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The Early Days

Lifelong resident Geno Blanchard who is also part of our board of directors was kind enough to share his experience growing up from a kid in Pierre Part Belle River.

When I was a child

Geno Blanchard

As a resident of Pierre Part, Louisiana, I have vivid memories of growing up in a time when there was no road on Bayou Drive where we lived. To get across Bayou Pierre Part, my grandfather would row us in a skiff to catch the school bus on what was then Hwy 70, now known as Lee Drive. Grocery shopping was also an adventure, requiring us to cross the bayou to catch the old Pierre Part rolling store. Since there were no gas lines on our side of the bayou the propane truck driver had to pull a long hose across the bayou to fill up our propane tanks.

The area where I grew up had a few houses along the bayou with vast areas of farmland and cattle. My grandmother’s family, the Hébert’s, owned the property where I lived. They grew cotton, tobacco, and indigo, along with other staple foods needed to raise a family. Raising cattle, hogs, and chickens was common in the area. However, during the spring of the great flood of 1927 when the Atchafalaya River and the Mississippi River flooded all the land in and around Pierre Part, my family moved to Paincourtville and stayed there until the waters receded.

My grandfather worked as a syrup maker at the Crochet family's syrup mill. In addition to his syrup-making duties, he would also cut hair and grow okra during the rest of his time. Later, he worked as a syrup maker for the Theriot family in what was then called Little Brusly. In April of 1958, my grandfather was even featured in the National Geographic on page 551 of Volume CXIII number four, working at the Theriot syrup mill in the lower right-hand corner of the page. He also worked as a syrup maker for Leland Theriot, the grandson of the Theriot family, who had a syrup mill in Belle River.

My father, on the other hand, worked as a moss picker until he was old enough to work in the cypress lumber industry. Unfortunately, when the lumber industry played out, there was very little work for him to do to raise a family. Since there was no road to Morgan City to find work in the oilfield or shipyards, he moved our family to the Poplar Grove Plantation in Port Allen. There, he worked for the Wilkerson family on a dairy farm along with other families from Pierre Part.

My mother's father died during the great flood of 1927 in Paincourtville, just one month before she was born. Her mother remarried a fisherman who would take the family on trips to Bayou Pigeon fishing on the way there and back. My mother would tell me stories of living in palmetto huts along the bayou at night while the men would fish. There were no such luxuries as tents or camps since they were poor fishermen.

Looking back on my childhood, I am grateful for the experiences and memories I have. It was a time of simplicity and hard work, but also of strong family ties and community spirit.

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