Shelby activities as 1977 continues. The six of us are still in Metairie, Louisiana.
In August, we took the kids on a three-day trip to Panama Beach Florida. The twins were especially interested in going to the beach and Connie was old enough to enjoy it as well. We all got sunburned, but no one quite as badly as I was. We came back through Newton and visited our families.
From your mother, we were shocked to learn that your brother, Rhomas, and Shirley were in the process of getting a divorce. Rhomus had suspected Shirley was having an affair, so he hired a detective. When his suspicions were confirmed, he didn’t feel he would ever trust her again. Harold, the oldest son, would soon be eighteen, but Mike was only fourteen. The boys would continue to live with their mother.
Shirley moved out of their new house, and they put it on the market. Once they both hired lawyers, it became an ugly divorce. The family had some dreadful things to say about Shirley. It would be years before you and I would ever see her again. Rhomas was having heart problems, and the stress he was under made things worse. The engineering project, which he’d headed up in Brandon, had ended, and he decided to lay off work for a while before looking for another project.
After they divided the property, Rhomus bought a house and moved to Newton. This was a good thing for your mother and Helen, since he could take them to church and drive them shopping when they needed to go. Since both your family and mine were now in Newton, it made it a bit easier for us when we visited there as well.
Your sister, Maxine, and Wayne were living in Jackson with their two boys. Wayne managed a Goodyear tire store. Your younger sister, Nan, and Richard and their son, Kelly, lived in Gulfport, MS. Richard worked for the local paper and wrote a weekly fishing column, and Nan taught music lessons and was the music director for her church. Both of them were active in Little Theater. Richard was so interested in hurricanes that he became a spokesman for the Gulf Coast hurricane center. Whenever there was a hurricane in the gulf, he was always on television.
Two gulf hurricanes threatened our area in 1977. You had a greater fear of hurricanes and tornados than I did. I found that strange, because my mother and I were taken up in a tornado when I was a child, and our family lost everything. I always wanted to stay home and ride out the storm, but you insisted that we pack up and leave the area.
However, we did ride down to Grand Isle in south Louisiana to see what a storm looked like in the gulf waters. The storm was still a long way out to sea, but the wind and waves were putting on a great show of strength. Out on the beach, the blowing sand stung our skin and got in our eyes. We were only there a few minutes before the Coast Guard closed the beach. The whole area was ordered to evacuate immediately. You wasted no time getting us back over the bridge and on our way back home.
Both Hurricanes, Babe and Anita, threatened New Orleans during this hurricane season. We left the area each time, but one of our exits turned out to be the wrong move. We packed into the van and headed up into Mississippi to wait out the storm, miles from New Orleans. I can’t remember the name of the little town where we parked our van to wait. At the last minute, the storm changed directions and headed our way. We ended up riding it out in the van, which seemed close to overturning at any moment. It was scary for all of us. Metairie and New Orleans got only rain and light winds with no damage.
When school started for the fall semester of 1977, Don and Christi were separated. Christi went to Grace King where Carol was beginning her Sophomore year, and Christi was a Freshmen. Don went to East Jefferson, an all boys high school. The seniors at Grace King initiate the Freshmen by making them their slaves for the day. Christi was so embarrassed because she had to get on the school bus wearing a bathrobe, with her hair up in curlers. The initiation hadn't bothered Carol the previous year, but Christi was a child who was super sensitive about her looks. She was very pretty, but she was only able to see her flaws. She became the member of the family who constantly made us late for church and everything else. She couldn’t leave the house without going back to look in mirror many times, making sure there was nothing amiss.
She also had a problem in school of falling asleep in History class. The teacher called me often, concerning her habit of falling asleep. She thought maybe she had a physical problem. Christi told me that it was because the class was right after lunch, and her teacher was boring. She said the teacher embarrassed her one day by raising her voice and calling out, “If Christi Shelby would wake up, we might be able to continue this class.”
Christi tried out for color guard and was selected as one of the members. This meant she had to have a uniform. She would be marching in the Mardi Gras parades and for other after school activities. The outfit consisted of a short, flared, green skirt, a long sleeve white satin blouse, a green sash, a hat and white majorette boots. The color guard always marched with each member carrying a school flag.
Connie had gone back to Dolly’s for a while, but things weren’t going so well there. Dolly had taken in a lady boarder. One day, the lady took me aside to tell me something was badly wrong with Dolly. Dolly was accusing her of stealing and not paying her rent. She didn’t know what to do, because she had done nothing wrong. One day, Dolly’s son came in where I was working to get some printing done. He confided to me that his mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He told me that I probably shouldn’t take Connie there. I asked Connie what was going on, and she told me that Miss Dolly gave her food to eat that was frozen. I felt terrible for Dolly, but I knew I could no longer risk Connie going there.
The winter of 1977 and 1978 saw some unusually low temperatures. We were thankful that South Louisiana was a place that never stayed cold for long, but the winter wind did cut back on our frequent bike rides and walks along the Lake Pontchartrain levee. In January, there was a blizzard in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley area that caused 51 deaths. In early February, there was another blizzard in the Northeast that hit New England and New York and killed over 100 people.
In other news, during those first two months, there were some horrible crime stories of serial killers. Richard Chase, known as the Vampire of Sacramento, was arrested. He was a cannibal who killed and drank the blood of his victims. The Hillside strangler was active in the Los Angles area and had just claimed his tenth victim. In Florida. Ted Bundy, who raped and killed young women across the United States was finally arrested. He confessed to 30 victims, but it was likely there were many more.
I realize that is not a pleasant way to end a chapter. We could only trust that the rest of the year would bring more good news than bad. At least, our branch of the Shelby family was still doing well. We had our problems, but compared with much of the world, they were minor.