“Water Fountains”

During Mike Broussard’s early childhood, his family lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, but later he moved to Vivian where he owned a business and lived out the remainder of his life.  The experience described in this song, when Mike was twelve years old, affected his attitude towards race relations from then on.

One of the oldest movie theaters in Shreveport was The Strand.  It had different entrances for blacks and whites and water fountains marked for the different races, as well.

During the ’60s, most southern cities had two simultaneous phenomena: demographically a significant percentage of the population was African-American (Shreveport was about 60% black) and as a consequence whites and blacks unofficially interacted a lot.  The other aspect was a policy of official segregation. This manifested itself in a myriad of ways beyond the obvious, e.g. separate drinking fountains and different entrances to movie theaters.  However, relationships between whites and blacks could be warm and friendly despite official segregation.

Into the demographic mix were other ingredients.  Louisiana had a relatively large number of Italian Americans, mostly Sicilians.  These immigrants also experienced some discrimination, and in general did not share the otherwise pervasive white attitudes about African-Americans.

When Mike Broussard served in Vietnam he met an African-American from Detroit, D.W. Washington, and they became life-long friends.  Mike and D.W. talked about their plans when their tours were over, and D.W. went back to Vivian with Mike and they operated a filling station and auto repair shop for more than forty years.  D.W. was Mike’s closest friend (see songs “Sarge“, “Mike & D.W.” and “Out on Cross Lake“).

Water Fountains
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

It was 1960, I was twelve years old
My brother and me went to the picture show
My mother dropped us off gave us each a dollar
To see John Wayne in “The Alamo”
Outside The Strand were two water fountains side by side
One was marked “Colored” the other one, “White”

I didn’t know Bobby Ghio all that well
He’d just moved to Shreveport that year
He was Sicilian, from New Orleans
And was different from the kids ‘round here
He went to the wrong fountain, he didn’t want to wait in line
My mouth was wide open, it kind of blew my mind

It was exceptional
Incredible
To question what we thought was unquestionable
Exceptional
Like climbing a mountain
Or just drinking from a water fountain

Big Mama raised three generations of Broussards
She seemed to me as old as Moses
Taught me right from wrong, and a lot of other stuff
She was black but I didn’t seem to notice
It was an age old line that Bobby Ghio crossed
But when he did it a light bulb went off

It was exceptional …

It was 1960, I was twelve years old
My brother and me went to the picture show

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Cole Lucas Broussard (1946-1965)

Cole Lucas “Luke” Broussard was the older brother of Mike Broussard, and both were born in Vivian, Louisiana; Luke two years older than Mike. Luke and Mike were descendants of Confederate soldier Coleman Broussard (1842-1910).

Although they were born in Vivian their father moved the family moved to the “big city” of Shreveport in 1953, and one of the first things their father did was buy a new car, a Studebaker Champion.

Studebaker

As soon as he could, Luke learned to drive that car and he would drive around Shreveport, often taking his younger brother Mike along. Coming from Vivian, Shreveport offered what seemed to them a world of exciting things to do, and Luke introduced most of them to Mike (see song “Shreveport, 1963“).

Things like going to the Cub drive-through liquor store and buying some whiskey which they’d put in a Coke. I guess the Cub’s management figured if you were old enough to drive, then you were old enough to drink.  However, in Shreveport in 1963, a sixteen year old was old enough to drive.

Luke and Mike would also cross the Red River and go to the Bossier strip because of all the bars and clubs.  Places like the Orbit Lounge, the Kickapoo, the Shindig, Sak’s Whisk-A-Go-Go, and many offered exotic dancers.  During the ’50s and ’60s it was a little Las Vegas.

One of the milder things they’d do was play pool, their favorite game was “cutthroat”.  Cutthroat involves three players who each divide up the balls 1-5, 6-10, 11-15 and the first to sink the other two player’s balls, while keeping his on the table, wins.  They got pretty good at hustling guys from Barksdale Air Force base, who never seemed to catch on to the fact that Mike and Luke were brothers, playing two against one.

They also loved eating the local foods, onion rings at the Kokomo, Strawn’s strawberry icebox pie and Southern Maid donuts.

If they had nothing else to do they would park out at the airport and watch the planes take off and land, and if they were really bored they’d drive to Longview, Texas, late at night.  Mike loved it when out of nowhere they’d see the Eastman chemical refinery all lit up like a magical city, reflected in the reservoir water.

Both Luke and Mike served in Vietnam, Luke received his induction notice shortly after turning eighteen.  He had been dating a girl, Cherie Shnexnaidre, but they had not married yet.  Just before reporting Luke and Cherie visited a justice of the peace and tied the knot. Cherie had gotten pregnant and they wanted to be married when she gave birth.  A son, Cody Cole, was born in 1965 just before Cherie got the telegram informing her of Luke’s death.

Mike was also drafted two years later, but he came back unharmed and lived a long life back in Vivian where he operated a Texaco gas station and repair shop. Mike took up the role of surrogate father to Cody Cole and later, when Cody was around sixteen, hired him to work at the filling station (see the song “Sarge“).

Mike never forgot those Shreveport summers and that was how he chose to remember his big brother Luke.

© 2018 Frank David Leone. The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Shreveport, 1963”

Mike Broussard recalls how he and his brother Luke spent summers in Shreveport during the 1960s.  Mike was 15 and Luke was 17, a few years before each would go off to fight in Vietnam.

Shreveport, 1963
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Twenty-five cent a gallon gasoline
’53 Studebaker, three on the tree
The Kokomo drive-in onion rings
Shreveport, 1963

Strawberry icebox pie at Strawn’s
My big brother Luke and me
Southern Maid donuts at dawn
Shreveport, 1963

The radio dial was set to KEEL or KOKA
Windows down, crusin’ the streets
“Louie, Louie” and “Surfin’ USA”
Shreveport, 1963

The Cub drive-through liquor store
A couple of Coke’s and a pint of Jim Beam
Watchin’ the planes at the airport
Shreveport, 1963

My brother Luke died in ‘Nam
Time seemed to stop for me
No matter where I am
It’s Shreveport, 1963

The radio dial was set to KEEL or KOKA
Windows down, crusin’ the streets
“Louie, Louie” and “Surfin’ USA”
Shreveport, 1963

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.