William Victor Ladner
These stories were taken from a taped conversation we had with Paw Paw in 1989. I want to give you a little background on him before you read his stories.
William Victor Ladner was born September 29, 1906 in Waveland Ms. He was known to family and friends as Vic. His parents were Etienne (pronounced A-Shan) Ladner and Eva Lena Roth. His father was killed, and he was left at age 19 to care for his mother and small brothers and sisters. He worked hard to care for his family. As a result he did not marry until he was nearly thirty years old. He married Lucille Irma Wiese, known as Irma. They had two sons and two daughters. Vic continued to work hard all his life. He was a good man, as any who knew him would tell you. I always get the same reaction when I tell people who my grandfather was. "Boy, that was a good man!" He died at the age of 91, on October 7, 1997. He is greatly missed by us all. But thanks to a tape recording we can still enjoy his enthusiasm for life and his family.
Beach Front Property
My great grandfather was one of the first beach property owners. (Guillaume Victor Ladner)
There were some others, let's see there was a Saucier and Jean Quave. You might have heard about Jean Cuevas from Ship Island. Jean Cuevas was put in jail by the British because he wouldn't tell them the shorter way to get to New Orleans. He knew it, but he wouldn't tell them. He must have been a friend of my grandfather's. There was another frenchman who had property on the beach at that time too but I can't remember his name. I know that about them because I read it in the Herald in the 1940's. Know your coast, it was. I went to Tante Ledi and asked her, "Who is this Victor Ladner their talking about?" And she said, "That is your great grandfather."
The house Victor Ladner built went through all of those hurricanes and it held. It must have been built in the mid, no early 1800's. Just think of that! Until Camille! Camille took everything on the beach in Waveland to Lakeshore. Everything! There wasn't anything left on the beach.
Bread Baked in a Clay Oven
I can remember when I was a boy, of course my great grandfather was dead, but one of my great Uncles, Jules Ladner, one of Papa's Uncles lived. He was living in his daddy's house. They had a dirt oven in the backyard. A clay oven, where they baked their bread. An oval shaped oven. They'd build a fire underneath, you see. Get that clay hot and all. And they cooked their bread, and that was the best bread! I must have been about four or five years old. About five I'd say. And we'd go there. Mama would take us there, we lived close by; you know. And we'd go by and she'd bake a weeks supply of bread. They had a big family you see; and she had a special table. With a white table cloth and had all that bread on it. She'd make round loaves; homemade bread. Had that table with nothing but bread. It'd last a whole week. She'd bake for a whole week. So, we'd go up there. Mama had just Hilda and I then. I think it was; and she said, "Now don't y'all ask for any bread." because you see Mama and them made biscuits and galettes. They (his aunt) baked light bread. Homemade bread. So that was a treat. So she knew we liked that bread. So, we'd go over there and she'd say, (his aunt) "Y'all want a piece of bread?" I'd look at her, and she'd say, "I know y'alls mama told y'all not to ask for anything." but she went and cut us each a piece of bread. And boy I'll tell you that tasted like cake to kids back then you know!
Springs, Wagons and Appendixes
So one day we went there; Mama said, "We're going over there." and they was all crying. I'll never forget it! And this was one of the sons, Jules Ladner. Which is Henrietta Dubuisson's uncle, her daddy's brother; Jules. I was still just a little kid, I hadn't started school yet. So let me tell ya, back then the only transportation we had was the train. There weren't any cars yet. We had horse and buggy's. So, he had; Jules, I used to call him Mr. Jules. He had a ruptured appendix. Now just think of this! So, they put a spring in the wagon, put the mattress on top of the spring and put him on there and took him to the depot. Uncle Tom Bourgeois was ticket agent at the depot. And he called New Orleans, and told them they had someone to put on the baggage car. So they stopped and they put him on the baggage car and brought him to Gulfport on the train. And old Dr. Parker operated on him and saved his life! Just think in those days, you had a busted appendix and had to do all that. And they had to put him in the wagon on a spring so it wouldn't jar him.
So, they had a big scuppernong arbor, a grape arbor, a big one. So Papa and them said that their grandpa, when the British came to Ship Island, he buried his money in an iron pot. Because when the British came ashore they took everything you had, you know. So, and then papa's house. Papa and Tante Beb and all them were raised there (his grandfather's house). It was next to his you see. But, the house I'm talking about was Uncle Jules, where he lived; was daddy's, daddy's house. So my great grandpa's. But in the back a little ways, adjoining their property was my grandpa, one of my great uncle Jules brother's. (Etienne) My grandpa was Uncle Jules brother you see. So, Papa used to go around probing with an iron rod. You know. And I said "Papa whatcha doin'?" I must have been six or seven then. I think I had started school. And I said, "Papa whatcha doin'?" and he said, "I'm looking for my pot. There's money buried all over round here." he said. (Paw Paw laughs) He used to go all around with that rod digging down in the ground trying to see if he could hit an iron pot, or anything. See, they put it in these iron pots, see. (Laughs) (Robyn asks, Did they ever find anything?) They never did, No. So in later years after I married and came to Gulfport. Calvin Ladner, he was one of Uncle Jules sons, that's the Kenneth Ladner and them that's got the refrigeration. Uncle Jules is their grandpa. You see, which is Papa's uncle. Their grandpa and papa's daddy were brothers, you see. Okay, so, Calvin Ladner one day comes and says, "Come here I wanna tell you something." He says, "Let's you and I go to Waveland. We've got to go in the winter, when the Nix's are in New Orleans." Dr. Nix and them are from New Orleans, they had owned the property next to my great grandpa's house. In later years they bought my great grandpa's property. They own all that property, the Nix's from New Orleans. But, anyway, the scuppernong vine was still there, part of it. He said (Calvin), "You and I are going to find that money." I said "Papa told me about that." he said, "Yeah, grandpa used to tell me that he buried it down there. Grandpa used to tell me where it was buried" I said, "Yeah, but don't you think he dug that up later years, he didn't let it stay there." so he said, "You and I are going one night." So I told mama (Maw Maw) I'm going to Waveland with Calvin Ladner. So we went. We went out there to the property, he said, "It's right along in here somewhere." But we didn't dig for it. But someone told me later, that one of his boys, now he trusted me before he did his own son. That's right, he told me, he said, "My boys don't know about this, just you and I."
