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Hemelt: Dear ‘Mr. Lobster’ letter delivers important news

One of the most interesting aspects of working for the local newspaper of St. John the Baptist Parish is simply familiarizing one’s self with the name.

L’OBSERVATEUR doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it means “the observer” in French and fits nicely with our region’s Creole roots.

The challenge comes in the spelling, which is included in all newspaper editions, magazine publications and is part of every staff member email address. For example, my email address is stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com, and understandably, that has to be repeated and spelled out each time it’s used.

Naturally, readers and consumers shorten cumbersome names to something more palatable. It didn’t take long for me to learn many in the community refer to the newspaper as “The Lobster” and have been doing so for years, if not generations.

In fact, I’d say one out of five people I talk to through work refers to the newspaper as “The Lobster” in casual reference, and when considering the other things people and places get nicknamed, it’s not such a bad thing.

The Lobster nickname took on a whole new meaning Wednesday when the newspaper received an addressed letter from the office of Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne.

In the letter, Dardenne pledges his support to Keep Louisiana Beautiful efforts statewide and asks for local support in St. John Parish by pushing for attendance at an affiliate meeting at 8:30 a.m. March 13 at the River Region Chamber of Commerce, 301 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace.

The interesting part was the letter was addressed to “Mr. Lobster” at our post office box in LaPlace and starts “Dear Mr. Lobster.”

That’s a first, meaning somewhere along the way of our publication’s 102-year-plus history, the nickname Lobster was saved in a Baton Rouge government office, personified into single-name form and given owner/proprietor status.

A couple of questions came to mind.

Did the lieutenant governor’s office think Mr. Lobster was the first man who started the newspaper more than 100 years ago or perhaps his great grandson?

Why not Mrs. Lobster?

The newspaper’s last two publishers were women, so there is certainly no need to assign male identities to roles of authority in the world of journalism.

The truth is the Mr. Lobster letter was simply a clerical mistake and, ultimately, unimportant when examining the theme of Dardenne’s letter, which includes a goal of a litter-free Louisiana.

No one understands that more than the local contact mentioned in the letter, Greg “Za” Maurin, who helps coordinate area cleanup efforts.

Community leaders will meet at the Chamber March 13, then walk along Belle Terre Boulevard to the Percy Hebert Building picking up litter. 

“We’ve had good participation at the events,” Maurin said, adding it “allows youth groups to earn community service points, and the effort teaches personal responsibility in keeping St. John beautiful.”

Organizers hope volunteers leave the event with a heightened awareness of their ownership of public properties. Maurin said the parish’s next major pick-up event after the March 13 cleaning is April 11’s Spring Clean Sweep.

All interested parties — with groups and businesses asked to sign-up collectively — will meet at the park on U.S. 51 in LaPlace to collect supplies before venturing into the community from 9 to 11:30 a.m. to pick up roadside and abandoned trash at coordinated locations.

To celebrate a productive morning, a party with food and music starts at 11:30 a.m. back at the U.S. 51 park. Call 985-652-9569 for more information.

With two invitations sent to help clean our community in the next two months, it really doesn’t matter what name is on the address.

Doing our part to help keep the community we serve clean is something lobsters and all other forms of life should be contributing to.

Stephen Hemelt is general manager and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.