The inaugural 318 Day Festival happens this weekend!
The day-long festival, which occurs Saturday in Caddo Common Park from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., celebrates what makes Shreveport-Bossier, the parish, and region great: the food, the music, and the art.
This event is free to the public.
Six local performing artists and bands will be featured. The festival will kick off with Dirty Redd Band and will be headlined by Front Cover Band. In addition to great food trucks and over 20 vendors, 318 Day will feature an artist row to highlight nine local visual artists.
“Too often we hear about the negative in our area or how we’ve ranked low on this list, but we never hear and celebrate what makes our city great and that’s the people. Shreveport has some of the most talented people in the world, and we must invest and celebrate that talent,” said festival organizer Billy Anderson.
318 Day is a collaborative effort that includes the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Shreveport Common, and the Shreveport Bossier Tourism Bureau.
“The Shreveport-Bossier area has so many unique and diverse local attractions,” said Stacy Brown, president of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. “This 318 Day celebration is a wonderful new festival that promises to bring us together to experience music and art in our area.”
Organizers thank the sponsors for helping make this event possible — Andress Art and Entrepreneur Center, Shreveport Downtown Development Authority, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, The Social Circle, Palmer Hall Realty, City of Shreveport, and Caddo Parish.
The hospitality and tourism industry is getting ready to celebrate the best it has to offer, which means it’s time to submit your nominations.
An annual presentation of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, the Excellence in Hospitality Awards will be held May 11 at Bally’s Shreveport Casino and Hotel.
The event will kick off with a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., and the awards ceremony and dinner will begin at 6 p.m. The evening will feature an awards program honoring the most outstanding employees in Shreveport-Bossier’s hospitality and tourism industry.
Anyone can submit nominations at no cost. A full list of awards categories, as well as a nomination form and instructions on how to submit, can be found online at www.Shreveport-Bossier.org/Awards.
Categories include Outstanding Attraction, Banquet/Catering Professional, Bartender, Casino Floor Professional, Culinary Professional/Chef, Event/Event Venue, Food Server, Front Desk/Guest Services Professional, Hotel Sales Professional, Housekeeping Professional, Transportation Professional, Valet, and Volunteer.
The awards are held each year in conjunction with National Travel and Tourism Week, which is observed during the first full week in May. National Travel and Tourism Week, a nationwide effort organized by the U.S. Travel Association, will be held May 7-13, 2023. National Travel and Tourism Week is a time for travel and tourism professionals across the country to celebrate the value travel holds for our economy, businesses, and personal well-being.
For more information and updates on this year’s Excellence in Hospitality Awards, contact Charlie Rice by calling 318-222-9391 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. To submit nominations or learn more about the Excellence in Hospitality Awards, visit www.Shreveport-Bossier.org/Awards.
It opened in 1925 at the corner of Louisiana Avenue and Crockett Street in the heart of downtown Shreveport and — thankfully, in all of its glory — is still standing (and operating) today as a reminder of what our city once was and continues to be.
The flagship theater of the Saenger Brothers, it is the official theater of our state and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It closed in the mid-1970s, was donated to a newly formed corporation, and reopened in 1984 after a major restoration project.
Almost 100 years later, The Strand Theatre is alive and well … but, oh, what a journey it has been.
Jenifer Hill remembers being dropped off at The Strand Theatre at age 9 with her best friend, Hallie Dozier. The two young girls spent many afternoons at the theatre watching all the classic movies of their childhood.
“Bedknobs and Broomsticks, that’s the last one I saw there,” Hill recalls as we enjoy a recent lunch at Fairfield Market & Cafe. “I remember being there for that. And then I remember them talking about closing it down.”
The doors of the Strand were closed in 1976 with the thought of selling the historic theatre. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Instead, three Shreveporters stepped up and saved the day – attorney Judd Tooke, businesswoman Virginia Shehee and The Times’ Jim Montgomery — by forming Strand Theatre of Shreveport Corporation.
The theater remained closed until it was donated by the ABC-Interstate Theatres to the corporation founded by the trio. After the major restoration project was completed, The Strand Theatre reopened in 1984.
Thirty years later, Hill was hearing talk of closing the theater again. This time, it hit closer to home.
When Jenifer Hill took over as executive director of The Strand Theatre in 2014 (after serving as general manager the previous two years), the place was in dire straits.
“When I took over, it was terrifying,” she says. “I found out how far in debt we were. There was some discussion from the Board (of Directors) saying, ‘Well, do we just shut the doors?’
“I said, ‘No, please don’t. Just give me a hot minute and let me figure out what’s going on.’”
What was going on was The Strand was $260,000 in debt.
“I went through all the bills and books and found a lot of spending on things we didn’t need,” explains Hill. “So we cut way back on those. And I’m just naturally tight.”
Hill used her experience working for non-profits (the Shreveport Symphony and Shreveport Opera), savvy budget cutting and smart business sense to pull the organization out of financial trouble.
In January 2020 came the big announcement: The Strand Theatre was out of debt.
Then the pandemic hit.
“I put my head in my hands and cried,” says Hill. “We all thought it was only going to be two weeks. After two to three months, it became clear that it was going to be longer.”
At that point, the Board voted to furlough all of the Strand staff except for Hill and one part-time person. For seven months, Hill worked on the books, scrubbed toilets, scrubbed stairs, vacuumed and did whatever she could to keep the building going.
There was a light opening the next spring with some dance recitals being booked, but everything was at 50 percent capacity. And after a few of those recitals, the 1,536-seat theater was forced to close its doors again.
Basically, The Strand Theatre went 19 months without any shows. During that time, cuts were made everywhere possible – insurance, payroll, housekeeping.
“We were cutting it pretty tight,” says Hill.
Slowly, things began to return to (the new) normal. The theater opened back up, most of the staff came back, the government provided “shuttered venue” money and employee tax credits and life returned to the historic building.
Life is not really the same, however. Not in the entertainment world. Like most of the industry, The Strand has seen a reduction in ticket sales – especially season tickets. But the public is responding.
Theo Von: Return of the Rat Tour was scheduled as a one-night show on Feb. 1 but was so popular a second night was added. “Both shows sold out in a matter of days,” says Hill.
And tickets for Chicago the Musical (March 19) are selling “pretty well.”
Hill is as busy as ever these days.
“Right now, I’m putting out offers for next season, which we’ll probably announce in June,” she says.
A typical season will include approximately 10 Strand-presented shows while the majority will be rental shows.
So, what’s the difference?
“If I’m on the stage, it’s a Strand show,” says Hill. “If I’m not on the stage, it’s a rental.”
In her time at The Strand, Hill has seen just about everything: dogs in the house, a homeless person roaming around, fights, flooding, and yes, even ghosts.
“I walk through that building in the dark all the time,” she says. “I’m often the first one there and I never had anything so much as raise the hair on the back on my neck.”
“Early one Saturday morning I was by myself and I turned off the alarm. I walked into the house and turned on the lights and I saw someone all in black walk on the stage. At first, I thought it was the technical director but no one else was there. It still didn’t bother me. I just figured it was a trick of the light, who knows?”
Two weeks after everything was shut down because of the pandemic, Hill ventured out of her house and made a visit downtown.
“Everybody had gone home,” she says. “We were all scared because no one knew what was happening. I just went down to check on the building. No one had been in there. We have cameras and alarms.”
Hill went upstairs to the Founders’ Room where the portraits of Tooke, Shehee and Montgomery are hung on the wall.
“The building is made of plaster and steel,” she says. “It doesn’t move, it doesn’t rattle in the wind, it doesn’t rattle when the train goes by.”
And yet, there was Montgomery’s portrait face down on the floor, 12 feet from the wall.
Hill didn’t panic. She didn’t scream or run out of the room.
“I picked him up, hung him back on the wall and we had a discussion,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Jim, I’ve got this. It’s gonna be okay. I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m here for the duration.’ After that, we got a ghost light and put in on the stage.”
Impairment is suspected to be a factor in a one-vehicle crash in Bossier Parish that ultimately claimed the life of six-year-old India Moore.