So later years, I was telling someone in the family, and they said yeah well you know them boys did go over there and dig for that. See in the old days they buried money around like that.
Some Times I Dream of That Place
And I can remember that property. Now the storms would keep coming; and the beach; it'd keep eating the beach up; you see. And I can remember that property was high up on the beach; on a bluff like. And they had steps that go down to the road. It was a sand road in the front. But out in the front of their house there were stumps in the water. From maybe a hundred years before all that was land. And the stumps are still there. It (the gulf) kept eating up the dirt, but there are stumps out in the gulf there in front of their house; you see. But, I picture it every now and then, I dream of that place. I can picture how it looked.
But anyway, so, We; now; Papa, the house he was raised in; my grandpa's house. When Papa got married he built him a little house back further north from the beach, see. But my grandpa's house, about a block from the beach, and you could see the water rolling up on the beach, you know, and I took Lennis over there and was showing him. You can't get up in there now, its grown; brush up in there; you know. And there's other people own that. But we stopped on the beach and I pointed it out back in there. I showed him where his mama and papa and all of them were raised, it was back in there. And he said,"We gotta get back in there one day!" So we had planned to go back and we were going to ask. So we looked on the mailbox right where we parked and it said Nix on the box. I said that's the people that owns this property. I said, "We're coming back, and I'm going up there, you and I, and we're going to tell them who we are and that our grandpa owned this property and they bought it and so forth. And we'd like permission to walk back in there and look." You know. And we planned to do that but he got sick and died, you see. We never did get back.
The Hurricane and Navigational Charts
But anyway. So, Papa was hauling shells for the county, or the city. He hauled these clam shells for the roads and stuff. And he'd get them out of the Louisiana marshes. So, I'll never forget that when they left, the weather was kinda squally; like this see, and rough out there. But they left. There was five men on the boat and they had the load of shells. They were coming home when the hurricane hit. So, they stayed at St. Joe's lighthouse. Which is past Lakeshore at the end of the road on the beach. You've been that way haven't ya'll?
(Robyn, Mmm, probably many years ago) Never have huh? So they, uh, it was Papa and Uncle Semore Necaise, his name was Simon, but they called him Semore in french (He laughs). But anyway, uh, That evening it got so bad Papa said, "We better make it to the lighthouse" So they were coming, see to the lighthouse and the Kahler's, you know the Kahler's that have the grocery store? His grandpa, Eddie Kahler's grandpa, was a boat Captain, and they were going into New Orleans and Papa and them was coming outta there and they passed one another. And papa hollered at them, they passed real close to one another. He hollered at them that they better come back, they weren't going to make it. They said, "Oh, yeah we'll make it." But they didn't, they made the first bridge, the Rigolets; the next bridge, see back then they didn't have no traffic bridges, or nothing you see. And the second one, they didn't make it. They hit the bridge and the boat went into pieces, and drowned everyone of them, the men. So anyway, that day that the storm hit I watched that water come over the beach road, and you see there's a marsh on the side of our house. A wide marsh. And on the other side of that marsh there was the Catholic church on the beach. Well that marsh; you know the marsh grass is that high, so I watched that water come over the road and into the marsh. And the marsh got pretty soon where you couldn't see that grass. It looked like a bayou in there instead of a marsh. See, and I kept saying, "Mama let's get out!". In the evening when the water started coming in that marsh, I said, "Mama let's get out!" She said,"We will later, we will." So it was getting dark, well it wasn't no sun, it rained all day like it did here. Like it was this morning, that's the way it rained all day, and I said, "Mama let's get out it's getting late!" I was nine years old, that day, 29 of September 1913, on my birthday. So I begged mama all day. I was scared really, and look when it got so nearly dusk, and our family cemetary was on my great grandpa's property, joining ours right there. We had a barb wire fence with these steps you go up over you know. And just then, she said, "Well go on over to Tante Ledi's and get Robert then." Edward Necaise and them's daddy. Uh, he must've been about twenty years old. She said, "Go get him to come help us with the other two kids." And let me tell you when I went down our back steps the water was up to my knees. Already! Boy, when I got to that cemetery; and I was frightened, I was only nine years old and that wind was blowing me! Ohh, and I know mama must've been excited. I couldn't hardly stand up. It would take me. Just when I got to those steps, Here comes Robert Necaise, with some coats under his arms, to get us. Taunte Ledi said, "Go get mother at the house." y'see. And good thing! Boy, we got to Taunte La Di's and all them kin, Henrietta Dubuisson, her mama and them they all came, they lived right close, half a block, and all the kinfolks, came to Tante Ledi's. ( Robyn, was she higher up?) Oh, they were back from the beach about two blocks. So, uh, we went. And honey, it blew that night! Taunte La Di's house felt like it was about to come off the blocks a couple of times! Everybody was scared, you know, And so the next morning, it blew on out; the next morning bout toward daylight, like Camille did, it started calming down the next morning. The sun came out and it was just as smooth. So we went to see the damage. We went by the house first. My grandpa's house; boy, it was (laugh) one of them old time houses. Look you know it was old when it had one of those dirt chimneys on the outside. They had, the roof was big homemade shingles, cypress shingles. And uh, an old time house. The blocks were cypress blocks. The house stood about that high off the ground. It was off the foundation, but it didn't go to pieces. It was kinda like this (Robyn Laughs) And the flooring was this wide cypress boards about 15 to 18 inch boards. Plain straight boards, ya know. Well they was bowed up, clothes wrapped around like, picture that. Clothes and furniture under the house. Everything, the only thing we had left was the clothes on our backs. Let me tell you all this, those old time houses had high ceilings and you know it was about a foot from the ceiling, the water mark was around. We'd of drowned like rats in that house, everyone of us. We'd of drowned in there, y'see.
