Camp Ruston, where POWs from WWII were held, sometime between 1943 and 1946. (www.latech.edu)
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 8:48 AM
The Informer last month related stories that a couple readers shared about their memories of German soldiers who were kept in prisoner of war camps set up throughout the state — including Southwest Louisiana — in the latter years of World War II.
The Informer then solicited and promised to pass along in a future column any stories that other readers wanted to share.
Among those who responded was John F. Marcantel, a social studies teacher at Elizabeth High School in Allen Parish.
Marcantel, who fittingly ended his email with the closing “Sharing History,” said an uncle and a cousin of his were given German POWs to help harvest their rice fields near Edgerly.
“My uncle, Adolph Marcantel, ‘Uncle Shoot,’ as he was called, told me many of the prisoners were very talented in music, art, carpentry, mechanics, and quite a few were familiar with farming,” he wrote.
“One day, a prisoner told Uncle Shoot the men could work harder if they had more to eat. From that point on, Aunt Lucy, Uncle Shoot’s wife, would cook the ‘noon’ meal in the field — end result, the prisoners did indeed work harder!!!!”
Sulphur resident Ramona Landry both called and wrote to The Informer to recommend her father, Rodney Bollich, who she said has for years regaled others with his memories of the days when POWs worked on his parents’ farm.
Bollich, 80, said he was in the sixth grade when his father was given Germans to work the family farm near Fenton in the mid-1940s.
He said the POWs usually came from Iowa, where they were kept in an old Civilian Conservation Corps camp. But one time, Bollich said, that camp didn’t have enough Germans to supply the usual allotment of a dozen workers, so his father had to visit the Lake Charles camp, off Sallier Street.
They loaded the Germans on the back of a 2 1/2-ton flatbed truck and set off home, he said, but as they began to make their way back to Fenton the truck ran over a crosstie or something similarly bumpy, breaking the truck’s U-bolts and launching the Germans from the bed.
He said no one was hurt and that a passing truck lent them some bailing wire to repair things long enough to make the trip home.
Bollich said his parents both spoke German and that his mother also spoke French. He said his mother — whom Ramona called a “prima donna” — never drove anywhere except on the farm and would each day deliver snacks to the Germans, who treated her with the utmost respect, he said.
“Mama would come during midday. We had an old ’38 or ’39 black Pontiac four-door, and she would make coffee and doughnuts,” he said. “And when that old black car was coming down that road ... they would see her coming and then Daddy would tell them to go ahead and take a break.”
He said the Germans were led by a “tall, lanky” man with a handlebar mustache. The man, Bollich said, would bark a command when the black car was in sight, and the men would line up and stand at attention. When the car stopped the man would open the door for Bollich’s mother, extend his hand to her, exchange some words in German and help her out. The others would then unload the coffee and cakes, he said.
The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email firstname.lastname@example.org