The Life Story of Santo Pedro Tardo
Interviewed November 1991
My life or story begins at 6 years old when this lady who was teaching had about 8 students and we was learning catechism and then school too you see and she until I went there until I made I first communion and after I made my first communion well, then I was confirmed later but I didn’t go back to that school, I went to public school then you see this was a private school. I went to public school until I was in the fourth grade and then I left Tibodeau and went to live in New Iberia, Louisiana. That’s why I went to school in New Iberia after that.
Interviewer question ‑ “Where were you born?”” I was born in well they call it now Tiboudeau, Louisiana but then it was La Fousce Crossing, Louisiana. That’s, Thibodeau is the county seat and you see we had to be registered there and everything. We went to church in Tibodeau and everything. But that was the thing about it then, you see that well we was all there living in the house in a family of 10 kids wel1, there wasn’t 10 then when I’m talking about cause when I left there they came on later on you see cause I left when I was 11 years old. Well, twelve years old after I made my first communion/confirmation and everything then I left there and went to live in New Iberia, Louisiana. That’s the Tess country. That’s where the Arcadians settled in that country there. They were you know outcast, they were thrown out of Nova Scotia and came down to Louisiana and right there in New Iberia, in that area, is where they settled. And I stayed there.
Interviewer question ‑ “” Is that where your people were or are they Arcadians?”‘ Who were your people or parents?””
My parents, my daddy he came from Sicily and my mother, I mean my daddy came from, what am I talking about, I always get my mother is the one who came f rom Sicily. Mg mother came from Sicily and my daddy came from Greece. But he moved, they was having a civil war in Greece. His father took him and his sister and his mother out of this area, Greece and they settled in Contesa, Italina in Sicily. That”s where he grew up there until he was about 17 years old and then he left. He come to New York; to the United States. He settled then in Louisiana and raised his family there and all.
Interviewer question ‑ “‘How old was your mother when she got married?”
My mother was 18 when she got married. How’s it happened‑ My father his first wife died and he had four kids by his first wife and then he got acquainted with my grandfather with my mother”s father. He got acquainted with him and he told him, “‘ I gotta a daughter over in Sicily”, he says that “if you looking f or a wife get her to come over here and you can got married to her.” He had never seen her, he didn’t know what she looked like or anything. But he says O.K. so he gave that follow the money. See they was working together on a plantation and he got acquainted with him. He gave him the money to send for her. He sent for her in Sicily. Got on the boat and landed in the port in New Orleans. And the thing about it they went from the port, which was about oh, three blocks from the waterfront to the Settler’s Cathedral and that’s where my daddy and mother got married, right there in the Settler”s Cathedral. He had never courted her. That”s the first time he ever did see her. And they got married then and from there he went down to Tibideaou then you see went down to La Fuesh where he had this house you see there and he was working on the plantation there and working around. So they settled there and raised a family. He already had four kids f rom his first wife.
Interviewer question ‑ “What year were you born in?”
I was born in 1906, September 1906. Interview Question ‑ “Where you one of the four?”‘ I was one of the ‑ My oldest brother he was born first, we were 19 months difference in our age. He was born in 1905, I think and I was born in 1904, and the thing about it is‑ Interviewer ‑ “‘You said you were born in 1906?” I mean 1906, he was born in 1905 and I was born in 1906. And the thing about it, and there was not just the months difference we wasn’t even two years apart. And uh, we lived on the farm is all there was. And I stayed there until I made my first communion/ confirmation then I left there and went to live in New Iberia, That’s when I left home. Interviewer question ‑ “‘Why did you leave?”‘ Well I had a sister that lived in New Iberia, my half sister and she didn’t have any children and she wanted somebody. So she asked my oldest brother, “”Don”t you want to come live with me””, she couldn’t have any children you see and my brother says “nooo, I don’t wanna go.”” So she asked my other brother, I had another one you know, she asked him and he said, “nope.” Then she asked me. I says “It don’t make any difference to me, I’ll go. So I went to live her and grew up in New Iberia then you see. Until I got to be about , oh I think I was 17 years old, and I left Now Iberia and went to New Orleans. I went to work in New Orleans in a meat market and I worked there for a year. After I stayed there for a year, I went back to Thibodeau, went back to La Fusch Crossing. I cut sugar cans that winter. The man had a syrup mill and he made syrup. We stayed there and worked for them and then after that, 1925, I stayed there until September or October or something like that. Well after I got through cutting sugar cane then I went back to New Orleans and I went to the Navy recruiting station that’s when I wanted to sign up for the Navy. You had to fill in an application and I filled the application in and they told me says now we’ll call you, he says, when we get to you name. Back then you see it wasn’t like it is now. And so I went back to Thibodeau and that was In 1925, their grinding season was coming in where you cut sugar cane and all that. A man came there and got me and my brother and the next door neighbors two boys. We all was about the same age and we went and cut sugar cane. The man had 60 acres of sugar cane and we cut the sugar cane and he had a syrup mill. We cut it, put it on the wagon, pulled it to the mill and helped him make the syrup and all that. After I did all that you see, winter was just about going through. Up there I stayed at home and worked at the house, down on the farm there. I helped them. In February, I got a notice from the Navy, Dept. from New Orleans, from the recruiting station. Told me that, uh, he say you gonna, your slated to come over here and be sworn in to join the Navy, in March. So I went and it was March the 5th, I think it was, and I went there and that’s when I shipped into the Navy. I stayed in the Navy for four years and got out and went back to Louisiana and the first thing you know I went, got the shoe shop and went back in business. I was fixing shoes in the Navy. That’s what I was doing in the Navy. When I got out you see I stopped in New Iberia. My brother in law had just built them a new home and he says you got her just in time. He says you can run the shop for me while I move into our house. So that’s what I did. I went down to the shop the first day I was in the shop here comes a man from New Orleans, a salesman, a leather salesman. He got to talking to me and asked me. “‘What you gonna do?”” I told him I say well, I probably go back in the Navy, I say if I don’t find anything. He says, well now there’s a shoe shop over in Jonesboro, Louisiana. He says, they don’t have no shoe repairman there. He sags, good idea for you to go down there, he says, and check in on it. So that’s when I told him, I say, well, I said it will be a week before I’ll get out of here because my brother in law has to move in and everything in his new home. Well I went then and I asked him, I asked him a silly question and I guess I told him, “‘Where is