Celebrating 100 Years Strong
BY ELIZABETH DEAL
Boy Scouts of America:
Local Troop 15
Boy Scout Troop 15, chartered by Noel Memorial United Methodist Church in Shreveport on October 21, 2021, has been serving the youth of Shreveport for 100 years. Noel is in the Historic Highland Neighborhood and the Troop’s Scout Hut is in Highland Park. The members and leaders of Troop 15 have played an important role in the Highland Community, as well as the City of Shreveport, by performing countless hours of service not only within the park and neighborhood, but also in schools and communities all over the city.
In 1922, Troop 15 ranked its first Eagle Scout and has had a total of 107 boys reach this highest rank. An Eagle Scout Alumni was recognized with the National Outstanding Eagle Scout Award for his contributions to scouting and his community. In its heyday, the Troop served 60-100 boys and the current troop has about 20 members. The troop can continue to grow as long as it maintains required ratio of adult volunteers to scouts.
Troop 15 has worked tirelessly to instill the traits of the Boy Scout Oath & Law: helping boys develop character and citizenship by learning that a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent; along with duty to God, country, and self.
“Our program is geared towards teaching young men character, citizenship, leadership skills, and a love for the outdoors to prepare them to soar and become an Eagle Scout if they choose. We may not always reach that goal, but that’s what we are always striving for,” said Wyatt Simpson, current Scoutmaster. “A lot has changed since I was a Scout and there are new obstacles in the way, but this Troop has stayed strong and risen to the occasion.”
Noel’s troop has provided many boys with positive life lessons, integrity and good morals. They develop team building and leadership skills. The leaders watch children come in as 11-year-olds and see the growth in their skill, leadership, and maturity as they reach each rank and grow into young men. Troop 15 uses the Patrol Method where the boys are the planners, makers, and doers of the program and activities. The adults are there as guides and role models. “It is in making mistakes in a safe environment that a scout learns to be prepared the next time,” said Marc Braden, former Scoutmaster.
Recent projects of Troop 15 range from building storage for local churches, community garden projects such as composting bins and garden sheds, park beautification projects, various camps for children’s enrichment, and raising funds to build a solar power grid to power school in Haiti. The boys must plan and move at their own rate, and the leaders say it is refreshing and exciting to see them take initiative and see something come to fruition.
Character has been developed through many years of camping and other outdoor activities. Notable trips throughout the decades taken by Troop 15 have included: numerous backpacking treks to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico; Calgary, Canada; sailing at Florida Sea Base; Yosemite National Park; Washington, D.C; and whitewater rafting the Snake, Nantahala, Ocoee, and Pigeon Rivers; and attendance at several National Jamborees at Fort AP Hill in Virginia.
According to the troop leaders, the idea of spending a lot of time outdoors and camping is not necessarily popular with today’s youth. But scouting has offered the boys of Troop 15 activities and opportunities that would not have been afforded to them. The leaders and adult volunteers are consistently coaching and mentoring the boys to complete tasks they have started, whether it be gaining a merit badge, hiking a trail, packing a patrol (kitchen) box, or cleaning a toilet. Troop 15 Scouts always see a project through to the end, an admirable trait desirable in today’s world.
There have been many dedicated Scoutmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters and adult leaders that have served Troop 15 throughout the years, most members of Noel, guiding boys to becoming productive young men prepared for life. The adult leaders truly care about the boys and their future and are keen to remind them: it’s not just what you do when people are watching, but how you conduct yourself when no one is watching. FACEBOOK-SQUARE @TROOP15NORWELABSA
Shreveport Little Theatre
The Phoenix Rises Again. No, it’s not one of the plays coming to Shreveport Little Theatre this season. But it could be the story of the theater itself. Shreveport’s longest continually running community theater celebrates its centennial with the 2021-22 season of shows. In those 100 years, the Shreveport Little Theatre (SLT) has gone through the Great Depression, World War II and two fires. But through it all, the show has always gone on.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle,” said Dr. Robert K. Darrow, managing and artistic director for SLT since 1998. Darrow credits the power of the live shows to captivate their audience for the theater’s survival through its most difficult challenges. “Theater is an escape from the daily routine,” he said. “You can sit in the dark and forget about your trouble and become engrossed in the playwright’s storyline. But it also challenges the community, and encourages a wider range of thought and enlightens.”
