Charm school focus of new documentary

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 8, 2016

Since 1986, local girls have been attending the Smoky Creek Summer School for Girls in Bogalusa.

At the charm school, the girls, ages 11 to 13, learn skills like table etiquette, hair care tips, financial management, poise, dating safety and more. Since it opened, the school has been under the guidance of Dixie Gallaspy, although the weeklong course features a variety of local teachers.

Now, with the world premiere of “Bogalusa Charm,” a documentary filmed by native son Steve Richardson, the rest of the world will get a taste of what hundreds of local girls have learned.

Dixie’s husband, John Gallaspy, said Richardson filmed the documentary several years ago, but has died of cancer since then. Richardson sold the film prior to his death, but Gallaspy said he’d forgotten about the film project until someone told him it will debut at the Louisiana International Film Festival on April 17 in Baton Rouge.

“He worked on it hard, and I am not sure how we found out about this thing being included in the Baton Rouge festival, but it is complimentary to see this,” Gallaspy said.

However, Gallaspy doubts he will be able to go. He and his wife are both in their 80s and she is sick.

“One of my sons is going to go and see if he can get us a copy,” he said. “Dixie isn’t up to going, and I am her caretaker.”

Gallaspy said the school has already had one turn in the national spotlight. Decades ago, an Associated Press feature story put the school in newspapers across the nation.

“Well, word got around pretty well,” he said. “She’s had some students come from out of state.”

Gallaspy said his wife had an interest in preserving the style of Southern grace and hospitality that she grew up with on a farm.

“My wife grew up on a farm outside of Franklinton, and her family were older Southerners who were very gracious,” he said. “Although (they were) not by any means wealthy, they certainly presented themselves well among their fellows, and she was always interested in the social graces and preserving them.”

He said Dixie got a degree in art in 1957 from Texas Women’s University, and later worked as an interior designer.

“She finally got around to starting the school and I think the first year she charged $35 a student per week,” Gallaspy said.

Tuition is $60 a week now, but the lessons are much the same.

And even in the age of Facebook and virtual relationships, Gallaspy said social grace is an important skill to have.

“We are rough around the edges in some places, and it doesn’t hurt to polish it up once in a while,” he said.

The show time for the film is Sunday, April 17 at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and the movie will be screened at Cinemark Perkins Rowe at 10000 Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge. The running time is 83 minutes.