Thursday, March 4, 2010

GEORGE WASHINGTON DIDN'T SLEEP HERE.

 Northwest of Morgan City lies the small town of Jeanrette where the travel books tell you to find a Sugar Museum. Southern Louisiana has a million acres in sugar cane. What could be sweeter? My partner's M.O. is to drive the back roads leisurely. He turned off Hiway 90 onto 182 discovered we were on the Old Spanish Trail. Scenic rural Louisiana, the bayou, cane fields, old antebellum houses, quaint small towns, old bridges. In fact, the hiway deadended, rerouted us onto 90 to cross the bayou, and rerouted us back to 182. I guess the old bridge was no longer there. 

 Entering Franklin, we discovered old moss drenched oaks, beautiful antebellum homes and historic buildings.







It was time to have a look around. We talked to a number of friendly people around town. One woman told us we were looking at the back door of the house above. The old mansion's front entrance faced the bayou where all transportation took place when it was built.

  

The jewelry store above had a sign in the window, Closed. Thanks For A Century Of Business. The woman next door told us its been in the same family for 100 years and its for sale for  $1,000,000. An aside: "Well, he lives in New York City. It was built in 1892. The awning isn't even original to the building." A hint of reproach in her voice for this out of touch son of Franklin.  
  
 
Built in 1932, the Art Deco Teche Theatre above is newly refurbished and serves as a center for performing arts, with dinner seating and film. Showing this week was a program on African History. Aldon Mayon gave us a tour of the place and told us that at one time the balcony was reserved for "coloreds". The street lighting out front is unique, curbside, as is the management's program stating:  "Our goal is to offend everyone here as much as possible regarding race, religion, creed, etc. ...if we did not offend you, please tell a member of our staff so that we can make it up in the next performance."
Aldon was a fountain of information. Years ago, a local bank was bought and turned into a house. Davey Crockett spent a night there.  To our question, he answered, "No, George Washington didn't get this far south."

 

 This gorgeous old clock "...has been here as long as I have," from a local who told us she, without her mother knowing, once drank at the bar where the Nights of Camelia had their meetings. She reminded us that the Nights of Camelia were the forerunners of the Ku Klux Klan. The Confederacy died hard,  and markers about town, the Battle of Irish Bend, local notables, etc. refer to the Confederate Soldiers and "The Federals" not the Union Army.

 

At Aldon's suggestion we ate at Danny's Cafe. Everything on this menu was battered and deep fried except the iced tea. When I return home I hope to drink enough orange juice to wash all that cholesteral away. I included a photo of this menu because I thought I'd gone back in time. Do you ever remember when an item on a menu cost 28 cents?
We loved discovering this wonderfully, historic friendly town, oh, and by the way, don't forget to visit the Chitimacha Casino and reservation, this comment from an Indian woman who lives there. She said they are preserving their language and have a wonderful museum. We recommend it to you from her description even though we missed the turn-off and pushed on for Jeanrette.

  

The Sugar Museum of Jeanrette sits next to the oldest building in town, the Moresi Foundry, still milling parts and shipping them all over the world. The gears above from the sugar museum are made from cypress. The sugar story is delineated in film and many, many pictures, so thoroughly, I think I could plant a crop tomorrow. The museum houses thousands of exhibits of life in the old south. Allow plenty of time if you go.  

  

Brooches, like the one above, held a ladies thimble, needles, thread, tiny file and a bit of "snoose". Pinned to her dress, she always carried her "essentials" with her. 
  

I had never seem a kerosene stove before. 
  One placque showed a prisoner of war camp in Jeanrette during WWII.  German prisoners were cooperative it claims. They were sent to the fields to work the cane when Jeanrette's men were gone to war.

  

The docent told us about oldest building in town, the LeJeune Bakery, still using the original brick oven to bake crusty french bread and ginger cakes. "If the light on the sign is lit, they still have bread for sale." We were delighted to find the best bread we've had since entering the state. 

 

 Here, the updated equipment is old.  Oscar LeJuene's descendants still operate the bakery which was built in 1884. The building is on the National Historic Registry. I took many pictures that can be seen by clicking the link below.
 http://picasaweb.google.com/1579penn/FranklinJeanrette32010#

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