Friday, November 25, 2016

Time to Fill Up Your December Calendar

Having now survived Thanksgiving and my food coma, we are looking forward to that busy last month of the year.  We've already got some events penciled in that look fun and at least two of them support local charities!

First up is the annual Battle of the Bloody Marys at Nader's Gallery on Saturday, December 3.

This year the good folks at Naders will donate a percentage of their sales for the day to Holy Angels and Gingerbread House.  We went to this event last year and sampled terrific Bloody Marys and took care of some Christmas shopping at the same time.  I am usually #teamedward on the Bloody Marys but willing to try new things!

The next event on my list is The Spirit of Christmas Brassed at the Broadmoor Presbyterian Church on Grover St. at 7:00 on Saturday, December 3.  This event is $10 at the door and will benefit The Salvation Army.  I love a great brass section so I'm really looking forward to this.   Here is a sample from Vimeo of the brass quintet:


The I-49 Brass Quintet at Broadmoor Presbyterian Shreveport from Frank Moore on Vimeo.

And then there is the classic It's a Wonderful Life at Shreveport Little Theater, this time as a radio play. This production runs December 1-11 and is sure to sell out, so order tickets ASAP if you want to see this.



We went to see The 1940s Radio Hour last year which was fabulous and I think (but don't know) that this will be the same sort of format - It's a Wonderful Life as a radio play.  Can't wait!

Finally, Stage Center on Common Street in downtown Shreveport is performing A Christmas Story through December 3.



It's not Christmas without A Christmas Story.

This Saturday, November 26, the annual Rockets Over the Red begins at 3 with fireworks closing the evening. If you're into crowds and fireworks this is a fun show.

I'm sure there are many more cool events going on that I haven't discovered yet; if you know of something please post in the comments and I'll follow up.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Okay Jerry, I Updated my Blog


A picture of Grumpy Cat. Just because.
I was chastised last night for not updating my blog more frequently (I'm looking at YOU, Jerry...) and it's true; it's been too long. I have some really good excuses though.

Excuse number one, and I know you will appreciate this, is that I'm so sick of election blather, political jibberish, and intolerance on both sides that I just could not make myself post anything on the election.  I did try...I posted on early voting, sort of, but really, I just couldn't.

Excuse number two: I have a real job. I've got three preps this semester (one of which I have not taught in fifteen years), and I've been working really hard trying to find strategies to improve the reading level of my kids and to get them EOC ready. (EOC is the state mandated End of Course tests).  My class begins testing on December 7 and I hope that's not an omen.

Excuse number three: I've been finishing my book on Cammie Henry. It is now once again in the hands of my editor. This will be her third read-through. The last one had very few suggestions and edits for me to make, so I'm hopeful that we are getting close to the end of this part of the process. We still have some things to do before publication that include getting maps made and selecting photographs. The index needs to be done. First we have to get the words right so I've been focused on that for several months. I'm SO ready to get Cammie's story out there. Her time has come.

Excuse number four: I've recently undertaken Administrative duties on the new Facebook page for the Shreveport Chapter #237: United Daughters of the Confederacy.  I've had to do a little research on the best way to set that page up, and put together a presentation for our group. The page has now launched and we are dedicated to using the page as a place to educate and share history.  It is non-political and non-controversial, so if you'd like to follow the page, please do! I feel like it is a huge responsibility that they have entrusted me to run this page and I want to do well for them.

Anyway, that's enough excuses as to why I haven't been up to date here as I should be. But add in to that the fact that I have a life outside of the keyboard (sort of) and that I also have a weekly blog post at DaTechGuy, and well, anyway...

We are out this week for Thanksgiving break and I plan on getting rested up for the final three weeks of the semester. I'm making as few plans as possible this week!  Thanksgiving dinner will be simple and small. On Wednesday you can find me at Flying Heart where growler refills are half-price!  We might make a run to Jefferson, Texas one day this week (Jerry, you in?). Other than that, I will be sitting outside on the swing reading a book with a fire in the fire pit and a cat beside me.

And maybe I will do better on updating my blog.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Time to do the "Thriller Dance"


I've been reading Shelby Foote's The Civil War trilogy which is excellent. My only regret is that I wish he had recorded the audio book; I love his voice.

