Celebration of Reserve reaches its culmination with new pictorial book

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2011

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – Although the festivities surrounding the 150th anniversary of Reserve ended last year with a bonfire celebration, residents of the community — or anyone with an interest in local history — still have something to look forward to.

On Sept. 26, “Reserve,” By Gerald Keller and E. Darroch Watson will hit bookshelves.

Keller and Watson are the duo responsible for “Precious Gems From Faded Memories: A Pictorial History of St. John the Baptist Parish,” and like “Precious Gems,” “Reserve” tells the story of the St. John community through photographs.

“I grew up and was born in Reserve, so it is a special place for me,” said Keller, who described the book as “the culmination of the Reserve150 celebration.”

According to Keller, most of the photographs in the book were collected by the committee that oversaw the sesquicentennial celebration. He noted about 90 percent of the photographs in the book are appearing in print for the first time.

The chapters of the book cover topics such as Reserve’s beginnings, industrial growth, society, recreation and athletics and the Reserve150 celebrations. Long-time residents will no doubt recognize many faces throughout the book’s 128 pages.

The book is part of the “Images of America” series from Arcadia Publishing. The publishing company has hundreds of titles in the series including a number of titles of local interest such as a volume on Lake Pontchartrain.

Keller said compiling the book took about six months, working six to seven days per week. Although part of the book’s charm lies in the age of the photographs, dealing with the decades-old images came with some problems. Many of the photographs had to be worked with to bring them up to standard, and some were just too far gone to be included. Luckily, he and Watson had the help of a committee including Mary Mitchell, Sylvia Taylor Dunn, Albertha Henderson and Claude Levet.

The intense commitment to it took to make a book on Reserve a reality was obviously not too much for Keller, however, as he has plans for more books in the future.

“I’m thinking of doing one on LaPlace,” he said. “I’m also thinking about dong a sequel to ‘Precious Gems.’”

For a little while, though, he will be content to enjoy the current fruit of his labor.

“I’m satisfied. I thought the results were good,” he said. “It shows that Reserve was a very close-knit, spiritual, cultural community.”

One more thing the book has going for it is 8 percent of the sales will go to the Reserve150 Committee to be put back into the community.

Keller, who is making nothing from the publication of the book, said although the decision about what to do with the revenue is up to the committee, he would like to see a couple of historical markers erected in Reserve.

“Reserve” will be available at Barnes and Noble and online at www.arcadiapublishing.com Sept. 26 for $21.99. Keller said Arcadia hopes to add some local outlets, but no final decisions on that have been made yet.