Thank you Mr. Bill Hunt for your contributions to the web site. Special thanks for your superb and heartwarming article about Bunkie...The memories you bring to us from the fabulous Fifties shall forever be with us throughout  this new Millennium.

 Thank you Bill,   From all Bunkiens


 On a cold December day in 1934, my mother with the help of Dr. H.M. Faust, brought me into the world, at Gold Dust, a little community a few miles South of Bunkie. I certainly didn't know then, and had to become much older, to understand how deep a person's roots can be in the culture and the community into which they are born.

My early years, before 1944, were spent in Eola and Gold Dust, living at Oak Hall Plantation, where my Dad was the overseer for Haas Investment Company. It seemed to me, that I had aunts, uncles and cousins everywhere, from Gold Dust to Bunkie, and I could always count on that warm feeling of 'family' where ever I went. Today, I have no relatives whatsoever in the area. Some of my best days were spent with my Aunt Fannie Harper at her little country store at Morrison's Station, where you turn to go to St. Landry. Later, like about 1945, she bought Babcock's Grocery near Eola and thrived there for many years selling groceries to the families in the Sid Richardson and Amarada Oil Camps, and the Eola area. Nearby, was the Four Way Cafe, owned by a cousin, Gladys Stafford, at the Eola Crossroads. She must have dished out some good food at the Four Way Cafe during these boom years in the early 1940s. Going from Oak Hall Plantation to Bunkie at night was an unbelievable sight, with all the oil well derricks lit up like giant Christmas trees on the dark and flat horizon. Every direction, gave evidence of the magnitude for the need for oil, that fueled our country during the frightful and desperate years of World War 11. Bunkie and the surrounding area played a very big and important role in satisfying that need for oil, gas, cotton and sugar. I was much too young to truly feel the fear and desperation of families whose sons and daughters were pulled from this secure and beautiful setting to go off to war in a strange and dangerous place. Bunkie, Eola and all it's people served well and provided it's share for our nation at war. Growing up in a rural area like Gold Dust and Eola, made Bunkie an exciting and delightful place to go on Saturdays to shop and buy groceries, and to ride the school bus to during the week.

School....I never liked it, had little choice but to accept the fact that school was going to be a part of my childhood and beyond. In the first grade, my teacher was Miss Mary Haas, a small little lady with gray hair, stem and fearless, but I knew I would love her one day. This year of 1940 was fearful because of the war talk everywhere, and difficult at best - I didn't like school and I had difficulty being a happy little first grader. Bonnie Knapp, who rode Mr. Cerami's bus with me from the Amarada Oil Camp in Eola, kissed me and then told Miss Haas that I kissed her. Miss Haas got on to me about it, so I didn't like Bonnie anymore. A few days later, Bonnie hit me in the head with her lunch money, all of 10 or 15 cents, tide in the comer of her handkerchief . It hurt badly, but I knew that Bonnie would leave me alone from then on.

I recall how first, second and third grades were in the high school building, and what fearful days we had from Mr. C. G. Snoddy, the principle. I thought he could "consume" a kid like me, so I stayed away from the area as best I could, and played near the bayou Haufpower that ran in back of the school. Mr. Snoddy was so tall, so erect and displayed the stature of a fearless warrior who towered over his victims. He was a grand disciplinarian, as were most of the teachers, to whom you could count for excellent and proper guidance for all those growing years from grades one thru eleven. (There was no 12th grade then.) Everyone was as afraid of Mr. Snoddy as I was.

Saturday nights in Bunkie - what a great time my family had on Saturday night. We all got cleaned up, my 2 older sisters and brother, then me and my younger brother - late on Saturday afternoon. Dad would drive all of us to Bunkie in our green 1940 Ford, and we would all go the picture show at the Bailey Theater. Not too long after the war started, we soon had two more shows; the FOX across the street from the Bailey and the RIO, right around the comer on Main Street. These picture shows filled to capacity on Saturday nights, in fact, the population of Bunkie seemed to increase by two or three thousand people on Saturdays and Saturday nights. The soldiers from the many military camps in the area, could come to the Blue Moon and the Chick-In clubs. The Blue Moon was the older and more elaborate club and was located just South of the via duct and the Chick-In was on the north side of the via duct. Very soon after the was over, the military training camps closed down, the soldiers went home and the Chick-In burned down. The Blue Moon, such an enchanting name, continued and that's where we all learned how to jitter-bug when we reached high school.