As I was reading over the weekend, and with Halloween looming, I did a little research on Halloween during the Civil War period.

There's a really interesting article here, by Caroline Davis.  She notes a couple of images that suggest a spooky, autumnal theme to her: one of Jefferson Davis reaping skulls, and Ohio born politician, and Southern sympathizer, Clement L. Vallandigham, as a pumpkin.

Poor Jefferson Davis looks a little like a character in Michael Jackson's Thriller, doesn't he?  Terrible!

I'm not sure if those images were meant to evoke Halloween or just Fall and harvest time, but they certainly can be perceived as spooky.

Certainly the soldiers didn't have time to worry about Halloween!

Blogger Thomas Ruys Smith notes the same two images on his blog and makes the association of pumpkins and Halloween and records its publication date as October 31, 1863.

In truth, Halloween wasn't even a holiday back then and if anyone was aware of the date at all it would simply have been All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day and unless you were Catholic you probably wouldn't have even thought about it.

You can find a fairly complete history of Halloween in America here.  Another history can be found here, and yet another here.

Have a happy Halloween, do the Thriller dance, and grab some candy!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Early Voting in Downtown Shreveport

Early Voting: October 29, 2016
I voted.

This post will be a sort of preview for my post coming up Monday for DaTechGuy, but hopefully Pete won't mind too much. It won't be exactly the same so I should be okay.  ;)

Steve and I have election fatigue We are sick of it all.  I am, anyway. It's gone on too long and I've been sick of the Clintons for decades.  This has been one of the most absurd, most unpredictable, most irrational elections that I can ever remember. I don't have a good feeling about it at all. Not one bit.

So the weather was gorgeous yesterday and although it still feels like summer, it was nice to stand in that forty-five minute line, visit with neighbors, and make some new friends as we all waiting to exercise our American right to vote.

The line was literally a block long, extending all the way to the Hallmark store and reports are that earlier in the week it wrapped around onto Texas Street.  We didn't care. We got in line.

This really got me: there was an older gentleman wearing a face mask and his wife behind us. We visited a little, talking about the proposed Amendments mostly, and the man stepped out of line to sit in one of the folding chairs placed along the line.

"He's got Stage Four lymphoma," she said. "That's why he's wearing that mask. He was supposed to have surgery Friday but his platelets were to low."

It took no time at all for us to expedite these people to the front of the line.  I am so filled with love for this man who is so ill and so obviously felt terrible and all he wanted to do was vote.  God bless him!

We also met a very nice couple in front of us and before we reached the end of the line we determined our Six Degrees of Separation: she grew up in my neighborhood and her mother was my kindergarten teacher. She had her mother's absentee ballot in her purse.  She invited us to a Veterans Day concert at her church and we plan to go!

Veterans Day Concert

I was so busy visiting that I forgot to keep up with my Pokemon game - I was in the absolute middle of Pokestop heaven - with Gastlys and Haunters everywhere.

We voted, I got my Blue Dog sticker, and we walked down to Blind Tiger to eat. (They still do not have onion rings or any other craft beer besides Great Raft - shameful; support local beer!).
Blue Dog

After we ate we walked the length of Texas Street to the church so I could work the Pokestops and I noted that the voting line was still just as long as when we were in it; it was equally as long on our return trip back down the street later.

I am pretty confident as to how Louisiana is going to vote in the presidential race, but we have several other local races and a senate race that are all very important.

The Constitutional amendments are all gibberish - go here to decipher them before you go vote.  For example:

Act 677 (2016 Regular Session) amends Article XI, Section 5. “Do you support an amendment to provide that the manner of appointment for the registrar of voters in each parish is as provided by law and to require the qualifications of the registrar to be provided by law?”

Translation: Should there be standards for registrars and transparency in the hiring process?

We need a constitutional amendment for that?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Shreveport Work of Art Still Needs Funding for Restoration


Clio, the Muse of History
One of the great things about Shreveport/Bossier area is our love of art and our support of the arts. Another great thing is our love of history and our support of the many individuals, organizations and groups who both preserve and work to spread knowledge about our history.  Shreveport/Bossier has a fascinating history and many, many interesting characters have passed through our area.

