Although I knew I had to travel east on Highway 14 to get to the home of the Shrimp Festival, I wasn’t exactly sure of where the community started or ended. So I was thankful to see a sign welcoming me to Delcambre, but confused a few minutes later when I saw a sign for Iberia Parish.
“I thought Iberia Parish started after Bayou Carlin,” I said to my mother. “The sign is on this side of the bridge.”
She didn’t have an explanation, but suggested that we find a place to grab a bite to eat and ask a local. So I pulled into the parking lot of D & G Diner, and turned toward my mother to ask if it would be okay with her. She was looking at her compact mirror and putting on her lipstick.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “We’re just having lunch.”
“You never know whom you’re going to meet,” she said. “The Pope could be in there.”
I turned and looked out of my windshield at the little red, wooden-framed building of the diner. Hanging above the front porch was a large sign with a painting of a hamburger. I told my mother that I doubted anyone from the Vatican was there, but that I was sure we could find a great meal and a local.
“We have people come from all over,” said owner Deanna Granger (The “G” in “D&G”). “Some are workers, and others are families from across the bridge.”
While my mother and I enjoyed our lunch, Mr. Carroll Dugas (Co-owner and the “D” in “D & G”) showed us pictures of the area and told us about his home, which he said was the oldest house and first schoolroom in Vermilion Parish.
“It’s a few miles away in Bayou Tigre,” said Mr. Dugas. “I don’t know exactly how old it is, but I know it’s well over a hundred years.”
The next stop on our journey was city hall to meet Mayor Carol Broussard. He told us about the challenges that Delcambre faced in recovering from Hurricane Rita.
“About five hundred people left after the storm,” said Mayor Broussard. “We’re rebuilding slowly, but a few businesses, such as our grocery store, are still closed.”
He said that Delcambre’s people have remained positive throughout the ordeal, and are constantly working to improve the community. He also showed us plans for waterfront development, including boardwalks filled with commercial and residential buildings.
I asked Mayor Broussard about the sign welcoming me to Iberia Parish before the bridge crossing Bayou Carlin. He told me that was because Delcambre was located in Vermilion Parish (About 67%) and Iberia Parish (About 33%).
“Although there are a couple of maps out there identifying different borders,” said Mayor Broussard, “I consider Railroad Street the dividing line between the parishes.”
Mayor Broussard asked my mother her name again and she said Julia Couvillon. Then he asked if she was the Sheriff’s mother.
“I prefer to be called Miss Julia,” she responded. “Mike is my son, but I also have seven other children.”
“I like you,” said Mayor Broussard. “Lets go to Iberia Parish and get a snow cone.”
We walked across the street to the Lil Sandwich Shop, which was still in Delcambre, but in a different parish. After we got our snow cones, we thanked Mayor Broussard and then walked back across to Vermilion, and continued our journey.
Our next stop was Our Lady of the Lake Church, which stands tall and proud and be can seen from Highway 14 regardless of the direction from which you are coming. I went inside the church to see its beautiful stained glass, historic ornamental altar, and the original Bancker Grotto statue.
It started to rain while I was inside, and so I got wet as I ran back to the car. My mother and I ate our snow cones as we stared out at the storm clouds and sun fighting for the air space, which surrounded the tower of the church. I told my mother that it was beautiful, and she told me to drive her to Bayou Tigre to see the oldest house and schoolroom in Vermilion Parish.
“But it’s not in Delcambre,” I said. “I can’t write about it for this article.”
“You can and you will,” my mother told me. “I get to decide because I nursed you and changed your filthy diapers, and believe me, neither was a pleasant experience.”
I couldn’t argue with her about that, so five minutes later we drove across a narrow iron- covered bridge and were in the community of Bayou Tigre. Mr. Dugas’ grand white house stood about a quarter of a mile from the main road, and was framed by marsh, cattle and a body of water. As we drove down the long gravel driveway, I was reminded of the paintings depicting scenes of Acadian life, which hang in the Abbeville Courthouse.
Mr. Dugas was there with his great-grandson Jody, and welcomed my mother and me to his home. He walked us through the house, and showed us the damage that Rita had done. He told me that an organization had offered to restore it, but wanted him to donate it to them.
“I want to pass this house on to someone in my family,” said Mr. Dugas. “Even if it takes twenty years for me to finish restoring it.”
I walked upstairs to where the schoolroom had once been, and found the highlight of my whole trip. It was an old black chalkboard, and I could make out words that had probably been written over a hundred years ago.
On my way out of Bayou Tigre, I realized that I had eaten lunch and had a snow cone at two businesses in Iberia Parish. So I decided to share the wealth, and headed to The Country Store, which is located about thirty feet from D & G Diner, but in Vermilion Parish.
People walked in and out of the store, greeting each other like they were lifelong friends, and didn’t care that some of them were from different parishes or even different towns.
When we drove out of town, my mother asked if I knew what I was going to title the article. I told her that I might call it “Open Arms and Borders in Delcambre,” because it appeared that the citizens cared more about friendliness and welcoming visitors, than where the town line stopped and started.
“Or if you prefer,” I said. “I can call it, “Sheriff’s Mother Gets Snow Cone With Mayor.”
Visit Delcambre during the Shrimp Festival from August 13 to the 17, when you can enjoy the Blessing of the Fleet, the Shrimp Cook Off and live music by Mike Dean, Jarod Lane, T.K. Hulin and Smoke and many more.
For more information call Jackie Toups at 685-2653 or check out the festival website at www.shrimpfestival.net.