Jonesboro, Louisiana? I never heard of that place.”” He told me how to got there. He says you gotta go to Lafayette, Louisiana. When you get in Lafayette, he says you have to catch the branch from Lafayette, he says that takes you to Alexandria. You gotta spend the night in Alexandria, he says and then the next morning you catch the train from Alexandria and it will take you to Jonesboro. He says, it goes through there. So I told him., I say well I’ll try that out. So I did. He gave me, I got the name of the man that had charge of the shop, the shoe shop. In the meantime this fellow had sent my name into him, you see. When they sent my name into him, I get a telegram. I was at home visiting mg folks. I had only been there two days. I hadn’t seen them in four years, you see and I had only been there two days. Then I got a telegram that come f rom Jonesboro, from a fellow by the name of Tom Calloway. He had the keys to the shop and he says, wanted me to come to Jonesboro he says and take over that shop. Well I told my mother and them well I only been here two days, I says that’s something ain’t it. I say after be gone for four years. So I say I’m going to see about it. Well I left and I went to Jonesboro. I went and talked with Tom Calloway. He had the key to the shop and all that. I told him, I says, look, I says I haven’t spent no time, I say, I been gone, I say I been in the service, I say, I been gone from home for four years, I says, and I only spent two days with my folks, I says I wanna go back and spend about a week with them, I says, so I can get better acquainted with them. He says go ahead and do that, he says then you see you come on back, he says, and look at the shop. Well in the meantime when he was showing me the shop and all that when I first got there, there was two ladies came at the door and looked in there and they had some shoes. They looked in and Tom Calloway told ’em, he says, well he’s not open yet, he says, he just came in, he says, and he’s looking it over. So the two ladies, I asked them, I says, they had some shoes you know, I said what’s you all”s name. They told me what their name was. I says well that name sounds familiar. I says, uh, I believe I’ve seen you all before. They says maybe you have and maybe you hadn’t. I says, well, I says, you know I lived in New Iberia and I says, I know some Syrians in New Iberia, you see she was a Syrian these two women, they was two sisters and I told her who I knew and all that. She said, well those are my cousins. I really got acquainted with her and boy I mean to tell you that I just went right on and got in good with them right then because they knew there was somebody that knew their folks. They lived in Baldwin, they came from Baldwin, Louisiana, but they was living in Jonesboro. So, Yeah, they‑I mentioned names of the ones that I knew you know, and they said, well those are our kinfolks, our cousins, and they was a Syrian you know. I say, well that’s good and that, I really got in good with them. Yeah, I really got in good with them and uh, I told I says, I gotta go back and settle some things, I says, and then I’m coming back, I says, and work in the shop.
Interviewer question ‑ “‘You weren’t married at the time?””
No, shoot no, I wasn’t married that was five years, four years later when I got married.
Interviewer question ‑ “How old were you when you were looking at the shoe shop? I was 22 and so the thing about it then we got to talking to those Syrians and they invited me over to their house. To come over there because you see I know some of their folks, kin folks and all of that there. That put me in good with then right then, boy I’ll tell you.
Interviewer question ‑ “”So then you went back?”‘
Yeah, I went back and staged at the home, I mean down there four days and then I left and came back to Jonesboro. When I came back to Jonesboro I got a place to stay, a hotel. I stayed there two weeks at this hotel and then after those two weeks then I got in good with some of the folks, you know and then I went and stayed at a rooming house. I got a room in the rooming house there and those folks there, they really looked after me real good. Then I got acquainted with them real good and we had a big time and all that there. They had 3 girls, yeah there was 3 girls, one, two, three, no there was four girls and one of them was a music teacher. She the one that got me started in the playing the violin, you see, well actually she didn’t get me started on that but she got me started on playing the saxophone. I got in the church orchestra then, you see, playing and but that was in other words, I stayed there and was acquainted with them and the one that taught me all the stuff, the music and everything, well I knew some music then already but she taught me the scale on the saxophone and all. The thing about it I got acquainted with them and she was a school teacher and a music teacher, you know she was a music teacher, she was teaching in Arkansas, but she was home for a year you see and while she was there well then I went there and got playing the saxophone and all that and played in the church orchestra. The church had an orchestra, you see, and we played in the church orchestra. Then after that I got, I stayed at this place, I got a room there and actually I stayed there for quite some time. Then after, the first thing I did when I got a little money ahead I bought a little ‘ol A model ford. A two door A model ford. I got it and used it, then after we used it for about a year, well I had a chance to buy a uh, Sedan, a ford touring car, a four door. I got it, I traded this thing in and got it you know and kept it a Mr. Bayes where I was staying, he had a place, a garage where I could keep it in there and use that ‘ol ford for I don’t know for how long and the first thing you know I sold it and bought another car, a Chevrolet. I had that Chevrolet when I got married. The thing about it, my wife she came to Jonesboro working for a Mrs. Tate. She was working in the beauty parlor at Mrs. Tate’s. Larson Tate, Mrs. Tate’s husband, he told my wife, well he told her, you know she was working for,
he told her, he say look I want you to come down to the shoe shop with me, there’s a young fellow down there, he says and he’s not married. He’s a nice looking guy, he says and he a good fellow too. I want you to come down there and meet him. So she came down there and she had a pair of shoes. She wanted some lifts on them. She came down there with Larson. He introduced me to her and she left the shoes there and I says, uh, you can got them probably tomorrow and she says “O.K.” So they went on back to the beauty parlor and she came the next day to get her shoes. I told her I says, “you know I plum forgot about those shoes, you know I set them up there and I didn’t fix them, I says but I’ll tell you what I will do, I’ll get ‘em fixed for you but the first thing I want to do? She says what’s that? I says I want to know if you’d like to go to the show tonight? I says lets have a date and go to the show? She says, “O.K., we’ll go to the show. I says, and then you come in tomorrow and I’ll have your shoes all ready. So we went to the show and that’s what started it. We got to courting then you see. That’s when I got, well we courted, well didn’t even court a year I don’t think. She says well we courted long enough, she says don’t you think it’s time for us to get married. I says, well, I says if you ready I am too. So I went and got the license, I mean, went and got my uh, from the doctor, a certificate that I was in good health and she had one too. What we did, we didn’t get married there. We got married in Bojeous City by justice of the peace and the thing about it where she was, when I was courting her, her and three other girls, three other women