The Caddo Parish Courthouse is in itself a work of art with a fascinating history.  Standing in front of the courthouse is a monument that is a true work of art and which is ignored by probably ninety-percent of the people who pass by.

Frank Teich, a Texas sculptor, created the Caddo Parish Confederate monument which was dedicated in 1906 before a crowd of thousands of residents and dignitaries.  It's a stunning work of art and my favorite part is the classical beauty, Clio.

Clio is the Muse of History who stands at the base of the monument in all of her classical beauty, holding a scroll in her left hand and with her right she is pointing to a memory book for the war dead.

As it turns out, Clio's arm was broken this past summer by a trespassing trumpet player who climbed over the decorative fence that encloses the monument, and then climbed the base of the monument. scaling his way up, he grabbed Clio's outstretched arm for support, and sat on a ridge just above her head to play his instrument. He rested his leg on her arm, and the arm shattered.

Clio's damaged hand

Just a few weeks after that, a vandal armed with paint filled balloons approached the monument in the dark of night, his face covered by a hood, and threw the balloons, thus dashing the monument with red paint and causing thousands of dollars in damage.  The photos below show some of the paint damage but trust me when I tell you it is much worse in person.

Paint damage

The artist, Mr. Teich has several other monuments in the city, including work at Greenwood Cemetery. It is a 30-foot tall granite and marble centaph depicting not just Clio, but also a lone soldier at the top of the column, and four busts of four Confederate generals. While Confederate monuments are present in many towns across the South, ours is unique in its beauty and composition. There is not another one like it.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

The Caddo Parish Confederate Monument 1905

The monument now needs our help.

The Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy has obtained two estimates from reputable restoration experts to repair Clio and to remove the paint. It isn't as easy as going to Home Depot, getting chemical, and a water hose. The estimates are both very close and both very expensive.

The UDC is raising money to restore this monument. The estimates are in stages - one is to repair the hand, another for the paint removal and that includes overall cleaning from the pollutants that are eating away at the stone.

We need to raise $6,000.

That's a lot of money and the UDC does not have it.  The UDC is a non-profit group that gives its money to charities, so writing a $6,000 check is out of the question. Your help is needed.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to the repair of the Caddo Parish Confederate Monument. Your support is needed now, more than ever. Your donation can be sent directly to the Shreveport Chapter of the UDC:

United Daughters of the Confederacy
Shreveport Chapter #237
P. O. Box 52083
Shreveport, LA 71135-2083

No amount is too small.  And those end of the year tax deductions are coming up!

Please share this post on Facebook and via email; I'm hoping a wonderful philanthropist will see our need and help save this priceless work of art in our city.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Take a Trip to the Mansfield State Historic Site and Civil War Battlefield


The hint of fall in the air Saturday lured people outside in great numbers this weekend.  While most people headed downtown to the Red River Revel, Steve and I went south, to the Mansfield State Historic Site, to hear a presentation by Dr. Cheryl White of LSUS who was speaking on ghosts and folklore around the Civil War battle site in Mansfield and the surrounding area.

Dr. White said the same thing Steve Smith said a few weeks ago when we did his walking tour of downtown: basically, if you talk about ghosts, people will come.  Smith told us that evening, "Do you think if I just said we're going to do a walking tour of downtown that people would come?"  Nope.  But if you throw in a few ghost stories, you get a crowd.

Dr. White had a standing room only crowd yesterday.

Her presentation was brief; about thirty minutes.  Dr. White recounted the basic history of the battle, and told of a few ghostly encounters people have had while walking the Mouton trail at the battle park.

The thing that she said that sticks with me that I found really interesting is that she said she had a conversation with a colleague about spirits one time.  This colleague is an astrophysicist who explained it this way.  She said you can't separate time from space. "Think of it as transparencies on an overhead projector," she said. You lay one transparency down over another, over another, over another...you can get glimpses of the one on the bottom, the one that was there first, but there are these other images on top of it.  Basically, we are occupying the same same space as those soldiers on that battlefield that April day in 1864.  Are they still here?

She explained it more eloquently, and it's interesting to think about in those terms.

