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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 turned back...

Did 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) !

Boooss !  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 Website

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.

Left, 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.

SHOWING OFF !  In front of my house with my car, a Nissan Pulsar Turbo (which died a few months after I bought it)

But 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. 

"But you'll tell them my car is a lemon !?"  -  "Me ?  No, why ?"

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 my mind...

"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.

Tragic 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.

I forgot : "If it ain't broke', don't fix it !"

Titine 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.

The 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).

Time flies...

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.  

Four joyous French teachers : a guide a three car/ furniture / ... buyers, before beginning to teach.

No, you're not dreaming : it IS a house on a truck.

As 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 !

Teachers' apartments

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.

In 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 !

The apartment complex

The main room

My sweet home

Oh, 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 !

Next page : in the bayous !

Page créée le 10 décembre 2000 -  Mise à jour le 10 décembre 2000

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