where school teachers. They were teaching school, they had got ‘em apartment and all of them was living in a apartment and I used to go up and visit, you know up to the apartment, and I knew the other three girls, you see cause they was teachers, and uh, the thing about is that one of the girls, that was a teacher, was courting a guy from Bojeous City, from Shreveport. They got married later on and that broke them up so it left just those there you see and then the first thing you know me and the wife later on we got married. Then one of the girls died, she got something, I don’t know what it was and she died. The other one moved to Houston, Texas and Mildred still lives in Houston, Texas. The thing about it, I met those teachers to and you see I had built this now home of mine and those teachers they wanted to live there, room there and so my wife says, “well O.K.” so we were married and they came there and we fixed up the bedroom everything in the back and put two beds in there and those girls came in there and lived there and paid rent and everything there and the wife says now what I want you to do, she says you take care of all the bills, she says and the money I got from boarding those teachers and all that I’ll pay that on the house. You pay the bills and I’ll pay on the house. We had the house in the building and loan, you know, and so that’s what happened. Did you know, we got it on 8 years but we paid it out in five years because everytime we get some spare money we go ahead and put it on the building and pay it off. We had a real nice time and those girls, they were school teachers, we had a nice time with them and all that and talking and everything was just fine. Only thing about it is I enjoyed all of that with the teachers being there and all that and here comes Sandra was born. Those teachers were gone from there, but they were there when Sandra was a baby. They stayed there but when Linda came along they was gone cause one got married and the other died. The two, one went to Houston.
Interviewer question ‑ “When was Sandra born?””
Sandra was born in uh, April 1900 and thirty, lets see I got married in 36, no 35, 36, Sandra was born in 1936 1 believe. Let me see 1936, cause Linda was born in 1939 which was three years later. Yeah, Sandra was born in 36.
Interviewer question‑ “‘So how many children do you have?””
Two just two, Sandra and Linda. My wife said that was enough. Two of ‘em you see, that’s enough to look after and uh, we stayed there, until then Sandra contracted polio.
Interviewer question ‑ “When was that?” Oh, she was, uh, lets see she was about sev‑ eight years old, I think or nine years of age, about eight or nine or something like that, and she had this, well we went to the doctor, Sandra just something was bothering her and the wife took her to the doctor and he had her take her clothes off. He looked and he told her you know something, Sandra’s spine is growing crooked. Says its not straight. So my wife says well what you think, he says I’m afraid she’s had polio. He says that’s why her spine is getting crooked like that. So he says I’m going to call the doctor in New Orleans, he says, the specialist. He called Dr. Robinson, he called the specialist in New Orleans, and the specialist told he says, well he says, see we’ll get everything all ready and have her bring her up here. He says so we can check her and she stayed up there in that hospital for about six months and they worked on her.
Interviewer question ‑ “What did they do?”‘ Well they operated on her, you see what they did, they cut 6 inches of each of her leg on the shin. You know off the shin, they operated and cut that off and then they operated on her back. The specialist was there you see and they cut enough on each side of the spine and they grafted that bone to her spine. The doctor had told her, well the doctor said that she staged in there you know then, the thing about it is the doctor told me the last time he checked her that she is alright, he says the only thing about it, he says I was proud of it, he says she had a 95% perfection, in other words, you know, but he says one thing about it, she cannot ride let me see it was horseback I think it was, told her she couldn’t ride on horseback and she couldn’t do some other kind exercise on account of the you know, let’s see, the bone, you know that was grafted to her spine, you know on each side. The thing about it is that I took her to the Mayo Clinic, and they up there at Mayo clinic, they the one that was checking her and they the one that called this doctor in Shreveport. They says he the best, he says bone specialist you can got a hold of and that’s who we went to see that bone specialist in Shreveport. We stayed in the Mayo Clinic about a week. Then we came down to Shreveport and went to the hospital in Shreveport, Tri ‑State it was and then we went there and the doctor had gotten all the report from this other doctor in Mayo clinic. He had all the report, he says put it right there and the thing about it, in other words when we took her, no we took her back that’s right. We took her back and he checked her and all that and then she stayed at home. She got to walking around pretty good and all that you see. Then she went back to school, she started going back to school. You see the doctor was very proud of his job and she had a 95% correction. She didn’t lean over, you know like, there was this one girl in Jonesboro, a Syrian girl which I knew her real good. She had the some thing. They took her to the hospital to get her operated on and she cried and hollered and everything like that and they couldn’t keep her over there, she wouldn’t stay. And she grew up, she was growing just like this ( he demonstrated). She died, young, she was pretty young when she died.
Interviewer question ‑ “”Did your other daughter have polio too?”” Well, Linda had a light case, just a regular light case. The only thing that I did for Linda.‑ the doctor told me to build one of her heels up a half an inch. That’s what I did on her shoes, a half an inch. She wasn’t as bad as Sandra was, Sandra was growing crooked, but Linda wasn’t. Linda had a slight case of polio. The thing about it I built that shoe for her and she finally she got where she could walk and everything and she don’t use that anymore or anything. I used to do a lot of work like that for these kids you see, the polio kids that had one leg shorter than the other one. I had to build their shoes up for them and but the most funny thing that ever happened, a ol boy came down to me and he had his leg right her you see ( demonstrated). No, it was, yeah he had his foot and all he didn’t have any foot. He had it broke off right there (demonstrated) and he wore a boot that just straight down. He came into the shop and showed me how exactly what he wanted and I built it for him. He used to come down there every time I had to go ahead and he wear that thing down, he used to play marble, he was going to school playing marbles and all that. He would wear that darn thing down and it was like a boot and came up you know and the thing about it I worked on it for I don’t know how many years with him until he got grown. When got grown, that was when he was a young kid, well when he got grown the doctor’s then says he wouldn’t be no use for him to wear that anymore and what they did, they went and cut that part, you see and they built, fixed it and put an artificial foot on there for him. He wore that artificial thing after that, you see. But we had a time with it when he used to come in there and that boot was built round just like this and his foot would set down in there and the thing about it, I don’t know how many and every time he would get it, that boy could really play marbles, and he could run and everything.
