Sunday, June 09, 2013


But first let me introduce my second sister arriving from New Orleans---meet Darlene Duncan Phd who has also come to connect with her vagabond brother.  She has agreed to tour the area with me, reviewing it's wonders and sharing her insights.  She is by far the boldest of our 4 siblings---having ranged the globe doing adventurous things.

  I take her to Sondheimer--- have her stand---holding a stick--like she once held a baton--at the very spot where she first went public with her grand schemes.
A colored school stood here----one big room. 
AT AGE 13 she and her 10 YR OLD sidekick--Linda Vickery-- rented the school for one night-- to produce a show.  They prepared flyers announcing the big event--charged 25 cents admission---and PACKED THE HOUSE.  (she-- modestly--wants me to tell you that this was before television came to Sondheimer)  I cringed--fearing the worst.  But they proceeded to Wow the crowd with baton twirling, acrobatics, piano playing and joke telling.  To my utter amazement--THEY PULLED IT OFF. I WILL NEVER FORGET IT ---She went on to bigger and even gutsier things.  Will cover one of them in upcoming blog. Having a sister so bold has always inspired me to be bolder.

One mile from Sondheimer---President Theodore Roosevelt--came to hunt bears---His guide was one of our local fellows: BEN LILLY: (one of the world's great hunters:  Roosevelt was impressed enough to write a bit about him.  Lilly got a small bear--roped him--ready for the president to shoot.  But Hey---there's no sport in shooting a roped bear---Roosevelt ordered it released----IT WAS THE FIRST TEDDY BEAR.  (and now you know)

And now to Lake Providence, La---1863---Gen Grant---trying to avoid a bloody battle at Vicksburg.Mississippi----A fortified city---blocking Union river traffic--- tried to reroute the whole river---- to bypass Vicksburg----by digging a short canal right here.

Thousands of soldiers and equipment dug away for weeks---only needed a quarter mile ditch----the river----hopefully ---would cut a new path bypassing the stubborn Confederate city,  Great plan-----Didn't work---The river level suddenly fell and the scheme failed.  He tried the same thing again---near Tallulah----Didn't work.  And so he was forced into a bloody battle where many thousands died.  Vicksburg was taken.

Big as this was---It's not the local event that has influenced the life of every American.
I'm coming to that.
This is interesting too---just a few miles from my home---Poverty point Earthworks.  Huge Indian mounds up to 70 feet tall---built a thousand and 300 years before Christ. 
 The center of a ancient culture---this formation---believed to be the figure of a bird one half mile wide.
There's the biggest mound---the head of the bird.
My brother---now deceased---State Representative for this area----He introduced legislation to preserve Poverty Point---got it passed and I'm pleased to report that it is now under consideration to be made a World Heritage site.  (sorry about the picture--will try to get another)
Nice as this is---will not likely influence every American.  I'm coming to that.
 This has influenced millions of Americans---IT IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF DELTA AIRLINES----Tallulah, Louisiana. 
You see it started out as a crop dusting company---right here---then began to carry passengers.  read about it:
But wait!  I have something even more influential to show you---something that Surely has influenced every American.
 And here it is:  Blooms arcade---completed 1925--(now being made into apartments)  THIS IS THE FIRST SHOPPING MALL IN America---Tallulah, Louisiana.   I shopped here when I was a boy. We are proud to have started malls.
 Let me be a bit dramatic---and tell the story this way:  Cotton was the lifeblood of the southern economy--- very labor intensive-- so we imported slaves to do the  hard work----millions of them.  The difficult job of separating the seed from the cotton was solved by Eli Whitney's cotton gin--a great leap forward.  Even so---cotton was labor intensive---Especially the harvesting of it.  Picking cotton required thousands of (usually black) laborers who would pluck the fluffy stuff from needle-sharp bolls by hand---at the slow rate of about 250 pounds a day.  For a long time no one could imagine how this process could be mechanized.  And then---And then---just up the road from Sondheimer a very clever guy named John Rust began twisting a roughened nail in  a cotton boll. The cotton wound itself around the nail and could be pulled out of the boll.   BINGO!! the winning idea was born.  Fast forward a few years and giant machines---with thousands of spinning "nails" are moving through 5 rows of cotton, extracting tons of the stuff in minutes----each machine replacing 500 workers. 
See a picture and read about it here: 
The cotton picker---replacing 500 workers has caused social convulsions in my home towns and all across the South..  I will pick up the story in my next entry.
Eventually, I want to share with you some Sondheimer stories you may find hard to believe.
There is an overarching point I want to make from all this---stay tuned.


Sondra said...

Hi Randy, well we Southerners know we are the center of the Universe and your post tells the world Im enjoying your homecoming posts.

Gypsy Boho said...

I am enjoying your interesting and informative posts about events that occured in my home state of Louisiana.

Tesaje said...

I always thought that the replacement of manual labor by machines enabled the rejection of slavery as the basis of an economic structure. Of course it was replaced with a de facto serfdom economy to man the industrial machines and the subsequent upheavals in fighting for rights.

Bob in LA said...

Wow...a wonderful legacy...and in Louisiana at that!?! Thank you!

Steve said...

Very good post! thanks for saving that stuff!