From opening night of “Maker of Dreams” Dec. 5, 1922, in the old city hall building, Shreveport Little Theater was a traveling show, performing in the Jewish Synagogue, the Grand Opera House and the auditorium of the Woman’s Department Club. The company built its home at 812 Margaret Place and opened there on March 14, 1927, with “The Yellow Jacket.”
SLT lost its stage and backstage areas to a fire in 1986 and once again hit the road, performing at Theatre On Line, the State Exhibit Museum, Marjorie Lyons Playhouse and Southfield School, among other venues, according to its website. During the rebuilding of the theater, a welder’s torch sparked a fire that damaged the lobby area of the building and further delayed Shreveport Little Theatre’s return home. Through it all, the community’s support never wavered, Darrow said. “The community, after both fires, rallied and supported us,” he said. “The outpouring of support was astonishing, and that’s what kept us open.” SLT returned home March 3, 2011, with a gala celebration and a production of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
In 2020, another dark cloud arose that threatened to drop the curtain—the coronavirus pandemic. “It was very similar to the fires in that we didn’t know what the future held,” Darrow said. “The income dramatically dropped off. I sent out a letter of appeal to our patrons in February, and the donations just poured in. Much more so than I expected.”
The theater company staged seven virtual productions online during the pandemic. That proved to be a learning experience for the players and the audience alike, Darrow said. “That was something new for us,” he said. “Working with cameras and learning how to edit. They were not received that well. I think people come to the theater because it is live. Television and film and anything on a screen are highly different than live theater. It’s a totally different medium and experience, and our audience knows that.”
But the history of Shreveport Little Theatre is not all tragedy. It has had its moments of triumph and comedy as well. David O. Selznick held auditions there in 1938 for Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind,” according to SLT’s website. Local actresses Marcella Martin was cast in the film as Cathleen Calvert. The theater also was among the first to stage “The Fantasticks” by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. And in 1958, a young airman from Barksdale Air Force Base took the stage in “Desk Set.” That young man was comedy legend George Carlin.
For the past several years, Darrow and a team of researchers have been combing through photographs from the archives of John Ray and Margaret Mary Young, who served as the theater’s managing and technical directors from 1936 until their retirement in 1973, as well as SLT’s archives — all housed at the LSU Archives. The result is a 12-by-12 coffee table book with about 1,000 photographs from the theater’s history of productions. That book will be for sale at the theater for $100 in time for Christmas, Darrow said. It also will be available through online retailers, at a slightly higher price.
SLT also partnered with Fairfield Studios to produce a documentary on the history of Shreveport Little Theatre. And while more than 50 people were interviewed for that documentary, there is one voice Darrow regrets missing out on. “Delton Harrison was scheduled to be interviewed the day he died,” Darrow said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to capture his memories.” Harrison had served on Shreveport Little Theatre’s board of directors and had acted in plays through the years.
Darrow is excited to see live stage productions return at this significant point in the theater’s history. “We’re ecstatic to be able to delve into our craft, our love of theater,” he said. “To perform on stage before our audience. Theater doesn’t exist without the audience. They are a major part of our craft. Without the audience, there would be no theater. They are a character in the plays.”
For show tickets or to make a donation visit: shreveportlittletheatre.com.
Before Shreveport saw Elvis Presley perform at the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium in 1954, and even before The Strand Theatre was built in 1925, the aroma of delicious Créole food drifted from the kitchen of Freeman & Harris Café.
True, this family-owned restaurant has undergone a few name and location changes over the years—from Freeman & Harris Café to Pete Harris Café to Brother’s Seafood and now Orlandeaux’s Café—yet this establishment is still recognized for its legacy as the oldest continuously operating family-owned, African-American restaurant operating in the United States! But don’t let the new name, décor and location make you nervous—the celebrated menu still features customer favorites like its famous stuffed shrimp, gumbo, po’ boys, beef tips, and red beans and sausage. Yes, they have chicken livers, too!
Opened originally in 1921 at the 1100 block of Texas Street, Van Freeman and Jack Harris began a legacy that reached beyond their families and beyond the barrier separating blacks and whites as the Freeman and Harris Café. After much notoriety and success, the Café moved to Pete Harris Drive in 1930 where, it remained for over sixty years, becoming a popular social center for the African American community. In the 1990s, civic and business leader Pete Harris took ownership of the Café, officially changing it to Pete Harris Café.