Interview question ‑ ” What led you to chose being a shoemaker?”‘
Oh, well I started that you see, my brother in law had a shoe shop and that’s when I went to live with him I learned the trade from him. I stayed with him until I spent let’s see I went to live with them when I was 12 years old and I stayed with them until I was 17, 18.
Interviewer ‑”So you fixed shoes when you were younger with them” Yeah, that’s where I learned it. Interviewer “‘Did you fix shoes in the Navy too?”” And then when I went in the Navy, that’s what I did in the Navy. I had the shoe shop in the Navy. Well the thing about it, when I went in the Navy, they asked me uh, well when I was at the training station, my shoe was kinda worn and we had bag inspection and we had our shoes there and the fellow says when they was inspecting, the officer said you better take those shoes down to the cobbler shop he says and got ’em fixed and so I told him O.K. So I took them down to the cobbler shop and the guy was in there, he was a bandmaster is what he was, he was in charge of it. He didn’t know anything about fixing shoes. So I had, those were my shoes that I took in there you see, so I told him, I says, well, I says if it’s all the same to you, I says, will it be all right for me to fix my own shoes. He said, “Do you know something about this work? I says yeah, I did it I says for four or five years, no I says ever since I was 13 years old I’ve been doing this. He’s o.k. go ahead and fix it so, he was watching me and I trimmed that sole off you know and I got the other sole and put it and he says that ain’t the way I do that. I says well look I says lot me tell you something. If you don’t join these things and make ’em smooth. I says, that kid can’t wear ‘em. The fella can’t wear ‘em I says, they’ll hurt his foot. They’ll bump him. He says well I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna watch you he says and see how you fix yours. So I fixed mine and everything and got through and he says, “”by golly that’s a good job. You know I can get you to stay here.”‘ I says, “Mister no sir, I says I joined the Navy to see the world and I don’t want to stay here in San Diego, California.” He says, well he says, “‘You sure done a good job on that, man, I sure would like to have you over here, he says boy, you could stay right here.” I says, well I’m sorry I says, but I sure don’t want it.”‘ He wasn’t no good repairman. He didn’t know too much on it, but he had charge of the place. You see, he used to fix those shoes and leave a big bump in there just like that you know and he watched me and said you know something about this don’t you. I says, yeah I sure do. So when I went aboard ship, after you see when I stayed at the training station then well, when I graduated from that training station, huh I come up with the dad burn measles. When I come up with the measles, I couldn’t. My company that I was with, they we was all graduating you see at the same time but, I had the measles and had to go to the hospital and that whole company drifted off and they went to sea you see, they went to different ships and there I was. I stayed in the hospital 21 days because they keep you 21 days. When you get well, you see you still have to stay there and so I stayed in there 21 days and when I got out, I told the officer you know that company I was with, we graduated and everything, I says they’re all gone, I says there’s nobody here, I says and I’ve already done graduated. He says well, we’ll fix you up he says, see that ship over there in the harbor, it was in San Diego harbor. He says that’s the Aroostock. He says that’s and aircraft tender. He says, and the Langley is that other ship over there he says, that’s our first aircraft tender, first aircraft ship that we have. He says, in the Navy, it’s the first one and the name of it was the U.S. Langley. So I told him well, I says I’m fixing to go to sea because they told me, they says you gonna have to go on the Aroostock, which is the intender, he says you got on it. Get all your stuff and everything, your bag and all and you get on it. So I got on it and we left the San Diego harbor and the Langley was right with her cause we were the Langley’s tender. We had to follow and be right up there with the U.S. Langley, you see. We went on and we hit some dad burn rough water, I mean off the coast of Oregon, I mean it’s the roughest water. That ship was going just like this (demonstrated). There was an “ol boy that I got acquainted with and he says, “Where you from?” I says, “Louisiana”. I says, what about you? He says I’m from Louisiana too. I says you are and he says yeah, I says what part of Louisiana you f rom. He says, I come f rom a little town called, Jonesboro, Louisiana. I says you do, I says I never heard of that place. He says, well where did you come from then? I says, well, I says I come from Tibodeau, Louisiana. I says well actually, I always call it Tibodeau, but I was living in New Iberia. He told he says, well o.k. He says, well I got acquainted with him and we got to talking and all that and he says well, he sags I ain’t got another year to serve here and then I’m going back home, He says, my daddy got a dairy in Jonesboro, he says, and I’ll go back and probably work in the dairy. I says, well, I says that’s a good deal. I says, when I got out, I says I don’t know, I says, what I’m gonna do when I get out. I probably go to New Orleans, I says and get a job in New Orleans. I says, I go to my home town you can’t tell. So when I came to Jonesboro, I had been in Jonesboro a couple of months, and do you know who walked into that shop, that ‘ol boy. He walked in there and he looked at me and he says, I believe I know you. I says yeah, and I know you too. I says, you was on the dad burn Aroostock, don’t you remember when we hit that rough water off the coast of Washington. He says, by golly that’s right. Boy I mean to tell you he used to come to town and see me all the time you know. Later on we was talking and he used to come down and visit and he lived out in the county, you see, he had a dairy and he used to bring me my milk. I used to got a quart of milk and I drink it. He’d leave it right at the shop you see and I’d drink that milk you see, during the day. We were really good friends. I met his wife and he had 2 boys and we got well acquainted with them and the thing about it then he moved from there and he went to a place in Arkansas. He went to work at a paper mill in Arkansas. So that’s when he left from there you see.
Interviewer question ‑ Did you fix shoes while you were on the ship?
