Breland: Times of the past are now gone away

Published 12:46 pm Friday, October 15, 2021

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Grandpa Albert Lang’s birthday was on Oct. 20 and he likely attended nearly every parish fair since its beginning. He looked forward to going, as it was a great time to see people he didn’t see other times … and a good time to invite them to his birthday dinner.

He was born in 1869 in Mississippi and had lived in this part of Louisiana for a long time. He knew a lot of people and was kin to many more. We heard lots of tales about them and I wish I could remember them. Sometimes going through genealogy I will recall one of the names he mentioned as a relative.

The fair for us then was usually on Thursday and Friday. He would get out early in the morning and position himself by the highway. In just a few minutes, somebody would come by and pick him up for a ride to the fair.

Grandpa had untreated cataracts, which caused considerable eyesight problems, but he could see well enough to get around pretty well. Close-ups presented more problems. Cataract surgery was not a routine happening. Cataracts were a gradual journey to blindness.

He had a spot where he sat near the women’s homemaker building and waited for people to come by. There were cousins all over the place and they knew where to find him. We, or others, would take him the things he needed, such as a cup of coffee and usually lunch. Sometimes we would guide him for a walk around the fairgrounds. My favorite time was getting a photo with him on the midway.

When he was ready to come home, he never had a problem. Somebody would come by and offer him a ride. He would be full of tales about his day at the fair when he made it home.

One year, there was a bigger than usual fair, and grandpa saw many of his friends, neighbors and relatives. He invited all of them to his birthday dinner, which was to be held at our house. It seems like all of them came that year!

We always had a big crowd for this event, but the response was bigger than ever unexpected. Grandpa was thrilled to see everybody, but preparations for so many was a little short.

It seems we had plenty of food, but not enough eating utensils! I remember at least one lady using a pot lid for a plate! That was a little before the popularity of paper plates, so real plates were used at these events. When people brought food, they also brought plates, forks and spoons. You couldn’t just run to the store and get more plates.

With so many people, there was also trouble with the use of the water pump. Dad kept trying to prime the pump, as people had to do with overuse, and somebody would turn the faucet on before he could get it going again. Just a few of the problems.

After that event, the family decided to not tell Grandpa when the birthday dinner was planned, so he could not invite so many people. It helped some, but it was always a very big event and from then on we were prepared. Once newspaper writer, the late Bob Landry, came to the dinner and wrote a big story about it.

Grandpa’s dinner had started after his dad, William Perry Lang, died in 1936. Grandpa Bill’s birthday was in June, and always a big birthday dinner was held. Grandpa was the oldest child, so the family continued with his birthday dinner held in October.

After grandpa died in 1959, we continued with a gathering of descendants on the closest Sunday to Oct. 20. It was a good time for a family get together. This all stopped when my dad died in 1999, it was sort of the end of the century. He was the youngest of the family and it was a good time to let each family create their own family gathering.

Looking at old photos, we can review those times and the people, many of which are no more. The photos review the good times of the past, which are now gone away.

Bob Ann Breland can be reached by email at