Murphy Miller, Sr. and my mother Mary Lillian Naquin on March 19, 1938, their wedding day.
Murphy Miller, Sr., his mother Elvena Sonnier Miller and children of Murphy and Mary L. Naquin, Garland Ann, Murphy, Jr. and Floretta Dale. (ca. 1950, Basile, LA)
Murphy Miller, Sr. weds Gladys Fruge on September 1, 1952.
My father divorced my mother in March 1948 and before the year ended he had married and divorced his second and third wife. No one will ever know if there was a real love for the women he married. I believe that he wanted someone to care for his three children. He married his fourth wife a few years later in 1952. She, Gladys Fruge, was a wonderful person and helped me and my two sisters at time when it was needed.
At age five, my sisters and I rose about 4:30 a.m. to go pick cotton during the summer months. The farmer came by in his truck and we rode in the back of the truck in the cool air before sunrise. For lunch we often had Vienna Sausage and plain white bread. We pumped water from the farmer's well for something to wash down the less than nourishing meal. After my lunch and before the afternoon picking started, I learned a lot in the barn's cotton bins. People with a good income and a good education were not picking cotton. On my sixth birthday, September 10, 1949, the cotton farmer paid me $3 when I was due $2.76 for the cotton I picked. I do not recall how many days work it took to earn that amount.
One of my Me'me're's (grandmother's) sayings was "Un rien tout neuf dans un panier perce" which translates to " a little bit of nothing new in a bored basket". Another saying of hers was "A pieds, nus pieds; racacha (lampourde) dans les pieds. A selles sur dos, batons de mais sur les bras". It translates to "On foot, barefoot, cocklebur in the feet. Horseback riding, corncob under the arms". I never forgot these two sayings which were repeated to me many times by my grandmother. She also taught me to say the Catholic prayers in the Cajun tongue. Unfortunately, I did not retain saying the Catholic prayers in the Cajun tongue. Since my Me'me're' spoke no English I too became fluent in my Cajun language and its culture.
Many of the local radio stations broadcast the news in the Cajun language and the Cajun music played along with the local news each morning and all day Saturday. There was always a big dance in the two dance halls that were very popular and well attended in Basile. The Basile trash dump Supervisor was Nathan Abshire. He was also a very well known Cajun artist. He plays "Jolie Blond", the Louisiana National Anthem, and others in this YouTube. Nathan Abshire is the only person that I know of that can represent the Basile community.
When cotton season was over, I shined shoes walking the sidewalks of Basile and into the Bar's where men drank beer and smoked while they played cards. My father was never one to hang out in bars. He never smoked either. My father, a master carpenter, made me my shoeshine box. I charged $0.15 for a shoe shine. After all, it costs $0.09 to go to the local movie theater.
By the age of six I had smoked my first cigarette with Bobby Guillory, my best friend who lived across the street. As we smoked more, he would steal a pack in open displays at Theriot's Grocery Store. I was too scared to steal. I learned later how to shoplift in my teen years. One day a cyst grew under my left arm. Great! I did not have to pick cotton but I did have to go to the local Dr. who lanced it. If he used medication to deaden the area it was not effective. I hollered like a butchered hog. I remember recovering in my army cot style bed in the summer heat. No homes had air conditioners then.
Memere Miller's house had a pump when we first moved in and later there was running water. There was no indoor bathroom. We used the outhouse. My job each morning was to empty the pee pots that were used by me sisters, my grandmother and my dad and I.
I walked to school in our bare feet until it was too cold, then we slipped on the one pair of shoes we possessed. We purchased our new clothes from the "Monkey (Montgomery) Ward Catalog". Since my sisters and I did not pay for our school lunches, you could say we were on welfare. We were outcasts eating free lunches and our parents were divorced in a predominately Catholic community and we were living with our father. But as Cajun musician Johnny Janet said "Cajuns are tough, we are made of good stuff, life may be tough but we're going to make it sure nough."
At about age 7 or 8, we went to my Aunt Cina's home near Elton for a Sunday BBQ. After everyone went into the house, my cousin Cee Cee took me horseback riding and gave me several Goebel Malt Liquor beers. They were in small cans. I believe it was the first time I was drunk. When we arrived at home, my sisters and I went to the movie but I did not recall much about it. After the movie I went home and went to bed while it was still light out.
Perhaps you have some experiences you want to share and comment on regarding this blog message and your early experiences in Cajun Country. Perhaps you know of other people that I could name that are known beyond the city limits of "Big Basile" home of the Bearcats.