Just after 7:30 a.m. on Monday, officers assigned to Louisiana State Police Troop G began investigating a one-vehicle serious injury crash on I-20 west of LA Hwy 157. They discovered that a 2008 Buick Lucerne driven by 30-year-old Trodarian Moore of Minden unexplainedly exited the roadway and struck a tree.
Neither the driver nor the child were restrained. Both were transported to Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport with life-threatening injuries. On Tuesday, Troop G was notified that India had succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead at Ochsner’s.
Routine toxicology samples were taken and submitted for analysis. The crash remains under investigation.
Motorists are reminded that alcohol and other drugs have many effects on the body. Alcohol and other drugs can impair visual ability, alter the sense of time and space, impair fine motor skills needed to operate a motor vehicle, and decrease reaction times.
In 2023, Troop G has investigated five fatal crashes, resulting in five deaths.
From time to time, I’ll find myself driving past the house I grew up in on Levin Lane. 510 Levin Lane, to be exact. It’s a cul-de-sac, the perfect setup for kids to play in the street. I’ll take a few spins around the street – driving slowly as I pass by the house down on the right where my cousins grew up. Our house was the second from the end on the left and across the street – at the corner of Horton and Levin Lane – was where one of my closest childhood friends lived.
To this day, if you mention my name to John George, he’ll tell you I was the one who taught him to tie his shoes.
“You really remember that?” I ask him when we meet for lunch in a conference room at the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana.
“Yes,” he says with a smile. “You were five years old and I was six.”
He even remembers the room in our house where I taught him to tie his shoes. John also remembers finding my brother Craig at two years old pushing our dad’s lawn mower at the end of the cul-de-sac early one morning wearing nothing but a diaper.
What I remember is playing “Cowboys and Indians” – decked out with guns and holsters – and lying under the magnolia tree in the next-door neighbor’s yard after we had been defeated by the Indians.
My mother used to love to tell the story of when I came into the house crying and said, “John hit me back.”
Back then, if my parents weren’t home, they were probably across the street at Ruby and Fisher George’s house playing bridge.
That was almost 60 years ago.
All of these memories come flooding back as soon as I’m greeted by John George, the president and CEO of BRF – founded in 1986 as the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana. Now known as BRF (for Building our Region’s Future), it is an innovative economic development organization establishing North Louisiana as a preferred destination for high-growth businesses through its programs and initiatives.
As president and CEO, George has led the organization through an expansion of programs to include the Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP), Envision Research, the Center for Molecular Imaging and Therapy (CMIT), the Digital Media Institute (DMI), Shreveport Next, the New Louisiana Angel Funds 1 and 2 (NLAF) and ownership and operation of University Health System – the region’s safety net healthcare system and clinical partner of LSU Medical School in Shreveport.
The journey from Levin Lane to the massive campus of BRF’s headquarters in its InterTech I facility on the Shreveport Healthcare and Development Corridor has been an interesting one for John Fisher George Jr., M.D.
I hadn’t seen John in years and caught up with him for a recent visit. Instead of going out to eat, he had lunch brought in and we talked for hours. He’s very busy – and was heading to Washington, D.C. Mardi Gras in a few days – but he would cancel what he had planned for this day (“for the person who taught me how to tie my shoes”) and we spent lunch and most of the afternoon catching up.
For someone who “always wanted to be a doctor,” George took a little different route to get there.
While at LSU in Baton Rouge – where he really enjoyed college life for three years – George realized he wasn’t going to get into medical school and, at the urging of his mother, came back to Shreveport and got his degree in geology from Centenary.
“My dad wanted me to be a geologist,” he said.
After 10 years — at the age of 29 — George went to medical school. By that time, he was married and had the first of his four sons.
After graduating from medical school (in internal medicine), he got into the management side of medicine by co-founding and leading the development of LifeCare Management Service, a long-term acute care hospital system serving patients with a length of stay greater than 25 days. Through hospital startups and acquisitions spearheaded by George, LifeCare owned and operated 20 hospitals in nine states – with 3,000 employees with annual revenues of $300 million.
After LifeCare Management was purchased by the Carlyle Group in 2005, George started G6 Management, a private investment and capital management firm.
With his expertise in business development, investment management, and clinical management, George was the logical person to lead BRF. Since he became president and CEO, BRF led the University Health System’s hospitals through a financial turnaround and, in 2018, transitioned them to Ochsner Health System – the largest healthcare system in the state.
BRF’s mission to diversify and grow our region’s economy is something that hits home for George, who was born and raised in Shreveport and wants to see his hometown thrive. Whether he is talking about the entrepreneurship program, the Biotechnology Magnet Academy at Southwood High School, the Digital Media Institute (which is now offering online classes to students in all 50 states), strides being made in attracting businesses to the area, or any of the many aspects of BRF’s mission, George sees endless possibilities for economic growth in this part of the state.
He’s as busy as he’s ever been and not slowing down anytime soon.
“I love what I’m doing,” says George. “I grew up here. This place was really good to me. Why wouldn’t I want it to be as good for someone else?”
The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center has announced the first four months of programs, topics, and speakers for 2023.
First Wednesday Workshops
In these monthly educational mini workshops for caregivers, local experts present topics related to Alzheimer’s and dementia in a one-hour session with time allotted for questions by the participants. Workshops are held on the first Wednesday of the month from 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. unless otherwise stated.
NOTE: January’s First Wednesday Workshop if scheduled for Jan. 11.
If caregivers cannot leave their loved ones at home, The Bridge offers supervised and enjoyable activities during the workshop for those affected by dementia. First Wednesday Workshops are held at The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center at 851 Olive Street in Shreveport.
The speakers and dates for the first four First Wednesday Workshops of 2023 are:
Jan. 11 – Susan Pierce EdD, MSN, RN, CNE, Faith Community Nurse at First Presbyterian Church: “When Right Seems Wrong, and Wrong Seems Right! – Applying an Ethical Decision Model for Person-Centered Care.”
Feb. 1 – Johnett Waterman, LCSW: “Let’s Talk About It – Home Health and Hospice.”
March 1 – Becky Homminga, RN: “Fun At-Home Activities to Enlighten Your Day.”
April 5 – Jeff Overdyke, MD: “House Calls with Dr. Jeff Overdyke – What Can Your Doctor Help You with in Your Alzheimer’s Journey.”
Second Saturday Workshops
In these joint programs for caregivers and their loved ones with dementia, different activities are held each month that include a form of art and music. This time can also be used as a respite for the caregiver if they stay onsite. These workshops begin at 11:00 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month at Broadmoor Presbyterian Church located at 1915 Grover Place in Shreveport.
The first four Second Saturday Workshops are:
Jan. 14 – Meet Me at the Movies: Watch old movie clips, listen to theme songs, and reminisce. Most importantly, pass the popcorn!
Feb. 11 – That’s AMORE: A special Valentine’s Day luncheon for you and your loved one. Reservations are required.
March 11 – St. Patrick’s Day Games: Wear your green and prepare for fun, St. Paddy’s style.
April 8 – Sing Along to the Oldies: Musicians will lead us in songs from the past. Put your request in now for which Oldies but Goldie songs you would like to hear or sing along to.
The mission of The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center is to provide awareness, education, resources, and support services for those in our community diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias, as well as to their family members and caregivers.
The vision is to create a community where no one affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia makes the journey alone. For more information on their services, call 318-656-4800 or visit www.alzbridge.org.
To start the new year, the Shreveport-Bossier Journal is publishing a series of stories this week on Shreveport’s new mayor, Tom Arceneaux. Today, the SBJ introduces you to the city’s new leader.
You can tell a lot about a fella by the music to which he listens.
Tom Arceneaux’s choice of satellite radio channels reflects a man with varied tastes, interests, and desires.
“Either Contemporary Christian, Country and Western, or Symphony,” Shreveport’s new mayor told the Shreveport-Bossier Journal shortly before he took office last week. He enjoys that music while tooling around town in a 2011 (that’s right — 2011) Toyota Avalon, which he bought from his mom.
And if you want to get more specific, you can narrow “Country and Western” to The Garth Brooks Channel. Arceneaux’s favorite Garth song, “The Dance,” describes parts of his life.
“I’ve had a lot of successes, and I’ve also had my share of failures.”