So my daddy and them were worried about us, my daddy said. Papa said, "Oh, I hope they got out of that house!" And we were worried about them. We didn't think we'd ever see 'em. But, I got a book on hurricanes, Kenneth gave it to me, from the 1700's. I've got a book on all of them. I read in it about Captain Kahler and them. So I was telling Mr. Guice about this way back, and he wanted me to come to his office. He wanted to get that on tape. I never did go tell him you see. So in this book Kenneth gave me it's got all this about Captain Kahler, and Mr. Guice and his wife when they were young. And I was telling him one day about it and I said, "Doggone, if I'd of come and gave you that my daddy would have been in a book." He said, "I would of gotten it in there." You see. They had about Captain Kahler and they all drowned and his son, Eddie Kahler's daddy, they went over there to Louisiana, and found his daddy where they buried him, and they brought the body back . Okay, so back to Papa now.
The next morning we're all out there after we left the house you see, it was destroyed. We went to the beach, y'see and we kept scanning the water. So after awhile I saw a speck and said, "Ohh, I believe that's them! Look at that boat, it's a skiff coming." And boy, when they got from here, I guess, about to the other end of the street down there. One of them stood up and was shaking his shirt or something in the air. I said "That's Them! That's Them!" and we all got excited. Y' see. Sure enough it was them. But the boat,,, let me tell you what happened. So, when they made it to the lighthouse they didn't get all the way up to it. The schooner sank, it was loaded, it sank. It's still there. And they swam. They had to swim, in all that rough, high waves, the people all could swim. They swam to that light house, see. Okay, that boat that sank in 1915, is on the Navigational Charts today. So I was telling Mr. Ford, F. Ford, the lawyer. I went.., he had a yacht, he had a nice one. He said, "Vic, if you get off a week." That's when I worked for Joe Whittman. He said, "We're going to the rodeo in Grand Isle." That was before we had them here. So I went to Joe and he said, "Sure man, don't miss that opportunity. Go." So I went five days with them on that yacht. I was telling them about Papa's scooner and he said, "We're going to pass right by it." He got his chart out and put it.., he had a big yacht, he put it on the table and I pointed it out. There it is right there. So when we got there he said, "Right here is where it's at."
Handsboro, Ships, and School Days
But any way, alright, that was in '15. Two years later we got into the war. World War I. You see, it started in '14 over there but we didn't get into it til '17. Okay, the War broke out, we got into it. So they had a shipyard over there in Handsboro, Mr. Martinolich's, uh Matteo Martinolich. That's Dr. Martinolich's grandfather. So my daddy worked for him and we lived next store to 'em, see. They had a smaller house they rented. A nice house. Did I take ya'll by there one day to see it, your mama and them, I showed your mama and them. I said, "There's the house we lived in." But anyway, Papa was working there. They built two big ships. Three masted and a four masted schooner, big y' see. So uh, mama, one of the kids was born, I believe it was Henrietta, yeah, Aunt Henrietta. So mama got this black lady, that came and took mama's washing, and they boiled the clothes in those days in an iron pot out in the yard.( laugh)Build a fire and boil your clothes! Well anyway, uh.., mama, that black lady was telling mama, "Wasn't that a terrible storm!" It was just two years later, y'see. Wasn't that a terrible,, they called them storms then y'see. "What'n that a terrible September storm." She said, "I lost my son in that. " Mama said, "My husband was in it." She said, "My son, too, and I lost him. He was with Captain Kahler on his schooner." So see that was two years later, we moved and I even went to school with the Kahler's, some of them. And did you know when old lady Kahler died I was working for Bond Bread; I was one of her pall bearers. Eddie Kahler's grandma. We didn't live to far from them in Handsboro during War War I. But, I was telling Eddie about that one time, bout his grandpa and my daddy. That they knew each other. All those old captains, back then knew one another. Ya see. And I was telling Judge Stewart about it one day. Anyway, so then, we left there and moved to Gulfport, then, we stayed in Handsboro, let's see, '17, '18, and '19. Later part of ninteen, just the last part, after school and that was out. We came to Gulfport, ya see. And I went to school at the Catholic school for two years. But, uh, back then too, let me tell ya, back in the old days, Uncle Tom was the Mayor and ticket agent at the depot. And then papa'd let me go out fishing oysters, and that three or four days, some where in that. Whenever, we'd go down there to Aunt Jenny's; they had a big family; y'see. And Uncle Tom always had a big garden and they lived close to the depot there; y'see. And uh,,, boy, we'd go spend two or three days at Aunt Jenny's, I'd look forward to it. We'd go to school. I'd go to school with her boys, y'know my cousins, and uh, we'd come in and Aunt Jenny had one of these big wood ranges, with the heater on top of the warmer y'know. And she'd have that oven filled with baked sweet potatoes. I never will forget that! (chuckles) Well, I'll tell you Robyn when I started school in 1913. The old school is still there in Waveland. Part of it's the town hall. (Robyn, did you have all grades together?) No, we had four classrooms, we had a stage, and every year I'd be in a play. One time I was a Japenese. (laughter) But anyway, they heated it with a pot bellied stove, and they used lighter knots, big pine knots. And when ever you did something bad, the teacher used to; you know what your punishment was? You had to go kneel on those knots! Them hard knots! (Robyn, ow) That's right! And they hurt. (Mom, did you tell her about the time you were punished, didn't they get a switch or something behind you.) Oh, one time a teacher hit me with a switch across the face, and it left a mark you know, and Uncle Semore was on the school board. Boy, they got on her about that y' know, you could whip back then, if you were whipped you were whipped, but, uh, (Robyn, regular school or Catholic school) they didn't, couldn't hit nobody in the face y'know. No it was public, we didn't have a Catholic school in Waveland. Bay St. Louis had St. Stanislaus, and the Fatima school. They had a common for the girls y'know. But anyway, Uncle Semore went to the board meeting, they got on to that teacher, I guarantee it! For hitting me in the face, y'know. (Robyn, what other plays were you in, what other parts did you play?) Well, so we moved from Handsboro to Gulfport, like I said, we lived there for two years, we lived in Gulfport for three years, went back to Waveland. Let's see we went back in '23. And in '26 I came back to Gulfport. And I've been here ever since. So really I left Waveland when I was; in '17; I was eleven years old. Yeah, I was born in '06. I was eleven years old when I left, I went back when I was fifteen, nearly sixteen, I went after school and in September I was sixteen y'see.