After the presentation the audience had questions, which she addressed, and then Steve and I toured the museum and grounds.

It's been several years since I've been out there, something that I regret.  The place is a real treasure and I'm interesting in visiting more often.

Here is one of the most beautiful pieces in the museum: The Rose Mantle that stood in the White House through several early presidencies until renovations demanded a different color scheme.

The Rose Mantle

The museum itself is arranged chronologically; when you enter, go clockwise through the room, following the information panels and display cases which take you through time.

Mansfield State Historic Site Museum

The display cases are filled with relics both gruesome:

Medical tools used during the Civil War

and fascinating.

Belt buckles and other relics

There are also displays in the center of the room; this one illustrating hospital conditions.

The Mansfield Church as hospital

A closer look:



There are many text display boards with maps and photos to guide you:



I am fascinated with the shelves of books and documents in the presentation room; how wonderful it would be if this museum also functioned as a library and research center (and it may - I didn't ask).  I envision this room filled with large library tables for scholars to research and learn on the very site of this most definitive battle. I can see students of history examining books, diaries, letters, maps, periodicals of the time...simply fascinating.



After Dr. White's presentation, Steve and I took advantage of the beautiful afternoon to walk the grounds.  They do a wonderful job here in community education and in presenting many ongoing programs.  Recently the site hosted a program on baseball during the Civil War era (sadly we missed it) and each April there is a reenactment of the battle which draws thousands of people.

As you enter the park, the monuments are on the right. There are four: the Polignac Monument, the Colonel Beard Monument, the Captain Field Monument, and a monument placed in honor of General Taylor's victory at Mansfield.

The monuments

There is also a marker for the park itself placed by the Kate Beard Chapter 397 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.



As you walk the trails behind the museum, there are text markers to guide you.



Be sure to pick up a paper copy of the text of these markers in the museum before you begin your walk; the sun has damaged some of them rendering them unreadable, so the paper copy is quite useful.

Be sure to get a paper guide!

There is also a nature trail with markers along the way for various trees that are growing along the way.


Is Dr. White right?  Are there voices whispering through these pine trees?



The rail fence fascinates me for some reason...


A closer look at that marker:


Note the rise in the landscape: that slope that basically hid the Confederate forces from Union soldiers; as Union soldiers marched up that slope they suddenly became visible.  The Union soldiers knew the Confederates were there because there had been skirmishes, but imagine their surprise at the numbers of Confederates as they approached the crest of that slope, rendering visible their opponents.

Hwy 175 is on the left; the visitor's center on the right. The monuments are on the other side of this hill.

It's hard to get a sense of that unless you're actually walking that hill, but if Dr. White is correct and there are still "voices" there, I can hear them at that moment.

Here are a couple of good maps of the battle.

Here is the Facebook page for the Mansfield State Historic Site.  Follow their page to keep up with upcoming programs.  On October 29 the site will host their 23rd Annual 'Ghosts of the Past' tour with a tour of the battlefield conducted by authentically costumed guides who will act out various scenes along the trail. This program begins at 7:30 p.m.

Fall is a wonderful time of year to visit the park; the trees and grounds are beautiful and the air crisp with the promise of fall.  Take a trip!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Monday, September 26, 2016

Spot is Ready to Meet His Forever Human!

Spot is ready for his forever home!

You remember Spot?  So many of you chipped in to give him a chance!

Spot is a German Shorthair/Dalmation mix (or some semblance of that...) and is about 3 years old.  He is simply stunning.  He was owner surrender at Caddo Animal Control and was on the euthanasia list a couple of times -- the volunteers there kept buying more time for him, begging for his life.

No rescue could take him because he had no adopter and was heartworm positive.  That's a huge financial commitment for a rescue, so a bunch of people donated money to cover his medical expenses, a foster stepped up to nurture him, and Rockers Rescue stepped up to pull him from the shelter.

Spot was saved!

But now Spot is ready for his forever home. His foster has to give him up by October 21 because she is moving. She never intended to keep him full time; fosters save lives by adopting out and fostering
another.

Spot is on slow kill heartworm treatment and the rescue is committed financially to seeing that through. That would not be your expense as a foster or adopter.

