Evergreen - Memories Letters
I was born on May 19, 1928, the
sixth of ten children of Louis Matthews, Sr. and Ezida
Francois. The oldest child, Wilson, died in 1918 during
a big flu epidemic. In 1934, the girl of a set of twins
was stillborn. My parents raised eight of their
children and seven orphans. My father was also raised
as an orphan; therefore, he was never able to refuse
anyone in need.
We worked very hard as sharecroppers for only half of the profit, which made our portion very minimal. Due to the necessity of my help on the farm, the extent of my formal education at the Evergreen School was only until the fourth grade. By the time I was 12 years old, I went to work with E. E. Rabalais & Son cleaning bricks to build an addition to St. Anthony's Catholic School. After a lot of hard work, Curtis Deaville and Joe Bordelon offered to work with them as their helper and eventually taught me how to lay bricks. I was making 30 cents per hour as opposed to 25 cents per day on the farm. I worked as a brick mason for 60 years.
For quite a while, I would see this young girl skating on the school yard, but I didn't know who she was. It wasn't until I was 19 years old that a friend, Odessa Roy, introduced us to one another. Her name was Verlie Galland and she was 12 years old. We remained friends for several years, but never dated during that time. In December, 1952, after sErving two years in the army during the Korean War, we got married. We had four children: Ricky in July 1954, C.J. in August 1957, Stephen in June 1960, and Sheryl in October 1962. In 1957 we reluctantly moved to New Orleans out of necessity for job opportunities and remained there until 1962. We returned to Evergreen where I continue to live today. My wife recently passed away, in May 2007. She was the first child baptized in the Evergreen Catholic Church after the first resident priest came in 1934.
Additional memories of Louis Matthews Jr. May 19, 2008
Ed. I am writing about myself and my friends, Allan Marcotte, Walter Scallan, Merson Ducote, Elvin Ducote. Elvin was the oldest, so he ruled the bunch. We would take a shortcut through Mr. Alex St.Romain's field to go to Walter Scallan's place and in this field he had a nice watermelon patch, and every time we would go through the field, Elvin, would go thump the watermelon on the edge of the field to see if it was ripe, he would say no, it is not quite ripe, but it will be ripe soon. One day coming back from Walter's house, he thumped a watermelon and he said it was ripe so we pulled it out, then up popped Mr. St.Romain and he said, oh you picked my watermelon that i was saving for my family, he told us the melon was not ripe yet, so he got his his knife out and cut
the watermelon in two and sure enough it was green, he said sit down and eat that watermelon. Being the friends that we were, we all pitched in and help him eat it. We ate every bite of that green watermelon, it is funny we did not get sick. Mr. St.Romain, said this is not all your punishment, now i am gone tell your daddy what you did, and when Elvin got home his father was waiting for him with a razor strap and did he get a whipping. When you got a whipping with a razor strap you knew you had been whipped.
Some of my other friends were Lou, Dean, Johnny and Ervin Green. One day we were playing in the yard with my sisters, Ethel and Mattie, and my father had gone bird hunting with his b.b. gun. He was on his way home, so I ran to meet him to bring the b.b. gun home.
Maddie and Ethel each grabbed Dean and Lou and held them in front of them and yelled "Free Shot", so I raised the b.b. gun and shot. I missed Dean and Lou, but I hit Ethel in the side. Jack, one of the young boys who was living at home told Ethel pick up your blouse and let me see, he said it's not bad I see the bb's under the skin and I can take it out for you. He got out his pocket knife, opened it and stuck it under the bb and pushed and the bb popped out and it did not even bleed.
Today there would be a hospital stay and a 20,000.00 surgery fee, not to mention the medicine she would have to take for infection.
Louis Matthews, Jr.
Additional memories of Louis Matthews, Jr. June 9th 2008
Ed, I never told you just how poor we really were, so this is what this letter is all about.
When I was growing up we didn't have a milk cow, so we never had milk to drink, my mother would make couche-couche. She would warm a little bit of water and put a little bit of sugar in the water and that is what we would use in our couche-couche instead of milk. We called it, " sweet water". Thank God for couche-couche and sweet water. That is what got me where I am today.
I did not eat vegetables, although we had plenty of vegetables. On Sunday's my mother would kill a big yard hen and make a fricasse. At that time the adults ate first and the children ate last. Being the youngest child I was always last to eat. So my turn at the chicken meat was a foot, leg and wing tip. I would suck the leg and wing tip bone dry until there was nothing left. I guess that is how the saying, "bone dry" got started.
In fact I did not know that a chicken had a breast, thigh or full wing until I got married.
I have to close for now Ed, there is more I would like to say about living on the plantation, but I dare not talk.
Louis Matthews, Jr.
Additional Memories of Louis Matthews, Jr. May 22, 2010
The Survival of the Church of the Little Flower in Evergreen
The church was built in 1927. When the Depression started in 1928, the church was still being built. People were very poor, and nobody had any money. When you visited the church, you had to put one dime in the collection basket for each person. The people who could afford it paid for a whole pew. Only they could sit there, nobody else could sit in that pew but the people who had paid for it. Everyone else had to stand. In the early- to mid-thirties, our priest was Father Dube. He was a very good, hard-working priest. In the fall of the year when people were harvesting crops, he would go around to the farmers and beg for a sack of cotton from each farmer to make money for the church. One day Father Dube came to our farm when we had just picked our first sack for the afternoon. All of the kids were under the wagon trying to cool off in the shade because it was very hot. My mother was fanning my father because he had a disease and he couldn’t breathe. Father Dube asked for a sack of cotton, and my father said he could surely have a sack of cotton. Then Father Dube asked if he could have another sack of cotton, and my father told him that he would gladly give him another sack if he could, but he didn’t have one. He said his children were resting and his wife was fanning him, and he couldn’t ask them to pick cotton when they needed to rest. But he told Father Dube if he’d like to put a sack around his neck and go pick it himself, he was welcome to. And Father did. And that’s how Father Dube got money. He built a pen in the back of his truck, and he would take whatever people could give him. If you could give a pig, a goat, a duck, sheep, chickens, eggs or anything, he’d take it. And that’s how the church survived.
Written by Lucy Matthews
From Junior Matthews