Who Are They Burying In Watson Today? and other Small Town Oddities

My childhood friend, Robbie, posted “Who are they burying in Watson today?” on his Facebook wall today. A couple of jokesters posted some funny things like a dead person and not me, but they are obviously not native Watsonians, or they are a part of the younger generation where the small town feel has been expunged with the influx of foreigners (Baton Rouge people) that have taken over my hometown. A true Watson native would know that you just answer the damn question so they can get on the phone and call their relatives to find out what happened.

My high school English teacher, Ms. Lester, posted in response, “Your question reminds me of a time in my early years of teaching at LOHS (Live Oak High School). I came from Baton Rouge, so I was not used to knowing everything that went on in town. One day as I was teaching my class (with the windows open because, believe it or not, we had no air conditioning at the time), we heard an ambulance racing down the road beside the school, sirens blaring. My entire class ran to the windows. I was incredulous and thought they had lost their minds. I asked, “Haven’t y’all ever heard an ambulance before?” Someone told me that they did not hear them often and that so and so’s (can’t remember who) elderly relative lived down that road and that s/he had been sick. That was life in Watson. We all knew each other. There were the vanguard families – Easterly, Rushing, Penn, Graves, Chavers, Ott, Underwood, and a few more – that had settled that area right after Adam and Eve were born. Everybody was a descendent of those families in some way. I came from the Graves clan. My grandmother married a King from another small town, but we all settled in Watson. The Graves family was a huge family, and I think all of the siblings lived down our street at some time. In the summer, we’d have softball games, and all of our Graves’ cousins would come over and play.

As we grew up we encountered issues with this whole relative thing.  Who were we going to date? Everybody was related. I remember the “new kids” that came into town and their arrival – 30 years later. It was a huge event to have somebody new of the opposite sex in school! The Harrington boys invaded Watson in high school. They were hot, too. It caused quite a stir. The Bowden sisters were another unsuspecting pair that landed into a community where there wasn’t much of an available dating pool, and, if you were beautiful or good-looking (and they were), you were popular……and envied.

Barry was another implant, and I remember he started hanging around by my place a bit – driving by and blowing his horn as he coolly drove around the neighborhood.  I asked Barry why he moved to our little community, and he said, “Because the people were friendlier and the fine girls.” When I told him he’d be quoted, he relayed a story about gang fights at his previous school. I’m going with the ‘fine girls’, even though I know his Mama wouldn’t have let him switch schools for better girls. As suddenly as I got used to him coming around, he disappeared. I still saw him all the time because we all hung out together, but no longer was he singling me out. When I saw him at the gumbo cookoff in Watson earlier this year, he told me the story.  He asked his Grandmother – unbeknownst to me my Grandmother’s sister – who he could date, and she said, ” Anybody that has moved to Watson recently. If their family is from Watson, you are probably related to them.” Well, that ruled out this curly-haired cousin.

I messaged Ms. Lester to ask about other things she noticed because, to me, it was all so normal. These are the thoughts of my high school English teacher, who, by the way, everybody had for a teacher. That was another thing about school. There was one school  in Watson – k-12. The teachers taught every kid in town and all of their siblings.

Ms. Lester’s remembrances:

  • When she gave directions to Baton Rouge, everything had to start from Cortana Mall. That’s the only place we all knew.
  • When she asked for directions to a party-
Answer:
Go down hwy. “whatever” (Ms. Lester, it had to be Hwy. 16), past so and so’s farm with the black and white cows in the side pasture, turn left by the power stations, etc.
What about street signs? Nope.
  • She had to be careful about gossip because we were all related.
  • “I remember trying to explain that it was a good thing to have variety in topics for discussion and writing. Boys wrote so much about sports and hunting that I thought I would scream. Girls were better about this. I remember trying to expand horizons. Boys of that time wanted to be truck drivers, and girls wanted to be wives and mothers.”
  • “The small rural town Watson used to be had cultural differences. Talking to students about impressions they made on “outsiders” when they used poor grammar in their speech and writing did not mean much to them. Their attitude seemed to be ‘this is what I am, so take it or leave it.’ Not all were like this, of course, but many were.”
  • “I remember showing slides of a trip to Europe that I had taken the summer before to my senior class. One student asked me if we drove or flew to England. After I beat my head on the wall a few times, I went across the hall, borrowed Mr. Sykes wall map, hung it up in my classroom, showed the students the blue between the U.S. and England, and asked them, “How do you think I got to England?”
  • “And on Fridays during hunting season, my classes were almost empty of boys. And from the excuses I got the next Monday, it seemed that every boy had been sick with the same thing. Yeah, right…coon-hunting syndrome”
  • “I remember, as a counselor, going to a class to talk about future plans, college, etc. One of the students ( a senior, no less) asked me how a college knew you wanted to go there. I laughed and then realized she was serious. I then asked her if she had ever heard of an application.”
  • “There was a difference in what was acceptable to say and think. Students said “crap” out loud in class. I was upset because, to me, that was a curse word. I can hear you laughing at me, Sharon. :)” Yeah…I was…

