Friday, January 27, 2012

Settling in Baton Rouge

   A year of farming, having their first child and naming him Willie, once battling a pair of snakes using their chest-of-drawers as home, a year for W.T. at Wesson Junior College, then on to New Orleans after Onetia's sister-in-law, Zita, writes about a job for W.T. in a grocery as a butcher handling salt meat for $10 a week. At first Onetia and W.T. live on Valmont, renting from Marshall and Effie Wilson (no relation), then later, after W.T. goes to work as a regular butcher for Mr. Saniford at $15 a week, they move to Arabella, near the streetcar barn, and they are living there when Onetia miscarries their second child. They move to Willow Street and rent a place for $7 a month. Being a butcher in New Orleans, even in the tough times of the Depression, seems infinitely better than toiling in the fields under the hot Mississippi sun. Banks continue folding and over 10% of the state's population is unemployed. Onetia's brother, Dick, and his wife, Zita, transfer to the 7-Up plant in Baton Rouge. Tough times striking home for all.
   Back in Mississippi for a while, W.T. jobless after Mr. Saniford's store closes, eventually another letter from Zita arrives, again offering help in finding employment. To raise money so W.T. can go job hunting in Baton Rouge while staying at his brother-in-law's, Onetia sells her wicker furniture to W.T.'s mother for $10, then settles down with her son to wait for word from Baton Rouge.
   It is 1937, maybe a little later, when W.T. finds work at Central Tradeway, again as a butcher, working for Mr. Crespo at $30 a week. Dick and Zita and W.T make the 150 mile journey over rough roads to Mississippi, no doubt visiting relatives while there, bringing Onetia and Willie back to Baton Rouge with them. After Zita and Onetia find a small room to rent, W.T.'s father gets permission to cross the Mississippi state line with a borrowed schoolbus, carting their furniture (minus the wicker set) to their place on Government Street. They settle in for a while, then find a house on Flowerdale Lane, where a second child is born, Wayne, and after a time to help with expenses, renting their front room to a woman and her two children.
   During the next couple of years, their family growing, Onetia and W.T. move to Istrouma Avenue (which later becomes Capital Heights Avenue) before buying a piece of property of their own for $250. Even with the approaching world war, life seems fine; a steady job for W.T., friendly, helpful relatives in the same town, other family within driving distance, two healthy sons, a small piece of the earth of their own.
   It is 1941 when W.T.'s father and another man, perhaps named Hemphill, with materials purchased from Currie Lumber Company, build a small house, on the small lot, on Bernardo Street in Lofaso Town, Lot #48, Square #3, two short blocks from the Baton Rouge General Hospital, where a third son, Raymond, is born in January of 1945.

1 comment:

  1. Wondering now if Lofaso Town is a name coming from my first barber around the corner not too far from Lot 48 Square 3. It was a shop where I sat on a board laid across the arms of the barber chair.

    Fascinating from the start.