“The Business and Domestic Special Collection” of
Lee Joseph and Anna ‘Gertrude’ Hensgens-Monlezun!
‘The Front Porch Room!’
In any early photo of Arthur Avenue, you will see a screened-in front porch/room which is why there is a step-down from the living room. On the north side was an outside staircase to the upstairs for the renters then the six boys and because there were six boys the stairs were eventually removed!!
Upon entering the porch, there was a swing on the left and behind the swing, was the door to Mom and Daddy’s bedroom. There were two windows on each side of this room as the front porch in the beginning did not run the length of the space it does today. Now it is all covered by paneling and extends the full length of the rest of the home; when you hit a nail on the head, you can hear the dirt dobber’s nest fall inside the wall!! The former windows can be seen from the inside wall!
Daily sweeping was required as it would get very dusty from street traffic before they paved the avenue! And if it rained hard and sideways, it would mist in! This ‘Front Porch Room’ was finished in 1957 after Daddy toiled twelve years in business and was used over the years mostly by the children and cousins as the piano has always been in that corner and a whole lot of playing went on! Many pictures were taken in this room as the length is perfect for lining everyone up! In the early years of their marriage Mom taught catechism from the swing in this porch room when then hung directly in front of the piano.
The piano has been in this spot since Adam and Eve and is pecked on to this day! The Sportsman Center painting is a wonderful and exact replica indeed of Daddy’s office! Memorabilia from his desk are sprinkled across the top of the piano; his desk lamp, various accoutrements, the rotary dial phone and rolodex, tickets books, notes from young Dominique Joseph (!), photos, a cancelled check to Canal Refining Co. for a transport of fuel ~ $17,000.00! What would that load cost today?! His office chair to the left of the piano is a perfect fit for all who like to prop their feet up on the piano stool and read while watching the passing cars or the sunrise!!
The hat stand holds Daddy’s beret and a few of his hats worn over the years. His over-alls worn daily for work, work jackets and a red jacket of Dominique’s are the exact jackets shown in the photos attached to the sleeves!! All were younger! His well worn work shoes (have been soaked in fuel from spillage and dried over the years!) are perched atop the sandpaper container; I did not know that sandpaper graduates from little to great so here is the container filled with various containers of various screws! These were collected from around the home and storeroom … I love to see them visible!
Mom would play the washboard (!), triangle, spoons (!), harmonica and accordion along with the organ, piano, guitar and banjo to any rhythm around to include tapping with anything she happened to be holding in her hands! She and Dad were quite the musical pair; I am so very grateful to them. These treasures rest here where music was made and steadily resonates throughout the years! Mom and Dad drove to Lake Charles, LA every Monday night commencing September 1963 for 30 years for ‘Messiah’ rehearsals and here the ‘Messiah Binder’ is proudly displayed! She invited her grandchildren, one by one, as high school seniors and their parents to join her on stage in Bulber Auditorium at McNeese State University for rehearsals and performances and we did in remembrance and gratefulness to them for this wonderful gift to our ‘Messiah!’
Dominique Joseph eyed front and center this handmade cypress guitar at the Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church parish auction a few years back and placed his bid for he knew the clear sound. He won this jewel for it was lovingly made by Mr. Wilbert Duplantis who was a master musician and craftsman; he could make anything of wood! Dominique shares it with us here in this very room. Mr. Duplantis had joined the Sing-Alongs in this home where he played the guitar and then handed it to Dominique; it was a big slice of the musical side of heaven!
Dominique Joseph was kind to install a quaint white beautiful heater (requested to match the curtains!) in this spot that heats the entire room. I called him January 2012 while sitting on the sofa and thanked him for “ it is the first time in 64 years that I was warm in this front room!!”
The beautiful white lace curtains are from Germany. Mom and Dad shipped a few bolts home while visiting, touring and shopping with ancestral family members in her native hamlets. They are magnificent and hang throughout the home!! The white double-seat-table is called a ‘vanity’ and was in the girl’s bedroom under the window where homework took place!! We had white pedestal rococo mirrors at each seat and that is where the magic make-up was applied and hair was transformed into doos! The vanity area now holds a laptop, scanner, printer and various Binders every Friday but it is not homework…it is working in pure joy and gratefulness!!
Seats from the ‘Picture Show’ have found a home in this room! They were in the garage for the children attending ‘Placed Based Heritage Education Day.’ After time passes many things find there ‘place’ inside this wonderful old home that embraces all good things and all good people! If these seats could talk!
The center table holds the original EXCEL Spread Sheets! Daddy was a bookkeeper way back and kept the books for most businesses in Lake Arthur the first one in 1946! I open one for the children and show them the most wonderful penmanship and columns and numbers!! A manual typewriter is displayed (ribbon in) as an artifact!! His cash register still thrills those who love the sound of that ring! He always said there was more money going out than coming in…especially when he had 5 children in school in three different schools at the same time!!!
The end table that fits perfectly to the right of the sofa bed was a wedding present to my parents from Uncle Alvin just before he left for the war and was their end table in the living room upstairs where they first resided after marriage! The sofa lamps were in their bedroom in the 8th Street house. The DX fuel can was one that Daddy used many-a-time and loves being on display among the tools of his trade! The regular fuel can is now a coffee table topped with a tray! Ya gotta love it!
This sweet and meaningful vignette encompasses the humble ‘Louisiana and Lake Arthur Collection’ which I accumulated during my career and military days, as gifts from others blending with what Dad and Mom had in the home!
Of Daddy’s Collection is the marvelous 1848 handmade rice mill pulley which hung on the wall in his office for centuries! People would bring him various pieces of every stripe for they knew he loved history, stories that he would hang it on the wall; well that apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!!
Hanging next to this artifact I had framed the newspaper article of 1975 “Laurent’s Point Land of live oaks, lagniappe and schooners” and traveled with it for many moves! I recently hung it next to the antique rice mill pulley and voila! The Collection is together and sings!
The bookcase holds the, “A Dictionary of The Cajun Language” by Rev. Msgr. Jules O. Daigle which he signed for me after taping my television segment in his home in Welsh, LA 1990. Louisiana art books, “The Makers of Cajun Music”, friend Steve Marceaux’s “God’s Gifts A Collection of Short Stories from the Heart of Cajun Country” and “Louisiana Homes If Walls Could Talk’ Vol. 1 & 2 as gift from Nola Mae Ross. I interviewed her on my diocesan television segment and while visiting her in her home preparing for the interview she gave me this generous gift of books. ‘Charlene The Little Cajun Saint’, 3 volumes, are the capstone of this collection. I recently added three of Don Kingery Timeline books of the features and columns from the American Press and Gay M. Gomez’s “A Wetland Biography” on her quest to understand the cheniers and marshes of southwest Louisiana! Great books all!
I am a member of the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical Society, Lake Charles and Pointe de L’Eglise: Acadia Genealogical and Historical Society, Crowley, LA receiving their quarterly newsletters ‘Kinfolks’ and ‘Á La Pointe.” Wonderful to place them here and read till to till the cows come home!
The sweetest ‘paper’ is my ‘State of Louisiana’ high school project which I loved compiling using glitter on the cover!! (I would wait for the mail as there were postcards and ‘paper’ treasures arriving from all over the state!) I earned a B because my margins were nonexistent consequently ‘margins’ were marked on every single page!! I have watched my margins to this day!
“History of Lake Arthur” compiled and written by Calvin Dale Smith and Allen Fitzgerald was a gift to me from Dominique Joseph and Tina Louise and holds a place of honor on these shelves. Great little compilation.
I combined all the telephone books in the home here; the earliest is 1954! These are priceless!
The ‘Lake Arthur Binder’ tabs: 1921, 1941, 1954, 1965, 1967, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984-85, 1994, 1995, 1998-99, 2000-01, 2002-03-04, 2005, 2013
The bottom shelf contains cypress pieces Daddy had made and sold from his collection of cypress. He loved to pour peanuts into his coke from the machines at the office. So…you can for yourself for this treat was offered to children and adults alike much to ones delight!!
‘Daddy’s Wall’ is a true and wonderful tapestry! It weaves his story from right to left highlighting the treasures of a life purposely lived by providing for his wife, children, guiding the businesses, his faith/church parish and in community service. There are wonderful memories, photos, grammar school notebooks, certificate from Vincent Business College, certificates, his bowtie (!)…memorabilia galore! Within the antique chest is a fantastic collection of Daddy’s vintage business ledgers inscribed by a hand!
Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Elf arrive entering through this portal every Christmas Gathering as the bright-eyed little ones wait on the other side. Santa parks his sleigh across the street as there is a large space for a smooth landing and the reindeers love the green grass in winter! His sack of toys is waiting right here for him as he calls out with his ho-ho-ho beckoning the children forward. He begins by singing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus who is nestled under the Christmas tree between St. Joseph and His Blessed Mother…and the traditions continue as my mother before me and on down through her descendants. How perfectly wonderful and right!
God of our ancestors, help us cling to You!