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Louisiana >> Plaquemines Parish
sweet home, Louisiana
Plaquemines Parish, la Paroisse de Plaquemines
Navigation on the Mississippi River, though very wide at this
place, is not easy and requires the expertise of professional pilots taken aboard
along the trip.
So, in Louisiana, the "parishes"
are administrative divisions like the "counties"
in other states.
This parish takes its name from the
Amerindian word "Piakimin" which designates
the plaquemine, fruit of the plaquemine tree, also
known as "Kaki".
It would be Bienville
(Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, born
in Montreal, often called "Father of Louisiana",
1680-1767), going with his older brother Iberville
to establish a colony in Louisiana in the name of
the King of France, who would have so named the first
fort they built there in 1700 because it was surrounded
by numerous plaquemine trees. The name was eventually
kept for the parish.
But before that
In 1682, René Robert Cavalier, Sieur de
La Salle, led an expedition to the mouth of the Mississippi
River and planted a cross (today's memorial is between Buras
and Boothville) and claimed "the whole Mississippi
valley and lands it waters are French grounds, Louisiana,
in honor of Louis XIV".
Of course, Spain and England protested,
but luck allowed France to keep this enormous colony (the so claimed territory
covered more than a third of today's United States !) without being bothered or
almost for more than one hundred years.
It seems actually that in 1699, an
English Fleet Captain navigating the River upstream met
Bienville, who was going downstream in a small boat.
Bienville told him that the French had built a strong
fort, a little bit further on the River. Other
sources say that Bienville would have told him that
this River was not the big one the English were looking
for. Anyway, the English turned around and back
to the Gulf of Mexico on the basis of this lie.
Since then, this place (a little bit North of "Pointe-à-la-hache")
is called "English turn" : where the English
pelicans watch all these events ? These enjoy remains from the trawl.
Two forts subsist today : Fort St Philip
(East bank, difficult to access) and Fort Jackson (West
bank, poorly maintained but easy to visit). The first
settlers cultivated indigo, rice, sugar cane, oranges ;
fished shrimp and collected oysters. Communities were
created piece by piece, French, Italian and Yugoslavian
immigrants came in. Following the tale, Buras would
have taken its name from 7 French brothers who settled there
around 1840. But Gladys Armstrong, a visitor, informed
me by Email that this is just a nice tale (see this
site for the Buras / Burat genealogy) !
! There's a leak ! Yep, that's a gas and oil leak...
Beginning of the 20th century
Oil, natural gas and sulphur are discovered.
Plaquemines Parish becomes one of the richest parishes
in Louisiana. Levies are built to prevent flooding
due to the River, the Gulf and hurricanes ; towns
are developing. Port Sulphur take its name and
develops thanks to Freeport Sulphur, a company that
establishes there for...sulphur. For its workers
/ employees and their families, Freeport builds schools,
housing, shops, services...
Plaquemines Parish suffered from the
economic crises, several devastating hurricanes (mostly
Camille and Betsy, end of the sixties, who left almost
nothing up behind them) and of the fact that the local
economy (oil, gas, sulphur) moved away / slowed down.
For its around 27 000 inhabitants, there's
not much left... Offshore oil rigs, some industries (mostly on the North
and South ends), fishing and seafood industry, and administration. Some
take care of themselves (shop owners, orange fields...). Click here to learn
more (especially on fishing : Rosie's
And me ?
In August 1993, I settled in this little wood house in Port
Sulphur. My predecessors left some furniture there and I renovated a bit
(cleaning, painting...) to get a decent place to live. The most annoying
was the immediate proximity of Port Sulphur High School and of its football field
(10 yards from my house).
However, I could enjoy the proximity
of my colleagues and friends Willy and Bella, who arrived at the same time as
I did, and who settled in the big house right next to mine. We held a few
big fiestas there... But that will be for another page.
my house. Right, the building where Willy and Bella had an appartment.
My "Car park" deserves a mention... First
I bought a Nissan Pulsar Turbo for about 1000 dollars (since
I came completely broke in LA). Not very nice to see
at the beginning (it already had 120 000 miles), but a real
rocket ! I renovated it (wax, tainted windows, various
repairs) and it became the one you see on the picture.
OFF ! In front of my house with my car, a Nissan Pulsar Turbo (which died
a few months after I bought it)
then the computer began to behave erratically. So I went to ask what
it would be : too expensive to repair, and what's more the distribution chain
is starting to say "Bye-bye" to the engine ! The chief mechanic
advises me to exchange the car in their "second hand" department.
you'll tell them my car is a lemon !?" - "Me ? No,
So I went there , found another car I liked,
have mine tested by a salesman, but eventually did not agree with him since he
offers me only (!) 750 dollars for the trade-in of my Nissan (and I was lucky,
the computer did not show off during the test !) Dumb me, if I had known...