Two Dollars a Week
Got a job in the grocery store, and I was making two dollars a week. (laughter) (Robyn, and that was a lot of money for back then wasn't it.) Yeah, two dollars a week (laughing) and I think later years when Vic was that age working, going to school. He was making at the National store in Long Beach, $75 and $80 dollars a week, stock boy, and I told him one time I worked for two dollars a week doin' what you did. I delivered groceries, waited on the customers. In those days you didn't have serve yourself groceries. We had a counter, (Robyn, and you had to get what they wanted) And they had the shelves behind, with all the stuff way up and you had to reach to get them, alot of stores had these uh, (Robyn, grabber things) Yeah, grabbers you'd put it over a can and bring it down. People say I want one of those number one cans, number two cans(laugh). And let me tell you Robyn, and uh, Michelle, Uh, back then, well,, mama could tell you, her daddy had a store in New Orleans. At that time when I'm talking about. And back then everyting came in,,, uh, you'd get pickles in a little keg, you'd get spare ribs and all good things to eat. Peanut butter, y'know everything, in little tubs, and uh, so,, (Robyn, where did the food come from did you order it like from a warehouse or did people make it?) No, they'd see the salesman. You know what they called the salesmen? Drummers, I heard that on the t.v. one day, a drummer, and I thought, boy I hadn't heard that (in a long time). It was telling (the t.v. show) about the old times, y'know. And that's what they called 'em. They had a drummer that'd come from Swift's in Gulfport, Armour's drummer would come. And HG Coggins drummer, come to Waveland, y'see. Uh, Schwegmann's from New Orleans. Clocks and Breweries and Bakeries, we'd get the uh, mama could tell you. Her daddy had the same thing. The store, they had a square box, metal, about twelve by twelve, and they had a glass front. With the different cakes. Oh, boy, they had good cakes y'know. And crackers. All this came by train y'see. Now, when Swift and Armour drummer came, they'd ship it by express, they had a train that ran from Ocean Springs to New Orleans. We called it the three o'clock train (laugh). It would leave Ocean Spring and turn around in Ocean Springs. But it; Armour and Swift would put their meats, the hams, and whatever we ordered, and come to Waveland and I'd be at the depot waiting for it, y'see. We had to get it on refrigeration, we had a great big ice box, it wasn't no electric box. A great big box that would hold couple hundred pounds of ice y' know. And anyway, we had a little market of salt meat that we didn't put that on ice y'know. And the lard would come in great big barrels, wooden barrels. White lard, thats all the people used back then, they didn't have all this, well, they had canned Crisco or something. But poor people couldn't afford all that, y'see. They used the pure white lard. And they had scoops y'see, cardboard. And we had a wooden paddle we'd have to reach in that lard and put it the scoop and put it on the scale. So look when it got way down I'd have to put my hand to keep from getting lard all up over me (laughs) when you got down to the bottom (laughing) That was something!
Learning to Drive
But, so, to get back when we left Gulfport in 1923. I had learned to drive a Model T truck in Handsboro, Dr. Martinolich's daddy, Andrew, just died here about three or four weeks ago, Andrew, he was living in Waveland, he was 90 something years old. Mr. Andrew taught me how to drive a car. But what happened, see, after the war ended the shipyard closed and old man Martinolich said to papa, "Don't ya'll move now I've got some; I got some carpenter work for ya'll to do now. I want ya'll to build a garage on the beach for Andrew." See, for repairs; a garage. And that was the first commercial building on the beach in Mississippi City. And I was twelve years old. And I went with them everyday. I'd hand stuff to them up on the scaffolding, I'd hand them lumber, and whatever they'd tell me to hand them, y'know. So riding in that truck, that shipyard truck, we'd pull up in the yard and go next door to our house to eat, and come back. So we come back and papa said, "Did you want to drive the truck?" and I said, "Yeah" He said, "Get it all ready and I'll crank it." So I fixed it and papa cranked it, and I backed up, pulled up, backed up, and had it ready to go out. So Andy come running when he heard the motor start, so when he came out, papa said,,, I believe they called him Bully back then, "Bully, I want ya to teach Vic how to drive." He said, "I don't have to teach him how to drive! He just turned the truck around and backed it up!" (laughing) He said, "Get behind the wheel." I drove the car all the way to Mississippi City down Teagarden Rd. (Laughing) Come back at dinner. Boy, I'd of worked my legs off just to drive that truck, boy!