I can’t imagine what she must have thought of us, but she cared about us country hicks. I have this image of Ms. Lester, and it’s how I’ve always remembered her. She’s standing next to the brick high school building on duty. I can’t remember the clothes she had on, but I remember the shoes. They were some white sandals wedges with laces that laced up her leg. I thought she looked so hip and so cool. She taught me some of the most important skills I’ve ever learned. She taught me how to write a paragraph and how to write an essay. It doesn’t seem like much, but I ended up becoming an English major, and writing is a major part of who I am. Because I know the technical side of writing, I use it creatively to heal myself, to inspire others and to have fun all at the same time. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. But, even more than that, I remember her standing there that day, and I remember what I thought. “I want that. I want to be smart, stylish, and in charge of my life. I want to be like her.” I don’t even know if that was her story, but that was what this country girl saw, and I followed her lead.

Dean, Jean Ann and Dinky

Dena, Jean Ann and Dinky

The other day, I posted a picture of my friend Jean Ann and her sister Dena with their little dog. Someone else from my hometown posted, “Is that Dinky?” We remember each other’s childhood dogs. We remember the kind of car they drove. We remember their history, their stories, their hangups. We truly were family. We had our faults and our struggles, but we grew up together no differently than brothers and sisters and cousins, and, in fact, many of us were. Right this minute, there is a saga playing out on Facebook between two of my hometown friends about an incident involving a paddling in high school. We all remember these stories……30 years later.

When I drive through Watson now, I don’t recognize a thing. It’s all strip malls and new buildings that I’ve never seen before. But, in January, when I drove down Highway 16, in the midst of the new construction and unfamiliarity, a familiar movie started rolling…my soul and my heart remembered what my eyes could not. Because you can take a girl out of the country, but you can’t ever…ever...ever take the country out of the girl.

73 thoughts on “Who Are They Burying In Watson Today? and other Small Town Oddities

  1. Too cool Sharon! I have inspired a lot of talk, But its thefirst time a random “Robbie thought” ever to inspired real journalistic undertaking! Don’t know where to start, but I am still laughing. A couple of thoughts…I remember Mrs. Lester’s rememberances. Just part of life in Watson USA. And yes, I too remember Dinky. Finally, I waited to marry a “Baton Rouge Girl” to avoid the family relations thing, only to find out that her great great grandmother and my great great grandmother were sisters, both daughters of our common ancestor Jacob Hill. Small world, huh?

  2. Well written, Sharon! I, too, credit Mrs. Lester as a great influence, if not in getting me started writing, then certainly in honing my skills. And you truly nailed the bygone lifestyle of the Watson that was. More, more!

  3. Great job Sharron. We did have some good times. I wish more children could grow up the way we did. Keep up the good work cuz!!!

  4. Had to laugh at the teachers teaching all the siblings. Since I was the youngest in my crew, I was doomed to being one of three’s little brother forever, and was measured against them all the time.

    • Birth order really did make a difference there. I was lucky to be the oldest, but I still lived in Daddy’s shadow. Funny, I felt so grownup back then, but I was such a little country kid. I spent 3 hours putting that together last night. Time flies when you are having fun!

  5. Good, Sharon. Mrs. Lester’s directions remind me of when I first moved to Marksville. I called to get directions to the water department. They asked, “Where’re you coming from?” I gave them my new address, and they said, “Well, you turn on Cedar Lane, then you turn right where those buffalo used to be.” I replied, “What? — What buffalo? What’s the street name?” “Oh, I don’t know. You know there by Eddie Knoll’s house.” I finally had to get a neighbor to drive me there. Crazy stuff, living in small towns.

  6. Sharon, I absolutely love your stories. Not to mention, I feel almost like a celebrity when I get mentioned in them. It’s so great to be able to share them with Paige (13 now) to give her a glimpse of my life in Watson. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

  7. Great job Sharon. You brought back many memories. Every now and then I run across Artie Lentz, he reminds me of when I moved to Watson in the 10th grade.

