Sunday, July 21, 2013

One Rescue, One Replacement


How a sculpture that was displayed at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans ended up rusting in a field near Basile, LA, is a mystery.
“The sculpture (called Miss Rose’s Bar) depicted two figures in a bar. The figures were portrayed abstractly, an attempt to involve humor in a spirit of celebration. The figure of Miss Rose was not intended to commemorate any particular individual, but to represent symbolically a mentor who has goodwill toward her fellow Americans as they process the events of daily life.
“In the communities of the 1950s and 60s, many black citizens were not welcomed at country clubs, recreations centers, or city halls. When there was a need to socialize or discuss current events, often the neighborhood bars, barbershops, and churches were the only venues available to serve these interactions. These institutions were the glue which promoted community harmony.

“The sculpture is dedicated to the humanitarian contributions these bars made to America’s prosperity” (information pamphlet).
Al LaVergne, who directs the sculpture program at Western Michigan University, had created the seven-foot tall stainless steel bar scene in 1981.

The sculpture was all but lost when a teacher in LaVergne’s home town of Basile, LA, took it home. She died before she could get it into a community arts center collection.
Left in a field for years, it was often photographed with people who passed by and saw it. In 2002, one passer-by tracked down LaVergne and asked if he would donate it to the city of Lafayette for public display (Janet McConnaughey, The Tuscaloosa News, May 24, 2004).
The citizens of Lafayette rescued the sculpture and through volunteer labor and donations restored her and found her a new home at the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.


About five years ago, we traveled from New Roads to St. Francisville, LA, in routine fashion, except for the twelve-minute segment during which we enjoyed the ride on the St. Francisville ferry (see our November 14, 2008 entry).

I enjoyed James Fox-Smith’s account of how the ferry’s schedule influenced both dining schedules and driving abilities:
View of the John James Audubon Bridge from Highway 981, northbound

“The stretch of Louisiana Highway 981 runs along the west bank of the Mississippi River in Pointe Coupee Parish doesn’t look like a place for wild driving. Twisty and sinuous, the little two-lane road leads travelers through a landscape of ragged pastoral beauty…. Before 2011, to drive one segment of Highway 981 on a Friday or Saturday night was to take your life in your hands. Twice an hour the section known as Ferry Road would be witness to lunatic driving maneuvers as overfed St. Francisville-area gourmands of questionable sobriety committed felony-level speeding offenses in their attempts to catch the ferry home.

Scenes (the four photos above) of the Audubon Bridge (eastbound)

“For many an east-bank chowhound this was part of the adventure—the drive time from the parking lots of New Roads restaurants to the ferry landing would have been known to the second; and it wouldn’t be unusual for the conversation over dessert…to involve arguments about the speed that would be needed if another round of after-dinner drinks was to be squeezed in…. (A)nd many’s the fine evening (that has been) brought to a screeching halt at the New Roads ferry landing with a carload of West Feliciana diners all pointing finger at each other as the lights of the ferry recede into the river mist….
“But in May 2011, the John James Audubon Bridge opened, connecting rural West Feliciana and Pointe Coupee parishes with frictionless efficiency…, taking all the guesswork out of dinner….
“The replacement of the fondly remembered, but highly unreliable, St. Francisville/New Roads ferry simply makes the pilgrimage between the two a little more predictable.” (My note: Although probably less exciting.) (Louisiana Kitchen and Culture, July/August, 2013).
The beauty of the bridge was apparent from our first view of it rising above the trees as we traveled up Highway 981.
Crossing the bridge provided us with closer looks at the structure as the shapes, colors, shadows formed images against the sky as the scenes' canvas.

In contrast to the artistry of the bridge are some engineering facts:
The new Mississippi River crossing is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere, with a 1,583’ main span and the only bridge across the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and Natchez, Mississippi.
Each cable stay is anchored to a 500-foot tower, which provides support to the bridge deck. Each stay contains 20 to 69 individual cables for a total of 4,548 cables. If the cables were placed end to end, they would stretch approximately 1200 miles. Each stay is protected by an orange sheath, which has a spiral bead extending its length to resist rain and wind vibration.
Scenes (the seven photos above) of the Audubon Bridge (westbound)

The drive over the 2.44 mile bridge (1,583' main span) was certainly quicker and more convenient, with no waiting period, but there was something about the ferry and the Mississippi that I missed.

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