I believe every small town has its share of characters — people who are remembered for their personalities, their accomplishments, or their demeanor. They leave behind memories and anecdotes long after they are departed.
One such personality caught my eye when scrolling through Facebook recently. He was born in 1898; I, about 45 years later, so I never knew him in life, but I’m enjoying learning this “local boy makes good” story now. We’d have run around in different social circles, given his wealth. But because he was such a unique individual, this writer is intrigued by him.
His name was Lodias Dugas, a name you might associate with early pioneer settlers from around Loreauville. But this fellow wasn’t meant to live out his life in pastoral simplicity. He was a man of ideas, inventions and promotions.
To say Lodias was an “outstanding fellow” would be an understatement. Someone who knew him told me it wouldn’t have been unusual to see him wearing yellow shoes, green slacks, red jacket and a pink shirt. He was one colorful dude, to say the least. I’m learning that he was always well dressed in a suit and tie, and is remembered for driving a big, fancy car.
That’s how he got one of several nicknames: “Cadillac” Dugas, “Big Shot” Dugas, and after returning to New Iberia from the North after several business successes, “Chicago” Dugas.
Proof of his intelligence and ingenuity is U.S. Patent No. 1839658A which was granted to Du-Gas Fire Extinguisher Corporation in 1932. The patent was later acquired by Ansul Fire Extinguisher Company. There is a video on YouTube.com on the Internet demonstrating a number of increasingly large and dangerous fires being put out in seconds with chemical foam emanating from a red canister, not unlike the devices you have in your home today. (See “Master of Flame—Dugas Historical.”)
He was a promoter as proven by his close association with Dudley LeBlanc of Hadacol Caravan fame. He was hired and later fired by “Couzan Dud.” They were too much alike this writer believes.
To call him flamboyant is demonstrated by anecdotes from folks who recall him flashing a “big roll of bills” when buying something meager, giving the kids nearby $5 each and then lighting up a foot-long cigar with a $20 bill. During the Depression, this would have left a big impression.
Lodias is also remembered for being a people person. He loved sharing his stories— and perhaps bragging about his business accomplishments — with others. He was associated with the owners of the Frederick Hotel, so he had ample opportunity to mingle with the public from all walks of life, from movie stars to the shoeshine boy at the newsstand across Main Street from the hotel. It’s said he used a $100 bill to pay for a haircut which sent the shop on a tangent to get change.
I feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface of who Lodias Dugas was, but I invite my readers to contact me through the newspaper or my e-mail below with your memories of “Cadillac” Dugas, a one of a kind.
JULAINE DEARE SCHEXNAYDER is retired after a varied career in teaching and public relations. Her email address is julaines14@gmail.