  8. You probably don’t know me but I came out to Watson in ’71 started school in second grade with Ms Dot. I actually got teary eyed reading this because it does sadden me a bit when you look back at our small little community and see it becoming a bustling town. I loved being able to ride bikes down Cane Market Road with our pockets full of change to Story’s Grocery to get lots of candy without the worry of a car (mostly bad dogs chasing you) and now you take your life into your hands to do that. I love this town, there is no place like it!

  9. I came to watson as a young girl and graduated from there and I still miss the homey feeling. Great memories.

  10. As one of those outsiders moving in from New Orleans 35 years ago (1978), my mom still lives in the same house on Cane Market Road and plans to never leave! The first person we met in Watson was Kenzie. He was flying by our house on a mini bike and my Mom whistled and waved him in. …He still stops by occassionally to hug her neck and drink a cold one with Lou Lou. Although I moved away a very long time ago, I call Watson home. My daddy would have wanted it to stay the same. Dick hated the idea of the incorporation but saw the ground breaking for a Walmart in our once NO RED LIGHT town. Whether new stores or new schools, the heart of Watson remains with the people. Love to you all! Lana Hidalgo Knight

      • My sisters are Lorraine (married to Dick Chavers for 30 years)and Linda Day (or Lou Lou). I was closer to Terry’s age and I remember you, Sammy and your parents. Most of the time, younger kids remember the older one. I was in 5th grade when we moved to Watson. Lorraine was a Senior and Linda was in 9th. I live in Panama City Florida now. LOVE your blog!

      • Well, I definitely remember Lorraine. She was in my blog today! And I remember sightings of her little sister although I didn’t know your name. She and Dick lived in the subdivision where my family lived, but, of course, I had moved away. So sorry she lost Dick so early. Life is often not fair.

      • It was a devastating lost for all of us. We miss him dearly. I was 11 yrs old when they got married at the Old – Old LO Methodist Church (the white church). I had the honor of preaching at his funeral and officiating the graveside service. He loved life, loved his family, and loved Watson. Royalty is RIGHT! He was a king in my eyes!

    • Hello Lana,
      I am Kenzie’s older sister (I graduated with Lorraine) and could not help but comment to you when I saw this post. He is a true “Watson Country Boy” and I am glad that he welcomed your family to Watston. He loved your Dad and still talks about his visits with your Mom. I never knew the story behind how they become to know each other.

  11. When we first moved to Watson, I was in third grade and Celeste was in kindergarten. One of my first teachers was Mrs. Hancock. Celeste had Karen Robert. Man, was envious of Celeste’s luck in teachers. I’ll never forget the drive down Greenwell Springs Rd. from North Baton Rouge to our new home in Watson. I didn’t think we would ever get there. I couldn’t believe my Mom was making us move WAY out there! Thankfully, she made that decision. We came to Live Oak early enough that I never really felt like we were “outsiders”.
    Today when someone asks if I went to Live Oak, I am proud to say yes and so did my children and two of my grandchildren attended there. When Brody and Eli get old enough that’s where they will go. We have roots 🙂

    • Yes, you have roots. You were not on my mental list of newcomers, so that meant you are an original in my mind. However, you are like the Kings….you are not Watson royalty (of course, we have Graves’ blood, so we count a little)! There is a difference…haha

  12. Sharon,I absolutely love your stories. I feel like I’m reading an insert from a novel of some famous author, always wanting to read more. The memories of our childhood, teenage years, etc. seem like yesterday. When I tell new people to the area that I’ve never lived anywhere but Watson, LA, they go really? Then I tell them about Live Oak School being 1-12 grades on one campus, 2 buildings, no redlight, 2 lane highway, etc. Hard to believe how Watson has changed. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you for sharing, Tammie. The most fun I have is putting these things together and then hearing people’s responses. Today has been a blast. It took me 3 hours to write, choose pictures and let it take on a life of its own, and today has made every minute worth it. Who would have known Watson would have been story worthy? It’s that and so much more. There will be more- party lines, sibling rivalries, rivalries with other schools- I just can’t fit it into one story. Love you, gal.

  13. Good ole Watson! People call use to call it a hick town, I have always and will always call it home! Even with all the new changes, I still love our lil town! There is no place I would rather live! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories!! I, like so many others, am looking forward to your next blog!