Yes, they had a shoe shop and machinery and everything. What was your job on the ship? Well, I was what they call the ship’s cobbler. When ever they wanted me or when something happened they passed the word all you know. They say, Ships cobbler report to the officer of the deck. Being the ships cobbler you see, then they had a barber shop. They had 4 barbers in that barber shop. We all belonged to the ship’s service gang. The barber shop, the laundry, the canteen, the shoe shop was all in the same one, all in the ship’s service gang. We didn’t have to get out and drill or anything like that because you see we had that job and the thing about it when I got aboard ship you see, when I got on the U.S.S. California, well the fella who had the shoe shop on there, he was getting ready to be discharged. When he found out, well first I told him I worked in a meat market in New Orleans. I says, I’m a meat cutter. They said well we don’t need one, they says they’re filled up. I says well I’d like to get in the black gang, that was those below deck, you see in the engineering department. He says they’re filled up. I says, well. He says, what else did you do? I says well I worked in a shoe shop. I says, I fixed shoes and all that. He says, we need one. So he says, we got you fixed up and so what he did to find out if I could do that good they took me to the captains cabin. They told the captain, you know that I was aboard ship, he says, and the captain had some shoes that needed repairing. He said they would give them to me so I could repair them just to see, you know how good I could repair them. So the captain says I got ’em right here. They need some soles on ’em and some heels. I took ’em fixed ‘em up and when I got ‘em all fixed up and everything I took them back and told the master of arms I had the captain’s shoes all ready. He says well, come on with me. I went with him in the captain’s cabin. I brought him his shoes. I had ’em all polished up and all cleaned good you know. He looked at ’em and says, “Son, he says, that’s a real good job you did on those shoes!” And so he says, “How much is that job?” I says, “Well captain, I don’t know, I says, I don’t have no price list or anything.” He says, well find out about the price list, he says cause I want you to be in that shop. I want you to be ship’s cobbler on this ship. When I got back I had told the ship’s service officer, I says the captain wants me to get in the shoe shop. He says, that’s where your going, in the shoe shop. I got in the shoe shop then I had to price and everything. What I was getting off that, I was getting 85% of the profit. In other words say what ever, every month I had to take inventors, and the material that I used and all that well we deduct that, the price of the material and everything. The money I take in I turn it over to them you see and when I do that they take out for the amount you see and they would pay the cost of the material and everything. What they would do, they would pay for the material and all and you see what ever it was. 15 % and I get 85% of the profit, whatever the profit was. And shoot for a couple of years I didn’t draw no paycheck at all. Mine rode on the book. I let it ride on the book cause I was making more, it was running me more than what my pay was. Man I’d get $125.00 ‑ $150.00 a month out of the shop. Then they found out I could do all this other work. I worked on the football equipment and I worked on the wrestlers equipments and then I worked on the boxing teams equipments. When they found out I could do all that, it made my pay go a lot higher. The thing about it is, I didn’t draw no pay the lost two years I was in the service. I just let it ride on the books you see and when I got discharged the thing about it is the skipper, the captain of that ship and he told me you see when I got ready to be discharged, my cruise was over, he told me, he says, “Son, he says if you decide you wanna come in the Navy, you come back to this ship, we hate to see you leave. I says, “Well captain, I says, I didn’t come in the Navy to make a career out of it, I says, I came in here for the full years and I’ve really enjoyed my stay in it, I says, I’ve had a good time, I says, I seen part of the world, I says, that I would never seen, I says, I did a lot of work on this ship, I says, for the boxing team, football team and all. He says, yeah, I know did cause if you hadn’t been here he says we had to get all new equipment. We couldn’t get the thing repaired you see. He was pretty nice and the thing about it, we’d have visitors every weekend when the you know when the ship was in port, we’d have visitors where people could come aboard and visit and walk around and all that. One day this one Saturday, there was folks there was aboard and they was walking around. One of the ladies knocked the heel off of her shoe. I was aboard ship you see and she says well I don’t know what I’m gonna do I don’t have a heel on this shoe. So the master at arms said just a minute he says, you give me your shoe. I’ll take it down to the cobbler shop and have the cobbler go ahead and fix it up for you. He took it down to the cobbler shop and he says put this heel on for her. I fixed it up and put a heel on for her. He says now come on with me he says, I want her to look at you and see what you look like. I went up there and she says she appreciated fixing her shoe and asked was there any charge. I told her no, it was free. Thing about used to have lot a times it was like that, we had you know something happened on the ship you see, someone would be walking and we would have visitors and all that a lot of time they probably try to climb the ladders and get their heel caught on it you see and it might pull it off. I did a lot of work from those civilians. The thing about it the officers when they found out I could do that work real good well they take their shoes and bring them down to the shop and they says you take these he says, there some of them I says, I don’t have this kind of material or anything like that. They says well that’s all right. Take ashore. Take it to the shoe shop. I had a fellow in that shoe shop that I worked with on the weekends I go in their and I would help him and he would pay me. I stayed some weekends you know when he needed someone and he would let me know. Well, I went there and the captain gave me his shoes. No it was the commander. He was a golfer. He wanted‑he had a pair of shoes he called me and told me he says, “Do you think you could got these shoes he says, with some golf spikes on them. I says, well I don’t have any here. I’ll have to take them to shore, to the beach. He says, well. I says, the thing about it is that I may have to spend the night there. I said because they won’t be able to get it all ready I says, because he might be so busy he won’t have time for. That’s allright he says. I’ll right you a pass and you can go ahead. He wrote me pass and I got up on the deck and I had those shoes in a box. When I had them in the box. This was the most thing that ever happened you know, I had ’em in a box and when I got up on the deck, and got ready to go ashore the officer of the deck was an ensign. He had just come out of the academy. He says, “What’s you got in that box.?” I says, a pair of shoes. He says are they regulation shoes? I says no sir they’re not. I didn’t tell him whose shoes they were. He says well if they are not regulation shoes, he says, he called the master of arms. He says, you take these shoes and bring them over there and put ‘em in that office. I didn’t tell him whose shoes they were you see. They got ‘em and the thing about it they got the shoes and I told the master of arms when he came back, “Do you know whose shoes those are?” He says, “Who?” I says they belong to the commander of this ship. He says, the hell they do. I says you better go back and get ’em because I was fixing to take them ashore to get them fixed. Boy I mean to tell you, right quick, he went and told the officer of the deck, “When this man got shoes in a box, that he is carrying, the thing about it is don’t question him, he’s the ship’s cobbler. He was taking those, they are the commanders shoes, he was taking over there to get them fixed. Boy from then on I never had no trouble at all. I could carry shoes and take them ashore and all that.