Martin Thomas Arceneaux’s latest success was being chosen by 56 percent of those who voted in last month’s mayoral runoff election. A white republican, the 71-year-old did something many thought he couldn’t do — defeat a black democrat and state senator — in a city where the majority of registered voters are African-American.
But the mayor was a late bloomer when it comes to loving Shreveport, which he has no shyness in admitting. The oldest of three children, Mayor Arceneaux wasn’t born here and didn’t grow up here. His father, Felix, was transferred to several cities during a 53-year career with New York Life.
Shreveport was an early (Tom attended kindergarten at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church) and late stop. His last two years of high school were spent at Captain Shreve, which opened in 1967.
“The new kid went to the new school,” the mayor said.
Mayor Arceneaux may not have been the Big Man on Campus, but he was popular — and busy.
Sports editor of the school newspaper, manager for the football team, writer and performer in skits for school pep rallies.
“My parents had a really long driveway, so we would paint banners for football games in their driveway,” he said. “Everybody would come to my house. My house was the center of a lot of activity with my friends. My parents did that so it would be easier for me to make friends. And I did. I made some great friends, and I am still very, very close to my friends from high school.”
But not all of the mayor’s time with friends centered around school. He fondly remembers their trips to the old Bayer’s Charcoal Grill.
“They had great hamburgers and couldn’t read ID’s … I was 17 and looked like I was 12,” he recalled. “They sold half-yards and yards of draft beer. I must admit, now that the statute of limitations is over for both parties, I occasionally had one.”
For much of his adult life, Mayor Arceneaux has been moved to be a difference-maker. That “movement” likely began his senior year at LSU. While a business major, the mayor wrote a weekly column for the school’s newspaper. (“Journalism would have been my second career choice.”)
“At that time, (the band) played the alma mater at halftime (of football games). If the other team brought their band, (LSU’s band) didn’t play the alma mater. I wrote about it. I said, ‘You know, if you play it before the game, you won’t have to cut it out.’ Since then, they’ve played the alma mater before the game.”
By 1976, after being “completely and totally burned out” while in graduate school, Arceneaux had a diploma from LSU Law School. He moved back to Shreveport and worked for two years as a clerk for Judge Tom Stagg. But the allure of being a lawyer for a big firm in a big city pulled the mayor to Houston.
He had “the life”—making good money and living in the prestigious area of Westheimer and Richmond.
“And I had the house note to prove it.”
But Mayor Arceneaux said he’s never been about the money. (Exhibit A — his 2011 Toyota.)
“I’ve always looked at quality of life and serving a purpose that was greater than me,” he said. “That really is what drives me. As a result, I didn’t see that I would be able to do that in that environment in Houston.”
So, despite having lived in Dallas, New Orleans, and Alexandria, Tom and wife Elizabeth — with a newborn daughter — chose to move back to Shreveport. This time, for good.
“I found it a very welcoming place, particularly for somebody who didn’t grow up here,” he said. “I found it easy to become involved in the community. That’s what I was looking for in life. I wanted to be in a place where I could have an impact in the community.”
Eight years as a city councilman, 13 years on the Board of Directors of the Highland Restoration Association, eight years singing in a worship band (“I wasn’t good enough to play guitar in the band, but I was good enough to sing”), an advocate for the enforcement of property standards.
The list goes on and on.
“The Lord gave me a toolbox of talents, and I’ve used them as I went along as the opportunities presented themselves,” said Arceneaux.
However, there was one tool missing — one that cost Arceneaux the chance to fulfill his “lifelong goal” of playing football for LSU.
“I was never very good. I was small, slow, and weak.”
Even so, between his junior and senior years at Captain Shreve, Arceneaux tried out for the Gators, led by legendary coach and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member Lee Hedges.
But those non-talents — and some encouragement — helped Arceneaux become the well-rounded person he is today.
“One afternoon after a particularly difficult practice, Coach Hedges sat me down,” recalled Arceneaux. “He said, ‘I don’t cut seniors, so you will have a place on the team. But … I don’t think you will get a chance to play very much.
“You have some other skills and talents that, if you develop those, they’re going to be more meaningful to you. But if you’re out here practicing football every day, you won’t be able to do those things … I think you ought to think about that.’”
Message received, one which — delivered well more than 50 years ago — still resonates.
“He was so respectful and treated me with such dignity … I got to do a bunch of stuff that I never could have done if I had played football,” said Arceneaux. “But he didn’t tell me I was a terrible football player. He didn’t tell me I was no good. He told me I was good and I was worth something.”
Worth being the mayor of Louisiana’s third-largest city.
Now that’s a dance Arceneaux would not have wanted to miss.
They walked onto the field at Independence Stadium Friday afternoon in below-freezing temperatures wearing green blazers emblazoned with the “Secret Squirrel: Crusader Against Evil” emblem.
Fans in the stands for the 46th Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl were bundled under heavy winter coats, blankets, gloves, and face-coverings.
But not these guys, who were being honored with the 2022 Omar N. Bradley Spirit of Independence Award.
“Yeah, it was cold,” says Col. Trey Morriss, “but we’ve been under worse conditions.”
In the early-morning hours of Jan. 16, 1991, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) deployed seven B-52 Stratofortresses crews from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB) to Iraq in a single, secret mission that would mark the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.
The Stratofortresses took off heading toward Iraqi targets and launched 35 AGM-86C Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles, annihilating Saddam Hussein’s forces and striking key points of communication infrastructure – and returned in secret. The 35-hour mission marked the first time GPS had ever been used to guide a missile toward a target and was the first combat use of the CALCM.
“I was first informed of the mission in August 1990 and then had six months to train on the new weapon. We couldn’t tell anybody anything,” explained Warren Ward, Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) deputy chief of programming division and 596th BS B-52G Stratofortress co-pilot. “The 62nd BS and part of the 596th BS were largely deploying forward yet a large portion of the 596th stayed at Barksdale. We were watching our brothers in arms going forward, yet we were staying back. We had to work under a veil of secrecy.”
While Operation Senior Surprise was the official name of the classified mission, aircrew and maintainers creatively came up with the name “Secret Squirrel” so they could track schedules and discuss the mission in unclassified areas.
“The Secret Squirrel mission was used to blind Iraq by eliminating certain power and communication nodes throughout the country,” said Morriss, who was a new captain when he served as a B-52G electronic warfare officer.
“This severely hampered their response in the initial phase of the war. We proved to U.S. citizens, our allies, coalition partners, and even to our enemies that we will do what we say we’re going to do. In doing so, we solidified the B-52 in the realm of long-range strike capability.”
Twenty-five years after “Secret Squirrel,” the aircrew members that kicked off Operation Desert Storm reunited at Barksdale Air Force Base on Jan. 15, 2016.
And, almost 32 years to the day of the historic mission, those brave airmen were honored with the Omar N. Bradley Spirit of Independence Award on Dec. 23, 2022. Four of the 57 airmen have passed away since the mission, and 18 were present to receive the award.
“We defended freedom, which is a big honor in itself,” says Morriss. “To be recognized for that is thrilling. When you look at the list of previous recipients — to stand with the Tuskegee Airmen, the Berlin Airlift Veterans, Bob Hope, to name a few – it is humbling to be part of that exclusive club.”
The Omar N. Bradley Spirit of Independence Award was established during the bowl’s second year (1977) to honor an outstanding American citizen or organization which symbolizes the spirit of freedom upon which our country was founded.
“To be able to honor these men was spectacular for us,” says Independence Bowl chairman Rob Rubel. “When I look at the name of the award, two words come to mind – ‘I’ll go.’ The people that defend our nation consciously say that every day.
“I grew up in a veteran’s household, so it means a lot to me. These are the guys that left Barksdale Air Force Base and went to the Middle East to defend our freedom. They are indomitable Americans.”
Sci-Port Discovery Center Executive Director Dianne Clark has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Giant Screen Cinema Association.
“As a member of the Board of Directors for GSCA, I will be able to communicate with film developers and producers, as well as other theatres, to bring back best practices designed to enhance our Goodman IMAX Dome experience,” says Clark, who will join the board as a Theatre Representative.
