Old Memories and the New Generation

I treasure memorable events; some are one-of-a-kind that I had the good fortune to be a part of. Fourty years ago this week, my dear friend W.T. Oliver, asked Phyl and I to be the weekend host for Doug and Pam Kershaw. The Kershaw’s also brought their 16-month-old son Zachary along on their visit to Southeast Texas.

Before I move on with this story I want to say that not a day goes by that I don’t think of W.T. He did so much with his life that it’s difficult not to see the evidence of the great community work he left behind. He was the driving force in the building of the Bridge City Community Center. He raised the money, gathered volunteer workers and materials to complete the project. Ever time I travel over Memorial Bridge over the Neches River, I am reminded of his work at Veterans Memorial Park. He dreamed it and worked countless hours to see it to its completion. That’s just a couple of many examples. Every day I miss our daily contact. I never had a more loyal friend.

The weekend of July 17, 1977, I met Bob Hope for the first of what would be several meetings in the years to follow. W.T., who was president of Hughen School for the Handicapped, had come up with the idea to build a high school for the students to advance their education. Oliver wanted to name the school after the great American Bob Hope, so he solicited Hope’s help and got it. I went to Austin with him to meet with Hope’s manager.

He also planned to name the music room after Doug Kershaw, ‘The Louisiana Man’ Cajun recording artist and entertainer. The accomplished musician played 29 different instruments. This did not include the ‘bones’ and the ‘spoons.’ Kershaw was a Math Major from McNeese University. From a very young age, he had played his music around the world. I first saw him and his brother perform as ‘Rusty and Doug’ in Abbeville when I was just a boy. He was only 14 years old.  Doug was a wild performer, played a mean fiddle but personally was extremely shy and introverted, but has an extremely dry wit, which is often a Cajun trademark.

His wife Pam, a tall, beautiful lady from Denver, Colorado, who he married in 1975 in the Houston Astro Dome, was just the opposite. She was outgoing and very down to earth. Doug had wanted crawfish gumbo so W.T. fixed a feast of gumbo, crawfish etoufette, homemade Boudain and other Cajun food. Pam ate like a Cajun.

After the big meal, hosted by W.T and Ann Oliver, Doug, who had played in the area, wanted to go to the Rodair Club. Doug joined in with the Cajun band and played the accordion. Pam, Phyl and I watched Doug enjoy being in his element, with all the Cajun couples on the dance floor; he was back to his roots. On Sunday, he entertained at the concert at the Thomas Jefferson High School football stadium that drew a huge crowd.

Kershaw gets wild on the accordion, sunglasses reflects the crowd.
Photos By Mark Dunn

For the next 20 or so years, we always received a Christmas card from the Kershaw’s, showing the progress of their family. They had a couple more boys. I called from time to time. Doug was most often on the road.

They left Colorado and moved to California and we lost track of them. They later moved back and now live in Greeley, Colorado, are still married and have five sons and two grandsons. Doug still performs at places like Branson, Las Vegas, etc. He hasn’t played in this area for a long time. I hear his music from time to time on Cajun Music shows but he recorded other music as well.

Time has flown since those days. Phyl and I had a young family back then, today our thoughts and time are spent on our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Throughout life I’ve been fortunate to have known or met some big national stars including spending time with Elvis twice, but nothing will be more exciting then the event of the coming weekend.

Phyl and I will host all of our offspring. It will be the first time that all of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be together at MeMe and Papa’s house. The kids are coming in from all over the country. We have only seen some of the grandchildren twice. Jenna, Mark’s youngest daughter, her husband Robby and their three children are driving in from New Hampshire, after a stop in New York to attend a wedding. Jenna’s oldest, Nate, I hear is quite an athlete. Their middle child Delilah, who we’ve seen a couple of times, is a little beauty. Then there’s the baby, Willow Grace, who we’ve seen once as a baby. Mark’s oldest daughter Amber is flying in from Kansas with our youngest, Luke Clay. Her husband, Dr. Clay Greeson will be unable to attend. We saw Luke twice since his birth and now he’s 9-months-old. I’m sure he’s changed a lot. Garrett, Karen’s oldest son and Angie, will be here with their three children, Leland Clay, 8-years-old and daughter Juliana, 1-year-old year old and 7-year-old Josh, Angie’s son. Karen’s middle son, Sean, is flying in from California where he is stationed with the Coast Guard. Karen’s youngest Collin, fortunately lives locally. Our youngest son Allen always surprises us with some of his good vittles. The youngsters always look forward to that.

Next week should be exciting with the grandkids getting to be with one another for a week and getting to know their nieces and nephews. Phyl and I will enjoy them all. Of all the benefits Phyl and I have enjoyed over the past 63 years, the downside  Down Life’s Highway is not getting to see these great grandchildren grow up like we did their parents, who gave us some great times. We will never really get to know the last generation in that way but we will enjoy the time spent together. Not many kids get to live at the same time as their great-grandparents. With everyone so scattered this gathering may never be duplicated. Life goes on, this old world keeps on turning, generations leave and new generations are born. We are thankful for our many blessings.