These stories were taken from a taped conversation we had with Paw Paw in 1989. I want to give you a little background on him before you read his stories.
William Victor Ladner was born September 29, 1906 in Waveland Ms. He was known to family and friends as Vic. His parents were Etienne (pronounced A-Shan) Ladner and Eva Lena Roth. His father was killed, and he was left at age 19 to care for his mother and small brothers and sisters. He worked hard to care for his family. As a result he did not marry until he was nearly thirty years old. He married Lucille Irma Wiese, known as Irma. They had two sons and two daughters. Vic continued to work hard all his life. He was a good man, as any who knew him would tell you. I always get the same reaction when I tell people who my grandfather was. "Boy, that was a good man!" He died at the age of 91, on October 7, 1997. He is greatly missed by us all. But thanks to a tape recording we can still enjoy his enthusiasm for life and his family.All Rights Reserved Copyright ©2004 Michelle Saucier Ladner
These are family stories told by my grandfather William Victor Ladner.
"Beach Front Property"
My great grandfather was one of the first beach property owners. (Guillaume Victor Ladner)
There were some others, let's see there was a Saucier and Jean Quave. You might have heard about Jean Cuevas from Ship Island. Jean Cuevas was put in jail by the British because he wouldn't tell them the shorter way to get to New Orleans. He knew it, but he wouldn't tell them. He must have been a friend of my grandfather's. There was another frenchman who had property on the beach at that time too but I can't remember his name. I know that about them because I read it in the Herald in the 1940's. Know your coast, it was. I went to Tante Ledi and asked her, "Who is this Victor Ladner their talking about?" And she said, "That is your great grandfather."
The house Victor Ladner built went through all of those hurricanes and it held. It must have been built in the mid, no early 1800's. Just think of that! Until Camille! Camille took everything on the beach in Waveland to Lakeshore. Everything! There wasn't anything left on the beach.All Rights Reserved Copyright ©2004 Michelle Saucier Ladner
"Bread Baked in a Clay Oven"
I can remember when I was a boy, of course my great grandfather was dead, but one of my great Uncles, Jules Ladner, one of Papa's Uncles lived. He was living in his daddy's house. They had a dirt oven in the backyard. A clay oven, where they baked their bread. An oval shaped oven. They'd build a fire underneath, you see. Get that clay hot and all. And they cooked their bread, and that was the best bread! I must have been about four or five years old. About five I'd say. And we'd go there. Mama would take us there, we lived close by; you know. And we'd go by and she'd bake a weeks supply of bread. They had a big family you see; and she had a special table. With a white table cloth and had all that bread on it. She'd make round loaves; homemade bread. Had that table with nothing but bread. It'd last a whole week. She'd bake for a whole week. So, we'd go up there. Mama had just Hilda and I then. I think it was; and she said, "Now don't ya'll ask for any bread." because you see Mama and them made biscuits and galettes. They (his aunt) baked light bread. Homemade bread. So that was a treat. So she knew we liked that bread. So, we'd go over there and she'd say, (his aunt) "Ya'll want a piece of bread?" I'd look at her, and she'd say, "I know ya'lls mama told ya'll not to ask for anything." but she went and cut us each a piece of bread. And boy I'll tell you that tasted like cake to kids back then you know!All Rights Reserved Copyright ©2004 Michelle Saucier Ladner
So one day we went there; Mama said, "We're going over there." and they was all crying. I'll never forget it! And this was one of the sons, Jules Ladner. Which is Henrietta Dubuisson's uncle, her daddy's brother; Jules. I was still just a little kid, I hadn't started school yet. So let me tell ya, back then the only transportation we had was the train. There weren't any cars yet. We had horse and buggy's. So, he had; Jules, I used to call him Mr. Jules. He had a ruptured appendix. Now just think of this! So, they put a spring in the wagon, put the mattress on top of the spring and put him on there and took him to the depot. Uncle Tom Bourgeois was ticket agent at the depot. And he called New Orleans, and told them they had someone to put on the baggage car. So they stopped and they put him on the baggage car and brought him to Gulfport on the train. And old Dr. Parker operated on him and saved his life! Just think in those days, you had a busted appendix and had to do all that. And they had to put him in the wagon on a spring so it wouldn't jar him.All Rights Reserved Copyright ©2004 Michelle Saucier Ladner