Interviewer question ‑ Did you ever carry anything else in those boxes that you weren’t supposed to? Yeah, I carried some whiskey. When we was down in Panama well we bought some of that good whiskey and all that. When I got back on the ship well I had shoes packed up in there and the ensign said what”s you got in there. I told it’s shoes and some stuff I bought to fix shoes. He said, o.k. go ahead. There was a bottle of whiskey in there and what I would do when I get down in the shoe shop, well you see this machinery had a big tube down in it about this big around (demonstrated) and it would blow dust in a sack. So what I did was take that bottle and I opened the grate and pushed the bottle in the pipe or duster and closed it up. Another boy came along there and he say, say I gotta a bottle of cognac he says, can you hide it anywhere? I hid it and when we got back to the states well, that ‘ol boy came there he says, I’ll get my bottle of cognac out there. He got it. I said,”How in the heck you gonna got ashore?” He says he’ll give it to the fellow who runs the motor boat, I’ll give it to him and he’ll take it. So he told me, how you gonna get yours. Oh that’s simple I say, I’ll tell ‘em its shoes. I’ll tel; ‘em that and they say go on. We take stuff over there just like that. It was a good way and the thing about the commander came down when we was having inspection to see the shop shop and everything. To see how the machinery was clean and everything and I had that bottle of whiskey in that dust collector. He didn’t know it cause if he did it would have been tough, sure enough. So he said everything looks fine and he went on out and all that. I told the ‘ol boy after he left boy I could of got caught but I got away with it. I gave it to the boy who had the motor boat and I says, I got in the motor boat and gave it to him. I never was questioned cause they knew me from the shoe shop.
Interview question ‑ How long were a shoemaker? Throughout your whole life? Well from 1915, I was just a youngster 14 or 15 and I retired in 1988. I was 84. No, I was fixing shoes in World War I and World War II. But I was fixing shoes and actually I had well lets me see how many years. 1930 ‑ 1988. I was about 82 years old. I couldn’t retire sooner cause I couldn’t find anyone to sell the shop to. Then this ‘ol boy comes along. He’s working in the funeral home and he fixed belts and a few odds and ends. He could do a little leather work. He come along and came in there and wanted to learn to fix shoes. I told him I can’t fire you and can’t pay you. He says you don’t have to. I want to come in here and work with you. He says, I says you probably going to have to be here 5 or 6 months. He said it was o.k. and worked there for about 5 or 6 months. I told him o.k. you ready to go. He already know something about leather work. He’s an undertaker is what he is. That ended up with that but the thing about it is I had experience, experience, experience I tell you one thing about it. I did work for cripple people and you know one “ol boy he was a colored boy, I fixed a brace for him so he could, he was crippled so I fixed the brace for him and built a shoe for him and everything for him. I’ll tell you that boy sure didn’t like it when I quit. He said man I don’t know what I’m gonna do now. I said, well you’ll get along don’t worry. He used to take it to Shreveport and they’d charge him anywhere from $100 ‑$125 and then he came over there to me and the most I ever did charge him was $75 for building the
shoes and all that and putting it in that brace you see he had to wear a brace all the time. That brace would keep him straight. I did that in the service. This ‘ol boy had to wear a brace in the service and I had to do some work for him. The I did work for the boxing team, the row boat team, the football team, the baseball team, the basketball team, I did all the work for them you see. When I got ready to be discharged the commander of the ship told me, “Son don’t you like the Navy?” Yes sir, I say like the Navy fine but I don’t want to make a career out of it. I just wanted 4 years and that’s enough and I’m ready to go back. Well actually I was thinking I was going to go back in to the service again but the fortunate part of it is when I stopped in New Iberia to run the shop for my brother in law while he was moving into his new home this salesman comes in and I got to talking to him, you see, and he’s the one who set me up to go to Jonesboro. He’s dead ‑ That was a long time ago. That man was a salesman. I remember when I was learning the trade he was in there, he was a salesman for that company and then it ended up that he bought the company. When he was talking to me he bought the company and he was talking with the folks and acquainted me with the people that was running the hotel. Everytime he come to town he would spend the night at the hotel cause those was his good friends, those people there, he knowed them for years you see. They had PK Leather Company in Now Orleans. They not in business anymore. They sold out. But old man Tate, his name was T‑A‑T‑E, Tate and he used to come in there, he was the one that set me up in there, cause they needed a shoe repairman in Jonesboro. Tom Callaway was the one who had the key to it and I got in touch with him.
Interview Question ‑ How long was your work day?
My work day ‑ opened up at 7 o’clock in the morning, went to lunch at 12, come back at one, and close oh, any where from when I first started, anywhere from 9 to 10 o’clock at night. When the kids was born the days got shorter, they performed a town council with all the businessmen, a business concern, and what we did we cut the hour. We opened at 8:00, well some of them did, I always opened up at 7:30, and close at 5:00. It was a new ruling for our town. Then I went home, when I had the kids, I mowed the yard, worked around the house in the yard, or went to a lodge meeting. I farmed. When I was a little boy I planted onions, used to dig potatoes, cut sugar cane, and pick corn. My childhood was real good. It was all together different than it is today. Everything was open, we had a big time and now they take hey and row it in rows, but back when I was a kid coming up we put a big pole down there and it was a big haystack. We put that hay around it you see, and we used to when I was a kid, my daddy would have so many rows of onions, me and my brother would plant those onions and get through with that. The neighbor right next door he probably wanted onions planted so we went and helped him. When we would get through with him we would go to this farmer over here and
help him. That’s the way the farmer’s used to do, they go and help each other. One would got his crop in and then go help the other one you see. But that’s the way they worked it then. They don’t do that no, more you see, that’s all gone. Interview question ‑ What was your happiest childhood memory?