The vision of the GSCA is to create “a network of premium educational immersive theaters that is woven into the fabric of peoples’ lives, providing enriching, fun experiences and developing world citizens.”
The Goodman IMAX Dome has recently received an upgrade, replacing the film projection system with new ground-breaking laser technology. This enhancement will provide a premium movie-watching experience to audiences. The Goodman IMAX Dome began showing major motion pictures – including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — in November. Top Gun: Maverick is being shown today.
For more information about Sci-Port or to reserve tickets to an upcoming showing, visit sciport.org.
For the first time in over 20 years, Shreveport voters have elected a Republican mayor.
Republican attorney Tom Arceneaux defeated Democratic state Senator Greg Tarver in Saturday’s runoff election. Arceneaux is the first Republican mayor since Bo Williams, who served a single term, left office in 1998.
“It’s very humbling; I’m very grateful,” said Arceneaux, who will take office on Dec. 31.
In an election that attracted just 30 percent of registered voters, Arceneaux received 56 percent of the vote compared to 44 percent for Tarver. They faced off in the runoff after finishing first and second in the 10-candidate field in the Nov. 8 primary.
Arceneaux served on the Shreveport City Council as the District C Councilman from 1982-90. He also served on the Board of Directors for Highland Restoration Association for 13 years, including five years as president.
“It’s not about winning an election,” Arceneaux told his supporters after the victory. “It’s about what comes afterward.”
As he thanked his supporters, Arceneaux repeated a campaign slogan: “We can do this!”
Then he added, “But there’s a whole lot more we can do.”
The Northwest Louisiana Community Tennis Association held a luncheon at Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club on Wednesday to honor those individuals who recently received awards from the Louisiana Tennis Association.
Special Tennis Event of the Year was given to the “Love for Lancey Tournament” with Grady Wilson and Phillip Campbell of Pierremont Oaks accepting the award. Bianca Schulz of the Bossier Tennis Center represented the Katy Build Tournament (recognized as Charity Event of the Year). Facility of the Year went to Querbes Tennis Center, with Chris and Amy Dudley accepting the award. Lauren Cotter Wilson was also recognized for her induction into the LTA Hall of Fame.
NWLCTA president Brian Bernard and board member Rhonda Rubben accepted the award for NJTL of the Year on behalf of the organization.
The Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Goodman IMAX Dome at Sci-Port Discovery Center on Wednesday to recognize the elected officials who had made renovations to the theatre possible.
Opening remarks and the ribbon cutting were followed by light refreshments, tours of the newly renovated Goodman IMAX Dome, and a complimentary showing of the Ancient Caves documentary.
Sci-Port executive director Dianne Clark thanked the City of Shreveport for its $1.1 million contribution along with the Caddo Parish Commission ($400,000) and the Louisiana Public Service Commission ($200,000).
Sci-Port is completing a million-dollar makeover of its IMAX theatre with new lighting and sound equipment. The upgrades will not only provide a better entertainment experience for the public, but help demonstrate new technology that reduces energy consumption, according to Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.
“I was pleased to contribute $200,000 from my Energy Efficiency fund toward this Sci-Port project,” Campbell said. “It is helpful for this Shreveport institution that celebrates the key role of science in our world to demonstrate the science of energy conservation to the thousands of children and adults who visit Sci-Port each year.”
On Jan. 21, 2023, Sci-Port will host the Goodman Gala to celebrate the grand opening of the Goodman IMAX Dome and to thank the Sylvia Goodman and her family for their dedication and untiring efforts to Sci-Port Discovery Center. Individual gala tickets are $100 each. For information or to purchase tickets, call 318-424-3466.
J. Edgar Hoover said “The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation … The efforts of all law enforcement agencies with the support and understanding of the American people.”
On Tuesday, Shreveport Police Chief Wayne Smith and Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator signed a memorandum of understanding with Northwestern State University to coordinate efforts to keep the campus and community safe.
Shreve Memorial Library Cedar Grove-Line Avenue Branch has partnered with community organizations to host seminars of public interest, covering topics of domestic violence and fraud prevention. On Monday, December 5, the Shreveport Bar Foundation will present a seminar on domestic violence and protective orders, and on Tuesday, December 6, AARP will host a fraud prevention workshop at the Cedar Grove-Line Avenue Branch, located at 8303 Line Avenue. Both programs are free and open to the public. Registration is not required.
Attorney Mary Winchell will lead the seminar on domestic violence and protective orders. The program will examine legal issues surrounding domestic violence, particularly as they pertain to protective orders. Winchell is a practicing attorney with over 30 years of experience. The program is being presented by the Shreveport Bar Foundation and will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, December 5.
Representatives from AARP will share information about the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which provides resources and tools to help consumers spot and avoid identity theft and fraud. The workshop, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, December 6, will teach participants how to take a few practical steps to fight against fraud, inform them of the latest data on fraud trends, and provide tips and resources to protect themselves and their families from identity fraud.
Both programs will take place at the Cedar Grove-Line Avenue Branch and are free and open to the public.
For more information on these and other Shreve Memorial Library programs, please visit www.shreve-lib.org.
About Shreve Memorial Library
Shreve Memorial Library transforms Caddo Parish lives with resources, services and support to create a better world. Focusing on service priority areas of creating and maintaining young readers, stimulating imagination, providing lifelong learning, information fluency, and ready references, and informing citizens, Shreve Memorial Library’s 21-branch system is maintained by a parish-wide property tax millage to support the informational, educational and recreational needs of its constituents.
The Turkey Fry Guys, a new nonprofit organization which raises money for abused children in the Shreveport-Bossier area, is holding its first Annual Turkey Fry. You can order a fried turkey — today is the deadline — and pick it up between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19 at House of Carpets and Lighting at 4344 Youree Drive.
The organization is raising money by selling fried turkeys during the month of November, raffle tickets and taking simple donations through their website. To order a turkey, buy raffle tickets or make donations, go to turkeyfryguys.com. You can also get information about The Gobble Wobble Event and Auction that will be held Friday, Nov. 18.
All profits are donated to the Gingerbread House, a nonprofit organization that specializes in helping these children in need.
Your donations and support help in these vital areas: preventing child sex trafficking in our area; aiding in prevention education and outreach; providing trauma-informed counseling services, and bringing help to child abuse victims in Shreveport-Bossier.
By donating to the Turkey Fry Guys, you would be helping to raise awareness for these local abuse victims and children in our community and you would be supporting the Gingerbread House.
Until I met Kristi Gustavson at a recent press conference, we had only communicated by email after I contacted her about meeting for lunch. I knew she was the executive director of the Community Foundation of North Louisiana but, other than that, I knew very little about the 1996 Byrd graduate. Sitting outside at Ki Mexico and enjoying some incredible tacos, I heard a fascinating story about how she ended up at CFLA.
It’s funny how phone calls work.
In 2017, Kristi Gustavson was on the verge of calling Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway – the law firm where she had served as a senior associate – and telling them she wanted to return.
There was something about being in a courtroom and arguing a case in front of a judge that attracted Gustavson – and she missed it. It’s why she got her law degree at Tulane University (graduating cum laude) after getting her bachelor of arts in political science from Rhodes College.
After practicing law in New Orleans, Gustavson and her husband moved back to Shreveport in 2007 and she joined Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway – where she practiced commercial litigation, contract issues and bankruptcy. She chalked up trial experience in state district court, United States District Court, United States Bankruptcy Court, Louisiana State appellate courts, and city courts.
Then, in 2013, she got a call from Regions Bank – one of the law firm’s clients – about managing the trust department. At the time, Gustavson’s daughter Malin was two years old, and her husband was travelling a couple of weeks out of every month with his job at Red Ball Oxygen.
The change sounded good, so Gustavson left the law firm and joined Regions, where she served as a vice president and trust advisor. After four years in that capacity, however, she decided she wanted to return to the courtroom.
She was about to pick up the phone when something happened before she called Cook, Yancey to tell the firm she wanted to come back, however. Her phone rang.
On the other end of the phone was Paula Hickman, the executive director of the Community Foundation of North Louisiana.
“Paula called and wanted to take me to lunch,” explains Gustavson. “We (Regions) worked with the Community Foundation so I thought there might be something wrong with the account.”