The Eola oil fields were only 4 or 5 miles South of Bunkie, and many families worked in the oil fields and lived in the Amarada Oil Camp and the Sid Richardson Oil Camp. At this time, Bunkie was a thriving little town and bustled every Saturday. When the movies were over on Saturday night, we most often parked on Main Street near the New York Cafe and the Palace Bar. Dad would every now and then go to the Palace Bar for a beer or two while Mom and the kids waited in the car. This was great fun, to watch the crowds and continually meet friends, walking up and down the Main Street. Today, we call it "cruising", but then whole families did it. Before going to the movie, we often visited a little hamburger stand called the HAMBURGER KING, on the North end of Main Street near the entrance of the old Avoyelles Wholesale and the Bunkie Record office, where the burgers were five cents each. Sometimes we waited till 7 or 8 o'clock for the hot tamale man who rolled out his little cart and sold tamales on Main Street right at the comer where the city policeman parked his car every day and evening, keeping careful watch over the crowds and guarding Main Street from speeders. One of my favorite places was the NEW YORK CAFE. The Piazza family owned the New York Caf6, a classy place I thought, with black and white tile floor, about 20 counter stools with red leather seats on the left side, and 6 or 8 booths, with 8 or 10 tables toward the right. On a cold day the glass front would steam-up, and the inside always was deliciously warm. The Piazza kids quite often roamed behind the counter. I didn't know them then but later when they came to the public school from St. Anthony's Elementary, I got to know Cecelia. The New York Cafe is a fond memory for me. I loved their hamburgers and I loved the cafe itself. To this day, I wonder how it got its name. Right South of the New York Cafe was the Palace Bar, Morgan and Lindsey and then Walgreens. I never knew the name of the older little black hair lady who jerked sodas and could make a great but unusual soda called a "cherry nectar". Anytime I came up to the soda fountain she would call out "cherry nectar", knowing full well what my order was going to be. I grew up thinking for years that a cherry nectar could be gotten at any old soda fountain in the world, but believe me, it was exclusive to Walgreens in Bunkie. All the kids hung-out at Walgreens - the soda fountain, the aroma of perfumes and cosmetics was such a fantastic implant into my memory.

Elementary school days and years seemed to past quickly, at least in retrospect. My favorite years seem to lie near the Oh grade and above. Miss Bouie taught me in the sixth grade. She was a stem but fair, excellent teacher. I only had one "hand whipping" with that long ruler and from then on I seemed to manage well with her. In our class was Bobby and Frank, two older boys who should have been in the 8d' or 9th grade. They played havoc with the rest of us kids and gave Miss Bouie a real bad time.

In January of 1944, the Haas Investment Company moved my Dad to Shirley Plantation, just 2 miles out of Bunkie. This was to me and my family, a magnificent place to grow up and to live. Shirley Plantation will always be in my mind and heart, even though today, there are few remnants of a working plantation of the 1940s and barely any recognizable pieces of what was there during those wonderful growing up years. About this time, I was learning to drive, and living on a farm provided advanced opportunity to learn. I was driving tractors and trucks within the confines of Shirley Plantation by the time I was in the 6th grade, or about 12 years old. This surprised most town people. I remember well, the "Sweetheart Banquet" at the First Baptist Church on Valentine's Day in February of 1947. My sweetheart that night was Murel Elise. I drove my mother's 1947 Chevrolet to town from Shirley, all of 2 miles, and went to pick up Murel at her home. Her mother greeted me and like any caring good mother, discreetly inquired about things that might affect her daughter's well being. Bragging, I told her that I was driving "alone" and I quickly realized that was not in the best interest of the two participants on this date. I think a discussion may have ensued in another room somewhere and I was finally awarded temporary custody of the daughter Murel. It turned out to be a great first date, and Murel and I still laugh about it now.

High school days in the early 1950s were a real delight for me, and hold a fondness that only belongs to a time of happiness and joy. Lifelong friendships were developed, however sadly, I have lost touch with many of my close friends and classmates. After high school graduation in 1953, we all seemed to scatter to the four winds, some going off to college and in other cases, to find a means of making a living. I look back now at Bunkie High and I feel very good about what it gave to me during my youth. Great people and teachers who boldly cared, such as Mrs. Guillory in the 7th grade, Miss Bouie, Miss Kate Earnest who taught my mother and 3 of my siblings, all greatly influenced my youth with a tremendous impact that has served me well for all my life. One of my very favorites was Mr. Conrad Guettie, in high school; I still remember about half of the first 100 lines of "The Lady of the Lake," by Sir Walter Scott, which we were compelled to memorize in his literature class; also the day he sat on a thumb tack for the entire period before calling for the guilty party to meet him after class. Then Mrs. Finley, whom we all suspected of bringing something other than coffee in her thermos, but always made sure that English was well taught in her class. No one graduated during the 40s or 50s without encountering Mrs. Hatly, who ruled the West end of the 3rd floor with iron will and fist, but made sure you didn't get pass Algebra without a real fight. Miss Beddingfield taught me early music appreciation, and seemed to never to have been appreciated herself. I don't think I have ever told these good and noble people how much they gave to me and many like me, who owe much to their character and success, as it may be, to the teachers in Bunkie. Sometime during my school years, these teachers and many others like them, produced two Federal judges, several doctors and lawyers, and many successful business people and other professionals. In the graduating class of 1953, there were 46 young people. As best as I can count, 32 went on to college and farther. This is a very enviable record for that time, and by any of today's standards.

BUNKIE, the little country town with a funny little name, but known by so many who in some way can connect to BUNKIE. In August of 1994, my wife and I were checking out of a hotel in Paris, France and a family standing nearby was talking and laughing. An accent deeply rooted in my mine, told me they had to be from Avoyelles Parish. I looked at the father, about my age, and asked, "from the U.S.?" He said "yes". "I bet from Louisiana", I said. He smiled and nodded yes. I said "Well, I'm from Bunkie", and before I could say more, he said in that very distinct and unforgettable accent, "Oh, my, we're from Mansura".

My roots are deep within that sandy, loamy soil of Bunkie and Avoyelles Parish, and deep within somewhere, there is a call to "fly away home". Those wonderful memories of my youth in Bunkie will always be with me and are mine to cherish and look at anytime. Bunkie, home, they are the words that strike a melody in my heart, and music to my soul. My grand and newer memories are all with me too, spanning over 40 years from Bunkie, four children and eight grandchildren, in another little country town, but in a distant place and another time.



BILL HUNT, 122 N. Marion St.,
Athens, Alabama 35611


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