He's up to date on his shots, he is dewormed, and microchipped. He has also been neutered!

His current foster has taught him manners and given him much love and TLC.  He's a very sweet and loving boy.  He likes car rides, hugs, peanut butter, and playing outside.

Spot is ready for a family to adopt him and love him forever.  He wants a yard to play in, a bed to sleep in, someone to pet his silky gray ears, and a family to love.

Spot has been a single dog and it's not clear how he will do with other dogs yet, but that can easily be determined.  If you'd like to Rockers Rescue.
meet Spot or want to consider adopting him, or even fostering him so he doesn't have to go into boarding, please contact

This baby has been through enough transitional situations; he needs a permanent, loving home.  Please share this with anyone you know who would be a fabulous human for Spot.

There is someone out there who is exactly the right match for this sweet boy.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Nova's Heart: Caring for the Pets of Shreveport's Most Vulnerable

I was at an event last weekend and ran into my friend Loraine who was spending her Saturday under a hot tent at the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival as part of her service with Nova's Heart.  I told her about a man I saw under an overpass near the LSU Med Center with his dog, and I worried about them because I had no dog food with me; I told her how I wished I had a Nova's Heart bucket in my car filled with small, manageable bags of dog food to hand to people in need like this man.

Loraine's face lit up, she smiled, and said, "Oh, that's Frank!  He's one of our clients - he has food, I promise you!  We take care of him ...".  I don't think his name was Frank - I can't remember the name she told me, but the point is, she knew the man, knew the dog, and knew where their normal location is.  The dog is micro-chipped, vaccinated, and on heartworm preventative thanks to Nova's Heart.

I've written about Nova's Heart before; the group is a relatively new 501c3 non-profit organization that was formed about two years ago in Shreveport when some people working in local animal rescue realized there was a need for service for the pets of our city's homeless citizens.  The group started small, working out of The Hub in downtown Shreveport with a handful of volunteers coming together several times a week to distribute food, leashes, and harnesses to the large homeless population downtown who had pets in need.

Loraine and her volunteers scratched together food donations, stored it in bins, bagged it in quart and gallon sized Ziplocs for easy transport, and distributed it themselves. Word spread, more people in
Bags of food ready for distribution to those in need.
need came out of the shadows with the knowledge that finally there was a group who would not look through them as if they were invisible, a group that would treat them like human beings, and a group who cared about their animals.

It's a statistical fact that many people that are homeless refuse to give up their pets and will feed their pets before they feed themselves. Their pets don't judge them and offer unconditional love and support.  Sometimes those pets also offer protection.  Living on the streets disrupts whatever your normal life was and caring for a pet lets them retain some sense of control, routine, and normalcy.  Nova's Heart recognized all of that and stepped up to help.

Nobody else in the area is doing this service for the homeless or those in crisis.

Nobody else in this area is doing what Nova's Heart does.

As more and more of the homeless pet owners heard about the help Nova's Heart offered, it soon became clear that this organization was growing faster than Loraine and her friends realized; they needed a bigger space and they needed some help.  They applied for and received their 501c3 charter in February 2015, about a year and a half ago.  Shortly after their application was approved, Nova's Heart was invited by HOPE Connections to partner with them as HOPE worked with the homeless population to provide a one-stop access point to a variety of services for them.

Now, Nova's Heart has a donated building (a former railroad container converted into a building) that sits right next to HOPE Connections on Levy Street.  This provides a place for food storage, a place for pet owners to bathe their dogs, and to obtain services for their pet while they get services for themselves at HOPE.  There was one lovely Saturday when a group of volunteers came together to paint the building "Nova's Heart Red" and install flooring. With the warm, spring sun blazing down, we turned up the radio and painted our hearts out -- volunteers coming together for good.

Saturday morning outreach
Every Saturday morning Nova's Heart and other local groups meet to provide outreach, food, and services to the homeless population in downtown Shreveport. Nova's volunteers also have an outreach program during the week where they go to various homeless camps and locations where their clients stay to check on the dogs, their owners, and provide what help is needed.

The success stories are many; just look at the Nova's Heart Facebook page to see one story after another. Click on the pictures tab; it's the pictures that get me. Look into the eyes of a dog that some stranger has helped and you see pure love. Look at the good work they are doing.