    • Oh, I’m blushing…thank you. I’m beginning to think there is enough fodder between a few of us writers that we ought to do a Watson blog and just let everybody chime in with their own pics, stories and memories. Thanks, Vickie, my old neighbor and friend. I can still see your backyard plain as day.

  14. As I am married to an “outsider” he has taken on the don’t ask when we bump into familiar faces around town. It will only lead to ” so and so whose momma was you know that lived down by where it used to be……….. He still says only in Watson where everybody is kin to everybody!

    But that’s how I remember the way it was.

    • Yes, it was. And, the Bankston’s were surely Watson royalty as well. I didn’t have the space to list them all, and then I probably would have left some family out. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Wanda. It’s what makes this fun for me!

  15. Naturally, your story brought back some old memories of watson, people, and good times — even when there were only two stores, Easterly Grocery and Collins Jones service station.

    Cokes were a nickel and you could go to the town of denham springs , see a voice and get a coke and bag of popcorn all for 12 cents.
    Even ran across a photo just yesterday of Sharon, Jean Ann, Lori Edwards and Susan swimming behind my boat in the great Atchafalaya Basin.

    ….and, what I didn’t get through saying before hitting the dumb button follows.

    As you see, I haven’t kept up with all this modern stuff since electric light bulbs were invented (and I did study — not enough — by oil lamps).

    What I would dare have tolerated when you were in high school was what we did. It was the predays of telephones. The only twitting was done by horse tails or cow tails when flies were around. They would twit their tail and knock ’em off.
    To get a date, we left about 5 o’clock and started down the cane market or springfield road, picked out some VERY LUCKY YOUNG LADY’S house, honk the horn a couple of times and, especially on the first date, get out and yell, “wanna go to the drive in?”

    Get a few reject, get a date. gals living on the long end of the line were in tough trouble.

    good job on writing. love ya. Thanks for the memories — and being my daughter.

    .

    .

    • OMG…that’s so funny. I can imagine that you didn’t want boys honking the horn to come get us. Their Mommas probably knew about you and your dating etiquette and would have whipped their little asses. Thanks for reading, Daddy, I can’t wait to see that book about growing up in Watson.

  16. I don’t know where to start – this is amazingly beautiful and true and wonderful. I grew up in Watson and have the yearbook you’ve shared above! My great-grandmother was Charlotte Bell “Lottie” Underwood-Truax-Mixon. My mother, Emily Everett-Marchand went to Live Oak and was Miss Live Oak in 1968. Our family moved to Houston for my senior year of high school (class of 1989) – after going to Live Oak from kindergarten-11th grade. I have since lived abroad and moved back to Houston, but Louisiana will always be home. When I make a meal of homegrown vegetables, I refer to it as “Watson food”. Or when I break out with a very country saying I chalk it up to the “Watson coming out”. Thank you so much for a warm feeling and trip down memory lane. I will be following your blog!

    • How awesome! I love that story of the “Watson” coming out. I say that too. OMG…what I wouldn’t do for those homegrown vegetables these days. Momma always said I’d appreciate them one day, and she was right. Don’t ya hate it when Momma was right? Anyway, thanks for the following the blog. I don’t always write on Watson, though. But, I hope you find some other topics enjoyable, too. At least we have a point of connection. I like that.

  17. When I think of Live Oak (sorry, just can’t seem to say Watson) I remember the fun times had at the Fourth of July celebrations held each year at the school and the great fireworks on the football field that night. So much fun sitting out under the trees watching and talking to everybody. Miss those good times.

  18. Wow this brings back lots of good memories! And so true about everybody being kin! I can remember us girls being all excited about getting asked out by our crush of the week and get our bubble bursted when momma would suggest that we call our grandma and ask if they were related to us…..My grandma said if they, their parents, or grandparents are Jones, Underwood, Ott, Thames, Courtney, Bashears, White, Allen or Sullivan they are your kin people! Well that just about covered everybody! You need to do a blog on our hang outs in Watson! Does everybody remember WineO’s?

    • I’ve already had Wine O’s mentioned to me in the last 24 hours! Did you read my blog before the gumbo cookoff about the parking lots? I talked a little about it there. There will be more coming. People are reminding me of things I’ve long ago forgotten.

  19. Oh, my! I love this, Sharon…your blog and all the comments! (Especially Sam’s. I may have been one of those girls who wanted to go to the drive-in movie!)

