I am a bit late on the timing of this column, but I am going with the ‘better late than never’ concept. It is just a simple column urged by a wandering thought and scripted with a few whispered words about the loss of a childhood community and a physical structure, Stein’s Superette. It seems for the pat 17 years of contributing to this Sunday column I have (somewhat) eulogized most all the closures in our town, places that, in many ways, defined my childhood here. These places I have written about were connected to my mother, childhood friends and familiar people in our community, people and places I imagined would always ‘be there’. I was, of course, wrong, for nothing can stay the same; knowing this does not make the losses any easier, for the attachments were warm and comfortable. I have a special fondness to the familiar structure on the corner of Daspit and Texaco, it was part of my neighborhood growing up, and it contained ‘delicious’ childhood memories, the most vivid and precious of all memories.
When I think of the little superette with the concrete floors and short aisles filled with Moon Pies, bags of white rice, cans of cream corn and pencils for school I remember a quaint and kindly community where we lived and thrived and were, mostly, happy.
Nearly each weekday, there was our usual drive down Sugar Mill Road from my subdivision, Little Woods, past the sugar mill, past Red Fox and onto Susan Terrell Elementary. I would sit in the backseat of our blue and white station wagon with a starched and ironed handmade dress from my Grandmother Farris, little white socks folded over neatly around my ankles, snuggly fitting into black patent leather shoes and a buckled book sack filled with a Blue Horse tablet, crayons, pencils, and signed papers ready for school. I was blessed with wonderful, committed teachers, Miss June Boudreaux, Mrs. Pharr, Mrs. Haik. Mrs. Land, Mr. Bernard, Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Ackal. I remember each with much fondness…they were my teachers, and they were held in high esteem. They taught me how to ‘read, write and do arithmetic’. Our principal, Mr. Burt Terrell rewarded us for achievement and disciplined us when needed. We read from Dick and Jane, and we all wanted a dog like Spot or a kitten like Puff, at least I did. Our moms lined up along North Street several minutes before the dismissal bell rang to visit with one another. My mother made lifelong friends there.
On the way home, we would sometimes stop at Dugas Brothers Grocery on the corner of Jane and Chestnut, two sweet streets with cozy names. When I was a bit older, we would stop at Dartez’s Grocery; Harvey and June Stein would eventually become the owners, but that would happen later.
All we needed was in this little community and if there was something else needed, we ordered it from the Sear’s catalogue.
Breaux’s Pharmacy was on Jane Street. My mom stopped there sometimes to pick up quick school supplies. There were small cardboard boxes of pencils and Bic Pens and short stacks of Big Chief Tablets on the left, right after you walked in. Mr. Breaux would be in the far back of the store mixing medicines. Gibson’s Department Store, across from the bowling alley, was further into town and a place to go for our school supplies in late August. It was a ‘big’ store, stocked with household goods and Christmas toys. Mr. Greg’s’ store was at the end of Landry Drive, and it was the place to go for fireworks on the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve, a (very) cold soda, a steadfast smile and a sincere warm welcome by Mr. Greg himself. And, lastly, my most reflective memory of our little community is that of a new and small church parish that was beginning in a metal building in (about) 1964. Father Herman Barsen, from somewhere in the Netherlands, arrived, and we all went to mass in the metal building on Jane Street that would be the beginning of Nativity of Our Lady Church.
Anyway, back to what prompted this very loose rambling…Stein’s. I was a bit taken back when I drove through my childhood neighborhood and saw the empty lot where many ordinary and wonderful moments were spent by many of us. I knew I wanted to write a few words to say a formal goodbye. I understand how people and places are constantly evolving and changing; it is inevitable, but I do wish Dick and Jane still lived there.
Feb 26, 2023