The love and compassion spread by Loraine, Bo, Carla, and all of the other volunteers is immeasurable. I have seen this with my own eyes.  I have never been downtown with Bo that he did not walk up to some person living on the streets, reach out and shake his hand, and pet the dog. Bo knows them all by name -- they are people; not "homeless" people.  There is no judgment at Nova's.

Nova's Heart is still a new, growing organization with an unfathomable potential to do good. However, there have been growing pains. These are all volunteers -- uncompensated volunteers -- that run this organization and none have had experience running a non-profit before. There is no high-salaried CEO and there are no plush offices. Nobody gets paid one dime for their work.  They don't want to be paid.  But as a new group they are still learning a few things about running such a 501c3.  Mistakes have been made, learned from, and corrected. Nothing egregious, fortunately, which is remarkable for such a new group.

They set up a Board of Directors, established bylaws, and called in an accountant to help oversee
Outreach
things.  The need for the organization far outpaced the learning curve and Loraine and her group worked hard to get these positions in place to help manage activities and donations.

In the past year, Nova's Heart has arranged and paid for the spay/neuter of over twenty dogs, provided at least thirty rabies vaccinations, and provided food, kennels, leashes, sweaters, harnesses, water bowls, and blankets for over seventy-five dogs; the number of food packages distributed is countless.

Social media can be a strong and positive tool for good and it can also be the devil. It is never the place to air grievances or personal issues, especially when others could be hurt.  The vicious attacks on Nova's Heart this week on Facebook have hurt my heart.  I know Loraine and I know her love for this organization; I know the deeply personal story that caused her to found this group.

Loraine is a quiet, private woman whose only concern is for the animals in need and she works very hard to do the right thing for them. She's learning on the go with this non-profit and when I say "on the go" I mean that literally.  She volunteers almost 40 hours a week.  Her heart is in absolutely the right place. She is the perfect woman to run this non-profit.

I write this post as a plea for a cease fire to the Facebook trash talk. If you haven't heard any of it -- wonderful.  Don't go looking for it; don't sink to that level. I don't want the work that Nova's Heart does to be damaged by disgruntled people with personal vendettas. Put personal drama aside and do good for our community.

The bottom line is this: there is a need for what Nova's Heart does. This city has a huge animal overpopulation problem and a huge homeless population. There is no other group that does what they do and certainly nobody that does it with the love and compassion and untiring devotion that they do and we are beyond lucky that this group exists.

Nova's Heart and its current Board of Directors has my one-hundred percent faith, trust, and devotion.


Disclaimer:  This post is from my own heart and the people at Nova's Heart had absolutely nothing to do with my writing it.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Can You Help Clio: Restoration Fundraiser is Now Underway!

Caddo Parish Confederate Monument
In June of this year, Steve and I went to the Caddo Parish courthouse to take care of some business and as we normally do, we stopped to admire the beauty and craftsmanship of the Confederate monument standing on the north side of the building.

But there was something wrong.

Clio's hand was gone.

Clio is the Muse of History who stands at the base of the monument in all of her classical beauty, holding a scroll in her left hand and with her right she is pointing to a memory book for the war dead.

As it turns out, Clio's arm was broken by a trespassing trumpet player who climbed over the decorative fence that encloses the monument. Mr. Trumpet Player then climbed the base of the monument, scaled his way up, grabbing Clio's outstretched arm for support, and sat on a ridge just above her head to play his instrument. He rested his leg on her arm, and the arm shattered.

Clio's damaged hand

Just a few weeks after that, a vandal armed with paint filled water balloons approached the monument in the dark of night and threw the balloons, thus causing thousands of dollars in damage.  The photos below show some of the paint damage but trust me when I tell you it is much worse in person.

Paint damage

The monument was installed by the Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1905 and is the work of Texas sculptor Frank Teich from Llano County.  Mr. Teich has several other monuments in the city, including work at Greenwood Cemetery. It is a 30-foot tall granite and marble centaph depicting not just Clio, the Muse, but also a lone soldier at the top of the column, and four busts of four Confederate generals. While Confederate monuments are present in many towns across the South, ours is unique in its beauty and composition. There is not another one like it.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

The Caddo Parish Confederate Monument 1905

The monument needs our help.

The Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy has obtained two estimates from reputable restoration experts to repair Clio and to remove the paint. It isn't as easy as going to Home Depot, getting chemical, and a water hose. The estimates are both very close and both very expensive.

The UDC is raising money to restore this monument. The estimates are in stages - one is to repair the hand, another for the paint removal and that includes overall cleaning from the pollutants that are eating away at the stone.

We need to raise $6,000.

That's a lot of money and the UDC does not have it.  The UDC is a non-profit, charitable group that gives its money to charities, so writing a $6,000 check is out of the question. Your help is needed.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to the repair of the Caddo Parish Confederate Monument. Your support is needed now, more than ever. Your donation can be sent directly to the Shreveport Chapter of the UDC:

United Daughters of the Confederacy
Shreveport Chapter #237
P. O. Box 52083
Shreveport, LA 71135-2083

No amount is too small.  And those end of the year tax deductions are coming up!

Please share this post on Facebook and via email; you never know when some benevolent soul will see it and see a need to help out!




Sunday, September 4, 2016

Take a Trip to Tour Oakland Cemetery in Shreveport

Victorian Grave Cover: Oakland Cemetery
Sometimes you have to play tourist in your own city. I've been extremely busy this past year or so with book revisions and teaching school, among other things, and so Steve and I haven't been able to take the usual round of day-trips that we so often do.

This makes Steve bored, and antsy. 

Yesterday, Saturday dawned clear and lovely, low humidity, and the slightest hint of a promise of fall, so we decided to get out of the house. We headed downtown to take a tour of Oakland Cemetery which is something we've been talking about doing for ages but have never accomplished -- until now.

My curiosity about Oakland was piqued when Friday, just by chance, I saw the Shreveport Times article about the McKellar mansion on Oakland Street. 

"That's Mary Belle's house!" and my heart skipped.

Mary Belle McKellar was a journalist and civic worker who wrote articles, often about history, that were published across the United States. I ran across Mary Belle in my research on Cammie Henry because Mary Belle was a friend of Cammie's and spent a great deal of time at Melrose working in one of Cammie's cabins. She lived in her father's home on Oakland Street in Shreveport and from there she wrote long, chatty letters to Cammie in which she updated Mrs. Henry on social events in Shreveport, the activities of common friends, what was growing in her garden, and local politics. Mary Belle was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and it is because of her work that Fort Humbug in Shreveport was designated as a Confederate Memorial Park, or site.

Her father was Reuben McKellar and my favorite story about him can be found in the book Shreveport's Historic Oakland Cemetery: Spirits of Pioneers and Heroes by historians Gary Joiner and Cheryl White.  Reuben McKellar was a former mayor of Shreveport and a judge:

"...he was known to routinely sentence offenders with a fine of $7.50 or 1,000 bricks. McKellar thought the fine of $7.50 sufficient for most misdemeanor offenses, and those offenders unable to pay were sentences to lay one thousand bricks on downtown streets."

Smart man!

Judge McKellar died in 1933 and his daughter Mary Belle died in 1941; both are buried in the family plot in the shadows of their historic home on Oakland Street.

Armed with our restlessness, a new curiosity about the McKellar mansion restoration, and a desire to see Oakland Cemetery again, Steve and I set off to act like tourists in our own city.

Oakland is right across from the truly grand Municipal Auditorium on the west end of downtown. Amazingly, our city leaders wanted to tear this stunning structure down not too many years ago but fortunately, saner heads prevailed and it has undergone a thorough restoration.  

Municipal Auditorium

This building deserves a blog post of its own but for now, suffice to say that it was built in the 1920s, has the most stunning brickwork I've ever seen with nearly every possible brick pattern known to man somewhere in its construction, and has Art Deco elements to die for.

This lamp makes my heart sing:

Art Deco Beauty

Of course everyone knows that the Louisiana Hayride started here and just about everyone you can name has played here from Patsy Cline, Elvis, Jackson Browne, George Carlin, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash...it's just endless.  Endless.  