Delivering Groceries in a Model-T Truck
So when I went back to Waveland they had a horse and
wagon delivery and a truck. Two or three stores had that. They had a
Model T truck and a wagon. And they had the sides with canvas and their
names in gold leaf. I drove one like that, see. So, some days I used the
horse and other days I'd use the truck. But when I first went there, I
was working for Herman Mazarakis daddy, the first job I had, uh,,,
Aurelie's daddy. You know Aurelie? (Robyn, yeah, Buck and Aurelie) He
and a couple other Greeks, had a big store in Waveland. So I went, and
he said, "You know how to drive a truck?" and I said, "Yes sir!" He
said, "Well go get that truck back there." I went and got it, I started
it and backed it out. (Robyn, that was the crank?) Crank, boy! I cranked
a many a one. But you had to know! Alot of people got their arm broken,
if you didn't know how to hold that crank, if you grabbed it like
this... You see they kicked back. It'd jerk your arm, it'd break your
arm.See, I was taught how hold it. You put it in your hand this way..
you don't put your thumb over it this way.. you put your thumb on the
side, and crank it, it'd kick back and jerk out of your hand, see.
(Robyn, how many times did you have to crank it?) Ohh, sometimes I
cranked till I was blue in the face! Spin it ! Boy, that's where I got
my strength too! I'd crank that thing. And in the winter, you know how
we started it? We jacked up the back wheel, and pour hot water in the
radiator. Get a pot of water, and all that, just to get it started in
cold weather!(Robyn, Yeah you didn't have antifreeze, laughing) Boy, and
I'll tell you back then you had to be careful a lot of men got ran
over. You see you had a clutch, with the middle pedal as reverse, and
your right pedal was the break, and you had to put it in and out of gear
on the side. You had a ratchet, that as you pulled it back it would
catch, but alot of times that ratchet would wear out and the vibration
when it started would slam it down and throw it in gear. Alot of people
got ran over by their own Model T. So I had to tie up the tire, we had a
thing to loop around the tire so if it slipped I wouldn't get run over,
y'see. But I had to one time, just jump out of the way! (laughing) But,
when I think about those times you have to laugh, y'know! So let me
tell you what, I was delivering groceries, and see our grocery was up on
Courbin Ave. Let's see, Waveland Ave was the other end. That's where
the depot used to be. So I road by the depot and ran out of gas. In
those days everybody, (Robyn, how much was gas then?) Oh, I believe it
was about fifteen cents a gallon. But anyway, back then the kerosene,,,
everybody had a gallon can when I delivered groceries. Everybody had
lamps, y'see. So I'd go out with six or seven cans, with each order. So I
get by the depot, and run out of gas. I had always been told that a
Model T would run of of kerosene. Well, here's where I find out, right
now! So when it stopped, (laugh) they said don't let all the gas run
out, keep a little in the carberator. Boy, when I got out, here's where I
made my mistake, I poured the whole gallon in! I should of just put in
enough to make it back to the store. It started! But it popped and spit
and popped, but it got me back to the store, y'know. But back then, the
kerosene was much stronger than it is today, today you've got to coax
it, you can take a match, and pour some on something, you gotta hold it
there. But back then you put it there and it went up like gasoline, so
that's why these Model T's would run on kerosene. But it had to be
started with gasoline, y'see. There was enough gas in the carberator, so
I said I'm getting back to the store. Sure enough not gonna walk back!
So when I put in that gallon of oil and started her, she took off! (
laughing) So I told Martin, he said, "You outta not run out. We've got
two tanks out in front of the store!" (laughs) And back then you had to
pump your gas, you had a tank, a glass, a round glass, that holds five
gallons at the top, you had a lever, If somebody wanted one gallon.
You'd raise it to set it. You'd pump, and gas would come up in that
bowl. That was it, da da da da. Its fun! I look back at all that, and
think it was fun, y'know.
Building the Edgewater Gulf Hotel
Then we came back, like I said in '26. After papa died. We came back to Gulfport. I had to, because at that time I was 19 years old and only making seven dollars a week! I couldn't feed Mama and them on seven dollars a week. So I told Mr. Mitchell, who I was working for then. He said, "If you got to go, you got to go, but I hate for you to go." But I said, "Yeah but I can't feed mama and them on seven dollars a week." So they were building the Edgewater Gulf Hotel. My cousin Edgar Knight was a brick layer. His mama was papa's sister y'see, Aunt Lillie. (Robyn, Oh thats where Diana's family comes in) I stayed with Aunt Lillie and Edgar, he had a brand new Model T Ford. I stayed with them until I could get mama and them with me, about a month after papa died, they had to stay in Waveland. And I worked up at Edgewater. Hard! Edgar's the one who got me the job, talked to the manager, and told him about my daddy and that I had a big family. And he said bring him, and I'll give him a job. It was hard! I was rolling wheel... I was only about a hundred and thirty pounds, 'bout like Roger, skinny. I was rolling them big wheel barrels, not these little things. Rolling with mortar on them, up planks about that wide, y'see. They were pouring the floor about that time and I'm rolling them big wheel barrels with those big strapping husky men. I told Edgar, man, this is killing me! He said, "I'm going to get you a better job." And he did! First he got me a job with the brick layers, he talked to his boss. And all I had to do was carry bricks where they wanted them, you know up on the scaffolding, hand them bricks. And kept them supplied. That was much easier. Then I was making twenty-five dollars a week, and that was good, I mean from seven! Well, so my cousin went and talked to the manager from New York who was putting in the refrigeration. He told him about me. "Bring him to me" he said, "I'll give him a job, that way he'll make more money." (Edgar) He said, "Well he needs it!" "Well I'll give it to him!" So he says, "Now son, I'm going to put you down here," They were putting down big angle irons for the shelves, in the big refrigerator. As big as this room. And I had to cut the... an angle iron is shaped like this...they had a concrete floor, it was already down. And I had to take a star drill, they called it, and you hit,.. it was a round piece of iron about as round as your finger, and on the end was grooves, cut like a star. And you tap, He told me in the evening when he was leaving, "Now you can work, I'm not going to be here, I'm going home, but you can work till six, seven, nine o'clock as long as you wnat to work and I'll pay you over time." So I said okay, and I worked till nine o'clock, after working all day! And he'd put the mark, and I'd come along to that mark and