March 27, 1998

I had a long conversation on the phone with John Henry Poncio recently. I understand that since then John has not been feeling well.

But let me tell you about John. He is a very interesting person to talk to. He had quite an experience in the war against Japan. He was in the Bataan Death March when the Japanese over-ran the Philippines in World War II. He said he didn’t like to talk about it – but it’s an experience he will never forget.

During our conversation, he also told me that his Dad used to have a drug store in Berwick in the ’20s. So that makes John an old Berwickian. It was nice talking to you, John. Hope you get to feeling better soon.


Remember when Nick DiPrimo had a grocery store on the corner of Fourth Street and Lima Street in Berwick? He was not related to Russell DePrima.

The other day someone asked me if I was born in Berwick and how I remembered all the things that I write about.

Well, yes, I was born in Berwick and I have an excellent memory. When I was about 7 years old, I worked at the theatre delivering handbills. I walked all over Berwick and met everybody. Later on I painted billboards and advertised the shows which were playing at the theatre. I was the projectionist for 8 years at the theatre – during the change from silent films to “talkies.”

I managed theatres not only in Berwick, but also in Bayou Vista, Patterson and Franklin. I worked for Claude Darce, who owned the Opera House in Morgan City and other theatres as well.

I became a fireman when I was about 15 years old. It was the custom in Berwick to ring the fire bell when there was a fire. We, the firemen, would run to the fire truck to crank it when a fire bell sounded. It took about five of us to crank the engine on the truck and get it started.

After we got it going, half of the time the driver couldn’t shift it – it had about six shifts. The truck would jerk so much it would throw half the firemen off the truck – just like the episodes of the “Keystone Cops.” We didn’t know where the fire was so we just drove all over town looking for smoke.

On one occasion, we finally saw smoke coming from the back of Mrs. Bagala’s house. Joe Bella yelled: “Stop, Mrs. Bagala’s house is burning up!” We hurried and connected our small pressure hose, shot water through the window and almost droned Pascolena, who was sleeping in the corner. There was no fire – just leaves burning in the back yard.


Remember when old man White and old man Wilbur were making whiskey on River Road deep, deep into the woods? They used a sack of corn and they wanted to have a “kick” in their whiskey so they put in a sack of sweet potatoes. After boiling this for a couple of hours, the still blew up from the gas pressure caused by the sweet potatoes. It was a terrific explosion.

Old man White was blown up into a tree and old man Wilbur landed in a canal. He came out of the canal running with half of his pants in an alligator’s mouth.

Remember the dipping vat that was located down River Road? Old man Tick Landry was head of the operation. Everybody in Berwick and the surrounding areas had to drive their cattle there to be dipped. My father had about 50 head of cattle plus a 1,250 lb. bull. Fairview Dairy had a lot of cattle, as did others in the community. It was always a mess, trying to drive these cattle through the vat of water treated with creosote and other strong insecticides.

We didn’t have too much trouble with the milk cows, but when it came time for our big bull to be dipped, it was a different story. Th bull would not go in! Old Tick Landry took out an ice pick and jabbed the old bull in the rear, and it reared up and dove into the vat. Almost all of the chemically-treated water splashed out of the vat and splashed over everybody.

* The End *

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