On the contrary. As it turned out, Hickman was planning to retire after nearly 15 years leading the Community Foundation of North Louisiana and she had decided who she wanted to replace her.
“I had seen the advertisement for the position,” says Gustavson, “but I wouldn’t have applied for it.”
While Gustavson had always been involved in nonprofit work — the former ballet dancer served as president of the board of the Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet while at Regions — she had never considered doing it full time. The more she talked to Hickman, the more Gustavson realized that is where she belonged.
“I went home and told my husband, ‘I think this is my dream job,’” she says. “And he said, ‘What is the Community Foundation?’”
Established in 1961, the Community Foundation of North Louisiana oversees more than $183 million in assets for the benefit of North Louisiana. Its mission is to promote philanthropy and improve the quality of life in the community by serving as a permanent and growing resource of expertise and funds. The funds managed by the Foundation are invested for the community’s benefit and then are returned to the community in the form of grants to a wide variety of charitable endeavors. Since its inception, the Community Foundation has granted over $100 million in grants to nonprofit organizations.
After going through the extensive interview process, she was chosen for the job and started shadowing Hickman in the fall of 2017. In January 2018, Gustavson assumed her new role as executive director.
When asked what the biggest challenge of the new role has been, Gustavson pauses and says, “I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I keep pushing. I had never managed an office of human beings. I had to find my way in my job and manage them. As a lawyer, I was a solo practitioner. As an only child, collaboration was a little outside of my nature. I never liked group projects in high school.”
And the most rewarding part of her job? “When the collaboration works,” she answers quickly.
With Gustavson at the helm, the collaboration has worked. In 2021, CFNLA granted over $8.5 million in grants and scholarships to 339 nonprofit organizations and 46 students.
“My job is to put groups together,” says Gustavson. “Those groups do research and data. I take what we have all collectively decided on and go to our board.”
The big question is, “How do we match the funds that we have monetarily with the needs of the community,” she says. “Sometimes, the hard part is not raising the money but spending it in a timely manner.”
In 2018, CFNLA set a lofty but attainable goal: “To change the course or interrupt the cycle of poverty for children through education so they may grow up and attain a living wage job by the age of 25.”
One of the major initiatives established by the Foundation to meet that goal is the Early Childhood Education Fund – to expand access and enrollment in quality early childcare by providing scholarships for children ages 0-3 in Caddo Parish. Thanks to generous donor support and a 1:1 match from the State of Louisiana, over $2 million was secured for the first year of the multi-year initiative.
The Foundation stumped for money from the City (of Shreveport) and the City Council early, according to Gustavson, and it paid off. “They stepped up,” she says. “They turned our $2 million into $6 million – unanimously. They said, ‘We see the value in this.’”
You can see by the way Gustavson lights up when she talks about this particular initiative that the Shreveport native loves what she is doing.
“I feel super privileged,” she says. “I get a lot of personal fulfillment from it. I get excited about what I do and am proud to tell my daughter about it so maybe she’ll want to come back here.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Earle Gene Labor of Shreveport, 94, who was generally accepted as the world’s foremost Jack London scholar, passed away on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. A memorial service will be held at Centenary College’s Brown Chapel, on Woodlawn Avenue, Saturday, Nov. 12, at 11:00 a.m. Michael Mosley was one of the thousands of students grateful for Labor’s impact; here are his recollections.)
Our community lost a wonderful man in Dr. Earle Labor to the ravages of time this past Sept. 15th.
He was foremost an outstanding individual to all that knew him, was internationally recognized for decades as the world’s leading Jack London scholar and served as distinguished curator of the Jack London Museum and Research Center on the beautiful grounds of Centenary College –where he maintained his position of Emeritus Professor of American Literature until retirement.
Dr. Labor taught me freshman English in the Fall of 1991. I’ll always remember the graceful command he had over his classroom. This educator was always on time, and he expected his students to be on time to join him, properly seated, once he clicked the door shut. In my mind’s eye, he dressed as though he followed men’s fashion cues from Dillard’s store mannequins over at Mall St. Vincent. Casually wearing a purple and gold Utah Jazz cap into Jackson Hall was a “no-no” in Dr. Labor’s book.
I gained a private bonus lecture on how to dress properly for his class one morning before it began exactly on time. Stern words from Dr. Labor were not easily forgotten. He had the build and countenance of a drill sergeant. He was the first and only professor who “encouraged” me not to “skip” because I was unprepared on another occasion for his weekly assignment.
Anyone who visited Dr. Labor’s office on the third floor of Jackson Hall will tell you how neat and regal it was to behold. It looked like M’s office in the James Bond movies of yesteryear cinema. Dr. Labor even had a secretary in the manner of Miss Moneypenny, in my friend, Becky Palmer.
I was rather impressed the first time I stepped into Dr. Labor’s office for a visit by invitation. My eyes danced over the beautiful bookshelves, the rows of first editions higher than the top of my head, and the enlarged framed photo of Jack London behind Dr. Labor, seated at his expansive mahogany desk. It was humbling to be in the presence of true class, but he made you feel warmly received in his Centenary digs.
Dr. Labor edited volumes of Jack London’s work and skillfully authored Jack London: An American Life, for which he was awarded the Golden Spur in California. I helped Dr. Labor share his award-winning biography with Ken Burns, for which he received a thoughtful reply from the most acclaimed documentary filmmaker alive today. We shared the hope that Mr. Burns would feature Jack London in a documentary to premier on LPB. Mr. Burns certainly has circled the subject with his features on rough and tough Jack Johnson and macho Earnest Hemingway, where London’s influence is documented.
My primary educational focus was film studies in gaining my degree. Dr. Labor was a film buff. And one of his favorite all-time filmmakers was Stanley Kubrick. Cinematic classics like Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and 2001: A Space Odyssey were among his favorites from Kubrick’s canon. Earlier this year — soon after his 94th birthday in March — I helped Dr. Labor share his Jack London biography with Christiane Kubrick, Stanley’s amazingly gifted artistic widow, for her own 90th birthday in May. Dr. Labor’s book made a long trip across the “big pond” to Childwickbury in St. Albans, England. I thought it special as Mrs. Kubrick’s client to share his book with her as he was four years her senior and shared the same birth year of 1928 with Kubrick, a noted book collector.
One of Dr. Labor’s favorite short stories was The Red One, first published with illustrations in Cosmopolitan back in October 1918. This publication was two years after London’s untimely death on his ranch in 1916. It featured a deliberately buried alien object, an eerie giant red sphere with sonic otherworldly sound emissions, and was ahead of its time as a science-fiction forerunner to the ancient astronaut’s theory in today’s pop culture as promoted by Ancient Aliens.
For SBJ readers involved in athletics, Dr. Labor was a competitive weightlifter in his youth. He walked away from meets with trophies and press releases. He once (or maybe twice) told me over lunch (a “to-go” from Marilynn’s Place near his home was his favorite place) that when he was a young handsome wunderkind in Dallas, rippling with muscles and brain cells, while dating in rotation a bevy of striking American Airlines stewardesses (another story), that all the young pretty ladies of the Texas skies flattered him with talk that he looked like the masculine screen star Kirk Douglas — but better looking.
Well … I originally thought my dear elderly friend was maybe just a bit kind to himself. But, lo and behold, he shared a decades-old photo of himself slated for his nostalgic early 1950’s memoir, The Far Music. He indeed favored Kirk Douglas, but was better looking as was the genial boast. Frankly, Dr. Labor once looked like a chiseled Greek god, with a tussle of wavy hair kissed by the sun.
He would sometimes quote baseball’s Dizzy Dean and say to me, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.”
One Earle G. Labor could back it up.
It mattered to him what he ate, how he lifted weights, what he wore, how he kept his office, what he drove, how he kept it nice, where he lived, how he kept it neat, what he read, how he kept his family informed and those relationships happy and thriving, and how he kept his friends and colleagues in want of his company. My pal proudly served his nation in the Navy on international waters and was all man, period. He reflected in his lifetime the grit of America, as did his complex idol, Jack London.
Parents, if you haven’t, please think about reading and encouraging your children to read The Call of The Wild, White Fang, And Other Stories from Penguin Classics with Dr. Labor’s introduction; you can find this $10 paperback at Barnes & Noble.