I'd take the hammer and hit, turn, hit, and turn it. Until you got a little hole about this deep. You kept on till you got all the way around it. You had to dig, I think it was an inch or more in that concrete, and it had to be right! Where those marks were. And then they came with that angle iron see, and they put them in there and cemented around them. And one of the first weeks I worked with that man, I made fifty-six dollars! I was thrilled to death! And he was too. And he even wanted me to go to New York when they finished the job, he said, "Son," It was the Loyal Llyod Refrigeration Co. from New Jersey. "Son, you come back, and go home with me. I'll get you a job in the plant, where they make all these refrigerators." He was one of the bosses from that plant y'see. But I told him,"Man, I've got my mama and nine children, sisters and brothers." He said, "Well you come, you come and work and make enough money. And send to your Mother and them." he said, "And you can also make enough that later, you can move them up here." And I thought, Dang! New Jersey from here? Eww, that's too far from the Gulf Coast for me! Boy, (laughing)! So, I said, "No, I think I'm going to stick around here. I don't think I'm coming." But anyway, he really wanted me to go, he said, "I'll help you everyway I can." He sure was a nice man! He helped me too! I guarantee ya! But let me tell ya, So we worked there until the opening night, see. It might have been the New Year, if I'm not mistaken. So that evening, see we got off at four o'clock, and they gave all the workers, painters, carpenters, electritions, laborours, and they said. "Look we have to get all this paint off these windows, we're opening tonight and we've got to get these windows clean." So they said, "If ya'll work on it, we'll feed you." So they fed us two or three times that night from the kitchen. We went into the dining room and ate! Y'hear. So we up on about the fifth floor and we're cleaning the windows, see. And the guys are working with me and one was sitting in the window, he put the sash down and he'd hold on and wash the outside, and I washed the inside. So this fella said, "Ladner, your turn to get outside." I said, "Like hell!" (laughing) I said, "This guy'll go home, I'm not sticking myself outside that window! Five, six stories up in the air! (laughing), Uh Uh, noo way!" But he got outside, that, sonofa" ( laughing) We had to wash windows all night. They were paying the mechanics to do that labor and work. Their wages, y'see. But they had to have the place ready. So we went a couple of times that night and ate. Boy, I mean they fed us too! So I worked all day and all night. And I made more money, that I made in a whole week, in that day and night. They paid us over time that night.
Buying the House in Gulfport
But.., I had already moved mama and them here, see, while all this was taking place. So we had bought that house. Aunt Lillie had got Mr. Rose, he was selling real estate. Inez Bass, you remember Phillip Bass, Inez? But anyway, I went to school with them when we lived here before. And her daddy got this house for us for a thousand dollars! And Papa had a thousand dollar insurance, the 26th. And his funeral was two hundred. I went and borrowed two hundred dollars at the bank. I had to pay ten dollars a month back. I was making that extra money and I was saving it. In case, y'know. And I paid that house off. So we had a place to live, a roof over our head, one thing y'know.(laugh)
Working for Fourteen Years
So, when the thing closed, I was outta work for about a month, I think. But you know what? That's the only time I've been outta work in my entire life! I've worked steady all my life! (Robyn, you have Paw Paw, you have) I have never been outta of a job. I went from one job to the other. And I stayed fourteen years,,, let's see I worked for the gas company for fourteen years, at the shipyard fourteen years, but before the shipyard I worked seven years at Bond, seven years at Colonial. Fourteen years in the bread business, y'see. And I go to the shipyard, and worked fourteen years, came back, took three months vacation when I retired. First of the year I went to work at the court house, and been there ever since. Eighteen years is the longest job I've ever had in my life; that I worked in one place. (Robyn, And after you retired too! laugh) (Paw Paw laughs) After I retired! I've been eighteen years and still going. Still working, so that's something to think about! So I've worked all my life. That's one thing I didn't have to depend on my children. For support. I made my own way. My own! (Robyn, That's true and there's not a lot of people your age that can say that.) No, I can truthfully say I worked for almost fifty(something) years. When I retired at the shipyard, you have to retire when your sixty five, but, they can get you an extension, you can work five more years. So I could've worked til I was seventy, and they wanted me too! (Robyn, How come you didn't?) Hell, after your working fifty years? Fifty years is long enough!(laughing) So I was sixty five y'see, and I said, "Man, I went to work when I was fifteen!" He said, "Well, why don't you finish the year out." They said the first of October. "So when your birthday comes, what the 29th of September."So on the first they sent me a notice. So they called me in the office, They Wanted Me To Stay! Cause I was working on the submarines and they, needed,.. I had been working on the submarines for about seven years, y'see. And the chief wanted me to stay. He said, "Man, your experienced." And I said,"Yeah, but I have to retire, how do you.." and he said, "Man, we'll get you a sixth month extension, and every six months we can renew it." He said, "Til your seventy years, you could work."Phhh, I'm gone! He said, "Well finish the year out.These three months." and I said, "Nah uh, I'm gone. I'm gone!"(laughing) No, I intended to work, but not like that! I'd go forty miles each day one way, y'see. And I was tired, y'see. But what I wanted was a job, like I got, something easy. Y'know. But, I enjoy it! I told Judge Stewart one day, I said you know, this is the only job I ever had in my life, that I enjoy coming to work. And he said, "Me too!" ( Robyn laughs) He said, 'I'm the same way." I said, "Well I enjoy every minute. Coming up here everyday!" Still do! (Robyn, Well it's interesting if nothing else, it's very interesting.) Well, so one of them said, one of the guys that I hired at the shipyard that same day. You see they hired ex- deputies, constables, men who had experience, as a guard out there. At first we were called Ingall's police. See, that was on our badge, Ingall's police. I've got a badge over there at home. Anyway, so one of the guards was from Biloxi police, there was two of them, hired there the same day. But one of them's son is a deputy right now, so one day he says, "My daddy says when the heck are you going to retire?" I said, "I'm not!" (laughs) I told somebody this is good therapy, man! Coming up here everyday. He said, "That's what kept you alive, kept you going."