Look at this:



and this:



The detail work on this building is just unreal.  And of course there is Elvis...



But, as I said, Municipal deserves its own post some day, so we will move on down the (simulated) trolley tracks to Oakland.

Facing the main entrance to Oakland Cemetery

We paused to admire the Asian Gardens which you can find right behind Municipal Auditorium:

Asian Gardens

It's incredibly peaceful here:

Asian Gardens

But our guide was waiting so we headed to the cemetery.

Oakland Cemetery was founded in 1847 but its oldest monument is 1842; graves were moved from the Fannin Street cemetery to the City Cemetery; the Fannin Street cemetery was then closed.  Years later when the property where the Fannin Street cemetery was graded and leveled for road building, a couple of skeletons were found which had been missed.  

Oakland Cemetery sits on rolling hills between Sprague Street and Milam Street, behind the First United Methodist Church and next to Municipal Auditorium. The last time Steve and I went through there, years ago, it was in terrible disrepair.  Neglect and vandalism had taken its toll.  

That is no longer the case.

We began our tour with Steve Smith of the Oakland Cemetery Preservation Society.  Mr. Smith gives these tours every Saturday at 1:00; just meet him in the parking lot.  But hurry -- he's been doing this for a long time and is scaling back at the end of the year.  

Mr. Smith was leaning against a crumbling wall which was buckling under the pressure drift of soil long retained by walls and wrought iron.

Oakland Cemetery

The tour consisted of a long walk through the cemetery with Mr. Smith pointing out graves and markers about which he would tell a story and make the people resting there live again.



At one time this cemetery was filled with wrought iron and cast iron fencing around various plots; Mr. Smith estimates that only about 30% of that fencing remains. Between the scrap iron efforts during the war and the vandals, not much of it remains. Many of the iron gates have been stolen by people who put them in their gardens. They even resorted to stealing bricks before the Preservation Society was able to slow all this down by its efforts at maintenance, upkeep, and security.  Roads have been paved, gates installed, trees trimmed, brush cut out, and now sprinkler systems are coming in and landscaping.  

Ornate fencing: Oakland cemetery

The markers there are unique but the people buried there are legendary.

Bedstead monument: Oakland Cemetery

We heard about a former slave who, after obtaining her freedom, married and opened a store in downtown Shreveport; she made lots of money but died penniless.

The cemetery has black citizens, white ones, a Hebrew section, city founders and bigwigs, an operator of a bordello, and children of Presidents.  There are about three hundred graves of Civil War soldiers.  

Oh, and I found Mary Belle and her dad:

Mary Belle McKellar: Oakland Cemetery

The stunning monument of beloved Shreveport historian Eric Brock is on the back, west end, which is sobering. Mr. Brock died in 2011 at the young age of 45 and, fittingly and he now rests in Oakland Cemetery.  Brock was instrumental in the effort to preserve this landmark. Look closely at his monument if you go visit: the lace pattern from his wife's wedding dress is worked into the detail of the stone. It's lovely.

The tour ends upon the top of the highest hill in the cemetery, overlooking downtown Shreveport. It is the Yellow Fever mound where nearly 1,000 Shreveport citizens are mass buried in trenches. The 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic decimated Shreveport's population.

We spent about two hours on the tour and I can promise you, if we had started right over, Mr. Smith could have done it all over again and we would not have heard the same stories -- there is so much history there and so many colorful characters.  I came right home and ordered the Joiner and White book so I can learn about some of the other people there.

Even better: Mr. Smith does a History Ghost Walk on Saturday nights at 8:00, starting at the Confederate Monument in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse. He invited us to come along last night, so of course we did.  Another two hours of walking and touring, this time with Mr. Smith in period dress and displaying a iPad with photos of historic Shreveport scenes to augment the tour. I have lived in Shreveport my entire life and learned things from him that I'd never known before.

Did you know Howard Hughes was arrested as a peeping Tom here?  He wasn't the creeper as it turns out, but hey, anything can happen in Shreveport.

Again, if we did the Ghost Walk tour again, I can assure you we would hear completely different stories.  Mr. Smith's vast knowledge of our city is fascinating.

I highly recommend both tours, especially now that fall is in the air, there is no better time!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation