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Garyville residents record history in scrapbooks

By ANNA MONICA / L’Observateur / September 21, 1998

It’s well known that the small community of Garyville has a big history. Whatmay not be known is that several of its lifelong citizens, Nolan James “Jimmy” Bourgeois and Frances Falgoust “Ginnick” Roccaforte, have kept scrapbooks not only of events involving the town, but also of other local and worldly events.

Walking into Bourgeois’ home is like walking into a library filled with history.

One can go far back into the past, learning all the way. Bourgeois has all hisscrapbooks neatly categorized according to subject matter, as well as a special one on Garyville. And, says his wife of 43 years, Betty, “There are still papers inthe box that need to go into books.”Actually, a suitcase filled with these treasures had been stored in his garage, and Jimmy really thought he had thrown it all away. Discovering them, he decidedthat one day they could be interesting to someone, especially his grandchildren.

“Talk about stink,” says Betty, “it was all in that suitcase so long and the odor took a long time to go away.”The Bourgeois scrapbooks have stories on the assassination of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King Jr., President Nixon’s resignation, a 1947 pictureof Jackie Robinson as the first African American to play in the Major Leagues and long-time favorite, Louis Armstrong. He has an entire book on the Popes aswell as pictures of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, who he actually met in 1988 at Rogers’ museum in California.

Jimmy also has a special Reserve book which features St. Peter’s Church,Godchaux Sugars and the Godchaux train and Louis Maurin of the former well-known Maurin’s theatre.

Former Gov. Earl Long is a favorite of Jimmy’s memories “because he was such acharacter,” and well known politicians both local and otherwise are largely featured in the scrapbooks. One can also read about the Depression, HurricanesBetsy and Camille, the burning of Leon Godchaux High School, the sinking of the Luling-Destrehan ferry when several locals lost their lives and the recent May 9 flood, to name only a few entries.

Older citizens will remember the black bordered death notices posted in public places years ago, and Jimmy has a copy of that, too. The astronauts and theirfeats are there to read about. In fact, just pick a subject and it’s probably there.Retired because of disability, Bourgeois has a full life. He and Betty travel intheir travel trailer, and when not doing that, if Bourgeois’ hands are not busy on the books, they probably are building or carving something out of an unusual piece of wood, making rosaries from various unusual beads for grandchildren, friends and special occasions. He possesses several historic mementos, too, likea spike from the old Garyville Northern Railroad that once ran from Garyville to Livingston Parish.

In addition, Bourgeois helps Betty with her interest in genealogy. Betty broughtout charts of Jimmy’s family tree which she has worked on from time to time for years. Their own six children, Gregory of LaPlace, Trina Baker of Metairie,Angela Millet of Grand Point, Nolan of Ft. Lauderdale, Wendy St. Pierre of LaPlaceand Shannon Tregre of Garyville are included in the charts and they and the eight grandchildren enjoy searching to find their names. So many names and events areamong the memorabilia of Bourgeois, and it all represents a wealth of history for which other historians would hunger. Some scrapbooks are yet empty soon tobecome a part of history.

Frances “Ginnick” Roccaforte has some memories, too.

A letter from the former and recently deceased astronaut, Allan Shepard, the first man into space, is a prize possession. The letter was a response to oneGinnick wrote in admiration and encouragement to the astronauts. In it Capt.Shepard expresses his appreciation of her thoughtfulness and wishes her well in her TV viewing of Apollo XIV. In fact, Ginnick has several extremelylarge scrapbooks jammed with information and nostalgia that makes you want to sit there and remember all day or to grasp a sense of the past.

Ginnick even wrote to the Pope about his visit to New Orleans (letters were encouraged by the paper) and a “p.s.” she added to the letter was chosen forpublication which read “your parents would be so pleased and so proud of you for what you stand for.” That she would add a “p.s.” greatly amused her husband,Frank, who has since passed away after 46 years of marriage.

Because she is a very sentimental person who wants to remember things for years to come, there are many personal items and souvenirs in Ginnick’s scrapbooks, including reading certificates she received in 1937 and 1938 from Garyville Grammar School and her parents’ – Armant and Bernice Falgoust – marriage license dated June 30, 1919. She has a certificate dated June 1943from the U.S. Army Air Force when she belonged to the Aircraft Warning ServiceObservation Post Osborn 36, a duty she performed before and after school.

In several pamphlets in her scrapbooks are ads from some very familiar names of past businessmen and merchants in Garyville, such as E. J. Navarra, AnthonyMonica Jr., C. M. Weeks, White’s Pharmacy and Garyville Theatre, Richard Heltz,proprietor. Dedication of the new St. Hubert’s Church in 1967 is included as wellas a program from the 1982 Diamond Jubilee for the church founded in 1907.

The death of former sheriff Percy Hebert is captured in her books as well as Garyville Wheelbarrow parades, the Garyville history written by Darryl St.

Pierre, the fund-raising Garyville “Womanless Wedding,” which contest her son Barry won (and she has the pictures to prove it) and the big trips the late Anthony “Sugar Boy” Monica took with the young ball teams he coached.

Of course, articles on the weddings of her daughters Gwen Entremont and Susie Loupe and son, Barry, have a prominent place in her books as do remembrances of past and present pastors of Garyville.

Ginnick is an accomplished musician who remembers, as a youth, practicing piano on Marie Guidry’s piano while dressed in head scarf, coat and gloves because it was so cold. Today, still a dedicated and accomplished music lover.She plays the organ in church, sings a great alto and is always ready to write words to “the anniversary song” for a 50th wedding anniversary which she sings with her sisters to the celebrating couple.

Very much involved in life and with people, Ginnick also teaches first grade religion and claims to “take one day at a time and am thankful for what I have.”What she does have is a positive outlook, warm, loving memories of the past and a willingness to go toward the future. And if she needs to reflect on the past,her scrapbooks are nearby.

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