Saints win brings back memories of 1975

Published 5:53 am Wednesday, January 27, 2010

By By Lowell McGill
This week we end our series of columns from the year 1975.
Watching the Saints play Minnesota on Sunday reminded me of September of 1975 when the Louisiana Superdome opened its doors for the first professional game in that indoor facility.
Some friends from Bay Minette, including some old classmates, invited me to go with them one week end to see the Saints play. However, I was unable to go. I may have been lucky had I gone with them. You see, on the trip back home my friends told me they stopped at an oyster bar somewhere along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and had some raw oysters. During the meal one of them uncovered an oyster pearl. And, I learned that it was a somewhat valuable pearl but I never learned just exactly the monetary value.
I have often wondered, perhaps, that lucky one could have been me had I made that trip. But, I almost forgot. I don’t eat raw oysters.
Since 1979, I have probably made two hundred trips to the State of Louisiana, many of them to New Orleans.
That state floods probably more than any other state in the country and it probably has more flood policies than any other state. Of course Katrina was the highlight of my flood-adjusting career as that was the largest catastrophe I ever worked. I also remember many times flying out of New Orleans to work floods in other states.
For $39-$89 I could fly Southwest Airlines to most any western, mid-western or southern state. Most fail to realize you can drive to the New Orleans Airport in about three hours 45 minutes.
And, while we are on New Orleans those who want to capture ruins should go on over there with a camera or video recorder in hand. You can drive to New Orleans East in three hours fifteen minutes. Take a left at the fist exit just pass the old Jazz Land site. I believe this was later called Five Flags or is it Six Flags? Travel down into Chalmette and Arabi. As you enter those eastern communities you will still see damaged and abandoned homes and businesses. You will also see some development in process too.
While over there take a right on either Judge Perez or St. Bernard Highway and drive right into the city. Park your car and take a streetcar ride on scenic St Charles Avenue. Make another connection and ride out to Audubon Park, the sprawling zoo. There you will see hundreds of animals roaming in a very becoming habitat.
Stay away from places like Bourbon Street, which is filled with “sophisticated dives”. Instead visit Jackson Square and see a statue of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. He was one of the greatest Dixieland Jazz artists of all times. A native of the Crescent City, he recorded hundreds of songs that are still popular today.
Have a nice meal on one of the steamboat restaurants that takes you up and down the Mississippi River providing you a spectacular view of the city.
You may be surprised to learn you can visit these places and still be back at home that night.
As a side note, those of you who are familiar with Google Earth or similar Web sites can zoom in and see many of these locations. I spend a lot time on my computer just bringing up these websites to see those buildings I worked, not only in Hurricane Katrina, but 20-30 years ago. All you need is the street address and those buildings will “come alive” via satellites right on your computer.
Now let us take a final look at some local events from 1975.
Mr. Lorenza Conway of Canoe was feted with a gala birthday party, which drew over one hundred friends and relatives. He was 99 years old.
Burt Shell, son of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Shell was selected a Junior Varsity Cheerleader at the University of Alabama. The ECHS grad was at sophomore at UA.
International Paper Company opened up 41,000 acres of land for hunters. Some acreage had free hunting permits but a few tracts required a fee. Most of the land was located north of I-65.
Clyde Helton, who was president of the Escambia County Cattleman’s Association, was selected County Beef Production Chairman.
Gary Flavors, a popular police officer with the city, completed degree requirements at the Police Academy in Bay Minette. He was a 1968 graduate of Escambia County Training School.
Phil Rawls, The Atmore Advance news editor, resigned his position to take an editorial job with “The Montgomery Advertiser.”
He left that position a few years ago for a position with The Associated Press. You can read his stories today on the internet and many newspapers across the USA. His writing style was and still is exceptional. His phrasing, command of the English language and his sentence structure is second to none.
Area residents were saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Sennie Chapman. The popular optometrist was in business here for over 30 years.
Another prominent citizen, Fred George also passed away that year. He was in the hardware business here for a number of years.
Curtis Forester was named Escambia Florida Farm and Home Administrator of The Year. Carol Dixon and Barbara Dickerson, his two office assistants, were also recognized for their contributions to this office.
Former local pastor, Rev. Cameron Bryant, raised two enormous Pumpkins in his home garden. A photo of his fruit (or is it vegatables?) was carried in The Advance and “The Mobile Press Register.”
Finally, square dancing was popular to many here. A group called The Escambia Square had regular dances and drew couples from several counties. Some of the locals included Chuck and Linda Laue, Jimmy and Earlene Biggs, Jack and Catherine Edmund, Raymond and Dianne Jerkins, Ray and Myrna Hodgen, Vickie and Jamie Black, Chery and Marie Blackwater, Joel and Louise Day and Daphne Sims. Lamar Fillingim was the “main caller” of he dances.
Now, it goes without saying, I am sure I have omitted the names of some dancers. It always happens. But if I did, please forgive me. I’ll be happy to add them in my next column if you let me know who they are.
Not sure what I will write about next week. Sure hope these old stories of the past don’t turn you away. Don’t want to lose any of you.
Moreover, at my age, I will be thankful just to be here next time.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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