The following weekend, there I am again, as usual, going
shopping to New Orleans (an hour drive). The engine
begins to warm up : water cooling lines break one after
the other. I eventually get to town, a few miles at
a time, asking for water everywhere... After a few
attempts to find an open garage, and not willing to abandon
the car (how would I go back, anyway ?) I decide to take
an ultimate chance and go to the garage I already went to.
The salesman who tested the car and negotiated the week
before jumps out right in front of me and asks if I changed
"Maybe... Came to see what you've got..."
The car I wanted was sold, but I would have taken anything...
The salesman does not try mine again (relief...It would
probably not have started) and I get out with a red Hyundai
Excel which loses about a gallon of oil per 60 miles !
Not important, that will be quickly fixed next week.
The beige station wagon on the right
was Willy and Bella's car, which I offered them to
sell to new French teachers after they left. A few
months later, these don't want it anymore (they have
two cars) so I buy it back, since I know this Chevrolet
is really good and reliable.
So I put my Hyundai for sale, and
drive the Chevrolet. It took me almost six months
to sell the Hyundai, and once I got the money in my
wallet, I decided to offer the Chevrolet a good tune
up at the official dealer.
mistake : from that day on, it never stopped giving me troubles, was towed 6 times
in a few months by leaving me weeks without a vehicle.
forgot : "If it ain't broke', don't fix it !"
2 and Titine 3
So I finally made an intelligent investment
: the Nissan Stanza that you'll not see here but that you
can just imagine as a nice and comfortable silver berline.
real center of Port Sulphur : the drugstore, the gas station and the post office.
Big city ;)
OK, you understood that Port Sulphur was not exactly a
big city and that we didn't have any trouble deciding what to do. But, we
did have fishing, discoveries, a tennis field that was abandoned but that Willy
and Bell put back in shape, and... a Golf course ! Free for teachers !
Roland, our friend and colleague,
had the golf clubs and I went to play with him a few
times (I'm dumb for Golf, but I like to play the game).
Of course, we had to fight the heat, mosquitoes, and
the gnats (smaller but more ferocious than mosquitoes,
going even through your hair to your head skin !)
Finally, let's not forget the local
little restaurants : Blue Bayou in Buras, owned by
my friend Ruth (burned down, but was being reconstructed
when I left in 1997), Tom's Place in Empire (for oysters
and seafood...and Tom) and the restaurant of the new
Marina in Venice (fabulous steaks).
Roland and his wife Ness, Willy and Bella are leaving.
Three new French teachers arrive, and I'm a little worried when I go to Baton
Rouge to pick them up...
And I was wrong ! We don't
look very serious on the picture, but I assure you each one did a great job.
Nathalie (on the right) taught several years in Belle Chasse, while Jean-Marc
and Sophie (left) took my house in Port Sulphur. Jean-Marc taught there,
while Sophie taught in Buras. They moved to Monroe the next year.
joyous French teachers : a guide a three car/ furniture / ... buyers, before beginning
you're not dreaming : it IS a house on a truck.
for me, I'm moving !
Not very far actually : I finally got
to rent of of those teachers' apartments in Buras, which are much nicer than the
old buildings in Port Sulphur, and much closer to my schools.
No, it's not my house that's traveling
like this on the highway : it's a neighbor's one,
who is moving his house to New Orleans. Yes,
in the US one's can also move his house, not just
the furniture ! Impressing !
This apartments complex is reserved for the teachers
and their families : a little community that's very quiet and nice, secure in
an area that's not (a policeman was shot at less than 100 yards from my apartment
Apartments have 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms, well built, in a rectangle
in a big field, on piles to fight flooding and other pests.
three years, I only suffered there of the settling in the apartment next to mine
of a colleague with whom I had excellent relations with until then. Short
before my departure, she even wanted to kill me with a big knife, one of those
nights where I dared to ask her to quiet down. Neighbors, then the police
had to intervene to quiet her !
My sweet home
of course it wasn't that nice when I moved in. First I had to scrub the
floor with a knife to take off the dirt coat (grease, dust, hair, stickers...)
Then wash the whole thing with White Spirit and Javel. Then take off everything
I could (appliances, electric switches, vents...) and paint (three coats to cover
the walls dirt). Finally, put everything back in place and make the final
touch, all by 95 degrees F.
Two weeks of "hard
work" which were compensated by three comfortable years ! I even got
some more furniture, which I left most of for my successors.
Voilà ! It was "My home" in Louisiana...
Good souvenirs !
page : in the bayous !
Page créée le 10 décembre 2000 - Mise à jour le
10 décembre 2000
Pierre Gieling - tous droits réservés