Smiley: Gangster story

I’ve been overdosing on HBO gangsters lately, working my way through all the “Sopranos” episodes and catching “Boardwalk Empire” weekly.

So I was especially interested in the note from Kay Rees, of Lafayette.

She says Keith Horcasitas’ mention of the old Kleinpeter Grocery Store on Bienville at Jeff Davis in New Orleans, run by his uncles, brought back memories of her days as a young wife and mother, living in an apartment at Jeff Davis and Canal and walking to the store to get meat and groceries (and advice on cooking them).

But the line that caught my eye was this one:

“At the time, I lived with my husband, an LSU Medical School student, and our young sons in an apartment across from the Lotus Club. (Many years before, in this same apartment building, ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ Alvin Karpis had been apprehended by J. Edgar Hoover himself.)”

The arrest was made on May 1, 1936, not long after Hoover had been publicly chastised by a U.S. senator for never having made an arrest himself.

An FBI team had located “Creepy” Karpis, who was posing as “Mr. O’Hara” and living in the Canal Street apartment.

When Hoover was told of the impending arrest, he flew to New Orleans.

The FBI account says Hoover signaled the agents to arrest Karpis as he sat in his Plymouth coupe in front of the apartment.

Somewhat embarrassingly, none of the agents had handcuffs, so Karpis’ hands were tied with an agent’s necktie.

Phonetically speaking

Buddy Holden says Ronnie Stutes’ mention of “spelling it like it sounds” reminds him of a spelling bee in 1939 when he was in the fourth grade:

“I represented Fairfields School in the East Baton Rouge Parish spelling bee in the old WJBO radio building just off Highland Road.

“At the end, two of us were left standing.

“My word was announced. I spelled it ‘q-u-i-r-e.’ Wrong.

“Constance Chaudier, of Baker Elementary, then spelled it: ‘c-h-o-i-r.’ She was the parish winner.

“Dear Connie, brilliant and beautiful, later graduated with me and other Baton Rougeans from LSU Medical School in 1953.

“She and her husband, the late Dr. Cherie Major, practiced medicine in White Castle for many, many years.”

Which reminds me

For many years, I’ve hated a certain slimy amphibian.

Let me explain why:

In the fourth grade, I was in a spelling bee at Carpenter No. 2 School in Natchez, Miss.

I was one of two students in the championship round.

When my word came, I spelled it “salamandar.”

Alas, I was told I had lost: it was “salamander.”

I thought I had gotten over it, but then I read Buddy Holden’s story, and the pain came back. …

High and dry

George Lane says, “The effects of the government shutdown spread further than politicians had envisioned when astronauts in the International Space Station called NASA for a ride home — and got voicemail.”

The marble chronicles

After a mention of the childhood game of marbles, I heard from readers who recalled their days as marble shooters.

Eldon Orr says large marbles were called “bomb rollers” when he was in Sister Juanita’s first-grade class at Sacred Heart Elementary in 1961-62.

Doug Johnson, of Watson, was the first of several readers to say the shooting marble was called the “taw”:

“Sometimes we used ball bearings, which we called ‘steelies.’ Some marbles were supposedly made from agate and were called ‘aggies.’

“The games could be played just for fun, or it could be a game of ‘keepers.’

“Some parents objected to us playing keepers, saying it was gambling. That made it all the more exciting!”

Chuck Willis, of Elizabethtown, Ky., recalls the lingo of the game:

“We always used our ‘taw’ and ‘knuckled-down’ and made sure we didn’t ‘fudge,’ and always played for ‘keeps.’ ”

Special People Dept.

Lynn and Jean Dixon, of Prairieville, celebrated their 63rd anniversary Monday, Oct. 7.

Brenda and Ernest J. “Big Ernie” Hernandez celebrate 52 years of marriage Wednesday, Oct. 9.

Doing her part

Rhetta Sellers, after viewing a photo of those alien invaders, the huge Asian tiger prawns, says, “I’m here to offer my assistance to the Louisiana habitat by most generously accepting any and all of the Asian tiger prawns that are caught.

“I have some very large skillets that they would fit nicely into. Just trying to be a helpful citizen.”

(Careful, Rhetta — a friend who had the prawn in California told me they’re not nearly as tasty as our Gulf shrimp.)

Early-bird blues

Max Blanchard, of Swamp Road in Prairieville, responds to a recent letter in this column:

“Reading about the two new proposed fall months — Septober and Nocember — reminded me of what Wal-Mart looks like several weeks after Labor Day.

“Kind of makes you want to wish everybody a MerryThanksgivOween.”

Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.