painting for eight years after asking God to help her see her unique gifts. A year ago she found a way to put her paintings’ stories into words in her autobiography The Courage to Rise Again.

Bertha Harris was born in Homer, La. and grew up on her grandfather’s 250-acre farm in Claiborne Parish until her family moved to the 5,000-acre Beene Plantation in Bossier City. She picked cotton on the Beene Plantation until the age of 16 within the restrictions of tenant farming. She survived an abusive marriage, abuse on the job and the ordeal of going through the legal system when she sued the company for sexual discrimination. The Courage to Rise Again and her paintings document these struggles and her triumphs, both for her own healing and so that readers might be encouraged in surviving their struggles.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow White at the Fox Theater

This ad ran in the September 8, 1938 issue of the Planters Press newspaper. The Fox Theater in Plain Dealing had one screen and seating for 390 movie-goers. Snow White had its nationwide release in February, so the residents of Bossier Parish had to wait several months to see the film.