Smoky Creek School gets the film treatment

Published 8:53 am Monday, June 23, 2014

As more and more traditions fall by the wayside amid the hustle and bustle of modern life, it seems etiquette has increasingly become a victim of this phenomenon, but Dixie Gallaspy, through her Smoky Creek School for Girls, is doing what she can to stem the tide in Washington Parish.

And now, the whole world will get to catch a glimpse the magic she and her small group of assistants, including Lurtie Sanders, Terri Coxe, Stacy Gallaspy, Joanie Miller, Lawana Penton, Lauren Ritchie, Elizabeth Roberts, Shanny Thigpen and Sally Thomas, manage to perform during the five-day session.

For the school’s 28th year, Gallaspy had a few special guests on hand in the form of documentary filmmaker Steve Richardson and two camera and sound equipment operators, Joel Fox and Rhonda Peacock.

While Fox and Peacock hail from Los Angeles, Richardson grew up in the area, the son of a prominent judge. He left many years ago and now lives in New York but has been no stranger in the intervening period. Richardson said on a visit 13 years ago, he was able to observe the Smoky Creek School for Girls, and that experience left an indelible impression on him.

So this summer, he returned to capture the school on film for a documentary on southern traditions and how they’re changing.

“We really value what a small town creates,” he said, adding, “Franchises are changing the flavor of the town.”

The film will use Bogalusa as the model, and as such Richardson and his crew talked to a cross section of local citizens but are using Smoky Creek as a sort of anchor for the movie’s theme.

“Dixie’s charm school is kind of the spine of the piece,” said Richardson.

Among those Richardson interviewed for the piece are several of Smoky Creek’s former students.

“I was surprised by what an impact Dixie’s school had on their lives,” he said.

And former students are not hard to find as many return to act as counselors for Gallaspy’s young charges.

One such student, Savannah Miller, said, “I learned a lot of information that really helped me in high school. It helped in making new friends.”

Among the valuable information imparted by Gallaspy at this year’s school were pointers on etiquette for all sorts of social situations as well as talks on individuality, spirituality, setting goals and choosing careers. These were supplemented with discussions on hygiene, clothing and eating habits, to name a few.

Gallaspy herself has no daughters but started the school in 1986 at the behest of her friend, Joetta Blakely.

Following the five days of refinement, this year’s group of students — Vania Victoria Aguilar, Hope Mari Cassady, Mary Grace Dugan, McKenna Claire Fussell, Mary Ann Harris, Callie Randon Guidry, Alyson Clair Jones, Makenna Noel Magee, Raleigh Jane McGraw, Trenese Danielle Pierce, Gracie Lynn Roberts, Allie Christine Schilling, Claire Brumley Scoggin, Bailey Elizabeth Stewart, Emily Caroline Taber and Caroline Lara Wagner — graduated in a ceremony at First Presbyterian Church, with Dr. Whit Gallaspy serving as master of ceremonies.

Among those who led sessions at the school this year were Julie Sheridan, Linda Crain, Marilyn Crews, Jacob Gill, Lauren Ritchie, Linda Mizell, George Gurtner, Carol Duke, Regina Runfalo, Cyndi Condon, Larry Miller, Pris Sampson, Nancy Miller, Belinda Adams, Sally Thomas, Dr. Lynne Alexander, Tabetha Ezell, Stephanie Dean, Jennifer Haik and Debbie Jarrell.