Author to sign books in July

Published 4:41 am Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bogalusa native Robert “Bob” Lawrence, former news and feature editor for The Daily News, will sign copies of his 256-page new book, “Bogalusa Memories, a conversation with Bob Lawrence,” on July 3-4 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., at the B&C Hall on Cumberland Street.

Lawrence bases many of his quotes and descriptions of memorable events on interviews with early Bogalusa settlers while writing his many and regular full-page features for the paper. Before becoming news and feature editor, Lawrence served for several years as sports editor and received accolades and awards for his in-depth coverage of Bogalusa High School football, baseball and basketball.

Lawrence says his book, rather than focusing on industrial might and resources, takes a look at the loss of individualism when settlers moved to the new city and became addicted to time clocks, credit buying at the Great Southern Lumber Company Commissary, regular paychecks and inexpensive rental housing with wood floors and brick chimneys instead of the dirt floors and mud chimneys of many pioneer houses.

The book stresses the authoritarian rule of the sawmill over the city it built and claimed as its own. Discipline and punishments were meted out by the GSL’s enforcement group called the “Rough Gang” by early Bogalusans. Ownership of the town was never in question and company rules — like lights out and no moving through different sections of the town after the company’s 10 p.m. curfew — were strictly enforced.

“It is not a history, but many personal recollections told in a conversational way for other Bogalusa natives to enjoy,” Lawrence said. “I hope it serves to remind others of things they saw and now remember from Bogalusa’s founding until 1983, the year I moved to Baton Rouge and a new career. There are empty pages intentionally left at the end of the book for readers to post personal memories for their children and grandchildren.”

The sawmill started full production on Oct. 17, 1908, with the almost 700 company-owned rental houses finally filled with workers and the mill fully staffed, cutting 1 million board-feet of lumber almost every day until they completely cut away over 600,000 acres of longleaf yellow pine, hundreds of years old. The nine months it took thousands of workers to build the city is immortalized in the city’s nickname, “The Magic City,” created from nothing in only 187 days.

“The book deals honestly and openly with Bogalusa’s up and downs,” Lawrence said.

The lynching of an innocent black man and the killing of four union officials in 1919 are discussed in detail.

After the two-day signings, the books will be available at McMillan’s Nursery and Gifts, Esma’s on Columbia Street and Delta Printing on Columbia Street.

The book is published by MillTown Press, an aptly named publisher for the book about a mill town totally owned by the Great Southern Lumber Company. The pattern was continued with by Gaylord for a short time. The paper mill found it could not afford the paternal role of the sawmill and released its hold on the city by selling company housing, leaving Cassidy Park for the city to maintain, and generally dropping all patronage to become just an industry in a Southern city. This led to new property taxes, municipal bonds and sales taxes to pay for things formerly paid by the GSL.

Bogalusa Memories will sell for $20 each for printed copies and $7.99 for the digital version on Amazon. After the first 300 books are sold to cover some costs, 25% of the sale price or $5 each will go to a Bogalusa charity selected by the people attending the formal signings on July 3 and July 4.

Lawrence, the last surviving member of the old commission council form of government in Bogalusa, was heavily involved with the Cassidy Park Development commission where he served as chairman, Scouting and district chairman and council chairman for Exploring, president of the Washington Parish Conversation League and was recipient of the Bogalusa Jaycees’ “Young Man of the Year Award” in 1973. His wife of almost 59 years is the former Nancy Adcox and they have one daughter, Allyson, and four grandsons, all twins, two identical and two fraternal.