Thursday, February 25, 2010

The river and me, 1982

When you're a poor college student, the Mississippi River and a ferryboat can be an excellent -- and free -- way to kill some time on a summer weekend.

What you see here is the result of some productive time-killing one afternoon in, I am pretty sure, 1982. All I needed was to load myself and my secondhand Canon TX into my secondhand 1976 Chevy Vega (don't get me started) and drive down to the ferry landing on Plaquemine Point, south of Baton Rouge.

I'm relatively sure I was aiming to get some feature photos for The Summer Reveille at LSU. I was editorial assistant that summer semester of '82, my photojournalism class a couple of semesters before was still fresh in my mind . . . and it was a great way to kill time.


I honestly can't remember whether any of these photos got into the paper. I absolutely do know I hadn't taken a good look at those negatives for 28 years, not until I scanned them just now.

AND THE PERSON who left a comment yesterday on this post asking for more old Baton Rouge photos on the blog? Here you go.

More will follow.

For the record, I love this shot (left) of crewmen on the ferry's bridge scoping out a fine specimen of a female passenger. (What the hell do you think I was doing at the time?)

I, however, had a 35-millimeter camera and the excuse of taking feature photos for the LSU student newspaper.

That camera. I bought it the year before from City Pawn Shop downtown on Riverside Mall, which we all still called Third Street -- and which it officially is once again -- and I carried it just about everywhere.

What funded the purchase were the proceeds from the first freelance story I ever sold -- to the local paper. It was a history piece about the life and death decades earlier of Baton Rouge's first educational radio station, WLSU.

The story ran over two editions of the State-Times' and Morning Advocate's Friday entertainment magazine, Fun. I got $100, and then I got that camera.

I still have it today, and I still use it when I get a wild hair to shoot with actual film.

ANYWAY, what you see here -- untouched for almost three decades -- is a day in the life of the Plaquemine ferry, which ran and still runs between St. Gabriel on the east side of Iberville Parish and Plaquemine on the west. Look. It even has a Twitter feed.

Back in the day, I remember that election results from the eastern half of Iberville always came in last because you had to wait on the ferryboat.

TO TELL you the truth, more people should have to wait on the ferryboat -- even if you don't have a river to get across. You can't get in a hurry on a ferry; it comes when it comes, and you get to the other side when you get to the other side.

Ferryboats get you out of your aluminum-and-steel cocoon. They make it hard not to meet your neighbor . . . at least if you're both going the same way. And they put you in touch with the grandeur of nature.

In the case of the Plaquemine ferry, that would be the mighty, mile-wide Mississippi River.

The Plaquemine ferry: It was a damn fine way to kill a Saturday afternoon.

Bet it still is, too.

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