My happiest childhood memory was in getting up in the morning, early in the morning, going down to the bayou and going fishing. Catching a mess of fish and coming back and clean ‘em and then go in the wintertime, I mean vacation time when there was no school and me and my brother we’d go in the woods and cut fireplace wood and we’d cut stove wood. My daddy used to pay us so much a cord for that and we’d take our guns and we’d go out there and if a dog would jump a rabbit we’d go and hunt for the rabbit and we’d get him. We had a big time then, We used plant corn, plow it. I used to use the shovel and clean the drains and keep the dirt when they plowed from clogging things up. We had a little ditch along the farm built for the water to drain to the swamp. I cut uh, we used to go hunting in the wintertime, back in those days what I’m talking about is they didn’t have no restrictions on hunting like it is now. You could go hunting and kill what ever you want you see. But there used to be quails, coooooooooh, man there used to be
quails galore in there. Lot of time we walked into a ditch. It was a drainage ditch and look over there in the woods and trees and hear quail. We’d get ‘em to go up and shoot ’em you see. Back then we used to go out in the swamp and fish. They had a canal back there. My brother went with me.
Interview question ‑ Did your parents go with you? Did they spend a lot of time with you? No, I worked with my daddy in the field. Both my parents worked all the time. I worked in the field and then we had a garden down the levy and I used to work in that garden a whole lot and we built a pier down at the levy and I used to fish a whole lot. We built a cabinet out there where we could put our stuff after we fished. That stand is still there. The last time I was down in that country before my brother died and al I that I was down there and man we caught us a nice mess of cat fish you know. He fixed it up where he built him a case in their and if it rained he could get in there and fish and he had ’em a stove in there and he could cook in their if he wanted to. But that’s all gone now.
Interview question ‑ Where your people religious when you were growing up?
They used to go to the Catholic Church. My daddy never did go to church unless there was a marriage or a death. My daddy was not a catholic but he was buried according to Catholicism. My mother was catholic but she didn’t go to church all the time.
Interview question ‑ Are you catholic? I’m Church of Christ. That’s the church I went to on Sunday. I got out of Catholicism when I got married to my wife. She was Church of Christ and I’ve been a member of Church of Christ for over 50 years. But the thing about it back in those days, I made my first communion and I was confirmed and all that stuff in Tibodeau, in the catholic church. When I got ready to start drawing my social security I had to get my mother to go with me to the priest’s house to get my record for my social security for the date I was born and all that. When I went there the priest went through the books and looked and opened one book and said “What year?” I told him 1907. He looked in 1907 and said I don’t have that name in here at all. I says, well, I says look at 1906. He looked in 1906 and said, “There it is right there.” He found it in 1906 and gave me a certificate you know of baptism and uh, but I was always going by 1907, and I told my mother, “How come you made a mistake like that ” She said, well I had a boy before you was born. He died and my memory just left me. He died when he was just young, he was a baby you know. Then you came along later on. My older brother and me we only one year and something difference in our age. In other words the thing it was and my daddy well he got to later an he wouldn’t go the church. He stayed at home and had has limbs and everything bothering him and couldn’t do much walking, standing up, and things like that. He wouldn’t go out in the field. He would go just out of the yard, back of the barn. He had a little place out there where he had to grow something. He had him a little garden out there. I used to get tickled at him. He used to grow some tobacco. He had a little patch of tobacco and he would take the tobacco loaf and rumble it up and make him a cigarette. He get that tobacco all fixed up and let it dry. He used to smoke that until he finally quit. But I’ll tell you one thing my days on the farm was real nice until I left when I was 12 years old.
Interview question ‑ Did you have a garden in Jonesboro?
Oh, yeah, I had a big garden there. I worked in it in evening when I got off work. Me and my wife both worked in it. I used to grow more stuff in there and then you see we bought that house and then there was a big yard in there. I used to raise a lot of stuff for about 12 years. I raised everything we ate you might as well say. Some things I didn’t grow but I planted sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, and I planted greens, you know, turnip greens and mustard greens and cabbage. I just planted cabbage one year and then I wouldn’t plant it no more because the worms got into them and I says they didn’t do no good. But we used to plant spinach and mustard. Interview question ‑ Who did all the canning and freezing? My wife. Did she work?
Yeah, she worked but we’d get in that garden in the afternoon in the summertime and we’d stay in that garden until about 9 o’clock at night. Then we would come in and take a bath and then eat our supper. She loved it. She loved to be in the garden all the time. That’s the reason why we always had a big garden. Linda would come over there and get stuff and take it home and cook it. We raised corn two years and I told her we ain’t gonna raise no more corn cause it’s too much trouble. From now on we raising vegetables and I had carrots, beets, turnips. I had everything you could think of. Spinach and mustard and one thing about it I bought me some asparagus and I made me a nice long row and man I had the asparagus that would grow all the time you might as well say. My wife used to like it.
Interview question ‑ What was your happiest memory in your whole life, the 85 years you’ve been alive. The happiest moment of my life was my married life ‑ that was the happiest moment of my life. I was happy always there. I was married 53 years and the thing about it I had a happy moment in New Iberia when I was living there. This man had a tugboat and one day he told me and my brother in law and oh, there was 2 others. He says, I went you to come up with me out to the bay to got some oysters. So I went out there with him and he had these grabs and we went out to the oyster bed. Put that thing down and got those oysters and come on up and separate them you know, and we ate those oysters right there. Coming right out of the fresh water. They don’t have that no more now cause you see they have oyster beds now. This was before they had these oyster beds you see. Each individual owns a plot and he plants his oysters in there. He has his name on it there and the back bin, the oysters would come up in big clusters and we had to grab them with some grabbers and you’d have to break them apart. That’s one thing about it, that I enjoyed with this man going out into the gulf where the oysters was. We used to go fishing down at the salt mine twice a month, on a Friday. We’d catch the fish and crabs and all that. We’d bring ‘em back on a Friday cause a lot of those folks didn’t eat meat on Friday. They had that bay there and you’d see all those boats all along there. One time we went in this creek that came out of the bay and they had a levy on each side and we’d got on the levy and we’d got to fishing right off the levy. We’d catch a lot of fish that way.