So, they had a big scuppernong arbor, a grape arbor, a big one. So Papa and them said that their grandpa, when the British came to Ship Island, he buried his money in an iron pot. Because when the British came ashore they took everything you had, you know. So, and then papa's house. Papa and Tante Beb and all them were raised there (his grandfather's house). It was next to his you see. But, the house I'm talking about was Uncle Jules, where he lived; was daddy's, daddy's house. So my great grandpa's. But in the back a little ways, adjoining their property was my grandpa, one of my great uncle Jules brother's. (Etienne) My grandpa was Uncle Jules brother you see. So, Papa used to go around probing with an iron rod. You know. And I said "Papa whatcha doin'?" I must have been six or seven then. I think I had started school. And I said, "Papa whatcha doin'?" and he said, "I'm looking for my pot. There's money buried all over round here." he said. (Paw Paw laughs) He used to go all around with that rod digging down in the ground trying to see if he could hit an iron pot, or anything. See, they put it in these iron pots, see. (Laughs) (Robyn asks, Did they ever find anything?) They never did, No. So in later years after I married and came to Gulfport. Calvin Ladner, he was one of Uncle Jules sons, that's the Kenneth Ladner and them that's got the refrigeration. Uncle Jules is their grandpa. You see, which is Papa's uncle. Their grandpa and papa's daddy were brothers, you see. Okay, so, Calvin Ladner one day comes and says, "Come here I wanna tell you something." He says, "Let's you and I go to Waveland. We've got to go in the winter, when the Nix's are in New Orleans." Dr. Nix and them are from New Orleans, they had owned the property next to my great grandpa's house. In later years they bought my great grandpa's property. They own all that property, the Nix's from New Orleans. But, anyway, the scuppernong vine was still there, part of it. He said (Calvin), "You and I are going to find that money." I said "Papa told me about that." he said, "Yeah, grandpa used to tell me that he buried it down there. Grandpa used to tell me where it was buried" I said, "Yeah, but don't you think he dug that up later years, he didn't let it stay there." so he said, "You and I are going one night." So I told mama (Maw Maw) I'm going to Waveland with Calvin Ladner. So we went. We went out there to the property, he said, "It's right along in here somewhere." But we didn't dig for it. But someone told me later, that one of his boys, now he trusted me before he did his own son. That's right, he told me, he said, "My boys don't know about this, just you and I."
So later years, I was telling someone in the family, and they said yeah well you know them boys did go over there and dig for that. See in the old days they buried money around like that.All Rights Reserved Copyright ©2004 Michelle Saucier Ladner
And I can remember that property. Now the storms would keep coming; and the beach; it'd keep eating the beach up; you see. And I can remember that property was high up on the beach; on a bluff like. And they had steps that go down to the road. It was a sand road in the front. But out in the front of their house there were stumps in the water. From maybe a hundred years before all that was land. And the stumps are still there. It (the gulf) kept eating up the dirt, but there are stumps out in the gulf there in front of their house; you see. But, I picture it every now and then, I dream of that place. I can picture how it looked.
But anyway, so, We; now; Papa, the house he was raised in; my grandpa's house. When Papa got married he built him a little house back further north from the beach, see. But my grandpa's house, about a block from the beach, and you could see the water rolling up on the beach, you know, and I took Lennis over there and was showing him. You can't get up in there now, its grown; brush up in there; you know. And there's other people own that. But we stopped on the beach and I pointed it out back in there. I showed him where his mama and papa and all of them were raised, it was back in there. And he said,"We gotta get back in there one day!" So we had planned to go back and we were going to ask. So we looked on the mailbox right where we parked and it said Nix on the box. I said that's the people that owns this property. I said, "We're coming back, and I'm going up there, you and I, and we're going to tell them who we are and that our grandpa owned this property and they bought it and so forth. And we'd like permission to walk back in there and look." You know. And we planned to do that but he got sick and died, you see. We never did get back.All Rights Reserved Copyright ©2004 Michelle Saucier Ladner
But anyway. So, Papa was hauling shells for the county, or the city. He hauled these clam shells for the roads and stuff. And he'd get them out of the Louisiana marshes. So, I'll never forget that when they left, the weather was kinda squally; like this see, and rough out there. But they left. There was five men on the boat and they had the load of shells. They were coming home when the hurricane hit. So, they stayed at St. Joe's lighthouse. Which is past Lakeshore at the end of the road on the beach. You've been that way haven't ya'll?
