Recollection of the Bus-Train Wreck in Franklin, LA, 1942
Sadie Mayeux Rabalais
[See the Note at the end of this text for an explanation of names.] 

     The first thing I remember about Aunt Rosemary is that she could cook
the best tasting butter beans I ever ate. She was a young, happy lovable
lady who spoke to Essie and me as if we were young ladies, instead of
just eight and ten year old girls. I remember she even let me hold Jimmy
when we visited, one time. I remember how much Uncle Lee was in love
before they married. Once they were kissing on the sofa at Mom's house
and she scolded them.

     She loved Lolo and Lolo just loved her very ,very much. Grandpa Firmin
was living alone after his second wife left him, so Lolo would go for
the summer months to stay with him on Bayou Jacque.

     Aunt rosemary wanted to go spend a week in the country and asked Henry
Bolner and his wife Viola to travel with her to help with the three
children, they took a Greyhound bus from Franklin to Plauchéville, LA.

     Grandpa and Lolo were so happy to have them for a week. Viola and
Rosemary sat with each a child and Henry took Little Jimmy with him on
his lap.    

   There was no swinging light nor a gate to warn the bus that the
engine was coming with a load of bagasse from the tons of waste of the
sugar refinery. Whatever the thoughts of the driver were, it made a case
for the city, or the state or the sugar refinery to put up a safety
light after that.

   The bus was split in two. Aunt Rose­mary and Viola were killed with
Mary Lee and Charles. Henry was pushed back into his seat but Little
Jimmy was thrown under the seat and that saved him. It all the confusion
and time delay to reach the bodies, some one stole the watch off of
Rosemary's arm and tried to remove her rings, also but in­stead they
scratched her hand and never got the rings.  

   The wake for the family took place in the front room of the house of
Da-da and Tic, the very beloved aunt and uncle of Rosemary. It was so
sad to see one adult in a coffin and a child in each of the other
coffins. I cannot remember if there was one or two coffins.  I also
forgot if Viola was in the same room, or the same church service.  I
believe that one of the annual letters that Jim sends out featured that
old house. They had never had any children of their own and just loved
Lee's family's as their own. The grief was intensified by the presence
of Uncle Warren, who had just been ordained a priest and who officiated
at the funeral. This was his first funeral mass. Mary Lee and little
Charlie had been the carriers of his chalice and paten at his ordination
just weeks before.

     Right away Lolo moved in to take care of Little Jimmy who was about nine
months old.  Uncle Lee got “Tie,” a great black woman to come every day
to help Lolo care for Jimmy. They formed a real bond.

     In time Lee remarried and asked Lolo to move out.  Lolo went to live
with Cliff and Wavie in Abbeville. Of course, Cliff was such a good man,
he always had place in his heart for family.

    "Tie" was a good woman and took care of Jimmy and the two other boys
who were born to Uncle Lee and his second wife.  However, Lolo had a
terrible time longing for her dear little Jimmy.  I never knew that
there was any friction between the boys, but Lolo felt it was a blow
that set her back in her health problems.  Over the years Jimmy was sent
to spend a week or so at the time with Grandpa Firmin.  I suspect that
Lolo would plan her summer visits with her Papa so she could be there
while Jimmy came to visit. Jim Bolner was a little younger than Essie
and me, but he remembers some details that I missed. He told Marie that
he did not know that Lolo Had moved to Franklin right after the
accident. Jim Bolner's brother, Henry, was married to Viola.

     Uncle Lee owned a food store in Franklin. It was so profitable that he
opened a bar and lounge. Uncle Hollis and Cousin Henry ran it for him.
   The decided that they needed a lady waitress to wait on the customers
and dance with the customers.

   There was a settlement near Franklin with families that were
decedents of an old Indian family. Well in no time at all, Hollis was so
jealous of the dancer who looked at Blanche. He married her to keep her
out of the bar. Henry married the sister named Viola. You talk about a
troubled situation. Blanche was barely 14. They got married at the big
church in Franklin. Aunt Rosemary really liked both of these sisters and
she felt comfortable asking Henry to ride with them to go to Bayou
Jacque. Aunt Almeda was a sister to Forrest Firmin. So each of them
could visit their families.

     It was a very happy week on the Bayou. It broke the heart of Lolo
when she got the news about the wreck. She felt that it was her place to
move in with Lee to take care of Jimmy. By the time she had to leave
him he could walk and talk, and was finely getting over the loss of his
real mother.

     Many a times he had only fallen asleep when Lolo was holding him. All of
these things I heard and remember because the adults did not realize
that we kids were picking it all up while they talked.

     My Uncle Poor Jim, was born with a serious bleeding problem that showed
up when he was about 8 years old. The local doctor tried to help him to
no avail. He was brought to Charity Hospital in New Orleans where they
removed his spleen, thinking that would cure him. It did not. They were
n their way to New Orleans again when he died in his mother's arms in
the car crossing the ferry to the city.        

     Mr. Plauché St. Romain who driving them said it would be best if they
did not go into the city, because of the questions that would be asked
about how he died. So Prisca held him and fanned him as if he were still
alive. One woman came up to the car an asked if the boy was sick. 
Prisca said he was very sick.  "She tied her heart," as Lolo explained,
to keep any one from knowing that he was already dead. Back in Avoyelles
Parish no questions or serious paper work needed to be done, because the
doctor knew the situation. I remember carrying the small cross that was 
placed at his grave site. The extended family grieved for "poor Little Jim." 
I think the next child was born to Aunt Almeada and she named him Jim 
or James Bolner.

    Even by the time Uncle Lee had three children, he named the second
boy James. This may be my imagination, but I like the thought of it!

Note: Olla "Lolo" Firmin - Sadie's Aunt
Forrest Firmin - Sadie's Maternal Grandfather
Wavie Firmin Mayeux - Sadie's Mother
Cliff Mayeux - Sadie's Father
Prisca - Sadie's Maternal Grandmother
Lee Firmin - Sadie's Uncle
Hollis Firmin - Sadie's Uncle
Viola Simoneaux - Henry Bolner's Wife
Uncle Warren Boudreaux - Rosemary Boudreaux Firmin's Brother
Da-Da and Tic - Sadie's Relatives
Plauche St. Romain - A Family Friend