I still remember my childhood telephone number: “5585.”
That’s the way we learned our new dial phone numbers when the rotary dial system replaced the old “Operator, get me 411, please.” I recall that happened in the early 1950s. There still is a sturdy red brick building on Tarleton Street near the City Park which was the exchange building where a switchboard operator was once located.
A few years later, AT&T instituted Direct Distance Dialing and assigned an Area Code prefix 276- (Crestview) for Jeanerette, while New Iberia had 365- (Emerson) as their prefix. This seven-digit system was the new-fangled way to make a long-distance call to friends directly without using a telephone operator.
What brought this subject to mind is my finding a 1980 Jeanerette South Central Bell Telephone Directory among some old papers. It made me feel nostalgic for the town of my youth. Someone wrote a book titled, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” and the older I get, the truer that becomes.
They don’t publish phone books anymore, do they? (There are those multi-city ones that are primarily business listings, but they can’t hold a candle to the old ones for individual small towns like Jeanerette Turning the pages is a walk down Memory Lane. The orange-colored sunset cover is generic, but what’s inside is a time capsule of our town that year. It has only 68 pages divided into two sections: the White Pages for individual listings and the Yellow Pages for business listing and advertisements.
As an aside, though, let me ask my readers if you have ever done as I have. When in a new city, did you pick up the phone book and turn to the alphabetical listing to see if there were any Heberts or Broussards living there? I once found a Schexnayder in New York City! Later I learned he was an opera singer from New Iberia!
Upon finding this 41-year-old book of nostalgia I first turned to the “S” pages and found my in-laws’ name and address and phone number, which made me think, for a second at least, that I could dial the number and hear a familiar voice on the other end of the line. The same is true for my late daddy, brother and sister. (That sounds like a plot for “The Twilight Zone”, doesn’t it?)
Running my fingers down the page was like driving through each small neighborhood and waving to my friends standing outside. My Aunt Laurice Beaullieu and my sister, Gaynell Ardizone, would smile and wave back from their small front porches. Barlyn’s Soda Fountain, one of my favorite hangouts as a child, isn’t listed in 1980, having been replaced by the Bamboo Inn in the same location.
The Classified Telephone Directory, also known as the Yellow Pages, made me even sadder. You could see a coming change in the commercial life of Jeanerette — many of the listings for businesses included those located in nearby New Iberia, Lafayette and Franklin. Air conditioner repairs, attorneys, and physicians from out of town are listed as they began to realize the potential customer base in Jeanerette at the time.
Walk with me down Main Street and see what businesses remain and which ones have gone away. Several come to mind: Weill’s Department Store and Wormser’s were both thriving establishments in 1980 upon which we depended for every garment in our wardrobe. The electric company, CLECO, had a spacious office near the center of town for the convenience of their customers. Two grocery stores, Sherville’s and Guillotte’s, were places where we could phone in an order and have it delivered by a teenage boy on a bicycle within minutes.
I’m happy to say that there are several businesses that are going strong these 41 years since the phone book was published. Larroque’s Pharmacy is owned and operated by the same family, having been in business since 1924. City Pharmacy has new ownership but is in the same location as when it was owned by Calvin Boudreaux. Lapeyrouse Motors and Robin Motors are still thriving, headed by the next generation of their respective families. City Hall is in its same location across from the former Robie’s Supermarket which was the place to run into your friends while shopping for groceries. It’s called “Mac’s“ now. The Yellow Bowl, just a short way out of town, is still serving up its famous seafood specialties.
Since 1884 Jeanerette’s iconic Lejeune’s Bakery has been making its freshly baked French bread, and is still using their 100-year-old ovens.
The slogan for the Yellow Pages was “Let your fingers do the walking.” For this writer today I am walking on Main Street in my hometown while enjoying a pleasant stroll down Memory Lane.
JULAINE DEARE SCHEXNAYDER is retired after a varied career in teaching and public relations. Her email address is email@example.com.