Basile: Village incorporated in 1911 with 261 citizens
(The Weekly Gazette, Anniversary Edition, February 23, 1989, Ville Platte, LA)
By Bernice Ardoin
In 1911 the Village of Basile was incorporated and L. F. Schambers became its first mayor. The population at the time of incorporation was 261.
It is recorded that Dr. E.S. Taylor became the village's first elected mayor. J.S. Darbonne was chosen the first marshall of Basile and three councilmen were Amos Fusilier, Adras Chaumont, and J.E. Chaumont.
The land was once a cattle range where many herds grazed.
The Village of Basile was named in honor of a Frenchman who was one of the first settlers in the area.
Early settlers in the small town, located in the southeastern corner of Evangeline Parish, were Charles Vige, John Clark, Charles Percy, Senena Sete, Lucian Langley, David Young, Sr. and several member in the Fruge family.
In the early days, stock raising was well known in the small community.
Missouri Pacific Railroad was constructed there in 1905 and many stores were opened in the community. Telegraph service was obtained in the small village shortly after the railroad was laid. A telephone exchange has been maintained there since incorporation.
Many stores were soon opened in the area. Some of the earliest merchants were Tommy Louis, Lee Milsaps, Otto Meyer, Louis Chambers, J.S. Darbonne, and John Chaumont.
Several timber companies: Putnam Brothers, Lacroix, and St. Maurice Timber, chose Basile as a location for their sawmills.
The forests, along Bayou Nezpique, Blue, Durald and Castor, provide raw material for the large mills. Logs were cut and floated down the streams to the mills which were centered near the Missouri-Pacific railroad on the edge of the forest where Basile now stands.
In 1906, the post office was moved from a location in Acadia Parish on the property of L. Chamberst to the Basile community. The community had been laid out in 1905 by Gus Fusilier, James J. Lewis and Louis Burk. The land for the small village was obtained from Garsain Miller, an early settler in Evangeline parish.
The first school consisted of a small building, built in 1909. The school was maintained by the residents there. Miss Carrie Lee Northway, of Nashville, Tennessee, was the first teacher at the school. She taught seven grades to a student body, consisting of 34. From 1918-1925, the Methodist Episcopal Church operated the school, Evangeline Preparatory College.
In the third year, there were three teachers: W.W. Fussell, Theresa Davis and Jena Bond, at the school. After four years, school's enrollment was up to 75 students.
In 1913, a two-story structure was built for students through the ninth grade. N.D. Roberts was named principal. Following Roberts, were principals Eloi Fontenot, C.C. Clark, G. Cranford, B. Fitester, and Lester Soileau.
Among the first graduates of the school were Hadley Fontenot and J.J. Darphin.
In 1914, the Methodists built their first church. Shortly thereafter, the Baptists entered this territory and established their house of worship. Catholicism was brought into the area by early missionaries and in 1922 the parish of St. Augustine was created. It wasn't until later on that the Pentecostal Church was established.
In 1925, another school was built. J.A. Babin was [the] first principal.
In 1935 with the development of Tepetate Oilfield, the town became known for its oil industry. Today, a mayor and five councilmen constitute the form of government for the town, of a population of approximately 2,000.
Later in 1940, the increase in population made it possible to change the name from the Village to the Town of Basile. The population was recorded at 1,103 and the number of aldermen was changed from three to five. David Young was mayor. Aldermen were Harry Aguillard, B. Carriere, Lloyd Evans, Deo Guidry, and Wesley Hebert. David Young resigned half way through his term and Sammy Stagg Sr. was named mayor.
In 1956, local businessmen organized the Basile State Bank.
In 1963, it was voted by property owners to add better facilities to the school. A vocational building was constructed and a new modernized lunchroom was built.
The high school building there today was built in 1980.
The economy of Basile, located on Louisiana Highway 371 and U.S. Highway 190, is based primarily on agriculture and mineral resources.
The Evangeline parish town is located 28 miles southwest of Ville Platte, the parish seat, and only 11 miles from the Town of Eunice in St. Landry parish. There are seven churches: Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, and Pentecostal in the town.
The Basile Weekly, the town's newspaper, was first published in 1963. Jim Clark is now publisher of the weekly paper.
Each fall, Basile hosts the annual Louisiana Swine Festival. The festival started in 1966 and this November marks its 23rd annual event.