By Devin Griffin
Of all the things that went into living in Grand Bayou, the children that were lucky enough to grow up there knew what made it so special. In the close-knit community, kids of all ages grew up with adventures like crawfishing, swimming, climbing trees and, most importantly, growing up with family and room to explore.
“Growing up in Grand Bayou was very different than even growing up five miles up the road in Paincourtville and so very different from the big city of Napoleonville,” says Loretta Rousseau Lirette, who grew up in Grand Bayou. “During the summer in Grand Bayou, we swam in the bayou, took afternoon boat rides in the bayou, made up so many games, read books, and were very often ‘bored.’ But we did have FUN, FUN, FUN.”
In times of high water, she and her siblings would sit on the front porch and try to catch crawfish right outside their house.
Clarence “Bud” Rousseau says he also spent his childhood crawfishing.
“As a kid, we ate crawfish, but we also made money crawfishing.”
Rousseau says they used to sell crawfish for 6 cents a pound. Behind his house, there were crawfish everywhere for Rousseau and his cousin to catch.
“We would go and as fast as I could catch them, he would haul the sacks to the front of the street,” Rousseau says. “We would sell as much as we could sell in a day, six, seven sacks for like $3 a sack.”
Greg Leblanc, another Grand Bayou native, says he would go fishing with his parents and help run the trawl lines during the day, and at night he would run around the porch knocking down lightning bugs.
“And we would all swim in the bayou all the time,” Leblanc says.
June Dupre Bouchereau, who grew up in Grand Bayou, says, “The adults never wanted us to go in the bayou by ourselves. There were no problems with alligators, but there were snakes. Whenever someone saw a snake they would just yell snake and we would all kick our legs, then it swam away,”
But still, Bouchereau says the children spent a lot of their time swimming in the bayou, swinging from ropes hanging off tree branches tied in big knots, standing on tire tubes or tractor tubes and playing in paddle boats.
“No matter the age, whether a few years older or a few years younger would all go to the big oak tree in someone’s backyard.” Bouchereau says.“I can remember being so little that I couldn’t wait till I could get this branch that stuck out enough to swing off the rope into the bayou. It was just so much fun.”
While the outdoors was the landscape of childhood, the close-knit community was the heart.
“There was a lady, everyone called her Aunt Lou, but she wasn’t everybody’s aunt,” says Nell Aucoin Naquin, who also grew up in Grand Bayou. “She was someone related to all of us like third, fourth, firth cousin whatever, but we all called her Aunt Lou.”
Aunt Lou was really Lousie Dupré, Howard Dupré’s sister, says Jessica Rousseau Baye, Grand Bayou native. Lousie Dupré was a widow at a young age with four children and a waitress her entire life to provide for her family.
Baye says when the tugboat operators would pass by down the bayou, Dupré made them draw out a pocket in the bayou side to make miniature levees, leaving a bench for the parents to watch their children swim in the bayou.
“And we all learned how to swim in Aunt Lou’s pocket,” Leblanc says.
Dupré taught each child in Grand Bayou how to swim, and when they could by themselves, she gave them a coloring book and colors.
“I don’t know how she did it because she was so poor. That same lady gave everybody in Grand Bayou a big peppermint stick for Christmas,” Baye says. “She was such a free spirit and she loved to sing. We were all at Aunt Lou’s all the time.”
Naquin says Dupré always managed something fun for all the neighborhood kids to do. Despite the grown-ups raising an eyebrow here or there, the kids absolutely loved her.
“When things got boring, we could go to Aunt Lou’s and find something to do. She would have something for us to play with,” Naquin says. “There was always excitement there.”