Thursday, October 6, 2016

Those Places Thursday

Home of my grandparents, Benford and Merlene (Mertena) Trahan, located at 1306 Fancher St. in Vinton, Louisiana, May 1968

I was so excited when my dad texted this picture to me last week. My uncle found it on Facebook. Why was I excited? Because it is the only known picture of the home my dad and his brothers grew up in from c. 1960 to 1973. The home was moved from the property sometime in the 1970s or 80s.

It was actually the home of my great-grandparents, Bienvenue and Beatrice (Boneaux) Trahan, before my grandparents lived in it. During World War II, Bienvenue and Beatrice moved to Vinton, Louisiana, from Scott, Louisiana, when Bienvenue got a job with the railroad. The railroad provided this home for the family to live in. The home I am referring to is the house on the right with the screened in porch. According to my dad, the smaller structure on the left was used as a garage by my great-grandparents when they lived there.

On 16 Jan 1960, Bienvenue and Beatrice purchased a piece of land at 1218 Nelson St. in Vinton from Clodet and Lizzie (Trahan) Landry. (Lizzie was most likely a distant cousin of Bienvenue's, but there was no known close relationship). Sometime soon after, they built a new house there (see below).

At the time that Bienvenue and Beatrice purchased the new property on Nelson St., their only child, Benford Maurice Trahan, was a young man of 24 years who had just been discharged from the U.S. Navy two years earlier. He was married and had 3 young boys, including my 4 year-old dad. He was working as a rubber inspector at the Firestone plant in nearby Sulphur, Louisiana. Benford and his bride, the former Merlene Mertena, lived in a rental home located at 27 Eucalyptus St. in Sulphur with their three boys in 1960. (I would put a photo up from Google Maps, but I don't believe the current house there today was the same one that was there in 1960). Merlene's parents lived nearby in Sulphur.

I'm not quite sure why Benford and Merlene moved to Vinton, except that I recall my grandmother telling me that Beatrice wanted them back there. Benford was her only child, after all. And my dad and his brothers were her only grandchildren. So off Benford and Merlene moved to Vinton into the old railroad house that my great-grandparents had purchased from the railroad. I heard many times as a teenager and young adult how much my grandmother hated that old railroad house. Apparently, Beatrice had moved the kitchen from the old railroad house over to the new house to be used in the mother-in-law quarters behind the new house. Merlene couldn't believe that she was expected to live in a house without a kitchen.

In fact, after hearing so many horrible stories about the old railroad house, I was quite surprised when I saw the picture last week. Doesn't look so bad to me with a nice big-screened porch. How I wish my grandmother were still alive so I could ask questions about the old railroad house. I have a feeling that she resented her mother-in-law for persuading my grandfather to move them there and away from her parents.

A fourth boy came along in the fall of 1960 (my uncle who found the picture), and about 1961 Benford transferred into the Safety Dept at Firestone. Once all the boys were in school, Merlene found a job as a travel counselor in 1966 with the Louisiana State Tourist Bureau located in Vinton, just a few blocks from their home located in what is now the Vinton Public Library.

According to my grandmother, she inherited money from her grandmother, Blanche (Welden) Mertena, when she died in 1970. (Note to self: Need to research probate records for Blanche). On 6 Jan 1973, she used this money to purchase a piece of land at 1702 Horridge St. in Vinton. My dad was a junior in high school. Not too long after, Benford and Merlene built a new house there with all the modern amenities of 1973 (and it had a kitchen).

Eventually, Benford became the Personnel Manager of Firestone before he retired in the early 1990s.
Merlene retired from the tourist bureau around that time as well. They lived in the "new" house until Benford died in 2009 and Merlene went to a nursing home around three years ago (sadly, she passed away last summer at the age of 80).

Below is a picture of their "new" house on Google Maps (that is actually my dad's truck at the end of the driveway). The white siding on the left side of the house is where the garage was. After Benford died, Merlene remodeled the house so that her wheelchair could fit better in the kitchen. They expanded the kitchen/dining area by closing in the garage and then extended the driveway around the left side of the house all the way to the backyard.
My grandmother was always so proud of "her" house. She said if my grandfather had had his way, they would have never left the old railroad house. She always remarked how she wanted to visit it one more time after she went to the nursing home. I think she would be happy to know that there is a young couple living in it now and taking care of it. I'm sure she doesn't give a hoot what happened to the old railroad house.

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