(Robyn, Mmm, probably many years ago) Never have huh? So they, uh, it was Papa and Uncle Semore Necaise, his name was Simon, but they called him Semore in french (He laughs). But anyway, uh, That evening it got so bad Papa said, "We better make it to the lighthouse" So they were coming, see to the lighthouse and the Kahler's, you know the Kahler's that have the grocery store? His grandpa, Eddie Kahler's grandpa, was a boat Captain, and they were going into New Orleans and Papa and them was coming outta there and they passed one another. And papa hollered at them, they passed real close to one another. He hollered at them that they better come back, they weren't going to make it. They said, "Oh, yeah we'll make it." But they didn't, they made the first bridge, the Rigolets; the next bridge, see back then they didn't have no traffic bridges, or nothing you see. And the second one, they didn't make it. They hit the bridge and the boat went into pieces, and drowned everyone of them, the men. So anyway, that day that the storm hit I watched that water come over the beach road, and you see there's a marsh on the side of our house. A wide marsh. And on the other side of that marsh there was the Catholic church on the beach. Well that marsh; you know the marsh grass is that high, so I watched that water come over the road and into the marsh. And the marsh got pretty soon where you couldn't see that grass. It looked like a bayou in there instead of a marsh. See, and I kept saying, "Mama let's get out!". In the evening when the water started coming in that marsh, I said, "Mama let's get out!" She said,"We will later, we will." So it was getting dark, well it wasn't no sun, it rained all day like it did here. Like it was this morning, that's the way it rained all day, and I said, "Mama let's get out it's getting late!" I was nine years old, that day, 29 of September 1913, on my birthday. So I begged mama all day. I was scared really, and look when it got so nearly dusk, and our family cemetary was on my great grandpa's property, joining ours right there. We had a barb wire fence with these steps you go up over you know. And just then, she said, "Well go on over to Tante Ledi's and get Robert then." Edward Necaise and them's daddy. Uh, he must've been about twenty years old. She said, "Go get him to come help us with the other two kids." And let me tell you when I went down our back steps the water was up to my knees. Already! Boy, when I got to that cemetery; and I was frightened, I was only nine years old and that wind was blowing me! Ohh, and I know mama must've been excited. I couldn't hardly stand up. It would take me. Just when I got to those steps, Here comes Robert Necaise, with some coats under his arms, to get us. Taunte Ledi said, "Go get mother at the house." y'see. And good thing! Boy, we got to Taunte La Di's and all them kin, Henrietta Dubuisson, her mama and them they all came, they lived right close, half a block, and all the kinfolks, came to Tante Ledi's. ( Robyn, was she higher up?) Oh, they were back from the beach about two blocks. So, uh, we went. And honey, it blew that night! Taunte La Di's house felt like it was about to come off the blocks a couple of times! Everybody was scared, you know, And so the next morning, it blew on out; the next morning bout toward daylight, like Camille did, it started calming down the next morning. The sun came out and it was just as smooth. So we went to see the damage. We went by the house first. My grandpa's house; boy, it was (laugh) one of them old time houses. Look you know it was old when it had one of those dirt chimneys on the outside. They had, the roof was big homemade shingles, cypress shingles. And uh, an old time house. The blocks were cypress blocks. The house stood about that high off the ground. It was off the foundation, but it didn't go to pieces. It was kinda like this (Robyn Laughs) And the flooring was this wide cypress boards about 15 to 18 inch boards. Plain straight boards, ya know. Well they was bowed up, clothes wrapped around like, picture that. Clothes and furniture under the house. Everything, the only thing we had left was the clothes on our backs. Let me tell you all this, those old time houses had high ceilings and you know it was about a foot from the ceiling, the water mark was around. We'd of drowned like rats in that house, everyone of us. We'd of drowned in there, y'see.
So my daddy and them were worried about us, my daddy said. Papa said, "Oh, I hope they got out of that house!" And we were worried about them. We didn't think we'd ever see 'em. But, I got a book on hurricanes, Kenneth gave it to me, from the 1700's. I've got a book on all of them. I read in it about Captain Kahler and them. So I was telling Mr. Guice about this way back, and he wanted me to come to his office. He wanted to get that on tape. I never did go tell him you see. So in this book Kenneth gave me it's got all this about Captain Kahler, and Mr. Guice and his wife when they were young. And I was telling him one day about it and I said, "Doggone, if I'd of come and gave you that my daddy would have been in a book." He said, "I would of gotten it in there." You see. They had about Captain Kahler and they all drowned and his son, Eddie Kahler's daddy, they went over there to Louisiana, and found his daddy where they buried him, and they brought the body back . Okay, so back to Papa now.
