Courtesy of L’Observateur
First Published in ‘River Current’ magazine, January 2000
The town of New Sarpy was named for Leon Sarpy, the owner of the Sarpy Plantation, which was a present-day Norco. Originally, Sarpy operated three plantations in the area, including Good Hope, Island and Prospect. Good Hope Plantation, by the way, wasn’t in Good Hope. Good Hope Plantation was, rather, in the area of Good Hope Street in Norco.
Island Plantation was in Good Hope, and its site was later the Island Refining Company, which later became Good Hope Refinery and the present-day Orion Refining Company.
When New Orleans Refining Company, whose acronym created the name Norco, came into the Sellers area, Sarpy relocated to Prospect Plantation, which wasn’t near Prospect Avenue in Good Hope, but rather where the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office substation is located – in New Sarpy.
So much for local geography.
Leon Sarpy was originally from Tennessee, and he fought at the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War. He bought his first property in St. Charles Parish in 1869 and in time owned Prospect, Good Hope and Sarpy Plantations.
Prospect Plantation was built in 1815 and taken down in the 1920s. In the same year Sarpy bought the plantation, the Good Hope Baptist Church was established in 1869. The church replaced its building in 1881 after a levee setback and built its present church in 1930.
The Island Refinery first located in the Good Hope area in the late 1910s.
New Sarpy opened its post office Nov. 18, 1937, with Lucy Vander Linden the first postmistress.
Along the way through most of the 20th Century history of New Sarpy was Roger Guedry Jr., 71 as of this publication, of West Hoover Street. He and his wife, Theresa Duplessis Guedry, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.
The oldest boy in his family of nine, Guedry remembers trees and gardens where row upon row of houses now stand. “They didn’t have half these houses,” he said.
The son of Roger Sr. and Delphine Kinler Guedry, he keeps the family interest in maintaining the garden, just as his father and grandfather did.
“Daddy was up every morning at 4 a.m., to raise the shrimp boxes, work all day, raise the boxes again and tend his garden, sunup to sundown,” he said. “People then didn’t know nothing but work.”
He also remembers when a black man named Wagner would pick up the mailbags daily at the depot and deliver it to the post office in a wheelbarrow. “They always did that about 50 years ago,” he said. “We didn’t have any street lights, and it was nothing to walk right into a cow.”
He remembers Miss Van, who ran the old post office and the Zeringue’s store and still lives near the Migliore Food Store, which survives on its booming lunch trade and its convenience for the community.
As a youngster, he recalls fields on all sides of his home and horses pulling wagons in the 1930s. “River Road was nothing like it is now,” he said.
Wagonloads of sugarcane would pass down the street, followed by noisy children who would call for a stalk to chew as a snack.
By the time he was 14 and a student at Destrehan High School, he was doing fieldwork. At 15, he lied about his age to get a job at General American. Would War II had begun three months earlier, and jobs were plentiful.
At 16, he worked at a Texas City, Texas refinery on oil rigs right after graduation, and he returned to GATX at 17 and worked there 40 years, ending up as a supervisor in the blending department before he retired at 57.
Guedry met his wife, originally from Gonzales, at a dance in New Orleans at the Silver Star. She remembers it a little differently.
“My girlfriend and I would go there, and he used to come in with a gang of guys. I was invited to a party and went with this guy. He came in with his brother and he told him he could take me away from that guy.”
Needless to say, the tall, wavy-haired Roger succeeded with the petite, dark-hared beauty. They started going steady at Carnival, were engaged by Easter and married that August 1949 at St. Louis Cathedral.
His first car was a 1937 Ford, which the young couple still used for the first few years of their marriage. They first moved in with one of his older sisters, then to an apartment behind Migilore’s, then to a block house built by his cousin and finally to his present home, which he got for $50 down 45 years ago. Guedry, however, really hit his stride as part of GATX’s softball team where, as a pitcher in the 1950s, he once pitched three games in one day, one of them a one-hitter.
Meanwhile, she also launched her own career, cooking in school cafeterias, including Norco Elementary, the old New Sarpy Elementary (the building of which is now the offices of Orion Refinery) and Harry Hurst Middle School for a total of 25 years.
Nowadays, their time is split between vacations to Branson, Mo., casino trips and visits to their favorite store – Walmart. “Our friends call us Mr. and Mrs. Walmart,” Guedry said.
He also makes outdoor swings and chairs and spends time at their camp in Waveland, Miss. The couple raised three children, and they also have 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
And, with 50 years of love and marriage behind them, they look forward to many more years of living in New Sarpy – forever young.