Temperatures this mid-February week are way below what is “normal” in the South, and the freezing cold reminds me of a story from this time of year…
I went to a really small all-girls Catholic high school in New Orleans, St. James Major, and the cold weather this week reminded me of a February trip for a Drama and Speech competition.
We traveled to Northwestern, a college in Natchitoches, LA, known for their Christmas celebration, meat pies, and Steel Magnolias.
As a Freshman, I was the youngest participant, and the trip involved an overnight stay. Temperatures were predicted to be in the teens, which is very atypical for Louisiana, north, or NOLA.
Our squatty orange school bus had a door that didn’t quite close and a heater that didn’t work at all. The bus was so cold that we bought apple pies to use as hand warmers at a McDonald’s stop.
It was driven by a plump post seminarian who had a thing for our drama teacher, also young. This pretty much took them out of the picture as chaperones, which was fine.
Away we went.
A Senior named Ackerman, girls at school were often called by their last name, was my roommate. She and I were friends in a big sister/little sister way.
When we got to our destination, it was already dark, and we were left on our own to find something real to eat.
Ackerman and I wandered along the river. We were already frozen from the bus trip and sleet traced through the street lights along the river walk.
The Roadhouse on Cane Lake River
A rough board camp restaurant built on a pier looked like the only and promising place. At least it might be warm…
Seated in a booth with a red checked tablecloth, we ordered extravagantly. Shrimp cocktails. A bowl of gumbo with toasted French bread. Large cokes. I don’t think anything ever tasted so good. We were starved, and the gas heater was amazing.
The shrimp cocktails were served in huge goblets usually reserved for beer. Intent on our dinner, we chattered about girl’s school subjects. Ackerman and her boyfriend had fallen asleep at the Skyvue drive-in the week before. Both were grounded, although they planned to get married the week after graduation.
It took a while, but we both noticed at the same time.
My friend and I were some of the only females in the establishment and certainly the youngest. Our nervous fear spiked and we asked for the check.
The waitress laughed and told us the check had been “taken care of” then gestured to the smoky room.
We looked out at all the men, sitting at the bar, playing pool on a couple of tables in the corner. Some smiled at us. Several waved. Some pretended not to notice but gave us a good sideways glance.
Wiggling out of the booth, we walked to the exit, feeling that every eye in the place was on us. Bundled in our coats, we tugged on gloves before facing them.
We both yelled “Thank you,” then turned and ran all the way back to the hotel.
In case you’re interested, check it out!!