My First School Teacher
Ms. Mary Attaway was my first school teacher, and her brother, it seemed like he worked on the boats with Papa at one time. So, let me tell ya. So, I'll tell you who,, when his wife died and he married,, the house that Harold and Loretta lived in, Nez and them's aunt, by marriage. Their uncle's wife, she was a widow. He married her. And they lived in that house. Harold and Loretta bought that house from them. So, the night of,.. Mr. Attaway. when he died. The night of his wake, Sewel, Nez, and all them went. Sewel knew him too, Mr. Attaway. So, and I didn't go. So the next day Sewel said, "Boy, you missed it, Vic! Your old first school teacher was there last night." I cried, when he told me that! Darn! I'd of liked to met her! He said, "Your first old school teacher was at that wake." (Robyn, Paw Paw that's probably the only wake you've ever missed in your life) Dogone! I hated I missed her, y'know!
The Christmas Tree
Boy, we had a Christmas tree, I'll never forget it! We had a big cedar tree as tall as this ceiling. You know what they had? Candles! Lit! I'd think a many a day, in a wooden building like that! To take that chance! They got on a step ladder and lit all them candles. Later years, I'm thinking,, there's alot of times now, I'm thinking what a fire hazard that was! And that cedar would've burnt like gasoline if one of them candles would of touched it! They had it fixed where the candles,, (Robyn, But still!) (Paw Paw at the same time) But still! (Robyn, That's dangerous, I mean now a days you wouldn't even think about doing something like that!) We didn't have electric lights though, see. (Robyn, yeah)
A Jail Behind the School
I'll never forget they had the jail in the back yard, of the school house. In the back yard! A wooden jail. (laughs) It didn't last! They tore it down in later years. Didn't never nobody, uh,, we had the town marshall. And Uncle Tom was mayor. And Mr. Bordages was the town marshall. And we never had no trouble, other than drunks, somethin' like that! We never had no crime. (Robyn, yeah, those were the days!)
I was telling Joe Price one day, you know his daughter, works there, (Robyn, Jolynn) Yeah, she married one of Uncle Tom's grandson's. I think his name is T.J., if I'm not mistaken. So, I saw it in the paper. And I told Joe, "You know your son-in-law's a distant relative of mine." He said, "Sure enough?" I said, "He is!" I said, "His daddy was my first cousin." (Robyn, Small world) T.J. junior, he was my first cousin, that was Aunt Jenny's boy, y'know.
How Papa Died
(Robyn, tell us about when your daddy died Paw Paw) Yeah, you mean, how, when, what,or? (Robyn, well just, you know, just so we can remember) Yeah, Well,,,uh, y'see,, (Robyn,wasn't he comin' home from work or somethin') No,, It was on a Sunday. Let me tell ya, We went, it was Tunney, my cousin, Tunney Necaise, and I think the little boy, Peterson. You know Sheriff Peterson? His daddy. He was a bus driver. We were all going to the Bay together, y'see. We called him Acey, Acey Peterson, there was Tunney, Sewel, me, and Jesse Marquez, in his Model T. (laughs) We all passed by and we said let's stop by and we'll give Papa and them a drink, y'know, him and Jules Favre. Papa was working for Jules. So, we went by and gave them a drink, y'know. So that night there was a dance in Waveland. We had a open dance hall with no roof. So, it was across the street from Aunt Jenny's. So, I said, "Papa, why don't ya'll come down there tonight." he said, "We might." So, we went of to the Bay. And then come in that night, and we were going to the dance. We were going with girls, Tunney and I, from the Bay, see. One of them was Sewel's cousin. So anyway, We um, hired,..Tooney got, um,, one of the Bourgeois had a taxi, and we got him to take us, pick us up at the Bay, take us to the dance, pick us up and take us back to the Bay. So, Papa and Jules Favre had went to uh,, up to,.. not Bayou LaCroix, the next bridge, McCloud bridge, to see about rolling a house. Y'see that's what they did. They'd build houses and rolled houses. Like them Hammond's do, but they didn't do it like the Hammond's do. They jack it up and run a truck under it and go off. (the Hammond's) Papa and them had to roll it with a horse, with a wigglers, you know on rollers. And uh, they went to see about a job. So, then Papa came home and it was about eight- thirty or something like that. And Mama say's she's sorry she told him I wasn't in bed! He said to her,"Did Vic get home?" And she said, "No, he's at the dance." He said, "Well I told him I'd come down there." So he was walking, to the dance. And these guys, had been at the dance, who lived in Gulfport, and we had a ferry that run across the Bay, no bridge. So they was rushing to make that last ferry. And they swerved, and my daddy was coming, facing this way. See this is the road y'see. He's over here, and they coming, and there was a car, going too. And they went around this car and run off the road and hit my dad, see. Well,, so, they didn't know who did it. But there was a Bourgeois from Bay St. Louis, that came to Uncle Tom, he and his girlfriend, she was a nurse. He come along and he saw it, and stopped and picked my daddy up, put him in the back of the car. They was going to take him to Bay St. Louis, there was no doctor, no hospital. And he told him about it, Mr. Bourgeois, later. Mr. Bourgeois that's got that little place that sells lumber, but right there by railroad and thirty eighth, one block from the laundry down there. Bourgeois' Building Materials. I think it's one of his brother's. That's Uncle Tom's distant half cousins. Well anyway,, he uh, he told me later years, they picked Papa up and his wife, he married her later, she was a nurse. And she was holding his head in her lap, and when they hit the Bay, just as they turned in, they called it Devil's Elbow there, he died, he told me,"Your daddy died right there." So what they did, they didn't know who it was. So the sheriff in the Bay, went to the ferry. And the man on the ferry told him, there was a bunch there, that looked very excited about something. Excited about something that happened, he said. So he gave the description of the car. And it was an Essex automobile. And they found it, but they didn't do nothin'. So later years, somebody told me the sheriff's son was with them. They gave him a ride, and he was with them at the dance, y'see. So I come to find out it was Godfrey Delcuze. And they were all from the Bay, the Delcuze's.
