Heroes at Home
"...I secretly looked forward to Saturday at work, for along with my girlfriends, I would wait and watch for them to come in. The men would come in about the same time on Saturday morning..."
Ollie Manuel Fuselier.
Ollie M. Fuselier
- Branch of Service: Home Town Hero
- Unit: Co. F., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1941 - 1945
- Location: Home Front
- Rank: Civilian/Homemaker
- Birth Year: 1926
- Place of Birth: St. Landry Parish, LA
Image taken in Eunice (1944) at the age of 18.
The pinstripe suit that Ollie is wearing was made
especially for her by her "Aunt Lita". Ollie was
also wearing this favorite suite of her's the night
she delivered her third daughter...Janet!
Ollie MANUEL Fuselier
Homemaker, St. Landry/Acadia Parish,
Talking to the Old Folks
"During the long terrifying war years, in order to assist the community, one of my duties was as a translator. When our boys went off to war -- a most important duty of the boys, was the communications to and from their loved ones back home. The boys would write home to their parents in English and it was my pleasant duty to translate the letters from English to French. About two to three times a week, I was asked to write letters in English to the sons of the old folks (that is two to three letters each.) The old folks would pay me 10 cents each. I would refuse the money; but, the old folks always insisted I take it. For you see, it was common for many of the old folks to speak and understand only French.
I had two families that I wrote letter for. One day, the man who runs the Western Union office asked me to come with him to deliver a telegram to a family who lived near where I lived on 1st Street. The Western Union office was next to the Liberty Theater on 2nd Street. The telegram was to inform the folks that their son was listed as Missing in Action of June 6, 1944 -- D-Day. Three months later, the family was notified that he had been located!
When our beloved president, Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt died, towards the later part of the war, there was great apprehension, especially among the old folks that I had been translating for. Many came to me in tears and were worried and highly concerned as to the probability of the Germans or Japanese now quickly taking over the country. I would assure them that this country was not like the old countries they had known in Europe. This country was different. Whereas there, a king or head-of-state died -- sometimes in a bloody coup...in this great country things were very different -- for here, we had a "succession to power" wisely set up by our countries forefathers, whereupon the Vice-President arose to the Presidency immediately following the death of the President. Such were some of the beliefs of the old folks."
New Tires, Anyone?
"During the long and uncertain war years, most commodities were rationed, especially items such as gasoline and tires (among the countless other items rationed). It was a practice among folks to see if there was a way to by-pass some of this red tape.
An ingenious method came about to obtain badly needed replacement tires for the family vehicle. My Father, Tanise worked as a mechanic at a local used car and automotive repair shop. It would seem that a particular used car kept getting "sold" and would almost always return to the lot -- to be sold -- again! When figured out, it was fairly simple to see the logic behind this. Apparently a loop-hole in the rationing system allowed that tires had to be included when a vehicle was sold. The car was purchased by folks, in need of replacement tires -- perspective buyers -- for the PRICE of the TIRES! The automobile was then, after the folks took it home and exchanged the tires for their used ones, returned to the used car dealer.
Then, in order for the car to be again be put up for sale, a new set of tires had to be placed on the vehicle. These replacement tires were purchased from the local Billups. Thus, the same vehicle was sold -- over and over and over. Where there is a will -- there is a way."
Black-Outs -- in Eunice?
"A lot is heard about the early years in the war, where most of America ignored the blackout conditions experienced in the countries of Europe. A tragic byproduct of this ignorance was the loss of many a ship (along with many of her crew) outbound for Europe with badly needed war supplies. These ships were sunk usually right off the coast of the country...with the lights of cities as a backdrop for the German U-boats to easily spot their targets at night where they lay in wait.
In Eunice and the surrounding country, eventually, black-outs became the order of the day. My family used whatever they could to improvise when living in the country, prior to moving to the north end of Eunice. We used green oilcloth over the windows -- summer and winter. Later, after moving to town, we purchased green window shades and these sufficed until the war ended in 1945."
Those Handsome Young Men
"My most vivid recollection of the war was back in 1944, when I was a sales clerk at DeRouin's mercantile store on 2nd (Main) Street in my home town of Eunice. We lived on the north end of town, on the Chataignier Road, near the railroad tracks, and I would walk to work. I secretly looked forward to Saturday at work, for along with my girlfriends, I would wait and watch for them to come in. The men would come in about the same time on Saturday morning, along with their guards to do shopping.
You see, these men -- all very handsome, blue eyed and blond were prisoners-of-war, Germans, who were kept in one of the buildings at the local fair grounds. At that time the fair grounds were located on the same grounds as the local elementary and high school. Our town had a small prisoner-of war contingent, some 30 or so men, which was housed there. The men could speak good English and were always friendly and courteous to the town folks. The funny and odd thing about this situation, was the fact that NO weapons (firearms) were carried by the soldiers guarding the POW's. My girlfriends used to come to visit me at work to see the men and marvel at how young and handsome they all were.
All of our young men were off to war and the only men in a small country town still around were either very old or very young. These young men were a very rare sight indeed for us. They spent their days working on the local farms helping with the efforts of a shortage of manpower and willingly working alongside the farmers. Another very odd thing about this situation was the fact that when the POW's went off to work, no guards accompanied them during their work days helping out the farmers.
I remember when the war finally came to a close, many of these young men did not want to return to their homeland. They had grown to love the rich, fertile farm community of southwestern Louisiana. Of course, they were repatriated and then after the war, some did return to our farming community of southwestern Louisiana. They came, bringing their families along to visit with the folks in our community with whom they had made a bond of friendship during the war years. To date, many of these men, former German POW's, consider themselves honorary 'Cajuns'.
While employed at DeRouin's store, it so happened that I and my future husband, Jacques met. We were eventually married in 1946 after the war had come to a close.
And one more little detail. The mercantile where I worked did not use the bank for keeping the daily cash receipts. For when I left each day, I was given the money in my brown-paper lunch bag to take home with me until returning to work the next day. After all, no one would think to bother a young girl going home carrying her lunch bag."
Story originally submitted on: 16 July 2001
Story modified on 24 July 2001
Story modified on 9 March 2004
Ollie (MANUEL) Fuselier was born in 1926, in Eunice, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana to Justa David and Tanise Manuel. She was married in 1946, shortly after the war ended to Jacques Fuselier (who is the subject of another short tale in this section) of Basile, Acadia Parish. Ollie was the oldest girl in a family of five girls and four boys. She has spent all of her life in the Eunice/Basile area living on the family farm raising a family -- living a tough, but rewarding farm lifestyle. Ollie raised a family of three fine young southern ladies who today are making their mark on the world. One daughter is a school principle, a second is a nurse of 34 years experience and the third is a successful homemaker and mother of three.