Growing Up At Houssiere Park
I was six months old when my family moved to Jennings. My father was going to work for Jennings Norwood Irrigation Co. His job required that we live at the pumping station.
When we were old enough to swim we were taught to swim in the irrigation canal. In later years as we grew older we began to swim in the bayou as well. At that time Houssiere Park was kept clean and the grass was mowed. There were two large barbecue pits and long picnic tables under a pavilion. There was a hand pumped well and electricity down at the T. (There were even two old-fashioned outhouses.) There were smaller bar-b-que scattered in different areas of the park. You could drive to the T then go left all the way to the point to right to a low spot where the swamp came all the way to the river.
On weekends the park would fill with families having outings- picnics, boating, swimming and camping. There were roped tied to branches of the trees where you could swing out then drop off into the river.
On the 4th of July the park would be so full, people would have to park their cars in front of the pump and walk down into the park. Some would come early to pick their spots then the rest of their group would come in later bringing boats, fishing gear, and water skies. It was a fun day for all.
I still remember in the late 40’s and early 50’s my oldest sister and I going fishing early in the mornings. We would start by the pumping station then follow the bank down to the park fishing in our favorite spots as we went. We would get back home in time to clean our fish so mom could fry them for our lunch. Some mornings we would take our inner tubes down the hill to a small boat launch. It was just a slip cut in the bank then the Police Jury had put some gravel down so the boats would not get stuck. We could walk out into the bayou then swim out to the point and around the bend to the T were there was another small boat launch where we would come out to the river. We would swim until we got tired pushing our Inner tube in front of us. Then we would float with the current awhile then swim again as we made our way down stream. The bad part was we had to walk all the way back because it was too hard to swim back against the current.
In the spring we would pick wild blackberries in the edge of the woods, and wild plums when we could get them before the raccoons found them. In the fall we could get the wild muscadine grapes we wanted and there was a persimmon tree that made medium size fruit, but we had to check them often or the raccoons would get those as well. Up on the hill there were native pecan trees where we could pick pecans and also some hickory nuts. We ate well from the bounty of those woods with all the homemade jellies, canned fruit for pies and pecans for pralines in the winter. We also had the fish we would catch from the river as well as all the catfish my dad would catch on trout lines. It was always fun when he would let one of us go with him to run his lines. But all the came to an end in the 60’s and 70’s with the storms, the floods, pollution of the river and vandalism. So everything was kind of abandoned. There are not many of us left that remember Houssiere Park the way it once was. The river has been cleaned up and is no longer polluted. Many people still use the two more modern boat launches for fishing and some still camp there. It would be so nice if it could be brought back to some of what is used to be. Sometimes I like to ride back there and just watch the bayou flow down.
I have just recently purchased a boat and my son and I are using the boat launches again. It would sure be a shame if we had to go launch in Mermentau to come back and fish at the park.
Please don’t close it off all the way.
Alice Benoit Roy
(Or, as the teachers at Central School used to call us – one of those kids from the pumping plant!)
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