I hadn’t seen Kenneth Myers in many years, so I was very excited when I ran into him at the monthly meeting of the Northwest Louisiana Community Tennis Association meeting a few months ago.
Even better was hearing the news that Myers – who attended Captain Shreve, Grambling, and LSUS — was returning to Shreveport to take over as head pro at Cockrell Tennis Center.
What a fascinating story!
Tell us about your family and background.
My mom, Lueburda J. Myers, was a 33-year retired Caddo Parish teacher having opened up two schools in the MLK Cooper Road area — then Linear High School and next Green Oaks High School, where she retired having served as PE teacher, girls’ basketball and tennis teams coach, and civics teacher. After retiring from teaching, she became the first Black superintendent of the 16 SPAR Recreation Centers. My dad drove trucks at the time for local-owned Melton Truck Lines. Rhett, my older brother, was exceptional while on the mid-70’s LSUS debate teams, having individually defeated Ivy League schools in competition. My whole family played tennis while first living in Scroggins Apartments directly across the street from Booker T. Washington High School.
How and when did you start playing tennis?
My Mom grew up on a sugar plantation in south Louisiana. When she was little (7 or 8), she was with the owner’s children visiting and she saw from a distance what was to her at the time, “ … looks like they are hitting a ball with a stick,” which was a wooden tennis racket. She said, “One day I am going to learn how to play that game,” which she did while she matriculated at Grambling — also learning how to swim since girls weren’t allowed to swim in the bayous down home.
Next to Booker T. Washington on Milam St. and in front of Lakeside Recreation Center is a fire station. What used to be in that exact location pre-1960 (long before the fire station) were two tennis courts with hanging lights from a pole where Black Shreveport played tennis taught by a man famously known as “Fat Sam.” My Mom said I would be in the stroller while she played. I can often remember 20+ people rotating and playing through the night, especially during summer. SPAR had an end-of-summer recreation center tennis tournament for Black kids that I played in a couple of summers beginning when I was 8 or 9 years old. One summer they had an exhibition featuring two former collegiate players who had just graduated and were playing professionally – La. Tech’s Phillip Campbell and Southern University’s Joe “The Pro” Jones, who was the best Black tennis player in Shreveport at the time. Joe told my mom that she might be able to get me in the indoor tennis facility where he was working at in Spring Lake. She got me in, I joined the year-round Junior Development program, and in 15 months I had qualified for the Boys 12s Nationals. I went on to play in the Boys 14s Nationals held at Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club. In the finals of the Louisiana State Open held at Querbes, I defeated Australia’s Mark Kratzmann, who went on to defeat Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker on his way to four Junior Grand Slams. In college, I am the only D1 black player (Grambling State) to be ranked in NCAA history. I became the two-time Black National Champion, winning the same title as Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. The crown jewel locally was in my first City Men’s Open tennis tournament in 1988, when I defeated — in succession — players who owned the last 20 championships: Andy Lloyd in the quarters, Luis (Lucho) Varela in the semis, and the great Pat Harrison in a nail-biting three-set thriller. I won a total of four Men’s City Open Singles Championship titles in four different decades.
Tell us about coaching women’s tennis at Grambling.
In my 16 seasons as a D1 coach, I have coached two All-Louisiana selections — including numerous All-SWACs with a Freshman of the Year selection right before COVID. One of my most enriching wins was against Southern University in the 2022 season, when my women’s team defeated the Lady Jaguars from Southern University for the first time in front of a home crowd.
How did the job at Cockrell Tennis Center come about?
Cockrell was without a pro for several months and had a dozen committed Black juniors who had recently started playing during the pandemic. I was asked by a couple of board members from the NWLACTA if I was interested. I was.
Tennis is seeing a resurgence in popularity, especially in new people to the sport. How busy is at Cockrell? Are young people taking up the sport?
Working with the existing juniors beginning the first of June and then officially starting in late July as the Tennis Director, adult and junior participation has picked up — specifically with the local CTA/NJTL being the underwriter for tennis clinics at no cost during July (two weeks) and October during October Fall Break week along with October Tennis ‘R Treat day and Family Schools Tennis Mixer giving dozens of black youth an opportunity for an introduction to the game of tennis. Plans have been enacted to begin outreach to reach underserved youth through schools, rec centers, and mentorship groups.
What other sports do you play?
I played and excelled in all team sports except baseball.
You can invite any four people (alive or not) to dinner. Who would you invite?
One, I would invite my maternal grandfather, who died five months after I was born. Two, I would invite world tennis champion and first Black Grand Slam Champion Althea Gibson. Three, I would invite Robert “Whirlwind” Johnson — who discovered Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe and is considered the Godfather of Black Tennis. Four, I would invite Tally Holmes, the first Black National Champion (1917) who played against US Champion Bill Tilden in front of thousands in New York City.
Judy Stewart’s job as head of the Bossier Parish Police Jury’s animal control department doesn’t usually require her to spend hours chasing a helpless animal through the woods. But, in her words, “You do what you have to do.”
Stewart, joined by parish police jury member Glenn Benton, parish Public Works Director Mark Coutee and a private citizen who first reported the situation, trapsed through woods off Berry Rd. to rescue a dog whose head had become stuck inside a hard plastic container.
“He apparently had his head trapped in that thing for several days, judging on his condition,” Stewart said. “There was no way for him to eat or drink. I’m surprised he made it until somebody saw him. Naturally he was very frightened and that made him harder to catch.”
Rescuers finally managed to herd the pup beside a drainage culvert where Stewart snagged him with a catch pole, and the group eased the plastic off his head. Fortunately, the animal wasn’t seriously injured. And, as Stewart learned over the next 24 hours, his appetite hadn’t suffered one bit.
“It’s amazing how he has filled out so quickly … his ribs were showing when we caught him,” she said. “Believe it or not, he went for the food before he drank much water. He’s such a friendly little guy, I’m glad he’s looking so good so soon.”
Next step for the pooch, who Stewart dubbed Jughead “… because it seemed most appropriate …” is to get his photo and information to the public just in case someone is missing a fur friend. Jughead is approximately one year old and appears to be a pit bull/boxer mix with maybe a touch of “variety” thrown in. He’s currently residing at the parish shelter, located at the highway department facility in Benton.
“We’re going to get him vaccinated in a couple of days then put him on our rescue list,” Stewart said. “He’ll make someone an excellent companion.”
Stewart issued special thanks to those who helped Jughead out of his predicament and into a chance to perhaps find a forever home.
“I really want to thank Mr. Benton and Mr. Coutee for coming out and helping me,” she said. “It’s not every day I have to chase an animal for four hours and I’m glad I had some really good help.”
The Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau has been awarded with a 2022 Readers’ Choice Award by the publishers and editors of ConventionSouth, the national multimedia resource for planning events in the South.
“The Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau is blessed with an incredible team that is dedicated to servicing our meeting planners, attendees, and guests from around the nation,” said David Bradley, vice president of business development.
“From start to finish, we work to exceed the expectations of those choosing to do business and visit Shreveport-Bossier offering staff expertise, itineraries, booking incentives, group experiences, and even transportation. We customize based on the needs of each group.”
This marks the eighth time the award has been bestowed upon the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau, which will be featured as recipient in the December 2022 Awards Issue of ConventionSouth magazine.
“ConventionSouth readers and fans have voted to decide the best meeting sites in the South, and it is no surprise to us that Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau has been selected to receive our annual Readers’ Choice Award,” said ConventionSouth Associate Publisher Tiffany Burtnett.
“The value in receiving this prestigious recognition is that it comes from the United States’ top meeting professionals who hold events in the South. These planners demand the highest level of customer service and quality facilities, and they have determined that Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau indeed displays the commitment to professionalism, creativity and service they require.”
The best place to meet Steve Prator for lunch, I was told, was in his office in Government Plaza. The only question was: What in the world do I pick up for lunch with the Caddo Parish Sheriff? I was told he likes fried chicken (particularly gizzards), turkey club sandwich and if it was a salad — ham or turkey.
I had heard great things about Doc’s Sandwich Shop, so I thought I’d give it a try. I went with the Mattie Club BLT, which turned out to be a big hit. “Best sandwich I ever had,” he said.
