Remembrance of seasons past – DHS 1955 champs look back at reunion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 9, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 9, 2000

KENNER – It was a time when much of the life on the east bank of St. CharlesParish revolved around the Shell Oil plant in Norco. When batting helmetswere not yet in vogue and hitters still swung wooden bats.

The year was 1955 and the Destrehan Wildcats were on top of the baseball world in Class A.

This past Saturday night, members of that 1955 Class A state championship baseball team came together once again at Jazz Seafood and Steak House on Veterans Boulevard to reminisce about those days and to remember a more simpler time.

The 11 men who attended the reunion – Lou St. Amant, Eric St. Amant,Donald Gauthreaux, Gilly Bourgeois, David Walker, Percy Colon, Buddy Bourgeois, Leonard Faucheaux, Ray Bowyer, Tommy Fernandez and Kenny Montz – remembered the bus rides to Winnsboro and Farmerville in the state playoffs. Growing up around the Shell facility and going to movies, dances andball games on the grounds. They remembered coach Vain Wilson and theinfluence he had on their lives. And they looked back at how close that teamwas.

“When I look back to it, I remember how we all got along so good,” Montz said. “We were a happy-go-lucky team.”Colon, who went on to play at Tulane, remembers the camaraderie on the team.

“We were closer than just friends,” Colon said. “I felt like we were a family.We played and we knew what we had to do. And it felt like everybody was myfriend.”Gilly Bourgeois concurred.

“It was like one big happy family,” Bourgeois said. “I want to say you are agreat bunch of people and I thank you.”Eric St. Amant also wanted to thank his former teammates.”You all were great role models for me,” St. Amant said.Part of that closeness may have come from the time and place where the players grew up, according to some of the men in attendance.

“I tell my kids, I wish you could have grown up the way I grew up,” Fernandez, who would go on to coach Destrehan to its second state championship in 1963, said. “It was perfect. It was just a great thing.”Bowyer, now a doctor in Lafayette, agreed.

“We were all fortunate to grow up in those times and in a special place,” Bowyer said. “We had to be some of the most blessed people in the country.”The players also talked about coach Wilson, saying his teachings still influence them to this day.

“I enjoyed playing for that team,” Faucheaux said. “Coach Wilson was a rolemodel for me all my life. He was fair with everybody.”Walker recalled the time that Wilson benched him for the playoff game against Winnsboro after he had missed a couple of practices because he was with the tennis team.

“I never had more admiration for him than when he sat me for that game,” Walker, who remembered that Wilson was also a World War II pilot, said. “Irespected him for that decision. He earned your respect.”Gauthreaux also recalled that Wilson had the team ready for every game.

“When everybody went out to practice, it was like you were going to play a ballgame,” Gauthreaux remembers. “I think he was a great guy and I had thegreatest respect for him.”Lou St. Amant, the pitcher on that team who later went on to coach atLutcher and Northeast Louisiana University, said that leadership by Wilson carried the team to the state championship.

“No matter what the score, we felt we could win,” St. Amant said. “Andsome of those games were on the way to the state title.”Destrehan concluded that run with a 6-5 victory over Farmerville in the state championship game. The Wildcats went on to defeat Hahnville for the districttitle the following season but fell to the Tigers, 2-0, in the state final.

Gauthreaux presented pictures of the team to the players. The St. CharlesParish School System also supplied baseballs encased in a holder with the inscription “Destrehan High School, 1955 Class A State Baseball Champions.”The players passed around the balls to be signed by each other.

“Many of us haven’t seen each other for 40 years,” Buddy Bourgeois said.

“This is something I will take with me forever. Seeing each of you tonight isspecial for me.”Walker, looking back at that team, said it was a time he will always remember.

“We had some good times,” Walker said. “I will never forget them. I want tothank those for putting this together. This is priceless.”

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