The next morning we're all out there after we left the house you see, it was destroyed. We went to the beach, y'see and we kept scanning the water. So after awhile I saw a speck and said, "Ohh, I believe that's them! Look at that boat, it's a skiff coming." And boy, when they got from here, I guess, about to the other end of the street down there. One of them stood up and was shaking his shirt or something in the air. I said "That's Them! That's Them!" and we all got excited. Y' see. Sure enough it was them. But the boat,,, let me tell you what happened. So, when they made it to the lighthouse they didn't get all the way up to it. The schooner sank, it was loaded, it sank. It's still there. And they swam. They had to swim, in all that rough, high waves, the people all could swim. They swam to that light house, see. Okay, that boat that sank in 1915, is on the Navigational Charts today. So I was telling Mr. Ford, F. Ford, the lawyer. I went.., he had a yacht, he had a nice one. He said, "Vic, if you get off a week." That's when I worked for Joe Whittman. He said, "We're going to the rodeo in Grand Isle." That was before we had them here. So I went to Joe and he said, "Sure man, don't miss that opportunity. Go." So I went five days with them on that yacht. I was telling them about Papa's scooner and he said, "We're going to pass right by it." He got his chart out and put it.., he had a big yacht, he put it on the table and I pointed it out. There it is right there. So when we got there he said, "Right here is where it's at."All Rights Reserved Copyright ©2004 Michelle Saucier Ladner
But any way, alright, that was in '15. Two years later we got into the war. World War I. You see, it started in '14 over there but we didn't get into it til '17. Okay, the War broke out, we got into it. So they had a shipyard over there in Handsboro, Mr. Martinolich's, uh Matteo Martinolich. That's Dr. Martinolich's grandfather. So my daddy worked for him and we lived next store to 'em, see. They had a smaller house they rented. A nice house. Did I take ya'll by there one day to see it, your mama and them, I showed your mama and them. I said, "There's the house we lived in." But anyway, Papa was working there. They built two big ships. Three masted and a four masted schooner, big y' see. So uh, mama, one of the kids was born, I believe it was Henrietta, yeah, Aunt Henrietta. So mama got this black lady, that came and took mama's washing, and they boiled the clothes in those days in an iron pot out in the yard.( laugh)Build a fire and boil your clothes! Well anyway, uh.., mama, that black lady was telling mama, "Wasn't that a terrible storm!" It was just two years later, y'see. Wasn't that a terrible,, they called them storms then y'see. "What'n that a terrible September storm." She said, "I lost my son in that. " Mama said, "My husband was in it." She said, "My son, too, and I lost him. He was with Captain Kahler on his schooner." So see that was two years later, we moved and I even went to school with the Kahler's, some of them. And did you know when old lady Kahler died I was working for Bond Bread; I was one of her pall bearers. Eddie Kahler's grandma. We didn't live to far from them in Handsboro during War War I. But, I was telling Eddie about that one time, bout his grandpa and my daddy. That they knew each other. All those old captains, back then knew one another. Ya see. And I was telling Judge Stewart about it one day. Anyway, so then, we left there and moved to Gulfport, then, we stayed in Handsboro, let's see, '17, '18, and '19. Later part of ninteen, just the last part, after school and that was out. We came to Gulfport, ya see. And I went to school at the Catholic school for two years. But, uh, back then too, let me tell ya, back in the old days, Uncle Tom was the Mayor and ticket agent at the depot. And then papa'd let me go out fishing oysters, and that three or four days, some where in that. Whenever, we'd go down there to Aunt Jenny's; they had a big family; y'see. And Uncle Tom always had a big garden and they lived close to the depot there; y'see. And uh,,, boy, we'd go spend two or three days at Aunt Jenny's, I'd look forward to it. We'd go to school. I'd go to school with her boys, y'know my cousins, and uh, we'd come in and Aunt Jenny had one of these big wood ranges, with the heater on top of the warmer y'know. And she'd have that oven filled with baked sweet potatoes. I never will forget that! (chuckles) Well, I'll tell you Robyn when I started school in 1913. The old school is still there in Waveland. Part of it's the town hall. (Robyn, did you have all grades together?) No, we had four classrooms, we had a stage, and every year I'd be in a play. One time I was a Japenese. (laughter) But anyway, they heated it with a pot bellied stove, and they used lighter knots, big pine knots. And when ever you did something bad, the teacher used to; you know what your punishment was? You had to go kneel on those knots! Them hard knots! (Robyn, ow) That's right! And they hurt. (Mom, did you tell her about the time you were punished, didn't they get a switch or something behind you.) Oh, one time a teacher hit me with a switch across the face, and it left a mark you know, and Uncle Semore was on the school board. Boy, they got on her about that y' know, you could whip back then, if you were whipped you were whipped, but, uh, (Robyn, regular school or Catholic school) they didn't, couldn't hit nobody in the face y'know. No it was public, we didn't have a Catholic school in Waveland. Bay St. Louis had St. Stanislaus, and the Fatima school. They had a common for the girls y'know. But anyway, Uncle Semore went to the board meeting, they got on to that teacher, I guarantee it! For hitting me in the face, y'know. (Robyn, what other plays were you in, what other parts did you play?) Well, so we moved from Handsboro to Gulfport, like I said, we lived there for two years, we lived in Gulfport for three years, went back to Waveland. Let's see we went back in '23. And in '26 I came back to Gulfport. And I've been here ever since. So really I left Waveland when I was; in '17; I was eleven years old. Yeah, I was born in '06. I was eleven years old when I left, I went back when I was fifteen, nearly sixteen, I went after school and in September I was sixteen y'see.