Remembering the ‘good old days’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When you talk to an older person, you often hear them say, “I remember the good old days.” Some of you might ask the question, “I wonder what the good old days were like?”

Well, I have talked to several of the senior citizens from St. John Parish, and I want to pass on their stories. Some of the people that were in business say that they would leave their business every day at 11 a.m. and return at 1 p.m. During the two hours that they were gone for lunch and maybe to catch a wink or two, they never locked their businesses up. In some instances, a customer might go into their store, get what they needed and leave the owner a note. Guess, this was known as the honor system.

Before U.S. 61 was built, the only way to get to New Orleans was to travel River Road. If you didn’t own a car, you had to take the bus. A bus trip to New Orleans from LaPlace took from two and a half to three hours because of the stopping and picking up of passengers.

Most of the residents of the parish didn’t lock their doors at their home and many of the houses didn’t even have locks. Milk and ice was delivered to your home. If you were gone, the ice man would go into your home and put the ice in your ice box. Also, the ice man would chip your block of ice; he would give the small chips of ice to the kids that would follow him so they could suck on the ice chips during the hot summer months.

Doctor Gross was the coroner and family doctor in St. John Parish. He would ride River Road, and

if you were sick, you would put out a white flag. When Dr. Gross saw the flag, he knew you were sick, and he would stop in at the house. The parish jail was located on Cardinal Street, and Dr. Gross would have to perform some autopsies at the jail.

People during these times didn’t have a lot of money, so when they went to the store to pick up something they needed, the store owner would write it down in a book, and when the person got paid for working they paid the store owner. This type of transaction was known as buying on credit. A lot of the larger companies had their own money printed, and if you worked for this company, you were paid private money. The worker was usually paid on Saturday afternoon and would be given 60 percent in private money and 40 percent in United States currency. If you wanted to cash in your private money, you were charged a fee of 20 percent for this service. The private money was only good at the store owned by the business.

Times were very hard years ago, but people respected each other and their businesses and trusted each other. Over the years, so much has changed. People have changed, and businesses have changed, and things will probably never be like they were in the good old days!

The Louisiana Treasures Museum has some of the business ledgers used to buy meat, bread, gasoline and other household items back in the “good old days” on display. Stop in to take a walk back in time and refresh you memories of the “good old days.”

Louisiana Treasures Museum is located on Highway 22 west of Ponchatoula. For more information or hours of operation, call 225-294-8352. Group tours also available upon request.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.