  20. This reminds me of two friends who were dating when they found out they were 5th cousins. She called her doctor, telling him, “If you tell me I can’t marry my 5th cousin, I’ll have to break up with him immediately!” The doctor laughed, “Look. The only reason you know he’s your 5th cousin is because you live in Watson! If you lived in New York, you’d never know it. It’s okay!”

  21. SHARON
    I am older than you. DeLila Sanders and Dianne Wheat Keigley are my younger sisters. This did make me remember home. I have lived there all my life. Now my grandsons go to school at Live Oak. Funny because my daughter lives up on the Springfield road pass Miss. COXE HOUSE. I could not tell you the street number but everyone knows everyone. Now when people (like my husband) ask who did you date in school. You say no one because we were all kin. He does not believe that. We were all kin. Thank you

  22. This really is awesome !! I’m from Watson moved from there to Arkansas in 1980. Love that place. Still have lots if family there Jimmie McCoy is my uncle.

  23. Thanks Sharon !
    Seems like yesterday. K – 12 !
    As well as my brothers Rocky and Micky. classes of 1984, 1985, 1986 🙂

    • I know…hard to imagine now with the mega high school they’ve built! You guys were just young sprouts to me. Thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings. I hope we cross paths again.

  24. Thank you Sharon. This was a nice read and brought back a lot of good memories. I graduated with Terry in 1984. 🙂

    • I think I remember you, Lynn. Thanks for stopping by to read. Funny, how it all seemed so normal then. Now, it seems like such a different time. I told Ms. Lester that I thought it was just that it was a long time ago until she talked about how different it was from Baton Rouge. So, I guess we were a little bit behind the times AND it was a long time ago. Shows what I know…haha.

  25. Sharon, I have really loved reading your stuff. This one has been particularly good. I remember being somewhat insulted once on the bluff behind my house, you asked James Garrison if I was cool. Much later before I realized what you meant;-) We moved back here in ’94 after living the first ten years of marriage several places in Baton Rouge. We inherited Pawpaw’s house when he passed. I was completely startled by the changes, which of course means I wasn’t coming home enough in those ten years. I was so glad to be back home in the country, but sometimes I feel like I need to move out to the country. The changes haven’t been for the better. I love being from here.

  26. Reblogged this on Midlife Moments and commented:

    This blog – like yesterday’s – is one of my favorites because of the comments and people I connected with. One of the benefits about blogging that I didn’t expect is that it has helped me build community in a big way. It’s a pain in the butt to post comments on WordPress, so a lot of people don’t do it. I really appreciate the ones that go through the time and effort to write one. But, I also hear from people in all kinds of ways, and I treasure those contacts. Life is busier than ever, but in the past year I have made more new friends and rekindled old relationships than I have at any point in my life. This blog is special because it reconnected me to a lot of my history and my childhood friends. There’s just something about those connections and experiences that are everlasting. I guess gratitude is what I feel about this one when I read the comments here. It’s just sweet, y’all.

  27. Sharon. I just stumbled across this blog, and I am beyond excited! I love reading anything about Live Oak and our childhood. We had the best childhood ever! You could count on one thing for sure: if you were out and about on hwy. 16, and you passed a car, you would know who was in the other car! Unfortunately, that is not the case today. I loved the closeness of this community and how this community rallies for its own. I am proud that I am from Live Oak!! Keep the blog going! I want to read more! The memories that you are stirring up are just so awesome!

  28. Someone re-posted this on Facebook today and it reminded me that this was the first of your blog posts that I read – I’ve been hooked ever since and am so richly rewarded with the friendship that has blossomed from it.

    • Awwww… That’s so sweet- of you and that somebody reposted. If it hadn’t been for those hometown blogs, I don’t think I’d be living here. It didn’t turn out like I thought it would, but it has certainly been a learning experience. I’ve met a few jewels, too – that would be you!

  29. Love it Sharon man we can tell stories about Watson I remember telling my kids to not to talk about some one because they were probably king to them

  30. Sharon,
    So nice to read all the comments again. Things have changed so much in Watson. You could count the cars on both hands passing the house in one day, raise the windows at night and hear the cars five miles up the road, ride bicycles on the highway after church on Sunday’s, etc. Those were the good ole days. Reality really has hit home since Dad has been gone and I tend to pay closer attention to the smaller things. God bless our Watson and I pray that those people that have moved in over the years will love it as much as the ones that were born and raised there and yes I am still here! We are Live Oak!!!

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