In the early 2000s, Chef Orlando Chapman—who began working at Freeman and Harris when he was 13 years old— opened Brother’s Seafood, a restaurant named in honor of Orlando Chapman’s father, “Brother” Chapman. Chef Orlando and Brother’s Seafood would continue to contribute mightily to the popularity of Shreveport’s stuffedstyle shrimp—as Orlando continued to master the preparation of the 80-year old recipe handed down from his time at both Freeman and Harris, and Pete Harris Café.
In a rather awe-inspiring and poetic turn, current owner, chef, and operator Damien Chapman, along with his two younger brothers, Orlando Chapman II and Adam Chapman, have stepped up to breathe new life into the restaurant. Damien and his brothers are the fourth generation of men in his family to run restaurants, and it’s obvious Damien feels connected to his ancestors when he cooks.
The new name, Orlandeaux’s Café, does what the previous name did—to honor his father and chef who contributed to one of Shreveport’s most authentic and lasting culinary traditions.
Restaurant-goers are not only loving the new scenery, but they commend the great service and, of course, the food. Nora Greer is a loyal customer at Orlandeaux’s. “They’re known for their stuffed shrimp and gumbo, but they definitely have a lot of other items that people die for. Like the peach and apple pies. Oh, my goodness!”
But while she loves the new location, it’s the food that keeps her going back again and again—specifically the shrimp, both stuffed and fried. “It’s an icon for Shreveport, that’s for sure,” Greer admits. “It keeps Shreveport alive and it keeps the legacy of Freeman and Harris alive, too. That’s what makes it so important.”
One legacy has not changed, however—the stuffed shrimp recipe. When it is spot on, even after 100 years, why change a good thing?
The story of United Way began in 1921 with dedicated business and community leaders coming forward to create a better life for local residents. One hundred years later, their mission remains the same.
A common thread woven throughout. According to the United Way’s website—in 1887 a Denver woman, two ministers, a rabbi and a priest got together and raised $21,700 for the greater good. Their common goal was to make their community a better place for anyone, and everyone. They did this by assisting local charities, coordinating relief services to cooperating agencies, and making emergency assistance grants for cases that could not be referred. The movement they created would go on to become what is now the United Way.
As for local affiliates, 2021 marks its 100th year of service for the United Way of Northwest Louisiana (UWNWLA). Its mission from day one has been to unite in order to inspire change and build a thriving community. Its cornerstone is its ability to bring together agencies, donors, advocates, and volunteers in order to identify and address the most pressing needs in our area.
What originally started with the Rotary Club of Shreveport in 1921 has transformed today into an organization that focuses on solutions that address measurable change in education, health, essential needs, and financial stability by connecting donors to nonprofit organizations. Workplace campaigns over the years have raised funds from individuals to be directed to community human service needs through a rigorous review and investment grant process in order to garner the greatest community impact. Teams of local community impact volunteers have reviewed and assessed grant applications to make recommendations to the United Way Board of Directors, which made final decisions for support to programs that best met the prioritized needs.
As part of the yearlong centennial celebration, several events have taken place, such as Early Ed Week, Read Across America Day, Day of Service, and the Day of Caring—which annually make an impact in a single day by mobilizing small armies of volunteers to provide hands-on help where it is always needed. In late August, the centennial celebration culminated with a circus-themed party at Sam’s Town Casino, highlighting individuals and organizations who actively give back to Northwest Louisiana over the past century.
“The needs of those in our community who are hurting and the urgency with which we feel compelled to help is only growing,” said LaToria Thomas, Vice President of Community Investments and Operations. “United Way’s centennial events ensure that we continue the tradition of gathering the community together to create positive change across the region.”
Undoubtedly, the next 100 years should be very exciting— both for the United Way and northwest Louisiana. No doubt, the organization will continue to bring local people, organizations and communities together, and will continue to focus on a common vision and path for the future. If anything has shown us, milestones have no regard for pandemics. But with ambition and determination, the United Way of Northwest Louisiana will continue to strive toward taking care of the community around them. This is not your grandfather’s United Way—so the next 100 years should be very exciting.
2021 Day of Caring: UW Volunteers help Bossier non-profit Geaux 4 Kids, Inc.
Photos: UW, Geaux 4 Kids, Inc.