Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Highway that Huey Built

It was serendipity.  My friend, Marilea, invited me to accompany her to a lunchtime lecture at the West Baton Rouge Museum in quaint Port Allen, La.  The topic was a newly published book, Louisiana Highway 1.  The author and photographer would be there discussing their collaboration which is a lovely depiction of the longest highway in the State of Louisiana.

Our afternoon began with an early lunch  at the Court Street Cafe.  The cafe is on the main "drag" in town and serves up breakfast and lunch to locals and a few tourists searching for food off the beaten path.  The hamburger I ordered did not disappoint.  We were early so had no trouble finding a parking spot, but noticed that when we left the parking spots were few.

Upon arriving at the museum we observed that we could have brought a brown bag lunch as many of the lecture attendees had done.  The thirty or so people had gathered around to have the opportunity to learn about the book, see some slides of the book's photographs and meet the author and the photographer.
Anne Butler wrote the text and Henry Cancienne artfully captured the sites along Highway 1.

The story of the construction of the highway is that when Huey Long was running for Governor, he had a hard time navigating from town to town for his campaign speeches.  According to Butler, he pledged to build better roads if elected.  The resulting Highway 1 stretches from the Gulf of Mexico over 436 miles to the northern part of the state.  Both Butler and Cancienne are Louisiana natives and spent years in writing the book.  Reading the book is much like traveling the roads with them.  It captures the culture of the people and the places.   Butler's prose is informative and poetic.  The book which could be considered "coffee table" in appearance is full of the rich history of the great state of Louisiana.

Marilea and I were impressed that we recognized a few of the places in the book but that there were so many we would like to yet visit. Louisiana Highway 1 is navigable but must be traveled at a slower pace than the Interstate system.   We were able to purchase the book and receive autographs after the lecture.  I hope to go back there for another lunchtime event very soon.

The lunchtime discussion was not the only treat of the day.  There was an accompanying art exhibit by Louisiana artists depicting sights along Louisiana Highway 1.  Our high school friend, Elayne Spinks Kuehler, was one of the featured artists.  It was our first time to see her work on display and we were impressed.  Her painting is lovely and we enjoyed having a real connection to the exhibit.  Also on display were works by the deceased artist, Norma Roy.  We knew Norma in another way.  She was our Physical Education teacher all those years ago at Istrouma High School.  Who knew the coincidence of that!

The West Baton Rouge Museum is a vibrant place with many events including the lunchtime lectures, exhibits, educational opportunities for teachers and students and a great permanent collection featuring Three Hundred Years of History in West Baton Rouge.

Thanks, Marilea, for including me on this perfect Weekday Ramble!


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