The kitchen in my grandparent's home was THE epicenter. That room had air conditioning. If you were a visitor, you would usually enter through the back kitchen door and take a seat at the kitchen table. My grandmother would generally be washing dishes or preparing lunch or dinner. The chair at the end of the table nearest the telephone was my grandfather’s seat. Adults would sit around the table and my sister and I would play on the floor with my grandmother’s old handbags and Avon bottles. I liked spending time at Maw Maw and Poppa’s house. Poppa would retire early; the air-conditioning now off and the large window fan plugged in. Drifting off to sleep, I would listen to Maw Maw say her prayers as the occasional sound of a passing car would break the silence as the curtains danced in the breeze.
I loved my grandparents more than anything in the world. They were my heroes. Poppa always had some kind of story of "back in the day when…". Coffee was always served to the adults and the children would always get a nice cup of hot tea. I recall that Maw Maw would go about her daily chores humming or singing and was always wearing a dress. I think floral prints in hues of pink and lavender were the prettiest on her. After dinner, we would go sit outside in the back yard under the shade of the old pecan tree or on the front stoop and chat with the neighbors as they took their evening stroll. Life seemed SO simple to me.
After I graduated from college, my first job was with a large bank in New Orleans and I was fortunate enough to work in Metairie close to my grandparents’ home. I would go there most days for lunch. Maw Maw would usually have a nice roast stuffed with garlic and some vermicelli topped with cheese, red beans and rice with pickle pork, or ground meat hash. On days when she would go to her Golden Age meetings, I would share a TV dinner with Poppa. My TV tray would have been already warmed and ready to serve in order to let the stove cool off during the hottest part of the day. And so the stories began — just Poppa and me.
I wish I had listened more and I wish I had asked more. His voice still resonates in my mind as I hear him and see him lecturing me on what this world is coming to. There were politicians he absolutely could not stand locally and federally. Mostly, I remember the stories of Huey Long. Governor Long was going to see that families of all socio-economical backgrounds were going to have the equal opportunities. Governor Long was the people's man.
The story I remember the most was hearing of Governor Long's death and the thousands of people who attended the services from all over Louisiana. Two of those attending were my Grandmother and my Great-Grandmother. Back then, the only way to Baton Rouge from the New Orleans area was Highway 61 / Airline Highway. They must have boarded the train to Baton Rouge on the day of Governor Long's service. My father was only around five years but he remembers them leaving and when they returned home later that evening they gently kissed him goodnight.
I would not say that my grandfather was a hoarder but he was a saver. Along with many items he saved are Huey Long Congressional Records from the Seventy-Second, Seventy-Third and Seventy-Fourth congressional sessions, reprints of Huey’s Speeches from Congressional Records on "Redistribution of Wealth", "Our Plundering Government", "Our Blundering Government", Memorial Placards and a handout to "Avenge the Murder of Huey P. Long" spelling out Huey’s accomplishments using the letters in Huey’s name [see right column]. On a trip to Washington, D.C. in 1981, I couldn’t wait to get home to share the photos I took when I spotted the statue of Huey Long in the Nation’s Capitol.
A trip down memory lane while reviewing the contents in my Grandmother’s hope chest, I began to search the significance of the items stored in the chest. I was fortunate to stumble upon the Huey Long Legacy website. As the importance of the papers I have inherited become evident, I feel a connection to the items and what role they played in Louisiana’s political history. No one on eBay could have a need for the items Poppa had saved; they belonged with those who would preserve the history and legacy of the man who wanted to Share the Wealth.
The one artifact that I regret we no longer have in our possession is buried with my grandfather. In 1982, after cancer stole Poppa from our family, he was presented at the Joseph Laughlin Funeral Home on Magazine Street in New Orleans — fastened to his jacket was his “Every Man a King” lapel pin.”
In loving memory of my grandfather, Clarence Hubert April (1899 – 1982)— Glenda April Castro, Metairie, LA