When the end of January rolls around, Steve Prator will have served in law enforcement for 50 years. Most people, after 50 years in a career, would start thinking about retirement.
Technically, Prator did retire — after 27 years of service in the Shreveport Police Department. But he wasn’t done with public service. His first term as Caddo Parish Sheriff began in 2000 and, in June 2020, he was sworn into office for his sixth term.
So now, after nearly 50 years in public service, is the 70-year-old thinking about retirement?
Prator might consider it, but there’s just one problem: He can’t find anything he is as passionate about as what he’s been doing for practically half a century. The only thing that comes close is fishing, which he does as often as possible with trips to his place in Orange Beach, Ala.
Hunting? “I like to shoot sporting clays,” he says, “but I don’t like killing things.”
“If I hadn’t gone into police work,” he says, “I would have been a school teacher.”
Actually, Prator has done both.
Back when he was a narcotics officer, Prator took an extra job as a substitute teacher at North Highlands Elementary School – the same school he attended when he moved to Shreveport from Clarksville, Tenn., in the second grade.
In those days, Prator wasn’t dreaming of being a police officer. He grew up raising cows and farming, so it looked like that’s how he would spend his life.
“Some people look all their lives and never find what they’re passionate about,” says Prator. “If you find that in life, you are fortunate. I’m lucky to have found my passion.”
Prator found it when he joined the Shreveport Police Department on Jan. 29, 1973. After 19 years, he served in a variety of departments — robbery, homicide, narcotics — and rose to the rank of sergeant.
“I was so fortunate to have been part of it (law enforcement) back when reform was needed,” says Prator, who was called “college boy” by other officers. “I was frowned upon a number of times for not taking part in what was standard operating procedure at the time.”
So, when he was chosen as chief of police – the position he held for eight-and-a-half years – Prator earned a new nickname: “Terminator Prator.”
“When I got to be chief of police,” he says, “I fired people for what used to be the standard when I first got hired. I fired a lot of people.”
As Caddo Sheriff, Prator oversees a department of 681 full-time deputies, 99 part-time deputies, 54 reserves, and 150 auxiliaries (according to 2020 numbers). His office’s main job, however, is maintaining the felony jail.
Once Shreveport Police have booked someone into Caddo Correctional Center, Prator’s office takes over.
“Then we do everything,” he says. “We take them to court, feed and clothe them, house them and watch them. We deliver the subpoenas for court cases and take them to and from court. When they’re convicted, we take them to Angola.”
Talking about maintaining the jail is when Prator’s voice takes a different tone. There is excitement in his voice.
“That building over there . . .” Prator says as he looks out the window toward the Caddo Courthouse, “in many cases, there’s a lack of urgency. There has to be a sense of urgency getting people to trial quicker. Until we get that, things won’t change.”
What needs to change, according to Prator, is the number of inmates at CCC.
“The jail was designed to hold 1,070 beds,” he says. “Right now, there are 1,400 in the building and 1,100 inmates are awaiting trial. The number of bookings at CCC is less than it’s ever been but the number awaiting trial is higher than ever.
“It costs $75 a day to hold one inmate. If that inmate waits four years to go to trial, that’s 75 times 365 times four. Do the math. Something’s wrong. Something’s got to be done.”
Prator pauses, looks over at me, and smiles.
“That’s it,” he says. “That’s what I’m passionate about.”
When I was a young dude, I knew a fella by the name of Ashley Benefield. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of Ashley, and I’m not sure what brought him to mind. But sometime this week I started thinking about him and the time he spent in my life.
Ashley was in his 20s when I first came to know him. I was a 10th grader upon our initial meeting, and the first words he spoke to me weren’t exactly friendly. He was at an August football practice, watching the pieces placed of what would become that fall’s football team in Haynesville. This is (or at least was) a common practice in that small Claiborne Parish town on the Louisiana- Arkansas border – townsfolk coming to watch Red’s boys get ready for their next foe.
It was a particularly hot August. If the latter part of summer is known as the Dog Days, then that year’s final few weeks could only have been known as the Great Dane Days of summer.
I was young, 14 or 15 or something like that, and I didn’t know what I was doing out there. I made mistakes, lots of them, and the person I heard from the most about those mistakes was Ashley. That first comment came when I lined up on a scout play. I jumped offside, and during a water break Ashley was just close enough to tell me I was going to be another “Joe Smith.”
He didn’t actually use the name “Joe Smith.” I’m changing the name of the person he actually referred to in an effort to protect the innocent, like an old Dragnet episode. I didn’t know who Joe Smith was, but apparently Joe Smith was someone who Ashley held in low esteem.
After practice, I asked one of the team’s older players about Joe Smith and, moreover, about the guy rudely calling me Joe Smith.
I learned that Joe was a player from a 1980s Haynesville team who jumped offside late in a game against Springhill. As memory serves, the penalty occurred on a Lumberjack field goal attempt. The kick sailed wide, but the infraction gave another chance to the Webster Parish rival. The second kick was true. Springhill won. Haynesville lost. And apparently the Tors didn’t make the playoffs or some such similar devastating tragedy. Losing football games is a big deal in Haynesville. This remains true even today.
“And who is that guy?” I asked, gesturing to Ashley, who was now mingling with some of the senior football players and making all of them laugh along with him.
“You don’t know Ashley?” I shook my head.
“Well, he’s the Superfan.”
In the two years that followed that first interaction, Ashley and I became friends. I learned that Ashley’s greatest love in life was that of Haynesville football. It consumed him, brought him to practice, brought him to pep rallies, brought him to team events. He was welcomed, and he was loved. Now that’s not to say Ashley couldn’t be a little unnerving. He was literally the most intense person I have ever met, and his intensity knew no bounds. He would talk to some of the coaches about strategy, asking questions, offering suggestions. For the most part, everyone was kind to him despite his large personality.
His was a personality and a heart that were bigger than his slight frame. Ashley was thought of as the Superfan, but he didn’t look super. He was a rail, probably weighed 90 pounds. But what made him superb wasn’t on the outside but rather within. You see, Ashley was ill, terminally. He was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and each breath he took was a struggle.
He had long outlived his life expectancy, and he knew there was little time for him. His condition worsened with every turn of the calendar, and by the time I had reached senior year, Ashley reached his end. The last time I saw him was in a Shreveport hospital bed, a ventilator was keeping his lungs working. I don’t know if he knew I was there. I squeezed his hand and took my leave. I cried, cried in front of teammates, losing all pretense of macho high school bravado. A few hours later, we learned that Ashley had passed. The clichéd phrase would be gone on to that great football field in the sky.
The night before Ashley’s passing, we played Springhill in the opening game of the season. We lost. I didn’t jump offside. I never jumped offside, thankful that I could never be thought of in such ill repute as old Joe Smith.
Ashley’s funeral was held in the auditorium of the high school. I was honored to be a pallbearer along with the football coaches. A few nights later, fueled by thoughts of Ashley and a few motivational words by some of us, the Tors went out and slapped around Minden. The Tide was the first of many wins for us that year on the way to New Orleans.
I’m not sure why I thought about Ashley this week. It’s been a while since he’s crossed my mind. Time hasn’t been kind to my memory, and the harder I try to remember his face the foggier the image becomes. But one thing I do remember is that voice, that laugh and unfortunately that ever-present cough. The memories I do have of him are of kind and happy times. Even those last hours in the hospital and the services that followed aren’t reflections of sorrow.
Ashley died young, but he loved the time he was given. He loved other people, and he made better the lives of those who knew him. He lived a full life, and he never had to leave that small little town in North Louisiana to do it. He never needed anything more than a football team and the town that loved it. That town loved him.
Time’s gone by, folks have moved on, and so has the world. I’m not certain if they still talk about Ashley in Haynesville. I’d like to think he’s still mentioned from time to time, stories told about him, memories of road trips to West Monroe and Evangel, games against rivals Homer, Springhill and Minden. Happy days.
Maybe a player is still called “Joe Smith” when he jumps offside. You could be called worse things, I guess.
And you can be called better things.
You can be called “Superfan.” But one of the best things you can be called is “friend.”
