Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Where Life is Rice and Easy"

The city of Crowley, LA, had a choice: build a new city hall or renovate the existing Crowley Motor Company building and use some of its space for city officials. Fortunately, the city fathers (most recently, mayor Greg Jones) and mother (the city's first woman mayor, Isabella Delahousseye, 1997-2006) chose to set up their offices in this beautiful building. In addition to city hall offices, the Rice Interpretive Center and the J.D. Miller Recording Studio call this building home.

We met Charlotte Jeffers, the Tourism Coordinator, who provided us with an enthusiastic introduction to the city--its history and its future.

Crowley has earned the title "Rice Capital of America" by milling more rice annually than all other rice-producing countries in the world combined! So, it seemed only fitting that we spend some time learning about rice production. Several displays (below) and a video about rice planting, harvesting, and milling filled our knowledge-gap quite satisfactorily.

For example, about six inches below the surface of the Crowley rice-growing fields is a layer of clay that has very poor drainage properties. This enables the farmers to flood the rice fields and retain the water. Seeding can be done by machine or by plane, and on many farms, the farmers grow two rice crops per year. And in the non-growing season, farmers "seed" the fields with crawfish and "harvest" the "mud bugs" for a third cash-producing crop in a year. Life in Crowley does seem to fit the city's motto: "Rice and Easy."

But back to the Crowley Motor Company. This building housed a Ford dealership years ago, and there are many reminders of its early life. This photo shows how the Model T's arrived in Crowley. The cars were shipped in box cars without fenders and tires.

They were unloaded and transported to the dealership's freight elevator (left) and lifted to the third floor. Here, tires and fenders were added, and the fully-assembled cars were sent down the elevator to the showroom.

This Model T coupe sits on the mezzaine of City Hall--which has to be a one-of-kind display in any city hall in the country.

At one point, Mayor Jones came out of his office because he heard conversations in the hall and did not recognize the voices. His welcome, added to that of Ms. Jeffers, insured that we will be back for more visits to this lovely city in the next few weeks.

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