Courtesy of L’Observateur
First Published in ‘River Current’ magazine, January 2000
Edouard Paradis, originally from Quebec, Canada, came down in 1856 to provide crossties for the railroads being constructed in St. Charles Parish.
The population was small, and education in Paradis had its struggles, just as in the rest of St. Charles Parish.
Early school records are sparse or missing all together for St. Charles Parish. But in 1895, white children along Old Spanish Trail were divided between Boutte and Des Allemands, with black children attending the Paradis Colored School.
Edouard Paradis died in 1902 and. In 1906, his widow sold the town’s site to Ortman W. Crawford, who asked permission to name the community “Paradis.”
The Paradis post office was established May 9, 1907, with Crawford the first postmaster.
The population at the time was estimated tat 450 persons.
Investors from Illinois, led by Julius Funk, developed plans for a model community at Paradis. They donated property for what became known as the Youngs School, a four-room school named for Dr. Luther Youngs (a school board member), and paid half the cost for it, the school at the time being largest in the system.
The development plan for Paradis also included an attempt to relocate the parish seat of government to Paradis, and the addition of a high school, sidewalks and street lighting. Eventually, only the sidewalks and street lights became reality, and most of that has since disappeared.
Dr. Luther Youngs was a significant person in Paradis history, not just for medicine but also for education and journalism. A native of St. Charles Parish, born of a New York couple, he graduated from LSU and established three offices for his medical practice. Dr. Youngs, however, quickly got into a rivalry over school board politics with J.C. Triche, then owner of the St. Charles Herald. At the same time, J.B. Martin became Superintendent and editor of the Herald.
The Paradis Enterprise weekly, published by Dr. Youngs, hit the streets on June 6, 1914, published every Friday (one day earlier than the Saturday Herald). It was in operation until 1921.
On Aug. 15, 1922, the Paradis Times-Hustler came along under the editorship of J. Lahroy Slusher as a monthly publication. However, it also was short-lived.
In time, the Youngs School was replaced in name by the Paradis Consolidated School, and in 1931 Paradis Elementary School was completed. Since then, Paradis gained two other schools, while Paradis Elementary School closed in 1975. These are J.B. Martin Middle School, opened in 1967 and named for the former school superintendent; and R.J. Vial Elementary, opened in 1975 and named for a later superintendent.
Luke Boyer calls himself, 75 at the time of this publication, one of the “old-timers” in the town. His memories remain fresh, and he can still walk down the old streets and point out who lived where when he was a child.
His grandfather, William Boyer, and father, Peter Boyer, came to Paradis from Gheens, and Luke was born here in 1924. “They were part of that generation that built America for us,” he said.
“It was designed to be a showplace,” he recalled of the town plans. “They came here with money and knowledge and planned a showcase town. They wanted people to see the town from the train and say, ‘Hey! I want to live here!’”
He still remembers Mrs. Paradis and her little cottage on the eastern outskirts of town along Old Spanish Trail. However, as a youngster in a town with a small population, everyone knew everyone. “Anybody could whip your tail,” he said. “Anyone could feed you. If the old people needed you to run an errand, you helped them.”
Boyer recalls, “I had two pairs of bib overalls, one with patches I wore every day and one without patches I wore to church.”
Life as a boy was filled with hard work and adventure, he recalled. “We had a wonderful journey as children,” Boyer said. They were also filled with school days at the old Paradis School, which he attended second through fifth grade, then went to Hahnville High School. He remembers that one school bus picked up all the children from Des Allemands, Bayou Gauche, Paradis and Boutte. In time, with the outbreak of World War II, Luke joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, which later became the U.S. Air Force. He met his wife, Lillie Mae Peyregne, whose father Paul, ran the Smile Inn in Des Allemands at the night spot in 1947. Tow years later, they married.
He returned to service with the Air Force in 1952 and remained until 1968, ending up at the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office. Through a succession of sheriffs, he rose to the rank of chief criminal deputy, while he and his wife greeted three children and nine grandchildren.
In a tour of Paradis, Luke Boyer easily pointed out the Oscar Gervais store, once the Paradis Bank; as well as Dr. Young’s home and other landmarks and where other landmarks once stood. Dr. Youngs, in fact, delivered Luke when he was born. Not far away from his home is the Paradis movie theater building, built by his uncle, Oliver Boyer.
He was raised Presbyterian, attending the old church erected in 1914 at the height of Paradis’ prosperity at the corner of Early and Wisner. The church remains but is now St. Andrew’s Episcopal church. Tragically for many families, when they church was sold in 1967, the graves were dug up and moved away from town.
He remembered that Paradis originally was designed to face the railroad tracks and original entire half of the planned town on the other side of the tracks.
Though few signs remain of the showplace town of Paradis, for Luke Boyer, the old town remains in his memory.