In the United States, we celebrate our Day of Independence on July 4th every year.  In France, they celebrate Bastille Day on July 14th.  When Mr. Eugene Eleazar, an immigrant from France, was elected Mayor of Kaplan, Louisiana, in the early 1900s, remembering the celebration in his native country, he began the tradition of celebrating Bastille Day in his new home. Fifteen years before I was born, in 1907, Kaplan held its first Bastille Day Celebration.  July 14th of this year marked the 94th such celebration.  The event now is much more elaborate than it was when I was a child.

We had a "street fair" complete with a Ferris wheel and "flying horses" (merry-go-round) and other rides.  There was a platform put up each year from which officials and candidates running for one office or another spoke.  (I was never interested in listening to any of them.)  There was music and marching bands paraded down the boulevard.  We could buy cotton candy or a "sayso" (ice cream cone) and hot dogs and bottles of Joe D Pop Rouge (a delicious strawberry drink bottled by Mr. Joe Russo at his bottling works in Abbeville). 

I went to my first Bastille Day Celebration when I was about six, but I had to stay in front of Handleman's Department Store, where Dee worked, so that she could keep an eye on me.  It wasn't until I was ten that Mom gave me a dollar to spend and let me go to the street fair with my cousin Noe Theriot and my friend Ouida Guidry.
Even some of Mr. Bud Fletcher's kids were with us. 

And I had a whole dollar to spend, any way I wanted to!  I rode the Ferris wheel several times.  It was such a thrill, the feeling of being almost able to touch the sky.  I picked one of the white "flying horses" to ride, and rode him several times.   I ate my lunch of hot dogs and a bottle of Joe D Pop Rouge sitting in the shade of an oak tree.  I wandered around all afternoon with a "cone" of pink cotton candy in my hand, not wanting to eat it because it was too sweet.  It finally melted to a sticky blob in the hot sun.

When some one called out, "Look!  There is an airplane in the field over there," we all rushed over to see it.  I'd never seen an airplane before.  This was only a little two-seater, but it looked huge to us.  The pilot wore a leather jacket and had on a helmet with attached goggles, and he was offering a ride to anyone who was brave enough to try.  He was charging ten cents a ride.  I think I would have gone up, but I'd already spent all my money. 

I was in my seventies before I ever again got up the nerve to fly!  I wish now that I had not waited so long, because I was not the least bit nervous and thoroughly enjoyed that flight.  The sky was the bluest blue one could imagine, and the clouds below looked like a big bowl of fluffy white meringue.

18 July 2001

Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA

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