BOAT CASINO 'HARRY LEE'
In the mid-1930s someone towed an old paddle-wheel river boat up the bayou and tied it up on what I think was the Carter property. It had been converted into a floating casino, but was no longer operating. A middle-aged couple were the caretakers and they lived aboard with their twin grandsons. Their names? After all this time I'd really have to strain my brain to remember their names. I only recall that we called the gentleman "Captain."
The twins went to Perry Junior High and they were nice, well-mannered fellows and very good students. They celebrated a birthday in the Fall, and their grandparents threw a great party for them. It was a sleepover for all of their classmates. I was one of the lucky ones who got to attend that party. Mrs. "Captain" gave us the grand tour of the vessel. I was highly impressed with the velvet drapes all over the ballroom and the long bar was grand, too. There was a raised area on one end where the band set up when they came to play for dancing. She served the guests hot dogs and Koolaid and for dessert we had a piece of a lovely home-made birthday cake. We were given quilts to bed down on the floor of the ballroom, and sat up most of the night listening to stories that "Captain" told us.
I like to think that those stories were really true and that the old HARRY LEE had trafficked the waterways, hauling freight and passengers to all kinds of exotic places in earlier times, before being converted to a casino. It all sounded so romantic. Of course, my friends and I visited there often, and we were always made to feel welcome. I even helped the boys with some of their homework.
The HARRY LEE was tied up between Perry and Mr. Cameron Foreman's place. It was about two miles from Perry if you went by water, because there was a big curve in the bayou just past the Perry Bridge. But it was only about a half mile if you walked from our school to where it was tied up. (In those days, a half-mile stroll was so easy!) One day, when I was visiting at the HARRY LEE with some friends, "Kank" Foreman rowed upstream from his house with a box of peeled sugar cane, and we all sat on the back by the paddle wheel and chewed to our hearts' content. A real treat!
I wish I knew what had happened to those nice people. I do know what happened to the HARRY LEE. After I moved to Orange, Texas, someone towed her up the Sabine River to Orange. She was moored on the Louisiana side of the river, was renovated, and was put back into operation as a riverboat casino. The name was not changed. The HARRY LEE may have been Louisiana's first floating riverboat casino.
Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA
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