Ashley Benefield was my friend.
More importantly, I was his friend.
I think I got the better of the deal.
Josh Beavers is a teacher and a writer. He has been recognized five times by the Louisiana Press Association for excellence in opinion writing.
Her journey to head tennis pro is not a common one — she didn’t grow up playing tennis and compete in junior tournaments, play in high school and college, and then start teaching lessons. Jill Zimmer, the new owner and head pro at Southern Hills Tennis Center, took a different path – and quite an interesting one.
Tell us about your family and background.
I was born in Natchitoches in 1976. My father was a game warden in the Kisatchie National Forest, where my Taylor Family has lived since the early 1800s. My sweet father, who passed away when I was 13, was in War II and the Korean War. They had me later in life, so I was a little bit spoiled. I have one older brother and two older sisters. My mother was a P.E. teacher and a basketball softball coach for 30 years and a sports fanatic. I grew up on the softball field pretty much of my young life. At a very young age, I was with those high school girls catching and throwing for hours every day.
How and when did you start playing tennis?
My story of how I started playing tennis is a little different than most. I didn’t start out as a junior player. In fact, I actually started when I was 32 years old when a friend of my husband’s was a tennis pro at Stone Bridge country club at the time. My friend had begged me for months to play, but I told her I wasn’t really the tennis person type.
So, one day she finally broke me down and I went to play. Let’s just say from that moment on, I became obsessed. The playing catch and throwing on the softball field had paid off. My hand-eye coordination was really good and I picked it up really fast. From then on, I started taking tennis lessons from pretty much everyone in town. I would make goals for myself every two years. I wanted to move up a level, and I did. My goal was to make it to 4.0 but I passed that goal and became a 4.5. I feel like that’s pretty good for not being a junior player and playing my whole life.
Then I got asked to be the Airline tennis coach. I was terrified but then when I started it, I was like, “Wow, I can do this.” My mother was so unbelievably proud of me and bragged to everyone that I was a coach like her. And I definitely see her in the way I coach. My mother passed away three years ago and that’s what made me get certified as a teaching pro. She inspired me to keep pushing myself and make my goals come true.
How did the job at Southern Hills Tennis Center come about?
If you would have said to me, “You will be the owner and head pro at Southern Hills Tennis Center,” I would have laughed in your face. It started by me just working up there part time for my friend Tyler Semmes. He had moved to Kansas and Rhonda Rubben asked if I would like to be the interim pro. I said, “I’ll try it, I guess.” With that said, weeks went on and then, she sat me down and asked the big question, “Jill, would you want to be the official head pro and own Southern Hills for yourself?” I said, “Rhonda, you’re out of your mind. There’s no way I can do this.” Then I remembered, “Okay Zimmer, you just coached kids that never played tennis before and they went to state, and then you just passed a really hard tennis certification test without being a junior player. You can do this.” So — with a lot of thinking and praying — I took the chance on this diamond-in-the-rough place.
I hear wonderful things about what you’re doing at Southern Hills. What are some of the improvements to the facility and things you have implemented?
First and foremost was to move the process on new court resurfacing and get my pickleballers their new six courts. I kind of made that my mission for them. I got a meeting set up to view some pickleball courts that would be similar to what they were wanting, and SPAR went ahead and got that rolling. I have worked in making the center feel welcoming and, as everyone says, “putting that ladies touch to it,” and trying to keep things clean and maintained. Recently, we have lightened up the place with painting inside and the outside door, which looks amazing, thanks to an awesome sponsor.
What do you like to do to relax?
I love to travel. My family and I love California and actually just got back from there. I love to get out to our family land and just be still for a couple of days when I’m really needing to relax.
And, of course, a good hotel in Dallas is always good, too.
You can invite any four people (alive or not) to dinner. Who would you invite?
Well, of course, you have to have Jesus there. And besides my mom and dad, it would be Jerry Seinfeld, George Strait, and — I know this is crazy — but Post Malone. Haha!
Technically, Dr. Sandra McCalla and I met for “Coffee with Harriet” because it was Tuesday and she had her weekly meeting at the downtown Rotary Club during lunch. We could get together after lunch, so she suggested Rhino’s Uptown location. Call it whatever you want — I’d meet her anytime she was available.
McCalla is synonymous with Captain Shreve High School, where she began teaching math in 1967, served as assistant principal for two years and then as principal twice – from 1978-88 and again from 1994-2015.
In 2015, McCalla knew it was time to retire because of the ‘Three Fives’ — she was 75, had worked in the public school system for 55 years, and was tired of getting up at 5 a.m.
“I’m not a morning person,” she says with a smile.
Just as quickly as the smile appears on her face, however, it is gone and her eyes begin to tear up. Asking McCalla about retirement takes her back to those days in the spring of 2015.
There are many happy memories from all her years at Captain Shreve, but that particular time is not one of those.
On April 25 of that year, Shreve head football coach Richard Lary suffered a fatal heart attack while attending the final regular-season baseball game at Gator Field and died a short time later at Willis-Knighton Pierremont. McCalla wasn’t far from Lary when he collapsed and – when told where they would be taking him – beat the ambulance to the hospital.
“That’s a hard one,” she says as she recalls the memory.
While McCalla knew she would soon be retiring, she hadn’t made the formal announcement just yet — and Lary’s death put off the announcement for a little while. “I told the superintendent early that summer,” she says.
This time, McCalla would be leaving for good. When she left Captain Shreve in 1988 to take a leadership position at Northwestern State (her alma mater), it was a different situation — McCalla was working until midnight and when she asked for some things that other schools were getting, she was told, “Your parents can provide that.”
McCalla thought it was time for a change. She could stay away for only six years, however. In 1994, she started receiving phone calls telling her that Tommy Powell (who had taken over as principal when she left) was retiring and asking her to come back. When one of those calls came from the Caddo superintendent, she returned to Captain Shreve.
“I was thrilled to come back,” she says. “I’ve been blessed to have been given so many positions throughout my life. In fact, the only job I ever had to apply for was when I was 19 (years old) and trying to get a teaching position.”
She got that job – as a math teacher at Oak Terrace Junior High, where Stanley Powell was principal. When Powell left Oak Terrace in 1967 to become the first principal at Captain Shreve and wanted McCalla to join him, she “respectfully declined.”
“I was happy teaching math there,” she says.
Until she got a letter from the superintendent saying, “you’ve been appointed to Captain Shreve.”
McCalla taught math for 10 years and then served as assistant principal for two years. When Stanley Powell went to the Caddo Parish School Board Central Office in 1979, McCalla started her first stint as Captain Shreve principal.
When asked about some of the highlights of her time(s) as principal, McCalla is quick to recall when Captain Shreve was given the National Blue Ribbon School award in 1983 – bestowed by the U.S. Department of Education recognizing public and private schools for their overall academic excellence.
“It was a thrill,” she says as she describes being given the award at the White House by President Ronald Reagan. “There were only two schools from Louisiana that year. And we were one of them.”
The award-winning schools were presented with a flag and a plaque, which are on display at the school. (McCalla ordered a plaque and displays it proudly at her home.)
McCalla has never really left Captain Shreve. You can still find her at a number of school events, and she is still active in the Alumni Association and the annual Gator Run – the school’s only major fundraiser that she initiated 21 years ago.
“Back in 2001, we went to talk to Matt Brown at Sportspectrum,” says McCalla, “and I told him I didn’t see any high schools doing a walk/run.”
The partnership was a success as the Gator Run has been held every year (except the Covid year).
“Matt said, ‘But you’re not going to make any money the first three years,’” recalls McCalla. “But we’ve never lost a dime. We’ve made money every year and that money goes back into the school.”
I was recently reminded just how much respect McCalla holds in the education field.
When I was approached two years ago about teaching high school English at a private school, I told the superintendent that I was tempted to take the job because that was something I had always wanted to do. In fact, I told him, Dr. McCalla had wanted me to come to Captain Shreve and teach years ago.
But there was a problem — I had been a teacher for almost 20 years, but that was in elementary school. I wasn’t certified to teach high school.
“Sandra McCalla wanted you at Captain Shreve?” he said. “That’s all the certification I need.”