So, when I was reading meter's. I saw the car that killed my daddy. They had it in his mother's backyard, they had it up on blocks. I saw that car! I was so upset, I think uh, I could kill him, at the time I was so mad! Y'know. But, anyway, I forgave him. He just died here about a year or two ago, in Bay St. Louis. Anyway, I asked God to forgive me, how I felt. ( He speaks real quietly)I said, I guess it was one of them things. He was young like me at he time. He didn't mean to do it. So, I forgave him for it, y'know. It could of happened to me maybe, y'know.
Memories of Papa
But, I loved my daddy like everything,,, I don't think anybody loved their daddy as much as I did mine! I guarantee ya! I thought he was IT! Boy, (quiet laugh) And he was! I tell ya when he worked in that shipyard in Handsboro, I guess they had three hundred men, or five hundred men working out there. So, I went to a wake at Lange's when they were on thirty second avenue, that big two story house. So, I went by with a relative there one night. So, one of these Pavolini's was there from the Kiln, Delisle was there. Four or five men or more was talking, we went in that room there, so they introduced me to him, "Ladner?", He said who was my daddy, and I told him Etienne Ladner. He said, "Etienne Ladner's your daddy? I worked in the ship yard with him, man." I said, "I know you did." Because they were Mr. Martinolich's brothers. (in law) See them Pavolini's. And I knew it. I used to hear Papa talking about 'em, y'see. And I said, "Yeah, I remember when ya'll were working there." I said, "I was twelve years old." He said, "Let me tell ya'll one thing." He told this guy, he said, "That was the strongest man in the shipyard! There wasn't a man who could pick up with him!" See back then they built ships with big timbers, y'know.(laughs) They had them big twelve by twelves. They had to take two men with on of them hooks. You set them on each side of the timber, like an ice hook, and they had to pick them up. You see he said there wasn't,, an I bet they were about fifteen feet long, I don't know. But he said, "There wasn't nobody could pick up with him! No man could pick up that other side!" They said, "He was the strongest man in the shipyard and everybody knew it too!"
So awhile back, who was it, one of them girls, who was working up there. Who couldn't get over, they said, "Vic you must've come from good stock!" I just laughed. I didn't tell 'em. But, I DID! I guarantee ya boy! And I was not near the man my daddy was! Eww, Father was a man, he was! Robyn, and Michelle, when I was about, I don't know if I had started school or not, I was around six or seven years old, I guess. My daddy was hauling those shells. Back before the storm. They had been hauling for several years. Two of my cousins were working on the boats. (Noise from the tv, loud) How the,(Robyn,God, that scared me) Scared me! (Laughter) But anyway, at one time they had horse and wagons y'see, they were hauling them shells. The schooner was anchored off in the deep water. They'd load the shells in the skiff and they had a long sand bar and the wagon would go on that sandbar, the skiff, and it was deep enough water for the skiff's to come up. So my cousin Simon, his skiff sank. In about this deep of water. And it was them shells and all that water. So Papa slapped his bow and said, "I'm coming." I'll never forget this, they called Papa Uncle Man. Yeah, So they called him Man, did you know that all Papa's aunt's, I mean sister's, and all of his nieces and nephews called him, Uncle Man? (Robyn, Uncle Man? laughs) That's right! And called him Man. So, uh,, Simon said, "Uncle Man you can't pick that up." Papa says, "Get out the way." He picked that skiff back up, it come up!(chuckling) Now you can take a skiff with water in it, without shells. And I saw this with my own eyes! He picked that boat up like this, and all that water rushed out. He dropped it nice, and said, "Now finish bailing it out." And gave him the shovel. (laughing) That boy, was right! He was powerful! Boy! That man, hear me,oohho, strong as a bull! And I saw that! I was about six or seven years old. I remember the words Simon said. He said, "You can't pick that up Uncle Man."( laughs) Nunc Man he said. Nunc was uncle in french y'see. Nunc Man you can't do that! ( big chuckles)
A Grandaughter Remember's
I remember a big strong man. With a ready laugh. A laugh that came from deep inside. Arms dark and hairy, with hands that were work worn. Digging potatoes in the garden. What a joy! Picking beans from the pole. Always finding him in the utility shed, hands busy, the smell of wood all around. Letting us build things from scraps. Pretending to be asleep, letting us sneak up on him. Then suddenly coming awake, growling and grabbing us, tickling us, and laughing. Stories, endless stories of what it was like when.... Oyster shells, and the smell of fish. Uniforms, badges, and handcuffs. Seems like he was always busy, but somehow he always had time for you.
He is greatly missed by us all. But thankfully he will live on in our hearts.
I am thankful that my children got to know and love him.
That is a special joy. It was for him too.
I'll always remember him playing with the kids.
The way his eyes lit up when he saw them. I felt like I gave him something back in return for all he was to me. Something that was worth more than gold to him. The pleasure of those children meant the world to him. But I'm not sure if he knew that he meant the world to us.
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