Interview question ‑ What was the saddest moment of your life?
The saddest moment of my life was when my wife passed away. She passed away in 1988. I had just retired. In January 1958, I retired and she was with me in the shop and we signed papers and all. She got down sick oh, about June and uh because I think it was, she died well she had been ailing a little bit and she got real bad and she died in July. Her birthday was on the 30th of July, well she lived on her birthday and she died on the 31st of July. The next day after her birthday. She was 80 and 1 day. I was always hoping that you know, but she was bad off and the doctors said they couldn’t do anything for her anymore. That really hurt. I lived in Jonesboro for a while and now I live in Naples, Maine with my daughter Sandra. My life has changed cause I say, I got two women looking after me now. Before I just had one. I says, that’s what makes it a whole lot better now. I says now in my old age they really looking after me. I like living in Maine. It’s new to me but I like living here. I’ve been a lot of places. I have traveled quite a bit and I’ve seen a lot of the country and I like Maine.
Interview question ‑ How do you feel about yourself at the age you are now?
Well, I don’t feel that I’m old cause I can do what I want to you know, I can get along, that’s the thing about it. Now if I was all crippled up, it would be a different thing, like my oldest brother, he stayed in a nursing home for about 3 or 4 years before he died you see. He couldn’t do anything. He was an old bachelor. He never married and worked 20 years for a company in Chicago and retired. He got to where he didn’t know anything ½ of the time because you see when I used to go to the nursing home and visit him, twice when I went in there he know me, the other times he didn’t know me. It’s something like that usually happens. I’ve had a good life. I’ve enjoyed my life.
Interview question ‑ What 3 things would you like said about yourself when you die? Let it be said he led a good life ‑ That will be all. He led a good a life and uh, he tried to be good religious person, a good Christian man. In other words because, I enjoyed my life and I’m enjoying mine right now you know. In other words I’m not going anywhere soon. I don’t never try to reminse back and anything like this because the thing about it, the doctor had told me never think about what’s past he says you forget about your past and think about coming ahead. That’s the one reason I enjoyed my life and I enjoy getting out to play golf when I get a chance and the thing about it I enjoy being around people and talking to them and all that. I never have regret anything about my life. I’ve think I’ve lived a pretty good life and I’ve enjoyed life. I enjoyed my married life and I enjoyed my four years I spent in the Navy. I saw countries I never would have seen. The most surprising thing to me was when I was in ‘ol Panama. I went inside the catholic church and uh, the thing about it, they had told me that the alter in the catholic church was pure gold and the thing about it when Morgan the pirate sacked Panama well what they did to their alter, they painted it with black paint. When Morgan walked in their he looked it over and told his crew, get out of here we don’t want that stuff, he said that ain’t no good. You see after they sacked Panama the folks came together and took all that black stuff off of there. I went Into that thing and they told me that this is the church with the golden alter. I looked it all over. I was talking to the monk or priest and he took me all over in there. I t was an old cathedral, brick building out of stone. The alter was something. They had the history of it and if they hadn’t painted it Morgan would of taken it and it would be gone. They had a nice story about it. I’
I’ve enjoyed my life and everything that I have lived. And I enjoyed traveling in the service.
Interview question ‑ What do you want most to experience before you die now?
Well the thing about it is, I don’t know of anything I want to do. If I could travel some that would be alright, but I’m not so much on traveling cause I’ve traveled enough and you know since I’ve been up here I’ve been places with you all. I been to lots of places in the Navy. I’ve enjoyed places and I enjoy my stay over here. Walking around and all that, meeting the old people down at the senior citizens luncheon. I enjoy it cause I’m a senior citizen. It’s a great enjoyment. I used to
tell the folks I wish I could live to get old and then I says, I’ll enjoy my whole life a lot or better. I enjoy my life, shoot. I enjoy doing something, you know around the farm. I like to work in the ground and stuff like that. When I get back from Jonesboro.. we gonna pull those onions out of the ground cause if we don’t snow be getting here. When I get back from Louisiana. Sandra and me. I’m only gonna be there a week and try and get some of my stuff straightened up. I want to try and get that property lined up. My house and the other house ‑ turn it over to an agency and let them look after it.
Interview question ‑ How do you feel about selling your house where you have raised your family? Well, in other words I know I can’t keep it because when I die its gonna be there and I can’t keep it I know that. It won’t be hard cause when I go back I’m gonna find a real estate man and turn it over to him after we get what we want to get out of it. The furniture and all that. There will be a lot of things I won’t bring up here cause we won’t need it. It’s all old to. It’s over 50 years old and you know it’s old after 50 years old. Everything we got is antique. I’m gonna try and bring some things back but I don’t thing I can bring all my books . You see I got religious books. Most my books is all religious books. All about bible and stuff like that. I got 4 or 5 bibles. I got some religious books that deal with different religions. They claim it’s always good to know about another person’s religion you see. I got books galore. I gave lots of books already to the boy who is preaching in Jonesboro now. I told him to keep them or put them in the church house library. I got one book, boy it’s a big encyclopedia and it deals back after the Jewish religion was overthrown and everything. The guy that wrote it wrote about the history and all that. It’s really interesting and tells about when Jeruselum was destroyed. It tells all about that. God caused that. What they have now is what they got left is after World War II, Eisenhower gave the Jews that. They didn’t have a home. Eisenhower let Israel go to those Jews. He gave it to him in a treaty they made. He’s scratching himself. Allie the dog is scratching himself.
I don’t think I’ll be in Jonesboro for the election. What election? Oh, Eisenhower. No, come on whose running? Klu Klux Clan big shot, the Wizard, David Duke and ‘ol Edwards. This will be 3 times for him. It don’t make any difference to me cause I ain’t gonna be living there. Edwards might end up to be a real good guy. He wasn’t in the past, he stole everything he could get a hold of. He stole enough to got him a big ‘ol ranch in Texas, One who steals and the other a bigot. Huey Long used to steal too. They all do.